Archives for posts with tag: television

gravy-1 copy

It’s really funny how as I get older, certain cooking techniques just seem to come more naturally. I don’t know where I gleaned some of the information that I apply to my cooking; quite possibly from Food Network, mainly because it’s the channel I watch the most, by far.

Used to be I couldn’t make macaroni and cheese without a full-blown, step by step recipe. I recall using an Alton Brown recipe that required me to temper an egg into the cheese sauce. After all that trouble, the mac & cheese sucked.

Now I know how make a killer mac & cheese with one hand tied. Ditto with creamed spinach, and now, gravy.

I can remember the first time I had to make gravy. I had just moved to Arkansas to live with a home-town fellow who was stationed at Eaker Air Force Base. We were having a couple over for dinner, and I had no clue how to make gravy.

The wife, a good old southern gal, was kind enough to help me. The final product tasted fine, but was so thick, it didn’t really pour. You sort of had to plop dollops of it onto your plate.

As years passed I stuck to either the canned version,  or the stuff in the envelopes that you mix with water. In most cases it was just easier and a real time saver. I mean, it was just gravy after all.

I’m not sure what clicked in me a year or two ago. Perhaps it was from when my sister cooked Thanksgiving for us, and her gravy rocked. she had left a huge container of pan drippings in my freezer, and one evening I decided to use it to make gravy.

I think this is where all those years of watching “Chopped,” “Barefoot Contessa” and Triple D payed off. I sautéed some onions and celery, made a roux, whisked in the stock/drippings and seasoned to taste. A drop or two of Kitchen Bouquet and viola! I had a really good gravy.

For a while my daughter liked her roasted chicken served with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. But not any longer. She knows mom’s gravy is killer – one that makes a respectable pool in her mashed potatoes.

Thanks to Food Network, I guess I’m actually getting wiser as I get older…

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Best Tv

I remember when I first started watching HBO in the 80s back in my living room on Oakdene Avenue. They replayed the same 25 movies over and over again, and “Eddie & the Cruisers” always seemed to be on.

It was pretty lame.

But then they started adding original programming, and HBO sort of changed for me. I think the first show I really watched was “Dream On,” this odd little show where the main character lived his life through a series of one-liners from old TV shows. I related to that because it’s something I also do. I can’t tell you how many times an applicable scene from “I Love Lucy” or “The Brady Bunch” will flash through my head during the course of an average day.

Since that one, goofy show, HBO has kept me entertained; not so much with Streep, Schwarzenegger and Stallone, but with very well-crafted, superbly made original series.

The Larry Sanders Show, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Girls, Real Time with Bill Maher, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and our new favorite, Silicon Valley. These are shows where I don’t miss an episode…where even watching the re-runs are entertaining.

And I’m not even scratching the surface. Hubby loves Vinyl, whereas I’m like, “eh.” I’ve watched a few episodes of “Veep” and really liked it, but somehow failed to continue watching. I think I’ll have to add that to my binge-worthy list.

And it’s not just HBO. Showtime has some phenomenal original programming as well. It started with me watching “Queer as Folk” back in the early 2000’s. But recently I’ve realized many of their shows are amazing. I sat for weeks straight binge-watching “Weeds” when I was unemployed, followed by entire seasons of Episodes, Nurse Jackie and Homeland.

I think Showtime kept me from going crazy in between jobs.

I’m not sure which network’s programming I enjoy more, I’m just glad that there’s so much there to choose from. Because outside of a few shows on network television, Bravo and the Food Channel, regular TV can really suck.

 

retro-tv

When I think back over some of the TV I watched since I first sat in front of our old black & white Zenith on the cold linoleum floor in our family room, I realized that there are a few that had staying power. Shows that I will sit and watch, no matter how many times I’ve seen them.

Because certain shows strike a chord in us. Others? Not so much.

I can think of dozens of shows I loved while growing up that hold little to no appeal to me now. It doesn’t mean they were bad shows (well some of them were), but they were only interesting at that particular time. If they came on as re-runs on TV Land or Hallmark channel, I just wasn’t that jazzed to sit and watch them.

Bet there are certain shows that I will watch forever. Maybe not every episode…let’s face it, every show has a few dud episodes…but if I stumble across them while channel surfing, my feet and the volume are going up.

Little-House-Praire

Little House on the Praire
I love this show – have since it first began airing on Wednesday nights back in 1974. My dad and I used to watch the Waltons, so when Little House pilot movie aired, we watched it. It was along the same vein as the Waltons…good old fashioned family drama. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. Right from the first episode the rivalry between Nelly & Laura made me say “goodnight John Boy.”

For years I watched every episode. I comisserated with Laura when Mr. Applewood picked on her and made her the class example, or when she put the apples down her dress to make it look like she had boobs. I sighed when Jason wrote he loved her on the chalkboard, and when she got her first kiss from Almanzo. I cheered when she pushed Nelly down the hill in her wheelchair, and won the big race on the back of Bunny.

And it’s not just the main characters that drew me in. Mr. Edwards, Doc Baker. Mr. & Mrs. Oleson, and even Miss Beadle were part of my Little House family. Later I welcomed  the widow Schneider and the Sanderson children…I even liked the Garveys and later, Albert.

I cried when the entire town got sick with Anthrax, or when the entire town got lost in a snow storm, or when the entire town again got sick with Typhus. I cheered when the town softball team (the millers/merchants/heavenly hosts) beat Sleepy Eye, but then cried again when the blind school burnt down. You never knew what emotion you would be feeling during that hour of power on NBC.

The show lost me shortly after Almanzo and Laura got married, I have to admit. Those are my jump the shark years. Once Jason Bateman and Shannon Dougherty came on board I was pretty much boycotting the show. But I’ll watch almost every episode before that.

lucyethel_i_love_lucyI Love Lucy
This probably should have come first. I’ve been watching this show the longest, I think, and here are scenes that still make me laugh today, even though I’ve seen them hundreds of times. Lucille Ball has to be the greatest female television entertainer ever. No arguments.

Yes, there are the classics – stomping grapes, stuffing candy in her bra, getting tanked while rehearsing the Vitavetavegamin commercial. Those are all great, but there are a few that are my personal favorites.

  1. First Stop
    This is the episode where they stop at that crazy hotel on the way to California. I can watch the scene where the beds move back and forth across the room every time. And Ethel tucking Fred into bed? Freakin’ classic.
  2. The Operetta
    I can watch Lucy in a snaggle tooth ’till the end of time. Her performance as the Queen of the Gypsies is flawless. Also catch the episode where she plays the witch in Little Ricky’s play – another good snaggle toothed role.
  3. Lucy Gets a Paris Gown
    Both of the episodes where Lucy tries to get a designer gown are great – Don Loper in Hollywood and Jacques Marcel in Paris. She wore that feed bag with such grace and elegance…
  4. Ricky & Fred are TV Fans
    Lucy & Ethel are tired of being ignored while Ricky & Fred watch the fights. There is a great scene in the police station with veteran actor Frank Nelson that always kills me. That dude was in a bunch of different episodes and he’s good in every one.
  5. Anytime Lucy is In the Show
    Ricky was nuts! I’d pay to see Lucy in the show before I’d listen to one sour note from Ricky. Sally Sweet, Hiawatha, the pompous show horse? Lucy steals the show.

There are a ton more – that show was so good. But it did jump the shark. When they moved to the country I lost all interest.

MASH_TV_cast_1974

M*A*S*H
Every now and then some network will start re-running this show, and hubby and I will watch religiously.  We agree that the first few seasons were the best – the original cast our favorites by far. The episode with the incubator? That’s one of my favorites.  “Did you really yell give me an incubator or give me death?”

Or the one with Adam’s Ribs. “You sent all the way to Chicago and no coleslaw?”

Hubby thought it went down hill after Trapper and Henry left, and once Frank was gone? Fuggedaboudit.

I didn’t mind BJ or Colonel Potter at first. Giving Klinger more air-time was also a plus. I even liked Charles Emerson Winchester up to a point. But the last few seasons the jokes were forced – they came in rapid-fire succession and let’s face it…people just don’t talk like that. Plus everyone got so sanctimonious – BJ and Hawkeye were constantly on the soapbox, and if I had to hear the phrase “meatball surgery” one more time…

But gripes aside, this show gave us at least 7 good seasons and I can find quite a few must see episodes in every season, even the last few. My jump the shark moment was after Radar left, and Klinger stopped wearing dresses, and Margaret got nice.

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The Odd Couple
I miss this show. Somebody needs to put it back on. It was a family favorite, especially with my sisters. Tony Randall was the best. He delivered so many great lines – had such great expressions. And that’s not to take any credit away from Jack Klugman – as a pair they were flawless.

Favorite episodes are (of course) Password, Calypso Felix – when Felix crashes on Oscar & Nancy’s vacation, Security Arms – where the men move into a high security apartment building, Scrooge Gets an Oscar – where Felix asks Oscar to play Scrooge and the Flying Felix – where Oscar helps Felix get over his fear of flying.

“I much fear serious trouble in the fuseladge, Frederick.”

To me, this show never jumped the shark. It’s just the best. The freakin’ best.

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All in the Family
Groundbreaking. Controversial. And so incredibly funny.

There’s something about every charachter that you love – Edith’s long stories, Mike’s constant political rants, Gloria’s blind adoration of her overly political husband, and Archie. Ah, Archie. TV’s bigoted everyman in a white shirt and loafers.

But it’s not just these four – other characters they brought on – even for just one episode – were great.

  1. The Ripleys
    Edith answers the ad in the swap section – enter Rue McLanahan and Vincent Gardenia who play a couple of swingers who are interested in “switching partners, but not for dancing.”
  2. Frank & Irene Lorenzo
    Vincent Gardenia returned in later episodes as Frank Lorenzo – those are all watch worthy. Irene is great too – it’s nice to see Edith get a friend for a short while
  3. Mrs. Jefferson
    Mr. Jefferson was okay, but I like Mrs. Jefferson – she’s my favorite park of the Sammy Davis Jr. episode
  4. The Robbers
    Clevon Little and Demond Wilson play two robbers hiding out in the Bunkers house. There is so many funny things in this episode – it’s a must see.
  5. Beverly LaSalle
    Archie gives mouth to mouth to a transvestite. How great is that. Her character was wonderful – funny and warm. And I loved how they wrote in her death later on.
  6. And then there’s Maude
    While I didn’t like the spinoff Maude, I loved the episode where she was introduced. Cream of wheat with cheese…classic.

All in the Family jumped the shark when Mike & Gloria moved to California. The introduction of Daniell Brisebois (how do I remember these things?????) did little for me. I stopped watching. We won’t even mention Archie Bunker’s Place…

Mama_Loves_Mambo

The Honeymooners – Classic 39
Almost every episode in the classic 39 are priceless gems, jam packed with quotable lines. While I do love the majority of them, my favorite episodes by far are:

  1. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
    Alice, tired of cleaning and getting zero appreciation for it, decides to go to work and get a maid. This episode is so freakin’ funny and filled with great quotable lines
    “I’m the only girl in town with an atomic kitchen – this place looks like Yucca Flats after the blast!”
    “Some guest, some employer…the simp and the blimp”
    “I dont clean up after any late night snacks, and from the looks of it this boy has plenty of late night snacks.”
    “If this is the servants quarters, I quit.”
  2. Young at Heart
    Ralph tries to prove to Alice that he can still act youthful. I love the scene when they dance “The Hucklebuck,” and the scene at the end where they are around the table reminiscing. Ralph begins to laugh for real during this scene and doubles over, gasping for breath. My favorite lines:
    “You’re a termite Ralph, stricly out of the wood”
    “I’ll kiss you later I’m eatin’ a patater”
    “How can someone so round be so square”
  3. Alice and the Blonde
    Alice & Trixie feel ignored by Ralph & Norton especially after they attentively fawn over Rita, Burt Wiedermeier’s blonde bombshell of a wife. The scene at Burt’s apartment and the following scene in the Kramden’s kitchen are fantastic tv fare. Great quotes include:
    “Leave it there the cat’ll get it”
    “A treasure? He keeps this up much longer he’s going to be a BURIED treasure.”
    “I call you “Killer” ’cause you slay me” – “And I’m calling Bellevue ’cause you’re nuts!”
    “Isn’t that a good idea, Tubby?”

You also can’t forget Ralph playing golf, wearing the man from space costume, Norton’s Captain video getup, and the Chefs of the Future. But I gotta tell you…I also enjoyed every single rant of Alice’s – they are great. Her colorful descriptions of their dreary apartment kill me everytime and I love seeing Ralph – who can be quite a bully/shithead sometimes – put soundly in his place.

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The Brady Bunch
Ok, ok, ok – stop groaning. I just can’t help it…I still love watching this show. My 12 year old breaks my chops everytime she catches me watching it, claiming it’s beyond lame. And this coming from a girl who watches Victorious…hmph. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black.

Maybe I love it because it takes me back to cozy Friday nights in front of the television – eating rice pudding from the Pathmark and listening to my mom putting away groceries in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s because the plot lines are so positively goofy that I just never tire of them.

I mean really, what’s not to love?

  • Brushes with Greatness – Davy Jones, Desi Arnaz Junior, Joe Namath, Don Drysedale – you never knew who was going to waltz through the front (or back) door of the Brady Home.
  • A Well Travelled Family – The Brady’s got outta dodge pretty often…the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Kings Island Amusement Park…not to mention episodes involving camping, skiing, boating. The Brady’s were always on the go!
  • Tons of Guest Stars – Vincent Price, Melissa Sue Gilbert (although she wasn’t a star yet), Imogene Coca, Marion Ross, Marcia Wallace, Jim Backus, Jackie Koogan & Don Ho to name a few.
  • Alice – I loved Alice. Plain & simple.

My favorite episodes are by far the iconic ones. Marsha & Doug Simpson rank up there among the best episodes ever. Oh my nose! over and over and over again? Come, on…it’s unbeatable. The new Jan Brady is another stellar, can’t miss episode, along with the one where Peter has his personality crisis aka the famous “porkchops & applesauce” line. And my final favorite? When the Brady kids sing in the talent competition to win money to pay for the silver platter. Along with not one, but TWO classic, albeit utterly cheesy songs, I get to hear Alice say the line “Third place? What a gyp? It’s the last time I ever watch that crooked channel.”

That line had my and sisters rolling on the ground when we were kids. And it’s still chuckle-worthy to me now.

TV of Today…
I wonder what shows we watch today will have staying power for me? Some shows we watch for a year or so constantly – Like Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier or Will & Grace. I loved those shows, but when try to sit and watch them now, I find myself switching channels during the commercial and not going back.

I know The Sopranos hit a chord with me. I will watch episodes of that on demand often enough to where I feel confident it will stay on my permanent watch list. But I wonder if shows like Modern Family, or any of the dozens of reality shows I watch will still interest me in the future. Can I see myself in 2025 settling down on my couch for a marathon viewing of Toddlers & Tiaras?

Somehow I doubt it. Housewives of New Jersey? Now maybe.

cave-bear

I am listening to Clan of the Cave Bear on audio book. It’s a first for me – not the story, just having it told to me rather than me reading it. I’ve read the books over and over again. Once I finish the complete series, a year or so will go by and I again feel the need to touch base with Ayla.

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Me have shitty make-up

I can’t remember how old I was the first time I read the books. I just know I had read them before the horrible 1986 attempt at a movie. Part of the reason why it was so laughable was their depiction of early man. The cavemen on the old Geiko commercials are more convincing than this sorry lot of cave dwellers. It’s obvious that Hollywood was neither equiped nor capable of telling this story back in the 80’s.

But now? Now that’s a different story. Now Hollywood could knock this book out of the park. If they can make computer generated apes look like the real deal, how hard could it be to make a few cavemen?

But I wouldn’t want a remake of the movie. The book is written with complex, detailed descriptions of what life might have been like for primitive man. It’s just too much to fit into a 2 or 3 hour movie. What I want is a series. A series like Game of Thrones, where time is taken to really tell the story and develop characters.

But only a premium channel could take this on properly. Cause primitive man can get pretty steamy in them furs. Well, maybe not in the first book. But once Jondalar comes on the scene, watch out. Game of Thrones is like a Lifetime movie compared to some of the stuff that goes on in the Earth’s Children series of books.

Ah Jondalar. Decribed as 6 foot 6, blonde and… (ahem) hung. I’d like to be at that casting call…

My point is I love these books and I think they deserve a second chance. There are tons of Clan Fans out there – I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to see these stories put to film. You just have to do it right.

So this is my plea to HBO, Showtime, Netflix – anyone who thinks they could do these books justice. For the love of Ursus & Mut…Bring the Earth’s Children to the people of Earth.

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On Sunday night I was scrolling through the channel guide for something to watch, and stumbled across an old summer favorite – Meatballs. Thrilled to have found this movie from my youth, I poured a glass of wine, crossed my legs, and sat back to watch.

About 15 minutes later hubby stuck his head in the room and said, “Meatballs? Why are you watching this? That movie sucked.”

Sucked? Meatballs?

Ok, I’ll admit it’s not the wittiest comedy ever put on the silver screen, and it is on my Pinterest list of  “movies I love but shouldn’t” (along with Overboard and The Great Outdoors). But there’s something about this movie that speaks to me.

I saw it when it came out in 1979 at the ripe old age of 14 – probably at the Park Lane Theater in Palisades park. I had always wanted to go to summer camp. My girlfriend Leslie went every year and I was so jealous of the stories she’d tell when she got back. I guess Meatballs was how I fantasized summer camp would be – making friends, falling in love, hijinx and mayhem all rolled into one.

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The characters make it all seem so effortless, of course. Candace, with her perfect teeth, and Crocket, with his curly hair, are the perfect couple. A.L., quintissential girl next door, and Wendy, the blonde bombshell, are mirrored by sporto Jackie & the nerdy girl (whose name quite escapes me). Hardware is ugly/cute with his huge nose, and Spaz & Fink round out the loveable nerd set on the guys side.

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But I didn’t like all the characters. Wheels drives me absolutely crazy with his lisp and his big nose. And Bill Murray’s love interest Roxanne? Couldn’t they get someone a little more appealing? And while I really liked Rudy – they needed to comb his hair a little more often.

Boo Jody!

Boo Jody!

And there was this one small character named Jody. She reminded me of all the girls in school who were not quite pretty, but were thin and had great hair, and therefore, were popular.

I don’t like her much either.

In real life, I doubt these folks would have all gotten along – but this is Hollywood, and at 14 I didn’t know any better. I liked to watch and think, “well that’s just the perfect summer” and that such a summer could be attained just as easily. That friends and boys and fun would all just come to me organically. Like magic.

Like I said – I was 14.

Yet when I watch it now, I’m reminded of those feelings, and I feel like a little girl with the whole summer ahead of her. And it makes me smile.

Are you ready for the summer?

ComcastAs of today I officially hate Comcast. Like really super duper seethingly passionate hatred.

Let’s be honest. I’ve always hated the cable company. It all started with Cable Vision when I lived in New Jersey. They were notorious for failing to show for scheduled appointments, and then telling you that they dame, but you weren’t at home. This is after you’d spent the last 5 hours waiting in your home that was sans cable.

Before Comcast came to my humble little home, I was dealing with a cable company that was so utterly inept, so entirely clueless, that a call to solve your issue literally took hours. So when Comcast took over, and my internet always worked, and my cable only went out when a monsoon was blowing through, I was thrilled.

But over the past year or so, the service has really begun to suffer. I’ll sit down to watch something on Demand, a service they love to advertise in order to get you to “choose Comcast,” and I’ll get an error message.

Grrr.

Now I have to call Comcast, where the automated bitch will tell me she’s sending a bullet to our TVs which should solve the problem. When that doesn’t fix it, you have to call again, and the customer service rep, who 95% of the time can barely speak English, tells you to unplug your box for 30 seconds and then plug it back in.

After the tv takes 20 minutes to reboot, the problem is usually fixed. But, I’ve now wasted 30 minutes of my time when all I wanted to do was plop down on the couch and watch last night’s episode of “The Bachelor.” (aside…wasn’t Juan Pablo a tool?)

If it were just that problem once in a blue moon I wouldn’t be complaining. Everything goes on the fritz every now and then. The problem I have with Comcast is that the problem happens over and over and over again on every cable box I own. Not just one, not just two, but ALL THREE.

Once one box is fixed, another goes klabooey 10 days later. Once that one is fixed, a week later the third decides it doesn’t feel like working. And around 9 days after that, the first cable box will once again lovingly display it’s error message.

I’ve got Comcast on speed dial. Bonnie & Clyde were hit with less bullets than have been sent to my house courtesy of my shitty cable company.

But Monday afternoon I got fed up. Monday & Tuesdays are my early days – I get out at 2 pm – and I was looking forward to a walk, and then sitting down to watch the two episodes of “Walking Dead” that I had missed. I finished my walk, shucked my shoes and socks, and  with my feet up on the table hit the On Demand button.

I was rewarded with yet another error message. I muttered a not so silent expletive, got up and unplugged the box dialing 1-800-COMCAST with my free hand. I had 20 minutes to kill – may as well chew someone’s head off while I waited for my TV to reboot. I didn’t even want a technician…I just wanted to yell at someone.

Once the TV came back on, not only did On Demand not work, but my DVR was gone as well. Mother f-er – my patience was certainly being tested today! Another call to Comcast landed me an English speaking American based service rep – things were looking up. She was super nice – scheduled an appointment for a technician to come the next day, listened to all my griping, and commiserated with my misery. I felt somewhat placated, but was still angry.

The next day, home early again, I skipped my walk because I didn’t want to miss the cable guy who was coming between 3 and 5. 3 o’clock turned to 4. 4 o’clock turned to 4:45. I picked up the phone and called Comcast. Because we had a scheduled appointment, I got a recorded voice saying, “Your appointment is scheduled for 3 pm to 5 pm. Your technician should arrive between 5:05 and 5:35.”

That in itself was a riot. I’m so glad you are admitting to me that my technician is sorta late. As long as he’s still coming.

And at 5:30 we got the call. A Comcast rep called to tell us that our technician called in sick and nobody would be coming today.

Can you say ballistic?

I went off on this gal. If the dude called in sick, why couldn’t they call us to let us know RATHER THAN HAVE ME SIT AROUND MY HOUSE FOR 3 HOURS ON A BEAUTIFUL 75 DEGREE AFTERNOON?

When she tried to reschedule for the next day, I told (screamed to) her that I have to work to make the money to pay for their shitty service. After a few minutes hubby grabbed the phone from me. I was irate and getting nowhere towards getting our cable fixed.

Hubby could be home for the technician if they came between 8 and noon. Fine. He had already nabbed us a $20 discount for the no-show technician. I guess I could live without the DVR and the On Demand for one night.

The next day the dude shows up begins to trouble shoot our lines. I had to leave for work, and left him in hubby’s hands. I came home to a “new” box in my living room, which was not actually new. A scratched, ugly, disgusting refurbished box sat where my well taken care of old one used to be. Seems Comcast doesn’t make new boxes anymore for crappy poor folk like us who can’t afford their snazzy and expensive triple play super high def cable package. Only those rich folks get them nice new shiny boxes.

Oh, and we lost every single thing we’ve ever taped.

I hate Comcast. Can I say that again, please? I seriously need to look into alternatives to traditional cable. However, after a bit of research, that is going to mean a technological leap of faith that I don’t think my family could handle.

Yet.

But I’m going to make it my goal to change their minds. I am so tired of these dickheads taking my very hard earned money and giving me sub-standard service in return. The day will come. The day will come when I can give Comcast a huge middle finger farewell salute, and tell them they don’t have Typical Tracy to push around anymore.

Postscript
I’ve just had to make two more phone calls to Comcast tonight. Our new box came, and our OnDemand still doesn’t work. Cris, my first tech who was very hard to understand, gave me the “I put in new codes don’t use your on demand for 30 minutes” speech. An hour later, it still doesn’t work.

Second call to Sean placed and he is resetting the box to factory settings – now I am 45 minutes without my tv at all. Comcast if you’re reading this, feel deep shame as you type me some bullshit tweet or message about wanting to help. You don’t know the meaning of the word.

Postscript to my Postscript
It is March 20th. My Comcast nightmare began on March 10th. I have been on the phone with them every day – sometimes more than once – for 10 days. They have missed 2 appointments, and wasted roughly 8 hours of my time, not to mention at least 3 hours of viewing time I’ve lost while I was stuck rebooting boxes.

I think it’s finally done though. I think I may not have to call them again. I don’t know if I can keep my sanity if I get another error message.

TV of today is so totally different than it was when I grew up. Even though I adore all the On Demand and DVR capabilities of today, there was something really special about TV programming back in my youth.

What made me think about this was the recent death of Shirley Temple. I loved Shirley Temple movies when I was a kid, and why? Because channel 11 (WPIX) in New York City used to play a Shirley Temple movie every Saturday morning and my sisters and I usually watched them.

My personal favorite is Heidi, with the evil Fraulein Rottenmeier, the nasty, opportunistic Aunt DeeDee, and the dry, snobby (in a loveable sort of way) butler Andrews, played by Arthur Treacher. I always felt so sorry for little Heidi who only wanted to go home to her grandfather, and was constantly sold a bill of goods and made to stay where she wasn’t happy.

I know you want to go home, but I'm a selfish bitch and want you to stay and be my plaything.

I know you want to go home, but I’m a selfish bitch and want you to stay and be my plaything.

You know, even though Klara was nice in this movie, I never quite trusted her. The girl that played her also played a real bitch in The Little Princess, and I was always certain that Klara was feeding Frau Rottenmeier info to screw over poor Heidi on the sly.

I also loved Captain January, which I haven’t seen in too long a time, and which reminds me again of why Netflix sucks. They never have anything.  Bright Eyes was a really good one too, mostly because I love seeing shitty people get their come-uppance, and boy does this movie satisfy on that level. Not only does the wealthy, wheel chair bound Uncle Ned cut his relatives out of his money after they were mean to poor Shirley, but you see their beyond bratty snot nosed little daughter get a well deserved slap across the face at the end.  They don’t show that shit on television anymore!

motws3Thinking about Shirley Temple movies made me think of all of my other childhood favorites that aren’t really played on television anymore. Every Christmas you’d get to see Laurel and Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers at least once; sometimes in black and white, sometimes in color. That movie is as campy as campy can be with it’s lame operettic songs and characters straight from Mother Goose. What’s great about it, besides Laurel and Hardy, is Barnaby, the mean, underhanded, snivelling, villainous land baron who tries to blackmail Little Bo Peep into marrying him. This guy was even a douche in a Little Rascals episode. Laughs and guffaws aside, when those wooden soldiers come to rescue the town from the evil, plastic faced Boogeymen, I still get a chill.

MovieCovers-191618-191609-HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN ET LA DANSEUSE ETOILEAnother great movie that is rarely seen is Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. This movie is packed with song after song that I still remember to this day. Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, Inchworm, not to mention The King’s New Clothes and Wonderful Copenhagen. This gem would be played every year around Easter (I think it was Easter, anyway) and you couldn’t pull me away from the television when it was on. There is one dream sequence where he imagines watching the ballet of The Little Mermaid, and for a small child that was sort of a snore.

That being said, after all these years I can still whistle his theme song, and it makes me feel happy almost immediately. It’s just that kind of song.

430_main_image_2When it came to afternoon programming during the week, our local ABC station had my vote Monday – Friday. After Match Game, The $25,000 Pyramid and Tattletales, I’d almost always tune to the 4:30 movie. They played all the great Hollywood classics, and some real stinkers too.

But what I loved the best is when they’d have theme weeks – one week it would be all Godzilla movies, another week devoted to the Planet of the Apes series. I used to love Bette Davis week, when they’d play Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Some weeks would suck though…John Wayne week? I’ll pass. Elvis week could be kind of a drag too, but my sister loved him, so I’d be forced to sit through melodic clam bakes and serenades whilst drag racing.

Nowadays programming like this just isn’t done. It doesn’t have to be done….most folks will just buy a movie if they love it, or rent a bunch and create their own theme night. I do love what television has to offer these days. I really do. It’s almost as if you can watch anything you want at any time with just a few pushes of a button.

But I gotta admit, I wouldn’t mind going back for a week of television viewing, circa 1979. Just seven little channels to choose from, but I usually managed to find something on.

Ghost-002When I was a kid, we told a lot of ghost stories. Many a night I stared wide-eyed with terror into the darkness of my bedroom swearing at any moment I’d hear the wail of “I want my golden arm,” or that there would be a bloody hook hanging from the glass knob on my bedroom door.

Another one that scared the bejeepers out of me involved a girl who would seek comfort during a scary night by dangling her hand to the side of her bed, where her trusty dog would reassuringly lick her. One night, after several licks from what she thought was good old Fido, she got up to investigate an odd dripping noise from the bathroom. After some creepy and suspenseful story telling, she finds Fido hanging dead from the shower head, his belly split open and blood drip-dropping into the tub.

So who was licking her hand all night? WHY THE DERANGED KILLER OF COURSE! HE’S BEEN UNDER YOUR BED ALL ALONG! RUN! RUUUUUNNNNN!

Well, it was scary when I was a kid.

In any case, I realized the other day that my kids never talk about any ghost stories they’ve heard. The reason? They don’t seem to tell them anymore. Or at least the kids they hang around with don’t. I’m sort of glad in the case of my youngest. She has trouble sleeping alone in the best of circumstances.

Gosh, there were just so many nights as a kid I would sit in bed absolutely terrified! One night I swore to sweet Jesus that there was a maniacal killer outside my door. I could hear his demonic breathing, waiting for the perfect moment to open my door and eat me alive! After an hour of sheer panic and a near bed-wetting  incident, I realized it was just my dad snoring, but in my defense it was really loud.

When I was a teenager I would hear a soft “ting!” every night about 10 minutes after I went to bed. It scared the crap out of me at first, and then I surmised that if it was indeed a ghost, it was a friendly one, because all it did was ring a quiet bell and leave me alone. Turns out it was the bulb in my ceiling light – it would make a little ting sound once it cooled off.

night-gallery-season-1-5-the-doll-evil-doll

Oh, yeah…I’ll fall right to sleep!

Then there were TV shows or movies that scared you so bad that it kept you up for hours. One was an episode of Night Gallery that involved a killer doll. Is that not the creepiest face you’ve ever seen? And I was only 9 at the time! That thing scared me so bad, that I became certain that one of my dolls was possessed and would kill me if I wasn’t super nice to it. This was beyond lame because it was a doll made of yarn – like the most un-scary doll on the planet. But it has the same creepy smile, only made of felt instead of razor sharp teeth.

Picture 1

Sweet dreams!

And let’s not forget that voodoo man in Trilogy of Terror. There were many a night that thoughts of him chasing me around the house stabbing me with his tiny spear kept me up till the wee hours. Stupid Karen Black – why weren’t you more careful?

So why aren’t there more ghost stories these days? Maybe it’s because we have access to every form of media immediately. We can watch or read just about anything we want at any time. There’s no need for story telling anymore, unless someone builds an app for it.

Or maybe it’s because parents these days are too overprotective. They don’t want little Brooklyn or Sawyer to get less than the recommended 8.5 hours of sleep thanks to a creepy yarn told in front of the campfire.

Oh well, I guess it’s just another thing from my youth that is gone.

80s collageYesterday my youngest daughter made a comment about my youth, referring to it as “The 80’s, when there were all those hippies.”

After a playful head flick and a quick history lesson, I thought about my childhood and deducted that I did most of my living, hell, the best part of my living in the 80s. It truly was my decade.

My daughter was partially right; having been born in 1964 I did live a large portion of my earlier life in the hippie generation. My preteen years were mostly in the 70s, where bell bottom pants would swish down the hallways in school, and you listened to all of your pop music on a crackly AM radio or huddled in front of the family’s hi-fi stereo with gigantic headphones on. And disco? You either loved it or hated it.

(I loved it.)

When the 70s gave way to 1980 I was a sophomore in high school. By the time 1990 rolled around I had lived the best years of my life. The best. I had graduated from both high school and college, had traveled to Europe twice, had my best job ever, had my best car ever, had become engaged, and then, unengaged.

Even if I try to forget the milestones of my life and just really look at that decade, I have to say I think the 80s were great. It was like the planet woke up from a long, dreary sleep and said “Rise & Shine! Let’s kick ass and take names!” Everything about the 80s seemed to go POW! Music, fashion, movies, TV; everything was brighter and better. Well, maybe not better, the 80s did give us Kirk Cameron.

The 80s brought us MTV. Hell, the 80s brought us cable TV and HBO, both of which were monumental to this young Jersey girl. Add to that the VCR, and I had a television trifecta. (Yes, I know the VCR & HBO came out in the 70s, but my family didn’t get either until the 80s)

cable remote

The old cable remote. I’m pretty sure MTV was channel 26 – first button, third click down.

Before cable there were 7, maybe 8 channels you could watch. After cable? It seemed like there were hundreds, but there were only 37 at first. Now I could watch stations out of Atlanta and Chicago – it was like the world was delivered to my television set. And HBO? If I wasn’t watching MTV, I was watching HBO. I’d watch the same movies over and over again. Except Eddie and the Cruisers – HBO played that one way too much.

Eddie and the Cruisers was another bad thing to come out of the 80s.

The 80s brought us the Walkman. Music was both portable and private. No more listening to music blaring from a tape deck. Alright, you still did it, but you didn’t need to anymore. I didn’t get a Walkman for quite a few years after they came out – they were too expensive. All the rich kids at my school had them, but I had to wait until they came down to a reasonable price. And the headphones? They were tiny compared to the giant cans we had used in the past.

albumsThe 80s brought us some great music. Ok, not all of it was great – I could go the rest of my life without hearing Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” – but a lot of it was new and original. Madonna, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, Bananarama, Squeeze, Human League, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I could go on and on.

Certain songs catapult me right back to college, walking along the paths of U of D with my headphones on. Songs like  “Don’t You Forget About Me,” or “Eye in the Sky.” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Dance Hall Days.”

The 80s brought us some fucked up clothes, but I kind of liked it. Neon, graphic patterns like checkerboard and animal prints, slouched shirts with one shoulder bared. It was comfortable, I’ll give you that. It was also the last time I wore, or looked good in spandex.

playhouseHow about 80s television? Yeah, most of it sucked, I’ll give you that. Shows like Growing Pains, Punkie Brewster, Night Rider, Saved By The Bell, and Who’s The Boss polluted the airwaves. But it wasn’t all bad. The 80s also gave us Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Cheers, Family Ties and The Golden Girls. I have to admit to a few other shows I loved with some level of shame – The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and Rescue 911.

MoviesAnd 80s movies? Come on – there were TONS of good movies in the 80s. Back to the Future, Sixteen Candles, Tootsie, The Karate Kid, Mommie Dearest, Aliens, Scarface, Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, Big, Die Hard, Caddyshack, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Poltergeist, and Raiders of the Lost Ark just to name a few. I must have consumed 4000 pounds of movie theater popcorn during those 10 years.

I know some of you out there will disagree with me – you probably think the 80s were mindless and vapid, filled with big haired bimbos and clueless dudes wearing headbands and pastel polo shirts. Yeah, they were all there.

But it was my time. I was young and things were new and exciting. There was stuff out there that my parents just couldn’t relate to, and I loved that. Things like MTV, Walkmans, and CD players were ours – innovations that had never been seen before and we were the target market. Yeah, I loved the 80s.

Like, fer sure.

Alda Autograph

Did anyone famous live in your hometown?

I grew up in a small, but lovely community a stone’s throw from New York City, so needless to say we had our fair share of residents who were fairly well-known. Some of the famous folks who called Leonia home before my time were Buddy Hackett, Pat Boone, and even Sammy Davis Jr. – although I never realized that until I Googled it just now.

While I was growing up we were proud to have two famous authors living in our midst; Robert Ludlum and Robin Cook. We also had James Noble, who played the Governor on Benson, and Paris Themen, who played Mike TeeVee in the original Willy Wonka movie. I remember playing in someone’s backyard and being totally bowled over when he showed up – perhaps to pick up a younger sibling. I can’t recall. I just know I gushed.

Gene Shalitt, the NBC film critic with his trademark black curly hair and bushy mustache, also lived in Leonia – I was good friends with his son Andrew. And let me not forget to mention Anthony Bourdain. He wasn’t famous while we were growing up, but he went to high school with my brother at Dwight Englewood – a private school that also had another famous graduate, Brooke Shields.

But there was one celebrity that rose above all of these during my childhood. Alan Alda.

Yep, good old Hawkeye lived just 5 blocks away from me during his 10+ year stint on M*A*S*H. He was the “it” celeb when I was growing up – it was a real coo if you ran into him at the grocery store or the pharmacy, especially once M*A*S*H became such a hit.

My husband recounts tales of playing hockey on the tennis courts in the Alda’s backyard, and getting angrily chased away each and every time. Gee, I wonder why? Hubby also says he delivered the Bergen Record to his house and claims he wasn’t a great tipper. I trick or treated at the house once, but nobody answered the door.

Alan Alda had daughters, and at least one of his daughters also went to high school with my brother at Dwight Englewood. My brother enjoyed acting, and was usually in the school play. I can’t remember what play we were seeing when my Alan Alda incident occurred – maybe “Guys & Doll” or “Oliver!” I know my brother was in both of those plays, as was one of the Alda daughters.

I’m guessing I was around 9 years old, clad in a bright yellow dress that my mom had made for me with a shiny pair of patent leather Mary Janes on my feet. Right before the show started my mother nudged me and whispered in my ear that Alan Alda had just come in and was seated on the aisle just a few rows behind me.

I turned to look, and sure enough there he was! I asked my mom if I could ask him for his autograph, but she told me to wait until the intermission because the play was about to start. All through the first act I squirmed in my seat thinking about how to approach him while in my head I crafted various clever and endearing opening lines.

When the intermission began my mother needed to bolster my nerve – I was scared to actually approach him, but she assured me that once it was over and done with, I would be happy I did it, and miserable the entire night if I didn’t. So, with a program and pen in my shanking little hands, I walked up to his seat and said,

“Excuse me, Mr. Alda. May I please have your autograph?” Remember… 9 years old, bright yellow dress, patent leather Mary Janes.

He turned to me and said, “No. I’m sorry, but I’m just trying to enjoy the show.”

Denied.

I most likely mumbled something like “Oh, that’s ok.” and skulked back to my seat. I was crushed. And embarrassed. I hung my head in shame and silently cried waiting for Act II to start. My mother was furious – not so much because he had sent me packing, but because she had urged me to do it and it had turned out badly.

I never liked him much after that. I’d watch M*A*S*H and see this happy-go-lucky character on the screen, and remember that feeling of pain and shame that was associated with my encounter. Pavlov knew what he was talking about.

About a year ago I recounted this story on a Facbook page that is associated with my hometown – the thread being about all the famous folks that lived in town. Boy oh boy, the backlash was immediate and immense. Seems Alan Alda did lots of wonderful things for many of my fellow townsfolk, and my story didn’t sit well with them.

I refused to apologize, though. I simply said that they are fortunate to have had such a positive experience with him. Mine? Not so much.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I can totally see his point. He was just trying to inconspicuously watch his daughter in the school play – trying to be like every other parent in the auditorium. And along I came to remind everyone that he’s famous.

But on the other hand, I wasn’t loud or obnoxious. I didn’t draw attention, except maybe for the fact that I was in a bright yellow dress. I was little. And polite. In patent leather Mary Janes. You’d think he could’ve thrown me a bone.

Everybody has a bad day – maybe he was having one that night. As horrifiying as it was when the incident happened, now it’s a funny little story in the timeline of my life. If he had granted me the autograph, I might only remember that Alan Alda signed my crumpled play program. Boring.

My story? It has pizzazz, and drama, and heartache. Thanks, Hawkeye – for making Tracy just a little less typical.