All in Television

Today in Ridiculous B.S.: "The Julie Taylor Test"

Today, Laura tweeted a post from Salon's entertainment section, to which I reacted quite viscerally.

This (somewhat link-bait-y) piece is called "The Julie Taylor Test," referencing the daughter fo Eric and Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights, and it's absolutely dripping with sexism. The author, Willa Paskin, asserts that bad acting can be identified by comparing the performer suspected of bad acting to Julie Taylor on Friday Night Lights, portrayed by Aimee Teegarden.

She argues, 

Enter the Julie Taylor Test, an easy way to identify bad TV acting: Ask yourself, is it  to imagine the inner life of this character? If no, is it possible to imagine the inner life of the characters surrounding him or her? It was all too possible to imagine the inner lives of every character on “Friday Night Lights” but Julie.

The thing is, using Paskin's own example, Julie Taylor has an immense inner life (watch The Giving Tree, S3E10, if you don't believe me).

However, her "inner life" is that of a teenage girl, so there are two strikes against Julie the character and Aimee the actress.

55 Thoughts After Watching (Nearly) 4 Seasons of Parenthood

Welcome to another episode of Sarah's Netflix Binges! Up next: Jason Katim's post-Friday Night Lights vehicle, Parenthood. 

I fought watching this show for, well, the entire time it's been on. Then, I got really bored in December because I wasn't teaching and didn't have any work projects lined up, so I did what any red-blooded America would do and watched a ton of television. Finally, I'd run out of options, realizing that I really had a problem if I was thinking watching season three of Friday NIght Lights for the tenth time was a viable option, and queued up Parenthood on the Roku.

(Unpaid endorsement: I ♥ our Roku so much--it's up their with our SodaStream on my Official List of Things More Awesome Than They Seem Like They Should Be.)

Naturally, I have some thoughts...

66 Thoughts After Watching 66 Episodes of The Vampire Diaries

As has been well-documented, I love television. 

And I work out of my house. And I need background noise. Silence distracts me. While I love Pandora for background noise in short bursts, I love putting on some Netflix Instant in the background while I crank out a bunch of CSS coding or plan a class or write a communications plan.

Now, I know you’re thinking, 

But, Sarah, how can you watch television and concentrate? That is not at all normal!

Good question!

First off, I never, ever claimed to be “normal.” Secondly, I have no idea, but this dates way back to fights I would have with my mother over watching television while doing my homework. I can actually concentrate better if I have something else to concentrate on too. It’s all part of my genius. Ahem. 

The thing is, I’d kind of run out of new-to-me televisions shows to watch and was resorting to rewatching some of my old favorites. 

Last month, I found myself inexplicably drawn to hitting the “watch now” on The Vampire Diaries. And watched all 66 episodes of the first three seasons over the course of an embarrassingly short period of time.

And I have some thoughts on The Vampire Diaries. Sixty-six of them, to be precise. 

1-2) The first few episodes are essentially Dawson’s Creek with Vampires. I almost didn’t keep watching. So much angst and silly dialogue

3-6) I have many concerns about Stefan’s hair.

Stefan The Vampire Diaries

First of all, he’s supposed to be from the Civil War Era, but his hair is straight out of 1955. And I wonder how much time Stefan spends on his hair—certainly more than Elena. This should have been a warning sign. And since the TVD vamps are vulnerable to fire, wouldn’t all the product pose a risk, given all the candles used around the Salvatore mansion?

List-O-Rama: 4 New Fall Television Shows That Might Not Suck

You may have noticed that we kind of love television around here. And, no, there’s nothing incongruous in liking both books and television—I swear. Stories are awesome in any medium.

I was perusing my beloved Entertainment Weekly on Friday (yay! my mailman didn’t “borrow it” this week) and while most everything looks atrocious (I’m looking at you New Matthew Perry “Comedy”), a few of the shows piqued my interest.

image via EW via ABC

Nashville - ABC, Wednesday at 10:00p.m.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really even understand what this show was about before I added it to this list, but it’s starring Tami Taylor, so I’ll watch it regardless. But, it’s gotten really good buzz and sounds like it’ll be a pretty interesting show. Whatshername from Heroes plays an evil Taylor Swift-type, so what could go wrong? 


True Blood Snark-Cap - Season Five Finale/Season Wrap-Up

Dear True Blood, 

I’m sorry, but I think we need to break up.

You see, it’s not me—it’s you.

I just wasted an entire summer of Sunday evenings watching and—oh, horror!—recapping the suckfest of your fifth season. All of that for only one awesome thing.

Pam’s hair.

And as fabulous as Pam’s hair is, it’s not enough to carry an entire television show. 

True Blood Snark-Cap - Episode 5.10: Gone, Gone, Gone

Guys… I am so sorry! I literally (literally literally, not figuratively literally) forgot to watch True Blood this week. So, this snark-cap is late.

You know what makes True Blood seem particularly stupid? If you watch three episodes of Friday Night Lights after watching this week’s episode of True Blood. That’s exactly what I did—and, boy, that was a mistake. It hit me: there is absolutely no character development on True Blood anymore. I mean, there was never a ton, since it’s a soapy smutfest, but at least in the first few seasons Sookie & Co changed and were kind of interesting. 

So, I thought I’d recap this week’s show in pictures…

Some dude in Bon Temps got turned into a vampire and Sookie staked him with chopsticks, in possibly her most resourceful moment on the show.

And, like all vampire chopstick-slayings, it was messy.

Very messy.

Bill’s still staking people with the handy-dandy iStake App. (Available in the App Store, I’m sure.) 

True Blood Snark-Cap - Episode 5.9: Everyone Wants to Rule the World

BREAKING: This week’s True Blood didn’t suck (ha!) as much as the last few weeks’ episodes at least. 

We finally got resolution to the smoke monster WTFery, we said goodbye to Noel and it looks like maybe the hate group story is winding down. We’ve finally got some good ol’ fashioned True Blood double-crossery happening and the vampire war with humans is heating up.

However, there are only a few episodes left and we’ve spent all season waiting for something—anything—to happen. 

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out Rebeca’s review of Sarah Mayberry’s latest novel, which sounds really wonderful.

Thoughts & Reaction

  • Why do I subscribe to HBO again? 

Gratuitous Eric profile screencap.

  • Oh… right…  Hi, Eric.

True Blood Snark-Cap - Episode 5.8: Somebody I Used to Know

The premise of this week’s True Blood episode was basically this: High on ancient vampire blood, the vampires decide to go for complete and total world domination. Apparently, that is our big payoff for this torturously dull season. A vampire war on humans. *yawn*

Uh, okay… 

Anyway, I had a very hard time even mustering the energy to snark-cap this episode—I kept spacing out while watching and having to rewind. Oh, and one of my dogs decided that he hates the show and demonstrated his displeasure by growling at the television. I am not even joking. 

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out this list of sports-themed novels to get you in the Olympic spirit or Rebeca’s memorable reads from the first half of this year for some great reading recommendations.

Yeah, we’re confused too, Sam.

Thoughts & Reaction

  • Ladies and gentlemen, we have a “sexual content” warning! Is this the first one of the season?

True Blood Snark-Cap - Episode 5.6: In the Beginning

I have some things to say about this season of True Blood.

Many, many things.

There is absolutely no reason for my inclusion of this image in this post. But that sort of makes sense given the inexplicable WTFery of this season.

First off, why oh why have they completely removed both Bill and Eric from Sookie’s world by enveloping them in the Authority world? The whole appeal of the show was the various entanglements of these three and now it’s just Bill and Eric wrapped up with this political stuff and Sookie angsting. It’s like they’re trying to actually be a mystery/adventure type show rather than the soapiness that it did really, really well. Where’s the drama? Where’s the smut? Come on…


On a related note, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Sookie’s character is not strong enough to stand on her own without the Bill-Eric drama. We see her occasionally going to work, stressing about how to get rid of her fairy powers, conversing with her brother about their parents, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… And none of it matters because her character was essentially undeveloped for four seasons because it was all about her getting some hot vampire booty. Or whatever. 

No, Sookie, we really don’t care. At all.I used to really enjoy Lafayette’s character. He had a dash of humanity that many of the other characters lack—you could almost imagine knowing Lafayette. And now he’s brooding and possessed by demons or whatever and it has done absolutely nothing to develop his character. He’s just there. It’s pointless and frustrating. 

There are so many random, unexplained subplots introduced this season that it’s actually really hard to follow the show at this point—and True Blood is not at all complex. It’s just that each scene is so short that there’s not a lot to go on in terms of understanding how it all knits together. It seems like there’s less crossover between the characters, like they’re all in little plot bubbles. We’re seven episodes in and we still don’t see how everything that’s going on relates. 

In a stroke of self-awareness, the True Blood powers that be (do they call themselves, “The Authority”?) named this week’s episode, “Hopeless.” I assume this is an commentary on the entire season. 

This week we had Eric, Alcide, Bill and Sookie finding Russell and delivering him to The Authority. Eric glamoured Alcide into being repulsed by Sookie (HA!), Bill fake-glamoured Sookie to say an overwrought and unnecessary good-bye and we revisited the fairy bar. Oh, yeah… and Russell is back. I don’t know about you, but this whole season feels like a collection of scenes building up to something that’s going to be, in the minds of the show-runners, “Big.” But I think that payoff is going to have to be awfully big to make it all worthwhile.

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out my review of Jennifer Echols’ latest, Such a Rush, or Sandra’s reflections on encouraging young people to get excited about reading.

In which I watch, so you don’t have to… 

  • It is way too convenient for Sookie to use her fairy mojo to get out of scrapes. It’s aggravating, because nothing is that hard for her, really. I really hate it when fictional characters’ obstacles are manufactured and there’s never any real risks for them. It’s just frustrating.
  • Random naked werewolf body FTW!

  • I keep forgetting the Iraq curse/firestarter storyline exists. And, yet… every week it comes back. Why? Why? Why?

“Let’s make some memories.”When I first heard about Clear Eyes, Full Shelves from Sarah and Laura, the Friday Night Lights reference flew right over my head. They exchanged glances, cackled giggled, and laughingly explained the name of their blog. I responded with a big fat “Huh?”

But my ignorance continued unabated until I was invited to review books for them. My default response to the offer of books to read is—and always will be—a resounding HELL YES.

Thus, in order to do justice to the FNL Character Rating, in the name of research I decided I should actually watch some of this TV show.

Let me begin by saying I grew up in small towns all around Arizona. For eighteen years I lived in towns where the only bookstore was the Christian bookstore. Where at least a quarter of the students were  Hispanic and the division between them and the gringos was stark. Where disagreeing with the government was considered unpatriotic. For a shy, spanish-speaking white girl who loved books, you would have a hard time finding a more alien environment—an environment that managed to be simultaneously hostile and home.

And while the experience has given me an interesting perspective, I have to say I love living in Portland, Oregon now. So you can understand why I might be reluctant to plunge back into this world again.

But FNL is special.

I’m not sure I can keep this up all season, you guys. I mean… this season of HBO’s True Blood is just nonsensical. At this point, the Orgy Season seems classy and well-written. 

Anyway, this episode featured masked gunmen shooting at shifters, the continued search for Russell, Sookie yacking on Alcide instead of, you know… Basically, the whole episode felt like a prequel, a setup for… something. And yet, nothing continued to happen. Please, please, please, HBO: I committed to “analyzing” this season and you’ve got to give me something to work worth!

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out my review of Courtney Summers’ fabulous zombie novel, This is Not a Test. If you haven’t added that one to your to-read pile yet, I don’t even know what to say (and that’s a feat). 

Laura suggested I use this screencap to illustrate this season until it gets its act together. This is a suggestion I very much like.

Thoughts & Reaction

  • Sigh… “Brief” nudity? Come on, HBO… you can do better than that! Because at this point, that’s all we’re sticking around for. 
  • I wish I could remember what TV blog called Bill & Eric’s staking devices “iStakes.” I’m still laughing over that. EW? Paste? I don’t know…
  • *yawn*

HBO is so wacked out about the possibility of people watching their show with subscribing to an expensive cable package, that they have all kinds of “failsafes” on the HBOGo streaming app that often prevent legit subscribers like me from watching their shows.

This morning, I logged on to zip through yesterday’s craptastic episode of True Blood and snag some screencaps (because the ones that HBO releases are so nonsensical, I can’t even deal) and I repeatedly got the message that my session had timed out. I couldn’t watch more than a few seconds without getting this error message. So, anyway… you have the jerks at HBO to thank for this post sucking and not having any fabulous pictures.


And… By the way, here’s my little love note to HBO.

Dear HBO,

In case you didn’t realize, there are many, many ways to watch your programming without a subscription—don’t make it so hard for your paying customers. It kind of disincentivizes people from actually, you know, giving you money. I want to give you money—stop making me feel like you hate me and the rest of your paying customers by treating us like pirates.



So, we’ve decided… until this season gets its act together and stops sucking, we’re referring to these recaps/analysis as “Snark-Caps.”

(Thanks to Laura for the brilliant name.)

This season is just so ridiculous and convoluted, I have no words to describe its suckitude. I mean, the Orgy Season was pretty bizarre, but at least the story was united under an umbrella of bizarre. This season, is just like a series of random vignettes that have no interconnection. I wonder if they’re working up to something, or if they’re really going for the soap opera-style of storytelling now? Other than the Pam-Eric scenes, the rest of this episode was just full of WTF—and not the awesome kind. I mean, was anyone even shirtless in this episode?!

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out Renegade’s intro to romance novels—she made my to-read pile a whole lot bigger. 

This season of True Blood could not be more disappointing, am I right? Thus far, there has been very little shirtless Eric, no shirtless Alcide and too much Tara.

The only saving grace as been the Pam and Eric backstory, which I LOVE. 

This week, in addition to old-timey Eric and Pam, we had Emo Jason, angsty Alcide, more Arlene WTFery and Hoyt dressed up a an outfit borrowed from 50 Shades of Grey. What could go wrong? 

Oh, right, a lot. 

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out this wonderful review of Flirting in Italian from our fabulous new contributor, Rebeca (whose name auto-corrects on my phone as “Renegade”).

Old-timey Eric. YES.

Oh, True Blood… Last night’s episode, Authority Always Wins, was quite possibly the worst ever.

And that’s saying something.

We had Annoying Tara as Annoying Vampire Tara. We had Bill being a drip—shocker, I know. Eric had maybe one good line—and was not shirtless at any point. The Arlene-Terry-Noel-Firestarter storyline is seemingly pointless. And I couldn’t care less about Sam and his shapeshifter girlfriend’s troubles. The continued saga between Hoyt and Jason. And Jessica and Rev. Newland fighting over Jason. I started counting the various subplots in this episode and lost track, but I’m guessing it was over ten. Let’s hope this isn’t a sign of what to expect from the rest of the season. 

Obviously, the following “analysis” contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of True Blood. If you haven’t seen it and want to remain free from spoilage, please don’t continue reading. Instead, I suggest checking out my review of C.K. Kelly Martin’s amazing new book for adults, Come See About Me.

“You’re in quite the pickle.” *snicker*

Thoughts and Reaction

We’re mixing things up a bit and “analyzing” one of our favorite crappy television shows, True Blood. It’s book-related, right? I mean, who hasn’t accidentally read six Sookie Stackhouse books in a row before realizing that they’re truly terrible? Right? Right? Ahem.

Obviously, this “analysis” contains spoilers for the latest episode of True Blood, so if you haven’t watched and want to remain free from spoilage, I’d suggest you not read this post. Instead, I recommend you read this post about Laura’s husband wanting to read books about werewolves fighting vampires. 

Bill’s sexile outside the shipping container was kind of priceless.

Thoughts & Reaction

  • True Blood opens with Bill and Erik… scrubbing the floors? They can come by my house next, since it’s totally filthy. Except Bill can stay back at Sookie’s and mope or whatever else Bill does in his spare time. 
  • Random thought: Am I the only one who totally forgot about the demon baby? That’s the sort of WTFery I’m surprised isn’t straight from the book.
  • Please let Tara be dead-dead, not just undead. *crosses fingers*
  • Jason Stackhouse is naked constantly. I get that it’s part of his character and all but all I can think about is his character from Home and Away and it’s just super awkward.
  • Pam in a yellow flowered Wal-Mart sweatsuit=omigod.

I adored the television series Dollhouse and was thrilled to learn that it’s continuing in graphic novel form—unfortunately, this first installment disappointed. 

If you’re not familiar with Dollhouse, the television show developed a cult following in 2009-2010 with it’s captivating stories of an evil corporation that ran an underground network of “dollhouses” that allowed wealthy clients to rent people whose personalities had been wiped out and replaced with temporary personalities and skills. Basically, clients could order up anything they wanted from the menu. The show centered around one “Active” (what the people who’s personalities had been wiped) named Echo, who remembers small amounts from each personality temporarily placed in her mind. This excellent Joss Whedon-lead show explored fascinating themes about identity and individuality and also had kickass scifi and action elements. 

(Please note, this review contains spoilers for the TV show from this point forward, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for the show, go hit up Netflix, get caught up on Dollhouse and come back to this review.)

The graphic novel series, published by Dark Horse, takes place before the two episodes of the show that are set after the two episodes (Epitaph 1 & 2) that follow the technology that creates the Dolls spreading like a virus, creating a legions of zombie-like people that can be controlled by Rossum Corporation. In this post-apocalyptic world, there are only a few survivors who are trying to save humanity. 

Much of the action centers around Alpha, the seriously screwed up rogue Active who became obsessed with Echo in the television series. And therein lies my problem with this contribution to the series story.

I simply don’t care about Alpha, he served his purpose in the series, but when I think “Dollhouse,” I think “Echo.”