My Guilty Pleasures of Summer TV

With it being May, many of the regular fall TV fare is shutting down for the summer. So, I thought I would share some of what I watch during the summer months to keep myself entertained. Keep in mind, this is guilty pleasure TV, which I define as shows which are either not widely followed (and hence don’t come up much in conversations) or which I watch rather sheepishly and do not bring up in casual conversations. These are in no particular order:

Trollied

I stumbled upon this one a year or two ago. It’s a British show. The premise is pretty simple: the inner workings of the staff at a local grocery store. As this is UK TV we’re talking about, they can get away with more swearing, etc. than the average American or Canadian show, so depending on how you feel about that, this may not be one to watch with little ones in the room. However, the characters with all their quirks grow on you. Plus, they have some fairly well-known actors, as well as fresh faces. As another interesting tidbit, characters are always rotating in and out (much like an actual retail store), and the opening credits usually change according to who is currently on the show.

Mr. D

I know this one usually runs during the fall, but it’s never too late to start watching it. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard more people talking about this show. The premise here is a slacker teacher and his relationships with the other faculty, who are also quite a cast of characters. It’s a Canadian show, but if you can watch it elsewhere, I’d recommend it. The titular character is always up to something (usually not what he is supposed to be up to). The supporting cast bring their own hilarious quirks to the table, as well. Mark Forward, who plays high-strung librarian Mr. Leung, is one of my favourites to watch. He amazingly manages to deadpan some really awkward and hilarious lines.

Top Shot

Top Shot (2010) Poster

I don’t mind reality competition shows. But at the same time, I really don’t care if Kevin and Maria are at each other’s throats at the cast housing, or if David is super homesick right now. I just want to see what they do. If I’m going to watch a reality competition show, I also tend to gravitate towards the ones that have obvious, definite results. (I’m sorry America’s Next Top Model, posing this way instead of that way may be obvious to you, but it’s over my head.) I used to regularly watch Project Runway because it was interesting to see the work they put out. But even that show has grown more and more behind the scenes drama focused instead of design focused. Top Shot doesn’t really do that. The show is about expert marksmen (markspeople?) demonstrating how to accurately launch all different kinds of weapons. Some are more typical, and some are more tribal. Sometimes the marksmen are the ones learning. It’s no muss, no fuss, just watching people who are great at what they do, do it well. I mean, one of their famous challenges is shooting a gumball off a golf tee. It’s crazy. Oh, and explosions…usually, you’ll have a healthy dose of those sprinkled in, too.

Cooking Shows: Worst Cooks in America & Kitchen Nightmares Kitchen Nightmares (2007) Poster

I do not normally watch cooking shows; they tend to be more or less my last resort when it comes to searching for something to watch. I love to eat, but I am worthless in the kitchen. Which is why the short but sweet Worst Cooks in America is a show I always keep an eye out for: it makes me feel (slightly) better, and it’s free basic cooking knowledge–because, let’s face it, I’m not even sure I’m cutting the onions right, so please don’t try talking to me about flambe. So, if you’re a fellow useless cook, I’d recommend tracking down some old episodes. My main complaint with the show is that it’s so short. I think each season is over in like 2 months.

Recently, as my regular shows have been dropping off for the summer, I’ve started watching Kitchen Nightmares. Okay, actually binge-watching Kitchen Nightmares. Seriously, I had a dream the other night that Gordon Ramsay and I were friends and he was giving me life advice. But I’m still watching it. For those who don’t, it’s a show about poorly run, practically deserted restaurants being given “restaurant therapy” by Chef Ramsey. The problems do tend to fall into the same basic categories: food is not fresh (may be microwaved/frozen); food storage is not maintained (nasty stuff in the fridge that shouldn’t be); staff and owners don’t get along; if the owners are married, their marriage is in trouble; restaurant decor is ugly, etc. I realize this seems contradictory to my statement about not liking tons of drama in reality shows. However, in this case, the drama directly effects the outcome. It doesn’t feel as frivolous as with some shows. Anyway, Ramsay balances multiple roles of food critic, chef, inspector, decorator, and therapist quite well (the therapist part is surprising if you’ve ever watched Hell’s Kitchen…), and it shows in the results he brings out of these situations. Usually people stick with his suggestions, but you’ll have the occasional controlling owner or unforeseen circumstance that makes for a surprise in the update part at the end.

Tattoo Nightmares

Tattoo Nightmares (2012) Poster

This is probably the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures. I have exactly one tattoo, which I chose and contemplated for at least a month, and then got while I was completely sober. Apparently, that story isn’t as common as I thought. These guys deal with some pretty messed up tattoos, and it’s fascinating to see how they manage to cover them up every time. What makes this better than other “terrible tattoo” shows? For one, the tattoos really are terrible. I watched the America’s Worst Tattoos show on TLC one time, and those tattoos were nothing compared the ones on Spike. Plus, on the Spike version, as Spike is known to do, actors re-enact the scenarios that brought about these terrible tattoos. Be warned, certain tattoos and scenarios would definitely not be appropriate for children to watch, but come on–this is Spike, so you should know that already. One thing that I’ve always wondered about this show is if each season is filmed in a day. Because every episode, the tattoo artists are wearing the same clothes. Weird thing to notice, I guess, but it makes me wonder.

I should also admit that I watch Ink Master, too. I guess I figured if I’m going to see what terrible tattoos look like, I may as well see what great ones are supposed to look like. The show’s okay. You can definitely tell it’s pros judging, because what looks fine to me is easily dissected and criticized by the judges. The show tends to dabble in frivolous drama more than I’d like, which is why I never watch the finale. The finale is basically a tattooed version of The Bachelor:*watch a clip* How did you feel when…? *watch a clip* Do you agree that…? *watch a clip* Who ended up being your biggest competition? Etc. Snore. I thought I was supposed to be watching the creation of great tattoos, not a study of Reality Show Politics and Infighting 101. So yeah, I’d say that show is “meh.” But it still can be interesting.

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Whose Line Is It Anyway (2013) Poster

Can I just say that I miss the old Whose Line? Is that allowed? Because I do. I miss it because the old one had more audience interaction, more interaction between the host and the cast, and a wider variety of games per show. I do like that the new version draws from a wider net of comedians, as well as the original cast. And, the new version has also brought on some interesting new games. But, I miss seeing audience members in Props, for example. I miss seeing the host on stage doing improv with the rest of the gang (although I do not miss that being in the context of an insidious hoe down). I miss not knowing exactly what games would be played each night. Now, every episode, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see Props (with a guest), Hollywood Director, etc. Some of the spontaneity that made the show so fun to watch seems to have left with the 90’s. But it’s Whose Line, and enough of the classics (people and games) are still there that we still watch.

Hopefully these suggestions will provide some unexpected summer entertainment. Please let me know if you have any recommendations, or what you thought of mine.

Victory for the Queens of Fail

Did anyone else see this???

I’m guessing a lot of people did. If you’re a Big Bang Theory fan, you realize just how epic it is.

I’ve found myself watching this a lot in the past 48 hours (seriously, a lot), but I couldn’t put my finger on why I was watching it so much until now:

I can relate to Amy.

In fact, if I were to choose characters from various TV shows that reminded me of me in some way, Amy would definitely make the list. Nothing goes right for Amy. Her past has been a mishmash of awkwardness; she’s never been at the top of anyone’s list (as we learn when she’s offered the maid of honor position for Bernadette’s wedding). When these things do start falling into place, she genuinely appreciates them because she’s never had them before.

And of course there’s Sheldon. Although Amy feels she’s hit the proverbial jackpot of boyfriends, she still faces a long uphill battle: patience versus intimacy. Sometimes she’s good at being patient with Sheldon. More often, though, her desire for something deeper with him is only thinly veiled.

I think that’s why I love this scene so much. So often, I am the Queen of Fail. I have good intentions, and I’m hoping for a positive outcome, but things just blow up in my face. And that’s where Amy is here. Once again, she’s trying to nudge Sheldon into something more, only to have it blow up in her face. And then there’s the added insult of Sheldon mocking her romantic aspirations, which he seems to feel are shallow. However, at the last minute, it becomes clear that something powerfully deep has been there all along, and it’s suddenly very visible. The trip–and the relationship–are changed for the better.

So, for what it’s worth, I want to say “kudos” to The Big Bang Theory, for reminding the Queens of Fail like me that sometimes the best things can come from even the worst mistakes.

Thoughts on the Chuck Series Finale

So as Chuck fans sadly know all too well, last Friday was the end of everything. I’ve read a fair bit of feedback, and it ranged from sad to frustrated to satisfied. For what it’s worth, I thought I would put my two cents in. Warning: there will be spoilers, but since it’s over by now, I don’t think it matters that much.

So, the debate seems to be around the ending: we’re not sure exactly what happens. Throughout the episode, Sarah has proven that Quinn essentially “undid” the last 5 years of her life with all those flashes. Yet, there are a few hints that she may remember some things after all. No one can fault Chuck for not trying hard enough. His impassioned pleas after kidnapping her prove his love and loyalty, even if she is just a shell of her former self. You have to admit, she says and does some kinda cruel things…

Of course, the fact that he proceeds to take a bullet for her in spite of her is enough to convince anyone.

 In a sense, Sarah does come around. After hearing herself on video, she believes Chuck’s story about them. Though, I think she at least sort of believed it before that. The funny thing is that despite repeatedly saying she’s leaving, she never really does. It’s almost like she seems to know that the self she might find out in the world wouldn’t be as fulfilling as the self she had in Burbank. If you put yourself in her shoes, it would be a rather odd situation: having a life somewhere but little or no memory of it, versus going out to make a life but not knowing where to start. Despite her seeming confidence of her plans to leave, I think she was second guessing herself—especially as Chuck was pointing out little blips of memories she had been holding in reserve. Now, theoretically, had Chuck not found her at the beach and she had been there alone, I’m not sure what would have happened. Maybe after taking a couple days to recover from the shock of everything, she would have concluded that she had nothing left to stay for and would have left. Maybe she would have figured she hurt those who knew her too badly to stay in their lives and left. Or maybe she would have decided to try to rebuild a life there. I don’t know. Thankfully, we don’t have to use too much brain energy on that, as Chuck found her.

I knew I would cry at some points in the episode. I did tear up a bit during Chuck’s pleading. I cried (surprisingly) when Ellie told Chuck he was “aces.” And, of course, the final since, which is also the subject of the mild controversy, was probably my biggest tearjerker. I actually still cry when I watch this scene, even though I know exactly what’s coming:

So, the question is: did it work or not? My opinion is, it did to an extent. As I mentioned before, I think if she were really dying to leave the situation, she wouldn’t have just said she was going. She would’ve been gone asap. The fact that she stayed, even for a little while, tells me that she was contemplating and perhaps open to the idea of sticking around. Or, better yet, maybe she instinctively knew the beach was important and was hoping to regain some memories by sitting there. In fact, she indicates that she had the feeling that spot was important. I admit, I was kind of heartbroken to hear Chuck say, “I don’t want anything from you,” because you know that’s kind of the biggest lie ever. But what can you say? He’s a good hubby; even though it’s got to be killing him, once he starts coming to terms with the situation, he’s willing to sacrifice his desire to be with Sarah in favour of stepping back so that Sarah can make a new life for herself. Sarah asks him to tell her their story, which I think is another indicator that she is at least open to the idea of rebuilding her life with him. Yes, there is the possibility that maybe she was just so impressed by his devotion to her that she wanted to know how it became so strong. But I doubt it. I think she wanted more information because she realized whatever they had was worth learning about and fighting for. Stories could bring up memories, after all.

And, of course, there’s the kiss. I think her inviting him to kiss her so abruptly is yet another indication that she’s willing to pretty much try anything to work back toward the great life she was making with Chuck. The buildup to the kiss tells you she wants to try. My theory around whether the kiss brought back all those memories is this: muscle memory. Our bodies have a way of remembering things that are such integral parts of our lives and are then gone suddenly. I hate to use a movie as an example, but it’s the best illustration I know: 50 First Dates. At the end, she  recognized something about him, even though her active memory didn’t know him. Sarah had glimpses of the past going throughout the episode. I think the kiss unlocked another few memories, but to say that it was a cure-all is a bit ambitious. The fact that they were kissing for at least a good ten seconds is a pretty good sign. I like to think that afterwards, they decided to take things slow and start from the beginning. Start dating again, start getting to know each other again.

The other big question that’s come up is: was this a satisfactory ending to Chuck? It was definitely unexpected and sucky, and if they had to throw in a monkey wrench, I don’t know that they could have thrown in a more gut-wrenching one. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am really going to miss the show. A lot. All that being said, though, I think it was satisfactory. Maybe people smarter than me can picture it, but I’m not sure how many more places the storyline could’ve gone. And the show ended on a hopeful note without spoon feeding a happy ending. It kept you on your toes, even until the last credit. And even though it’s this weird contrast of a hopeful yet haunting ending (I’ve had that “Rivers and Roads” song going through my head ever since that scene, and I’d never even heard it before. As an aside, though, it was the perfect ending song.), I’ll take it. Even having the hint of a happy(ish) ending is better than a tragic one, or even worse, one where you literally have no idea what happened (infamously i.e., The Sopranos).

So, in conclusion, thanks to the Chuck crew for doing a great job with a great show. My TV viewing will definitely have a gaping hole in it now. And that’s not even counting personal sentimental value the show has to me. Chuck was a show for the person who wanted it all: underdogs, action, comedy, romance, and drama. And the fans got it all, amazingly. I can’t wait to do it all again on DVD. 🙂