Archive for January, 2011
Dear PTC, Taco Bell, GM, Wrigley, H&R Block, Subway and everyone else who wrote off MTV’s Skins without really watching it or after only watching the pilot,
Love, Things that are Totally Awesome
So in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, there’s this new show called Skins that premiered on MTV last week and everyone and their mother (literally) decided to hate it before it even aired. Now, the haters can largely be divided into two groups; the purists and the Puritans. The Puritans are the PTC; who – before the first episode even aired mind you – declared Skins “the most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children!” and all those who listened to their nonsense, including the aforementioned corporations who allowed themselves to be bullied into pulling their advertisements from the program. The purists are those who loved the UK version and refuse to believe that an American version can measure up.
I can see why both parties are up in arms.
First to the purists: I get it, I watched the UK version and it’s phenomenal and yes, the first episode of the MTV series (which was practically a carbon copy of the UK pilot but with different actors and some small differences that felt glaring in comparison) hurt my heart a little. Eura is no Effy and Cady is no Cassie and Abbud is no Anwar, I get it, it’s trying to be the same as the show we love and it’s not. To you I say: Tea.
The one ray of sunshine in an otherwise disappointing pilot also happened to be the one completely original character. Coincidence? Not in the slightest. Last night’s episode surrounding Tea was completely original and it was everything we’ve come to expect from Skins; complicated and nuanced and layer upon layer of beautiful storytelling. Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain know what they’re doing, people, TRUST THEM! I don’t really understand why they chose to reuse the UK characters, but the thing is, they’re not the same, because of Tea. Not just because she’s so awesome – though WOW – but because we are all the product of the people in our lives, and if you change even one player, you change the whole game.
Now to the parents: I understand that there is a lot of filth on television today, that this world is an awfully scary place to raise a child, and you just want to protect your children. I get that. In the PTC’s original call to arms they talk about how other shows like Gossip Girl have also had things like sex and drugs, but not to the same extent, pointing out also that the Skins actors are younger, thus making their actions more disturbing. The same groups of people are crying child prostitution because of a nude scene in next week’s Chris episode, featuring 15 year old Jesse Carere. I get what it looks like on the surface, but to you as well I say: Tea.
Watch Tea’s episode and tell me that this is the most dangerous show for your children to be watching. In the episode you’ll see Tea drinking, having sex, masturbating and doing drugs and you will see that IT’S NOT ABOUT THAT AT ALL. It’s about a very real, very complex teenage girl who is trying to figure out very real, very complex teenage things like who she is and what love is. And anyone who bothered to watch Chris’ episode would know that the nude scene could not be farther from sexual; it’s about a teenage boy who is ill-equipped to deal with the very frightening reality he’s facing. Gossip Girl, The OC, 90210 and all of these other teen shows may be less explicit in their use of sex and drugs, but those shows are both written and acted by adults, and the sex and the drugs are used for the purposes of titillation and intrigue, resulting in a glorification of those behaviors. Starting with the UK series and continuing into the American version Skins has been adamant about including real teenagers and their stories in the writing process as well as casting actual teenagers to play the teenagers on the show (I know, CRAAAZY, right?). This results in a show that is ridiculously true, and the explicit stuff, rather than being glorified vaguely from behind a mask is shoved in your face with all of its crudeness and grit for you to struggle with. And as creator Bryan Elsley said in his recent reply to the controversy, maybe the truth is painful and scary, but NEWSFLASH, your kids are living in this world, and if you can’t talk to them about the painful, scary stuff they’re facing, someone should, and Skins does it quite well.
I know this is a bit more serious than I usually get here, but through the UK series I’ve come to have a lot of respect for the creators of Skins, and I’ve been sitting around for weeks now reading about everyone attacking them and the new version and then last night I watched Tea, and it was truly one of the most compelling hours of television I’ve seen in a long time. It’s really easy to hate blindly, but if you just took a minute to really look at the thing you’re hating, you might discover that you’re hating the wrong thing, or that you don’t hate it at all. You might realize that what you’re hating is Tea; lovely little Tea, who is neither derivative nor a menace, but rather poised to be one of the greatest teen characters ever to grace American television.
So to everyone involved in Skins who have been thrown into this shit storm they don’t deserve I want to say, keep doing what you’re doing because
Skins is TOTALLY AWESOME!
Okay people. Here we are, finally on the threshold of breaking into the double digits, and it’s time to get excited, because I’m about to crank it up to a whole new level of awesome. For this monumental post, I’m going to take you on a whirlwind journey…
To the past.
It was an uncommonly warm fall day in October 2010 – score one for global warming! – and I found myself immersed in the great time-sucking wonder that is YouTube. Flipping through my subscriptions I saw a new video posted by one of my favorite channels. I watched it 3 or 4 times, marveling at how simultaneously funny, adorable, silly, sweet and downright awesome it was, then went back for the 400th time and rewatched all of their other videos. While doing so I found myself thinking: DAMN, this is TOTALLY AWESOME. I wish I had a forum in which to express how TOTALLY FREAKING AWESOME this is. If only I had a space in which to publicly geek out about this and all the other TOTALLY AWESOME things I come across on a daily basis…
And thus, a blog was born. And it was totally awesome.
That channel belonged to a fabulous duo of ladies who go by Powerfox and Ponymane, also known as Jackie Tohn (Powerfox) and Jes Hudak (Ponymane). Yes, Jes Hudak of the best albums of 2010, this phenomenal video, and my constant yammering about how totally awesome she is. Anyway, Powerfox and Ponymane are two hilarious, gorgeous and extraordinarily talented singer-songwriters, both of whom have – as Ron Swanson would say – stared into the eye of Satan’s butthole, and taken on the tempest of woe that is American Idol.
I suppose that this is the point at which I admit that while I generally only watch scripted television as a rule, I do make one major exception, and that is American Idol. Why? Because despite what haters who want to hate might say, it is totally awesome. Granted, sometimes on Idol TPTB and/or the American public make frustratingly bad decisions. For instance, Jes Hudak made it past the auditions and was cut in the group rounds in Hollywood back in season 5, though she was never shown (I would know, I watched that season particularly closely – yeeeah POREH). Jackie Tohn made it all the way through to the voting rounds in season 8 but fell victim to the uberdumb Top 36 format and never really got a proper chance. But it’s just as well because if they had made it, we wouldn’t have Powerfox and Ponymane!
I first came across Powerfox and Ponymane last winter when they began to create weekly videos during the final Idol rounds in which they mirrored the themes of the week with their own fabulous renditions of pop songs. In doing so they ended up putting the actual Idol contestants to shame because – with the exception of the endlessly awesome Siobhan Magnus – Power and Pony were more entertaining and better singers than any of them. Yep, I said it. Judge for yourself:
American Idol Season 9 Winner Lee DeWyze, Inspirational Songs:
Powerfox and Ponymane, Inspirational Songs:
No, okay, sorry, I’m not going to hate, this blog is a hater-free zone! Instead let’s focus on PnP and some of their other standouts from the Idol weeks, like Elvis Week:
Shania Twain Week: (or not)
Judges’ Choice Week:
and they already kicked off the new season last week with a fabtastic tribute to the new judges:
Some of their best stuff has been outside of Idol though, like these:
Raise your hand if you’re in wuv! Oh look, my hand is in the air!
So there she is, the big 1-0, and I am SO beyond psyched to finally, officially shout to the world that
POWERFOX AND PONYMANE ARE TOTALLY AWESOME
In honor of the LOOOOOONG awaited return of Parks and Recreation, I am dedicating this highly-coveted, final single digit spot on the TAT list to the Man himself; Mr. Ron Swanson, played by the incomparable Mr. Nick Offerman. If you don’t watch Parks and Recreation, you are missing out on the funniest show on television. Period.
The sheer total awesomeness of Ron Swanson is one of those things that’s easier shown than told, so:
Not yet convinced?
FACT: Ron Swanson has two ex-wives, both named Tammy:
FACT: Ron Swanson’s ringtone is a gunshot:
FACT: Ron Swanson is Socialism’s worst nightmare:
FACT: By night, Ron Swanson goes by Duke Silver, and is a smooth jazz legend:
Now to business. In this past week’s episode, Ron introduced us to the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness:
The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, in Ron Swanson’s own words, is “a perfectly calibrated recipe for maximum personal achievement.” In case you can’t read the small print or don’t feel like it (both legit) I’ve taken the liberty of enlarging my favorites and creating motivational posters out of them:
Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness ladies and gents: file it under TOTALLY AWESOME.
Last night I saw the movie Red. If you don’t know, Red is a ridiculous action movie which was – for some totally inexplicable reason – nominated for a Golden Globe. In the movie Bruce Willis, Mary-Louis Parker, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich each play their own most token characters; Bruce is a CIA retiree with a heart but no qualms about kicking your ass, Mary-Louis is a wide-eyed, beautiful woman with issues and no particular skills, Morgan is the wisened old mentor guy with God/Jesus-like tendencies and John is a lovable psychopath whose brain has been irrevocably fucked by years of LSD use. The basic plot concept is that Bruce has been targeted by a CIA assassin for being RED; retired and extremely dangerous, and he has to figure out who ordered the hit and take them down before they get him. I love that by the way, RED, I’m going to start using it all the time: “Have you met the old couple who live next door? The husband is cute, but the lady is RED.” Yeah I know, stop trying to make fetch happen, it’s not going to happen…
Anyway, speaking of RED, about an hour into the movie Helen Mirren shows up as her token character; the sweet, proper old lady.
So uh, yeah. That happened… and ya know what? It was (say it with me) TOTALLY AWESOME! Wow. Helen Mirren should never not have a gun. I think someone needs to go back and edit The Queen and Calendar Girls and Teaching Mrs. Tingle so that Helen Mirren is always packing heat, I mean COME ON:
HELEN MIRREN WITH A GUN! BEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED! I don’t know about you, but I’m a granola-munching, compulsive-recycling, organic-buying socialist vegan and Helen Mirren just convinced me to buy a gun.
Okay, not REALLY, guns are bad kids, stay in school, blah blah blah, but you just can’t deny that
Helen Mirren with a gun is TOTALLY AWESOME.