Dear TV Writers: Your Fear of the Moonlighting Curse is Killing Your Show

What is the Moonlighting Curse, and why is it such a big deal to television writers? Read this in-depth look at the crippling phenomenon and find out!

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction, by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

In Appreciation of the Everyday Heroine

A mask does not a hero make. In this piece, I discuss why it's wrong to dismiss characters without costumes or masks as superheroes.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Younger 5x05 Recap: “Big Little Liza” (Always Change the Narrative) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]

“Big Little Liza”
Original Airdate: July 10, 2018

Caitlin is breadfacing, Josh needs to decide if NYC is the place for him long-term, Don outs Liza in a huge Vanity Fair article and Kelsey likes her new author client, Jake. Let’s go deeper, shall we?

In the middle of Caitlin doing some weird things to bread for money, Liza goes out with Don on an icy night. While bonding over a story about his child, she slips, falls, and loses both her IDs in the chaos. While she should’ve been treated for a concussion, instead she spends the rest of her evening explaining why she has two IDs and why she’s been lying about her age. Being far too trusting of Don — who has proven to do anything for a story — is Liza’s biggest downfall. Don pretends to understand her reasoning behind lying, so maybe that is why she chooses to confide in him instead of just making up a story about the IDs.

Either way, she tells yet another person her secret, and this cannot last much longer. Elsewhere, Lauren has a big event that is helped put on her by her new and gender-queer assistant, Tam, who basically thinks she’s old. It’s an interesting dynamic seeing Lauren as a boss but also still very much wanting to be accepted by everyone.

Josh calls Liza after telling his landlord he will have a decision about renewing the lease. While a 6-year lease is very aggressive, Josh is in a state of uncertainty. He was going to marry Liza and that ended. He did marry Claire and now that’s over too. Josh feels like he has nothing left, and maybe a fresh start in a new city would be good. I actually would like to see Josh go on a pilgrimage to find himself, away from seeking his identity in the women he dates. Liza, of course, convinces him to stay because the tattoo shop is his life. But seeing other parts of the world and tattooing there isn’t a bad idea either, Liza. Ultimately Josh chooses to stay and you can see a reconciliation of some kind is likely in the future for Josh and Liza.

After Liza gets ghosted by Don, what we know is going to happen, does and Liza is blindsided with a phone call from a fact checker at Vanity Fair, wanting to confirm her age. She asks who the author of this article could be and — unsurprisingly! — it is Don. We all saw that one coming, right? Liza is furious but can’t even manage her anger at the moment since she is late for a meeting with Reese Witherspoon’s team.

Liza fills Kelsey in on what happened, and she is upset that Liza didn’t lie to Don in the first place. When the two women arrive at Reese’s office, they are met with even more opposition. The fact checker has contacted them and Liza comes up with an on-the-fly (and pretty genius) response, claiming she is age-queer and essentially says that age doesn’t matter and no one should be penalized for their success based on age. Kelsey goes along with Liza's story and that makes Vanity Fair call off the fact checker — and the article itself. (Turns out, Liza began a social media craze when she made up some terminology to define herself!) When Liza confronts Don about the whole scenario, she realizes what we have all known this entire time: Don is an jerk, and he can’t find work because of this very reason.

Tell me your thoughts. What did you like about the episode? Liza may be in the clear for this episode, but her world will soon explode and she may need to walk away from her job. Do you think Josh staying is a good idea?  Will Kelsey stop dating co-workers and clients? Where was Charles this entire episode? Guess we will just have to wait and see which of our questions get answered and how the story unfolds, next week on Younger!

The Bachelorette 14x05-14x07 Roundtable: Mid-Season Funk [Contributors: Alisa, Chelsea, Jen, and Rebecca]

The themes of the Vegas, Virginia, and Bahamas dates was all drama, mostly centered around Chris, as we saw many of our petty squabbles depart. Our girls breakdown the last three episodes before we get into hometowns and preview Paradise.

Colton managed to snag the Vegas one-on-one, riding camels down the Virgin River in what might be the most awkward date since Wells and Jojo’s sliding tub tumble. Has Colton redeemed himself from the Tia situation or is Becca only keeping him around because she has the hots for him? How did the show handle the virginity reveal and what do you think Tia’s return means for Becca? 

Alisa: I honestly don’t know why Becca’s still keeping him around. Plenty of people on Twitter think he’s hot and apparently Becca does too, but his face just looks like a big toe to me and he has the personality of dust. I had to strain really hard to even remember they had a one-on-one because it was so epically boring. And who wants to sit in a hot tub in the middle of the desert, especially after just riding on a camel? Hard pass. As for the virginity plotline, I couldn't care less about Colton’s virginity. Society is so weird because people are trashed for having sex and trashed for not having sex, and seriously can we just keep our noses out of other people’s bedrooms? Whether he’s still a virgin or not is of absolutely no interest to me. Let’s move along.

Chelsea: I’m pretty sure Becca is just keeping him around cause he’s kind of cute and because the producers need him for Paradise. I’m convinced he’s only here to further the Tia drama later this summer. I was reading Bachelorette Rachel’s take on the date, and she made a great point about him saying all the right things... but it feels like a script and he has no passion for her. I think Colton has made it this far because he’s hot but I don’t see him staying past hometowns, especially with Tia returning; I think they’re setting him up for a Paradise romance.

Unrelated: I’m so excited to see my beloved Kendall and Bekah return with Tia. They’re possibly my favorite two contestants from this franchise.

Jen: I don’t trust Colton. I agree with everyone that Becca is just keeping him around because he’s hot, but I don’t see a connection with them beyond physical. I completely agree with Alisa on the virginity issue. I am not interested in what Becca does or doesn’t do with these guys in the bedroom. I want to pick out rings and look at dresses. When does that part happen? It’s frustrating to me that Colton being a virgin is somehow shocking or weird — at least that’s the way The Bachelorette producers played it. Honestly, I think people get shamed either way. It’s the never-ending Madonna/whore complex. I’m so tired of it. It’s also not any of our business really. I’d prefer to watch Becca discuss financial planning philosophies with these guys. That sounds interesting at least.

Rebecca: I totally agree with what’s been said. Colton is super boring, definitely not the most attractive guy of the bunch, and is totally milking his virginity for ratings. It’s pretty obvious that he’s only sticking around so people will root for him in Paradise, where I’m sure he and Tia will get back together... and probably get it on.

Our resident serial killer-eyes Chris made his mark when he got cocky during the group date and didn’t try to spend time with Becca, only to turn it around on her during the cocktail party and lose his cool when Wills’ wouldn’t give up his time with her. What do you make of the situation? How iconic was Wills’ during this whole mess? How happy were you to see Becca ditch him in Virginia? 

Alisa: Wills is clearly the hero this show desperately needs but doesn’t remotely deserve. I was so excited to finally see a contestant stand up for themselves and establish some healthy boundaries about the whole “stealing” the bachelor/ette. Wills is now hardcore my favorite for the next Bachelor. He’s kind, funny, polite, stands his ground, and of course is nice to look at. It’s clear he’s not here to play games which is more than I can say for some of these men.

As for Chris, he displayed some serious abusive tendencies in this episode and I am not at all impressed that Becca not only didn’t kick him to the curb IMMEDIATELY but also gave him a rose over our sweet John. I’m glad she finally came to her senses in Virginia and he’s gone now, but it should have happened sooner. If they invite him to Paradise I will quite possibly stab myself in the ear to keep from hearing those terrible song lyrics he keeps composing.

Chelsea: I pegged it on episode one that Chris was going to be a villain because he gave off weird vibes, then threw Chase under the bus. His assertion that Becca owed him 50,000 kisses after he was cocky and wasted his time was an immediate turn-off and I’m almost surprised he wasn’t sent home during the cocktail party, but I knew he wouldn’t make it much longer on the show. Becca looked pained to have to give him a rose and was not having anymore of his drama.

Rebecca: Chris is super cocky, super annoying, super creepy, and I am SO happy she kicked him to the curb. Wills truly is too good for this franchise. He’s so real and genuine, and I would love to see him get his chance to shine as the next Bachelor. I’m glad he will be able to spend some time in Paradise.

Jen: Chris had a pretty deep facade happening and when it all crumbled it was actually frightening to me. That guy has a lot of anger issues. Serial killer feels like a fair assessment. I was floored Becca gave him another chance — the woman is too forgiving — but I was absolutely thrilled when she booted him once and for all. His reaction to his absolutely called for dumping also proved what an egotistical creep he is. Wills was the calm in the middle of the storm. Wills is mature. Wills is wonderful. Wills needs to find love.

Vegas gave us the two-on-one dreams are made of with David the Chicken competing for a rose against Jordan the model. Alisa accurately predicted both of them would go home in our previous roundtable. How did you feel about their confrontation in front of Becca, and whose side were you on? Jordan opening up about his mother probably allowed him to last a few hours longer on the date. Did you think he went home too early? Which of the two was the real villain this season? 

Alisa: They were both villains in my book. Jordan was that manufactured kind of villain like Krystal and Corinne in seasons past, where it’s easy to hate them but you know they’re just playing it up for the cameras at the producers’ request and are probably decent folk somewhere deep down under all the collagen injections. David is one of those slow-burn villains who consider themselves a “nice guy” but are actually so insecure and immature that they sabotage every relationship they’re in. Also, David always seemed way more into Jordan than he was into Becca, so maybe he needs to do some deep thinking about why that is.

Chelsea: Jordan ended up being quite a sweet dummy in the end, and never instigated the drama. His backstory put a lot of his vanity into context I think and I will be happy to see more of him. David had such a great first couple of episodes before he completely lost focus of Becca and zeroed in on Jordan. He was such a jerk throughout the entire process and made up lies. I hope he reassess his priorities for Paradise because we’ve seen him be a cool guy. 

Rebecca: I agree with Chelsea and Alisa — they did both need to go. I have a total soft spot for Jordan. I thought it was hilarious, and the perfect villain because he wasn’t exactly cruel. He was mostly just obnoxious and cocky, but never super mean-spirited or rude. I cannot wait to see him (and his one-liners) thrive in Paradise. David was great at first, and the chicken fiasco was dorky-sweet, but he went downhill really quick. He’s definitely an instigator and one of those people who likes to stir up drama, and I am not a fan of those kinds of people.

Jen: I am in agreement with everyone. Both needed to go. They were more obsessed with each other than with Becca, which was weird. She made the right call. I love that Becca is not tolerating any cattiness or immature drama.

The Bahamas brought a lot of tough choices for Becca before hometowns. Colton, Garrett, and Blake got one-on-ones, while Jason, Wills, and Leo were left on a three-on-one. Of these final six men, who would have made your final four? Who do you want to be the Bachelor? 

Alisa: My final four would have been Jason, Wills, Leo and sweet John, who was gone before his time (or Clay — gone but not forgotten!). I cannot stand Colton or Garrett, and Blake just gives off weird vibes. I really wanted to see Wills as the next Bachelor, but since it’s already been announced he’s headed to Paradise, then my next pick would be Jason who is just adorable and sweet.

Rebecca: MY final four would have been Wills, Leo, Clay, and Blake. I think I’ve said my piece before about what great guys Wills, Leo, and Clay are, and I just think Blake is super cute. I agree that Wills should be the next Bachelor, but I can see Jason grabbing the title as well.

Jen: My final four would have been Clay, Wills, Jason and... can I pick Clay again? Honestly, I really want to love Garrett and if I had not known about the Instagram mess before watching this season I would have. He would’ve been a fave. But I do know so he’s tainted which is sad because from the look of things he’s the front runner. I think Jason, Wills and Clay should like wrestle or something for the title of next Bachelor. In the immortal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “There could be oils of some kind.”

Chelsea: Of Becca’s final six guys, my four favorite would be Wills, Jason, Leo, and maybe Wills again? As much as I think Jason is the best guy for Becca, I’m going to be selfish and hope he’s the next Bachelor since it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Wills. Colton bores me to tears and Blake is way too immature. He looks like he has some pent-up childhood anger about his mother’s affair and has some major insecurities from that and the ex whose texts he read. He looks like he’s going to snap at any moment.

I’m in the same boat as Jen with Garrett. I really liked him until his social media history came to light. On the show, he seems like a cute dummy that is really interested in Becca and not the drama. I think he’s the frontrunner for Becca but I don’t know how long the relationship will last since they have very different political views.

ABC has blessed us in releasing the initial cast of Bachelor in Paradise this year. How do you feel about this bunch? Who else from Becca’s season do you think will join the show? Who from the past do you think is missing? Why do you think Bekah M. didn’t accept her Paradise offer? 

Nick’s season Rachel’s season Canada
Astrid Eric         Kevin
Angela Kenny

Arie’s season Becca’s season Bartenders
Tia Joe         Wells
Bibiana John         Yuki
Kendall Wills
Krystal Jordan
Nysha Connor
Annaliese David
Chelsea Chris R

Alisa: I am so excited for all the ladies from Arie’s season who are showing up in Paradie. Well, except Tia. I am so over her. But Bibiana and Kendall are great ladies and good tv and they’ll make it a fun time. I just hope Kendall leaves her taxidermied friends at home. Girl, we don’t need any stuffed rodents on the beach. I’m also pretty excited that sweet John and grocer Joe from Becca’s season will finally have their moment to shine. I’m pumped that Wills accepted the invite and hopefully he’ll recover quickly from his heartbreak so he can end up with someone as awesome as he is.

I really hope Leo shows up in Paradise, too. And hopefully Clay will be recovered from his surgery by then so he can get in on the fun. And can we talk about Wells and Yuki as the bartenders?! Adorable. Seems like a pretty solid round-up to me! As much fun as it would be to see Bekah M. in paradise, I’m sure she’s living her best life and off to new adventures. This show never deserved her.

Rebecca: I am SO excited for Paradise. It’s already my favorite show in the franchise, and this is an absolutely killer cast. In particular, I’m so here for Kenny and Eric, Bibi and Kendall, and Wills. I also LOVE that actual angel Yuki will be helping Wells serve drinks. I think Bekah M. turned down the invitation because... she’s smart. Not that anyone who does choose to do Paradise isn’t, but I think she knows none of this is actually real. I think she wants to make something of her life beyond being an Instagram influencer, and I support her — although I selfishly hope she’ll surprise us and show up.

Jen: I have never watched Paradise so I am absolutely clueless about any of this. But my ladies are brilliant so just put me down for cosigned.

Chelsea: I am beyond excited for my favorite contestant Kendall to show up and she can even bring her taxidermy friends. All of Arie and Nick’s girls sans Tia are great picks — even the unhinged Krystal. I cannot wait to see Jordan and all of his one-liners again. We do not deserve this angel. I’m hoping for Caroline from Arie’s season to show up and maybe a few more guys, like Clay. Aside from Wills, Joe, and John, it seems to be pretty light on decent guys. I’m hoping to see some people like Connor open up a bit more and get more screen time. I hate that Chris R. will be there but we get Wells and Yuki bartending, and that is just a gift. Hopefully Chris R. leaves after an episode.

We never deserved Bekah M. or her adorable short hair. She never really fell for the tricks of this franchise and that’s why we loved her. Too good for us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ask an Author: Katie Cotugno, Author of 9 Days and 9 Nights [Contributor: Megan Mann]

Four years ago, I was told by a friend to check out a book called How to Love by Katie Cotugno. It was a story about the pull of first love, the pain of teenage heartache, and the way two people can react very differently to teen pregnancy. I loved that book so much and needed to read so much more from this fantastic writer.

Enter Molly Barlow and the Donnelly brothers in 99 Days. For what seems like her entire life, Molly Barlow was entwined with Patrick Donnelly. She figured that he was her person, her other half, and the person she would share the rest of her life with. ... Until she realized that his stubbornness might dictate her future and it led to a mistake she figured would stay a secret. Until, you know, her mom wrote an international bestseller about the situation and all of Star Lake — including Patrick Donnelly and his twin sister Julia — treat Molly like she’s wearing a scarlet letter until she runs away. But when she comes back the summer before college, she has to suffer through 99 days of Star Lake and the fact that small towns never forget. But in those 99 days, she discovers so much more about herself and her love life than she ever anticipated.

Flash-forward a bit to this year: Katie Cotugno released 9 Days and 9 Nights, the sequel to 99 Days that takes place a year after Molly's summer in Star Lake. We follow Molly Barlow across the pond — first to London, then to County Kerry in Ireland, before ending in Paris. Molly’s been through her first year at Boston University and suffered a major setback at the beginning of the year. Still, she’s managed to reset herself, find a lovely boyfriend named Ian among the stacks of the library, and they’re on a summer trip across Europe. It’s at an Underground platform that she looks across and sees the Donnelly brother she had been trying so hard to forget for the last year.

I can’t even explain how quickly I read through 9 Days and 9 Nights and how annoyed I would get whenever someone would interrupt my reading time. Thankfully, Katie Cotugno is one of the nicest people on the planet and let me ask her all sorts of fun questions about Molly Barlow, how her books explore the reality of life, and what she’s reading!

9 Days and 9 Nights is finally out! Congratulations! How does it feel? 

Katie Cotugno: Thank you! I’m so delighted, honestly. “Is there going to be a sequel to 99 Days?” has always been the question I get most from readers and fans and I’m so happy to finally be able to answer all their questions and hopefully give them an ending that feels satisfying and true.

What made you decide to continue the story of Molly Barlow? 

I feel really strongly that you shouldn’t sit down to write a sequel unless you’re 100% sure you’ve got more story to tell. Over the last few years I kind of transitioned from, “I’m definitely not writing a sequel” to “I’ve got no plan to write a sequel” to “I’ve got no plan to write a sequel but if I did I know what would happen.”

It wasn’t until I got to a place of “I can’t think about anything but this sequel” that I knew I needed to sit down and do it.

Did you always know that you wanted to have her cross paths with Gabe again instead of Patrick? If so, why? 

It’s funny: with 99 Days, I set out to write a true, equilateral love triangle, but by the end of the book it definitely felt to me — and to Molly, I think — like that relationship had kind of run its natural course. Once I started thinking seriously about a sequel, it was always Gabe.

I like the idea that fate brought them back together across an entire ocean. Was that extra splash of magic intentional? 

You know, I always feel like the universe has a way of course-correcting. I’m okay with a little bit of convenient plotting, so long as I feel like I’m selling it as hard as I can.

One of the things I really enjoy about your books is that you write about the reality of things: how feelings can be fluid, how we don't always know why we're pulled to the people we are despite the situation and how love is essentially is as messy as a mud pit sometimes. 

Thank you so much!

Was it intentional that both Sadie and Ian were such polar opposites of Molly and Gabe? It felt like both of them needed that difference to convince themselves they were over it. 

Huh, I hadn’t actually articulated it to myself in quite that way, but I think you’re definitely right. Sadie in particular was so much fun — I’ve never written a character like her before.

I thought the pregnancy was a really interesting choice. So often in YA, characters have sex and certainly don't use protection and it's like some sort of book magic that there are no consequences. Was that similar to your decision for Reena to keep her baby in How to Love

I feel like How to Love and 9 Days and 9 Nights are definitely in conversation with each other. Having an abortion never really felt like an option for Reena; having a baby never really felt like an option for Molly. And there are plenty of other characters in other books I’ve written who’ve had sex and never had to face that choice at all. As a writer, I’m always interested in all possible outcomes.

I love that instead of using a common destination in Ireland such as Dublin or Cork, you went with County Kerry. Had you been there before and just decided, "Hey, I can totally tie this in"? 

I’ve actually never been to Kerry, though I’ve been to Mayo, which isn’t far. The rest of the book is so urban; there’s so much green space in 99 Days that it was important to me to set at least part of the sequel in a place that was a little bit quieter.

Now that this is out, what's on the horizon for you? Inquiring minds, namely me, are interested to know! 

Haha, thank you so much! I actually just recently shelved a project I’d been working on for almost a year. I’ve never done that before, so I’m just kind of catching my breath now and figuring out what’s next. I’ve got a half-formed idea in my back pocket. We’ll see if it turns into something.

A lot of our readers are aspiring writers, what's the best advice you can give them on starting out and making a name for themselves? 

Read as widely as you can. Don’t read boring things. And don’t let anybody make you feel bad for loving the weird stuff you love.

How do you prevent writer's block, if you suffer at all? 

For me, writer’s block usually means my brain’s input/output ratio is off. I try not to sweat the word count too much and go watch a movie or take a walk or read something delicious. Most time I’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to get to work.

What are you reading right now? 

Kelly Loy Gilbert’s Conviction, which is incredible so far. I read Picture Us in the Light a couple of weeks ago and it blew me away; I ran out and picked up her debut as soon as I could.

Finally, if you could perfectly cast the movie for 99 Days, who would be your dream cast? 

I’ll be honest — I always dread this question because it shows how old I am. Everybody actor I picture when I write is actually like 40 years old.

9 Days and 9 Nights is on sale now.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Niall Horan: Transition From Boy Band to Solo Artist [Contributor: Megan Mann]

Image result for niall horan 2018

Irish crooner Niall Horan had a lot to prove.

When the superstar group One Direction went on hiatus in 2016 and the group pursued solo projects, the lesser-known member of the group had to prove that he could carry his own.

All the way back in 2010, five teenage boys from across England and Ireland auditioned for X-Factor. Each boy made an impression on the judges, but not enough to move on to become solo contestants. Instead, the five were called forward and told they would be forming a group. Over the following weeks of competition, the group would become One Direction — an almost immediate phenomenon. Though they finished in third place, their meteoric rise to the top was an overnight success.

Once their debut album Up All Night was released in 2011, the group had topped the charts not only in their native U.K., but around the world. One Direction embarked on a world tour and sold out venues faster than tickets could be printed. In the four years that followed, the group released a concert film, a documentary chronicling their success and its low and high points entitled This Is Us, and went from venues to arenas and then to stadium tours with multiple nights in order to meet demand. They released four more albums: Take Me Home, Midnight Memories, Four, and Made in the A.M., each of which produced hit songs and topped the charts.

By 2015, member Zayn Malik had taken his leave of the group and One Direction continued in 2016 as a foursome. Following the release of their fifth album, Made in the A.M., the group announced that they would be taking a hiatus — the members needed a break from the constant machine of being in a boy band of their magnitude. They also had desires to pursue solo endeavors.

Soon after the band's hiatus, Louis Tomlinson released "Just Hold On" with Steve Aoki. Following that release, it was announced that both Harry Styles and Liam Payne had signed solo deals, the former releasing "Sign of the Times" in March 2017, and the latter "Strip That Down" featuring Quavo in May of the same year.

But it was Niall Horan who was the first to release solo music mere weeks after the group had announced their hiatus. Released in September of 2016, "Our Town" charmed audiences around the world and gave fans a peek of what the only Irish member of the group was capable outside of the boy band mechanism.

It was a full six months later that Niall released his follow up single "Slow Hands." Instead of rushing the tracks, he gave fans the chance to see who he was as an artist rather than overwhelming them with a "this is me now" attitude. While "Our Town" was a sweet acoustic track shining in its simplicity, "Slow Hands" was a soulful bop-along track that shed the double entendre of One Direction and focused instead being a straightforward man in his twenties.

Upon releasing "Slow Hands," Niall surprised fans by embarking on a radio tour across the U.K, Ireland, and America — something usually reserved for new, emerging artists. He traversed the countries armed with his acoustic guitar, performing his two singles as well as answering questions about his solo work. This allowed him to engage with not only his targeted audience, but also with fans that may not have enjoyed One Direction but would enjoy the more stripped down, less flashy work he was putting out under his own name.

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Instead of resting on the fact that he was already guaranteed a built-in audience based on his career thus far (like other artists have done in the past), Niall looked at his solo career as the beginning of his career rather than a continuation of it. He hit the pavement and those radio stations with everything he had. He took the work that was entirely his and promoted it because he was proud of it, not because he had to. And fans were listening because the music was good — not because he had a famous name.

For a colossal artist such as Niall Horan to take a grassroots approach to his career when transitioning from boy band to solo artist is virtually unheard of in the digital age. Artists like Beyonce and Justin Timberlake simply went from their groups to releasing solo music and relied on a video or a VMA performance to debut before seeing their careers follow this planned trajectory.

What Niall did was unique in the YouTube/social media era: he wanted the music he had created entirely on his own to speak for itself. His sound transitioned from boy band pop to laid back, California sounds reminiscent of the 1970s. His track "On the Loose" sounds more like The Eagles than it does pop radio, and "Seeing Blind" with Marren Morris has crossover appeal.

Niall Horan saw the transition from boy band member to solo artist as more than just an ending — he saw it as a way to reinvent himself and prove that his star power extended beyond that of a pop group. He proved that he could still sell out venues around the world because the music he was creating was great, and had value. And Niall isn't stopping any time soon — he is reaping the benefits as his songs continue to chart high and his tour dates continue to sell out.

His example demonstrates that in this era, a lot of hard work still goes a long way.

Younger 5x04 Recap: “The Talented Mr. Ridley” (You Are Not Alone) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]

“The Talented Mr. Ridley”
Original Airdate: June 26, 2018

Liza isn’t the only one lying in this week’s Younger! After a heated game of “Mafia,” in which Charles continues to let his personal feelings for Liza and his hurt from her betrayal guide him down the wrong path, Liza is introduced to Mr. Ridley (Sutton Foster's real-life ex-husband, Christian Borle). As someone with bylines in the most fabulous of media publications, he is persistent in his pursuit of a date with Liza. But Liza is in no position to entertain a new suitor. While Liza tries to pass up his offer of a date, Diana has a situation of her own — her toilet starts to overflow mid-soirĂ©e. Liza calls Diana’s former boy toy plumber to save the day. Even though Diana ghosted him over a year ago, he asks her out again.

At the office, Mr. Ridley continues his advances by sending a messenger to hand deliver Liza an invite to an exclusive People Magazine party. Charles, pettily tells Liza she should go but to watch out for Mr. Ridley, since Charle did catch him sneaking a pork chop out of Diana’s party.

Liza goes out with Mr. Ridley a couple of times and he half-pitches a book to her about exposing the lives of some of the world’s wealthiest people. Liza thinks it could be something, but as he is mid-pitch to Liza and Kelsey, Charles rudely interrupts and shoots all of his book ideas down. Kelsey is flabbergasted by Charles’s behavior, and gets clarity when Liza informs her that he knows about her secret.

Liza decides to confront Charles directly and resign, but he won’t let her. He claims that his behavior was in disdain of the ideas and the art — not anything personal. Charles, a poor liar, really has to work on his poker face. He is truly terrible at hiding his emotions!

Eventually, after Diana is picked up in the plumb mobile for her date, Charles admits that his outburst earlier in the day was personal. He tells Liza that she is great at her job and he can’t afford to lose her. Liza asks Charles for a chance to explain all the things that are going on, but Charles refuses. I never met an adult who avoids confrontation more than Charles. Geez, if only he would just communicate like a proper adult, a lot of this could be resolved.

So, Liza meets up for dinner with Mr. Ridley and his credit card is declined. He admits that since print is dying, he hasn’t written anything substantial in a while and is barely able to pay his bills. He accepts invites to all parties because it means free food, swag, and alcohol. This is actually more common in NYC than you think. The journalists who are on the groundbreaking of these stories make significantly less than you could know, especially compared to other people and positions in the industry. They use these events that make it seem like they have a certain level of status to offset some of the costs of living in a wildly expensive city.

Mr. Ridley is honest with Liza, which is refreshing, and owns his truth. I will say though that Mr. Ridley gives me some not-so-great vibes because he is on his last leg, and that means desperation. It seems to me that he will do anything for a story in order to sustain himself, and Liza better tread lightly.

Elsewhere, Josh and Maggie have some peak bonding time. Josh wants to do a 30-day fast from all of the things in his life he thinks are toxic (alcohol, women, etc.). Josh is 48 hours into his fast when someone leaves a dog at the bar. He puts out fliers searching for the dog's owner. When the newly-single female owner finds Josh, she takes a liking to him... and they hook up immediately. So much for Josh sticking to his fast. Maggie is elated that his “fast” is broken so soon, and offers him wine to celebrate. According to Maggie, if you are going to break fast in one area, you might as well break it in all!

Tell me your thoughts about the episode? I almost wish Liza would’ve quit, just so she can get a clean start and also so this back and forth between her and Charles would end. Can Josh actually keep a fast? I really think he needs a break from dating/women and should spend time figuring out what he wants out of life rather than take the easy route. Will Charles ever allow Liza the space to explain why she lied? Guess we will just have to wait and see. Younger is back in two weeks with a new episode!

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Bachelorette 14x04 Roundtable: Becca's Big Lumberjack Bash [Contributors: Rebecca, Alisa, and Chelsea]

Who's ready to dive into more of The Bachelorette's shenanigans? Hopefully you! Join our roundtable as they discuss the drama of last week's episode.

This week picked up immediately with a rose ceremony and some drama between our favorite model, Jordan, and David the Chicken — with Colton getting in on some of the mess. What do you make of all of this? The preview showed the two men on a two-on-one. Who do you think will emerge victorious? 

Rebecca: I’m almost positive Chicken will come out on top, which is unfortunate since Jordan is a treasure. He’s the perfect villain because he’s awful and rude and obnoxious, but he isn’t outright mean or a bully. He’s definitely NOT here for the right reasons, but he’s so entertaining and his one-liners are absolute killers, and I want him to stick around and continue being absolutely ridiculous. Chicken was one of my favorites in the beginning, but I can’t take him seriously after he got a busted face from falling out of bed.

Alisa: I think Becca will send both the Chicken and the Model packing on the two-on-one. I do appreciate how amusing the Model is and would hate to seem him go so soon, but I’m also not sure how many more jokes and hijinks he has up his designer sleeves. The Chicken has just gotten out of hand with his tattling and rough sleeping habits. Time for him to move on, and hopefully Colton’s not far behind.

Chelsea: I’m hoping that Jordan comes out on top and I bet the producers are thinking the same. He’s just a complete delight and has kept this season fun for a lot of us. He can aggravate Colton if he stays longer. I do think Alisa is onto something in that Becca will send both of them home. He hasn’t spent any of his screentime with Becca not talking about Jordan, and went from having potential to being just annoying.

The group date had our men in a lumberjack competition, and finally highlighted our cute Venmo software engineer, John, before steering into drama with Jean Blanc. What was your favorite part of the date before the Jean Blanc drama? Was Jean Blanc in the wrong for asking for his gift back? Who do you think deserved the group date rose? 

Rebecca: I loved the lumberjack date. It was the exact amount of entertaining and laid back we needed. I liked watching the men take an axe to the tree stump... wheeeewww *heart eyes emoji*. The whole Jean Blanc situation was so uncomfortable because I couldn’t decide who I felt worse for. It’s clear he got nervous and desperate, spouted some stuff he didn’t mean, and then got embarrassed when she didn’t feel the same and tried way too hard to backtrack. I feel bad for him. But I also felt awful for Becca, because how horrible would that kind of dishonesty be? It was definitely awkward for him to ask for his gift back. I doubt he paid any money for it, so he should have just let it go.

Alisa: John has the most adorable personality, and he’s not bad on the eyes either. I was glad he finally got to shine and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him. Now that my fave Clay is out of the running (though hopefully not permanently!), maybe John could be the next Bachelor? The whole Jean Blanc situation was super awkward and it’s always poor form to ask for a gift back. What is he even going to do with it now? Good riddance. 

Chelsea: John ended up being a delightful cutie, and I hope he can dark horse his way through the rest of the season. He is sweet, charming, and he's got that nice Venmo money. Becca needs to nail that down. I don’t know if I want him as Bachelor though since he might be a little too boring for that, but he should have gotten that group date rose.

Jean Blanc was already being weird and not picking up the cues that she wasn’t interested but like... don’t say something you don’t mean. It’s clearly a trigger for Becca for you to say one thing then change your mind the next second. So maybe take all of the Arie hints to heart and respect her past and how embarrassed she’s been by flaky dudes.

Garrett and Wills both received one-on-one dates this week and charmed the pants off of Becca. Are these men our frontrunners for hometowns? Who would you like to see get the next one-on-one? 

Rebecca: I love Wills, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I see him going to hometowns. I didn’t get the same vibe from Becca toward him I see toward her with some of the other guys. That being said, Wills is one of my favorites, and I loved how he was able to cheer her up after the whole Jean Blanc fiasco. Garrett is definitely in the cards for hometowns; it’s clear he’s a frontrunner, considering how into him Becca is... and how into giving an apology for those Instagram likes the producers were.

Alisa: I agree with Rebecca on Wills. He was perfection on that date and became one of my new favorites, but I don’t see Becca taking him all the way to hometowns which is too bad. I think she’s making some poor choices this season, which I hate to see. I think the good guys like Wills and John are gonna fall by the wayside while questionable characters like Colton and Garrett are going to be making it to hometowns. That being said, I’d love to see John get a one-on-one date this week.

Chelsea: Garrett’s date looked fun and Becca is clearly super into him. I would be shocked if he didn’t get to hometowns, especially since Becca and the show are defensive about him. Wills is the kind of guy I would like and was the perfect person to cheer Becca up. He was super chill and let her set the pace for the date. I don’t know if he’ll make it to hometowns but I want him to get one, if only so we can see him in that snazzy blue suit and scarf combo again. I hope John or Jason gets a the one-on-one on the next episode. If it’s that flat-earther Lincoln, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Jenn's Pick: 9 Films/TV Series and The Need for Feel-Good Media in 2018 [Contributor: Jenn]

On any given day, I’ll open my social media feeds in the morning and read through some terrible news — a comment made dehumanizing a particular ethnicity or people group. A mass shooting. A death of a beloved celebrity. News of someone’s crimes against the marginalized.

With all of the things in the world that can weigh us down, it can be easy to sink. We can find ourselves in a media overload, with whirlpools swirling around us. As hard as we kick, we might feel totally helpless and hopeless by the things we see and read. I believe it’s important to be informed and alert — to vote, to do what you can with your voice and your feet and your wallets and your whole selves to protect the people you can and treat everyone as a human. I believe we all need to look around us and ask, “What can I do to help?”

But even after you’ve practically done what you can to help others, you might still feel utterly helpless. You might even feel guilty for going to the movies, for enjoying a cheesy television series, or laughing at a stand-up show because of all of the things happening around you that you can’t control. I think that’s kind of the point — today’s world allows us the chance to be so intimately connected to everything that we often hold on tightly to things outside of our control. It makes us feel powerless and occasionally guilty for enjoying things in life meant to be enjoyed because we deem them “insignificant” in the scope of life.

I, however, ascribe to the belief that until you care for yourself, you can’t be your best self for others. It’s why an airline attendant will tell you to secure your oxygen mask first before helping the child or person next to you. It’s not out of selfishness that we put on our masks first — it’s because until we’re relaxed, secured, and supplied, we cannot be of assistance for the people around us.

So in an era where our political, economic, religious, and social justice climate feels like a weight crushing down on us, it’s even more integral for us to practice self-care. Thank goodness there are content creators out there who’ve recognized the necessity for feel-good media! This listicle will help give you an idea of some feel-good television shows and films you can watch the next time you feel overwhelmed by things in your life.

So pull up your comfiest couch, a soft blanket, and your drinks and snacks of choice. Let’s get started with my recommendations!

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One Day At A Time

(A slight disclaimer: This show is so well-written and well-acted that it will also make you sob into a pile of tissues. Not like, those cute little tears either. The kind of crying that is just snotty and gross. Just an FYI.)

One Day At A Time is such a delightful, family-centric Netflix series. The story goes as follows: Penelope Alvarez is a recently-single Army vet who’s raising her two children with her mother’s help. They’re a Cuban-American family trying to navigate life, in all of its best and worst moments. It features an incredible cast, stellar writing, and beautiful messages. One Day At A Time’s draw is that it discusses relevant and difficult topics (like immigration, PTSD, depression, sexuality, etc.) without being overt or trite. There’s a character who’s a woman, a POC, and a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The show is inclusive and sweet, heartwarming and humbling. Rita Moreno is an absolute wonder, as you’d expect her to be. And Justina Machado is a force to be reckoned with. She can have you laughing one moment and overtly weeping the next.

The best part about the series (and there are so many things to love about it) is that it truly is about love — the love that these family members have for each other. The love they have for the work they do, and the people in their lives who are friends-turned-family. It’s a feel-good series that reminds us to find joy in the relationships that can be hard, to stand strong and be who we are, and to always remember that it’s okay to admit that you’re not okay. We need each other, and One Day At A Time reminds us of the beauty in that.

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Set It Up

I might have watched this Netflix rom-com twice over the course of a week. That’s how cute and endearing it is. I’m always hesitant to try out romantic comedies because the writing is often hit-or-miss, and if the chemistry between lead actors isn’t there, the whole thing can fall apart. But Set It Up isn’t just genuinely funny and endearing — it’s a great reminder for even the most cynical among us that the rom-com genre isn’t quite dead yet. The film centers around two burnt-out assistants named Charlie and Harper who decide to pull a Parent Trap on their bosses. If they manage to do it right and set them up, they just might be able to find time to have lives. Of course, things don’t go as planned.

There are plenty of cute moments throughout the film, but if you’re a sucker for a slow-dancing trope or “schmoopy eyes” like I am, you’ll fall in love with Set It Up (and Glen Powell — who plays the snarky, ambitious Charlie — in particular). Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu are fantastic as the tough-as-nails bosses that Charlie and Harper work for and bring their own brand of staccato humor to their roles. And Zoey Deutch is absolutely perfect Harper who is a slightly-awkward but sweet person who dreams of someday having time to actually be a writer. As you might imagine, the connection between Harper and Charlie is a driving force of the film and the Glen/Zoey dynamic throughout is truly what carries Set It Up, allowing it to shine as a rom-com. Men of future rom-coms, take lessons from Glen Powell about how to perfect that “I’m in love with you” look because he’s got it down.

Grab a bottle of wine and a bowl of popcorn tonight and settle in for Set It Up!

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Any and every Mike Schur comedy (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, and Parks and Recreation specifically)

Mike Schur is the showrunner whose comedies are defined as comedies of optimism. Whether you choose Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or The Good Place, you’ll find bright, diverse shows where the characters genuinely love each other, defend each other, and strive toward becoming better people. While I do love The Office (and will always binge-watch it), that comedy usually skewed itself toward cringe-humor and numerous plot points were rooted in the idea that characters disliked each other.

But in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, there are characters who banter and fight but who stand up for each other. They’re a squad, through and through. There are so many amazing things about the series that I could write — how the topics are poignant and character-rooted the stories are, how funny the series is, how heartwarming it is to see relationships evolve — but I’ll let you guys watch the show and see for yourselves.

Additionally, if you have yet to binge-watch The Good Place, please do so ASAP! This is another bright (quite literally, because of the way the show is lit), hilarious comedy that not only provides excellent meta commentary, pop culture references, and pop-up guest performers from the Schur Universe, but it also is a show about people realizing they’re not great, but wanting to be better — for themselves and for the people around them.

(And if you’ve never actually watched Parks and Recreation, I will kindly wait here while you binge-watch the entire, beautiful little series.)

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The Decoy Bride

Yes, this is another rom-com that you should watch. It’s cheesy and predictable, but that’s usually how I like my feel-good media to be. The film stars Kelly Macdonald (also known as Brave's Merida) as a Katie, a young woman who returns to her hometown on a remote Scottish island after her failed engagement. Realizing that she’s basically the last single person on the island of Hegg, she devotes herself to writing a guidebook about the island itself. Meanwhile, shenanigans ensue when a writer named James (David Tennant) and his fiance Lara (Alice Eve) arrive on the island to escape paparazzi and get secretly married. Obviously shenanigans ensue, leading to James and Katie falling in love.

Are you a fan of every rom-com trope in the book? Then The Decoy Bride is the perfect film for you! It’s sweet and endearing (and actually one of the few PG rom-com films I’ve watched maybe ever that I actually have enjoyed), and the reason I keep coming back to it whenever I need a pick-me-up is because while I eye roll and complain about tropes in rom-coms, I also have come to rely on them. These things still make me smile, and it’s a comfort akin to your favorite cozy blanket.

Plus... David Tennant.

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Young & Hungry

I don’t even know how I started binge-watching this or why, but I did and I absolutely adore how utterly corny it can be. Someone in an article I read essentially described it as a more adult version of a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon series, which might explain why I enjoy it (considering I grew up on those channels as a kid). The Freeform series stars actual Disney alum Emily Osment as Gabi, a personal chef who works for a young tech entrepreneur (who eventually becomes her love interest, naturally).

While the laugh track on the series occasionally feels over-the-top, if you’re looking for some fluffy fun that’s reminiscent of The Nanny in slapstick shenanigans, then you’re in the right place and Young & Hungry is the series for you.

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The Intern

A few months ago, The Intern was on TBS and I decided to watch it, as I’m one of the few people who’s always adored Anne Hathaway (Ella Enchanted should also be on your list of feel-good movies, to be honest). If you’re looking for a non rom-com that is sweet, positive, and features an all-star cast, then The Intern is for you. The plot is this: A man named Ben (Robert De Niro) in his 70s decides that he needs to fill his days with something meaningful, especially now that he’s a widower and so many of his friends are gone. He applies for an internship with an online fashion site, founded by Jules (Anne Hathaway). The rest of the story is how Ben learns to adjust to a technologically-driven workplace, but how he’s able to bestow his wisdom to his young co-workers — including his boss, Jules.

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway’s chemistry in the film is perfect. Ben serves as a father-figure to Jules, encouraging her, providing her with advice, and learning from her. One of the best parts about the film is that it doesn’t paint either age demographic in a bad light. Jules is genuinely appreciative of Ben’s experience and old-fashioned ways of doing things; Ben shows nothing but respect to his younger co-workers and approaches his work with humility. He even tells Jules how much he admires her and her work.

The Intern is such a cute, feel-good film that will make you probably wish you had someone like Robert De Niro to work with every day.

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The Bold Type

Looking for a show that’s female-positive, fun, filled with incredible music, and also tackles workplace and romantic relationships? The Bold Type is the show for you! This Freeform series features a young female cast whose characters work for a magazine called Scarlet. Kat (Aisha Dee) is the social media editor, Jane (Katie Stevens) is a budding writer trying to find her big shot, and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) is an assistant with a passion for fashion. The women work for Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) who runs her magazine with the belief that women should be empowered. She’s a tough woman but what I love about The Bold Type is that this is not The Devil Wears Prada — Jacqueline gives pep talks to her staff. These young women look up to her as their boss and she’s aware of that responsibility. So you’ll see episodes where Jacqueline and Jane sit down and talk to one another honestly.

The Bold Type is the feel-good, fun show you need to add to your queue — especially because it’s still airing! Catch up and watch the current season with us.

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Mama Mia!

Honestly, if you haven’t yet watched this movie, I highly recommend you do so. It features an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and more. The story follows one young woman, Sophie (Seyfried), who is about to get married and wants to invite her father to her wedding. The only problem? Her mother (Streep) never told her who her father was. So Sophie sends out three letters to the three men who could be her father and all three show up. The rest is a musical journey featuring ABBA songs as Sophie learns about family and love from the three men, her mother, and her mother’s best friends.

Mama Mia! is just so much fun. I’m a sucker for musicals, obviously, and so the soundtrack for this film is delightful. If you don’t end your viewing by humming “Dancing Queen,” then you might be a robot. The story itself is a fun little guessing-game, rooted primarily in the love that Donna has for her daughter. The most important relationship by the end of the film isn’t a romantic one — it’s the familial bond between a mother and daughter. And I love that.

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Splitting Up Together

Okay, I know that you might be wondering why a show about divorce makes my “feel-good” media list, but hear me out because I was skeptical too: This ABC sitcom is entirely endearing and realistic in its portrayal of adult relationships, marriage, parenting, and moving on. It’s developed by Emily Kapnek (of Suburgatory and Selfie fame), whose shows were more or less focused on the idea that people are good, but even people who love each other make mistakes. Splitting Up Together is centered on a couple: Martin (Oliver Hudson) and Lena (Jenna Fischer) who have decided that they can no longer make their marriage work, but don’t want to split up their family in that process. So they decide to continue living together, each taking shifts — the “on” parent lives in the house, and the “off” parent lives in the attached garage apartment.

Oliver and Lena’s family and friends are skeptical about this arrangement. And though it initially feels awkward and odd (especially when both adults move back into the dating world), it works. And what results is a heartwarming show about what it means to love and lose, and the complexities of relationships that go south. I love that Splitting Up Together allows the chance to explore separation and divorce while developing both Oliver and Lena’s understanding of themselves and each other in the process.

Catch up on this ABC series. Jenna Fischer is absolutely wonderful, as you’d expect her to be, and Oliver Hudson surprised me with his delightful portrayal of Martin. Their chemistry is an integral part of the series and it works.

Regardless of which shows or films you deem to be feel-good, be sure to spend time this week (and month, and year) taking care of yourself. Sound off in the comments below and let us know what some of your favorite fluffy, feel-good TV shows/films are!