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I’m a 30-something year old woman who watches too much TV…

…but I used to be 13 year old girl who watched too much TV. And back in the early 90s, I watched ALL the Snick shows. And like any flannel-wearing, wanna-be weirdo, I loved The Adventures of Pete and Pete. (Mandatory nostalgia-inducing YouTube of the opening theme):

 

And — true confession time — I may have loved Big Pete. I thought he was deep, complex, and sensitive — and I wasn’t the only one. All of my female friends (bespectacled, played a classical instrument outside of school, familiar with Watership Down — you know the type) – ADORED Big Pete. So much so that we (may have) developed crushes on several undeserving real-life red-haired nerds. But boy were we wrong.

Me and Mr. Max are currently rewatching The Adventures of Pete and Pete for the first time since childhood, and the truth is undeniable: Big Pete would make a terrible boyfriend. TERRIBLE. Ladies – steel yourself against those piercing blue eyes and take a second look at…. Little Pete. Yes, Little Pete. Sure, he’s young. But give him ten years and he’d be the perfect boyfriend. Here’s why:

5 REASONS YOU SHOULD WAIT FOR LITTLE PETE

1) Little Pete is full of Joie De Vivre, Big Pete = Big Wet Blanket
Big Pete mopes through so many episodes it’s impossible to list them all – he drags himself around the Hoover Dam, he stares winsomely across the football field… he even mopes in the opening credits.

In contrast, Little Pete exudes pure energy.

Sure, he’s loud and hyperactive. But he also has a rich and varied life, including meaningful friendships, a loving pet (Gary), and his very own radio show (ambitious!). He was the only one with the guts to answer the mysterious ringing payphone. Does Big Pete even have interests? Or friends (besides his ‘it’s complicated’ status with Ellen)? No. Big Pete does not know how to embrace life. He only knows how to complain. When you’re a 14 year old guy with good cheekbones, this might make you ‘cool.’ When you’re nearing 30, it makes you insufferable.

Sorry but it’s true.

2) Little Pete Knows How To DEAL
In the episode Don’t Tread on Pete, Big Pete finds out about a history test the lunch period before class. Okay, we’ve all been there. But Pete takes it a step further – he envisions life as the school janitor, another person who “failed to live up to his promise.” Because… he might get a B. (He says ‘fail’, but he’s an A student so we’re talking about a B overall). As Liz Lemon would say, this is a dealbreaker. An ideal mate needs to have some ability to deal with minor disappointment. Otherwise you end up with one of those House Hunters husbands who throws a shit fit about the size of the backyard pool.

You know who DOESN’T freak out about a B?

That’s right, Little Pete. He doesn’t whine, he just GETS IT DONE. He doesn’t panic about getting into “the college of his choice.” He fights back against injustice. He turns the tables in dodgeball. He mounts an organized rebellion against an oppressive bus driver. He resists the system. And he wins.

Do you want to date some establishment stooge or the leader of the rebellion? I know what choice I’d make.

3) Little Pete Doesn’t Whine About Hard Work

In Rangeboy, Big Pete’s dad gives him a job driving the ball picker upper thing at the family driving range. Big Pete is OMG SOooooooooo EMBARRASSED to do be doing this dead-end job that he wears a bear suit every day just to hide his identity.

 

Man up, dude. It’s a job that doesn’t involve a nametag OR a hairnet. AND you get to drive a vehicle. AND it’s temporary.

Ladies, this is not the kind of guy who will support your dreams. He will not make dinner two nights a week so you can work late. He will not chop wood for a fire. He will not do his own laundry. He will get a man cold and stay home from work and complain for 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, Little Pete stayed awake for 11 whole days using sheer will. The choice is clear.

4) Little Pete knows how to express his emotions.

In Day of the Dot, Pete brushes off Ellen’s advances because he’s “not sure how he feels about her.” Then some letter jacketed sports douche sidles up to her and suddenly BP MUST HAVE HER. Weak. At the end of the episode, Pete comes through with a big romantic gesture in the middle of Ellen’s star performance in the marching band competition (which totally ruins it — way to support your girl’s dreams).

Little Pete doesn’t toy with people’s emotions. He loves Artie. He loves his family. When he doesn’t like someone, they know it. Honest. Uncomplicated. This is what you want. Not some game-playing bro who can’t decide if he actually likes you.

5) Little Pete Loves Music, Big Pete Plays Sports
Last but not least, a good boyfriend must appreciate music. Does BP like music? Maybe as much as any teenager does. But Little Pete LOVES music. He formed a band purely to protect the memory of his favorite song. Meanwhile, Big Pete….

Plays baseball. Just imagine years of married life with a baseball fan.

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The best bad television occurs between the hours of 11AM and 4PM. Unfortunately, I’m usually otherwise engaged during this un-prime TV time. Thanks to this week’s holiday, I was able to hit The Hallmark Channel mid-day to catch a true modern classic: A Royal Christmas.*

*No, you’re not stroking out — it’s still July. The Hallmark Channel believes that summer is sorely lacking in the winter holiday department, and they’ve remedied that with their summer movie theme: “Christmas in July.” My theory is that the Hallmark Channel is actually a four-year-old who can’t accept that Christmas is really over.

A Royal Christmas stars Lacey Chabert, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because (no exaggeration) she is in all Hallmark Movies. Seriously. There were previews for two OTHER Lacey Chabert Christmas movies during this one. The only person who is in more Hallmark movies is Charisma Carpenter, and I imagine she lives her entire life on the Hallmark lot nibbling on leftovers from that show about the lady who solves crimes and bakes cakes.

Ahem. Back to the plot. Lacey Chabert plays the plucky daughter of a working class tailor who’s got a sassy female friend, a job at her dad’s shop, and a dashing English boyfriend. But hold up! English Boyfriend reveals he’s actually a secret Prince (!) of a made-up country called Cordinia and they both should go there to meet his mom (AKA the queen) in their family castle. Yes, this exposition makes Hannah Montana seem like gritty realism.

The big reveal, really.

So they go to Cordinia. Queen Mom is played by Jane Seymour, and they don’t even pretend for ONE MINUTE that this isn’t the biggest rip-off of Julie Andrews’ performance in The Princess Diaries.

Queen Mom is bitchy and prim and wants her son to marry another royal, not a lowly commoner. Hallmark doesn’t really know how to depict uppity rich people, so they play string quartet music whenever she’s in a scene. I knew I had to write this review when they showed her listening to a classical music arrangement of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” over breakfast. Because that’s what FANCY people do.

Lacey’s lovable Americanism doesn’t immediately win over Queen Mom, but Cordinian Boyfriend thinks she just needs time. Then there’s a wacky scene where Lacey and Cordinian Boyfriend are fooling around (goofy fooling around, not sex fooling around) in a room with a bunch of antique swords and artwork. Lacey throws a sword into a painting and Cordinian Boyfriend thinks this is adorable because he is just a boyfriend-bot with no emotions or opinions.

Then they start spontaneously dancing in a ballroom that looks exactly like a VFW hall banquet facility.

Queen Mom arranges a dinner party with a bunch of young royals. It should be noted that the score alternates between Time Life library classical music and wacky incidental faux-bo straight out of Keeping up with the Kardashians. At the dinner, Lacey drinks out of the finger bowl and puts her foot in her mouth with one of the royals (who happens to be infertile). Everyone gasps but Queen Mom’s all smiles because she’s sneakily trying to get Cordinian Boyfriend back with his childhood love, Bitchy Natasha, who’s some kind of Duchess.

Cordinian Boyfriend Basics
Cordinian Boyfriend has no personality. He only exists to be a perfect boyfriend.
Sample Dialogue:
Boyfriend busts in while Lacey is wearing a bathrobe/mud mask
Lacey: “I look hideous”
Boyfriend: “I like your hideous look” (no sarcasm, he is supportive of everything)

Lacey is invited to accompany Cordinian Boyfriend to the big fancy ball at the castle. Queen Mom gives her an old ugly dress and says since she’s a seamstress she should be able to alter it to fit. So now gaining in-law approval is a Project Runway challenge? Meanwhile, nice butler Victor (Lacey is tight with all the household help) helps her learn how to dance the waltz and act like a lady, Pygmalion style. This exact montage might have happened in Beauty and the Beast. Or maybe it’s just that Lacey Chabert has the voice of a straight-up Disney Princess.

Lacey turns the ugly dress into a big poofy Strawberry Shortcake dress and everyone oohs and aahs.

The ball is a success until Cordinian Boyfriend has to dance with Bitchy Natasha (because it’s a royal tradition and she’s pushy). Lacey runs away to hang with her servant pals but she finds out Queen Mom fired them for being too friendly with Lacey. It’s all Lacey’s fault so she runs back home to the States and breaks things off with Cordinian Boyfriend.

30 seconds pass and Queen Mom realizes she was being a huge bitch. She decides that Cordinian Boyfriend should follow his true love and tells him to run after Lacey. There’s a gooey proposal scene and then we cut to their wedding which appears to be happening at a Medieval Times.

Our four course meal will satisfy even the hungriest of knights!

Then it starts snowing and it’s already Christmas again because I guess it takes a year to plan a big dumb wedding. The end!

Also Queen Mom ends up with the butler.

Overall Rating: Soft and conflict-free, this movie is like watching a slightly less abstract laser light show. Don’t think too hard, just enjoy relaxing while your eyes glaze upon some pretty visuals. (I mistyped that but I like it and I’m leaving it.)

Last week we wrapped up season 2 of the 2013 Epic X-Files Rewatch and – good news! – it’s waaaaay better than season 1. This season has got it all: a darker tone, slightly better acting from David Duchovny (I said slightly), and even some much-needed humor courtesy of offbeat writer Darin Morgan. Take note, my friends — this is the beginning of the show’s golden age.

Some important observations:

1. They didn’t fix the opening sequence

Lame first season openings are forgivable. New shows don’t usually have a big budget and there’s only so much you can do with footage from the pilot. You’d think the X-Files people would have taken the opportunity to snazz up the opening for season 2, but short of adding a little reverb on the score, they left it the same (i.e., BAD).

And WHAT is going on with the still images? It’s television, not a bar mitzvah slideshow.

Mr. Max still think the most egregious part is the descriptive overlaid text. Text should be used for credits, not a random word salad of related nouns. It’s like if Friends opened with this:

2. They got money for lighting but not for wardrobe
An important indicator of the show’s increased clout (and budget): moody set lighting. Money well spent because season 2 looks like a real one hour drama, not a New Zealand soap opera. Still no money for suits, though.

The costume department? Oh, you mean the dumpster behind Sears.

3. They made the aliens scary
In the pilot, Mulder described the aliens who abducted his sister as a mere “presence in the room,” which makes it sound like he’s talking about a fart or something. In Duane Barry, we learn that aliens are basically evil dentists.

Is there anything scarier?

4. Chris Carter had it bad for David Duchovny

In 99.9% of TV shows the female actress is the one who gets objectified. Even serious, well-written dramas usually have to have one scene per episode designed to showcase the sexiness of a leading lady. But The X-Files is different — instead of Gillian Anderson getting the piece of meat treatment, it’s David Duchovny. You can pretty much count on some kind of gratuitous Mulder semi-nudity in every episode.

I would love to know what Chris Carter’s justification was for setting this scene of expository dialogue between two FBI agents at a swimming pool. “I just think this would be happening poolside. Definitely.”

5. Smells like teen spirit the 90s

If you haven’t seen Humbug in the last 20 years, get ready for a major attack of 90s nostalgia. In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate a murder in a circus community (info for young readers: in the 90s people thought circus freaks were cool and it was really counterculture to have more than one tattoo). I know this is going into a Portlandia-esque rant, but – dude. The 90s were totally a thing, amiright? Okay, now I feel old.

6. They shot their wad with the Krycek thing

Alex Krycek was introduced at the beginning of the second season as Mulder’s new partner, an energetic (and kinda dorky) young agent. Mulder treats him like an annoying gnat buzzing in his face but (natch) Krycek is actually a double agent working for the scary conspiracy guys.

The problem is that the audience learns this fact in the very first episode, and Krycek’s tenure with the FBI lasts about 3 weeks. For a show that dragged out the whole “Where is Samantha” thing for basically forever, I’m surprised they tied up Krycek’s plotline so quickly. Slow down, people. Slow down.

Full speed ahead to season 3! Here’s hoping they finally fix Mulder’s hair.

For everyone’s sake.

The Project Runway finale happened. It was a little boring. And I checked my e-mail a few times. But some interesting things did happen, like:

1) At the pre-final collection critique, the judges criticized Stanley for making old lady holiday party dresses. So he makes it young and sexy by…

putting the model’s hair down.

It’s like that scene in Not Another Teen Movie when they make over Janie by taking off her glasses and pulling out her ponytail.

I’m a miracle worker.

2) I liked Michelle’s collection, but I’m surprised they didn’t call her out about the costume elements. (Expected Michael Kors critique: “It looks a little like the 2013 Broadway production of The Hunger Games”). Patricia’s had, in my opinion, some truly standout artistic moments. But where were the designers with an edgy, street fashion perspective? That’s what made Jay Mccarroll’s collection so great — it was super creative and hip (like, actually hip. Not Nina’s idea of what hip is.)

The woman wore this.

3) The ending: After 3 seconds of Michelle looking happy and emotional – the natural, satisfying ending – we cut right to the PR Bitchfest Reunion Episode preview.

FAIL.

Lifetime seems to think that this kind of pathetic backbiting is why people want to watch this show. Not, you know, to see creative people making cool stuff and being challenged.

Other things that Lifetime thinks we enjoy include:

Challenges that are so whack in terms of time estimates that every contestant is flailing the entire time. What’s next: Survivor: Sisyphus?

Having the crew prod people into saying snippy things in the interviews so everyone comes off as mean and jerky. Protagonists are so passé, you know?

TEAM challenges?! Team challenges. Does anyone like these? At all?

In summary, my advice is:

More this:

 

Less this:

I know, I know — I’ve been neglecting you, little blog. It’s been a busy autumn, spent learning how to make mixed drinks, growing mushrooms in my downstairs closet, listening to the Beach Boys, and hiking.

You’re shocked — weird hobbies are nothing new, but the Beach Boys? Hiking?

Re: The Beach Boys, I must admit that a large portion of my impression of them was informed by this:

As a result, I avoided their albums for years. Now I know better (credit to Mr. Max), so I’ve had to catch up on 30+ years of awesome music. Right now I’m into the really underrated late-period original stuff (Holland and Carl and the Passions).

Hiking’s a bit of a shocker, too. You say, “But hiking is exercise. And you hate exercise. Proudly.”

It’s well-established that I hate jogging, gyms, and any kind of organized sport. But hiking is different — less about sweating and more about communing with wild, raw nature. Cold weather hiking is also part of our attempt to feel less like naked mole rats that do nothing but move between heated environments all winter. So far, it’s working.

Even with all of this newfound activity, I’ve found time to watch plenty of TV. Recently, a bunch of new channels — mostly Discovery Channel spinoffs — appeared on our digital cable package. Here’s a quick guide to what we’re watching.

Destination America

“Destination America is the first network to celebrate the people, places, and stories of the United States, emblazoned with the grit and tenacity, honesty and work ethic, humor and adventurousness that characterize our nation.” Or so says the description on their website. If you went by this and the logo, you’d probably think Destination America was the channel of classic westerns, apple pies, and RV travel.

Wrong. Their logo should really look like this:

The subheading could read, The tinfoil hat network. Area 51 documentary? Check. Waco documentary? Check. Taking its cue from Doomsday Preppers, this channel is founded on paranoia, conspiracy, and poorly-produced re-enactments. It’s good stuff.

We also occasionally tune in to Hillbilly Blood. According to the ads, a Hillbilly is “50% hippy, 50% redneck.” We decided that Mr. Max is probably 80% hippie, 20% redneck, so we’re not sure what we should call him. He does enjoy this show, though.

+1 for beardspiration
+1 for general paranoia
+1 for the fact that it taught me how to make a chicken coop

The only bad thing about DA is that cringe-tastic show A Haunting, which re-enacts supposed ghost encounters.

I’m sorry, but WTH is up with the fecundity of ghost-related shows on digital cable?? They’re objectively excruciating — and I say this as someone who admits to watching Dancing with the Stars.

The Science Channel

“SCIENCE is the home for the thought provocateur, the individual who is unafraid to ask the killer questions of ‘how’ and ‘why not.'”

Remember the Sci-Fi Channel of the mid-nineties? It wasn’t how SyFy is now (that is, Lifetime: For Men). Golden age Sci-Fi Channel was real-deal geeky. The schedule was composed of classic nerdery (The Incredible Hulk! In Search Of…! The Outer Limits!) and any kind of crazy unfiltered public access stuff they could get on the cheap. They even aired Harlan Ellison’s curmudgeonly rantings as a “feature.”

(This is actually from one of his segments. You’re welcome.)

The Science Channel is pretty much a (vintage) Sci-Fi Channel reboot. It’s got all kinds of campy Canadian-import stuff, but my personal favorite show is Dark Matters. It’s narrated by the Fringe guy and each episode showcases three historical tales of scientific experimentation gone wrong (think: Stanford Prison Experiment, lobotomies, mind control, and so on). It’s informative/interesting/creepy but also totally budget. Especially fun are the re-enactments, which are made using some kind of digital video that reminds me of cut scenes from old Sierra Games. Proof:


 
If that wasn’t enough, Science also recently aired a pilot reviving my fave Sci-Fi Channel nutter: Professor Franklin Ruehl.


 
(This actually kind of blew my mind, because I haven’t thought about this guy in a billion years. My mother and I used to watch Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion purely for shits and giggles. I think I was nine at the time.)

H2 (History Channel 2)


Lots of good, paranoid stuff à la Destination America. Also a lot of well-made WWII documentaries (I usually get sucked into these and then get depressed). But, dear god, the Ancient Aliens shows have GOT to go. Who watches this stuff? I’m guessing it’s the same demographic that enjoys the ghost-chasers shows.

Survivorman

Mr. Max discovered this show and, having missed the opening, I assumed that we were watching the adventures of a middle-aged accountant lost in the wilderness.

Or an IT manager, or something.

I was wrong. He may not be ripped or full of tattoos, but Les Stroud is a real-deal badass outdoorsman. In each episode of survivorman, he’s armed with a camera and abandoned in some random harsh environment where he has to survive for seven days with a limited amount of supplies. I occasionally have to flip channels due to the squick factor (example: the horror that is eating a turtle, then contracting a turtle parasite), but generally, it’s pretty fascinating.

The Walking Dead


This show is kind of dumb. I know. Mr. Max really dislikes the wife and son (“skeletor and Haley Joel Osment”) and it’s awfully bloody, which is usually not my thing. Regardless, it’s nice to have something to do on Sunday nights. I became kind of fatigued with the whole “sitting on a porch/let’s look for the missing girl” plot at the end of last season, but so far things have been better.

Survivors


This show is about a flu pandemic and its resultant effects on society and humanity. Seriously smart, fascinating, and much scarier than The Walking Dead (even without the zombies). Netflix it and find out.

Twin Peaks

Kyle McLaughlin used to confuse me. I’d never seen Twin Peaks, so I only thought of him as the oily dude from Showgirls. After watching the series, I get it; he’s Dale Cooper, and he’s one of the best TV characters of all time. Now I’m retroactively offended that they made him some old rich dude with ED on Sex and the City.

Dale! Don’t let them do that to you.

Seriously, I came late to the party big-time but I love this show. Also, I’m pretty sure it invented slash fiction.

Like most women in their late twenties, I spend my Friday nights watching a soap opera for 11-year-olds.

Ironically, I tell you. Ironically.

Last week I finally caught up on all the Degrassi: Showdown episodes. I know what you’re thinking: “What on earth is Degrassi: Showdown??”

I’ll explain: TeenNick does this thing where they give a “name” to, like, 6 or 7 sequential episodes and pretend it’s some kind of exciting mini-series. The tagline for Degrassi: Showdown (really, there’s a tagline) is “Whose side are you on?” and the whole “theme” is that characters disagree with each other. TeenNick, are you actually trying to insinuate that CONFLICT BETWEEN CHARACTERS is a unique dramatic motif?


Did I mention there’s a music video trailer (with production values that in no way resemble the actual show)?

Underneath the fancy marketing, it’s still the same old low-budget Degrassi. Returning (and rapidly aging) characters include Fiona, who’s having an awkward romance with the even-more-awkward Imogen; Drew, who’s finally split up with prissy Katie (to reunite with sexay Bianca); and fan fave creepy couple Clare and Eli, who are also back together (but mostly offscreen).

Season 12 also brings us a bumper crop of new young’uns, including Maya, Tori, and Insecure Hockey Guy (I didn’t catch his name).

Comparing the incoming and outgoing cast got me thinking: why is it that Degrassi characters seem to grow blander over time?  It reminds me of a phenomenon from the world of statistics: regression to the mean (RTM). The basic concept behind RTM is that things have a tendency to average out over time. (Yes, that’s a gross oversimplification. This is a blog about TV and pizza. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)

Degrassi Personality Regression To The Mean (DPRTM): Description and Case Studies

When characters on Degrassi are first introduced, they typically dress and act somewhere between quirky/weird (Imogen) and batshit insane (Eli). After a few seasons they regress to bland everyteen protagonists who just want to go to the prom or work at a newspaper. Sometimes they briefly return to their former personality, usually as part of a story arc for one of those godawful straight-to-TV “Degrassi Travels Somewhere” movies. But generally they settle back to “average.”

Eli

Early Seasons: Weird. Intense. Kind of scary. Drives a hearse and occasionally smashes it on purpose. Serious issues with revenge and self-control. Creative but also nuts. Clothing = Hot Topic Halloween Costume.

Now: Basically an average guy. Kind of polite. Spends most of his scenes leaving or arriving. Dresses like a JCPenny catalog model (but with dark colors).

Claire

Early Seasons: Wears a catholic school uniform for no reason. Repressed. Writes erotic vampire lit.

Now: Wears business casual outfits to her internship at the newspaper.

Ellie


Early Seasons: Goth punk with crazy wardrobe. Sassy. Alcoholic mom. Cutter.

Later Seasons: Has boring job at college newspaper with boring boyfriend (what is it with Degrassi and newspapers?). Wardrobe = J. Crew catalog.

Holly J.


Early Seasons: Megabitch supervillian. Backstabs basically every character. Rage issues.


Later Seasons: Eh, she’s really a nice girl underneath it all. Has a series of low-intensity relationships with weird boys. Finds out she was adopted and takes it pretty well, all things considered.

Fiona

Early Seasons: Super-wealthy but unstable. Passionately kisses her own brother during a fancy party out of spite/jealousy. Buys a potbelly pig. Hates Holly J. and plots her destruction. Alcoholic.


Now: Has a stable relationship with a girlfriend who started out weird but is now getting more normal (RTM!). Becomes BFF of former enemy Holly J.

And those aren’t the only examples. How about Emma transitioning from eco-freak activist to ordinary college girl? Or Johnny going from murder accomplice to Ali’s sarcastic boyfriend?

All in all, it’s a pretty solid theory. Any chance of getting it published? Conference proceedings, maybe? No?