I gave up on network television a long time ago. Pretty much anything that was either interesting or unique or perhaps even entertaining never lasted with few exceptions. I weep to live in a world where Sofia Vergara is the highest paid television “actress” and Asshton (deliberate misspelling) Kutcher is the highest paid “actor”. It’s insulting, not only to you and me, but also to people who are talented for reelz. It’s not just limited to the big three networks either, even the almost-networks (CW/UPN), basic cable and premium channels have been known to pull the plug way too quickly which is why we are stuck with fifteen versions of Law & Order you-name-the-division or CSI-someplace-I-am-not- at-all-interested-in on at least one channel at all hours of the day. For some reason those of us with standards are not allowed to have nice things on television. Thank heaven for modern conveniences like streaming services, DVDs and the internet, or else these little gems would be gone and lost forever.
Bunheads: I was a little late to the Bunheads party and have felt ever so bad about that because once I discovered it of course I fell in love and wanted to see all the episodes I had missed, stat. We live in a wonderful modern digital world where everything lives in a magical cloud up in the sky, somewhere next to heaven and the rainbow bridge I imagine, so you would think that would be easy peasy. But thanks to Comcast, in its never-ending quest to be known as the worst person in America (remember, corporations are people too), I could not On Demand all the episodes I had missed. So I joined Amazon Prime for the introductory thirty-day trial and guess what? Only a few of the episodes were available without an additional fee. This is why I don’t really like Amazon Prime, they suck you in like a midway carny huckster promising you the world (or the largest teddy bear known to man), but then anything really good they make you fork over more money for (or try to palm you off with a dollar store sized teddy bear). Well, I have iTunes for that pay-as-you-go-kind of relationship thank you very much so I don’t need another one in my life.
Bunheads is set in a quaint and quirky ocean-side town full of lovable eccentrics so essentially its The Gilmore Girls* on the west coast with even a few of the same actors thrown in for good measure. Most of the action takes place in a dance studio (hence the name ), run by a cranky yet lovable (of course!) dance mom of all dance moms, Fanny Flowers, played by Kelly Bishop (the ultimate WASP mom of Ms. Lorelei Gilmore from Gilmore Girls) and her former showgirl daughter-in-law Michelle Simms (played by Broadway hoofer extraordinaire Sutton Foster), who was married to her son for about five minutes before he inconveniently dies and leaves her not only his lovely home by the sea but the dance studio next door his mom has run forever. Talk about awkward. The ex-showgirl/reluctant dance teacher and her students with their complicated high school lives along with a cast of crazy locals. Toss in some interesting dance routines to artists ranging from Bjork to They Might Be Giants and Bunheads makes for some mighty fun viewing and it is a shame that ABC Family pulled the plug so very quickly. Check it out for yourself and you too will become a bunhead, I guarantee it. (Amazon Instant, iTunes)
Veronica Mars: this one hurt, it really did. Anyone who ever went to high school can relate to this show, whether or not you grew up in southern California or any other state in the union. Like Bunheads I was a bit late to the VM party but once I got there, I never wanted to leave. Kristen Bell plays Veronica, a girl whose alcoholic mother left her maybe/maybe not father, the town sheriff, after he accused local rich guy Jake Kane of being involved in the murder of his own daughter Lily, who just happened to be Veronica’s best friend. Since the 1% do not appreciate being accused of crimes let alone murdering their own child, this does not go over well with a town of mostly rich people so Mr. Mars loses his city job and becomes a private detective. Because we all know how nice high school children can be to the downtrodden, Veronica goes from being little miss popular cheerleader Barbie to her less attractive no-one-wants-to-play-with-her-ever Midge, in an instant. Since her dad can no longer investigate the mystery of Lily Kane’s death, Veronica takes it on in her spare time, after school and the periods between lunch and algebra. It totally helps that she works in her dad’s PI office and can use all his fun investigative toys, many of which I wished I had access to in my high school days, especially the stun gun.
Part of what makes this show so good is watching Kristen Bell totally nail being a scrappy teenager with a gigantic chip on her shoulder and major mommy issues. She has a great, solid as Sears relationship with her father, or as she calls him, “the one who stays”, and a couple of good friends she regularly ropes into helping her along with her various investigations. The rich kids make her life miserable, the poor ones don’t treat her much better and she has a major love/hate relationship with her dead friend’s boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Season one was perfection.
During its three-year run Veronica Mars had a lot of guest stars who went on to bigger and better things like Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Adam Scott (Parks & Rec), and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, bitch). New Girl’s Max Greenfield had a recurring role as Deputy Leo, Veronica’s sorta boyfriend (totally illegal dude, she’s in high school!), Alyson Hannagan played Logan’s crazy sister Tina, and my imaginary boyfriend Paul Rudd even showed up for one episode in season three, when the show made the movie to college. VM was killed after that third season, and the people on the internets were not one bit happy about it. They wanted more, so a Kickstarter fund happened and a movie got made and let’s just say Jason Dohring should seriously consider joining the navy in real life because when he shows up to pick Veronica up at the airport I practically choked on my popcorn, boy looks damn fine in a uniform. (Amazon Instant)
The Riches: On the run from their own clan, Irish traveller (aka grifter) family the Malloys get into a car accident that kills a wealthy family, the Riches, on their way to a new home and new jobs in Baton Rouge. Wayne Malloy (Eddie Izzard) and his recently paroled wife Dahlia (Minnie Driver) and their children decide to take the opportunity to assume the dead family’s identities and try to live a normal, i.e. straight life for the first time in their lives. How they manage (or don’t) is what makes this show so compelling.
Doug Rich is a successful lawyer about to start a new job and seeing how Wayne fakes his way into becoming in-house counsel to a bat-shit crazy client is a true thing of beauty. Cherien Rich is a dental hygienist but thankfully Dahlia doesn’t last too long in her new career due to her pesky drug problem which is what put her in the pokey in the first place. The drug problem does however bond her forever to her next door neighbor and fellow junkie Nina, the wonderful Margo Martindale who followed up this role with an Emmy-winning turn as the evil Mags Bennett on Justified. Note to the non-Justified readers, don’t ever accept a beverage from Mags, just don’t.
The grifter children get sent to fancy private school with various degrees of success. Doug’s ex-wife wants more money, Cherien’s coo-coo for cocoa puffs mother even comes to live with them and yet they manage to stay one step a ahead of their former clan members who are out for both blood and money. The Riches aired originally on FX, a network not used to shows that are exactly killing it in the ratings department so I am not sure why this one only got a lousy two seasons. It deserved a proper send off to wrap up loose ends off ala Veronica Mars. Eddie Izzard has talked about a movie that would do just that in interviews but at this point it has been years and I am thinking that sadly that shipped has sailed and this is all we are going to get. (Netflix)
Dead Like Me: On the face of it you would think that a show about a teenager girl killed by a falling toilet seat from the Space Station Mir would have a lot of laughs in it but you probably would not think that it could make you cry, Dead Like Me does both on a regular basis. The show aired on Showtime but since I don’t have premium channels I watched most of the episodes on DVD from Netflix. Our heroine George Lass (aka Toilet Seat Girl), played by Ellen Muth dies an untimely and undignified death only to find out she has to work as a reaper before she can pass on to the great beyond, next to the cloud where all my cat photos are safely stored. George and the other reapers meet at Der Wafflehaus restaurant (food looks really good too, but then again I’m a breakfast gal), where their leader Rube (Mandy Patinkin, pre-Homeland) gives them post-it notes with the names of their daily reaps. George and the others need to take the souls of the soon to be departed BEFORE they die or all hell breaks loose. Kind of like Miracle Day on Torchwood.
Each of the reapers come from different time periods and have their own back stories we get tiny glimpses of throughout the series. The reapers have to work-work too to pay the bills, and take on a different physical appearance to the living. George’s family is understandably not handling her demise very well, her parents already fractured marriage gets even worse (her professor father has an affair with a student), her younger sister Reggie, who she was never very nice to in that big sisterly sort of way, starts acting out (stealing toilet seats and hanging them in trees, the ultimate tee-peeing prank I guess) and how each of them react to their loss is where a lot of the pathos comes from. Cynthia Stephenson as the mom so ironically named Joy is particularly good at breaking your heart and it is a good things reapers have to have jobs or else this show would just be too sad.
George’s job just happens to be at Happy Time Temp agency, the same place she was working when she stepped out for lunch on that fateful day and got creamed by the toilet seat. Now George with her new appearance is known as Millie and she has the same boss Dolores, who while she did not care for George much seems to like Millie a lot. Dolores (Christine Willes) is overly optimistic, super enthusiastic and the original cat lady (his name is Murray by the way) with an interesting past which apparently involves cocaine, tattoos and a bunch of restraining orders which sounds like pretty fun happy hour material to me. The Happy Time receptionist Crystal has a bit of the Mimi from The Drew Carey Show about her, only weirder, and has an unhealthy attraction to post-it notes. It almost makes you wonder if 3M had a stake in this show? (Amazon Instant)
Victoria Beckham: Coming to America: It is no big secret that I am a fan of Victoria Beckham. Not only was she one of the least talented Spice Girls (not that big of a competition really), but she also went through a very public, very terrible WAG/chav phase back when Mr. Bend it Like Beckham was Britain’s most famous footballer and she was trying really hard for a solo singing career that never went anywhere. Hmm, wonder why? It doesn’t really matter now because Miss Posh got the last laugh in the end when she landed on her high-heeled feet with not only the cutest celebrity baby in the history of the universe but also turned her former hideous fashion sense into becoming a truly stellar clothing designer herself. Yep, Victoria has serious street cred now with the fashion in-crowd and recently opened her first retail store in London. A store that I will be more than happy to check out and report on the very next time I go there. I may have to fast for a month or two before hand so I can fit into something other than a scarf but food can be so over-rated and I will probably need the extra money to be able to afford anything anyway so I am willing to give it a go, for the blog and all.
in 2007 when this show originally aired Becks had just started to play for whatever professional soccer team there is in Los Angeles (too lazy to look that up since it lasted for like a minute) and the premise of the show was following Posh as she got acclimated to life in the US with her family of boys (this was pre-cutest baby in the universe). Some of the reviews were merciless and the show was yanked from NBC and put out to pasture on Bravo, before Bravo was taken over by Andy Cohen and became his Real Housewives but Abysmal Humans all the time network. I miss those Queer Eye for the Straight Guy glory days. VB: Coming to America portrayed Victoria Beckham as funny, self-depreciating and someone you would totally want to hang out with, at least I would. She seems pretty aware of her reputation as a glamazon who never smiles and regularly pokes fun at it. Check out her some of her posts on Instagram if you don’t believe me. Also check out some of her clothing while you are at it, she is good. (youTube, sadly one episode only available)
* you have seen Gilmore Girls, right? If not I am not sure we can be friends** so high-tail it on over to Netflix because you can stream all seven seasons right now. Then take this quiz to see which character you are, I got Paris Geller and am still not sure how I feel about that. Once you watch GG you will understand why.
**just kidding, we can still be friends but we probably can’t be FRIEND friends because there are some baseline pop culture things that we should have in common.