Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is in full-force at the Ooo! Shiny! country house.

Pumpkin goo.
Soaking seeds in saltwater....mmmm.

Yesterday was full with pumpkin carving, pumpkin seed preparing, and tiny apple pie making. Yes, tiny apple pies.


Yummy and cute!

Have you seen these apple pie's made in 4oz mason jars around the interwebs lately? I have no idea where the concept originated, but it is really cool. I had to bring a preschool snack for their Halloween party today so I thought I'd give these a whirl.

How cute are these 4oz mason jars?
As I mentioned above, there are many tutorials out there on how to make these small bits of heaven. I think that this one from the Our Best Bites Blog is particularly good.


Cut the apple pieces smaller than usual for the little pies.

I used my tried and true apple pie filling recipe (below) and the Crisco pie crust recipe. They turned out delicious. I will definitely be doing this again!

Apple Pie Filling
5 apples (I prefer tart)
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 tablespoons Penzy's "Baking Spice"
Half a lemon

Peel and slice apples to desired thickness (generally I cut mine for a regular pie at about 1/4" thick). Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon over the apples to coat. Mix the flour, sugar, and spice together in a bowl and then pour over the apples and stir. There is a reason for the expression "easy as apple pie".

I will snack on one of these cuties tonight when I am watching scary movies after the kids go to bed...bwwaaahhh!!!! Happy Halloween all!
–Cassandra

Friday, October 28, 2011

Party Like It's 1968...


...and your baby is The Son of Satan!




In the world of Mighty Distractible, "spooky" is a year-round celebration - not just to be celebrated on Halloween. However, we recognize that many of you reserve your spooky love for the month of October. Therefore, we try very hard to limit our blog posts about spooky subjects to the Halloween season.

If you're interested, here are a few other posts from last year's "Spookytober":
While we had fun with each of these posts, my favorite entries are our film lists. Last year, I posted my list of favorite scary movies - a fairly comprehensive introduction to good (or good-bad) horror films. Recently, Cassandra posted a list of her favorite spooky films.

There is one movie in particular that both Cassandra and I are obsessed with - Rosemary's Baby. I won't get into the myriad reasons why this movie ranks as one of the best films ever committed to celluloid because that would become the Longest.Blogpost.Ever. But, I will share with you our secrets for hosting an awesome Rosemary's Baby Party (perfect for Halloween!!)



How to Host a Rosemary's Baby Party

There's a lot of eating and drinking that happens in Rosemary's Baby, and it's a recent-period film, so there's plenty to work with when planning your perfect Halloween party.

  1. Costumes can be simple 1960's outfits. A trip to your local thrift store will yield plenty of options. But, if you really want to get specific, there are many secondary characters, including some very odd ones in the dream sequence, that would make great costumes including: the Pope, JFK, a Japanese photographer, etc.
  2. Appetizers should include beef carpacio (raw, paper-thin beef) with capers. Rosemary ate her meat raw when she was pregnant with the Son of Satan. Also, she's given a charm containing "tannis root" which, by the description, I think might look like capers. Another good choice is chicken liver pate. Rosemary ate raw chicken livers but I'm guessing your guests wouldn't be into that so much.
  3. Dessert has to be chocolate mousse - or, as Minnie (the devil's minion) calls it, "chocolate mouse." The way to make this especially perfect is to crush up some chocolate Necco wafers and mix them in the mousse. They need to be, basically, powdered so that you can't really tell they're in there. The Necco wafers will give the mousse the "chalky under taste" that Rosemary complains of in the movie. You can also serve chocolate chip cookies which Rosemary baked to give to the trick-or-treating children in her apartment building (oh the days of homemade treats!)
  4. Cocktails should be appropriate to the '60's - martini's, Tom Collins', Gin Fizzes, etc. But, regardless of what you have available on your bar, you absolutely must serve Vodka Blush (recipe below). Roman and Minnie (devil's minions) serve Rosemary and her husband, Guy, Vodka Blush at their first dinner together. (Be sure to over fill the glasses and spill a little in remembrance of Roman.) While not a particularly popular drink today, sherry is another option as this is what Rosemary drank when she was pregnant - and she was afraid it had harmed the baby.
  5. Another drink option is to recreate the "herbal drink" that Minnie makes for Rosemary each day. The consistency is like a yogurt smoothie and the color is green. I would recommend making smoothies with vanilla yogurt and using some green food coloring to get the right color.
  6. If you like playing party games, Scrabble should be on the docket as Rosemary used Scrabble pieces to help her solve the anagram that reveals Roman's true identity.
  7. Of course, the movie should be playing in the background throughout the party!
I hope you all have an amazing Halloween weekend. Just remember, to make it perfectly perfect, you have to have at least ONE viewing of Rosemary's Baby before November 1.

- Alex

Vodka Blush Recipe


2 1/2 oz vodka
3/4 ozfresh lime juice
1 dash grenadine syrup

Fill shaker 2/3 with fresh ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Awestruck by Lotte Reiniger



Years ago, when I was an art student, it always bummed me out that we spent such a small amount of time on women artists in art history class. Now, please don't misunderstand me here, I don't feel the need to root for "the ladies" just because they are my people. It's simply that I connect with the artistic process of most women artists. Most likely this is because on some level we have a shared life or possibly emotional experience.

I have to say, I sort of understand Camille Claudel's crazy.


Lee Krasner ran with the big dogs.
To supplement my college education I would sit for hours in the library pouring over big books that included the work of well-known female artists like Cindy Sherman, Lee Krasner, Camille Claudel (my daughter's namesake), Frida Kahlo, etc. In the days before the interwebs this was really the only option. Nowadays online, in a few click-throughs I can stumble upon a mind blowing artist that I never knew existed. It was on the herzensart blog of a German handmade art toy designer the other day that I was introduced to Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (1899 – 1981).

Lotte at work.

Wow...I kinda love her work, if I had to put a name on her style/meduim it would be: Paper Silhouette Animation Artist. The first of it's kind. Her work is both enchanting and dark, I think largely due to the fact that most of what I have seen is inspired by fairy tales. It has a hand-made feel to it that I find so appealing and yet (especially for it's time) it is amazingly technical. She had talent and brains. Love.


This is really inspiring. I am particularly taken with the idea of mixing my crafty pursuits with my highbrow art training. Hmmmm...I need to stew on this for a while.

Here is a brief video showing her inspiring creative process. Enjoy!


The Art of Lotte Reiniger (1953-1971) by baraqueafritz


–Cassandra


Monday, October 24, 2011

Everything I Learned, I Learned From TV.

Let's bet.

I'll bet you money that, if you're under the age of 50 and you grew up with television in your home, that the bulk of your classical music recognition come from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Go ahead. Think about it. The Rabbit of Seville. Classic Bugs & Elmer.What's Opera, Doc? (aka: Kill Da Wabbit!) I can't hear that music without singing the Looney Tunes lyrics.

If you've been reading us for any length of time, you know that I'm an unapologetic television watcher. I don't mind that my introduction to classical music was through cartoons. It made going to the ballet with my grandma much more interesting because the music wasn't foreign to me. And, it means that lots of classical music has positive, sentimental memories attached to it.

What I'm trying to say is that television can be the positive influence that the founders of the medium wanted it to be. To that end, please let me introduce you to one of my favorite media juggernauts - America's Test Kitchen.

America's Test Kitchen is a public television program (and complementing website, The Feed) that's celebrating its 10th year on the air. The host, Christopher Kimble, is editor-in-chief of the lauded Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Of course, the show and the magazine are affiliated and have a similar style and commitment to quality. The actual "test kitchen" is located in Massachusetts and, as a result, there's a distinctive New England quality to proceedings - simple, no-nonsense, and very, very practical.

In a beautifully equipped yet unadorned kitchen, Christopher and his crew of regular chefs cook and cook and cook some more to find the very best recipes for... well... everything. If you need to know how to make any dish, I promise you'll find the best possible basic version of it here. It's important to note that they're not out to make the fanciest, or most innovative, or Top Chef-ish dish. The goal of the test kitchen is to discover the perfect core recipe that you can then expand on if you're so inclined. I had never successfully made a pot roast until I followed the ATK recipe. And it was perfect. As was the gravy. This dish is currently in heavy rotation at my house as a result.



In addition to providing us with perfect recipes, ATK also does product reviews (food/gadgets/etc.) and some fun segments like "what is this utensil?" where people can send in photos of weird utensils they've found and the folks at ATK will research and tell you its purpose. Finally, there are techniques and tips galore to make you a better and more efficient cook. Everything I ever learned about cuts of beef, I learned from Christopher Kimbell.

A friend of mine described the show as "Consumer Reports for cooking".



I used to save ATK shows on my DVR so that I could watch them while I was cooking and follow along. Then I figured out that I could just pull up the video segment from the website so I was able to clear quite a few hours of programming from my hard drive. (thank goodness). However, I still love watching the show itself. Kimbell's laconic humor and the good-natured ribbing that happens on set is really appealing and keeps me coming back. Well...that along with the recipes.

So, if you want to learn something from television (something other than what Snooki's wearing out to the club this weekend), I highly recommend America's Test Kitchen and it's affiliated magazine, Cook's Illustrated, and, of course, The Feed website. I promise you won't be disappointed.


- Chef Alex


PS - I just discovered there's a Cook's Illustrated iPhone app. I'm downloading it as I type.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Indie Trunk Show

I want to let you all in on a little secret. For the past few months Alex and I have been preparing to participate in our first Indie Artists Trunk Show. It has been difficult for a blabbermouth like me to keep this under my hat...lemme tell ya. We are simultaneously excited and nervous.



There are six other artists in this show offering beautiful textiles, fine art, photography, pottery, plushies, and more. Alex and I (under the name of Mighty Distractible) will have custom embroidery kits, knitting patterns, our own yarn, beautiful project bags, and more. Squeal! We were quite honored to be invited to do this. Our hope is that some of our local readers will pop over and introduce themselves. That would be seriously awesome!


This show is chock-full of talented artists...and great timing for picking up unique holiday gifts! I'm sure we will have more info as November 19th comes closer. Check the Indie Art and Design page for links to the various artists.


–Cassandra

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Critters for Christmas

Knitting has turned me into "one of THOSE people" - the ones who are planning for Christmas in October. Well, to be honest, I bought the patterns in July but I'm just now casting on.


I miss the days when I didn't think about Christmas until, say, the week of Christmas. It was an awesome thing to realize that I had seven days or so to balance my checkbook and scour the stores in a fast, but satisfying, buying frenzy. There was just something more festive about it.


Planning for Christmas makes it seem like a chore.


On the other hand, I love giving hand-made gifts to my family and friends. Not everyone appreciates them, but I like the process of picking out something I think the person might like and creating it from scratch. I think it has more value than some mass-produced piece of plastic that a gajillion other people are also going to own on December 26th.

This year, for the first time, my niece and nephew are getting hand-made gifts for Christmas. It's tricky with kids. They could be really bummed out with the present (think about Ralphie in the bunny suit) because it's NOT that mass-produced piece of plastic. However, I hedged my bets and had the kids pick out the patterns that they wanted.


Enter my very best resource for knitted items for kids: Morehouse Farm Merino.


Morehouse Farm makes some of the loftiest, loveliest merino yarn you've ever seen. You know it's from the farm because, occasionally, there'll be a bit of hay or something stuck in the fiber. But even better than their yarn are their patterns and kits. Sure, they have the traditional hats, scarves, sweaters, etc. but where the real treasure lies is in their Critter Knits.


Pretty much any animal you can imagine has been made into a Morehouse Critter - dogs, dragons, chicks, and geckos abound. They might be scarves or purses or hats but, however they're knitted up, the one thing they all are is CUTE.


My niece chose the pink poodle scarf and my nephew the gecko. While I love the merino wool, it's not really practical for two little, messy children so they're getting theirs made from lovely, washable acrylic. I picked the loftiest acrylic I could find because I was worried that the pattern would lose it's shape so the gecko is being made with Vanna's Choice and the poodle will be made from Waverly by Bernat.


So far the gecko is coming out beautifully. I'm actually surprised at how well the acrylic is knitting up and how much I like the hand of the finished fabric.  I'm really looking forward to seeing their faces when the open their presents on Christmas day. I'm sure they'll be happier than Ralphie was.(At least I hope so!)


- Alex

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tea Leaves Cardigan

Almost a year ago, I whined here about wanting more hand-knit sweaters for myself. Well, I am happy to report that I have a finished beauty to add to my collection (now it is a collection of 2).

Love the neckline...
I am all squealy about my new Tea Leaves Cardigan. I am wearing it all the time. I had such a hard time narrowing down which sweater to knit, so it's satisfying that this ended up being a really great choice.


The Pattern
This pattern was sooooo easy to knit. I am a big fan of working top down. (My other hand-knit sweater, Liesl, was the same.) The detail on the yoke is simple but elegant and the miles of stockinette made for great mindless TV watching/knitting. And, there is very little "finishing" work to do on this sweater which is always a big plus.

The yoke in progress.

One problem:
I actually knit a gauge swatch before I began this project because I wanted it to fit just right. I was spot-on with gauge so I was surprised in the end that my sweater is about a size bigger than I'd like it. My body measuring must be off. The next time I make a sweater for myself I am going to do more research on this subject and make sure I am doing it properly.

With that said, I did notice a lot of people on Ravelry mentioned that they ended up ripping back after knitting the yoke and making this sweater in a smaller size. So maybe it's not just me. For a better fit, I ran a piece of yarn through the neckline to tighten it up a bit. It helped immensely.

The back view of my new sweater. It could fit a wee bit snugger.

The Yarn
I used the Madelinetosh merino that the pattern specified. It was spendy, I was nervous. I was worried that it would be wonky. Then I would have a hand-knit, expensive, and ugly sweater in my collection. I put my reservations aside and mustered up my kitting bravado...casting on with confidence.

I am not that experienced knitting with hand-dyed yarns so I wasn't sure if pooling would be a problem. To be safe, I alternated between two balls on every row. A bit of a pain, but better safe than sorry.

Madelinetosh Merino in Nutmeg.


This yarn knits up like a dream. Beautiful stitch definition yet as soft as can be. And the color...oh Lordy! It is so rich. I am not generally a fan of variegated yarns, but this is so subtle. No wonder I fell in love with it in the store. This is a bad, addictive kind of love though. I want more...

Wonderful pattern, wonderful sweater. I can see why it's so popular on Ravelry. I have some dreams about the next one on the needles for me...

–Cassandra

Friday, October 14, 2011

And, the winner is....


Cassandra and I really enjoy this giveaway business. We love looking for interesting new things to review and we love-love sharing the products with you. We take the random-drawing process very seriously because it's important to us to be as fair as possible. Our first effort was a little awkward but we've worked out the kinks and have it down to a science now.


Here's how it works:

1. We place the qualifying names in a special Random Drawing vessel. Each name is on an equal sized piece of paper, with no edges folded (you people who enter raffles know what I'm talking about.)

Seasonally-themed vessel


2. We engage a completely unbiased co-worker at Company X to draw the name.

Suited up and ready to draw a name

We are proud to announce that the winner of the autographed copy of What Would Madame DeFarge Knit? is...




Congratulations, Connie! We'll email you at the address you provided in your comment and you can send us your mailing address. Thank you so much for participating!


Thanks also to everyone who participated. Please let us know if there are any products that you'd like to see us review and giveaway in the future. We'll be back to regular postings next week.


- Alex

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's (Finally) Getting Spooky

*Reminder - don't forget to comment on our review of What Would Madame DeFarge Knit? to be entered into a drawing for a free, autographed copy of the book!

I mentioned last week, I am a big fan of this time of year. What I didn't mention is, this is the season where other people become more like me. Let me 'splain...

This holy-water aspersory/aspergill is always on my kitchen mantle.
The raven addition indicates that it is now Halloween.
Those who know me well are aware of my fascination with the creepy. I'm not talking slasher films or zombies (I leave the walking dead to Alex). I mean the kind of creepy that on the surface looks okay...but on closer inspection, something's not quite right. I watch movies like Rosemary's Baby or The Omen any given day of the year. Most people only get into the spookier side of things in October. So this month is my chance to strike up conversations about movies I'm obsessed over. Love it!

Last year, Alex gave us a list of her favorite scary movies...this year I will take a stab (pun intended) at listing 10 of my must-see films....and if you have all day, I could go on.
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968) - the most amazing movie ever made
  • The Exorcist (1973) - you will be looking for signs of evil in children for a while after a viewing of this
  • The Shining (1980) - after seeing this, hitting a single key on a piano will always give you chill
  • The Omen (1976) - this could happen to anyone
  • The Sixth Sense (1999) - utterly brilliant
  • Nosferatu (1922) - old-school creepy squared
  • Phantasm - scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a tween
  • The Others (2001) - messes with your mind
  • The House on Haunted Hill (1959) - don't let the black and while fool ya, it's f'd up
  • Carrie (1976) - in my opinion, Piper Laurie  steals the show
    So, settle in for a good scare with a cup of spiced cider and some pointy sticks in your hand. I promise that any one of these movies will make your Halloween even more of a fright (without any blood or gore.)

    –Cassandra

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Book Review & GIVEAWAY!

    For those of you who may have stopped by last week to read this, we apologize for the immediate reposting. However, we've decided to do a give-away of this book. If you win, you'll receive a trade paperback copy of What Would Madame DeFarge Knit? signed by each contributor!

    The Rules: simple read our review then make a comment in the comment section before 12pm CST on Friday, October 14, 2011. We'll do a random drawing from the qualifying entries and announce the winner in our blog post on Friday 10/14.  If you've won, you'll have to email us your mailing address and we'll get the book out to you right away. Good luck!!

    Please check here for giveaway winner!

    Our Review of What Would Madame DeFarge Knit?

    Occasionally we distractibles will review a product or a book. This week, we bring you our opinions on the book What Would Madame Defarge Knit? edited by Heather Ordover.


    Here's how it works... we both checked out the book and then wrote our reviews separately (so you basically get two reviews for the price of one!) Then we post both reviews and enjoy discovering what we agreed upon and what we disagreed upon. Not surprisingly, we often agree on the same bits. Enjoy!

    Cassandra's Review

    The very idea of crossing classic literature and making sends me into a swoon. So, needless to say, I was delighted when Heather announced on the Craftlit podcast that a book was forthcoming. I procured a copy of the book as quickly as I could after release, but, sadly haven't been able to actually knit from one of the patterns yet. My observations are strictly on the book itself.

    Heather from Craftlit LOVES all things literature. No, I do not know her personally, but I know her passion for literature having listened to her podcast weekly over the past few years. So, it comes as no surprise to me that this book does not simply use literary characters as inspiration for knitwear. The book is as true to the literature as to the knitting portion. Each pattern has a well-written essay from the designer. They share personal reflections on why they chose that character as their muse. Very inspiring and again, evidence that this book was edited with a mission to celebrate the classics. I defy anyone who has not read Frankenstein, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, or any of the stories highlighted before the pattern begins to not get intrigued enough to hit their local Barnes and Noble for a Penguin Classic to get the full story. Brilliant.

    I am a professional creative who designs print pieces. I'm going to say this because I know I'm a little tough and frankly, opinionated. I'm sure if Heather reads this, she will understand and she can feel free to poke holes in my atrocious syntax or dangling participles! I am not a writer, I just play one on this blog. :)

    The design of the book itself is not quite on par with the content. I think I understand the look they were trying to achieve, but it needs some seasoned art direction. I'm pretty sure that the book would flow better from pattern to pattern by using some design tricks. The illustrations have a primitive feel, which is fine, but I think the way that they are presented leaves them a little flat. Now, I understand that designing under the constraints of black and white only can be challenging, but in that challenge lies true creativity. The design has so much potential to be as great as the copy...I would love to get my hands on it. It would be a dream project.

    With that said, I love the idea of incorporating the theme with the difficulty rating system...Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité. Brilliant. And the little illustrations of the tools and techniques are very nice.

    I have glorious things to say about the actual  patterns in this book. I especially love the Ms Prynn neckwarmer, Lysistrata Chiton sweater, Van Tassel Mittens, and Nora's Glacial Gauntlets....but what has captured my imagination is the Defarge stole. There is something so timeless and mysterious about it. I think that could be my first choice to cast-on of the patterns out of the book.

    The companion web site to this book is a wonderful modern touch. Color views of the patterns, more information, KAL links...all great ideas. Overall, I love this book. Glad I have it a copy and I really look forward to knitting a project or two after the holiday backlog is finished.

    Alex's Review

    What Would Madam Defarge Knit is a practically perfect title.  It is immediately evident that the book has a literary spin. And, the idea that the Machiavellian, vengeful Madam Defarge would knit anything is just short of hilarious.

    The book title made complete sense when I learned that the editor of this compilation of patterns was Heather Ordover, the always delightful host of the CraftLit podcast and craftlit.com.  Heather describes her podcast as “a book-on-tape with benefits”. You hear a little crafty talk first and then the audio version of some piece of classic literature. It’s a great way to get caught up on the classics while your hands are busy. 

    There’s much to love in this book – my favorite thing being the commitment to the concept.
    • There are 21 patterns inspired by classic literature, and each comes with an accompanying essay about the pattern-designer’s inspiration.The designs are categorized by difficulty by assigning one of three visual symbols  - a fleur-de-lis (Liberte for the beginning knitter), a ribbon (Egalite for the intermediate knitter), and a guillotine (Fraternite for the expert or “willing to stick their neck out” intermediate knitter).  
    • Throughout the book, there are little sidebars that point you to the WWMDK website for tips and ideas to accompany the pattern(s).
    • There are nice extras such as pattern resources, a glossary of stitches and chart symbols, links to all the books (either audio or print) that are referenced as inspirations, and a fun visual primer on making tassels.
    • While I’m not a chart knitter, a number of the patterns come with nicely-reproduced charts.
     The contributing designers include a number of very recognizable names such as Brenda Dayne (Cast On podcast) and Chrissy Gardiner (Gardiner Yarn Works) which adds to the overall credibility of the collection.

    In the beginning of the book, Ms Ordover explains that they specifically choose to print the book in black and white, for a number of reasons – to keep the production costs down and the highlight the illustrations (there are no photos in the book at all and, in fact, no real representation of the actual projects.) I have nothing against black and white because I know, as Ms Ordover points out, that I can go online to Ravelry or the WWMDK website and see color examples of the projects. However, the majority of the illustrations in the book are incredibly distracting. At the beginning of each pattern, there’s an illustration meant to represent the book or character that the pattern is inspired by. For example, for Jane’s Ubiquitous Scarf (inspiration: Jane Eyre), the illustration is of Jane wearing, assumingly, the scarf from the pattern.

    The problem with these illustrations is that they’re simply not that good. The illustrations that DO work, and don’t distract, are the simplest ones – the scissors, tape measure, stack of books – that pepper the pages. There’s also a great, simple line drawing of a woman in period costume holding knitting needles and an iPod. Totally funny and lovely.  But, the illustrations that are meant to be the centerpieces – the real artwork of the book – are, frankly, sophomoric and of a totally different style than the more elegant and appealing line drawings. These primary illustrations detract from what would otherwise be a funny, sophisticated concept by making it look amateurish. 

    When it’s all said and done, I really like this book a lot. As a pattern resource and an interesting peek into people’s thoughts about classic literature it’s an absolute gem. The concept is funny, unique, and well executed. However, I miss having, with the patterns, some simple representation of the actual pieces – even if in illustration.

    Please check here for giveaway winner! 

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    October

    October could possibly be my favorite month. Changing colors, the smell of burning leaves, warm days with cool breezes, orchard fruits, Halloween...all the trappings of early fall. I also find myself happily spending a lot more time in the kitchen or handcrafting. If I could stay home all day with pots of soup on the stove and knitting needles in my hands, I certainly would!

    Snapshots of my recent days...

    Apple picking and apple eating.

    Yarn in my hands.

    Pies with creepy smiley faces.

    Guacamole...random, yet delicious.

    And, lately it seems like fun ideas of things to make are everywhere I look online. Sadly, I can't do them all, I have lots of irons in the fire these days. This is what has made it on the short-list of things I HAVE to do soon:


    1. Tiny Apple Pies
    2. Tiny Lasagne (seeing a trend?)
    3. Making my own Terrarium
    4. Amy Butler Lotus Tunic
    5. Cute Floor Cushions


    I love all those ideas! And there is so much more on the back-burner. I think I need to stay home and make...

    –Cassandra

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    2011 Fall TV Season

    Back in the stone-age, when I was a kid, the fall tv season was a huge event. Because it coincided with the start of school, it made the month of September feel extra special - like it was the beginning of a new year. January 1 means nothing to a 10 year old.

    TV was eventful back then. There was no VHS, DVD, DVR, VOD, or streaming. You watched it when it was on, or you missed it. Once a year, special programs would air such as The Wizard of Oz or Christmas shows like Rudolph and Charlie Brown. Actually, Charlie Brown had the market on the "once a year" shows since there was one for every holiday.




    In today's on-demand world, there's little to look forward to on the calendar. Even the fall tv season is plagued by our brave new media world. Missed the premier of that highly praised new show? No worries! It's going to air three more times this week on tv and, in a couple of days, you can stream it from Hulu Plus.


    Even though the "event" element is gone, I still get jazzed for the new shows and all the new technology has actually made catching new shows a breeze. Since I'm a TiVo subscriber, I have access to something called a Guru Guide that presents me with every new show premiering within two weeks. I can read the description of the show and then record the pilot episode (or the whole season, if I'm feeling lucky). It's so much more efficient than the old process of having to actually be home on the night and time that a show airs. Plus, it allows me to check out competing shows in the same time slot.


    So... all this being said, I thought I'd share some thoughts with you on some of the new shows I've seen (or opted not to see) this season.


    The Good
    (the title links will take you to the trailer for the show)
    1. Person of Interest - Convoluted concept but simple execution - it's a bit sci-fi and very action-adventure with a soupcon of mystery thrown in for good measure. Jim Caviezel is the tortured good-guy who is thwarting bad deeds before they happen. Michael Emerson (Ben, from LOST) is the mysterious genius who supplies Caviezel's character with the information to act on. 
    2. Terra Nova - Future earthlings flee a dying earth by going back in time to a pre-historic earth with clean air, clean water, and a moon you can see (because there's no smog). Oh, and there are dinosaurs - cute vegetarian ones and scary meat (people) eaters. I expect this show will appeal to the whole family - dinosaurs for the kids, teen angst and guns for the teenagers, and some mysterious hinted-at plot for the adults. Oh, and Spielberg produces it.
    3. Suburgatory - Smart sit-com about a snarky, Manhattan-raised teenager who's upended by her paranoid single-dad father and moved out to the suburbs. This culture-clash premise could devolve into caricatures but, if the pilot is any indication, it's going to be smart and funny. The great cast includes Jeremy Sisto as the dad, Alan Tudyk as the dad's smarmy suburban friend, and Cheryl Hines as the ultimate suburban mom who wants to take the new girl under her finely-manicured wing.
    4. Bedlam - A real-estate developer has turned an old mental institution (closed down  because the staff was abusing patients) and turned it into luxury apartments. Sparsely occupied by the living, the place is over run with pissed off, crazy ghosts. Fortunately, one of the residents can see/talk-to the dead and, I assume, will be sticking around to help keep the ghosts from harming the tenants. This show is seriously, awesomely creepy.
    5. The Secret Circle - Teen supernatural drama - I thought we'd mined this for all it's worth but someone came up with yet another iteration. Interestingly, I recorded the pilot just to make fun of it and ended up liking it a lot. I may tire of all the teen angst eventually but, for now, the plot is intriguing enough to keep me watching.
    The Bad
    1. Whitney - Seriously. Awful.  My prediction is that this show will be the first to be cancelled.
    2. Free Agents - This broke my heart. I desperately wanted to like this because I love Hank Azaria but watching two damaged people trying to have a relationship, while all the ancillary characters around them are written as cartoons is just painful.
    3. Unforgettable - I don't need to say anything else. Actually, yeah I do. I need Poppy Montgomery to take some acting classes. She has one expression and it basically says "confused".
    The Undecided
    1. Up All Night - I really want to like this one. Christina Applegate and Will Arnett are fantastic but someone decided to write Maya Rudolph's character as a Saturday Night Live skit. The thing is, Maya Rudolph is an amazing actress but, if someone doesn't fix her character, I think the whole show is going to sink under the weight of all that ridiculous mugging.
    2. Prime Suspect - I'm willing to give it a chance and try not to constantly compare Maria Bello to Hellen Mirren but it's tough. The over-the-top sexism in the workplace with the boss that just looks the other way, the stupid, costume-y fedora, and the constant "tough-girl" gum chewing, is just bothersome. The bright spots so far have been with the character's home life. Doesn't bode well for a show that's supposed to be about the workplace.
    3. A Gifted Man - This hokey premise - egomaniacal doctor learns how to be a better person through the ghost of his dead wife - is actually kind of sweet and touching. So far I haven't died from the treacle but, if you find me drowned in a pool of syrup, you'll know what happened.
    4. American Horror Story - looks promising but the pilot hasn't aired yet. Maybe I'll do a review post after it does.

    I made a conscious decision not to watch any 60's retro, Mad Man rip-offs (Pan Am, Playboy Club) or the so-far well-liked The New Girl starting Zooey Deschanel. Neither retro show is going to out-do Mad Men so, really, what's the point? And, honestly, Zooey Deschanel just tires me with her cutsie-smart schtick.


    So that's my very long post about the new 2011 Fall TV Season shows that I like, and why. I promise that I won't take offense if you hate what I like. However, if you say you liked Whitney, I'm afraid we're going to have to stop being friends.


    - Alex