Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Halloween Edition

Tonight trick or treaters will descend upon residences across the nation, in search of the elusive homes that give out full sized candy bars. I never did find them during my trick or treating tenure, but I have heard that they exist. Unfortunately I found plenty of houses that gave away raisins. May tonight’s participants in the Candy Games have better fortune.

So in between handing out goodies to members of the Avengers, Disney princesses and sullen teenagers with pillow cases, check out your biweekly roundup of pop culture stories.

  • The children of New Jersey may get a delayed Halloween, but they will get it. Governor Christie has said he will issue an Executive Order to move Halloween if things are too dangerous. A lot of people have been making fun of this, but I think it’s a nice gesture. I remember how devastated I was when I was little and the pediatrician said I was too sick to go trick or treating. One dramatic crying fit later and my parents were driving me house to house so I could still participate, if on a limited basis. So I’m glad that the children of Jersey won’t be disappointed. They need something to look forward to.
  • Inexplicably, amid all the terrible destruction and damage in New Jersey, The Jersey Shore house was untouched. I was not one to believe in the Mayan prophesy, but this might be enough to convince me.
  • More big news – the new season of Community finally has an official air date. The good news is that the show is back on Thursday nights. The bad news is that the season won’t start until February 7, 2013. NBC – YOU ARE KILLING ME!
  • In other news from the peacock network – NBC has passed on the Dwight Schrute focused The Office spin-off, The Farm. As of now, we’ll still see the pilot episode; it will air as an episode of The Office as originally planned. It probably can’t be worse than Mockingbird Lane, the failed pilot for NBC’s update of The Munsters that they burned off last week. Yowza – that was terrible.
  • NBC has also halted production on the ratings challenged Up All Night and will bring it back as a multi-camera show filmed in front of a studio audience. I’m really not sure how that is going to increase viewership, unless they are banking on audience members forcing their friends and family to watch to see the episode that they saw tape. Otherwise, I think this is putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
  • One last NBC note – for reasons that I do not understand the network is pulling all their Thursday night comedies this week. Instead, they are allegedly airing a repeat of The Voice. You read that correctly – A REPEAT. However, since 30 Rock has an election focused episode and Election Day is Tuesday (vote early and often!), 30 Rock will air tonight (Wednesday) at 8 pm. I officially give up on figuring out this network; perhaps the newly unemployed Crystal the Monkey (RIP Animal Practice) is now in charge of programming. That being said, they are doing better by 30 Rock than poor Community – their Halloween episode will air sometime in March.
  • Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on winning the World Series! I was pulling for them, though I will admit that I don’t think I watched one inning of the World Series this year. Even when the Yankees aren’t in it, I usually catch a game or two, but that just didn’t happen this time.
  • The first trailer for Iron Man 3 has been released

They were scouting a local location for this movie, but that apparently didn’t come to pass. Maybe for The Avengers 2?

  • I got a kick out of this Esquire article about the author’s experience at a casting call for The Rock’s new reality series The Hero.
  • In a recent interview Total Film magazine, Quentin Tarantino  hints that Inglourious Basterds and the upcoming Django Unchained are two pieces of an unofficial trilogy. I’m on board.
  • Mark your calendars – new episodes of Arrested Development are coming to Netflix April 2013.
  • What the what? Will Ferrell did an ad for Old Milwaukee beer – airing in Sweden.

 

  • Adam Sandler’s next movie will be a Western. God help us all.
  • Chloe Sevigny will star in a new cop drama for A&E.
  • Paul McCartney does not blame Yoko Ono for the breakup of The Beatles. So that settles that.
  • George Clooney’s next directorial effort has quite the cast: Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman and last year’s Oscar winner for Best Actor, Jean Dujardin.
  • Axl Rose gave his first live interview in a decade on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Behold:

 

  • My new favorite tumbler? Kanye Wes – a mashup of Kanye West and Wes Anderson.

Now for some Halloween-specific links:

  • Mike Myers as Michael Myers?

 

  • Paste has compiled the 20 best horror movies currently streaming on Netflix Instant.
  • The Awl looks at underrated horror movie heroines.
  • Here are some pretty cool pumpkin carvings.
  • I’ve been fairly open with my criticism of Modern Family, but I did enjoy seeing the show re-cut as a horror film. Clowns are always scary.

 

  • And finally – The Exorcist as an 80s sitcom:

Still better than According to Jim.

Have a safe Halloween!

Looking for a way to help in the recovery from Hurricane Sandy? To donate to the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org, call 800-Red-Cross or text the word “Redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Please also consider donating blood as over 100 blood drives were cancelled because of the storm. To donate, call 800-933-2566 or visit www.nybloodcenter.org.

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Hurricane Sandy

It doesn’t feel quite right to be writing about pop culture today when so many people are struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. My city was basically unscathed by the storm – I think I only saw a few branches down on my morning commute – but so much of the East Coast wasn’t so fortunate. I spend a lot of time in NYC and have many friends in the tri-state area and to see the destruction is really heartbreaking. I feel very lucky today and send my thoughts out to everyone who was impacted.

While extremely trivial compared to the extensive damage that Sandy caused, the storm did impact the world of entertainment. The production of many shows that film in New York City – The Good Wife, Gossip Girl, 666 Park Avenue, 30 Rock and Law & Order: SVU – all were shut down in anticipation of the storm. Many networks opted to pull original programming last night and instead aired re-runs or dedicated time to hurricane coverage. Broadway shows went dark. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report tapings were cancelled, as was the first night of the much hyped week of shows in Brooklyn for Jimmy Kimmel Live (which normally films on the West Coast). Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with David Letterman went on as scheduled, but filmed without an audience. The result was kind of surreal:

While I understand that they felt that the show must go on, I am glad that they did not unnecessarily risk the lives of the audience to do so. I am also very glad that my name wasn’t picked for the lottery for Jimmy Kimmel tickets. I requested them for Friday, but I don’t think I would even be able to get to the city easily by then. Better they go to someone who can use them and who really needs an opportunity to laugh.

New York is a tough city and has come back from worse. They have been through a lot in the last 15 years, but they are resilient. However, they can still use a lot of support. Please consider donating to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org or by phone at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. Every bit helps. The East Coast will be back; it just may take a while.

Jersey

This past weekend I was in New Jersey for the wedding of one of my sorority sisters. It was a nice time and I was glad to be part of the couple’s special day and catch up with some old friends, but it also meant that my pop culture consumption was pretty limited this weekend. However, you can find inspiration anywhere and my road trip got me thinking about the plethora of pop culture that I enjoy that have a connection to Jersey. I was surprised what a lengthy list it wound up being. Who knew that Jersey had so much to contribute to the world of entertainment? So as we await the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy, here are some of my favorite things with ties to the Garden State:

The Sopranos

Probably not the stereotype that New Jersey was hoping to get saddled with, but David Chase’s examination of “connected” men and their families – both of birth and business – really couldn’t have taken place anywhere else. Tony Soprano was a terrible man that did terrible things, but you somehow couldn’t help but root for him on some level. The audience’s acceptance of his moral ambiguity helped open the door for other great shows like Breaking Bad, so for that alone we owe Chase a great debt.  I’ll probably always remember where I was during the series finale – we first thought that the cable had gone out – and the ending will continue to be debated for years to come (my take – Tony wasn’t killed).  Re-watching the series is on my to do list; I have all the seasons on DVD, but just have to find the time. My favorite episode is an early one as it was only the fifth episode of the series. In “College,” Tony takes his daughter Meadow to look at colleges in Maine and runs into someone from his past. Not as bloody or complex as some of the later seasons, but this was the episode that had me completely committed to the show.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

I mentioned how much I enjoyed the musical Jersey Boys when I went to see it with my mom earlier this year, so it’s not a surprise that they made the list. Though I don’t do with the same frequency that I did immediately after the show, I do often play their music at work, especially if I’m having a bad day. The songs are just so catchy that you can’t help being in a better mood after you hear them. I also enjoy the puzzled looks that people have when they walk into my office and hear Frankie Valli coming through the speakers. Not what you expect someone my age to be rocking out to.

Kevin Smith

Though not everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoy the works of director Kevin Smith. Jersey Girl was probably my least favorite, but it was a sweet movie that was primarily a causality of everyone being sick to death of “Bennifer” (it’s hard to believe that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were almost married). His movies can be crass, but they are also clever, smart and a lot of fun. Dogma has some very interesting things to say about religion and Clerks helped to inspire a whole new generation of independent filmmakers. His latest film, Red State, is a scary look into religious extremism and is one of his best movies. My favorite of the bunch has always been Mallrats, which is actually one of his least popular films. Maybe it is the presence of Shannen Doherty, maybe it is because I used to like hanging out at the mall or maybe it is the New Kids on the Block joke that the movie contains – for whatever reason, Mallrats always makes me laugh. His movies are endlessly quotable; just the other day I dropped an “I’m not even supposed to be here today” on someone, who thankfully got the reference. And even as a non-Star Wars fan, I’ve always enjoyed this scene from Clerks:

Kevin Smith the man is also pretty interesting. He can be brash and over the top, but he speaks his mind and stands behind his convictions. I’ve watched a few of his specials and they are always amusing, even if he usually only answers one question from the audience because he is so verbose.

Garden State

I will admit that I didn’t immediately take to Zach Braff’s movie Garden State. It took a second viewing for the film to really win me over. The quirkiness of the film felt a little forced the first time around – and I’m not sure that it isn’t – but once I went with it I really enjoyed it. I knew Braff from his zany antics on Scrubs, so it was interesting to see him in a smaller and somewhat quieter role as he stars as a man who must return home for the funeral of his mother. Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard co-star and Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) even has a small part. The film also has a tremendous soundtrack and helped to introduce me to many bands that at the time I wasn’t familiar with at the time, like The Shins and Iron & Wine. The film also features one my favorite heartbreaking songs, “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” by the amazing Colin Hay.

Bruce Springsteen

I don’t think it is possible to think of New Jersey and to not think of The Boss. My love of Springsteen is well documented on the blog, but to not include him in this post would be heresy. He’s never shied away from referencing his home state; odes to Jersey are peppered through his entire discography. If I could figure out where to put it, I would order this map of New Jersey that is based on Springsteen lyrics.

Jon Stewart

Though he was born in NYC, Stewart grew up in New Jersey and makes frequent reference to it. I was a fan of his before he took over The Daily Show – I am one of a handful of people who actually liked Death to Smoochy – but my admiration of him only intensified afterward. Under his tenure Stewart managed to make a show on basic cable that satirizes the news into one of the most respected and honest sources of political coverage that we have today. It’s still silly and still satirical, but The Daily Show has become a way to hold politicians accountable and to point out hypocrisy. Somewhere, Craig Kilborn is kicking himself for ever leaving the show. Stewart is a smart man and while he is not covert about his political affiliation, he is an equal opportunity offender. I would always encourage my students to watch The Daily Show back in my teaching days and it is one show that I always try to watch. Stewart is the reason for that. Though they have an amazing team on the program – working for them is actually my dream job – it is Stewart’s presence that really makes the show as great as it is. He’s kind of my hero. If you missed his debate with Bill O’Reilly, it’s on Youtube:

Cheaper By the Dozen by  Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books to read was the 1948 book Cheaper By the Dozen. I’m not 100% sure how an older book found its way into my hands, but I re-read it and its sequel, Belles on Their Toes, religiously. The books are biographical and chronicle the Gilbreth family and their 12 children in Montclair, NJ. Their father was a motion study and efficiency expert who often used his brood to determine the best ways to do things. These books were partially responsible for my early desire to have a lot of children, back before I understood how much work having kids really was. Now I’d be happy with just one and even that seems daunting. The books also provide an interesting glimpse at what life was like in the early part of the twentieth century; as a girl, I remember being especially intrigued by their discussion of the Roaring 20s and flappers. Even today, I try to re-read these books once a year and I rarely re-read books so that gives some insight into how much I enjoyed them. And thankfully the book has nothing in common with the movie abomination starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt, other than a name and twelve children.

Bon Jovi

I’ve been a fan of Bon Jovi for almost my entire life; I remember Slippery When Wet coming out when I was in elementary school and it was the only album that gave Madonna and Michael Jackson any competition for our attention. And even at ten years old, I knew that Jon Bon Jovi was very good looking. I’ve liked their music ever since. Their run of hits has been pretty impressive and though Jon can’t hit all the same notes anymore, they were still a lot of fun when I saw them in concert a few summers ago. Play this song on the jukebox of almost any bar and you’ll have people singing along in no time:

So hopefully I have done my extended family in Jersey proud with this post. Now it’s your turn – what is your favorite Garden State inspired pop culture?

This post seems especially poignant given the destruction that Hurricane Sandy caused to much of the East Coast. If you are looking for a way to help, please consider donating to the Red Cross at  www.redcross.org, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999.