tv

Ioan Gruffudd’s Classy Farewell to Forever

It is just not a good week for my TV shows. Wednesday brought news of The Mindy Project’s cancellation, and now another blow has been dealt: ABC has cancelled Forever.

Forever was certainly not the best show on television, but it was original. It also happened to star an underrated favorite actor of mine, Ioan Gruffudd (Yo-an Griffith—it’s Welsh. For more on the man himself, see my gushing post here.)

Ioan is an actor you might recognize but not know why. If you’ve ever seen Titanic (which, considering how many times TBS/TNT/USA/AMC play it throughout the year, it’s impossible not to), he’s the young ship mate with the moral conscious who returns to the sea of bodies to help find any alive ones. His main line, “Is anyone alive out there? Can anyone hear me?” (If you haven’t already, I suggest you take a cruise and bellow this from the deck’s railing. It’s not as morbid as it sounds. I don’t think.) If not for Ioan, Rose would have been lost! There would have been no “Come back! Jack! Come back, Jack!” moment, and that would have been a real loss in greatest cinematic tearjerker moments.

IoanTitanic

                                                      “I saved Kate Winslet, don’t you get that?”

Ioan’s also been in a slew of other TV shows and films, and even had the starring role in Fantastic Four back in 2005 and 2007. And yet his career has just never seemed to take off. Perhaps it’s because he comes across as a little too earnest and eager-to-please—he does practically seem angelic. Maybe he needs a little bit more edge, like Castle or hec even Alicia Florick of The Good Wife. Instead his characters always seem just too perfect and kind-hearted. And I think we prefer a bit more conflict within our characters to add to the relatability factor.

On Forever, Ioan played Dr. Henry Morgan, a man who cannot die and has experienced death and resurrection so many times that he knows more about it than any normal, takes-just-one-death-to-kill-me man. His extensive knowledge of death leads him to team up with the NYC homicide department to solve murders. The show focused on Henry’s life in the modern world and his parallel experiences in past lives, which allowed for a flashback in almost every episode, whether it was to 1954 or 1872. It’s probably these flashbacks that killed the show. While they had the promise of being interesting, instead they played out in an almost farcical-manner. A milky film would cover the screen, as if the show was trying to achieve the glow of a 1940s MGM film. And Henry’s past somehow interrupted his present a little too conveniently. That old wealthy patron of the museum who just died? Henry knew her in the 1950s. That saxophone player whose son died? He just happened to teach Henry’s son to play jazz on the piano in the 1960s. It became formulaic quickly.

A flashback with Henry's wife highlights that milky glow.

                        A flashback with Henry’s wife highlights that milky glow.

Yet for once it was as if Ioan and a character aligned perfectly. Earnest Ioan worked as Henry because Henry was often too earnest as well, too quick to excitement and then concern for others. He was also just a tad bit cheesy, and it all worked, actor-to-character wise. The chemistry between Ioan and his co-star Alana de la Garza was there, too. Was she perfectly cast as a skeptic cop? No, not quite, but her having a soft spot for the eccentric Henry fit. And Judd Hirsch as Henry’s adopted son (who aged normally into an 85-year-old man unlike his pops) was a loveable antiques-collector with a lady’s man streak. The storylines may not have been the best, but the cast itself kept me watching.

Look at these two! They just work!

                                        Look at these two! They just work!

The show’s best quality was the underused Burn Gorman as a Henry-stalking creeptastic psychiatrist. With the same inability to die as Henry, Gorman brought some much-needed level of discomfort to the show. When everything gets tied up into a bow at the end of each episode, it’s not much to compel people to tune in next week. Episodes with Gorman made your spine tingle, but his sporatic appearances were frustrating and too far apart to make much of an impact.

ForeverGorman

                          You creeped me the f*ck out, but I needed more of you.

I suppose I should stop spouting on about the show now and come to the real reason I wanted to write about its cancellation. It turns out Ioan is just as poetic in real life as he was as Dr. Henry Morgan on the show (which just seems fitting). Rather than release a quick statement expressing disappointment and a tidbit of appreciation, Ioan posted the below message to the show’s fans on his Instagram page, and it merits sharing:

“My dear friends, fans, supporters.

Tonight, as you all now know, I received a phone call that I was hoping not to receive, and to be honest I really wasn’t expecting it. I knew the numbers hadn’t been great, but I also knew the studio and the network both loved the show, and of course that it had an incredible fan base…so I thought we were in with a pretty good chance.

But sadly no, this time the cards weren’t dealt in our favor. Show business is like that. Hell, life is like that. You ride to the top of the wave and then you come crashing down again. I asked Alice to send out the sad news because I was a little bit shaken up and needed time to gather my thoughts.

So I sat down and started reading the thousands of Tweets in response to the announcement. And the more I read, the more I couldn’t believe it. The love, the sense of solidarity, the hope, the kindness, the support. Not just for the show, but for each other. And slowly I began to focus on what we had gained in the past year, rather than what we had lost in the last five minutes. I was overcome by a sense of gratitude. To have met you all and to have you all rooting for me and the show. At having a chance to play the role of my dreams, even if it was only for a year. To have been given the chance to bring Henry to life.

Watching the interaction of the FOREVER fans come together and share their love for the show has been breath-taking. It was you guys who held me up when I thought I could no longer go on. (Those days were LONG!) You made me smile when you pointed out the little things I did on screen that I thought had gone unnoticed. You gave me confidence when I accidentally found myself reading less than shining reviews. You were always with me, every step of the way, waving your flags, shouting your support for the show. It’s been an incredible, wonderful year, one that I will never, ever forget.

And guess what? The memories belong to us. We get to keep them ‘forever!’ Thanks again a million times for your unwavering support. Stay strong, be brave, and show kindness as often as you can!
Ioan xxx”

There’s a lot to like about this letter, but my favorite part is, “Slowly I began to focus on what we had gained in the past year, rather than what we had lost in the last five minutes.” It’s a great message from Ioan, and a great message for life. So quickly the bad things become all-encompassing, completely cancelling out anything good that may have led up to them. It’s a reminder to not get consumed by the bad, but to focus on all the overwhelming amount of good you’ve had that in the grand scheme of things, trumps the negative. It just works that Ioan would post something so Henry-sounding at the show’s end. He’s a rarity in an industry fueled by egos and self-serving behavior. He’s a classy man, more 1940s than 2015 (again, perfect casting).

I think Ioan may have been a sought-after star, sort of the moral compass Gregory Peck type, if he had been around in a different era. But in 2015, he’s an unusual sort, too good to be a layered leading man and too handsome to be cast as a secondary character, leaving casting directors at a loss for what to do with him. Forever may not have worked out for him, but if his letter is any indication, he’s certainly worthy of another chance. Here’s hoping some household-name success comes to him soon. If only so I can stop telling everyone how to pronounce his name properly. Now that would be some good.

Forever

           Good bye to this odd couple that somehow worked perfectly. I’ll miss you guys.

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Full House: Familiar Friends Returning

Growing up, there was predictability–the milkman, the paperman, the evening TV. Sometimes I miss my old familiar friends, waiting just around the bend.

But I now know, everywhere I look, there’s always a heart, a hand to hold onto and the face of somebody who needs me. I’m never really lost out there or all alone, because a light is always waiting to carry me home.

What is this light, you may ask, that has carried me through trying times? The light of a promise. A promise that no matter where I am or how old I get, Full House will never die.

My old familiar friends are Danny, Uncle Jesse, and Joey. Aunt Becky is a cool lady who gives me make-up advice, and DJ helps me pick between hot guys. Steph teaches me awesome dance moves, while Michelle shares with me her snappy one-liners.

                        The hair! The smiles! Who wouldn’t want to be a member of this crew?

We’ve been friends for some time. Since, oh, maybe 1993? As soon as I was old enough to realize Uncle Jesse was God’s gift to women (and men) everywhere, and side ponytails were a sign of the hip elite.

I look back warmly on my Full House-obsessed years. I spent many a day belting out the theme song and searching CD stores for copies of “Forever,” thinking Jesse’s big hit may have actually been released in the real world. (As it should have been.)

I’ve even got gleefully excited about the Full House re-emergence that has happened in recent years. In the early 00s, I often thought to myself, “Where is Aunt Becky now? John Stamos? Kimmy Gibbler?” It seemed as though my familiar friends had floated into the mist of yesteryear, like the Brady Bunch or the Wonder Years clan. But in this age of social media and viral videos, my friends have returned to me in a most fabulous fashion. John Stamos is a celebrity phenomenon. Even though he virtually disappeared for a while there (but for a brief marriage to Rebecca Romijn-Stamos of the X-Men film series, who quickly dropped the Stamos moniker upon their divorce and is now living the blissful family life with Jerry O’Connell), Stamos bounded back suddenly when more and more people noticed he simply.does.not.age. Dropped into episodes of ER and Glee, it was as if people were gasping the world over at his transformation total lackthereof. Then the Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt commercials established him as one of the world’s most appealing men, popping up when women ate the yogurt as the most perfect figment of their imaginations.

Even Aunt Becky has managed to pop up in unexpected places. (She does have a name–Lori Loughlin–but let’s be real, the woman will always be Aunt Becky.) The Hallmark Channel seems to be her calling card, as she never fails to be in at least one Hallmark Channel movie every two months, and she’s even on a Hallmark Channel show, When Calls the Heart. I haven’t seen it, but I’m sure Aunt Becky is wonderful in it. And have you seen her Instagram? From time to time, she posts photos with John Stamos, feeding all of our hearts and imaginations that the love between Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky is REAL and is POSSIBLE and EXISTS IN THE PERSONS OF JOHN STAMOS AND LORI LOUGHLIN (I’m sorry, I just had a Miracle on 34th Street moment, completely unrelated).

Also rocking her Instagram and Hallmark Channel gigs is Cameron Candace-Bure, or DJ. Let’s call her DJ because her real name is an unnecessary mouthful. DJ is possibly the most surprising hottie to come out of the Full House crew. No offense, but when DJ was a twelve-year-old, she did not show this hotness promise. Unruly hair, oversized t-shirts, and floral leggings were just not. flattering. But flash forward 20 years later, and DJ is a hot fit mom of THREE, second runner-up on Dancing With the Stars (celeb status), and proof that magic is possible.

What’s even more impressive about these social media goings-on is that this group is still hanging out. They post photos together at events, in their backyards, at parties–it’s like they’re taunting us as they continue to live this perfect Full House world in which we can never partake. It makes us yearn for the good old days even more. We want to know, what happened to DJ after she went to prom with Steve? Did Michelle ever get back to horseback riding? Did Steph ever get good at the guitar? Did Joey ever grow up? Did Danny ever get married again (oh, Vicky, how perfect you were. Why did you have to go to New York? Why?!)? What about Steve? Is he in the Full House world? WE HAVE QUESTIONS.

Which brings me, finally, to the actual point of this post.

Upon waking this morning, I scrolled through my twitter feed, as I always do. (No, I do not get out of bed first.) Suddenly, I glimpsed my Full House kin, smiling at me in a group photo. An article was linked as well. Dare I click? What could this be? I wasted no time, and opened the piece. What I found…what I found was life-changing. What I found is that, after 20 years, Full House, my beloved show of shows, is, oh my goodness, returning.

*Some sort of loud operatic music should be booming in your head at this time.*

HAVE MERCY.

Now, many of you may say, “Is this really a good thing?” And I say to you, “No, it may very well be a terrible thing, but we do not dwell on the negative. We dwell on what could be. And what could be…is magical.” (The whole Disney-owned ABC magic message really creeped into my subconscious after watching so many episodes.)

From what I’ve read, this won’t just be about 3 men and a baby (also a wonderful film I highly recommend). This version of the show will be about DJ. A WIDOWED DJ (because no spouse can live in a Disney-affiliated storyline). With two kids and one on the way, DJ needs friends. Familiar friends, who happen to be waiting just around the bend. And so enters the guiding lights of sister Steph and best gal pal forever Kimmy Gibbler.

                                      Gibbler vs. Tanner. We commence.

I can see this premise somewhat working, but I must ask, where will the men be? There is something just plain humorous about men trying to raise girls. Dresses? Hair? Makeup? Women are far too adaptable to be intimidated by raising boys. Men are goofy. Women lay down the rules. (I’m sorry if I’m stereotyping here, but I have my theories and I’m sticking with ’em.) Kimmy will certainly be the “good cop.” DJ the eyebrow raising, “Seriously?” (She always did do an excellent eyebrow raise.) What will Steph be? The semi-troubled aunt who needs the family as much as they need her? (Actually, I may have just tapped into something.) I sort of hope a little of the Jodie Sweeten drug addict storyline makes it into the show…it would make for an excellent drugs are bad segway, you see.

While I have my doubts, I’m still too excited to fully let them fly just yet. The show is going to be on Netflix, so this promises a bit more artistic freedom (I’m guessing) and hopefully better direction. It’s not like these Netflix people don’t know what they’re doing. It also means that all the episodes will be released at once and I will get to bingewatch like no other.

I do feel as though this is some magical, serendipitous happening though. Who would have ever predicted that Full House would come back to us? And in such a re-invented way? It’s following the same trend as Boy Meets Girl, Twin Peaks, and even The X-Files, all shows with passionate fan bases long gone from our television screens. Yet despite its end in 1995, Full House has managed to make itself relevant again. It never truly went away–reruns on TBS and ABC Family have luckily made sure of that. But its stars and its cast have kept the magic going. Full House didn’t really produce movie box office stars like George Clooney of ER or Jennifer Aniston of Friends (95% of Mary Kate and Ashley films were straight to video), but it did produce a cast of very likable, very relatable people that you just never grew tired of seeing. And I think it is this strange alchemy of chemistry and friendship that has kept the show so strong in people’s consciousness, and what has spurred its return. I’m excited to see where this goes, even if it just means the show gets released on DVD (because, hello, someday I will have children and they will need to watch allllll of these episodes. Yes, I’m just thinking of the children). So return, Full House, and I will welcome you with open arms, and maybe even a hand to hold onto.

But please, just make sure Uncle Jesse’s a guest star.

The Royals: Regally Awesome

TheRoyals

It’s been too long since America has had gems like Dallas and Dynasty grace its television screens. These TV empires were fueled by lust and greed with betrayal and devious relatives lurking behind every corner and we LOVED it. What we have today, instead, is an endless rotation of Real Housewives episodes and the ever-growing Kardashian brood. Sure, they’re entertaining enough, but they can never fully go into the deep dark side of themselves because things like jail time (hi, Teresa G.) and lawsuits are tangible threats waiting for them should they go too far.

The beauty of fictional TV is such real life punishments do not exist. A TV character can go full crazy and only suffer the consequence of a few disapproving glares. It is high time this type of n’er do well attitude is returned to us viewers. And it is none other than E! who has delivered, by going across the pond and harnessing in on one of America’s favorite obsessions, the royal family.

And so enters The Royals.

The Royals follows the exploits of England’s very modern royal family. There’s mum the Queen, dad the King, and twins Liam and Eleanor as the royal heirs. But this isn’t your typical royal family. Unlike the real-life Windsors, this family is, for lack of a much better word, very juicy.

Elizabeth Hurley plays Queen Helena, a woman who resembles England’s real-life queen in title alone. With an honesty level on par with Simon Cowell, and a fierceness matched only by Posh Spice, Helena seems more like the female version of Henry the VIII, willing to cut down anyone who stands in her royal way. She wears dresses that might as well have been painted on and wears stilettos that could make Beyonce stumble. Fiercely protective of her title and her royal reputation, the Queen is coldly vicious in her tenacity to keep her children and husband in line.

Then there is King Simon, who, unlike his wife, doubts the monarchy’s necessity in the modern world. After the untimely death of their eldest son Robert, Simon wonders if the monarchy should continue at all, an announcement that dumbfounds his wife and brother, the monarchy’s most tenacious defenders. The King’s brother, Cyrus, is desperate to become king himself. Ending the monarchy would certainly kill that dream. The opposite of his brother in all things, Cyrus loves the monarchy and the power it gives him, whether it’s forcing royal servants to do his, um, sexual bidding, or enabling him to keep Parliament in his pocket (by throwing secret parties with a multitude of “private dancers” as the guests of honor). He and the queen are unlikely allies, united by their goal of keeping Simon’s doubts silent and proving to him the need for the monarchy.  There’s no limit to what these two could achieve together.

The royal couple’s twin children, Prince Liam and Princess Eleanor, take after their father, at least in their lack of obsession with “being royal.” Liam (William Moseley, who has come a very handsome way since The Chronicles of Narnia), though, does believe the monarchy could be a force for good, and asks his father for the opportunity to prove himself. What stands in his way, however, is his reputation for being a playboy and his love for a few too many pints at the pub. Priorities suddenly shift when he meets Ophelia, the daughter of his family’s head of security. Born in England but raised in America, Ophelia understands how things are done in the royal world but doesn’t quite fit in amongst all the fascinators and upperclass snobbery. Yet this is what makes Liam like her so much. Unlike his ex-girlfriend Gemma, a favorite of his mother’s and a girl groomed to be queen, Ophelia sees Liam for who he really is and not just someone with the words “heir to the throne” on his Wikipedia page. When Ophelia tells Liam she believes he could be a great king, it is the push he needs to try to be something bigger than just a tabloid headline.

Liam’s twin sister Eleanor (Alexandra Park) is the real star of the show. Perhaps the royal with the biggest heart but the least idea of how to live with it, Eleanor is an abuser of all things rock and roll—booze, drugs, and sex are all her means of coping with a viperous mom and the open wound of her brother’s death. When her new security guard secretly films one of Eleanor’s drunken escapades as blackmail, Eleanor sleeps with him rather than report him. But seeing as how he looks like a Burberry model, I suppose I could understand her decision here. Eleanor is trapped in a cycle of self-abuse, spurred on by her toxic relationship with her mother. More concerned with her daughter’s image than her mental state, Helena shows no signs of concern over her daughter’s many addictions, unless the press should put them on the front page. Eleanor is obsessed with the opposite, trying to make her mother look as bad as possible at every turn, even planting a story in the news of her mother spending royals funds on an inordinate amount of lingerie. These aren’t the Gilmore Girls. This is the Battle of the Roses.

Though The Royals is only five episodes in, it has hit the ground running. Surprisingly racy, the show makes you wonder if E! is trying to get away with whatever it can before the FCC steps in and says something. Despite a few easy-to-spot homages to the real-world royal family (the twins happen to have two red-headed cousins who are clearly meant to be Harry and Will’s cousins Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice of York), the show has departed so monumentally from the present-day Windsors as to banish any thought that E! is trying to create a semi-accurate portrayal of life at Buckingham Palace. Instead, The Royals is Gossip Girl meets Winning London meets America’s Next Top Model. Everyone is glamorous, out to ruin each other, and getting chased by very handsome British men. In a time of year when epic shows take the lead (Outlander/Game of Thrones), it’s fun to have a show filled with #firstworldproblems kicked up a notch to the royal level and with British accents, no less. So pour yourself some tea, sit on your plushest cushions, and watch this bloody show already. But make sure your tea is actually whiskey. You want to make sure Eleanor would approve.

The Mindy Project: Shine Bright Like a Diamond

It’s been four months since season two of The Mindy Project ended, and the wait for season three has been long and arduous for all of us Mindy devotees.

But if last night’s premiere is any indication, the wait for season three has been well worth it.

The episode brought us many things: Mindy’s ever-impressive printed dress collection, more details than we’d care to know about Morgan’s criminal history, a love triangle, and last, but certainly not least, an unexpected strip tease.

I could go into detail about all of the above, but really, I think we all just care about the strip tease.

Upon discovering a pink thong with the name “Diamond” studded across the, er, private area hidden in Danny’s drawer, Mindy wonders what her conservative, typically unadventurous boyfriend has been keeping from her. With the help of apparent thong-gurus Peter and Morgan, Mindy learns the item is a stripper thong (due to its easily detachable straps), but more specifically, a male stripper thong (because as Morgan so keenly observes, it has a pouch for the, um, main attraction). After a quick Google search, Mindy finds the website for “Exquisite Butts Guys2K Party.” None other than Danny aka “Diamond Dan,” bare chested and hunkified, covers the homepage.

When confronted about his secret past, Danny tells Mindy he never divulged his secret because Mindy can’t keep anything to herself. After all, just that morning Mindy was explaining to the entire office how proficient Danny was in certain bedroom maneuvers. I can’t repeat any of what was actually said because this blog must remain PG.

Mindy informs Danny that the only reason she lets tells the office everything about their relationship is because it seems too good to be true, and she’s trying to convince herself it’s real. And in what is one of the best sentimental Danny moments (because his best moment of the episode has yet to come, I assure you), he tells her, “It’s real,” with a grin and an adoring gaze. Oh, be still my heart.

But this is The Mindy Project, and we cannot simply leave it at that sappy wonderful end. No, we must go further into the night with gumption and gusto before the credits roll. Did Mindy think she could tell us about Diamond Dan and then not give us more?! No, no she did not. Enter: The Diamond Dan Strip Tease. That’s right, Tuesday’s episode ended with Danny Castellano emerging from the bathroom, Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” blaring in the background, stripping, gyrating, and shocking us all with his best Magic Mike moves. If you didn’t cry from laughing so hard/have a hot flash, please see someone as you might have an incurable disease.

What ran through my mind as I watched Chris Messina tear open his shirt and shake his derriere is that this is the same man who played Vicky’s clueless husband in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Amy Adam’s sweet, supportive husband in Julie and Julia. And all I could think was, “Thank you, Mindy, for discovering this man’s true talent. And forcing him to display it on national television.” Get this man an Emmy nod and a role in Magic Mike 2. His skills have been kept hidden from us all for far too long.

So for The Mindy Project, and for Chris Messina, I thank Mindy Kaling for giving us the best in comedy currently on television. If you don’t watch this show, please start. Or at least Google “Chris Messina Diamond Dan scene.” Your life will be better for it.

Posting this at the end. Because if you’re being honest with yourself, you know this is all you wanted to see.

The Mindy Project is Back! So is New Girl…

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME MINDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY?!

All right, folks, grab a bottle of Pinot, your finest pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and your cheetah print PJs. Tonight The Mindy Project is back on Fox and we’ve got to celebrate properly.

Last Mindy left us, she’d just been rescued on the roof of the Empire State Building by Danny Castellano while Dancing in the Dark played in the background. It was the cheesiest, most hilarious, and most romantic romcom sitcom moment since Ross and Rachael kissed outside Central Perk. Mindy must be so proud.

This season I hope they don’t just let the relationship fizzle out, a la Nick and Jess on New Girl. SPEAKING OF WHICH, that little number premieres tonight also. Last season bummed me out a little. The return of Coach to the show just didn’t feel natural, and it seemed like the show’s only punchline was making Nick sound dumber than usual and making us all feel dumb for playing along. Maybe this season they’ll return to their season two glory, generating genuine belly laughs and making us ask, “Did Schmidt really just say that?”

But I’m most excited to see the Danny-Mindy love play out in the work place. Now that the whole office knows Danny is madly in love with the girl, I’m assuming there will be some good ribbing from Drs. Reed and Prentice, and let’s all hope Morgan offers up his best dating advice, because something tells me it’s worth hearing.

I’ll be live tweeting the show, so be sure to stay connected at @PopCultured_!

Once Upon a Time

I may be inconsistent when it comes to blog posts, but I am dedicated and invested when it comes to other pursuits of mine.

Like Netflix.

From Arrow to Revenge to bad 80s movies, Netflix always has something for me. (This may explain why I don’t get out much and have skin paler than a Tic Tac Freshmint.)

In recent weeks, I’ve gotten hooked on Once Upon a Time (OUAT). You’ve heard of it. It’s that ABC show with princesses and witches and magic spells. Sounds like your everyday show doomed to be cancelled after four episodes. And yet, the show has lasted three seasons and is about to embark upon its fourth.

Since its premiere, I’ve done little more than scoff at OUAT, assuming it would be full of nonsensical ridiculousness. Fairy tale characters transported to modern day Maine seemed a little far-fetched, even by my standards. But when I couldn’t stop avoiding articles about the addition of Frozen’s Elsa and Anna to the show, I had some serious FOMO and needed to investigate (FOMO=Fear of Missing Out, mom).

So  I decided to give the show a shot. The first episode moved along as I expected. There was some wonky CGI, a tad bit of overacting, and lots of sappy love business. But something in the pilot helped me stick around. The show’s main character, Emma Swann, is living her normal, magic-free life in present-day Boston when a young boy named Henry shows up at her door claiming to be the son she gave up for adoption over a decade ago.  He also has a theory that Emma is the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, and only Emma can save them from the Evil Queen’s curse.

Ridiculous, right? Absolutely. And Emma thinks so, too. Instead of just throwing the audience into this fairy tale insanity, the writers have given us our own voice and our own perspective in Emma, who is just as disbelieving and unimpressed as we are by this whole idea. And it is Emma that is the very important key to making this show work. When Emma scoffs and rolls her eyes, so do we. But all the show needs is this one hook. Once we’re aligned with Emma, the show is poised to move forward, and we’ve been suckered into the ride without realizing it.

But don’t worry, you won’t be mad about it. When Emma travels to Maine with Henry to deliver him back to his adoptive mother, things get interesting. His mother, Regina, is nothing short of lethal, and the town itself, aptly named “Storybrooke,” as if to invite derision, seems to exist in a hazy bubble of mundane regularity. Henry is convinced the town’s residents are all from a different world, called “The Enchanted Forest” (because why wouldn’t it be?), and that the queen cursed them to live trapped in time in modern day Maine, without any memory of their real identities. So the seven dwarfs don’t remember being dwarfs, Red Riding Hood doesn’t recall any encounters with any wolves, and Jiminy Cricket has no idea he’s a cricket. And where is Henry getting this theory? From his favorite book, “Once Upon a Time,” of course.

Due to Henry’s mentally unstable theories on life and the venomous personality of his adoptive mother, Emma can’t shake the feeling that she needs to stay in Storybrooke to watch out for the kid for a while. Which means we, too, get to invade this picturesque, boring as all get-out town. But with a stranger in town shaking things up, the people of Storybrooke find their lives getting turned upside down. Previously unnoticed things suddenly seem familiar, and stronger personalities start unexpectedly breaking through.

The only two people who seem keenly aware of these changes are Regina and the town pawnbroker, Mr. Gold. And as the flashbacks begin, we see exactly who these two were in “The Enchanted Forest”–the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin.

Now, Rumpelstiltskin–there’s a fairy tale creature you wouldn’t exactly count as memorable. He made people try guessing his name and for some reason he could turn straw into gold. But beyond that, I can’t say I have a strong recollection of his story. And that might be just what the writers of OUAT were hoping. Because they’ve taken this second fiddle fairy tale character and turned him into one of the darkest, most cunning, and most layered characters there has ever been on television.

Is that hyperbole? Maybe, considering the Walter Whites and Don Drapers of recent years, but only Rumpel is a character who exists in both the “modern world” and fairy tale world. Mr. Gold of Storybrooke, Maine, is a reserved sir with a steely demeanor that somehow still manages to inflict fear into those he meets. His Rumpelstiltskin past, however, is one filled with an ostentatious, flamboyant manner of speaking and an almost childlike joy felt in the pain of others. It is difficult to reconcile the two, and yet, you know they’re one in the same. He’s smarter than everyone else around him, and seems to understand the curse better than the Evil Queen herself. Because even though Regina was the Evil Queen, it would appear that Rumpelstiltskin really ran the show.

With these two characters–Emma and Rumpel–keeping me intrigued, I found myself more and more invested in the show. And with each new episode, I met a character whose flashbacks helped weave a complicated past that explains their present-day predicaments. Even the Evil Queen has more going on in that heart (or lack thereof) of hers than first meets the eye.

And sure, being a Disney fairy tale expert helps you appreciate everything just a little bit more, but the show in and of itself is a juicy web of past and present, truths and lies, hope and evil. The fact that it can take your favorite fairy tale stories and spin them on their heads is just an added bonus. Take, for example, the story of Peter Pan. Not one of my go-to Disney classics, but one admittedly loved by many. In OUAT’s world, Peter Pan isn’t a lost boy. He’s actually a boy very much aware of who he is and who he wants to be. Who is that? Oh, just a psychopath with a desire for world domination. It’s an unexpected twist, just one of many OUAT has hidden up its sleeve

So now, six weeks after I started watching this show on the God-given gift that is Netflix, I get it. Once Upon a Time may be ridiculous, but it’s the great, entertaining, shocking, all around most fun to watch kind of ridiculous. And if you, too, accept that your life will be better for having watched this show, then you, too, can know the wonders of the OUAT world, like how Prince Charming came to be called Charming, and why Hook should really be named People Magazine’s next Sexiest Man Alive. Stop pretending you’re not interested in this nonsense and get to watching. If you do, I assure you yours will be a happy ending.

I mean, hello. This is all you need to start watching, right? #hooktastic

Guardians, Knicks, and Fall TV

Well hello there.

It’s been almost exactly two months since I wrote my last post.

Hence, why I should probably not be running a blog.

But, hey, that’s what happens when summer comes along and makes you believe you wrote a piece just two weeks ago when really 8 weeks have passed.

Me, judging my coworker for recommending this movie.

I suppose you could blame this memory lapse on my recent binge into the world of Once Upon a Time, but more on that later.

So what have I been up to this summer? Well, in terms of movies, I’ve seen a few. Note: Do not see Begin Again unless you enjoy taking naps in movie theaters. Bring a pillow and your favorite blanket, just in case.

And like everyone else not living under a rock, I couldn’t ignore the roar being created by Guardians of the Galaxy. And like everyone else, I, too, found it to be out of this world.

The main reason I decided to see Guardians.

From Chris Pratt’s goofish charm to the biting wit of a Bradley Cooper-voiced raccoon, the entire film was an adventure in humor, action, and heart, just as a spectacular summer blockbuster should be. It’s also proof that a film should never be judged by its poster.

But still, I’m glad summer is coming to an end. I’m a TV kind of a girl, and summer TV is a tepid affair. Sure, a few episodes of the Real Housewives of New Jersey help hold me over, but I need some fictional plotlines with “ohs” and “ahs” to make me feel whole again. Sleepy Hollow, The Mindy Project, New Girl–I need these back in my life!

There has been one exception to my summer TV boredom, however: Cinemax’s new show  The Knick. Set in Victorian-era New York City, the show takes place at Knickerbocker hospital, where Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) and his team slowly make discoveries that will have lasting effects on modern medicine. As cutting-edge experiments clash with Victorian traditionalism and a slew of immigrants infect the sacrosanct domiciles of the rich and WASP-y, The Knick holds fast at the center of it all.

Nothing like performing surgery in front of 50 of your closest friends.

Don’t judge the show by its first episode, which is heavy on introductions and barely touches the surface of what’s to come. With distinct characters like a cigarette-smoking nun who goes by “Harry,” a naive bicycle-riding Southern nurse with a knack for catching doctors’ eyes, and an African-American doctor trying to prove his equality, or even superiority, to The Knick’s white male staff, the show leaves no personality or struggle unexplored. There’s also the heart-pounding surgery scenes. It’s as if director Steven Soderbergh hopes we’ll all scream out “OH MY GOD MY EYES” every time Clive Owen jams his fist into a patient’s atrial cavity. Start watching for the shock factor, but stick around for the writing.

The only downside to The Knick is its ten-episode season, much like Downton Abbey’s and Game of Thrones’–shows we seem to wait all year for but are over within the blink of an eye. But as The Knick draws to a close, I welcome Fall TV back into my life with open arms, and I look forward to our nightly meetings from 8pm onward. It’s been too long since Danny Castellano graced my screen, and I really need to know if Lieutenant Abbie Mills is still stuck in purgatory. So come back to me, Fall TV. I’ll bring the popcorn, you bring the magic.