The West Wing ranking continues! We have made it through the good, the bad, and the Ted McGinley inPART I and PART II. There are a few flaws with some of these episodes, but on the whole, they’re classic–warts and all. And by warts, I mean Commander Crap Reese. So put on your oversized Josh jammies, grab some whiskey and Blow Pops, and snuggle up with Marion Coatsworth of Marblehay. It’s time for the best!
Here are the Top 50:
50. “Evidence of Things Not Seen” (season 4, episode 20)
I love that Toby’s accoutrements for poker include a giant bottle of whiskey and two Blow Pops. With that noted, let’s play some poker! Oh wait, other things keep getting in the way, including a job interview with an actor who just got out of rehab, a telephone farce with a Russian leader, and a shooting in the Briefing Room (!!). The titular evidence and things not seen relate to each of these distractions, including Josh not seeing Joe Quincy’s (yeesh, what a name!) little Republican sticking out, and suppressing any feelings over the shots fired. The spy plane, the egg, Will hitting the fifth row. Get it? Hope? Faith? Skepticism? Fear? This is Sorkin being a little cutesy, and also trying to scare us a bit. See, we all know the season finale is approaching, but know not what shape the menace might take. Last episode we wondered about a plane crash. Now we wonder about another shooting. In the meantime, this fake spider under the sheets doesn’t move us very far but allows us to enjoy our favorite characters for a bit. That ain’t all bad. Points Lost For: Very special guest star Matthew Perry. Blech. Joe Quincy is written like a pancake. Awkward Suspension of Reality Moment: Remember back in “20 Hours in LA”, when Donna’s at the fancy-pantsy party and she wants to try and meet Matthew Perry? That makes Joe Quincy’s appearance less believable than his name.
The Bartlet fun never stops. We’ve already ranked West Wing episodes #101-155 in PART ONE. Now it’s time to move on from the awful episodes that Curtis had to carry around, to some truly lovely stories, killer lines, and classic moments. Most of these episodes below have some serious flaws, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile. Get ready to enjoy Chicken Bob, a goldfish pin, and Toby singing.
On we march to the top 100:
100. “Han” (season 5, episode 4)
I have han just watching this episode, even though it’s a sweet little LOST reunion of sorts (or was LOST a “Han” reunion? Time riddle!). Listen, this is an episode where PB and Leo are just wrong and so adrift in an ocean of uncertainty that they missed the obvious inevitability that the North Korean talks would fall apart. They sacrificed the young confused musician, and then PB had the nerve to blame the pianist’s lack of understanding of “freedom”. Really, Jed? Teach him freedom. Ack, the writers have positioned the POTUS as doddering, weak, confused, and myopic. Not cool.
99. “The Lame Duck Congress” (season 2, episode 6)
Zzzzzz. ZzzzzzZzzz. This is one snoozer episode. I don’t care a fig about the drunken Russian getting to see the President. And Donna is petulant and ridiculous in this episode about repetitive stress injuries. Nothing about this episode is particularly offensive, it’s just boring and overly focused on procedures.
Well, damn. If I’m going to go to the trouble of ranking every Gilmore Girls episode, then I’d better get on the ball and fire up…whichever digital service has the licensing for… The West Wing as well! This paragon of American political optimism and snark is simply one of my favorite shows of all-time. But, it might also be the trickiest show to rank. See, I have to balance entertainment with political views. That’s dangerous stuff right there. So dangerous I might need the full box of Franzia and a big block of cheese to get through these tough negotiations. And maybe some pie. Definitely all the doughnuts and bagels in the land.
Let’s start with the worst, or as I call it “the Angela Blake end of the list”. The top 54 will take you through some pretty rough territory–Camp David negotiations, Brian Dennehy, heart attacks, some Harry Potter vomit, and human fruit fly.
From the bottom:
155. “Isaac and Ishmael” (season 3, episode 0)
Alternate Title: “The 9/11 Episode” Airing less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, this was never supposed to be an episode. This was thrown together in a matter of about two weeks, from writing to filming to post-production, specially to address the attacks. And it’s awful. Preachy and dark and utterly self-aware. This is an after-school special mixed with a 70s variety show, with a whole lot of racism thrown in. The shockingly prejudiced, rude, and naive teens–who accuse Toby of being a terrorist for wearing a beard, and ask P.B. if he thinks he’s a “man of principle”–are treated to a cast of characters who pop “on stage” one at a time. First Toby drops in! And then it’s C.J. And then a very special appearance by P.B. and the First Lady! The characters are each condescending as shit, using Biblical stories and and patchy WWII analogies to try and explain terrorism in short-prose form. Diarrhea would be more fun than watching this episode. If you ask me to swear on it, this is not West Wing canon. It isn’t even television canon. It does not exist, anymore than does the finger puppet show in which I pretend that Andy accepts Toby’s marriage proposal and loves the house he bought. They eat pie a lot.
154. “Here Today” (season 7, episode 5)
My Toby. My brilliant and beautiful Toby. What have they DONE TO YOU? Let’s do a quick rundown of this episode: It’s crammed packed with Charles Frost (zzzzzzzzz), Oliver Blabbish questioning (please god nooooooooo!), the President reprimanding and firing Toby (sniffle), and the introduction of fucking Vic the Human Fruit Fly (ewwwww!). I thought Vic was super-duper skeezy and icky when he was banging Miranda on Sex and the City. And now he has impregnated Ellie? Gross! If I’m looking for something to believe in, my only hope is that Josh fired Negative Ned.
Okay, RPG fanatics, it’s time to play one of my favorite time-killing games, “The D&D Alignment Game”! Which of your favorite characters falls into which Dungeons & Dragons-prescribed boxes?
If you need a little background, characters in the Dungeons & Dragons worlds are saddled with “alignments”–personality traits and motives that dictate their behavior. But appreciating the nuances of these traits and how each might be personified has led to a lot of nerd sparring. I’m sure that’s how this game started–just apply the cryptic guidelines to pop culture examples and you can help others to understand why they are totally and utterly wrong.
This is the game I play (sort of like the “desert island” game) when I’m stuck in an airport or waiting for my show to finish downloading. Or that time after you’ve ordered your food at the restaurant and you’ve run out of other conversation. What I love best is the number of heated arguments that has launched between me and my husband. I yell at him that he doesn’t understand the definition of “chaotic”, and then he yells that Jaimie Lannister absolutely does not fall in the evil category. Then I stab my fork into a dinner roll, yell something about Cersei’s vagina, and everyone in the restaurant stares. Good times.
Anyway, here is today’s inaugural post for this game. I just had to start with my favorite animated show of all-time, Gravity Falls (sorry, Muppet Babies). Take a look at the chart below to see how some of the characters might fit into the Dungeons & Dragons world (or as Dipper would say, the “Dungeons, Dungeons and More Dungeons” world). What do you think? Do I have it right?
(I’ve even put a handy little glossary at the end if you aren’t sure what these mean.)
Season 2 marks the first full season of The West Wing during which we have the privilege of watching for Goldfish Gail. C.J. Cregg’s office has never been more exciting, and a lot of scary and surprising things happen to Gail–she is mobbed by turkeys, interrogated by White House lawyers, and has a missile land in her bowl. But still she finds time for love and to make a new elephant friend.
Here it is, a list of Gail sightings from season 2.
If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!
Season 2, Episode 1
No Gail. But she does send her best wishes to President Bartlet and Josh for speedy recoveries.
Many fans of The West Wing already know the terrific inside joke and easter egg that frequently popped up in C.J. Cregg’s office: Goldfish Gail had little props stashed inside her goldfish bowl that were typically thematic for the episode. The trick is to try and spot what it is. And this friends, became my obsession recently. Some of them are pretty obvious and easily visible in any given episode. But some of them…are a bit of a guessing game.
Now, for those of you who need a re-introduction to Gail, she is C.J.’s office goldfish who was gifted to her by reporter Danny Concannon when he attempted to woo her through a gift. Josh had cleverly recommended to gain C.J.’s favor through her love of goldfish. Danny sweetly presented the Press Secretary with our finned friend, not realizing that she actually is keen on the cheesy bagged crackers. Such a cute mistake. But Gail would not be denied, and she became an important friend to the show.
If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!
Political correctness and cancel culture are the poison-tipped swords pointed at the armor of the average American asshole, for the asshole is on a great, noble quest larger than that of humor, cruelty, or domination. Assholes stand behind a great bulwark of free speech in order to assert their basic human rights. And in the name of freedom, they cast their gaze upon the hurt and horrified sword wielders and dub them “snowflakes”. These great knights of vulgarity are righteous in their endeavor to preserve traditions and fortify the American spirit against the delicate.
It is a lovely fairytale. We have heard similar tales from barroom patrons, from our grandfathers and uncles at holiday dinners, and from asshole celebrities like Bill Maher or Tucker Carlson. I am therefore a bit sad to present the argument that their tale is mere fantasy invented by assholes, for assholes, to protect them from consequence and remorse.
If you were a child of the 80s, then you likely know the tale of the silly and harassed Davis family who bought a haunted house in Lucifer Falls and then battled an evil ghost with a magic cloak. You watched Kristy Swanson (the worst actress ever) pout on a picnic blanket with cheese curls, and a robe-clad Bud Bundy get pulled kicking into the air by an inflated fireplace shovel. The kid from ALF even bickered with a little kid ghost over a snot-soaked teddy bear, and all the spirits glowed in neon. It was the spooky and mesmerizing children’s tale called Mr. Boogedy, which originally aired as a Disney made-for-TV movie in 1986.
I’ve been watching and rewatching this movie every October for many years now, and it has come to my attention that there is, in fact, something very haunting about this tale. But it isn’t the house or how the Davis family was plagued by ghosts. It was the treatment of a misunderstood man named William Hanover that lasted for hundreds of years. You see a hamburger-faced demon zapping lightning at a wisecracking family, whereas I see a trod-upon and anguished soul.
To see my point, let us all go back to the beginning. Boogedy’s beginning.
The Origin Story
Here is the story of Mr. Boogedy–as he is known pejoratively known–in the words of crackpot historian, Neil Witherspoon:
300 years ago, long before any of us were alive, a small group of pilgrims lived on this very spot. They were a hard-working, decent group of people. Once in a while of course, they would enjoy a good laugh. Most of them, that is.
She trembles. She bites her lips and feels shaking all over. She is a beaten dog who is filled with righteous fear and a sudden articulated need to vomit or evacuate her system through other orifices. She shakes and hesitates, and has traumatic flashbacks of the terrible times that came before. And she fidgets her way through spilled soups, clumsy meetings where she averts her eyes, physical stumbles, and horrid dreams that make readers pay for their faith in the author. As soon as she catches a cross glance, she loses her appetite. She befriends other underdogs and creates a bench of friends that she treats like Disney animal companions. And most assuredly she feels that her knees will buckle at the most critical moments of her experience, and prays that no one notices her tremors. Her brain tells her to run, but somehow she continues her stride in spite of her instincts.
Will she ever overcome this? Will she ever find her strength and become her own woman? After all, adversity knocks at her door once more, and dear reader, we are eavesdroppers. Can she pull it off?
The answer is, of course, yes. She is the modern young adult fantasy heroine. In spite of her palsy and digestive failings, she manages to do the impossible and vanquish the evil! Oh, hooray for the reluctant savior who wins the day and overcomes insurmountable odds!
Except that I hate her.
I hate her overly bitten lip and fidgeting. I hate the way she devours broth and bread and fights to hold it down. I hate those moments when she stares at her shoes and prays to move on unnoticed. Our tormented lady is weak, naive, and far too easily intimidated. And she keeps showing up in a number of modern young adult fantasy books.
For the life of me, I cannot understand what the authors are thinking. Are they convinced that they need their own Bella Swan to sell copies? Are there really so many women in the modern world who relate to this?
I don’t know about you, but I face adversity like a motherfucking woman. I fly across the Atlantic Ocean by myself, rent cars and drive on the totally improper side of the road, dodging cows and tractors. I stand up at a funeral when no one else will, and deliver a eulogy that brings to life a most beloved family member. I have changed diapers full of diarrhea and have chopped down trees. And do I tremble? Do I bite my lip?
No. I fight through it. And maybe I need a swig of gin at the end of it, and maybe I need to sob in an embarrassing way when I reach the end of a long week and have a little Sam Cooke playing. But I motherfucking own my struggles and only fight impulses to lunge or shout or at least give one hell of a death glare.
Yes, let’s acknowledge that there are a variety of traumas the likes of which I have never experienced. And I am the first one to sing the praises of the traumatized who tremble and hesitate during their recovery. Facing demons is damn heroic.
Let us also concede, however, that only a portion of these quivering piles of feminine gelatin have any proposed traumas in their backstory. Enter Bella Swan again. Theoretically, she was drawn as a clumsy underdog to make her relatable to the “every girl”. Same with Anastasia Steele. If they seem mortal and vulnerable, then any girl can find love with Edward or Christian (…and be physically abused by her partner–wait, that’s a different feminist literary issue).
The problem, of course, is that in the wide, wild world of women, we possess so many other different types of charms that the simple, shaken variety needn’t be our go-to. Coy and embarrassed isn’t a good look on most people, and I dread the thought of teenaged girls putting on the “oops” act to seem like they need a caregiver more than a partner or minion.
Now, there are plenty of instances where the heroine is good-and-plenty traumatized, as in the newest book I just picked up, “Poison Study”, by Maria V. Snyder. Her “lady of woe” is Yelena, and she seems to have assertiveness Tourette’s. One moment she is too shell-shocked to focus on swirling visions in front of her, and the next she is leaping to her feet and chiding or threatening a powerful superior who could execute her with a crook of his finger. There is something very real about her suffering and paralyzing flashbacks, but I picked up the book not to read about recovery and perseverance, but rather to read about a fantastical life at court with poisons and intrigue. The author has snagged us with a bait and switch. Utilizing trauma as a plot device is a bit like torture porn or grief porn. Every now and then I can stomach it, but not too often.
Where have all the plucky heroines gone? I am craving a leading lady who is so gritty that she tells herself, “Fuck the tremors, I want some revenge. Where’s the plunger and a hot poker?” I want more Rachel Morgans and Mercy Thompsons. Us grown-ass ladies know how wonderful and deliciously wicked they are, but the young folk may not realize what a firebrand the hard-luck lady can be.
If you still aren’t convinced, consider carefully that you almost never read novels with male protagonists who tremble and cower, who bite their lower lip, stutter, and twirl their locks nervously around their fingers. They can eat their broth without spilling a drop, and they certainly don’t swoon. This is a woman problem.
So what kind of commentary is this on young women in our time? To all of the authors out there, I want you to remember that ladies, even those of us who have been terribly hurt, are not beaten dogs. We are fierce fucking bears who lie in wait for our moment to strike. So let’s start showing the literary world what it’s like when we show our teeth.
A terribly true story of my great-great grandfather, Lorenzo, and his brother, Rufus, taken directly from eyewitness accounts in court records.
On the afternoon of September 16, 1884, Rufus Eldridge and Lorenzo “Ron” Stevens, farmers living on adjoining properties in London, Ontario, drove their horse-drawn wagon to Nilestown, Ontario to purchase “domestic supplies”.
Lorenzo was a 41 year-old bachelor who managed the family farm and cared for his mother. Rufus was his 48 year-old half-brother and close friend who was recently married and had just become a father for the first time. His son Freddie was a little over one year old.
The two journeyed to Nilestown that day, as they had so often in the past, probably to purchase goods like sugar, fabrics, or fencing. As the pleasant afternoon turned to evening, the brothers were apparently in no great rush to get home. They settled in at the Nilestown Hotel with drinks, their wagon and horses stationed nearby. It was there, at the saloon, where they came across strangers John Richards, William Butt, Edward Noulty, and Henry L’Ansette, among others.
UPDATE: SOLVED! It was 24 days that we went without seeing Lady Mel, but on June 5, she reemerged from her hidey hole. No full explanation has been given for the inconsistencies from her office and schedules, but it’s probably safe to assume that she had medical issues to overcome. She may have been sicker than we ever thought, or was working to overcome some kind of addiction. Odds are, we will never know the true details. And I suppose that’s fine. The important thing is that she appears to be okay. Still…something really fishy was going on. The whole thing still stinks.
Where is Melania Trump?
Melania Trump is missing. She has not been seen for 20+ days, during which time the White House has been cagey and misdirecting regarding her whereabouts. We have not seen her–not from a window, not from a balcony. We have not heard her voice. We have not read a Tweet typed by, or even dictated by our FLOTUS. And it all stems from a surprising and mysterious hospital procedure, followed by fake tweets, absences from major events and family trips, and a rattling silence from her office.
Listen, FLOTUS and I are from two completely different planets, and I have no clue how she has rationalized some of her life choices. But, she is our First Lady. This is an odd post, in that I hope it will become irrelevant and silly in a matter of just a few hours or days. But for now, it is exceptionally intriguing, and potentially very sad.
All we want to know is, where are you Lady Mel? Come home to us! Donald hasn’t had his tiny paws slapped away in weeks! I forgot how to BE BEST! #WheresMelania
Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale is a remarkable study of the human spirit that embodies exquisite acting, titillating visual imagery, and more tension than my poor smothered teddy bear can handle. But there is an arc to this season that is more than troubling–a xenolith of torture porn that exhibits no forward movement or even the promise of it: Emily and the colonies.
It isn’t just an interesting band name. “Emily and the colonies” is the bone spur of this season. There is no virtue or entertainment in watching women pull out their teeth and fingernails, and dig at the steaming earth over and over. There is no purpose to witnessing their decaying bondage, other than to string out June/Offred’s tale. The arc is so far gone in degrees of hope, and even reality, that it is a face-punching anchor on the entire season.
You may disagree with me entirely. But, even if you find a smidge of virtue in watching rotted bodies digging in the earth and washing their skin away at the sinks, you have to admit, there are some major problems with this storyline. So many questions. So much that makes no sense.
Genealogy nerds like me frequently weep and fan themselves to exhaustion over a gaping hole in America’s historical record: The 1890 U.S. Census is gone.
The original was destroyed. No copies exist. No scans. No photos. Therefore nearly all of it has been erased from history.
That, my friends, is no small deal. Every ten years since 1790, we have records of who lived where, with what family members, how old they were…and assorted other nuggets of personal history. Try to research your family history, and you will quickly understand what a treasure chest each census is–“oh look, my great-great grandfather was a ‘gentleman’ by profession in 1910, while in 1900, he was a fruit peddler.” I can tell you when my great grandparents took in my young, distant cousins (after their mother’s dress caught on fire from the stove, and her instincts to run across a field to a neighboring home while aflame were fatal). I can point to the empty, weed-filled lot in Detroit and say with confidence, “Yep, that was my family’s home for over fifty years.” I know all of this because of census records.
But thanks to a deep and bizarre mystery that culminated in the obliteration of the 1890 U.S. Census, I cannot track much of my American ancestors’ history and movement from 1881 to 1899. What happened to it? According to most stories it burned up in 1921. But that isn’t really the truth. Something far stranger happened, and to this day it isn’t clear at all why it happened.
This is the story of the 1890 U.S. Census and how it went from controversial marvel, to disappearing pile of ash. What you are about to read is a tale of greed, incompetence, and mystery.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only play one favorite workplace lunchroom game…it would have to be the ol’ desert island scenario.
There you are, you poor bastard. You’re stranded on a very tiny desert island for what you can only assume is an indefinite amount of time. A few concessions are made by the universe toward your predicament: Apparently, you have at least a meager source of fresh water and food–enough to survive, even if you get the “coconut runs” daily. Sadly, though, it is presumed in most scenarios that you have no companionship.
Curiously enough, whatever crisis led to your surprise crash or abandonment on the little island, you are given some options–maybe by the grace of generous pirates? Well-connected mer-people? So, now is the time to choose. Your benevolent porpoise or pirate wench has given you but moments to decide the small comfort you may be afforded for your eternal, sandy sabbatical. I hope you have your answers ready to go. Wish-granting squids are notoriously impatient.
If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only have…
I grew up listening to 1950s and 1960s “oldies” music on the radio and records and cassette tapes. It all seemed really normal since it was my mom’s favorite, until I realized that she was born in 1955, which means that she was still worshipping music from her preschool years–and worse yet, subjecting me to it throughout my impressionable youth. Thanks, Mom. I could have been raised on the Stones. Or The Doors. Or even ELO. Those were your contemporary groups! Instead, I spent the 80s listening to Buddy Holly and the Crickets tracks over and over on some enormous headphones that would’ve fit in at NASA.
Okay, I kind of like it. There were some epic tunes even back then, and I’m a little proud of knowing so many lyrics. But decades on, listening to and singing the same lyrics over and over and over, I’ve started to hear some of them in a much different light. I’m rocking out to some of the classics in my kitchen, washing dishes and cooking dinner, and suddenly I catch what I’m singing in front of my daughter and I’m halted upright and make that lemon-sucking face.
What did I just sing out loud? Oh my god, did I just sing about sexually attacking a teenager?!
And I want to hit the “next track” symbol or start nervously laughing at Alexa as if it was her fault the song came on. “Oh, Alexa! What kind of crazy music do you think I like? Ha. Ha. Yeah. Next track! NEXT TRACK!”. But the truth is, some of the creepiest songs are also the catchiest, so my finger hovers over the iPhone and then I just keep grooving, while making coughing noises and mumbling over the choicest lyrical bits.
Damnit, Baby Boomers, you guys are messed up. Your generation sang about some pretty sick relationships, and you weren’t trying to be shocking or emo. You were happy and bopping about it! Dudes. Messed up.
Can’t recall what I’m talking about? I present as evidence, five pretty horrible offenders:
Some months ago I started spasming over what was a series of condescending and creepy ads put out by TD Ameritrade and their “green room”, which, in many ads, appears to be little more than a “beaver trap” for Mr. Beardy and the two cockroaches presumably living in his face rug. So I created a Mr. Beardy dartboard to relieve some of my tension and save the life of my wibbly-wobbly television set. Who knew this off-the-cuff rant and mental slip would turn into–by far–the most popular post I have ever written?
It turns out, people are really fascinated by Mr. Beardy. Some of the very colorful comments received on the aforementioned post have ranged from blinding rage to romantic enchantment (I presume, mostly, because of the proposed hypnotic qualities of the beard). Oh, and the occasional hostility toward people who are hostile to Mr. Beardy. Eh.
So who is he? Allow me to introduce the man who has people and cockroaches alike so worked up: The actor portraying the TD Ameritrade financial therapizer is Jim Conroy. He is mostly known for his animated voiceover work, but has also been spotted in a few other TV ads.
Jim Conroy appears as “Frank” in an AT&T spot
Jim Conroy sniffs Tide detergent in an ad
The page of Jim’s career that has blown my mind the most, though, is his role as…..Ruff Ruffman!
Parents with kids age 8-13 probably know who I’m talking about. From 2006 to 2010, there was a charming animated PBS show called FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman. Watch a bit here for the craziness of recognizing our TD Ameritrade guy’s voice!
Crazy. I unknowingly have listened to our cockroach-bearded guy for hours upon hours. Who knew?
This is an important lesson, though for the TD Ameritrade commercial viewers out there: Jim Conroy is an actor. He is not a financial advisor. His “trustworthiness” is not a reflection on the merits of TD Ameritrade (only their advertising department). And it turns out, I have a fair amount of respect for Jim Conroy and his previous work, as Ruff Ruffman was a pretty great character who brought my daughter a lot of happiness.
However, we all still have full permission to hate the TD Ameritrade financial therapizer character. Or find him sexy. Whatever your bag. I stand by my observations that the “green room” Mr. Beardy lures people to is nothing more than a serial killer’s den, and that the women are probably stuffed in a cellar that can be accessed by a trapdoor under the pool table. Probably with the help of “Bryan”, who is willing to do anything Mr. Beardy says, as long as he gets to stroke the beard and is never called “Brian” with an “I”.
More to the point, though, it still remains true, TD Ameritrade writers/dickfaces, that ladies don’t need your validation of how busy we are, or to have lazy analogies about golf swings dumped in front of us (although, I think our Mr. Beardy character may have gone a little rogue on that one just to get Golf Lady naked and tied up). The point is, these ads are still condescending and creepy. But the actor Jim Conroy might just be alright. Or not. Only his cockroaches truly know.
Since posting this, Jim Conroy has been kind enough to comment on this post. As you can read below, he is very gracious and has a much-appreciated sense of humor. I thought it was worth reiterating: I like the actor, Jim Conroy, and actually really, really admire some of his work. Ruff Ruffman, man. Ruff Ruffman. It’s only the character of the financial therapizer and sportsman (and suspected serial killer) who is awful. And this country’s weird pro-beard fetish we have going on. What’s up with that? Anyway, I’ve even found that the TD Ameritrade ads are getting more reasonable and tolerable. Maybe they hired some women?
Eh, or maybe I’m just losing my cranky edge and my heart is softening like gooey cream cheese. I actually waved hello at a neighbor today. Something’s off here. Maybe I need more vitamins. Or wine. Or vitamin-fortified wine and a fake beard to learn what it’s like.
In any event, Jim Conroy has my sincere thanks for being such a good sport and for being such a class act. Unlike myself. Until I get that fake beard and vita-wine going, I mean. Then I’ll be almost as classy as he is. But not quite.
“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”
Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hung in the Oval Office, and the former POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.
I’m declaring a brand-new holiday from this year forward: THANKSTIVUS!
It will be observed on the traditional Thanksgiving day. The holiday does not require decoration, but should you choose to, the thematic colors are blue and black, to symbolize the bruising of our souls by Thanksgivings of years past.
The celebration of Thankstivus should be observed as follows: First, all parties must sleep in until a very late hour, for family is exhausting. Then all participants gather at one home in the mid to late afternoon. Children should be immediately evacuated to an insulated room elsewhere in the house with nourishment and entertainment to last hours.
Thanksgiving is a pretty ugly time of year. Lots of turkey carnage. And the whole guilt over what was done to the Indians. It’s a slaughtering holiday. The weather is hideous–all brown and cold, with no excuses to get some fresh air and go for a walk. There’s some kind of ludicrous law that most people have to watch football or they’ll die. And I’m supposed to get up early the next day and go shopping?
Plus there’s the annual scene of my dad hacking away at a turkey carcass in the kitchen yelling at everyone not to eat any appetizers–the ones I was asked to bring, mind you–while I am horribly drunk on boxed wine because my empty stomach always thinks dinner will come sooner than it does. Hey, Dad gets what he gets when he tells me to stay away from my own plate of cheese and crackers! Well, after I slur my way through dinner conversations about tired family memories, and I’ve crammed plenty of stuffing and potatoes in my face, the whole time trying not to embarrass my mom or make her cry (as has happened multiple years in the past), it’s time for my dad to pass out in a turkey coma in the recliner.
L.M. Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables has inspired dozens and dozens of Annes on film and television since the book’s original publication in 1908. But, to my mind, there are only three worth real consideration: First, the famous and extremely popular 1985 adaptation that starred Megan Follows, long considered the modern gold standard of Montgomery’s vision. And then there have been two new versions causing quite a flutter recently, with fresh takes on Carrots and her fellow Prince Edward Island adventurers. The first came out late 2016 and aired in the U.S. chiefly on PBS stations (though the first installment is currently available to Amazon Prime streaming subscribers). The second debuted on Netflix in 2017.
So how do they stack up? Are any of these new Annes worthy of the Lake of Shining Waters or puff sleeves? I’m spitting out my lime once more, setting down my glass of gin, and cracking my knuckles in anticipation of another great showdown between rival cinematic loves. Just as with the Longbourn Showdown (Ahem, Pride and Prejudice fans), this will be much like Thunderdome, but with ipecac and red currant wine! So scoop the mouse out of the plumb pudding sauce and get ready!
(Hey BranFans! This update was crafter after the airing of Season 7, and is still totally worth reading. Once you’ve done that, be sure to head to my conclusion of Bran’s Season 8 finale.)
Brandon Stark is a villain. Make no mistake. If you are a Game of Thrones fan and have not already read my argument on How Bran Stark is the Villain No One Saw Coming, please do take a few moments and read the case to be made for his dark nature and what may be driving him.
Now that season 7 of the television series has aired, it is worth examining how my theory has held up in the season or so since I first published it.
Because I’m a fancy pants, I can say that I drained my bank account dry to fly across the ocean and sit at various cafes around Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany not long ago. Food and drink were gorgeously abundant, but none were so surprising as the popular drink, the Hugo. If you’re pretending to be European, then go on and pronounce it “Oogo”. These were served (and overcharged for) at every restaurant we stopped at, and we found that Trier, Germany even had Hugo stands right in the middle of the marketplace. For this, I applaud the people of Europe. We need more cocktail stands around here.
Anyway, it is a delicious and bubbly light summer drink, best served out of a wine glass and with a straw and some ice. It’s true. I know it sounds crass, but that is truly how it’s served. Not too sweet, and not at all bitter. This is what you drink on a gorgeous summer afternoon or evening while soaking up the fresh air.
Here is the recipe for a single cocktail:
2-3 Fresh Mint Leaves
1 part Elderflower Syrup/Extract
3 parts Brut Sparkling Wine (a Luxembourg vintage is preferred, but an Italian Prosecco will also serve)
1 Lime Wedge
Combine in a wine glass. Boom. I mean, you may want to squeeze the lime and muddle the mint leaves a bit, but no need to get too precious.
My summer love, Orange is the New Black, has given us one of the greatest most disturbing meta stories ever: The Time Hump Chronicles. Crazy Eyes’s erotic fiction that she penned for drama class is the highlight of the show’s third season, and makes me wish it was real. The closest thing we have to it is what the script writers came up with and had actress Uzo Aduba scrawl onto curly sheets of worn paper. That is “Suzanne Warren’s” actual handwriting, and Aduba has admitted that there is a full story written out there. Can we ever hope to read it in its entirety? Praise Norma that it may be so. Until then, I have done my level best to reconstruct what the show has actually revealed to us on the written page. This is no fan fiction. You will find no poster mock-ups or vampires, especially because they’re so derivative. This is the actual text as written by our very special Crazy Eyes.
THE TIME HUMP CHRONICLES: Two People Connecting…With Four Other People…and Aliens
If you watch a lot of television, especially CNN, as I do, then you know the bearded TD Ameritrade douchebag. He patronizes women, telling them that their life savings is a fortune (….ha, as if! Watch him try not to giggle at their poorness). He therapizes stay-at-home moms condescendingly and, I assume fraudulently, because who the hell is a financial therapist, you creeper? And he does it all while talking out of his fussy beard. I hate that beard. I really want to punch that financial stalker straight in the beard.
Since I can’t do that since that would mostly mean punching my TV which might then weeble-wobble right off the table and break forever, I have developed a solution. I give you, the TD Ameritrade Creeper Beard Dartboard!
Rules: Play darts as you normally would, but you get 50 points if you hit him in the beard.
Gather ’round, gather ’round! I am about to unveil a Golden Girls spectacular of thrills, chills, and excitement. It gives me great pleasure – nay, embarrassment – to introduce to you a game I have invented for those lonely nights when all you want to do is have a slice of cheesecake around a Miami wicker kitchen table with a few old broads.
Here is a game to help you rank and discover what truly is the GREATEST Golden Girls episode of all-time. Or you can make it a drinking game. Which is probably a lot more fun/dangerous. But I don’t know if I want Rose Nylund flashbacks the next morning with lipstick smears all over the screen, so it’s your call.
Here’s what you need to play:
A love for Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose
A few episodes of The Golden Girls ready to roll
A pen and paper*
(*you may substitute a box of wine if you do not own a pen and paper)
Now, start your engines and away we go! As you watch episodes, you’ll need to keep score of each episode’s happenings, and here’s how to do it.
The Great Golden Girls Game Scorecard!
Mark points on your scorecard for the following Golden Girls moments:
(1 point) A late-night dessert is eaten in the kitchen while discussing a problem or date
(2 bonus points) If that dessert is cheesecake
(1 point) Every lover or group of lovers that Blanche mentions by name
(5 points) If the girls scream in horror after discovering two people in bed together
(2 points) Each time Sophia says, “Picture it….” followed by a location and year
(3 points) Each time Rose mentions a St. Olaf resident (not her, Charlie, or their kids) by NAME
(5 points) Each time Rose mentions a St. Olaf pet or livestock by NAME
(1/2 point) Each time someone says “Shady Pines”
(2 points) For every family member that comes to stay with the girls
(1 bonus point) If the visitor is one of Blanche or Rose’s daughters, and the daughter acts like a total bitch
(2 points) Every time Dorothy asks a guest to leave the house
(3 points) Every time they have to call 911, or fear that Sophia’s dying “Maaa!!!”
(1/2 point) Each time Sophia makes a farting joke
(2 points) If Stan comes to the house
(4 bonus points) If Stan brings the monkey cone with him
(6 points) If any of the four girls sing or dance during the episode (limit one scoring per episode)
(2 points) If Sophia talks about a Sicilian curse
(4 bonus points) If we see Sophia put a curse on anyone!
(1/2 point) Each time Dorothy is mocked for getting pregnant as a teen
(4 points) If there’s a wedding (whether or not the bride backs out beforehand)
(5 points) If “The Cheeseman” is mentioned
(-3 points) If they help a wayward child/person in need
(-1 point) For every celebrity cameo as him/herself (I’m looking at you, Sonny Bono!)
(-1 points) If Carol, Barbara, Dr. Westin, or Dreyfus appear, in what is surely a sad, sad spinoff tie-in attempt
Over 35 years ago, the young Republican up-and-comers in Washington were called up to serve the new president, Ronald Reagan. Saint Reagan reached down from his “shining hill on the city”, pulled them up from the pits of Carter hell, anointed them, and in turn they pledged their undying fealty. “Forever, Master Reagan.”
Today these same people men are in their 50s and 60s, with a lot more visible nose hair and bad comb-overs, and are now the “swamp things” who squawk on talk radio, write political speeches, and blather on 24-hour news channels. And it is these vassals whom we can thank for our country’s strange and undue esteem for Saint Reagan as the epitome of successful presidents and brilliant political thinkers. He wasn’t.
You know what? I’ll just let President Reagan explain it himself. I’ve pulled the old resurrect-a-tron out of the closet, dusted it off, and prepared it to bring Reagan back just for this explanation. I just needed to load it with some gold cufflinks, Chesterfield cigarettes, jellybeans, an American flag, and some cowboy boots, and it was fired up and ready to go.
I’ve been a bit obsessed by the The Wars of the Roses lately. I look at it like a really, really old season of Scandal, just with much worse hygiene. But apparently I’m not alone in my fascination, because author George RR Martin has made no secret that his A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) is based loosely on The Wars of the Roses. Cool. GRRM gets it.
Now, while the books/TV show that you and I know by heart is no allegory for the multi-decade conflict, there are a whole lot of parallels we can draw. So here is where I tear into the major characters like I am Henry VIII clawing apart a whole roasted chicken (I know, I know, the Tudors come later, but seriously, that man could really eat!).
Today in my Jane Austen confessional, I admit that I love both recent modern adaptations of Pride and Prejudice–that is to say, both the 1995 BBC version, and the 2005 Keira Knightley version. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, particularly when it comes to casting. I was recently mulling over a glass of gin, watching the lime wedge twirl around inside of it and muttering about what would make the perfect adaptation if only I could breed the two versions and add my own bits. There was a lot of wild gesturing, especially when I got to the bits about the Darcy performances. And since that seemed to keep me distracted for a couple hours, I figure it’s probably time that I put fingers to keyboard and organized my thoughts on the matter, sans gin.
Just to make this fun, let us do this in true showdown fashion. Like Thunderdome, but with more ribbons and carriages.
Jennifer Ehle vs. Keira Knightley
Neither are the perfect Lizzie whom I pictured while reading the book. Ehle’s take on Lizzie is a little too sweet and coy. What is supposed to be a slightly cutting and wry wit is softened maybe just a tad too much. Whereas, Knightley goes too far in the opposite direction, making Lizzie a bit too moody and angry, and worst of all, not terribly clever. Appearance-wise, Knightley is almost entirely wrong. I do love her wardrobe immensely, but she is far, far too skinny for this role and would have been considered sickly looking for the time. In contrast, Ehle is much more fitting. It is only a shame that they did not allow her looks to be a little less formal. I wanted my Lizzie to have a just slightly feral look to her–not quite as buttoned up and pinned as her peers. Still, though I loved Knightley’s chemistry with her Darcy, this one hands down goes to Ehle!
Winner: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet
Susannah Harker vs. Rosamund Pike
Sweet, shy Jane. This is not a terribly challenging role, I imagine, but it is nevertheless important to pull off the perfect tone. Lean the wrong way, and Jane acts like a simple fool, or worse, a simpering lump of clay. And this is where Harker treads ever so slightly. Both Janes are all sweetness and humility, but Harker fails to demonstrate even the mildest passion, even when Jane is hushed away in a bedchamber with her little sister. Too sedate. Pike, on the other hand, was able to achieve the coyness and gentleness of spirit, while still seeming ensnared by the idea of romance. That extra breath of life gives Pike the edge. Plus…you know. Come on, let’s just out with it: There were some beauty issues with Harker. Allow me to declare firmly that Susannah Harker is a true beauty. But the 1995 styling did her no favors–especially in the hair department–and her pregnancy during filming altered her delicate facial features into a more mannish appearance. Trust me, she has my utmost sympathies on this count. While I dislike neither Jane, I must choose but one, so here it is.
I guess I am a list maker. Ranking, rating, reviewing. Love it. And conceding that this is the case, and that my love of entertainment and fun has left me swirling in a vortex of lists, I had better include the most ubiquitous one there is: The Greatest Movies of All-Time! [echo, echo, echo!]
So here it is, my highly subjective list that is based on criteria including:
Insight into the Human Spirit
Notice what isn’t on this list: Award and box office numbers. Toss out academic ideas about what was most influential on other filmmakers, which movies defined certain eras, or which roles were the high watermark for a certain performer’s career. I care little about benchmarks or importance, and more about the personal experience–specifically, my personal experience. In fact, the last criterium on my list–“General Enjoyment” is probably the most heavily weighted. Even if a movie is considered a cinematic pile of shit, if it is ceaselessly entertaining, then it matters. A lot. (This is something the Academy Awards will never understand.)
So without further drudgery, I submit to you my list of the greatest movies ever made, according to my own completely subjective, yet excruciatingly perfect opinion:
1. The Godfather & The Godfather Part II
Fredo’s banana daiquiris, Sonny’s bridesmaid, the cannoli, Kate’s willful ignorance, Moe Green’s eyeball, the priest renouncing satan, Michael reaching behind the chain toilet, a young Clemenza helping himself to a rug.
2. The Big Lebowski
The caucasian cocktails, Jesus bowling over the line, the lingonberry pancake-eating nihilists, the porno sketch on the notepad, Dude dancing to a Willie Nelson song, the ferret in the bathtub, and the fucking rug that tied the room together.
3. Spirited Away
The soot sprites collapsing under their coal, the alarmist frog being eaten and spat out, the valuable railway ticket, the giant baby hidden in the pillows, the soak tokens for the big tub, the paper birds hitching a ride, a young girl who loves a river spirit, and our beautiful No Face who needs to stay with Granny for his own good.
If you can’t get enough CNN, and Wolf Blitzer’s sexy monotone run-on sentences have you all alight, then you, friend, are the perfect candidate for the Wolf Blitzer Drinking Game! Let’s make an intoxicating game out of the end of the world. Let’s get Blitzered.
That’s it. Any more and you would die.
Special thanks to readers Katy and Lyle for their suggestions on making this game even greater!
I cannot explain it. I have been obsessed lately with the idea that the movie Groundhog Day needs to be remade. With Bill Murray.
There, let’s get that first detail out of the way right now before too many of you roll your eyes about 80s and 90s classics being remade with peppy new soundtracks and overloaded jokes about texting a Twitter to make it au courant. I in no way advocate for a remake starring Mark Wahlberg or Melissa McCarthy. No, we need the man back. The funniest goddamn man on this planet: Bill Murray.
With that in mind, just consider all the ways in which we could elevate a cute, schlocky early-90s comedy into one of the greatest films of all time. The plot is already there–it’s a classic tale of magic, human nature, and redemption. We just need to strip away some of the varnish, the bouncy 90s soundtrack, and all of Andie MacDowell’s vests. And Andie MacDowell, who seriously is just a terrible actress.
People, I have a vision. A grand vision about how this could be brilliant. But there are rules. And none of these rules can be broken, or my adolescence will be retroactively ruined (more than it already was).
Rule #1: It Must Star Bill Murray
The excellent news is that the plot is not reliant at all on him being middle age. As of this posting, he is 66 years old, and the story will still work just perfectly. No reason he can’t have late-in-life new love, right?
He is still pitch-perfect, devilishly handsome, and the only man who can pull of this role properly. I don’t even know why I need to lay out this argument.
For nearly one hundred years in England’s history, a knot of noble families fought over the royal throne in a giant, messy multi-generational screw-you fest that history has dubbed “The Wars of the Roses”.
This title is a misnomer, of course. The murder, deception, and power mongering went far beyond any battlefield. So not simply a war.
And furthermore, though history tries to explain this era as being a battle between two families–each represented by a rose–that ignores a lot of historical context, and a whole lot of players from other families and other countries. So not really strictly about roses either.
Maybe they should have called it The Great English Stink instead. Eh, guess no poets were on hand to think of it. Shakespeare really dropped the ball on this one, eh?
“You will smell the white rose! Smell it! Smellllll it!”
Forget Joffrey and his crossbow. Or even Ramsey Bolton and his dogs (and his knife, and his sausage, etc.). It could just be that the biggest, most monstrous villain that Westeros has ever seen is, in fact, Bran Stark of Winterfell. Bran, the climbing boy who was pushed out of a tower window. The boy who dreamed of being a knight. It just might be that he found a lurking inner darkness and heeded the call of his very sinister destiny.
My eyeballs are still wide and the snack foods are still crusted to the plates from my binge watching of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. (Sorry, I skipped the Pop-Tarts and Red Vines, and went with a baked brie and some stuffing and mashed potatoes all left over from yesterday’s Thanksgiving.) But here it is. My review of the four seasons of A Year in the Life. And, of course, my take on the final four words. I am also going to go ahead and update my previous ranking of every single Gilmore Girls episode to include Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. (HINT: one of them makes it into the top ten!)
Please be advised, total SPOILERS ahead.
The seasons weren’t the only thread running through the four episodes that brought our girls back to us. Really, this “year in the life” was a throwback to season 4, during which all three Gilmore girls were struggling and, eventually, falling apart. Back then, Emily bought glass apples, and took up smoking in a silk robe. Lorelai ran out of a salon with wet hair and blubbered all over Luke’s shoulder. And Rory started an affair with Dean. Sigh. This time, as we travel through the better part of twelve months, we see Emily give away her belongings and wear jeans. Lorelai goes solo camping, more or less. And Rory has an affair with Logan. Sigh. Well, at least their characters are consistent in how they deal with life crises. This seems like a fitting place to pick up the story since we are witnessing the ladies violently evolve into the next phase of their lives.
Oh, Rory. You’re 34 and that whole journalism thing never took off for you. I feel so bad for her, and a bit curious that she never got a position at a paper, but it also seems like Rory has trouble settling in one place. For the last thirteen years she has been bouncing from home to home, continent to continent, and (apparently) lover to lover. So this is probably mostly self-sabotage. Still, I feel her pain. I also went through a period in my life trying to scratch out a living in the writing field by jumping from project to project. Lots of irons in lots of fires. But by age 30, I realized that it wasn’t working and I wanted more stability. Let’s just call Rory a slow learner on this subject. Well, and let’s plainly understand that the girl is undoubtedly living off of a trust fund or two–hence being able to casually afford plane tickets back and forth over the Atlantic Ocean a few times a week, and a Brooklyn apartment that was never lived in.
The Paul schtick was cute and modestly funny, but a little out of place. Yes, this is typical of Rory to hang on and beat up boytoys that she is too cautious to discard. But two years? Ouch. Poor Paul. And how on earth did these two hook up un the first place? Sadly, I think Paul stands out too much as a walking, talking recurring joke. He might as well be wearing a sign around his neck that reads, “plot device”. Still, I won’t kibitz, as this is far from the most offensive sin of the reboot.
And then there’s Logan. Even as a person rooting for Jess (don’t make me say “Team Jess”, please), I couldn’t help but squeee a little when I saw her and Logan romantically linked again. I mean, it felt weird knowing that Paul was in the picture, and knowing that the whole “no strings” plan isn’t Rory. We’ve been through this already. She needs strings. She wants strings. She is the biggest Pinocchio in the world. So we know already that is going to blow up.
Around town, my Kirk-filled heart was not disappointed when I learned about his continuing romance with Lulu and his new pig, Petal. And Kirk’s Ooober business was a highlight for me. I mean, Kirk’s already dabbled in the transportation industry before (remember the first Stars Hollow pedicab ride), so this seems like something he would absolutely try.
From the sick mind that ranked every episode of The West Wing comes the biggest, dopest, Stars Hollowy-ist ranking of every last freakin’ Gilmore Girls episode ever made–all 157.
This was no easy feat, mind you. Ranking these episodes required months of re-watching every season (for the upteenth time) and countless hours of careful thought, criticism, and plenty of coffee, my friends. Let me tell you right off the bat that I’m a Jess fan, and I thought Digger wasn’t so bad. There. Phew. I got that out there. And Christopher? King of the Ruiners. I hate him the way Taylor hates the long-haired town troubadour (I just start pulling at my hair and mumbling to myself about vegetable soup, carts, kiosks, and cart-kiosks.). But more than focusing on a single character, I did my best to weigh how much I enjoyed each episode, and how much they fit in with the show and characters that we know and love. Lorelai playing racquetball? No. Mrs. Kim serving tofurkey? Yes. Rory going to the gym? No. Taylor convincing the town to build a giant haybale maze? Yes.
Ah, the modern Doctor Who episodes. So many handsome Doctors, so many companions, so many catchphrases! Oh, how can one glorious human attempt to rank each and every (modern) episode of the arguably greatest show in television history? Basically with a lot of coffee, maybe some wine, and an incredibly patient spouse.
Be forewarned that I do have a lot of affection for light-hearted romps and historical / literary episodes. Oh, and I play favorites with certain companions. It’s no secret that I simply adore Rose and Doctor Donna with every beat of my single human heart. And while I have a gentle fondness for Mickey, Rory, Craig, Clara, Nardole, and Bill, and a meager tolerance for Amy and her narcissism, there is no quibbling about how much I loathe Martha.
Yes, I said it. Love her as you will, Marthites! But the woman couldn’t keep her mouth closed most of the time and spent most of her episodes bumbling in confusion and requiring rescue over and over. Her puppy dog crush was just pathetic to watch, and Freema Agyeman’s acting skills were cringe-worthy. Worst of all though, she becomes a soldier. A soldier!
Anyway, where was I? Is it hot in here? Yes, I’m sweating. Stupid Martha.
Well, what I have achieved is, quite humbly, magnificent perfection and probably the final word on the subject. Right? I’m sure no one can disagree with me. And should you feel tempted to allow outrage to course through your veins, remember that your cup of tea may not be mine. Maybe you’re a Marthite, or a confused Donna Hater. And if you haven’t invested the hours in organizing your thoughts on the matter into a very thoughtful list that was endlessly tinkered with, then your opinion should be shushed! This project was a lot harder than it looked at the outset.
113. “Daleks in Manhatten” / “Evolution of the Daleks” (season 3, episode 4-5)
Pig-men. Vapid caricatures of 1930s New Yorkers. One ridiculous Dalek in a pin-stripe suit. More pig-men. Love story. Martha. More pig-men. I’ll confess to you right now that I really love nearly every Dalek episode, mostly because I find their angry tin voices and quizzical eye stalks just adorable. But also because, respect. But these two episodes sullied the name of Dalek with this insultingly ridiculous beauty-and-the-beast style plot cloaked in a forced thematic setting. There was so much ripe fruit in the 1930s era for the writers to pick from–serious topics that would do justice to all of the economic turmoil, innovation, bravery, and terrifying warfare. And this is what they gave us. And worst of all, they made us sit through it in two agonizing long parts. With Martha Jones. Almost unwatchable.
112. “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” (2016 Christmas Special)
Superheroes. Ugh. One of the many beauties of Doctor Who is that we didn’t need a human with oddly specific superpowers prancing around in masks, disguising his voice, and saving energetic, but naive damsels. We just needed an alien being to show us that humans are, sometimes, powerful in their own right, without radioactive spiders, nuclear accidents, etc. So, holy balls, was I disappointed that Moff decided to cash in on the superhero movie craze. It seemed lazy and jarringly out of place. And all for a Christmas episode! This wasn’t holly or jolly, and it was an insulting gimmick episode that really pissed me off. Worst. Christmas. Episode. Ever. Points Lost For: American episode. Not really sure why superheroes have to be from New York. And continues the trend that American episodes are the worst.
111. “Sleep No More” (season 9, episode 9)
I am mostly speechless after watching this episode. I mean, eye crusty monsters? EYE CRUSTY monsters? No. That makes no sense. And The Doctor agrees with me, because he said as much. But, since canonically speaking, nothing in this episode happened, it’s okay that it didn’t make sense?…? See? It’s even confusing to hate and review this episode. We must have been very bad fans this year and the writers wanted to punish us by asking us to sit through 40+ minutes of this Blair Witch-style eye crusty warning.
110. “Planet of the Dead” (2009, special 1)
What show am I watching? Who is this awful be-wigged woman with far too many convenient talents? Well, if Lady Christina de Souza was auditioning for the role of future companion, she failed miserably. Even the lonely Doctor looked at her and said, “Yeahh, but…I have to wash my hair tonight. And feed my cat. No companions. I’m allergic to humans. And wigs. Bye now.”
109. “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” (season 7, episode 10)
I swear, I want the TARDIS to have an excellent backstory, but this isn’t it. Sexy is a victim here, as much as we are, of not just the insultingly stupid Van Baalen brothers, but also a worthless reset-button resolution. Worst of all, Clara is reduced to a bumbling damsel in distress. Where is our Warrior Clara? Where is our Warrior Sexy? A glimpse of the library and pool may be worth the price of admission, but the ladies of contemporary Whodom deserved better tributes and a chance to really show what they can do.
108. “The Next Doctor” (2008 Christmas special)
So here we are in a yuletide mope because The Doctor is without a companion, having just lost Donna Noble. In trade, the writers decided to tease the audience whilst bringing in Col. Brandon…I mean, David Morrissey…as a temporary companion. But his brain damage is barely endearing, and the whole episode comes off as a not-so-clever audience prank that just won’t end. Even the Fake Doctor’s Companion, Rosita, was just a little bit insulting. She has the crassness of Donna, the incompetence of Martha, and nothing but the name of Rose. And don’t forget that hiddeous wig. (What is it with wigs on the guest stars during Ten’s companionless swan song?) Plus, Cybermen. Yawn. Even the chief villain, Ms. Hartigan, is lazily named. Yes we get it: In her final moments she briefly had a heart again. Yawn. And more yawn. Overall, this was one of the lousiest Christmas specials for lacking substantial emotion, a viable plot, or anything like holiday spirit. The only redeeming bit: The Doctor speaking of his companions. “They break my heart.” So much sadness and misery. But why must the writers spread it to us?
107. “In the Forest of the Night” (season 8, episode 10)
In defense of a very hated episode: The protective forest growing in the middle of London is a cool idea, and the special effects were very beautiful. I was also glad to get to know Clara’s students a little better, and for once I actually liked some kids on this show. There. I said something nice. So now I can get to the truth. This episode was a disaster of silly writing. Where were all the people of London? Why the hell was Annabelle hiding in a shrub? Clara really wouldn’t save her students just so they can go die in their parents’ arms, right? And she couldn’t use her damn spaceship/time machine to go get the parents? And shut the fuck up, Danny Pink. Man. Soldier Dan can seriously go fuck himself with his jealousy and douchiness.
106. “Into the Dalek” (season 8, episode 2)
Does anyone else hear Van Morrison singing when they read this episode title? Anyway, here we have Innerspace, but with a Dalek instead of Martin Short (look it up). This was a drawn out, whiny crisis for the Doctor as he tries to still decide whether he’s good or not. And what does “good” mean anyway? Apparently it means boring. Missed opportunity for a lot of fun and wonder being inside a Dalek. Too heavy and too long.
105. “42” (season 3, episode 7)
Wouldn’t it have been better if I could’ve ranked this episode 42nd? Huh? Eh? Yeah, no. That’s not gonna happen, because this was a really bland trapped-on-a-ship episode. In fact it’s so forgettable, I keep thinking, “Wow, remember that other trapped-on-a-ship episode that was so much better? I wish I was ranking that one right now.” Plus, Martha. To the credit of the Marthites, I will say that she was somewhat less obnoxious here than in other outings. Wait, never mind, the whole thing ends with her mom, Francine, being a giant douchey snitch. Marthites, you get no credit here.
104. “A Town Called Mercy” (season 7, episode 3)
Whew boy, it’s another Americana-themed episode. Think, Robocop meets some terrible western movie. Setting aside my respect for themes of reality and regret, both with the one-off characters, and our normally bouncy Eleven, this is a sleepy outing. And worst of all, it feels like the Ponds have stayed too long. Points lost for: Bad makeup effects. Points lost for: Doctor wielding a gun.
103. “The Lazarus Experiment” (season 3, episode 6)
Ugh, a super Martha-centric episode. I’ll get to the terrible scorpion monster and formulaic bite-sized plot in a moment. But first, it’s Martha…and her family. To anyone who ever criticized Jackie Tyler for being shrill or obnoxious, I’ll say at least she didn’t directly and purposely endanger the Doctor. In fact, Jackie went to great pains multiple times to save him. But now we meet Martha’s mom who is nothing short of Super Asshole. And it turns out Tish, much like sis Martha, is really good as baddy bait (see also: “The Sound of the Drums”). Ugh. The writers must really, really hate Martha to draw her family so terribly. But oh, yes there was a plot here, too, right? Ehh. This plot. Even Lazarus, in his mind, had to be like, “Man, this is a really terrible idea, this miracle of mine. I mean horrible. So many awful things are going to happen to me and people around me. But I’m bored. And I could endanger multiple members of the Jones family, so, eh, why not? Call the caterer.” Not only is this episode lazy, but it fuels my Martha rage.
102. “Utopia” / “The Sound of the Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords” (season 3, episode 11-12-13)
While “Utopia” would’ve been a decent story on its own-tho, by the time we get down to the real business of The Master and his reign as Saxon-tho, I find that I actually sort of liked Martha. Yeah, I said it. She actually kicked ass in this run, and that is really, REALLY rare for her. She only was kidnapped once! (…although her family continued to prove their worthlessness.) The Master was a pretty darn interesting arc, and I adored his portrayal. BUT the conclusion depicting the Doctor as a Christ-figure was waaay over the top. But then, Captain Jack! Face of Boe! Goodbye, Martha! But then, ewww, what is with the fetal Doctor makeup? Creepy. And, COM’ON WRITERS–this was yet another case of “we’ll sing you out of danger!”. Instead of singing, of course, it was thinking of the Doctor and how he died for our sins, or something like that. I don’t know. My ears were bleeding at this point-tho. Boy, this episode trio is really a mixed bag for me. Worth watching, with some beautiful nods to recurring story arcs and characters, but some heavy-handed religious symbolism that was pretty gross-tho.
101. “Gridlock” (season 3, episode 3)
Here we are again with badly wedged social commentary as a plot device–it was even a two-for-one commentary on how shitty we all are. Round and round the vehicles go, unaware they’ll never make their destination. Why? Because we like our mood altering drugs a bit too much, of course. Such sheep we are. Okay, seriously, some fantastic guest stars and one hella-stirring rendition of “Abide With Me” almost pull us away from the clutches of the evil Macra that live in our souls. And it mandatorily has to be ranked higher than it would otherwise because, The Face of Boe. Ah, it’s his final meeting that he promised the Doctor, and our unknowing goodbye to Capt. Jack. But just as I start to jack this episode up the list, because “Don’t go, Boe!”, then Martha stumbles in, immediately figures that a bad prop skeleton on the floor is the Doctor (yeah, pop your eyes out there, sweetie), and then stumbles onward in phony relief toward the Doctor’s voice, where she finds the FOB. And isn’t that just the piss in my Cheerios? After all his travels and accomplishments, after all his years and sacrifice, you know who the FOB sees among his last? Fucking Martha Jones and her flippant “Who’s he?” Sure, you’re at someone’s deathbed, just keep facially overacting and don’t be polite and address him directly or anything. What a waste of a tender goodbye at the end of a very long journey. And did I mention that most of the episode’s plot was centered around Martha getting kidnapped and needing rescue? Ugh. Won’t someone please get her back to her hospital already? Rest in peace at long last, Face of Boe.
Once upon a time there was a girl named Melody Pond who grew to be a psychopathic assassin, archaeologist, and wife of a Timelord. With such a CV, it’s no wonder that tracing her life and adventures is gobsmackingly confusing. After re-watching the series many times, I still twist my arms around each other pointing to an invisible air timeline when trying to sort out where River’s been and when.
First, we must understand that Melody may have led a perfectly innocent, normal life as the daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams, if the Kovarian Chapter of the Church of the Silence hadn’t chosen to travel through time and assassinate The Doctor. They made other attempts, all to no avail. So they chose the only known “time vortex” baby as the perfect potential assassin, all to prevent The Doctor from unleashing the tucked-away Timelords of Gallifrey on the universe. Kill The Doctor, save the world from brutal war. Technically they may have meant well. Sort of. But they grossly underestimated The Doctor and Melody Pond.
So here is the jumble that was Melody’s life, set in perfect chronological order. (Do I really need to say “Spoilers”!?)
I’ve gotten sucked into the trap before. I’m spending a casual evening with neighbors or family and in the background, some TV starts to show a rerun of The Big Bang Theory. “Oh!”, they declare excitedly, “Isn’t this show the greatest? Do you guys just love Sheldon?” No. No I don’t love Sheldon. I love not one thing about the show. And when this truth bears out in front of them–eye rolls and scoffs emoting wildly from my face–they act shocked and surprised. “We thought you guys would love this the most!”