The Dog Days of Summer

This summer, when he’s not working out with the freshman football team or playing basketball or trying to get something popping most nights of the week, my 14yo son has been making his way through all 8 seasons of That ‘70s Show.

It’s impressive watching the kid plow through all 200 episodes, which — at 22-minutes apiece — clock in at around 73.33 hours. At the rate he’s going, I’m feeling confident he’ll be done by the end of the month. Maybe even this week, if he really buckles down.

He should be this dedicated to his summer reading.

Honestly, this has never been a show on my radar. I mean, I know it’s how Ashton met Mila and where that chick from Orange is the New Black got her Big Break. But it ran from 1998 through 2006 and coincided with some of my prime baby making years. Or, if I wasn’t exactly making a baby, then I was nursing it or cleaning it or driving it to preschool. In other words, I was too busy for TV back then.

Funny story: some time during that period, the house phone rang a little after 9 p.m. and it was another man in town looking to talk to my husband.

“He’s asleep,” I told the guy, annoyed that he’d even be calling the house so late.

“Is he okay?” the man, who only had one child, asked in alarm.


What I probably did was laugh and say he was fine and had just fallen asleep a little early. I probably failed to mention that I wasn’t that far behind him.

So now, thanks to Hulu, I guess I’m making up for lost TV time. It seems at all hours of the day the “Hanging Out” theme some is playing in our TV room followed by about 21 minutes of double entendres and a cheesy laugh track. Every once in a while I find myself pausing as I go past the room and watch for a minute or two. The characters always seem to be hanging out on couches in someone’s basement and talking about getting laid. Or not getting laid. Or wanting to get laid.

I forget how racy primetime TV has gotten over the years. Cheers and The Cosby Show seem downright Disney-like compared to what aired in the following decade.

And I wonder, not for the first time, whether I should suggest that my child get off the couch and go find something better to do. But that’s the great thing about my youngest. When I strongly suggest ask him to do something, he usually just does it. I pop my head in and tell him he’s had enough TV for the day and to go outside and throw the lacrosse ball around and he says, “Okay, Mom,” and turns off the TV and goes out into the heat of the day.

In short time I hear the TV go on again in the TV room and I go in to investigate and find what looks like a scene from a soft porn movie unfolding on my flat screen TV with my 20yo watching from the couch. She’s been bingeing the HBO series “True Blood” and with 80 approximately 60-minute episodes, is giving her little brother a run for his money as she wiles away the hours watching television when she’s not at work or food shopping for me. There are shoes scattered all over the small room and an empty plate on the coffee table from the muffin she ate for breakfast hours earlier.

Unlike earlier summers, I’m trying to be a little less agitated about all the TV watching, provided the children are doing all the other things they really are supposed to be doing. Sure, I’d rather they still just watched shows on Animal Planet or better yet, read a book. But that ball’s in their court now. I’ve modeled plenty of good reading behavior over the years and monitored their TV viewing when they were younger with the same zeal Tipper Gore brought to what the youth of our nation could listen to in the late ’80s.

And, with everybody growing up and moving out, it’s only a matter of time before the only sound in the house will be my fingers on the laptop or my dog crying to come sit with me.

I guess the good news is that all this TV-watching gives our puppy someone to snuggle next to and helps him forget that I’m in another part of the house, trying to write.

And not get distracted by the television.

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Friday Faves: The Binge Watch

the-crown-netflix-queen-elizabeth-november-4-habituallychic-004Lest my readers think that all I do is fold yoga pants all day long, I’d also have you know that I watch a lot of television. As such, I consider myself a bit of an authority on what’s available for your viewing pleasure these days because if I’m not watching it, one of my four kids most definitely is.

As you might have read on Facebook, in between kitten videos and all that fake news, the holidays are upon us and you’ll need a reason to take extended breaks from all that family time and alleged good cheer. And it seems these days saying, “Sorry, I’ve got to catch up on my show,” is passing as a valid excuse for why we can’t (FILL IN THE BLANK):

  • A: Make dinner
  • B: Get out of our yoga pants
  • C: Shower

Okay, I made that last one up because when I try to avoid bathing for extended periods my children start to complain. But you get my drift. Having a “show” can be helpful for a lot more than just passing the time. It could literally save your life (cue dramatic bom-bom-bom).

I thought I’d introduce shows that aren’t necessarily the ones that everyone is talking about. Obviously, I’m totally committed to a lot of them. I’m completely up-to-date with “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards” and “The Walking Dead” (btw: What is up with this season? Enough with Negan already. Somebody please bash in his skull.). I watched all of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Gilmore Girls” (btw part 2: I wish I could insert emojis here to really express how crazy I thought the ending was.). And I’ve kinda stalled on a few shows I really loved for a season or two but just can’t finish, like season two of “Bloodline” and “Transparent” and season three of “The Americans” and “Orange is the New Black.” And I didn’t get all the way through season one of “Girlfriends Guide to Divorce,” “Odd Mom Out” and “Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” so I don’t know if that says something about the shows themselves or my struggle with follow through.

But there are a bunch of great shows that I watched and totally loved that are a little more off the beaten tv track. So, in no particular order:

  • Westworld (HBO): I have a very smart girlfriend who is really resisting this one because she’s tired of all the gratuitous misogeny on shows like “Game of Thrones.” She just can’t watch one more woman get raped right there on her tv set. I get that, but then I read a really interesting piece about why that’s not completely nuts and maybe kinda feminist and it made me feel better about liking these kinds of shows that flaunt all that violence against women. Anyway, yes, WestWorld has lots of sex and violence but it’s also chock-a-clock with amazeballs acting and ideas that are making me reconsider everything I’ve thought about life up until now. Like, I’m pretty sure I’m a robot. Confused? Just start watching and you’ll be having all sorts of existential thoughts, too.
  • This Is Us (NBC): Missing “Parenthood”? Here’s your antidote, being slowly dribbled out one-week-at-a-time on network television. But it’s so sweet and poignant that I can forgive the old timey notion of weekly television and advertising and look forward to each week’s installment. Plus, it has Jess from “Gilmore Girls” who’s a lot less annoying on this show than he was as Rory’s n’er-ds-well boyfriend.
  • The Crown (Netflix): I think I’d be as obsessed with this gorgeous series even if I wasn’t going to London in a few weeks. Not only is everything beautiful – the actors, the settings and everyone’s lovely and very proper British accents – but history lessons have never gone down so easily. The London Fog? WHO KNEW? Churchill was selected twice as prime minister? Who knew that one, either? Well, not me anyway. Might even watch again.
  • Stranger Things (Netflix): As a person with the TV viewing habits of a 13yo boy trapped in a 50yo woman’s body, this series checked every box of things that I love: monsters, kids riding around on bikes, Eggo Waffles. It’s set in the 1980s and is such a loving homage to the era and the Steven Spielberg-take on it. All my kids watched and loved it including — especially — the 13yo boy who watched it twice and follows all of the kid actors on social media. You’ll thank me.
  • The Fall (Hulu): As a single woman who often finds herself alone at home, I don’t even know why I’m watching this one. So. Damn. Creepy. But my very cute manager at the legging factory was raving about it so I was like, “Well, she’s a very nice girl and we seem to like a lot of the same stuff so I’ll give it a go.” Yikes. It’s about a straight-up serial killer roaming around Belfast (it’s a BBC production) and the detective who’s trying to nab him. But the nut job is the guy who starred in “Fifty Shades of Gray” and the detective is the very amazing and badass Gillian Anderson. I’m about halfway through season two. Please come hold my hand.
  • Jessica Jones (Netflix): Talk about badass. This one has all the bad stuff: sex, violence (lots against women and even a hand in a blender towards the end). But I still totally loved it, especially, or maybe because of, David Tennant who plays the very evil – yet kinda sexy and amusing – villain. It’s based on Marvel Comics characters and somehow ties into “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil,” which my daughter could tell you all about but I don’t pay much attention to. It was super fun to watch but, as with most of these shows, make sure your kids are in bed before you press “play.”
  • Sherlock (PBS): I was never a huge Benedict Cumberbatch person. Like, I kinda didn’t get it. But then I watched “Sherlock.” He’s very appealing as the pretty crazy detective running around London and figuring out the most convoluted mysteries. And his trusty sidekick, Watson, is played by Frodo Baggins so what’s not to like there? Really fun and yet another super-evil villain (MORIARTY YOU BASTARD) and I can’t wait for the next installment to come out, which is New Year’s Day on PBS.
  • Catastrophe (Amazon): Romantic. Hilarious. Devastating. Catastrophe, a British import, is all of those things. It’s what happens when a sexy one-week-stand results in a pregnancy and the ensuing messy thing we call marriage. And love. But the lead actress also does the writing for this as well as Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Divorce” on HBO, which I also happen to really like.
  • Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon): Two words: Bernadette Peters. Need more? Okay, behind the scenes at a financially struggling NYC symphony and the ensuing romances, politics and backstabbing. Really fun and, bonus!, Season 3 just came out this week.
  • You’re the Worst and Love (FX and Netflix): I’m pretty sure these are the exact same shows but somebody didn’t tell their respective networks. And it’s kind of weird because I really liked “You’re the Worst” and did not like “Love.”
  • Master of None (Netflix): All I have to say is that you know it’s a good show when you have legit romantic dreams about Aziz Ansari.
  • Unreal (Lifetime): I don’t know if I’d watch another season of this behind the scenes look at a Bachelor-like reality show because I don’t think the producers could get any worst in the name of ratings. But if you’re a reality tv person (which I am not), it’s fun to get a look of what might be going on when the cameras aren’t rolling. Plus, I’m obsessed with the tattoos the two female leads get at the beginning of season two. Badass.

What’s in your queue? I’m hot to watch “Poldark” and maybe finish up some of those shows I left hanging mid-season.

Or, maybe I should just read a book for once, because I just bought this and this.

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If you were wondering where I’d been lately and considering sending out a search party, you wouldn’t have to look too far. Throughout the holidays and now for hours each night after dinner, I’ve been sitting on the giant red couch in my family room watching the telly. In fact, I was watching so much TV after Christmas my children became alarmed.

“You’re STILL watching television?” my 23yo son said incredulously when he peeked his head out of the kitchen on Dec. 26 to find me sitting on the couch in my pajamas mid-day powering through my fourth hour of Netflix.

I have to admit, I found this reaction to seeing me do what he – and all of his siblings – do all the time quite hilarious. Throughout the fall, when he wasn’t networking or going on job interviews, the guy was sitting in my basement ploughing through, like, a million shows and yelling at the television while playing PlayStation4. My youngest daughter watched all five seasons of Mad Men during her winter break and my 13yo somehow squeezed in an entire season of Parks and Rec on Sunday while was supposed to be scraping stickers off his bedroom door.

But apparently they are not used to seeing their mom do the same. I guess it was weird to see me bingeing on a TV show. But, like a big box of CheezIts, it was hard to stop after just one helping of Jessica Jones. As each episode ended and the little box in the corner came on indicating the next was about to start in three … two … one … I was like, “Okay, just one more.”

What is this Jessica Jones, you ask? Well, number one, it’s super-violent. Like, limb in a Vitamix, violent. There’s sex. Even, kind of, superhuman sex. And it’s very dark. Jessica is a private investigator who’s a rape survivor with some superhuman strength and gets through her days slugging whiskey (sometimes straight outta the bottle). She’s the chick who played Jesse’s druggie girlfriend on Breaking Bad who chokes on her own vomit (with the help of Walter White) in bed. So, I guess things have picked up for the actress a little in this new Netflix-original series because Jessica would kick Walter White’s ass for trying that shit. Please try to get to the end of the first episode and not immediately need to watch the next one. The ending is a doozy.

But things really get good when Jessica’s former captor and all-around-bad-boyfriend Kilgrave – played by the super-sexy David Tennant – comes on the scene in the third episode. He is so bad. Terrible. And funny and strangely likable. I couldn’t believe he was the same actor who played one of the lead detectives in Broadchurch (another series you can, and should, binge on Netflix).

I was sorry when I finished the final episode and despondent that there were no serious plans for a second season. Somehow, the series is linked to the other Marvel Comics-inspired Netflix series Daredevil, but I haven’t taken the plunge to watch that yet, frankly because I’ve been watching way too many other shows.

I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’ve watched these other series in the last month:

  • Sherlock: I never got the whole Benedict Cumberbatch thing. I saw him in a few movies and was like, “Huh.” And then I started watching Sherlock and was like, “I totally get it.” He’s wonderfully nutty and weirdly sexy in a high-functioning ,crazy-person way. Each 90-minute episode is so densely packed, it’s kind of hard to binge on more than one or two at a time. There are a couple of really good bad guys and some twists that I didn’t see coming (although that’s not that hard since I am terrible at seeing things coming). I recommend you watch the three-episodes of each of its three seasons slowly because a fourth isn’t expected to be released until 2017.
  • Mozart in the Jungle: Honestly, I never heard of this series on Amazon until it received a couple of Golden Globe nominations. And because I like to be in the know about these kinds of things, started watching with my daughter while she was home on break. It’s the young ingénue oboist trying to break into a fictional New York symphony and winding up instead the assistant to their new young and kind of eccentric maestro. I wish there was a little more music but it is like a sneak peek behind the curtain and – for godssakes – it has the fabulous Bernadette Peters (who makes 67 look beyond fabulous) so what is not to love? We quickly gobbled up all 10 half-hour episodes of the first season and are now on the final two episodes of the recently-released second season and now that the show took home two Golden Globes (for best musical/comedy series and best actor), I bet lots more people will actually know what an oboe looks like.
  • Flesh and Bone: This Starz original series has pretty much the same premise as Mozart in the Jungle. Just substitute ballet for the symphony and throw in a crazy homeless guy for good measure. But unlike Mozart, they cast real-live dancers for Flesh and Bone and there’s a ton of really beautiful dancing. There’s also a ton of Black Swan-like drama and super-skinny bodies but when the eight, hour-long episodes are over, that’s it. Apparently there are no plans in the work for a second season, so you can have some closure on the fate of the company.
  • Master of None: My kids fell in love with Aziz Ansari after bingeing on Parks and Rec but I never really found him appealing. I thought his character was kind of jerky. But I kept reading a lot about his new Netflix series, on the tail of his recent book investigating modern romance that I thought was fascinating, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Interestingly, after inhaling the whole series and finding it adorable and poignant, I encouraged my kids to watch and each one told me they tried but couldn’t get into it. I think it’s because they’re too young. It’s really aimed at folks old enough to have pondered what it means to commit to one person for the rest of your life as well as the clarity to know when they’re being jerks to their parents. I don’t know if I ever needed to see Aziz simulating having sex with someone but other than that, I really enjoyed all 10, half-hour episodes (well, not so sure about the first, but all the rest).
  • Making a Murderer: I watched the first episode while Googling all sorts of shit on my laptop and soon realized that – much like Homeland – you really have to be focused to know what’s going on. So I held off watching any more and now I’ve read there’s so much controversy over the series, I don’t know if I’m going to continue. What I really wanted was for it to be like the TV-version of Serial, last year’s much-talked-about podcast that thoroughly examined the murder of a high school girl in Baltimore in 1999 and whether her former boyfriend who was convicted for killing her was wrongly imprisoned. I binged like crazy on that – listening in my car while my son played soccer or at the kitchen table during dinner – before the final episode and thought the producers/creators looked under every single rock in their investigation. Instead, I think I’ll turn the TV off and catch up on the new season of Serial, which examines the case of Bowe Bergdahl, who allegedly deserted his Army unit and was held captive by the Taliban for five years. I’ve already listened to a couple and it’s very compelling. So much so that while listening on a two-hour drive home from my dad’s over the holidays, about 15-minutes in my 13yo yelled from the third row, “Hey Mom, can you turn it up?”

Maybe we’ll all give our screens a break and just listen to a story for a while.

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