My pop culture summer, part 1

Well folks, the eve of summer is upon us. To my mind, it has already passed. How was yours? Mine…wasn’t terriffic. I am looking forward to a new season and am determined to make fall fun. But whatever else I can say about the summer, I have to admit, it was pretty kick ass in terms of pop culture. I saw 4 shows (3 musicals, 1 play); saw my boys play in Chicago; discovered some new bands and podcasts; read great books; went to a great film festival; and even had time to watch (or re watch) some TV. So it wasn’t all bad.

Below is the first installment of my best of summer pop culture picks. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

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* I’m putting together a Michael Jackson mix, and in doing so, stumbled across some long forgotten, but great, songs. Like “Childhood,” which, apparently, is from the Free Willy 2 soundtrack. Do y’all remember Free Willy 2? Yeah, me neither. I know I saw it, because I LOVED the first movie. Cried my eyes out . Also, fun fact: I went to see Free Willy on my first ever date, in sixth grade. My date cried, too, but tried to hide it. Anyway, check it out. Doesn’t this song break you heart a little? I’m sure he wrote it with that intention, but still – he’s so earnest. Plus, there are strings.

Other gems include “Ben”, “She’s Out of My Life”, “Dirty Diana” and a breathtaking “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I’d kind of forgotten how much I liked the King of Pop back in the day.

* Also being played on my iPod lately: The cast recording for Curtains. Freaking brilliant, people. I now totally regret never seeing this show when it was on Broadway. And I knew about it, too! I distinctly remember talking to my dad about the new Kander and Ebb murder mystery musical. Anyway, a friend gave me the cast recording several months ago, and I only recently started listening to it. It took a few listens, but now I can’t get enough. It’s funny, it’s catchy, it’s romantic, it’s sad. And, sure, it’s no Cabaret, but what is? I love David Hyde Pierce’s wistful song, “Coffee Shop Nights,” but the real gem on this album is “I Miss the Music”, a song about writing a song without a partner. Written by John Kander after Fred Ebb’s death. I can’t listen to it without tearing up. But, there’s also some hilarious numbers, and some that are pure joy, such as “Show People.”

Wasn’t that fun?

*I finished the Great Frasier Rewatch much, much faster than the Great Cheers Rewatch. I actually am not going to say how quick it took me to finish 11 seasons of TV, but needless to say…it was quick. Totally enjoyable from start to finish. I don’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at a show so consistently. Yesterday, I started listing my favorite episodes, for a top 10 countdown, and ended up with, uh, 42. No, I’m not kidding. Obviously I’ll have to trim the list down. I almost feel like there should be two different lists: 1.) Favorite episodes, 2.) Niles. Though, as I said before, Jane Leeves is totally under-appreciated. Or at least, I didn’t appreciate her when the show was on. My god, she’s funny. OnceI can narrow down the list, I’ll do a post on my favorite episodes. In the meantime, here’s a video someone made highlighting the hilarious Daphne Moon.

* Lauren Graham’s new movie, The Answer Man, comes out in DC next week. Who’s coming with me? Anyone? Anyone?

*On that topic, I still haven’t seen 500 Days of Summer. Or The Hangover. Or any new movie since Away We Go. P.S. John Krasinski + beard + glasses = HOT. I finally get the attraction.

* I need a good book. I’m currently very uninspired by my collection. I keep on starting one book and stopping it a few days later. I think this is because a few months ago, I read Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. It was wonderful, and set the bar very high for my next Great Read. So far, nothing has measured up. I hope I find one by this time next month – I need some beach reading.

* I have no desire to see the Harry Potter movie. But I do think Daniel Radcliffe has gotten kind of cute as he’s gotten older. (Even though I can’t see him without remembering him flinging a condom, ala Extras.) Which is worse?

*Found out today the new season of Dexter starts September 27th. Bring it!

* How did I find that out? By reading about the Dexter panel at Comic Con. Yep, it’s that time of year again. And yes, once again, I failed to make it to the Fandom Mecca. Someday, dear readers. Some day…

In praise of Olive Snook

I love the fall. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. A part of this goes back being in school, and having the sense of a fresh start. I like the idea of leaves crunching underneath my feet. I like the idea of shopping for new clothes and getting out sweaters. I like the idea of Halloween. (Though, to be fair, I haven’t dressed up since being Vampire Willow in college. About three people at the party got it, but it was still fun to plan out a costume, wear leather pants and leather boots, dye my hair bright red, and go around saying, “Bored now” to people who didn’t know what to think.)

In addition to school and leaves and costumes, one of the biggest reasons I love fall is because it’s the start of a new TV season. These last two weeks have been a feast for the TV lover. New episodes of The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Heroes, Chuck, House, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters…the list goes on and on. (No I don’t watch ALL of those shows. I have a hard enough time just keeping up with Monday night TV.)

Tomorrow night marks the return of one of my favorite shows from last year – Pushing Daisies.

If you aren’t familiar with the show — and there is a good chance you may not be, as it only got in nine episodes before the strike sent it to Hiatusland — here’s a helpful video to catch you up:

(Thank goodness for that. Jim Dale is a much better recapper than me.)

A few weeks ago, season 1 came out on DVD, and I got a refresher course of my own. I remembered the show, and its most pertinent details, but had forgotten a lot of the episodic plot lines.

Here’s what I discovered: I still like the show a lot. It’s not in my top 10 yet, but I do really enjoy it. The best part of the show, for me, isn’t Ned the Piemaker, nor is it Chuck. (Who, quite frankly, grates. She’s just a little too precious and quirky, even for this show. I hope they fix that this year.) It isn’t even Emerson Cod’s love of knitting (though…awesome) or the Darling Mermaid Darlings increasing pie addiction. No, what makes the show for me is one Miss Olive Snook, played by the luminous Kristin Chenoweth.

What started out as a character with pretty much only one defining trait — she is in love with Ned — has turned into a multi-faceted, fascinating supporting role. Throughout the course of nine episodes, we learn that Olive used to be a jockey (a nod, I’m sure, to Chenoweth’s small stature). We learn that her pajamas match her bedspread. We learn she’s not as dumb as she may at first seem. We learn she’s very sweet — faithfully taking pies to Chuck’s aunts and trying to get them out of their house. Most important, we learn she is a good friend, even to Chuck, whom she should hate for stealing the affections of The Piemaker.

Kristin Chenoweth took what was a minor character in the pilot (Pie-lette) and turned Olive into a vital member of the cast. Pushing Daisies wouldn’t be Pushing Daisies now without Olive Snook. In fact, if Chenoweth ever leaves the show, I’ll probably stop watching.

Here’s hoping Olive will continue her friendships with Chuck, The Aunts and Emerson in season two. Watching her interact with the others truly makes the show for me.

Plus, you know, she sings.

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While reading reviews of yesterday’s HIMYM (That’s How I Met Your Mother for those not in the know) I was reminded of one of the great moments of the series – Barney’s Top 10 List, and NPH’s dead on impression of David Letterman, complete with, well I don’t want to ruin it for you, but listen for it at the end. So, to file under “Things that are awesome” (and I promise they won’t all feature NPH, this is just odd coincindence), here’s my Featured Video of the Day. Make sure you watch to the end, as after the initial bit, they do an additional bit that did not originally air.

Barney’s Top 10.

Happy (belated) new TV season!