Fixer Upper – Turning Everything into Faux-Distressed Pottery Barn Lookalikes

(Exhibits 1-8)

Chip and Joanna Gains, owners of Magnolia Homes, have not only a show on HGTV, but a whole brand they are cultivating.  They are a charming couple with four adorable children and a mess of animals on a farm down in Texas.  I love that they are into rescuing old properties rather than razing them and building new.  Still, every time I see them rip out beautiful wood windows, I die a little inside.  I guess as a contractor, it doesn’t make financial sense for Chip to reglaze.  Also annoying is that they love to make everything open concept (check my girl Roxanne at Justmewith… if you want a perfect explanation for everything that is wrong with open concept in a single-family home).  Also, they tend to ignore the era and style of the original home, making every property look sorta farmhouse-meets-industrial cookie cutter.   Nearly every kitchen ends up too big with an island (annoying and inefficient to walk around).  Nearly every kitchen has white cabinets.  Nearly every home tends to stick to a basic grays and whites palette. Reclaimed wood, distressed finishes, shiplap and subway tile are the only finishes they know, and they have a major hard on for sliding barn doors–a trend which I think will look super-dated in the not-too-distant future.  I wish the owners’ style were allowed to shine through a bit.

I think it’s important if you are looking to remodel or renovate, don’t look to just one t.v. show or source for style inspiration.  Too often people doubt their own sense of style, leaving it to the “experts” who wind up dictating a look that becomes  ubiquitous, repetitive, and boring.



Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are sustaining me this winter.

buried cars

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here we are experiencing a snowpocalypse, as in over a foot and a half of snow in less than 24 hours, a sleet-thunder storm and crap road conditions everywhere.  Hence, I’ve been stuck home and watching tv in between bouts of shoveling.  With so much time on my hands this winter, I have been able to catch up and get started on some series that have been on my list for a while.


Orange is the New Black (Netflix) – I have no true sense of what prison life is like.  I imagine it’s pretty scary, bleak and boring.  This show is probably not an accurate representation but it is a very fun, and engaging show.  The ensemble cast is great and I especially enjoy the little interludes and subplots into back stories of how each woman came to be where she is.  Another winner from Jenji Kohan.

hemlock grove

Hemlock Grove (Netflix) – I saw this book featured in my local library and decided to read it before watching the series.  I have to tell you, it’s a very mediocre book and the series isn’t much better.  I had high hopes because I know good films and tv have been made from terrible books (Forrest Gump anyone?) but no amount of Lili Taylor and Famke Jannsen can save this.  And it’s not the acting.  The cast is just fine.  It’s just a terrible script with weird dialogue (taken from the book itself) and really shitty, boring, two-dimensional female characters in general.  They’ve made them a bit better for tv but still fell short.  At least in the series the two male “heroes” aren’t quite as annoying/boring as they are in the book.  Overall, the book reads like it was written by someone who really doesn’t like or understand women.  Also there are gaping plot holes and events and actions that are never explained at all/make no sense for happening, including the book finale (haven’t finished the series yet so not sure if it will be as lame and confusing).  The best thing about the show is the incredibly visceral scene where Peter sheds his man-face.  Best transformation ever (credit where credit is due: the author basically described it this way in his prose).  The author has collaborated on the series and added some more stuff in to kinda sorta help fill in the holes and fix what was so glaringly wrong, but on the whole, it’s a gigantic miss.

Amy Schumer

Inside Amy Schumer (Amazon Prime)- this is one funny, filthy girl.  Why was I not watching her before?  She has no problems abasing herself for the sake of a good joke and does a wonderful job poking fun at our stupid modern life, social interactions, and gender-based double standards.  Her show is also wonderful in that she shares the spotlight with other great comedians/comediennes.  I even missed her when she was on tour because I didn’t really have her on my radar yet.  I will not make that mistake again.


Dracula (Hulu Plus) – This is such a fun bit of well-acted pulp.  There is some nice complexity to the characters, a few wonderful plot twists and plenty of gore and sex.  I have always loved Rhys Meyers and hope that he can stay sober and continue the series because he’s fantastic and I adore watching him chewing the beautifully dressed scenery in this gothic costume drama.  Have to say, Jessica De Gouw’s Mina is kind of annoying, but part of it is also how the character is written.  She’s getting a little less annoying now that she’s admitted her love for Dracula.  Welcome to the dark side dear.


The Mindy Project (Hulu Plus) – Again, where the hell was I?  I loved her on The Office but for some reason it took a while for me to discover this show and how adorable and funny she is in the role.  I hope this show goes on for many years and gets to develop, a la Scrubs.  The writing is sharp with plenty of goofiness, and it’s also good to see Glen Howerton being funny without having to be a douche.  I feel bad for actors who play hateable characters because there’s always that mouth breather who sees them on the street and can’t tell the difference between reality and a character played on tv.

A Sad Day for Sesame Street

I am so torn up about Kevin Clash stepping down.  While I find Elmo annoying, I recognize that he is a key character that really speaks to very young children in a way that no other current Sesame Street character does.  Elmo is a combination of lovable, silly, disarming, imaginative, plus sickeningly cute topped off with pure warmth and joy.  He is a kid show’s MVP, a toy marketer’s wet dream, and an ultimate figure of comfort to many children all over the world.
The allegations against Kevin are very serious, and there may be truth to them, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is a case of people trying to grab their 15 minutes of fame and a payout at the cost of someone’s livelihood and reputation.  Even if it’s disproved the stain of the accusation will never leave him.   Kevin’s first accuser apparently has a history of check fraud and robbery at knifepoint (charges were dropped inexplicably on that one).  His second accuser claims he only realized this very year that the relationship with Kevin over fifteen years ago was psychologically damaging to him.  How convenient that it became traumatizing immediately after someone else received a six-figure cash settlement.

If the story is true, it poses a troubling moral question: should consensual sex with a minor always and without exception be considered a criminal act?  What is so magical about the number eighteen that makes a clear moral distinction depending on which side of that age you are?  One could be seventeen and 364 days, it’s wrong.  Plus 24 hours, it’s all good in the ‘hood.  This strikes me as completely arbitrary and bizarre.  There are people in their twenties and older who aren’t mature enough to handle a sexual relationship.  If you think about it, an 18 year old who has sex with a 17 year old boyfriend/girlfriend can be charged with statutory rape and end up on the sex offender list for hooking up with his/her significant other.  A very scary thought that something as natural and healthy as sexual exploration can generate a permanent criminal record.

It is reported that Kevin’s second accuser met him via a gay phone chat line, presumably where people talk and arrange for “romantic” encounters.  Clearly if the guy was using that service, he was using it with that purpose in mind.  Why is this against the law when actor Doug Hutchison can date and marry a seventeen year old and it’s perfectly legal?  Yes, many denounce that as creepy and disgusting, but Doug is in no danger of jail time.  Nevertheless, if the two accusers are telling the truth, Kevin demonstrated very poor judgement and he should be held accountable according to law.

Dark Shadows, three times over.


Off the bat, let me say that I have NOT seen the current incarnation of this story done by Tim Burton.  The trailers looked goofy beyond belief, and since his abysmal Alice in Wonderland, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory mess, the Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd which I felt were lackluster as well, I’m a bit put off of Mr. Burton as of late. I’m just tired of him shitting all over stories I usually enjoy.

When I heard a long while back that there would be a remake of this story, it inspired me to refresh myself on the remake from 1991 with Ben Cross and Joanna Going, and then begin the task of watching the original 1960’s afternoon soap opera starring Jonathan Frid and Joan Bennett.

For those who have not seen the original: Is it campy?  Yes.  Unintentionally funny?  Yes.  Is there also some good acting mixed in and an interesting storyline?  Yes and yes.  Things slowed down a bit when a key character was eliminated from the show after being the major source of conflict, but I’ll have to see how it evolves and develops other conflicts.  It seems like these shows were done on a very tight schedule because there are line-flubs in every episode which went uncorrected.  Also, something about the way it was filmed (or is it video?) makes all the candlelight and firelight have a strange “black aura” around the flames, which is both eerie and distracting.  Overall it’s an enjoyable little soap for fans of the supernatural and macabre.  I hear that in later seasons they add werewolves, zombies and more to the vampire-ghost mix.

I have similar feelings for the 90’s version.  It was fun, campy, good acting mixed with bad (check out a laughable performance from a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt).  Many of the “night” scenes were obviously filmed in California daytime sunshine with sorely inadequate light filters.  Unfortunately it was cancelled after one season and never got a chance to get better.

If you enjoyed Dark Shadow’s 90’s reboot, check out Werewolf–a late 80’s primetime drama which was great fun and reminded me a bit of the Incredible Hulk.  Happy horror-shows!

The Walking Dead: Season 2 (no spoilers)

While I realize that I’m a “Jenny-come-lately,” I just finished devouring Season 2 of AMC’s hit show, The Walking Dead. If they don’t get a whole mess of Emmy wins, they were robbed.  The acting and script are excellent.   This show, like many other great shows happening now, is very much character-driven and can get a bit slow at times, but it’s toally worth the wait to watch as the people on it develop.   Besides, I need a break in the action because when things heat up on this show, people get attacked and I find it stressful to watch.   It took me quite a while to make it through both the first and second seasons since much of the story and events are so horrifying and depressing. Nevertheless, it was a “good hurt” and I’m glad I watched it, after all.

While we may never find out what caused the “plague,” my gut tells me it was some form of biological weapon that accidentally (?) got into the water supply/food chain/air. It traveled quickly and permeated the entire human population too completely to be contained. That level of thoroughness smacks of human engineering.

I was able to enjoy this show at my leisure because I use services such as Netflix, Hulu, Itunes, and can save shows to my hard drive. Watching shows this way is very pleasurable because a) I loathe sitting through commercials, and b) it’s so maddening to have to wait for one measly show per week.   Though, even pay-for-play Hulu Plus now makes us endure a ridiculous number of advertisements. I need to inhale a storyline uninterruptedly. As it is, seasons last maybe ten to fifteen episodes. Are you old enough to recall when programs began in September and seasons typically had over twenty episodes?

When I got hooked on the show Lost, it was already three seasons in and I watched it on DVD until I caught up in about a month and a half (Yes, I know. That’s a heck of a lot of t.v. to watch. I had a month off and was being a recluse). Then I had to wait week to week and season to season, which was further delayed by the dreaded Writers’ Strike of aught-seven. Now that Mad Men is back on, I’m just not as jazzed because of this waiting. The delays are so annoying, I’d rather wait the whole season out and watch it all at once, at my own pace. When a show is gone so long, I’ve lost the momentum of the storyline. I’ve forgotten key character points and events. I’ve forgotten my theories and predictions. It’s just not as fun. That is the ultimate curse of avoiding commercials and time shifting: the eventual catching up to the present.

Flashback: QEFTSG


Queer Eye for the Straight Guy aired on Bravo from 2003-2007 and was the best all-around improvement show aimed at men.  The show was fresh, tight, and funny (I could never believe some of the comments Carson got past the censors!).

The Fab Five specialized in “make-betters” rather than “make-overs.”  The show addressed not only fashion remediation and apartment therapy, but also personal grooming, upgrading and expanding culinary horizons, and infusing people’s lives with art and culture.  Finally, it helped show the men in relationships ways of treating their partners with respect, thoughtfulness, as well as a little pampering.

Even the best men out there can stand to learn a thing or two from this show, and aside from the fashion tips, much of the information can help the ladies as well (we’re not born knowing how to decorate a room, set a beautiful table, or make to-die-for chocolate fondue).  If you never watched while it was on, catch clips online at Hulu, or full episodes on Netflix.