bad TV, Netflix

Tiny Pretty Things is cringeworthy viewing…

Once again, I’m going to avoid some of the serious topics bouncing around in my head today. The news is chock full of potentially explosive things to write about– everything from the fact that Mitch McConnell and Vladimir Putin finally recognized Joe Biden as our next president to a haunting story I read about a middle aged adoptee from Romania, born during Ceausescu’s reign of terror. And, of course, COVID-19 is a topic for every day, too… but I’m sick of writing about that, and much of what I would write is stuff I’ve already written.

Instead, I’m going to write about Netflix’s latest “YA” series, Tiny Pretty Things, which was made available for streaming on Monday. Now, I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years. I started when I was in graduate school, at Bill’s prompting, when the service involved renting DVDs that were sent in the mail. I quit for a few years when we had cable TV, then enrolled again when we moved back to Germany. I quit again for awhile, when I couldn’t get around the VPN filters and all of the content in Germany was in German. Then, when 13 Reasons Why came out, I resumed my membership. I hated 13 Reasons Why, by the way. I thought it was vastly overhyped and never bothered to watch the second or subsequent seasons.

If a ballerina falls in the forest when no one is near, does she make a sound? Oh brother… (that’s not what she actually says, but it’s kind of close and just as stupid…)

However, even though I have Netflix, I don’t watch it as much as I should. I often go months without logging in to watch anything. I have yet to see a single episode of Orange is the New Black or Stranger Things. I have seen The Crown, but I just now watched all four seasons of it in a massive binge. I frequently get reminders from Netflix to log in and use my membership. This week, I was lured by an ad for Tiny Pretty Things, a drama supposedly aimed at teenagers about very dysfunctional teens studying at The Archer School of Ballet, a “prestigious” ballet school in Chicago.

The first episode made me groan. The writing was very cheesy and melodramatic, with lots of hackneyed expressions that were intended to be clever, but came across as dumb. The storyline was ridiculous. Talented dancer, Neveah Stroyer (played by Kylie Jefferson), from Englewood, California is plucked from obscurity to learn how to dance for the big leagues. Her mom is in prison for killing a man who “hit her baby”, Neveah’s older brother, who is now in a wheelchair.

Lauren Holly, who is 57 and looks like she’s had work done, or at least a few collagen injections, is a ballet madame called Monique Dubois who is running the school. She comes off as snooty, fake, and kind of cruel. The kids are multicultural and there’s a veritable rainbow of boys and girls (who are actually all in their 20s) of all shades and sexual orientations. Many of the “actors” are actually dancers in real life, and they are much better at dancing than delivering their lines. I think Kylie Jefferson is a pretty decent actress, and she’s also a legit dancer, but most of the rest of them are not very convincing in their roles. They don’t look like they are the teens they’re supposed to be, and they aren’t good actors.

What really gets me, though, besides the ridiculous storyline involving a dancer who was pushed off a fourth story building and survives, languishing on life support to be the narrator (a la Mary Alice Young in Desperate Housewives), are the huge number of sex scenes, copious nude scenes, drug references, and, yes, I’m just gonna say it– the language. Everything I’ve read about Tiny Pretty Things indicates that it’s intended for a YA audience. That means it’s for teens, and teens encompass an age group ranging from 13 to 18. In most cases, there’s a huge difference in the maturity level of a 13 year old and an 18 year old. And yet we’re supposed to be okay with kids watching a very dark and macabre series about a ballet company planning a dance about Jack the Ripper? Meanwhile, there’s also a cop with a French braid sniffing around, trying to figure out who pushed Cassie Shore, the ballerina narrator who is actually in a coma, from the roof.

I don’t have children, but when I was growing up, my parents let me watch almost anything I wanted to watch. Every once in awhile, my dad would attempt to stop me from watching something he found inappropriate, but most of the time, I watched anything and everything that interested me. Consequently, I saw a whole lot of stuff that I wouldn’t want a child of mine seeing. I don’t know how different the world is for kids today… I can only imagine that it’s very different now. Still, it does seem a bit much for 8th graders to be watching a nude gay sex scene and listening to talk of blow jobs. When I was 13, I didn’t even know what “getting laid” meant, let alone what a blow job is.

There are some rather gory dream sequences and, at this point, I’ve also seen a closeup of a pretty necrotic looking injured foot that I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing. Aside from that, one of the choreographers is very pervy and sleazy. Watching him makes me think of Larry Nassar.

I suppose it’s a good thing that the cast is so inclusive of people who aren’t white or straight. I do enjoy watching the dancing, too, much of which is beautifully done. But all watching this show has shown me so far is that you don’t have to be a rich white kid to be shown as really fucked up and on TV. It also makes me think that if I’d ever had children, I would not want them to be involved in ballet, even though my sister was involved in ballet when she was growing up and this adaptation probably doesn’t even venture close to representing the norm.

I didn’t think I would get past the first episode, it made me sigh so hard. But I did end up watching several more episodes, mainly because I had nothing better to do yesterday. I’ll probably finish this season, but if it gets renewed, I probably won’t bother with any subsequent ones. Besides the gratuitous sex scenes, the acting is pretty cringeworthy, and the storyline is both very cliched and rather implausible. I’d rather watch 80s era episodes of Fame, which included plenty of cheesy acting and dance numbers, but at least it was somewhat clean.

Tiny Pretty Things is based on a YA novel, which has just got to be better than the show is. It’s just got to. It appears that the authors, Sona Charaiprota and Dhonielle Clayton, have made it into a book series that got popular, hence Netflix’s decision to turn it into a series one can stream. It appears that, as usual, the books are better than the on screen interpretation. I might one day be persuaded to read one of the books, just to see how far the streaming series has sunk.

I have a lot of tolerance for bad TV, but this series is really pretty awful, and it makes me roll my eyes a lot. As an adult, the sex scenes don’t trouble me too much, but I don’t think they’re particularly appropriate for young teens. I might have had less of an issue with that, though, if the quality of the show was better and the sex scenes didn’t feel like they were added to flesh out a thin and ridiculous premise. And the acting and writing both suck enough that I wouldn’t recommend Tiny Pretty Things to almost anyone else, either, at least not if they’re looking for something that is legitimately high quality. On the other hand, if you want to watch something cringeworthy, Tiny Pretty Things might be just the ticket. I think I’d like to watch it with my friend Joann, who has a real knack for critiquing bad TV in a hilarious way.

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music, musings, silliness

The dark days of winter…

I decided to take a “mental health day” yesterday. It was cold and rainy, and I just didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I spent a few minutes fiddling with my guitar, but didn’t do any lessons.

I watched two mindless made for TV movies from the 1990s– Saved By The Bell Hawaiian Style and Saved By The Bell Wedding in Vegas. I had seen both films before and didn’t really like either of them, but since I’ve been hearing so much about the Saved By The Bell reboot on Peacock, I decided I should have the complete set from the original series. I never actually watched that show when it was current, as I was a bit old for it during its original run. I got hooked on it in college, thanks to some of my male friends who thought Tiffani Thiessen was “hot”. I can’t watch Peacock unless I use a VPN, but I’m sure it will eventually be made available. What can I say? I like lowbrow television shows.

One thing I noticed as I watched both crappy movies is that most sitcoms probably shouldn’t be turned into movies. The Saved By The Bell movies were especially bad. When you’re watching a show that is filmed on a soundstage and has a laugh track, it’s easy to suspend disbelief and just go along with the goofy shit. Dustin Diamond’s “Screech” dorkiness was especially irritating when presented on location. His schtick really needs a laugh track because he’s not actually very funny. Without it, he just looks asinine, and not in a funny way. But then, I suppose that would be true for almost everyone on that show.

I also didn’t feel much like writing yesterday. There was nothing on my mind that was earth shattering enough to sit down and write. I thought that if I started writing something, it would be more of the same shit I’ve been writing for the past year. So I took a day off, and tried to wade through my latest book project, John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened. I used to be able to breeze through books with ease, but it’s not so easy now that I’m older, especially when I’m not enjoying the reading material.

Bolton is a bit impressed with himself and I don’t find his writing that compelling. Consequently, although I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks, I’m only about 20% in… and I’m doing a lot of skimming. I confess that I’m also pretty tired of Donald Trump as a whole, and this may be the last book I read about him and his presidency for awhile. I am determined to finish it, though, because I don’t like to quit books I’ve started reading, even if they’re not good. I’ve only done that a few times in my life, and I often feel a tinge of regret whenever I do. Or, at least I’ve only done that with books I’ve had to read voluntarily… books for school are another matter. 😉

This morning, I had higher hopes for productivity, but I slept a bit later than usual. I am usually up at 5:30am, thanks to Bill, who is a chronic early bird and always wakes me up. Today, I slept until 6:20, which felt really late to me. I got up and cleaned the bathrooms, then had coffee and an egg. Since my mouse needed to recharge, I decided to change the strings on my Fender acoustic guitar. It’s probably been a couple of months since I last changed them, so they were definitely due. I play almost every day, though not for long periods of time.

Anyway, I managed to change string #6. String #5 ended up breaking just when it was at about the right pitch. I have extra strings for all of the other strings except #5. So I put that guitar aside and ordered two packs of new steel strings. Then I played with my classical guitar with nylon strings, which I don’t mess with as often. I need to change the strings on that guitar, too, but like I said, I rarely play it, and changing the strings is a pain in the ass.

After a few minutes spent fumbling with my classical guitar, I took the dogs for a walk. There was a guy out there with a leaf blower, which was freaking out Noyzi, so we went a different route. It was uneventful and the dogs were glad to get their stroll, since they didn’t get one yesterday.

Bill is teleworking this morning, but has to go into the office this afternoon. I decided the dogs would get their walk early so I would be home to collect all of the packages I’m expecting today, to include another guitar that I bought myself for Christmas. It’s a very expensive one, and I probably shouldn’t be fooling with it yet, but I couldn’t resist. And since we can’t travel, I had money to defray the big credit card charge. So I ordered myself a Fender Acoustasonic, only I didn’t go for the basic one… I bought one made with exotic wood, which supposedly is pretty hardcore and not expected to appeal to people like me.

I think the pandemic is getting to me, but what the hell. You only live once, and I’m probably at the right age for a mid life crisis. The acoustasonic can be played with or without an amp– it can be used as an electric instrument or an acoustic one. It’s basically an electric guitar with a hollow inside, although if you want to play for others, it’s probably best to plug it in. Today’s featured photo is of the guitar I ordered.

Bill is getting me an amp for Christmas. He will probably buy a new electric guitar for himself before too long. Last night, he showed me the one he wanted. It costs less than half of the one I just bought. Then he showed me one that was half of the price of the one he wants, which he says would be better for him because he’s not a good player yet. I laughed and told him he should just get the guitar he wants, as long as he can afford it. He’s 56 years old and has spent many years being deprived of the good things… and like I said, I am in support of indulging the good old fashioned mid life crisis, just as long as it doesn’t involve any sexually transmitted infections. I figure he could buy the cheaper guitar, but chances are good that he’d rather have the one he’s got his eye on and will eventually pull the trigger anyway. I did advise him to wait a bit, though, because he’s not been able to practice as much as I do and should probably gain a little bit more basic skill. But yeah– what matters most is wanting to play, and if a 1500 euro guitar speaks to him, who am I to disagree that he should have it?

I’m hoping the new guitar will give me something to focus on besides the news, particularly politics and COVID-19. I definitely need more practice in any case.

I’m also expecting about twelve bottles of wine to show up today. So it should be a fun afternoon, even if the morning got off on a bad note. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be ready to write something more compelling than this.

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bad TV, complaints, politics

I fell down a rabbit hole yesterday…

After a short training session with Noizy the wonder dog, I decided I wanted to relax with a little TV. I pay for Netflix every month, but I don’t watch it very often. I decided to see if there was anything on there I wanted to see. I think I did see a show about a month ago– it was British and kind of contrived, but entertaining in a pseudo American kind of way (however, I no longer remember the name of said show)…

I decided to try again with another show, called Doctor Foster (2015 and 2017). This show, which so far has had two series, is kind of loosely based on the Greek myth, Medea. It’s about a female doctor named Gemma Foster who suspects that her husband, Simon, is having an affair. What aroused her suspicions? A blonde hair on his scarf. Next thing you know, Gemma is losing her shit.

A patient comes to her complaining of not being able to sleep. Gemma doesn’t want to give her sleeping pills. But she soon realizes that she can trade the pills for a spy. She recruits the patient to spy on her husband. Sure enough, he’s fucking someone else… his business partner’s daughter, who is about 22 years old to Gemma’s 37.

I guess I’m an old fart according to the people who wrote this show… and Bill is regularly fucking other people.

I should mention that Gemma (played by Suranne Jones) is smoking hot. She’s tall, well-built, and dark, with brooding eyes and a willowy, fit figure. More than once, the men on the show mention how “hot” she is, “for her age”… Wow. But still, despite being a well-paid doctor who is smoking hot and the mother of Simon’s son, Tom, Gemma isn’t enough for her randy husband. Apparently, men are completely incapable of being faithful. Seriously, they literally say this in the show.

Anyway, Simon’s lover, name of Kate, is pregnant. Guess who breaks the news to her? Gemma… who has somehow managed to finagle a doctor switch, quickly figuring out that the guilty blonde is the pretty girl sitting in the waiting room. She has Kate take off her trousers and top, remarks on how “fit” Kate is, and draws blood and urine.

Now… all of this is a bit contrived for my liking, but I have to admit, it’s kind of addictive viewing. I like British TV because it’s about as trashy as a lot of American TV; I can understand what is being said; and the humor is often witty. But this series, which won awards, is pretty far-fetched and ridiculous. I still binge watched the whole first season yesterday and have seen a couple of the episodes of season 2 today. It beats reading the news and the comments, which apparently I “kill” myself over, according to a regular reader.

The other alternative, besides playing Sims 4, practicing guitar, working on my latest jigsaw puzzle, or writing fiction, is trying to read my latest book. For some reason, I usually fall asleep when I read, even when the subject matter is interesting. I didn’t used to do this. I think it’s partly because I don’t sleep through the night thanks to Bill’s early wake ups and because Germany is entering the cold, dark time of year that makes me want to hibernate. The book I’m reading is about hellish doctors during the Nazi era. It’s very interesting, well-written, and personal, since it comes from a woman who was a court reporter during the Nuremberg Trials. But I get through a few pages and drift off.

I am glad we have the new dog, though. He gives me a reason to go outside and work with him. He’s making strides. A few days ago, he was absolutely terrified of the leash, to the point of submissive peeing on himself just by seeing it. Today, I put it on him and brushed him thoroughly. I could tell he enjoyed the brushing, even if he didn’t like the leash. I think he likes the attention, and the brushing probably feels good to him. I’m sure it scratches the itches, so to speak. He needs to be brushed, though, because he’s shedding a lot and we’re not quite ready to try a bath.

I also got him to take some roast beef from my hand. This dog isn’t very food oriented at all, but he has learned that beef and pork are tasty. He wouldn’t take the treats on the leash, but happily enjoyed them after we were finished with our session. And he also sit twice on command, without my having to touch him. After two times, he was too overwhelmed to continue. But… this was another big leap. I put the leash on the outside table with the brush and shedding blade and I saw him sniff it. I hope that means he’s realizing the leash isn’t to punish him. Maybe soon, he will see the leash as a great thing, as Arran does. I look forward to taking them both on a walk.

And finally, this morning, I watched this video about Kanye West’s ridiculous presidential campaign. The man has clearly lost his marbles and needs to get back on his meds.

Hard to believe, the election is so soon… any way it goes, it’s going to be a weird aftermath.

The mask crusaders continue on, trying to shame people into wearing masks. I really think it was a mistake to promote the idea that masks only protect other people. Even if that’s technically true, I think they should have been promoted more as a self-protective measure. I think people are more likely to cooperate if they think they’re doing something that is in their own self-interest.

Americans, by and large, are pretty selfish people. We’re big on individualism, personal freedoms, and pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We don’t want to be told what to do or lectured, even if mask wearing makes sense. I see so many people fighting with others about the stupid masks. Frankly, I think that’s a waste of time. Getting on a moral high horse doesn’t inspire cooperation, even if what you’re saying is “right”. Unfortunately, it’s going to take people getting very sick and scared before everyone is on the bandwagon.

As for me, I continue to stay home most of the time. I’m sure I’m not alone. When you stay home and watch bad TV, you don’t need a mask, nor do you hear a bunch of carping from other people. I’m sure that staying home isn’t what is best for the economy, but it is what is best for one’s health. Because even if you wear a mask, you can still get sick. Mask wearing just helps slow down the spread of the virus and keeps the hospitals from getting overwhelmed. On the other hand, I might wind up with other health problems from staying home.

This has definitely been a very ODD year. It’s going to be one of those years that changes everything, kind of like 9/11 did. I hope 2021 isn’t worse. I definitely relate to today’s featured photo. According to Ancestry.com, I come by that relation honestly.

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bad TV

“Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

I wish I were good at editing videos. Once again, I have been watching the last seasons of 7th Heaven and cringing with each new episode. Around season 8, that show became even worse than it originally was. On my old blog, I ranted about it a few times. Since I have a new blog, I’m going to rant about it again, mainly because I can’t think of anything else to write about that won’t get me in trouble. If I were good at editing videos, though, I could add them to this post to demonstrate what I mean. For now, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Complaint #1

At some point well into the series, the writers of 7th Heaven seemed to get lazy with dialogue. They started giving every character the same manner of speaking. I have noticed, for instance, several characters saying “Now, if you’ll excuse me”, after resolutely putting someone else in his or her place. Not only is it an annoying phrase when said by one person, but one would hope that only one person in an entire group of friends would ever be in the habit of saying something like that. Apparently, in Glen Oak, everyone has the same spoken mannerisms, right down to the other Glen Oak urchins calling the Camden kids by their last name or referring to them as “preacher boy” or “preacher girl”. Jeez, don’t the kids of Glen Oak have any spunk? Isn’t there someone with a spark of wit in that town? I think if someone said, “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” to me with a smug facial expression, I would be tempted to haul off and smack the shit out of them. But, since I’m neither violent nor wanting to be arrested, I’m sure the slap would simply radiate from the annoyed expression on my face.

Complaint #2

The actors often sounded like they were reading their lines for the first time. And again, when they read their lines, they used the same cringeworthy emphasis laden expressions. They’d say things like, “If you loved me– If you REALLY loved me…” Or “I needed a brother– a BIG brother– tonight.” And they would deliver these lines without proper emphasis, so they sounded stilted and hackneyed. Somehow, this shit was passable for eleven seasons. And also, almost all of them did it. I would expect one, maybe two people tops, speaking that way. But noooo… on 7th Heaven, they all talked like that.

Oh noooo!

Complaint #3

Most everyone seemed to have attended the “hesitation acting academy”. Stephen Collins was the worst of anyone on that show. He would hesitate before he spoke, as if he was choosing his words carefully. Unfortunately, he simply sounded stupid. As time went on, they would all start acting in this manner and deliver lines like, “You aren’t… thinkin’ about hangin’ out with your buddies and drinkin’ beer… because you know you’re… not 21 years old yet. And if… you decide you want to take a drink… why don’t you just stay… because you know not to… get behind the wheel when you’ve… been drinkin’.”

Complaint #4

I’m absolutely certain the twins weren’t intellectually disabled, but for some reason, the writers preferred to make them sound that way. They’d have them speak in unison. One of them couldn’t pronounce his r’s very clearly, so he sometimes sounded especially slow, even though I’m sure he wasn’t really. Who thinks it’s cute when twins talk like they have no minds of their own?

Complaint #5

“And this is for…” and “we know this how…” and “you would be…” Those of us who have been around for awhile remember David Spade on Saturday Night Live, when he’d do his annoying receptionist schtick. For some reason, the writers on 7th Heaven thought this was outrageously clever and, once again, saddled every single actor on the show with this shitty form of speaking. I’m now in the 11th season and I have lost count of how many characters snarkily say something like, “And you are…” or “and we know this because…” or something similarly rude. What’s sad is that there were some legitimately talented people on that show and they were saddled with terrible writing, especially in the later seasons. Of course, they also let some non actors on the show– like, for instance, when Mackenzie Rosman’s real life stepfather and stepsister guested. The stepdad was especially obviously not an actor. Another phrase that was overused by too many characters and came off as lazy and rude is “no offense”. Here’s my line. “No offense, but the writers of 7th Heaven sucked donkey balls and should have been docked 40% of their pay until they wrote something worth watching on television.”

Complaint #6

Overly emotional background music. Who was playing the piano and guitar on those episodes? Who was playing the saxophone? The sax and piano players were especially “expressive” in the way they played the background music. Way to add the the story, right? Actually, I think the piano player was especially talented. I just thought the use of music on this show was over the top and kind of stupidly done. What really sucks is watching it on iTunes and finding most of the music that was in the original episodes has been replaced by generic knockoffs that really don’t pack the same punch. But I get that they don’t want to have to pay for royalties.

Check out that music… and then the lecture from Matt, the doctor wannabe.

Complaint #7

Smoking, drinking, pot smoking, and fucking are bad… bad… bad… And RevCam knows how to cure every addiction to man.

“The rats! The RATS!”
No burning joints in MY house!

Complaint #8

Ridiculous storylines… like on what was originally supposed to be the grand finale in Season 10. Matt and Sarah, Mary and Carlos, and Lucy and Kevin all report that they are having twins. Of course, Lucy ends up miscarrying hers within months, when the writers had to cobble together one final barely watchable season. In a tragic life imitates art moment, actress Beverley Mitchell reported last year that she miscarried twins in real life. I could probably sit here and think of a dozen similar storylines that were just plain dumb. I get that you have to suspend belief sometimes when you watch a show like 7th Heaven. In fact, that’s part of their appeal. But there is a limit to how far fetched one can get before one goes into ridiculous territory. I mean, what genius came up with the idea to have everyone sing and dance the whole episode, like they did on the cringeworthy “Red Socks” show? That episode was written by Martha Plimpton, of all people, but it just sucked!

One of the worst storylines ever… and Eric hesitates for good measure. “Mary’s… coming to the graduation?” I like Annie’s fake scream, too. She probably also did that while fucking Eric.

So why do I watch this shit? I honestly don’t know. I think I miss watching television that isn’t profoundly disturbing. I like to watch shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, but then I have nightmares. I tried to watch Chernobyl, but it was too depressing. I got through the first episode, but had to stop the second one. I’m sure I’ll get around to watching them later, but I recently read a book about Chernobyl, so it’s not like I don’t know what happened.

For some reason, I find shows about large families comforting, even when they make me cringe. The Camden family is especially annoying, since the parents are overly involved, particularly with their children’s sex lives, and they have to supervise everything. Given that actor Stephen Collins, who played family patriarch Eric Camden, turned out to be a pervert in real life, it seems especially yucky that they focused so much on preserving their children’s virginity. I remember the icky scene in which a teenaged Ruthie Camden was suggestively dancing in her bedroom and dad Eric lingered a bit too long as she shimmied and gyrated. Once again… life imitates art.

Eeeeew!

Meh… well, I will probably be done with season 11 in a few days. I can go back to watching politics. I’m working on a new book, too, so there could be a review posted before too long. There are things I’d love to write about, but I just can’t bring myself to go there right now. Maybe someday… but not today. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to torturing myself with this shit so I can get it out of my system for the next year or two.

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