Posts tagged #tv show

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

Halloween is coming up and pumpkins, spiders, and the undead are popping up all over my social media feed - it really is the most wonderful time of the year! And to make the holiday even sweeter, Netflix recently announced a new original series that I can’t wait to binge while downing candy corn and mallow pumpkins: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.

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Not quite sure what this promo poster is teasing? An offbeat horror series? The Great British Bake Off's goth cousin? Macabre Muppets? How about a little of each. Christine McConnell is a powerhouse of creativity - a skilled photographer, designer, baker, seamstress, and overall gentile badass. Imagine if Tim Burton and Dita Von Teese had a love child and Martha Stewart was the fairy godmother. And speaking of Dita Von Teese, expect her to show up in an episode or two.

McConnell will be creating spooky and spectacular eats and creepy crafts in her Addams Family-esque home for all the “wildly inappropriate creatures” within, namely Henson Alternative (the adult Muppet spinoff) puppets: a werewolf, raccoon, and mummy chihuahua. “This is our home,” Christine states in the trailer, “and it’s a place where the strange and unusual are safe and welcome.” Right on.

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The series premiers October 12 on Netflix, but until then, check out Christine’s Instagram feed and marvel at her truly curious creations or test out one of her recipes to get you in a spooky mood.





Posted on October 7, 2018 .

Make & Bake

One of the only genres of reality TV that I can get behind is the creative competition show. You know… Project Runway, Forged in Fire, RuPaul’s Drag Race, etc. While I try to tune out any drama that may arise (it is reality TV, after all), I’m so in awe of watching talented individuals create something, anything, under time, budget, or competitive constraints. Heck, throw away all the constraints and I'd just watch creative process videos for days.

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One of my favorite shows in this genre is The Great British Baking Show and a new (slightly different) season just dropped on Netflix. I also just finished checking out NBC’s new Making It, which feels like a distant, crafty relative of all the British bakers I love, so I thought I’d give a rundown of each show. Not that it’s a competition.

Hosts

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GBBS: This season, both Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, who have hosted the series from the beginning, were replaced. Bummer. But not a total bummer because the new hosts are the wonderfully wacky Noel Fielding and the surprisingly emotional Sandi Toksvig. Their silliness is kept to a demure and distinctly British level and they really feel like a support system and friendly face for the contestants.

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Making It: Aside from being crafty, the main reason I wanted to watch Making It was for the hosts. Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman walk the contestants through each week’s challenges and it’s obvious the two are good friends in real life. In this situation, Nick is the arts & crafts aficionado and Amy is the not-creatively-inclined-but-arts-appreciative sidekick. I was a little off-put by how over-the-top the side segments were, though. There was no subtlety to their gags and puns and it felt like it was taking time away from the main focus of the show.

Judges

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GBBS: The newest season of The Great British Baking Show sees Paul Hollywood back, but not veteran Mary Berry. I was a bit worried about the new hosting dynamics, but I actually really enjoyed Berry's colorful replacement, Prue Leith. Both Hollywood and Leith gave honest and humble praise when earned and constructive and helpful criticism when necessary. With the exception of the technical challenges, the judges roam the room, observe the contestants, and ask insightful questions to make the most informed decisions in the final judging. And more than any other season, I believe, contestants emotionally accept the coveted Paul Hollywood Handshake.

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aking It: The judges for Making It are Dayna Isom Johnson and Simon Doonan. Both have legitimate crafting cred: Johnson is Etsy’s Trend Expert and Doonan is a Barneys NY Creative Ambassador. Unlike GBBS, the judges for Making It appear only after the first challenge and then interact with the contestants for the second challenge before revealing the winner for the week. Like GBBS, they offered thoughtful criticisms and praise, but the interactions felt a bit bland. I didn’t ever really feel like they were totally wowed, except maybe on the last episode.

Facilities

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GBBS: All the baking goes down in a tent on the grounds of an English estate. While picturesque, the outside weather often affects the outcomes of the bakes: chocolate melts, custard oozes, and bakers drip.

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Making It: Contestants craft in a chic, modern barn in the woods. While most stayed inside to complete their challenges, a few contestants popped outside to work in a bigger space or make use of the power tools.

Challenges

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GBBS: The Great British Baking Show consists of three challenges: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper. Contestants are able to plan and practice for the signature bakes and show-stoppers, but the technical challenge is like a pop quiz on a subject of which you have no knowledge. It’s intense.

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Making It: Making It features two challenges: a faster craft and a master craft. The faster craft is done in just a few short hours and the master craft in, what seems like, a day. While GBBS contestants must rely solely on their own knowledge and skills, there are assistants helping the makers construct and assemble their master craft projects.

Prizes

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GBBS: Each episode, a Star Baker is chosen and, in the end, the winner is given a crystal cake stand trophy. And maybe some flowers.

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Making It: Each of the two challenges per episode has a winner, who receives a patch. In the end, $100,000 is awarded to the winning Master Crafter, though the hosts are quick to emphasize that it’s not about the money… it’s about a job done well.

They’re pretty similar, right? In structure, anyway. Amy even references the GBBS at one point in Making It. I had high hopes for Making It as a craft enthusiast myself, but, if it wasn’t obvious, my love runs deep for the British. To me, the camaraderie and relationships among the bakers is, no pun intended, more sweet than that of the makers. The series also really showcases the nuances of baking and it bothered me how little Making It actually showed of, well, making stuff. It felt very rushed and like so much more was being crafted behind-the-scenes. I was very pleased with the winner of Making It this season and would watch again if they come back with more, but I’d probably tune in after my GBBS fix.

Posted on September 9, 2018 and filed under TV Reviews.

Summer Binges

What do you watch when you get home from work? (I’m assuming here that most people plop, exhausted, on the couch after work every single night because that’s exactly what I do) I noticed this summer that my post-work TV viewing revolved around suspense dramas and murder, so I thought I’d rank the six shows I binged between June and August.

How To Get Away With Murder (streaming on Netflix): We’re obviously starting with the worst because, man, this show. It’s a few years old now, but I’d never seen it, so I watched the first season and half of the second and then I turned it off for good. A law professor literally teaches her students how to, well, you know - get away with murder. It was interesting at first, but then it became a huge tangled web of deceit with no resolution in sight. When one situation or threat was cleared, another (more implausible than the last) had already started brewing. It caused more stress than a day at work and I know murder shows aren’t all relaxation and mindlessness, but jeez. No thanks. And I couldn’t get past Alfred Enoch not being Dean Thomas from Harry Potter.  

Goliath (streaming on Amazon Prime): This show is ranked second lowest on my list, but that’s not to say it was bad; it just wasn’t as intriguing (to me) as the other shows I watched. Billy Bob Thornton plays a smart and once powerful attorney who now drinks more than he practices law. In the first season, he’s talked into taking on a wrongful death case against a large corporation who happens to be represented by his previous firm (that he helped build) and conspiracies are unveiled. I liked the plot of first season more than the second, where a young boy is framed for murder; howeverrrrr… the second season had some pretty surreal situations that I feel need mentioning. Mark Duplass plays an unscrupulous developer who has some pretty specific turn ons involving H.R. Pufnstuf and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it was one of the most bizarre things I’d seen on TV for awhile. I just sat on my couch with an unbelieving and horrified look on my face - and doesn’t a reaction like that at least make for decent television?

The Tunnel (streaming on Amazon Prime and PBS Passport): My first (and not last) British show on the list. This is where my true love of crime procedural lies - across the pond. Or, in this case, across the Channel. The Tunnel is three seasons of the British working with the French to solve trans-Channel murder and crime. And yes, there are some subtitles. Like Goliath, the first season is the best and most plausible, but they’re all cleverly developed. I enjoyed the interaction between the two lead detectives -- Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones) and Clémence Poésey -- as they learned to trust each other and work as a team. They’re short at six episodes per season and the third and final season aired this summer.

Marcella (streaming on Netflix): Another British murder drama, this time with an extremely flawed and complicated lead (wait, isn’t that every murder mystery?). The first season aired a few years ago and I loved it. Anna Friel (from Pushing Daisies) plays Marcella Backland, a headstrong detective and mother who goes in and out of often-violent blackout episodes stemming from an unrealized traumatic event in her past. The second season aired this year and she finally delves deep enough in her psyche to understand what she’s been trying to bury for the last several years. There are definitely some intense scenes and, honestly, some are very disturbing and dark - notably more so than in the first season. Is it weird that that’s exactly what I love in a suspense show? The crazy ending leaves an opening for further seasons, but on a completely different path. Definitely check it out.

Sharp Objects (streaming on HBO Go): Sharp Objects is based on the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, of Gone Girl fame. Over the course of a year or so, in the sleepy Missouri town of Wind Gap, two girls have been found brutally murdered. A reporter from St. Louis returns to her hometown to cover the latest murder and is brought face-to-face with her haunted past. Family and town dynamics are explored at a slow, but satisfying pace. The show feels distinctly Southern Gothic and patience is key for the reward of a shocking twist at the end… don’t skip the credits. I usually read books before I watch the TV or movie adaptation, but I was so disgusted with How To Get Away With Murder, I jumped into Sharp Objects without reading first. I’ve heard the show is slightly different than the book, so I think I’ll pick that up soon.

Endeavour (streaming on Amazon Prime and PBS Passport): Alright. This is it. As much as I love crazy, dark, and twisted murders, there’s nothing better than a British cozy mystery and Endeavour very much satisfies that sub-genre. My favorite class in college was British Detective Fiction - we read a mystery each week and broke down the genre from its origins to present-day trends. Everything from Agatha Christie to Colin Dexter, who, as it happens is directly connected to Endeavour. Colin Dexter is known for Inspector Morse - a slightly-more-than-middle-aged man who solves crimes across the city of Oxford, England. He debuted in 1975 and appeared in more than 13 novels across more than two decades (there was also a British TV series based on the books than ran almost as long). Endeavour imagines Morse as he would have been in the 1960s before he moved through the ranks of the British constabulary system. It’s just delightful and well-made. Each episode is approximately 90 minutes, so there’s plenty to sink into if you’re looking for a long-term relationship with a fictional character.

Posted on September 2, 2018 and filed under TV Reviews.

Stop What You're Doing And...Letterkenny!

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Navigating the world of series-streaming is hard. There are SO MANY options out there. The plethora of shows and the pressure to make good use of your screen time can lead to stream paralysis. Well, let me help you out of a bind and offer a suggestion to take your mind off that difficult decision.

Letterkenny is a comedy series centered around the day to day life of the residents of a small town in Canada. Most residents of Letterkenny fall into one of three factions: the hicks (farmers), the skids (druggies), and hockey players (they play hockey). Hick siblings Wayne and Katy and their friends Daryl and Squirrely Dan are at the center of this strange universe and the bulk of the series deals with their interactions with the other two groups. Katy seems to be the common denominator as hockey players Reilly and Jonesy are involved in some weird sexual love triangle with her and skid Stewart is secretly in love with her. Wayne has recently sworn off fighting but gets dragged back into the fray when assorted locals begin jockeying for the title of toughest in Letterkenny. Daryl and Dan are Wayne's best friends and thus not far behind in all of his exploits.

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The best way to describe the tone and feel of the show is a cross between early Kevin Smith and the Trailer Park Boys. The dialog is quick and snappy and instantly quotable although the subject matter is definitely not high brow. All of that toilet humor isn't without substance though (eww) as there are some clever observations buried in there. They guys have some pretty funny things to say about social media when they set up their own platform called "FartBook" for friends to share farts with their friends. 

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Letterkenny probably won't be your new favorite show, but it will definitely grant you a few chuckles while you wait for your favorites to return or for the next new sensation to drop. 

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Seasons one and two of Letterkenny are available to stream on Hulu. 

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Posted on August 13, 2018 .

The Office: Season One Revisited

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I've watched The Office all the way through at least five times and when I say "all the way through" I mean season two until Michael leaves. 
There are obvious reasons I skip episodes after Michael leaves, "Schrute Farms" being one of them, but why the first season? Though The Office is one of my favorite series, it fall into the same pitfalls most shows do with their freshman seasons. But was I mistaken? So I watched the first season again.

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The first season has so many unlikable characters it is hard to imagine that these exact same people will be lovable later on. Michael Scott is nothing less than obnoxious and never to the point that it is funny. Though there is something going on with Jim and Pam, Roy has yet to become vilified so Jim comes off as sort of a dirt bag. Kelley is nowhere near to the person she is later in the series. Phyllis and Stanley get no face-time and the first few episodes are riddled with random people you may never see again.
I specifically remember watching "Diversity Day" and questioned continuing the series. An episode that comes off more as a rough draft than the second episode of a new show. Blatantly racist, awkward and mostly annoying.

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Things start to change with "Basketball" and "Hot Girl" when it seems that characters start to get fleshed out and irritating characteristics starts to taper off and become lovable traits. Out of a six episode season it was the final two that saved the series, for me at least. 
I will always love The Office and every person on the show. I'm glad I returned after the speed bumps early on and, despite how terrible the backdoor pilot for Schrute Farms was, I  love the show in it entirety. Season one, episode five through when Michael leaves. It's entierty. 

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Posted on April 19, 2018 .

ABC's The Crossing: A First Look

After watching ABC's The Crossing, I am left with cautious optimism. Its obvious they are going for a Lost vibe and has a feeling of HBO's The Leftovers. While it does pull this off in the first episode, only time will tell if they can maintain it throughout the season.

Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC - © 2017 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC - © 2017 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

The show opens underwater with the camera panning around a sea of bodies. Some alive, some deceased.  How they got there is a total mystery.

 

Local Sheriff Jude Ellis (Steve Zahn) is sent to investigate what was reported to be a body on the beach, only to find hundreds, both on the beach and in the water. Of course, with a rescue/recovery of that magnitude, the Feds take over. Emma Ren (Sandrine Holt) leads the investigation and gets told an outlandish story involving time travel, future genocide and the next evolution of the human race.

 

So far, the show has legs. Its has plenty of storylines to sustain multiple seasons. I'll leave it at that and recommend watching it for yourself. If you do, let us know what you think in the comments.

 

Posted on April 3, 2018 .