Why We Can’t Get Enough of the ’80s

Within the span of a few weeks in Summer of 2010, Hollywood gave us movies by the name of The A-Team and The Karate Kid wrapped around a 7-game NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. I posted to Facebook “I’m going to miss the 80s when the Summer is over!”

Oh, 1980s. We love you so much. We love you so much that we’ve never truly let you go.

The meteoric rise of the TV Show Stranger Things has proven this true. Don’t worry; this isn’t another article about the show. It’s just to say that for all the hoopla, one recurring theme you hear fans talk about is the nonstop ’80s references. For people like me, who love the ’80s, it is absolutely part of the appeal. Even Will’s bowl haircut.

But Stranger Things isn’t even close to alone on this. As people my age have begun to become producers in Hollywood, the love for the decade has become common. There are so many 80s references in Psych I cannot even count them or catch all of them. But there’s no mistaking why Ralph Macchio has a guest spot on the show or why Shawn once said “ding ding” to Carl Weathers.

I have often and loudly proclaimed the ’80s as the best decade for just about everything. It was, in a phrase of the times, rad. Here is why:

 

The Music

I’ll brawl to the death over this one. The only time I have ever felt cool in the history of my life was in second grade riding in the back of my brother Tracy’s T-top Mustang on the way to school, listening to “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights. And “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. And “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

Does life get any better? I submit that it does not!

I grew up dreaming about the day I would dance with my wife to “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon and “Lost In Your Eyes” by Debbi Gibson. And you better believe I fulfilled this dream with Kayla in 2014. I can take you to the exact spot in Walker-Gamble Elementary when I first heard “Every Rose Has Its Thorns” by Poison. And who among us doesn’t automatically feel like dancing without inhibition when we hear “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” or singing in unison with a huge group of people during “Come On Eileen”?

Some of my favorite memories ever are being at karaoke hearing Josh Crowe sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Or singing “You Spin Me Right Round” at the top of my lungs at 9 years old without an ounce of self-consciousness. And to go all Hebrews 11 on you, What more can I say? Time doesn’t permit to tell you about Bon Jovi, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, U2, Prince and Guns N’ Roses.

I’m positive in a Top 100 song decade vs. decade battle, the ’80s would annihilate the competition. And if you still doubt that I offer up the following as a mic drop:

 

 

and

 

 

Television

I’ll be honest: in any list of my favorite shows of all-time, the #1 show (Seinfeld) is from the ’90s and most of the rest of the Top 10 will be from this century. Yet despite this, back then we still had no shortage of shows that were perfect for that time. Family Ties, Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show and even lesser known shows like ALF (I had the lunchbox in 4th grade) and 227 (with Hal Williams as Lester Jenkins) were weekly viewing for my family. I have often said that I know my parents made us work when we were children, and we played outside a lot but it seems like if you name a show from the 80s, we watched it. And we loved it. Who didn’t love Tuti from Facts of Life?

 

 

 

TV Theme Songs and Intros

Half of our TV Theme Song Top 10 list features shows from the ’80s. Because that decade was the golden age of introducing shows by putting the perfect music with the actors’ names in real life. Some told epic background stories (The A-Team), others gave welcoming, feelgood invitations (Cheers), some were impossible not to sing along with (The Jeffersons) and others just played cool music over cool video (Magnum PI, Miami Vice). They just don’t make TV Intros like they used to.

 

 

Saturday Morning Cartoons 

Here is another category where the ’80s dominates the field. It’s hard to fathom the fact that for a short time in my life I got to watch ThunderCats, He-Man, Muppet Babies, Transformers and G.I. Joe all in the same week. We all grew up not just watching these shows, but playing them outside, pretended to be the characters, owning the action figures and using our imaginations in a way that seems foreign these days.

 

 

And it wasn’t just make believe that we learned. We all learned wisdom and life knowledge and that “Knowing is half the battle.” (G.I. JOE!!!)

 

GIJoe Knowing Is Half The Battle GIF - GIJoe KnowingIsHalfTheBattle TheMoreYouKnow GIFs

 

A few years later brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Duck Tales, cementing this decade as the most prolific cartoon decade of all-time.

 

 

Movies 

Again, other decades can compete in this category but any decade that gave us Back to the Future, Die Hard, The Goonies, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Rambo, Beverly Hills Cop, Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride, Top Gun and The Terminator has to be on the short list for best ever. Not to mention that many consider Rocky III and IV to best the best of those movies and the ’80s introduced us to Yoda and a more authoritative, finalized version of Darth Vader. And that there is widespread belief that Empire is the greatest Star Wars film.

Beyond that the 80s brought us timeless coming of age pieces like The Breakfast Club and 16 Candles, child acting legends like Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, and some of the best fantasy ever in Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. David Bowie was a legend that probably didn’t put his pants on one leg at a time. And man I had a crush on Jennifer Connelly. And it’s a shame that kids today will never know the thrill of going to the local video rental store and getting Spaceballs for the 17th time. Ridiculous speed! My hometown had 300 people growing up, one traffic light and zero fast food places. But we had two video rental stores!

And again, lest there be any doubt, go find Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and watch it. I rest my case.

 

 

 

Professional Wrestling 

Ric Flair and Four Horsemen…Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant…Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, The Ultimate Warrior, Hacksaw Jim Duggan (HOOOOO!!!!), The Rock N Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express, Randy Macho Man “OOOH YEAH” Savage (wrestlers made a lot of random, boisterous sounds but they were super cool), chairs thrown in the ring, steel cages, referees getting knocked out, bad guys cheating, heroes dashing in from the dressing room…what a time to be alive! If my dad wanted to me punish me, a very effective way was to take away Saturday wresting.

3 GIF - WWE Wrestling HulkHuogan GIFs

 

 

NBA Basketball

There were great moments all across sports this decade by people like Jordan, Montana and Kirk Gibson, but all decades have great moments. Only one decade has ever given us Lakers vs. Celtics, Celtics vs. 76ers, Lakers vs. Pistons, Celtics vs. Pistons, and Larry vs. Magic. The modern NBA era is close, closer than any other. But the NBA in the ’80s is about as white-hot as any league could be. Somewhere between Bird telling all of the Lakers he was going to make a three in all their faces in a Finals game and Kevin McHale giving Kurt Rambis a Russian Sickle (classic 80’s wrestling move), the league entered rarefied realms of entertainment. Hearing the Garden Crowd chant “BEAT L-A!! BEAT L-A!!!’ is something I’m thrilled to have witnessed live.

 

 

Video Games 

Two Words: TECMO BOWL

And before that there was John Elway’s QB. And before that “Ten Yard Fight”. And before that the Atari football game where you had to make the block men face forward before each play. What an evolution!

Image result for gif of Tecmo Bowl

 

And there is so much more! In some ways, I miss the 80s the same way Toto misses the rains down in Africa. Yet in others, I don’t really have to. Thanks to Stranger Things and Psych and the magic of the internet, I can transport myself back in time on a whim.

 

Do you remember the ’80s? What did you love most about it?




My Post-Binge Review of Stranger Things 2

Yes, my wife and I have finished with Season 2 of Stranger Things already.

Actually, we’ve been finished for over 36 hours. We are obsessed with this show and we didn’t waste much time blowing right through it in two nights.

I’m going to divide this review into two parts. The first part will be spoiler free and then I will get into spoilers. That way those who haven’t watched or finished can enjoy and those that have finished can have some fun dialoguing about the whole thing without fear of saying the wrong thing.

 

SPOILER FREE COMMENTS

Right off the bat I will say this sequel is, to me, as entertaining as it gets. I have almost zero true complaints and there was definitely no letdown after the massive build up. Which is rare in my experience. I’d give it an A for all the key categories: acting, storytelling, character development, use of music, conflict, intensity, special effects, etc. I feel like this is as well as TV can be done and we are truly fortunate to live in a time when the Duffer brothers used inspiration from all the best sources (it goes way beyond obvious 80’s movies), their own special talent and incredible unknown actors to bring to life a story I can’t get over. There was a moment in episode 8 where I was literally shaking with excitement and anxiousness.

I enjoyed all of the cast additions to varying levels, and especially Sean Astin. The character as written and his acting wheelhouse were a perfect fit. He is nearly impossible not to adore and in a town with so much drama and stress, he brings the levity. And what a Mount Rushmore of big roles for him now with The Goonies, Rudy, Lord of the Rings and Stranger Things. And join me in appreciating how those four works span four decades.

I will say this season seems to focus more on action than mystery, which I would have guessed would have disappointed me but it didn’t. Because they use allusions to my absolute favorite action movies. There is also less development for some characters and more for others but the shoulders they had to stand on from Season 1 in this regard are so tall that it wasn’t as essential to me that we learn more about the past to appreciate the lead roles. This season is not in competition with Season 1 to me at all. It is a beautiful continuation and they work together with a cohesive synergy that I have never seen in a TV show before. So if you want to know if it is better than Season 1, I am the wrong person to ask.

This season is by design bigger, scarier, more intense and more adult (without a bunch of gore or sex, but there is a lot of language), even though it was all of those things before. And it works. On every level, in every way, it works.  The only drama that has ever captured my attention like this was Lost and they are so different I won’t compare them otherwise. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give it is that after we finished it Saturday I didn’t want to continue our Halloween marathon on Sunday. I just wanted to reflect on what I saw the previous two nights. Anything else would have been lame. I am thrilled to have these 17 gifts of entertainment to watch over and over again. They’re even better than all those He-man men I got for Christmas in 1983.

 

 

SPOILER COMMENTS (You have been warned!)

Let’s jump right in…

Episode 8 rocked my world. It reminded me so much of Jurassic Park, one of my 10 favorite movies ever. Notably, the scenes with the demo-dogs reminded me of the uber-intense face off with JP’s velociraptors. With Bob playing a cross between Samuel L. Jackson and Laura Dern. I am sure all my vital signs read like I was the one in danger that whole episode. I loved every millisecond of it.

And speaking of Bob, I am quite torn on his death. He was such an impacting addition to the cast. He was great as a role model for the science-loving kids. He was utterly lovable. He was a man of integrity and as safe a love interest as possible for the mother who had been through the fire, literally and figuratively.

Yet if you don’t kill off important characters, I think you lose something in suspense. If they had killed off a Season 1 holdover, the fanbase would have rioted. If they killed off Steve I would have jerked my TV out of my wall and thrown it out the window. So someone really needed to be the hero who sacrificed it all. And Bob the Superhero was a great choice. He died because he knew how to do something that mega-testosterone Hopper didn’t. He died because he loved others more than himself. He died in truly one of the great heroic acts in TV lore and left a legacy for those kids. I would love more Bob, but the payoff was worth it.

The other casts additions were fine to me. Paul Reiser was his usual charming self and as an old man, he still can still bring it. Max, if nothing else, allowed us to see more of Lucas and Dustin and I hope Eleven is eventually able to get over her jealousy and welcome Max into the party. As far as Billy…wow. I don’t know what to think. I can only guess there is more where they are waiting to unleash in Season 3. But man what a complicated villain. A victim of abuse who clearly needs a new way to get therapy.

The scenes with Hopper and Eleven were epic. “A clash of the Titans,” I heard one of the shows producers say and a perfect match for a man in need of a daughter with a girl in need of a parent. And a perfect contrast of a man who needs to protect and a girl who needs to rebel. I loved the fights as much as the apologies. But is there anything more tear-jerking than Hopper humbling himself to say he’s sorry? I can’t wait for more of the two brightest stars of the show interacting as a family.

I’m not sure how I feel about the side plot with Kali and especially a whole episode for it. I realize it’s already polarizing but there were things to love–the opening of Episode 1 reminded me of the Dark Knight and The Strangers (two of my other 10 favorite films ever) and Eleven meeting a “sister” who helped her to come into her own was a wonderful touch. And watching Eleven refuse to descend to the abyss of morality was absolutely worth the trip to Chicago. The only complaint is that to do this episode you lose time with the other cast. We love Stranger Things for the ensemble cast as much as anything. But this episode was a risk worth taking, especially if they explore “008” more in the future.

It was in one of the trailers, but I love, love, LOVED the scene where the four boys have “Dart” trapped in the Ghostbusters toy containment unit and they step away from it as it bounces around, just as you see in Ghostbusters. The hat tips to the 80s are sometimes subtle but other times very obvious and they are all magnificent.

The pairing of Steve and Dustin was just magical, and it seems to have happened by accident according to the Duffers. Both characters really had nothing else to connect them to the other characters and the main plot so viola! Put them together and let the good times roll. So much laughter. So much enjoyment.

And on that note, I’ll give my five favorite characters through two seasons. After Season One here was my rankings and comments:

  1. Hopper – The Alpha Dog, the Man, the tough guy many men long to be…and his past trauma just cinches the title of best character
  2. Eleven – So few complete sentences and yet so much depth
  3. Jonathan – Every show and movie seems to have someone I relate to and the awkward guy is usually him, but he is an inspiration in this series
  4. Mike – a true hero, willing to do anything for his friends
  5. Steve – Yes, you want to hate him and love him at the same time…what a performance

 

After Season 2, here are my rankings:

  1. Hopper – winner and still champ…in Episodes 8 and 9 just about every time Hopper did something incredible, my wife would shout “G.O.A.T!” (Greatest of All Time) as I do when watching sports
  2. Steve – When he tells Dustin how he does his hair…he vaulted to nearly the top of this list
  3. Eleven – her growth in this season was a huge part of why it was endearing…when she comes in and saves the day at the end of Episode 8, there was major applause in my house
  4. Jonathan – not quite as big a role to me this time but he’s still the anti-social hero who gets the girl so I’m still on board
  5. Will – he didn’t get as much screen time the first season but that set him up to shine this time around and he did. The kid can act and this was an extremely difficult role to pull off. He tasered it out of the park.

I know some will clamor for Dustin’s inclusion and he is great. It’s very hard to find room for all the greatness.

 

So, what did you think?  If you have spoiler comments, please say so up front in your post below!




Why We Love Stranger Things

Netflix has been in the business of creating original content for some time. Many of their more popular offerings have been heralded with strong promotional campaigns and plenty of online buzz. Orange Is the New Black, Daredevil, and House of Cards all received massive advertising pushes to create awareness and interest. And they all have their fans, their followers, and their critical successes as their reward.

And then there is Stranger Things. This quirky little show about a small town in Hawkins, Indiana seemingly appeared fully-formed overnight. There was no buzz. There was no publicity push. There were no big names in the cast unless you count Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine as big names in 2017. (No one does.) But if you watched the trailer, chances are, that was all it took. This felt special. The music, the setting, the kids. It had it all. The trailer screamed 80’s nostalgia of the highest order and while Season One provided that, it gave viewers so much more. Stranger Things goes beyond fan-service or winking at those of us that formed much of our television and film sensibilities watching E.T. and The Goonies. Stranger Things is built on those bones but it effortlessly carves out its own identity, its own style, and its own iconography.

We are huge fans of Stranger Things, that much goes without saying. In celebration of Season One and anticipation of Season Two, which is waiting for us on Netflix right now, here are a few musings about the show. Enjoy!



For lack of a better cliché, Stranger Things really hits home to me, gets me right in that nostalgic bone. Season One takes place in 1983. At that time in history, I was ten years old. I actually knew people just like all of the kids (everyone from high school down except for Eleven) in the show. My best friend in 1983 was even named Dustin. (He was the coolest because his family actually owned a movie camera. A movie camera!) Stranger Things epitomizes that era better than any show or movie I have ever seen that wasn’t actually made in the early 80s. I’m not talking about movies of the time that may have influenced it or any other interesting pop culture references (although these things are very interesting). I feel it fully epitomized the times via the look and mannerisms of the characters involved. Although he’s not even close to being my favorite character on the show, I think Steve Harrington (played to perfection by Joe Keery) most fully embodied the spirit of the early 80s. The smug dork who thinks he’s the coolest thing ever and fools almost everyone else into thinking so too. That cocky smugness. The ridiculously puffy, polished hair. The popular rich kid who seems to have it life figured out but was really just an insecure jerk. He may be the best example of the early 80s, but all of the characters embodied the era that I remember so well.

But that is just one of the many reasons I love Stranger Things and can’t wait to watch the second season tonight. How do I love it? Let me count the ways. No, that would take way to long and, really, that would be too much work. I’ll let the next season do the talking for me. Hang on folks; it looks to be another wild ride in the upside-down world with our cast of ST superfriends.
– Benjamin Plunkett



When you’re five years old (as I was in 1983) and raised in a secure environment, the world is perfect. You’re old enough to have memories of the most innocent time in your life. For me it was watching ET with my family, listening to Toto on the way to school, getting He-Man men for Christmas and wrestling with the other Kindergartners at Salem School. Stranger Things went to great detail to bring that world kind of world to life. Everything from rotary phones to the boys’ bed sheets are things I recognize. And they take me back to a time when the world wasn’t complicated or harsh.

But it is the dark aspects of Stranger Things that cause me to love it. I’m a sucker for a piece-by-piece unraveling of a mystery. Even more than the sci-fi aspects, I am drawn in by Hopper (and to a lesser extent Will’s best friends) realizing that there is more to Will’s missing than meets the eye and doing whatever it takes to solve it. Even getting into fisticuffs. With Hopper, my favorite character, we get a little Sherlock and a lot of Chuck Norris.

And probably more than anything it’s just the heart of the story that makes me want to rewatch Season One over and over. Despite the paranormal and otherworldly plot aspects, Stranger Things is primarily about regular people who all face major demons before Will’s disappearance and how tragedy forces them to come together in the most magnificently human way possible. As it often does in real life. My favorite scene is at the end of Episode 3 when they pull “Will” out of the water and both the Wheeler and Byers families have a moment of emotional breakdown, after trying so hard to hold it together. It’s heartwrenching.  And then the climactic scene where Hopper and Joyce save Will…I completely stopped breathing for about 60 seconds. Telekinesis, the Demogorgon, the Upside Down..it all fades to the background as we experience an act of true heroism from a man and woman who desperately needed that moment, for entirely different reasons.  It’s perfect TV.
– Gowdy Cannon



One of the most common thematic elements in television or film is the broken family dynamic. It’s an easy shorthand to create conflict, character development, and motivation. Too often, it is the weapon of lazy writers who do not want to take the time to try to write more realistic and relatable characters. Give the main character an absentee father and you give yourself pages of angst and dialogue.

There are times, though, when writers use this framework as more than just a magic wand. Stranger Things falls firmly in the latter camp. There are a half dozen examples of parental figures in the show; some good and some bad. The greatness of the show is in the way these relationships are deployed and developed.

The easiest example to label is the Wheeler parents. The dad (Ted) is there but not there. He is present in the lives of his children, in physical terms at least, but is completely uninvolved emotionally. The mom (Sandy) is present and clearly longing for a deeper connection to her children. She works hard throughout Season One to build bridges to her family. It’s refreshing that this more stereotypical parental unit, while not ignored, is surpassed in both screen time and effectiveness by other, less-than-traditional examples. This both highlights the differences while also clearly delineating which examples we should be giving our deeper attention.

The beautiful thing about how Stranger Things presents the different types, is how disconnected from biological familial bonds it all is. Sure, we get the insanely driven and protective mother Joyce Byers. But we also get the gruff, yet clearly guided by love, father figure in Sheriff Hopper. We see the selfish and manipulative false father in Dr. Brenner. Each character sheds a little light on the importance of strong, loving, and nurturing parenting. Taken as a whole, Season One deconstructs, explores, and eventually rebuilds the idea of what it views as a good parent, and it’s no surprise it looks a lot like the very best things about parents we already knew.
– Phill Lytle



As stated in the intro, we are big fans of the show. We are all very excited about watching the second season as soon as humanly possible. Unfortunately, jobs, life, and all sorts of other bothersome things are interfering. We hit a few highlights, things that really made us fall in love with the show, but we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all that is awesome about Stranger Things, and that is where you come in. Jump on the comment section and tell us why you love the show. Tell us about your favorite parts of Season One. Talk about your favorite characters. The only thing we ask is that you don’t spoil Season Two. That would be a very mouth-breather thing to do.

 

 




Five TV Moments That Made Me Literally ROTFL

I look like and argue like my dad. But I laugh like my mother. That woman can laugh. She can really get going. It’s fun to experience. And I am thrilled I inherited it from her.

There’s nothing quite like laughing so hard you fall out of your seat and start rolling on the ground, fully incapacitated. I could probably name 50 times it has happened in my life. Many of my closest friends and relatives know me for those moments. It is quite a spectacle. It is when life is at its emotional perfection.

It’s special. And the moments that cause it will always be special to me. Today I relive five moments from watching TV that caused me to live out the ROTFL acronym quite literally.


Seinfeld
The Episode: “The Fire” (Season 5, Episode 19)
The moment: Kramer recounts how he saved the pinky toe.

The first time I can recall that I fell on the floor laughing at a TV show. I can take you to the spot in my parents’ living room in Tookeydoo, SC where the magic happened.

Kramer is dating an annoying woman, Toby, who according to Elaine is like “a contestant on the Price is Right”. Kramer takes her to see Jerry do his stand up and she heckles him. Jerry gets flustered as a result and gets a bad review by a magazine. With George as his guide, he decides to get the ultimate comedian’s revenge by going to Toby’s workplace and heckling her. She, in turn, gets upset, leaves in a huff and loses her pinky toe to a street sweeper.

Kramer saving the toe is not seen on camera. But him telling the story of how he saved it—by hopping on an NYC bus that was about to be hijacked—is. The scene is all Kramer. Pure, unadulterated, 100% Kramer. Using his whole body to tell a story with more twists than an Oceans 11 movie. By the time he gets to the part where he had to drive the bus because the driver passed out, I was on the ground, convulsing with laughter, begging for mercy.

True story: I once told this as close to how Kramer tells it as I could for a sermon illustration at my church in Chicago. And when I brought it home with, ‘You kept making all the stops?” “PEOPLE KEPT RINGING THE BELL!” two people in the audience nearly had a ROTFL moment. That’s how funny it is.

Image result for kramer driving the bus gif


King of Queens
The Episode: “Name Dropper” (Season 7, Episode 5)
The moment: Doug fakes a heart attack when he can’t remember Carrie’s co-worker’s name.

I fell on the floor for this moment but I must add that my roommate at the time, Chris, laughed harder than I did. Which is saying something. In fact, he laughed longer and harder at this than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Carrie had already reprimanded Doug in the episode for not paying attention and learning names of people at work. So at a work gathering, Doug finds himself alone for a minute and one of Carrie’s coworkers flags him down. Doug refuses to acknowledge that he doesn’t know her name so he, in classic Doug fashion, begins interacting with her like they’re best friends. Then Arthur, who invited himself for the free shrimp, shows up and asked to be introduced. Doug is trapped. Carrie is still gone. So in a move of utter desperation, he fakes a heart attack.

We were both on the floor. Chris laughed at least 15 minutes, uninterrupted. By the time he stopped it was the end of the episode when Doug fakes another heart attack in a similar situation causing the laughter to start over.


“Community”
The episode: “Contemporary American Poultry” (Season 1, Episode 21)
The moment: Pierce goes toe-to-toe with a lunch server after they run out of chicken fingers.

I doubt anyone, even the staunchest Community fans, laughed at this scene quite like I did. My wife videoed the second half of it and just that much was several minutes of uncontrollable laughter.

The Greendale Cafeteria serves the most streets ahead chicken fingers and when everyone knows it’s Chicken Finger Day, there is a race to the cafeteria to get them because they always run out. This day, Pierce and Jeff are next in line and at that very moment, they run out again. They express their outrage. The server says nothing. Pierce calls her a “mute idiot”. She hands Pierce a note that he reads and then responds, “Well throat surgery may humanize you but *this* [pointing to the empty chicken finger tray] is still unacceptable.”

So that exchange got me going. For a long time. When I finally got it together, I rewound it because we missed about half the episode at that point. And I started at the beginning of the scene with Jeff saying, disgusted, as they realize there is no more chicken: “Again?!?!” And then Pierce adds directly to the lunch server, “At least apologize!” And that got me going again.

I bet I lost five pounds laughing that day. And Kayla started holding the remote.


Arrested Development
The Episode: “Good Grief” (Season 2, Episode 5)
The moment: Gob’s burial “illusion” falls through 

Arrested Development delivered jokes like a machine gun and while laughing at one you may miss three. This episode is no different.  George Sr. has reportedly died in Mexico so now they have to plan a wake for him. They don’t tell Buster, who has been faking being in the army because he can’t handle that kind of information (evidenced by his lost parakeet when he was a child). Gob offers to be buried in a coffin in his father’s stead, since they don’t have a body, as one of his “illusions”. And during the wake, Gob keeps Buster distracted with getting the illusion set up so he doesn’t find out the news.

At the climax of the episode Buster (who is wearing a magicians army outfit Gob lent him, since, you know, he’s not really in Army) and Gob gets ready to perform. The Final Countdown begins to play, setting the mood. And while Gob is getting in the coffin he lets it slip about George Sr. and Buster freaks out and abandons his duty. Gob then falls through the coffin trap door, into the grave, the coffin falls on top of him and the bulldozer driver begins to put dirt on him as the audience politely claps as though they were at a golf match and not at a magic trick during a wake. Which, BTW, is something you will only experience in the Bluth family.


Psych
The Episode: “True Grits” (Season 6, Episode 15)
The moment: Shawn and Gus decide to “Fight the Power” with Thane

A man named Thane approaches the Psych private detective duo because he was falsely imprisoned for two years and eight months and released through the Innocence Project. He gets restitution if they can find the real thief and, being wary of the police for messing up in the first place, solicits the help of Shawn and Gus.

At first, they reject him. But in a fine bit of acting by Anthony Anderson, Thane appeals to the heart of justice: he lost everything during those 32 months, including his woman. Shawn and Gus converge again to reconsider. Moved to tears by his impassioned speech and especially the loss of his woman (“He set her free, like a hurricane” “She got married quick”), they decide to help him. Shawn gets worked up into a tizzy–“Fight the power! Together!”–and as Gus tells him to not go all Spike Lee in Do the Right Thing Shawn goes all Spike Lee in Do the Right Thing by throwing the trash can against the window.

 

Image result for Psych just because you put syrup on something don't make it pancakes

 

Shawn and Gus are the standard for comedic duos to me as far as timing, chemistry, and banter. And this scene is as good as it gets.

I fell on the floor again a couple of minutes later when Juliet informs them that she is the one who put Thane away in the first place, meaning Shawn and Gus will be going against her police work. And it becomes such an awkward moment that Gus flees the scene, peeling out in his car, screeching the tires along the way.

So, that’s my list.  Have you ever had a ROTFL moment while watching TV?

 




Five TV Moments That Made Me Ugly Cry

I’m a man.

And while I believe men and women are created equally yet distinctly by God, I sometimes hate gender stereotypes. For example, I cry over fictional moments. I have for decades. From the time I first saw Gargamel in his pursuit of the Smurfs until I finished my first ever reading of To Kill A Mockingbird a few weeks ago, I have cried dozens of times over TV, movies, and books. Maybe hundreds.

So I was glad Phill Lytle got REO on the board on this topic a few weeks ago by confessing the same. Now I feel that as a website we are ready to delve into this further. I’ll go next by writing about five TV episodes that brought on the ugly tears. Youtube clips of the moments are embedded in blue highlights.

[This is obvious, but we will note it anyway: Major spoilers are ahead. But they will not be given away in the headings so if you have not seen the TV show mentioned and plan to in the future, skip to the next one.]

 

1. Family Ties “Say Uncle” (1984)

The 80s was truly a golden run of TV for me. Family Ties was a show I watched weekly with my family. It had an incredible cast headlined by Michael J Fox and Michael Gross. It had warm familial and political humor and to this day I am humored that Alex P. Keaton was an unabashed Republican. And it had one exceptional recurring guest star–Tom Hanks as Uncle Ned.

This was before he was an uber megastar, but he was still lovable as the carefree uncle who contrasted with the responsible Keatons. But this came at a price: He was an alcoholic. And in an unforgettable episode they try to get him to get help, but he doesn’t and in the climax he strikes Alex, causing a stunning transformation from jovial sitcom to a sober reality. Ned is brought to tears. Steven tells him to get help or get out of his house. And Elyse, his sister, makes one final plea for him to call AA. He does, making a joke after he picks up the phone before saying, “My name is Ned Donnelly, and I have a drinking problem.”

I was about 7 years old when I saw this and I cried like a baby. I got this episode through Netflix DVD several years ago and it has not aged well, but at the time it was about as good as TV got.

 

2. Scrubs “My Lunch” (2006) 

Bill Lawrence and his Scrubs production team were masters at concluding episodes with dramatic story arcs while a perfect song musically and lyrically played behind the action and JD’s inner monologue gave us closure. The crowning jewel is a Season 3 episode where in the beginning Dr. Cox invites JD to lunch for the first time ever and in a touching mentor-to-protege moment, tells him that he can’t blame himself for deaths that aren’t his fault.

Then back at the hospital, Dr. Cox makes the call to use a deceased woman’s organs for three patients who desperately need them. It turns out she had rabies. As a result, all three of them die. As the last one is coding and they try to revive him, “How to Save a Life” by The Fray plays and Dr. Cox loses it after the patient flatlines. He goes to leave and JD gives Dr. Cox his own advice about death and blame. Dr. Cox says, “You know what, Newbie, you’re right” and then leaves as the episode ends.

Incredible acting by John C. McGinley + incredible plot twist + the perfect song = Five minutes of Gowdy bawling

 

3. House, M.D. “Fetal Position” (2007) 

The drama in House was so tense, confrontational and cerebral that there were not many cry moments in the series to me. Most episodes I was too busy thinking about why I believe what I believe about God and disturbed by the conflict House created as an atheist (or too depressed by the illness) to shed any tears. This Season 4 episode is no different in general; it has moral dilemmas, boisterous arguing and enough stress to melt your face.

But there was one moment that is so different from the typical House fare that it stands out like the little girl in the red petticoat in Schindler’s List. A 42-year-old pregnant photographer falls ill and House believes the “fetus” (as he adamantly calls it) is the cause and has no problem wanting to abort it. But as old as the mother is she demands a different answer. After several scenes of all the other dynamics I mentioned, exploratory surgery on the “fetus” is agreed upon by Cuddy and House. And during the operation, a tiny little hand grabs House’s. The baby and mother are both saved but what got to me was that House stopped calling the yet unborn human life a “fetus” and started calling it a “baby.”

REO makes no qualms about our position on the unborn and I personally hate that it is a political issue that parties fight about. But I was stunned to tears that anyone in Hollywood would communicate something I as a Bible-believing Christian feel deeply about. In a tornado moment where morality and truth met emotion, the episode showed us why life in the womb is so sacred.

 

4. Lost “The Candidate” (2010) 

Lost could have its own list for me and most of the staff of REO, but I was determined to have a list of variety. Yet Lost affected me emotionally like no other show ever. And of all the moments that caused me to ugly cry today I’ll limit myself to mentioning the scene where Jin refuses to leave Sun and they drown in the submarine together.

Sun and Jin’s marriage was so great precisely because it survived so much. Both of them had issues, but Jin was betrayed far worse. And he sacrificed deeply to stay with her, only to lose her for a long time because of the island. And then promised he’d never leave her again. So for him to not abandon her in the face of death was huge. When he said “I won’t leave you. I will never leave you” in Korean followed by “I love you, Sun” in English…I’m a basket case of emotion just thinking about it. He kept his promise. I bet I cried for 15 minutes the last time I watched it. I bet I would cry just about any time I watched it, even just the two-minute clip on Youtube. It is that powerful. The music that plays behind this moment is called “Life and Death” and it is impeccably written and aptly named. What a show.

 

5. The Office “Goodbye, Michael” (2011) 

Michael Scott is truly one of the great sitcom characters of all time and if pressed I’d probably put him right behind George Costanza on a Top Ten list. And as I’ve written before, he was so outrageous he could be Funny Michael (By the end of 4th grade the lunch lady was whom he hung out with most), Awkward Michael (kissing Oscar), Redeeming Michael (buying Pam’s painting) and even at times all three at the same time (mic dropping and walking out of Ryan’s class).

But there was only one occasion of tear-jerking Michael, to me at least. For his last episode, he took off his microphone at the airport and gave us one last “That’s what she said” and walked away. There was the part with Pam right after, but this moment was pure, quintessential Michael and I could not help but cry as I knew a legend was departing and it was over. No more Michael Scott. The episodes after this proved to me that he was irreplaceable and he will never be replicated. And his goodbye was pure emotional torture.

 

I could have given and looked for more of this from our staff, but we hope to do more of this sort of thing in the future. Feel free to share your TV cry moments below if you’d like. No judgment from us!




Five Truths Band of Brothers Taught Me

The 2001 HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers, is easily one of my favorite things in the world. It is not just one of my favorite TV shows. Not one of my favorite pieces of entertainment. One of my favorite things. Period. I have now watched it from beginning to end at least six times. It is a pretty big commitment, spanning 10 parts, each around one hour in length but I’ll gladly do it every couple of years. I love the story. I love watching these “characters” as they train, serve, and fight to defend the world from tyranny and evil. I call them characters, but the men we watch on screen are all based on real-life soldiers and the filmmakers did a fantastic job keeping the story as real and accurate as they could, within the constraints of television.

I could write dozens of articles about the series, and believe me, I have been tempted to do just that. For this go around, though, I will limit myself to just one. Next week, I will be publishing an article about watching movies with wisdom, and I feel like working my way through Band of Brothers with an eye for teachable moments goes hand in hand with that. There is so much applicability found in the series, not just for soldiers or war time, but for every day life. So here they are – the five teachable moments in Band of Brothers.


 

Times of testing have the potential to forge lasting bonds

Dick Winters and Lewis Nixon in Band of BrothersWhen you go through something powerful and life-changing, such as war or combat, it is transformational. An even deeper level of transformation can occur if you go through that event with other people. A bond is formed. A fellowship. A brotherhood. The men of Easy Company that survived the war, walked away forever marked by their years of service. They also walked away as part of something bigger than themselves. They were forged into a unit by training and trials, and it etched lasting connections to their fellow soldiers. These were the bravest of the brave. Men who endured hell on earth fighting for freedom. Men who pushed through hunger, thirst, cold, pain, and fear. Yet even these men, when witnessing the death of a fellow brother, were left broken and unable to carry on, their bond was so strong. They were able to take anything the war had to throw at them, yet some of them crumbled underneath the weight of losing a friend. These men formed relationships that lasted the rest of their lives. Dick Winters (ostensibly the lead character in the series) even spoke at Lewis Nixon’s funeral over 40 years after the war. That was the strength of their friendship.

Intense periods of life have a way of creating lasting, life-long friendships and relationships, as long as we don’t keep people at arm’s length. While these moments might be painful and difficult, the bonds formed have it in them to carry us through to our next season of life and beyond. Nurture these bonds and be thankful for them. These bonds can be a blessing for the rest of your life, even though their creation might have been in the midst of great heartache and struggle.

 

You can still thrive even if you have an awful leader

Captain Herbert SobelFor those that have seen the series, you know who Captain Herbert Sobel is. Played with a perfect mixture of arrogance and insecurity by David Schwimmer, Captain Sobel was the officer in charge of getting Easy Company ready for the war. He was a petty tyrant. An aggressively mean and vindictive man. He was hated by nearly every soldier under his command. So much so, many of the non-commissioned officers staged a mutiny of sorts simply because they refused to go into battle with him as their leader.

Most people can relate to having a supervisor, manager, or boss that is like that. Mean. Angry. Impatient. Petty. The men of Easy Company could have used this as an excuse to not become one of the best companies in the war. They could have raged and whined about how Sobel treated them, and become worse soldiers for it. Instead, they worked harder and harder to overcome his capricious punishments. They strove to become the most disciplined and well-trained unit possible, in spite of a leader that treated everything as a personal slight. So, even if your boss is a jerk, use that as a springboard to better yourself. Out work your supervisor’s lack of leadership.

 

Everyone is capable of unimaginable evil and transcendent good

Private Mularkey and German solider on HBO Band of BrothersThere is an scene in the second part, Day of Days, where an American soldier, Private Mularkey, encounters a captured German soldier, only to find out that they grew up in almost the same area. Mularkey is stunned. How could this “American” be fighting for the enemy? What would possess someone to leave their country to go fight for the Nazis? He comes to find out that this particular soldier was simply following the wishes of his family who had been called back to the motherland.

Throughout the series, we witness endless moments of bravery and self sacrifice. Frankly, it is overwhelming to witness the things these men had to do and the things they had to go through to ensure the freedom of not only our country, but of the world. These were great men. Yet with all that said, history has told their story and they fought for the winning side. They fought for the righteous side, while the Germans fought for the losing side. The evil side. Many of those German soldiers were simply following orders. They were simply fighting for their country, just like the American men that fought for theirs. This is in no way an attempt to equate the two sides, and the series doesn’t fall into any of those post-modern, deconstructionist traps that hamstring so many recent war films. There is clearly good and evil involved in the war. But the point stands. How easy is it for humanity to gradually fall into greater and greater evil, out of duty or patriotism or obligation? We all have the potential to strive for the light or to descend into darkness.

Courage is not the opposite of fear

Private Blithe in Band of BrothersPerhaps the most difficult episode to watch is Carentan, the third installment. Much of the episode follows Private Blithe as he struggles with overcoming his almost paralyzing fear. Watching a soldier shake and scream when bullets are flying over his head proved to be much harder for me to watch than seeing the men actually shot and injured. It gets so bad that he experiences hysterical blindness late in the episode. Eventually, through the guidance and example of one officer in particular, he is able to overcome his fear and bravely fight next to his unit.

Courage is not the opposite of fear. I realize this point has been made before by others, but this and other portions of the series drove it home so firmly that I knew I had to include it. These men were afraid. Some of them were terrified. And they still did their jobs. They did what was right. They put their lives on the line time and time again. That is a lesson I need often.

 

It is okay to have heroes

Major Richard Winters in Band of BrothersI challenge anyone to find a more heroic television or movie character than Major Richard Winters. As portrayed by Damien Lewis, Winters is quiet, soft spoken, brave, decisive, and most importantly, completely above reproach. His quiet faith is presented with no derision, instead it is seen as a source of strength. He goes above and beyond the call of duty throughout the series. He is respected by all the men in his company. He is honored by those of higher rank. In all this, he remains humble and unassuming.

Every time I watch Band of Brothers, I know how it will end. I know exactly how the final lines will hit me like a punch to the gut. I know I will cry. Finishing the series a few nights ago, I braced myself for the final line. I knew it was coming and a had convinced myself it wasn’t going to get me this time. Major Winters is recalling his time in the war and a correspondence he received from a fellow soldier. When describing his accomplishments and achievements in battle, he once again takes the focus off himself and turns it towards his fellow soldier. In a letter he received he read the following words, and felt they summed up the entire experience for him perfectly, “I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘No…but I served in a company of heroes’.”

We live in a time that celebrates scandal. An era that champions arrogance and celebrity. It is becoming more difficult to find heroes in our modern world. That does not mean we should stop looking. It is okay to have heroes, as long as they are pushing you to be better and do more. It is okay to have heroes if they nudge you towards humility and self sacrifice. It is okay to have heroes as long as their lives point to a fuller, deeper understanding of true heroism, which isn’t flashy and showy, but unassuming, sacrificial, and meek.

 


So there you have it. That’s what I learned this time around. What are some lessons you have learned watching this amazing, groundbreaking series? We would love to read about them in the comment section below.
 
 




It’s Easy to Love Chris Pratt

The Humble Beginnings of the future Star-Lord

Before there was Andy Dwyer and before there was Peter Quill, there was Bright Abbott.

I watched Everwood religiously from 2002 to 2006. A guilty pleasure for sure. As far as a person with a Christian worldview can be over a TV show, I was devastated when it was cancelled. I had just moved to Chicago and was dealing with girl problems, so I saw myself in Ephraim since he dealt with the same things. But in my watching I could not help but love Bright as well. He wasn’t funny or intelligent or the star of the show. He was just likeable.

So why did I like him? At the time I wasn’t sure. But a few years later the man I knew as Bright and whose real name I may have sort of known at the time, appeared on my TV screen in a trailer for Zero Dark Thirty. It seemed obvious to me that he didn’t have a big part, but just his one-line speaking role in the trailer made the movie almost as appealing as the the actual story.

And I watched it. And later I watched Moneyball. And “Bright Abbott” continued to make me smile and remained close to the top of my Hollywood conscious.

 

Johnny Karate’s Greatest Hit

Then a few years ago the guys from REO were championing a modern sitcom called Parks and Rec and eventually I realized that I needed to watch it. And voilà! There he was again! And for the million reasons Parks and Rec worked as a sitcom and landed at the number 3 spot on our list of Top Ten Sitcoms of all-time, Andy was a huge one.

I doubt anyone in sitcom history has a higher laugh-per-line ratio to me than Andy Dwyer. Even George Costanza. George is still the best to me because he makes me laugh and applaud the hardest, but nearly everything Andy says is funny. Playing the role of the clueless doofus has been popular in sitcom history, like Joey Tribbiani on Friends. But no one has done it like Chris Pratt. It’s a wonder to behold. My wife and I just finished Parks and Rec for the second time, and Andy has caused pools of tears in laughter. See this scene for a classic example:

 

It’s not hyperbole to me to say that Chris Pratt is a comedic genius. Some of it is innate, which can be seen if you watch PnR outtakes (caution: they have cursing) and Pratt just shoots from the hip without a script and has all of his co-workers on the floor laughing. But some of it is just him understanding what is truly funny and having the courage to do what would embarrass 99% of people.

Summer Blockbuster Cool

Somewhere in all that I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. By accident. Even though Chris Pratt was that guy I liked I apparently didn’t know enough about this movie to know he was in it. But one August night in 2014 I went to see the new Ninja Turtle movie and got the showtime wrong. I watched Guardians instead. Needless to say, by the end of that movie Chris Pratt rocketed to the top of my “I want to see it because he’s in it” list.

So when it was announced a few years ago that he was going to be in the new Jurassic Park movie I was bonkers. I already love the franchise, even the oft-disparaged second and third volumes, so his involvement in Jurassic World made it an opening weekend viewing for me. So I was there opening Friday night front and center to experience what would surely be amazing American cinema. I didn’t think it was a great movie but I was not disappointed even one iota in Chris Pratt. Star-Lord and Owen prove that he’s not lovable just because he’s funny. He has something special that goes beyond that. These movies sell themselves on many things, but I don’t think it’s an accident that Pratt has been in three of the top 50 domestic grossing of movies of all-time all in the last three years (Guardians 2 being the other).

Everwood Was His Bosom Buddies

In the book Blink by Malcom Gladwell, he talks about the first time Brian Grazer met Tom Hanks. Grazer says, “He came in and read for the movie Splash, and right there, in the moment, I can tell you just what I saw. We read hundreds of people for that part, and other people were funnier than him. But they weren’t as likable as him. I felt like I could live inside of him. I felt like his problems were problems I could relate to.”

I think Chris Pratt has the same thing Hanks does. I have never met him and doubt I ever will. But if I ever saw him I would feel like I was meeting a buddy from high school. It would probably be surreal since he is famous, but almost paradoxically I think it would feel so familiar. Because Pratt just comes across that way. Recently he was caught in the middle of a typical American controversy that some thought would offend the deaf community. And Pratt’s response it–by signing an apology in sign language–was as touching and real as anything you’ll see from Hollywood off screen.

 

We’ll follow your lead, Star-Lord

In the Season 6 Parks and Rec episode “New Slogan” Andy is trying to find bands to play for a unity concert and by accident he discovers that Ron is Duke Silver. This is a unique episode because Andy ditches, for the most part, the dim-witted persona. When he talks to Ron, he’s more of an adult. In sharp contrast to “ambling down the street naked on crutches” Andy, this Andy is smooth. And cool. And bears semblance to Pratt’s other roles. I am not sure why he’s like this for one episode but I realize as I’m watching that it’s not the shtick or the writing that makes Andy great. It’s the man behind the character.

And I have little doubt his white hot career arc is just getting warmed up. Because he will bring this undefinable Tom Hanks-like personality to whatever he does. And on his 38th birthday, we celebrate the privilege of seeing his career unfold in real time.

 

 




In Defense of the Seinfeld Finale

“I got so much grief from the Seinfeld finale, which a lot of people intensely disliked…” (Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld)

 

If you want to start an argument among Seinfeld fans my advice is to ask this simple question: “What did you think of the finale?”

I’ve been talking with Seinfeld fanatics since before Kramer had a first name and I have seen firsthand how volatile conversations about Seinfeld can be. This is perhaps the biggest time bomb.

Let me preface my defense of the finale by saying that it was nowhere near the funniest episode or even as funny as an average episode. Out of 180 total episodes, I doubt it would crack the Top 100 for laugh out loud moments. I can easily support that critique. Similarly, if someone wanted to be introduced to the show there is no way I would want them to see the Finale totally aside from the nature of a finale not being an episode to watch first. It was a different beast from episodes like The Comeback and The Marine Biologist.

But even with all this, I loved the way the show ended.  Here are five reasons why:

 

1. Larry David came back. 

I for one do not think the show fell off a cliff the post Larry David seasons since probably half of my favorite moments came in Seasons 7-9. But there is no Seinfeld without Larry David. And to bring him back to recreate the magic of Seinfeld’s origins–everything from Jerry doing stand up to open to the very last conversation bringing the show full circle–made the finale worth remembering. From writing to producing to championing the show with such passion he would argue with NBC executives, Larry David was as important to mainstreaming and popularizing Seinfeld as anyone.

 

2. They found a creative, clever way to bring back the best one-off characters from the show’s history. 

Who didn’t enjoy experiencing the Bubble Boy testify, railing against George about the Moors again? Or watching Babu wag his finger one more time? Or seeing the Soup Nazi refuse to spell his name and demand the next question?

This was what made Larry David so proud of the finale and I have to agree with him. Finales should be a trip down memory lane in some sense and they found a truly unique way to recall inimitable characters and jokes that were defining moments for this award winning series.

 

3. This scene with Newman:

 

Newman, the character who appeared the most outside of the main four[1. I you don’t count Ruthie Cohen, and I don’t] and who Jerry cannot explain his hatred for, had his moments. He even stole some scenes. But they saved the pinnacle Newman meltdown for last. Either this or Frank Costanza interrupting the trial to yell at George Steinbrenner is the biggest laugh of the Finale to me. And this is definitely a “Gowdy stands up to clap” moment.

 

4. The characters gave us 45 final, glorious minutes of what made them great.

Not to contradict myself above but if someone did want to know what Seinfeld was like and they only had 60 seconds to do so, I absolutely would show them the comments the New York Four made on Kramer’s video while the fat tub was getting robbed. Anyone who didn’t smile and nod when George complained about no catsup–while in jail–probably missed most of the show’s run to that point. Jackie Chiles’ rants; Frank yelling about Hideki Arabu; Puddy’s utter indifference to Elaine going to jail complete with the Puddy stare and the Puddy voice-tone reply of “Alright” to Elaine’s “Don’t wait for me”…the finale unquestionably reminded us of why we became addicted to the show in the first place. Not all of these moments were boisterously laugh funny, but they were all quintessential Seinfeld.

 

5. The conclusion was absolutely true to the nature of the show.

I wish I had kept better files back in 1998 when this episode aired because I cannot remember who it was or where I read it but someone perfectly captured the ending by pointing out that the characters in the show didn’t care about anyone else and the show’s ending showed they didn’t care about us either. No good vibes. No sappy ending. Just the standard “Everyone loses” Seinfeld climax. There is something so real about that I can’t help but love it.

And the verdict: Four completely self-absorbed narcissists who left countless lives worse than how they found them, going to jail for a year. Poetic Justice in inane form. And the crime could not have been any more fulfilling–breaking a law based on a story from Jesus, a man who was perfectly contrary to them. The moment that “guilty” verdict is read, my goosebumps shatter as though I were watching a walk-off grand slam Cubs win. What an ending! It all, indeed, came crumbling down. And Newman was there. In all his glory.

As Larry David has said, everyone writes their own finale in their head[2. Anyone who wanted Elaine and Jerry to get together needs to get bonked upside the head with a marble rye.] and it is impossible for a show as popular as Seinfeld to make everyone happy in an episode like this. But I respect it because they did exactly what they wanted to do the way they wanted to do it. And they did not care about anyone else. The same man who yelled at NBC reps for not liking his Chinese restaurant episode idea, and got his way (and eventual great acclaim for the idea), went out the only way he could. And I cannot dog that. It worked.

 

I’m but one voice, yet 19 years ago I walked away from the TV longing for more new Seinfeld. Nevertheless, I was still completely satisfied by its ending. Two decades later I feel the same. The greatest show of all time went out on top. No critiques of the finale can change that.

 

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know below!

 

 




500 Words or Less Reviews: Avatar – The Last Airbender

500 words is not enough for me to do justice to this show. It’s the best family cartoon series I have ever seen. I just finished watching the series with my boys for the second time and it’s the first time I’ve watched it with my youngest son, though he has seen episodes here and there. Originally released on Nickelodeon from 2005 through 2008, Avatar – The Last Airbender tells the story of a world divided by war and conflict. The world is split up into four kingdoms, and intended to be a place where they work together and live in peace. The Fire Nation changed all of that when they attacked and destroyed the Air Nation. Each nation (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) has citizens with the ability to control and manipulate the element of their nation. There is one person that has the ability to control all four elements – the Avatar. Unfortunately, the Avatar has been missing for 100 years. The series tells the story of the new Avatar, the friends he meets in his journey, and his quest to bring balance and peace to the world.

That’s the plot in a nutshell. And that would be enough on its own, but the show is so much more. Most grown up shows should study the way this series handles character development, emotional payoffs, and rich thematic content. For a show created to appeal to six to eight year olds, it’s amazing how much depth they were able to pack in without making things overly complicated. The main characters all go through dramatic transformations. Motivations evolve and mature. Allegiances are tested. Enemies become friends. Friends become enemies. It’s all there.

At its most basic, the show is fun, exciting and full of laughs and adventure. Seeing my kids belly laugh as we watched this show is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. The animation is well done, blending various different influences from Anime to more American styles. The voice acting is impressive, using a mix of adults and children to bring the characters to life. The music is engaging but rarely manipulative or pandering. And when the show requires a gigantic payoff, it hits it out of the park every single time.

If you have children between 6 and 15, they will most likely enjoy this show. They will fall in love with Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, Toph, Iroh, Appa, and Momo. There are elements of Eastern mysticism, and reincarnation plays a pretty big role in the story. But instead of hiding from it, those plot points gave my family a good opportunity to discuss what we believe and how that differs from what the show presents. The show also gives you chances to talk about love, hope, selflessness, sacrifice, and friendship. What more could you ask for?

It’s available on Amazon for free if you are a Prime Member.




Five Lies Gilmore Girls Tells You

For the record, I like the show.  But it lies to you.  Lies so hard.  Here are five examples.


1. If you eat enormous amounts of junk food, do not cook much on your own, and hate exercising, you will still be healthy and look fabulous.

It’s the life we all want, but we can’t have. And please tell me there will be French fries in heaven. And coffee.

 

2. Your wish for your studious, “good” teenage daughter to have moments of rebellion by participating in destructive behavior has no actual effect on her decisions.

Were these longings for her teenager’s rebellion due to parental boredom?  Did Lorelai want to purchase the alcohol for Rory’s underage drinking orgies? Was she disappointed in her daughter for striving to get into an Ivy League instead? Darn, I hate it when kids make correct choices.

 

3. Being a single mother with one income will lead to talk of not having money, but there will never be any actual financial sacrifices.

You can eat out as much as you want, actually eat out most every meal. You can own your own very large home in the Northeast. Your daughter can buy books all the time. You can wear whatever you like and find fashionable.[1. Time agrees.  Read this if you don’t believe me.] Ok, so Rory didn’t buy enough skirts for her private school. Lorelai insisted that was not necessary. (True. Private school skirts are indestructible.) And Lorelai had to make Rory’s dress for prom. Real homemade clothes (when you’re too poor to buy clothes) look nothing like Rory’s designer “home-sewn” beauty. Believe me.

 

4. You can know all the things about all things.

Not only can you do lots of fun things and involve yourself in all the town’s events, you can know everything about most everything: literature, movies, music, history, celebrity gossip, and more. There is such a wealth of knowledge, that you can have entire conversations filled with allusions. You’ll end up like The Little Match Girl by the time you figure them all out.

 

5. If you do all this cool stuff, and if you are witty, and if you have a permissive parenting style, your daughter will be your best friend. Not just your best friend when she is older, wiser, and has had time to mature, but your best friend during each of the awkward stages of development, including pre-pubescence and adolescence.

I’m sure this show is how my friends pictured mothering teenage girls before they actually had a teenage girl.

Then they had a daughter. And now they’re like, “Ain’t no way we are having coffee as besties. I’m ‘bout to lose it on you, and you only in elementary.”

And I can’t even share what my friends who have middle school daughters are thinking. That’s confidential. (And these friends of mine who parent daughters are great mothers. This is just venting, people. Calm down.)


So there you have it. Lies. Netflix is releasing sequels to the series—four episodes, one for each season, titled “A Year in the Life.” The day after Thanksgiving, I will be curling up with sisters, eating junk food, laughing, binge watching, and listening to more lies.

It will be great.