Girl with thoughts, beware.

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Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Goodbye, How I Met Your Mother. Its been swell.

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve post anything about TV, but I feel compelled to give a quick tribute (ok, much like Ted, not so quick) to one of my personal favorites, How I Met Your Mother, which gives its hour long swan song on Monday 3/31.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may remember what I wrote about the show in This Old Show: 3 long-in-the-tooth personal favorites that I may just retire from my repertoire. Below is a brief summary of what I spouted early on regarding the final season of the HIMYM:

“And here is my dilemma: after Ted meets the Mother, will anyone even WANT to tune in after that? I’m one of the few who has completely enjoyed the ride of Ted’s journey to find his soul mate. I haven’t found the series taking too long of a time to reach the endgame. Actually, I think we are at the perfect point. He sees her, they finally meet, and he just KNOWS she’s the one. I’m not exactly sure I want any more. My only real complaint of the show is that Ted’s love interests are never very interesting. This casting of the Mother has got to be strong. In some ways I almost feel sorry for the actress who plays her: talk about extreme expectations and pressure!… Can the show successfully fill 22 episodes next season with Ted falling in love with the woman-who-will become-the-mother, ending with what we all assume will be his wedding?  My fear is that the last season, which we knew was coming, will be a let down of sorts and a disappointing end to what was such a promising beginning with this series.”

First off, let me say that I couldn’t have been more wrong in my previous assumptions. Instead of creating an entire season revolving around Ted meeting and getting to know the Mother, the brilliant writers created an entire season around the events leading up to a different wedding- Robin and Barney’s, to be exact.  Now, this season was certainly divisive: some loathed the premise of 20 odd episodes taking place within a 48 hour span, while others, like myself, have had a ball. Was this the best season yet of the series? No. Am I eternally glad I tuned in for the final season? Absolutely. All my fears about who was to be cast as the Mother and how that was going to unfold proved to be completely unfounded- Cristin Milioti is delightful. The writers did a wonderful job of incorporating her into the story without it being solely about Ted Meets Mother. Even if this wasn’t the most funny or the most cohesive season, it’s ending on the perfect note and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved for making such a likable and enduring TV show.

Without further ado, here is my solemn and heartfelt goodbye to a show I will remember fondly and forever link to my years living in Los Angeles.

Goodbye Best Pilot of 2005:

As I mentioned in my previous post about the show, I was an extra in the pilot episode and I distinctly recall thinking this was the funniest pilot I had ever had the pleasure of working on. It was a long 4 months of pilot season of background work, and I am pretty sure I was in every single one of them. But HIMYM was by far the best. It will always have a special place in my heart, and I can look back with pride and some frustration on my first year in Los Angeles, desperately trying anything to make it as an actor.

(If anyone is wondering or is planning on watching season 1, I was in McLaren’s in the pilot episode and if you look in the background of the scenes with Barney talking to Ted at the bar, search for a girl in a black blazer with a blonde pony tail sitting with a group in a booth. C’est moi.)

Goodbye Patrice:

Just as Lily screaming “Son of a Bitch!” and her eyes going demon red is my husband’s favorite running gag on the show, Robin screaming at Patrice- the world’s most annoying perky co-worker- will forever remain mine. I think I love it so much, albeit sheepishly, because we all have that one true friend who would probably lay down his or her life for you and is, for whatever reason, someone you can’t stand at all. Robin’s irate and non-sensical frustration at Patrice drives me to giggles every single time.

“You’ve never looked more beautiful, Robin”- Patrice

“NO ONE ASKED YOU, PATRICE!!!”- Robin on her wedding day, in her dress, to Patrice who inexplicably ended up as her bridesmaid.

Goodbye to a realistic show about 30-somethings:

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the writing duo Carter Bays and Craig Thomas captured something incredibly unique and relevant in their writing of a group of friends in their 30s. In your 30s you are a little more settled into a career, you probably have a steady income, and you are mostly likely getting married and starting a family. Yet, as I’ve discovered since hitting my 30s, you  never quite feel like an adult, even though you are going through the motions of adult-like things. What the show magically and successfully managed to capture was that delicate balance as one move into adulthood with all its wonderful trappings, while still trying to maintain one’s youth. Relationships with friends change as they start having kids. Parents and close family members die. You realize you hate the career you chose for yourself in college. Friends fall in love, get married, and move on, while your life seems to remain the same. This all happens after the big 3-0, and I’m glad it was represented well on the small screen.

Goodbye Neil Patrick Harris:

By all accounts, Barney never should have been a likable character never mind lovable. On paper he was a womanizing, scheming, lying and manipulative douche bag and the only person capable of bringing any heart or substance to him was Neil Patrick Harris. Bravo sir, you deserve some serious props. I’m sad that no one on this delightful show ever got the award recognition he or she deserved. If I could have an Emmy go to anyone, I would nominate Harris. He kept Barney funny and charming year after year, while still maintaining an underlying vulnerability and childlike naiveté that crept to the surface during his relationship with Robin. It would have been extremely easy for the writers to keep Barney as the comic relief without any believable depth, but they chose not to and Harris obviously did his homework on why a character would actively choose to act in the most outlandish and selfish ways. This show marked a sort of comeback for Neil Patrick Harris, and I sincerely hope this is not the last we’ve seen of him.

Goodbye to the HIMYM writers and best uses of running gags:

I will share a little secret while I was on the set of the pilot. The character of Rajiv was probably just meant to be a one episode walk-on until Carter Bays and Craig Thomas gave him the line “Signal”, which he said in such a funny way that had the entire writing staff and audience of background workers completely in stitches. It was such a fluke, a one-time thing to make the scene just a bit more funny than it already was and it worked. I would like to think that the character of Rajiv was born in that moment. And I think this describes the writing on the show as a whole: the two writer/creators were always listening and knew how to best leverage the comedy.

From Kyle MacLachlan’s The Captain to the Slap Bet to the Ducky Tie to the Playbook to Robin’s Canadian-ness to Barney’s mad cap reenactments to the fact that we only saw one body part of the Mother each season, these writers mastered creating some of the best and most imaginative running gags ever. Even the premise of the entire show is one long gag: Ted can’t ever tell just a story; he must recount an entire epic. I will miss the risks this show took each season. You could argue that the running gags were merely filler, but I think they were part of the grand plan of the entire series all along, and I for one thought them genius.

Goodbye Robin Sparkles (and honorable mention, Alan Thicke):

Oh wow, the episode modeled after VHI’s Behind the Music about Robin’s Canadian pop-star alter ego Robin Sparkles was one of the funniest of the entire show’s run. Every famous Canadian got his or her due. And who knew Alan Thicke could be so hysterical?! Every episode featuring Sparkles and Thicke were so crazy, so OUT THERE, I fell into an utter laughing fit. I love it when shows go delightfully weird- not jumping the shark weird- just a little left of center. It keeps the writing on its toes, but also I think the actors secretly love it. This is probably what has kept the show so fresh for most of its run, too.

Goodbye to the one episode in a sit-com that made me cry:

There were several heartwarming episodes on this show, but the one that got me was the episode which found Lily on the roof confessing to Ted that she’s not always as happy as she thought she’d be as a mother. It was so raw and incredibly truthful, and Alyson Hannigan absolutely nailed the moment. It sticks in my mind so vividly because the show can go from sheer comedy to drama in a blink of an eye, and it’s believable. These actors are so committed to being in the moment and understanding where their characters are coming from. I felt Hannigan touched on something real during that scene, and it was beautiful to watch her go through the emotion while Ted, who couldn’t exactly empathize with her, stood by her nonetheless as she poured her heart out. Ted listening to The Mother play the ukulele and sing La Vie en Rose from one hotel room balcony away is another really touching scene. I’ll miss those moments most of all as this series draws to a close.

 

I have no idea what to expect on Monday’s finale, but I’m sure I will shed a few tears. I know it’s only a show, but in my heart of hearts, I feel like I will be saying goodbye to a small part of my life tomorrow, happily and with bittersweet affection.

 

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Library Memories

These past couple weeks have found me deep in reverie, looking back fondly on my childhood and time spent inside a library. For whatever reason, I keep conjuring up the library in San Jose where I basically spent the entire summer of my 14th year. There must be meaning in this somewhere…

The library I remember was not particularly inviting by any means. Picture the most institutional cinder-block gray building of the 1960s with harsh overhead lighting and you know what I mean. I even remember the old school 50s style no-frills large clock above the check-out desk. That clock was an ominous sign as to how long I could spend my entire day at the library.

What do I remember about those days? It was hot and steaming, for one. The library’s ancient air-conditioning system couldn’t quite keep up with the blast furnace going on outside. I didn’t care. That was the summer of jean shorts and the tiniest tops I could get away with. What I cared about was sitting in front of the Young-Adult and Horror sections, scouring the shelves for the latest Stephen King or Dean Koontz novel, which were, inexplicably, casually placed in either genre. I must have read two books a week that summer. I couldn’t seem to get enough of books, and I felt incredibly grown up for reading Koontz and graduating from the Judy Blume’s, the R.L. Stine’s, and The Babysitters Club series (although truth be told, I was a much bigger fan of the lesser known  Sleepover Friends series).

Each morning, my dad or step-mom would drive me to the library on his or her way to work and let me out right when the library opened. I stayed all day until about 2 or 3pm when my step-mom picked me up. I can’t ever remember leaving to get food, but the smell of all those books and the feel of the carpet where I set up camp for the day still conjures up fresh memories of pure happiness. Those were “simpler times” to say the least. It was also the first summer I equated books with music. I recall driving home one afternoon and a song came on the radio that completely tied in with one Koontz book I was reading that just so happened to take place during the summer as well.

Do I remember the name of the book or the song? No, but I heard it today I can bet you that I would be thrust right back into the middle of that book and the emotion I felt while reading it.

Books held power for me in that library and nothing was off limits. Having worked my way through all the interesting and new copies in Horror and YA, I wandered over the kids section, probably intending to scoff at was once my “youth”. The entire Dr. Seuss canon was reread that humid summer. I know I tried to read “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy in the Fiction section, a once restricted area to me until that year when no parents were around, but even I was just a tad too young to really understand what was happening in that novel. No, horror and mysteries were my bailiwick and I couldn’t seem to get enough of anything.

It was also a lonely summer. I had just moved to San Jose to live with my dad and his wife’s family and I felt out of place a lot in that coming year. Despite my love of books and feelings of safety within that library, my life was slowly changing. I was no longer living with my mother and had been taken out of a life and routine I knew by heart. If that summer represented anything it was that fragile cusp between childhood and adolescence and what happens when you transition against your will from one part of your youth- rather carefree and light- into another, which starts to demand more and more of you whether you are ready for it or not. I don’t think it’s any secret why I crossed back and forth between the children’s and young adult’s sections so easily and freely. I still wasn’t quite sure who I was, and at the time I didn’t realize I was being forever shaped by the books I was reading and how I came to perceive literature as my savior and respite from the harsh realities waiting outside in the “real world”, a concept I didn’t fully understand back then.

Perhaps I’m in a reminiscing mood, or perhaps I’m longing for those days when I could very effortlessly be swayed and pulled into a book, but I can’t get over how much I’ve been thinking about that forlorn library lately. It comes to me at seemingly inopportune moments as well. I’ll be sitting at my desk typing away on some project or another and suddenly I’m right back on that carpet, nose stuck in a book, listening to the buzz and hum of those lights, feeling nothing except the emotions of the characters in the book. And hoping against hope that I’ll hear that song again on the way home that reminds me of a particular scene or a piece of the action in a chapter I read and get the chance to relive every moment.

In murky territory in the self-help aisle.

Happy Ides of March.

Is it just me, or is March typically a time for deep reflection? Every year, without fail, I find myself at some sort of spiritual and emotional crossroads that just so happens to fall around March. Whether it’s the fact that March falls right near the end of winter and the cusp of spring (death and rebirth, symbolically) and there is a sense of new beginnings in the air, or it’s just me. Judging by the fact that here in sunny Los Angeles  the weather has been hovering in the mid 70s or low 80s nearly every day for the past two months (today it’s 91 degrees), I can’t really pin blame on winter blues or a cite a great anticipation for the warmth of spring.

Last weekend, like any sane person faced with the need for a soul renewal, I turned to Oprah. More specifically, Dr. Brené Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday who was touting her new book  “Daring Greatly”. I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider adding it to my Goodreads queue right away, desperately in search of my “aha” moment.

America has a funny and awkward relationship with Self-Help, particularly Self-Help Books. There is a great scene in an episode from Sex and the City where Charlotte, depressed but hopeful, goes in search of the latest popular self-help book for divorcés titled, “Starting Over, Once Again”. As she nervously approaches the Self-Help section at the bookstore, scary music à la the movie Psycho begins to play. To her great embarrassment, she scans the shelves noting each and every book with titles more terrible, outlandish, and verbose than the last. A woman is huddled in the corner sobbing hysterically. As Charlotte picks up the book she came to buy, the woman on the floor says, “That’s a great one. It really helped me a lot”. Horrified, Charlotte thrusts the book back on the shelf and starts to shout, “Travel?? Travel?!”, faking that she’d made a huge mistake.

It must be said that ever since Oprah publicly embraced Self-Help, the genre has indeed come a long way. Dr. Phil, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Oz, Michael Losier, and  Iylana Vanzant- among others- have all become house-hold names due to her influence. Even Deepak Chopra, a Self-Helper whose name I remember from childhood, found a resurgence in popularity because of Oprah. Her unique touch on the genre is profound. It went from New Agey and “out-there” to a legitimate way to ease the soul without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. And yet while most Americans will gravitate towards an Oprah touted book simply because her name is on it, the bigger question remains: Do these books really help? And what happens when the Oprah-approved shine wears off on one book/Self-Help guru and the next one comes along?

Remember “The Secret”? How many of you own a copy? Is it it now gathering dust on the bookshelf? Nothing wrong with The Secret, but as I recall, it used to be EVERYWHERE and within the blink of an eye it suddenly disappeared.

I never got on “The Secret” bandwagon, but I did buy “Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t” by Michael Losier- an Oprah find- way back when. And I did get great benefit from the book to a certain extent. I never did do Oprah’s Eckhart Tolle 6 week long online class, mostly because I felt overwhelmed by the amount of options and spiritual guidance that was suddenly everywhere. If I “do” Tolle, what’s next? Self-Help in many ways has become a fad, a popular aspiration to become “enlightened” in our culture. Brené Brown is just the latest in a long line of methods to look at your life differently and gain some sort of spiritual “aha”.

And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with falling into the Self-Help zone, I find myself just following the latest and greatest self-help guidance that happens to be out there at the time without really exploring what works and doesn’t work. I recently read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, which deals with following your dreams and listening to the universe. I’ve subscribed to the “universe is listening” ideal for quite some time (inspired in part, by the way, by Losier’s philosophy), but I still felt myself wanting something. Hence, my willingness to jump into Brené Brown territory.

Which brings me back to March. No matter how much I spring clean my emotional and spiritual sector, I still always feel on the cusp of needing a new awakening around this time of year. I’m not embarrassed about it, but I am troubled by the fact that I constantly gravitate towards outside sources for the answers. Brown probably has some interesting insight, but she’s not likely the definitive word on the subject of Self-Help.

And now I ask you: Do you have a book- Self-Help or not- that’s inspired you? Moved you? I’m very curious about what people are reading and finding extremely helpful. Feel free to leave me a comment!

I’m 50! Well, my blog is.

I can’t believe 50 posts have gone by. First of all, thank you to each and every person who has found this blog. Maybe you’ve enjoyed reading my posts, maybe you felt inspired, or maybe you were just passing through… whatever the reason that made you stop on by, THANK YOU. I’ve been turned on to more inspiring and thoughtful blogs by the readers of mine and believe me when I say there are some truly wonderful writers and thinkers out there.

As I’ve mentioned before, I had no actual theme in mind when I started this blog. Over the last year I’ve dabbled in a few posts about TV watching, some book reviewing, and many posts about reading and writing. I rediscovered my love of reading and literature in the last 12 months, and it really is my true passion and to which I’ve devoted the bulk of my blog and will probably continue to honor as I move forward.

So here’s to the next 50!

Cheers,

Michelle aka Girl with Thoughts, Beware.

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