Posts tagged ‘Television’

The Worst Date Ever

The cover removed (for photo shot), Dot matrix...

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The worst date I ever had I got out of the way when I was relatively young.  I was 18 and working at the media center on the campus of State Mental Hospital University. The media center was in the communications department, so we catered mostly to the journalism and broadcast journalism majors, but we also delivered audiovisual equipment all over campus.

This meant that sometimes I had to carry whole television sets up and down stairs in buildings that were so old that there were no elevators available. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, but keep in mind these weren’t plasmas or LCD screens. These were old school cathode ray tube TVs, my friend. I only dropped one once. I think it was because I forgot to wrap up the cord, and I stepped on it. I got lucky because the TV still worked afterward.

It was actually a pretty cool job. I met a lot of people. I learned how to setup filmstrips and operate slide projectors and how to play films. I learned how to splice and repair film and how to edit videotape. I learned this on professional videotape, the old school ¾ inch kind. And I became the official spokesmodel for many college guy’s assignments to make a fake TV commercial.

There were several other students working part-time at the media center. I wasn’t the only one. I think we probably had ten or twelve people on staff. Only two of us were women. I think the carrying TVs thing might have had something to do with that, and I wasn’t a brawny woman by any stretch of the imagination.  But I guess carrying TV sets is intimidating. I know it was my least favorite part of the job.

One day one of the guys I worked with at the media center decided to ask me out. His name was Andrew, and yes, that’s his real name. I won’t give you his last name. Andrew was a nice enough guy, but I didn’t find him particularly appealing. I worked with my best friend, a closeted gay man, and he said I should go ahead and go out with Andrew under the philosophy of giving a guy a fair shot. So, I couldn’t argue with that logic and told Andrew I’d go out with him.

Here’s where it starts to get dodgy. Andrew gets on a computer and types up a letter giving me options for our first date. Scarily enough, ladies and gentlemen, I still own said letter, obviously printed on a dot matrix printer. I will spare you the entirety of said letter. I’ll just recreate the best parts.


Bonjour! I’m sorry I’ve not been able to get in and make plans for this weekend. I have been a bit busy, and I know you have also, but please let me know when is the best time. What do you like doing, etc would really help me plan for this weekend.

Okay, here are a few of the things we can do. Check the ones that you like or would like to do and I’ll see what I can do to get this weekend in order.

Friday, November 9, 1989

2-5 pm : I work at the Nursing Department

Give me about one hour to shower and get myself ready.

Here are your options for this evening.

  1. All you can eat SEA FOOD dinner in Guthrie
  2. Movie (Look Who’s Talking)/(Lethan Weapon II)/ etc.
  3. Run out of gas
  4. Go shopping

Here’s where I stop with the letter, but I’ve tried to faithfully reproduce it with all its glorious punctuation intact. I give the guy points for presenting me options, but this wasn’t something we could have discussed over the phone? Plus, the rest of the letter goes on to describe the rest of the options for the rest of the whole weekend. We were going on a first date, and scarily, he was giving me an itinerary as if he were the cruise director for a weekend excursion. One date! I agreed to one date!

My favorite part of the letter is that he left it out on the counter for everyone we worked with to see, and since everyone we worked with meant mostly guys I got one hell of a razzing, especially about the running out of gas option. I’m pretty sure that he left the letter open and out on the counter for everyone to see because he wanted everyone to know that he was dating me. It didn’t have to be top secret, but one date does not a relationship make.

I chose the movie option on Friday night. This was safe. I figured he couldn’t mess it up too badly. I figured wrong. First off, he was about 45 minutes late picking me up. He didn’t call to explain that he would be late. When he finally picked me up I found out that he had absolutely no plans for the evening. Our first stop was to his parents’. Andrew’s parents were missionaries, and he was adopted. Andrew’s parents had many, many children. Andrew’s parents lived with another church couple who also had many, many children.

Ostensibly, the reason we went to Andrew’s parents was so that he could get a newspaper with the movie times. The real reason was so that he could beg to use a nicer car on his date. I overheard this conversation but pretended that I didn’t. I got grilled by dozens of little monkeys on whether or not I was Andrew’s girlfriend. The younger ones climbed on me like a trellis and sat down next to me on the couch and showed me their booboos and special talents. I think we were there for at least a half hour until Andrew gave up on getting the nicer car.

I was a little confused about why the nicer car was so important since it had served us well enough in getting us from my house to his parent’s home, and also, I had accepted a date with him not knowing or caring what kind of car he drove. The evening got worse before it got better. We did finally decide on a movie: Look Who’s Talking. We got dinner. The conversation was stilted, but at least the movie was alright.

There was something about Andrew that just didn’t sit well with me. I remember it as hands down the worst date I ever had in my entire life. After that date I did agree to do something with him again as friends, and he asked me to play on some kind of bowling league. I had never been bowling in my life (something I warned him about ahead of time), and he was very competitive against this other team. As you might guess, this was awkward. But if you add in the fact that every single time I went to pick up my bowling ball Andrew used it as an excuse to grab my ass, it went beyond awkward. I said I would never again go do anything with that creep, and I kept my word.

March 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm 2 comments

Funny Women: Linda Bloodworth Thomason

Linda Bloodworth Thomason is a writer and television producer. Born in 1947 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she went on to obtain an English degree from the University of Missouri. Upon graduation she secured a teaching position at an inner city high school in Los Angles’ Watts neighborhood.

Later, she worked as a journalist for the Los Angles Daily Journal and did some freelance writing for television. Her breakthrough was with a script written for an episode of M*A*S*H*, co-authored with actress Mary Kay Place, and entitled, “Hot Lips and Empty Arms.”

Linda also wrote the original pilot for the Norman Lear produced One Day at a Time, which introduced the American public to a young Valerie Bertinelli. The show was created by Whitney Blake (the mother on TV’s Hazel and the real life mother of Meredith Baxter) and Blake’s husband Allan Manings.

This freelance writing eventually led to the opportunity for Thomason to create her own series, Filthy Rich. Filthy Rich was quickly cancelled but not before she forged friendships with two talented performers, the late Dixie Carter, and Delta Burke.

Designing Women was a show that centered around an interior design firm helmed by the Sugarbaker sisters (Carter and Burke), a divorcee with two young children (Annie Potts) and a naïve single woman (Jean Smart). The four women employed an African American man (Meshach Taylor) who had previously spent time in jail for a wrongful burglary conviction. In later seasons the cast changed. The only original cast member who wasn’t Southern was Smart.

Designing Women explored many feminist themes and contemporary women’s issues through the lives of its female characters. The show featured broad physical comedy and standard sitcom fare but also frequently raised topical issues like racism, homophobia, domestic violence, AIDS, and prejudice towards overweight women. The show ran for seven years, from 1986 to 1993 and was a Nielsen hit for much of that time.

This success led to other shows such as Evening Shade and Hearts Afire. Hearts Afire starred John Ritter and Markie Post and marked the introduction of Billy Bob Thornton to most of the world, although he undoubtedly had earlier acting jobs. With the addition of Evening Shade and Hearts Afire, Bloodworth Thomason and her husband Harry Thomason were producing three television sitcoms at once, which makes her the female Chuck Lorre of her day, only one with a greater social conscience.

The Thomasons were friends of the Clintons, dating back to his days as governor of Arkansas, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father made a cameo appearance on Hearts Afire. The Thomasons helped with the Clinton presidential campaign by writing excerpts for some of his speeches and producing promotional spots for television.

Currently, Thomason sponsors the Claudia Foundation, a charity that provides opportunities for young people, especially young women. The charity gives scholarships to young people who might not have the chance to go to school and provides the chance to engage in community service. The Claudia Foundation also supports literacy causes and allows young women to have cultural experiences that they might not have otherwise had the good fortune to appreciate, such as Broadway plays.

Linda Bloodworth Thomason has contributed significantly to American popular culture as well as to politics. She’s even stood up for fair reporting in this media age of increasingly polarized talking heads. Thomason and other Hollywood insiders stood up to call out MSNBC on their coverage of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential race.

March 4, 2011 at 4:44 am 3 comments

Why I Mostly Hate Reality TV

Brody Jenner in 2008

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With a few exceptions like Top Chef, The Amazing Race, the first season of MTV’s Real World, The Biggest Loser and documentaries produced for PBS I really hate, hate, hate reality TV. Here’s why.

  1. Reality is boring. I live in reality. Why do I want to turn on my TV to watch it?
  2. It’s not really reality. It might not be “scripted,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t staged.
  3. There are hundreds and thousands of great writers out there with great stories that need to be told, but Hollywood can turn out this so called reality schlock instead, for far less money.
  4. What is up with TLC? Why are they so obsessed with breeders? I mean, really, what’s up with that? The Duggars, the Gosselins, some couple here in Austin who had quints…do they have any shows that don’t involve copious amounts of rugrats? I like kids, but there are limits.
  5. Reality TV is part of the general dumb-ing down of America. Our children and teenagers, not to mention our adults that ought to know better, waste hours and hours of time watching the vapid exploits of morally bankrupt people, like, uh, I don’t know, the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and the entire cast of The Hills. Seriously, have you ever watched some of these shows? These people make tons of money being shallow and vacuous. I swear if you hold Brody Jenner up to your ear you can hear the ocean.
  6. We now have an entire reality TV show centered around a teen mother who’s had her baby removed from her care by social services. What’s it called? Teen Mom. It used to be that if you got pregnant when you were in high school you had an abortion, gave the baby up for adoption, sponged off your parents, or lived in abject poverty. Maybe, if you were very lucky, had some help, and made some really harsh sacrifices, you got yourself through college and raised your baby, too. Now if you’re underage and you get pregnant, you can be a TV star. Great message to send teenage girls, America. Just great.
  7. It gives Americans a false sense of their opportunities. It further contributes to the good old American sense of entitlement. Dog the Bounty Hunter and Jesse James and all those kooky ghost hunters on the Sci-Fi channel can have their own reality shows. If I’m a junkie I can get on A&E’s Intervention. If I’m the kind of person who never cleans or throws anything away, then I can star on Hoarders. I am just as trashy, eccentric or downright loony as they are. I demand my own TV series. Give it to me. Now. Then other people can watch me so that they can feel better about themselves by comparison.
  8. It used to be that reality TV was called the news, and the news was reality. There weren’t many cute human interest stories or funny fluffy filler pieces. It was mostly war, famine, pestilence and politics. People actually cared about things like democracy and foreign policy and business, things that matter. Now it isn’t just Fox News that has the best fictional plots on television. Unfortunately, it’s most of our news. The news has become a collection of polarizing Op-Ed pieces delivered by “personalities” as diverse as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller, Rachel Maddow, and Keith Olbermann. It’s about creating controvery, which creates ratings, which brings in advertising revenue. The news is no longer information; instead, it’s infotainment.

December 18, 2010 at 1:07 am 9 comments

Lesser Known Signs That You Just Might Be an Alcoholic

Debbie Downer

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Sure, anyone can tell you that if you drink sufficient quantities daily or if you’re physically dependent upon alcohol that you just might be an alcoholic. The truth is that addiction is the only disease in the world in which you get to diagnose yourself. Everyone’s bottom is different. And no one truly gets treatment until they want it.

First, you have to recognize that you actually have a problem. Then, you have to want to solve that problem. It sounds easier than it is, or we wouldn’t see the embarrassing foibles of Lindsay and Charlie and Demi Lovato and Mel displayed on the internet and across the supermarket tabloids. The fact is that only 20% of alcoholics actually stop drinking permanently.

So, if you think that you might have a problem, here are some signs other than your DWI arrest or other unfortunate trouble with the law or the shocked look on your doctor’s face if you actually tell her how much you really drink on a daily basis — that you just might be an alcoholic.

You have a lot of resentments. I mean it. You are mad at the world. You spend a lot of time bitching about how mad you are at the world.

Almost all your friends drink. A lot. When you get together with your friends you…you guessed it, you drink! Take a shot.

Inertia. You have a seeming inability to follow through on goals. Whether it’s just taking out the trash or pursuing that dream to be a rock star you haven’t even gotten up off the couch except to report to your crappy job since sometime in 1998.

Everything always just happens to you. Nothing is your fault.

You’re depressed all the time. You’re like Negative Nelly. Even you are tired of your own Debbie Downer routine. You drink just to feel normal, or, more accurately, so you won’t have to feel.

You neglect to attend to certain matters of personal hygiene or environmental cleanliness that used to matter to you.

You could make a list of past friends and lovers and family members to whom you no longer speak, but you would run out of disk space on your computer trying to save them.

You’ve tried to stop drinking before, and you can do it. You just don’t want to.

You don’t have a drinking problem because you don’t drink alone. You spend so much money in bars that you have to eat nothing but beans for a week. You can’t even afford the canned kind; we’re talking about cooked from scratch dry beans in the big bag that costs $.77 and lasts all week. But you don’t drink alone!

If your friends and family were to describe you truthfully, then adjectives like “irresponsible,” “flaky,” “kooky,” “eccentric,” and, “unreliable” might occasionally pepper their speech.

You’ve “slept through” important appointments or engagements. Really. It’s not your fault. You just fell asleep. You might want to get that narcolepsy problem checked out.

You hide your drinking. You’re not really truthful about how much you drink. You try to “sneak” in the alcohol you buy and make sure that it’s not evident from your trash and recycling bins. You think this is actually fooling your spouse or roommate. You don’t want the neighbors talking.

When friends bring up the fact that they might have a drinking problem this makes you uncomfortable. You don’t think they have a problem. That’s like when your buddy Corey’s wife left him ‘cause she SAID he was an alcoholic. Corey’s not an alcoholic. And how do you know? You drink with him all the time.

Your circle of friends is getting increasingly smaller. Maybe it’s already reached zero, and you spend all your free time in front of the TV with a drink in your hand. You don’t like to be interrupted in the middle of your show. You don’t answer your phone, and your friends stop calling.

You’ve sold your electronics or books or CD collections and cleaned out your purse or piggy bank or hocked some jewelry — just to buy a six pack.

You have a lot of family members who were just big drinkers or partiers. Nothing wrong with that. Uncle Lou wasn’t a drunk. Uncle Lou was jolly.

You are lonely all the time, and the reason you’re so lonely is because you’re so special. You are the only person in the whole entire world who could possibly understand you.

The good news is that not only do you get to diagnose yourself, you can also help yourself, but not by yourself. Look up your local Alcoholics Anonymous on the internet. No one will turn you away. You can talk. You can listen. You don’t have to be lonely. The only person making you that way is you.

November 14, 2010 at 12:32 am 7 comments

Funny Women: Susan Harris


After Dorothy's departure, Blanche, Rose and S...

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I just finished watching all four seasons of the 1970s situation comedy, Soap. Soap was groundbreaking for its time. It was the first prime time television show with an openly, practicing gay character, bravely played by Billy Crystal. It was also the first show of its format, a serialized half hour comedy. Half hour comedies in America are usually situational comedies with plot lines that begin and end in one half hour. Your viewing of previous episodes is not required in order to get subsequent episodes. Soap, however, was written in soap opera format as a soap opera parody.

The show is great. It’s very, very funny. It includes the requisite soap opera plots of adultery, murder, kidnapping, mother and daughter sleeping with the same man, secret adoptions, questionable paternity, the presumed dead spouse, and star-crossed lovers. There are also alien abductions, a newborn baby’s demon possession, a few trips to the insane asylum, a mob boss, and an elderly character who thinks America is still fighting World War II.

Soap was written by a woman named Susan Harris. She was also an executive producer of the series. She came up with the concept and took it to a couple of TV producers, one of which was her future husband, Paul Junger Witt. Paul Junger Witt had partnered with Tony Thomas (son of Danny Thomas, brother of Marlo) and produced the infamous tearjerker TV movie, Brian’s Song. Together with Harris, they formed Witt Thomas HarrisProductions and produced Soap over its four year run.

Harris was a spec scriptwriter who had written the most controversial episode of Norman Lear’s Maude which tackled the issue of abortion. She was originally hired by Garry Marshall to write for Love American Style. She later became a staff writer for two Norman Lear sitcoms: All In the Family and Maude. That success gave her enough clout to suggest her own show next time around.

Soap was wildly successful. It spawned another successful series, Benson, with Robert Guillaume. In the eighties, Harris penned another popular series, the most famous of all her creations, Golden Girls. It, in turn, spawned the successful spinoff of Empty Nest. Harris’s shows tended to use a lot of the same actors in different parts. Kraus from Benson was portrayed by the same woman who played Ingrid, Corinne’s biological mother on Soap.

Richard Mulligan and Dinah Manoff had both played recurring characters on Soap, and they later played father and daughter on the Golden Girls spinoff Empty Nest. As a side note, when Richard Mulligan won an Emmy for his performance on Empty Nest almost a full decade after Soap went off the air, he publicly thanked his on-screen wife from Soap, the lovely Cathryn Damon. Cathryn Damon had by then passed away from cancer.

In 1988, Susan Harris largely retired from television, saying that she was burned out after the pace of writing every episode of Soap left her longing to spend more time with her family. Susan suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, which she wrote into Golden Girls as a plotline affecting Bea Arthur’s character of Dorothy. This also, undoubtedly, led to her retirement from television writing.

In 2005, Harris accepted the Paddy Chayefsky Award from the Writers Guild of America. Winning an award named after the guy who wrote the, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” speech from Network! Not bad for an unemployed single mother who was watching television one day and decided that she could write better than that.

October 19, 2010 at 11:44 pm 1 comment

Die, Pea Puree Thievin’ Bastard, Die!

Back to Top Chef, Season 7.

First, they eliminated Kenny. That cut down on the drama quotient. No more Angelo-Kenny rivalry. He did deserve to go home, though. At every challenge, Kenny made two versions of something, and the two versions each had umpteen billion ingredients that frequently did not go together. I don’t want to imagine what his food must have tasted like.

In the same episode where “they killed Kenny,” (Yes, the Southpark reference is not lost on me) there was a lot of controversy surrounding an English pea puree. This is creative editing, folks. Ed made a pea puree for his dish and then couldn’t find it anywhere. Coincidentally, at the same time, Alex decided to use a pea puree with his dish, at the last minute. The fact that we didn’t see Alex actually make a pea puree, but we did see Ed make one and then spend a lot of time frantically searching the kitchen for it, made it look like Alex stole his pea puree from Ed.

Tom Colicchio’s blog on Bravo’s official website for Top Chef makes it clear that they did question the contestants afterward and were able to determine that Alex did blanch some peas the night before. What happened to Ed’s pea puree is still a mystery in the same league as the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. But supposedly, because some people witnessed Alex blanching peas the night before, he’s innocent. Yeah, right.

Alex survived that round. Alex is difficult to like. He’s confrontational. He doesn’t seem to be a very good cook. He told us in one episode that if he won the money from a challenge he was going to buy a steak and a Vegas hooker. Huh? Do you know you’re on national television? And to top it all off, Alex looks like a weasel. What does he look like? He literally looks like a weasel. I almost disliked him on par with my hatred of the Sherry Chicken Bitch.

Finally, they did vote him off in the episode where they cooked for the CIA. This actually was pretty creative and entertaining. The contestants had to cook classic dishes and disguise them to look like something else. Pretty cool!

Angelo had Beef Wellington, so what does he do? Why, of course, he raids the frozen food section of Whole Foods for already made puff pastry dough, because that was so successful for that dreadlocked freak John. He deserved to go home, but they sent Alex home instead. That’s because Alex’s food was so inedible that they had to overlook Angelo’s cheating with the puff pastry. I did not cry to see Alex go.

Then, finally, in the next episode, what I’ve been waiting for happened. Oh, happy day! They voted off Sherry Chicken Bitch. The challenge was to make concession food for a professional baseball game. So, Amanda decides to make tuna tartare. Because when I think ballpark, I think raw fish. Don’t you?

She prepares it the night before, and she asks Angelo for help in preparing it properly. This is a fatal mistake. Even after seeing Angelo purposely sabotage other contestants that he’s actually buddied up to, Amanda thinks that if SHE asks Angelo for help, that he’ll naturally help her. Bitch, you aren’t that pretty.

What happens next is predictably gross. Amanda’s tuna tartare oxidizes and turns gray. She serves it without making any changes. It’s a wonder no one got ill. Then she gets booted off the chef train. Take your knives and go home.

I will continue watching Top Chef, but it won’t be any fun anymore. They’ve eliminated everyone I hate.

September 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

The Greatest Television Shows of All Time, According to Me

My favorite television shows when I was a kid weren’t very sophisticated. I liked Batman and Get Smart, Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. I loved variety shows like Sonny and Cher, The Donny and Marie Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. I still like The Carol Burnett Show, not that you see it anymore except for in late night infomercials for DVDs from Guthy-Renker. I loved The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Marlo Thomas in That Girl, because they represented, for me, single career women who were independent, happy and fabulous. I looked up to them and wanted to be them one day when I grew up.

I didn’t care for The Dukes of Hazard or A-Team, but I loved The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels. I had Barbie dolls of Cher, Marie Osmond, and The Bionic Woman growing up. When detective shows were everywhere I loved Hart to Hart and Remington Steele. I loved both The Cosby Show and Family Ties. Don’t get me started on Michael J. Fox. I’ll never stop. And then when I was in high school there was a revelation of what might be the greatest TV show of all time.

I remember my first viewing of Moonlighting. The pilot. It was greatness. The writing was great. I was too young and unsophisticated to realize they were ripping off the screwball comedies of the 1930s that I also loved. I just knew that it was wildly funny and entertaining and imaginative. And the sexual tension was palpable. Ah, Bruce Willis with hair in Ray Bans and a suit, in a BMW. His impression on my formative adolescent years was so strong that that image is like sex on film for me. When they finally got together to Ronnie and the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” it was thrilling. Even when I viewed the entire series on DVD as an adult a few years ago I still thought it was marvelous and fresh. There’s never been anything on television like it, before or since.

After Moonlighting, nothing really caught my imagination to the same degree until Ally McBeal came along. And I loved that show. People had a hard time with that show to some degree. There were criticisms and articles about how she brought back feminism by several years. How? Because she liked to wear mini-skirts and look attractive? Because she was obsessed with her married ex-boyfriend, Billy? Because she saw hallucinations of Dancing Babies accompanied to B.J. Thomas’s “Hooked on a Feeling”? Because she represented independent career women who still wanted to find love and raise a family? How very offensive! Everyone knows that true feminists should look and act and feel and have all the same opinions as Norman Lear’s Maude.

I liked a show called Christy that was based on a book by Catherine Marshall about a young woman who volunteered as a missionary teacher in the Appalachians. But like so much TV that I find watchable and worthy of praise even, it didn’t last.

The next show to hook me was Felicity. Over the years, it evolved into more of a soap opera, but in the beginning it was really wonderful. Felicity was about a freakishly intelligent woman with a famous head of curly hair who moves to New York from California to run after a boy from high school that she had a crush on. She does this because he “encourages” her by writing in her yearbook that he always wished that he knew her better. This show also had a lot of great writing and great actors. It was one of Jennifer Garner’s first acting roles of any consequence, and John Ritter and Chris Sarandon both had lengthy guest roles. It introduced us to Keri Russell and Scott Speedman and Scott Foley. It was created by J.J. Abrams, the man who brought us Lost, my favorite television show of the present.

I didn’t watch Lost for the first season. I caught on in repeats that were shown during that first summer hiatus. I loved it for the mystery and the characterizations and the fantastical plot that seemed to almost rival anything that Days of our Lives has ever done. My favorite characters are not Jack, Sawyer or Kate, although I like them okay. My favorites are John Locke and Sayid, followed by Desmond, Rose, Hurley and Ben. They are much more interesting to me. And I think that both Sayid and Richard Alpert are sexy as hell.

I could go on, but these are the stand outs in my mind. With the possible exception of Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, the British show Keeping Up Appearances, and the super funny Arrested Development I think I’ve made an almost exhaustive list. But maybe I’ll think of some others later.

July 30, 2009 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

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