Ted Lasso, Rom-Coms, and Emotional Vulnerability

Why is it important that a show about men who play soccer did a rom-com homage?

Dickinson Behind-the-Scenes: An Interview With the Artisans

Meet the artists who brought the Apple TV+ series to life!

If You Like This, Watch That

Looking for a new TV series to watch? We recommend them based on your preference for musicals, ensemble shows, mysteries, and more!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

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

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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!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Younger 5x03 Recap: “The End of the Tour” (Finally!) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]

“The End of the Tour”
Original Airdate: June 19, 2018

Let’s hop right to it, shall we? This week on Younger, we saw Pauline’s major tour go from lies to truth and freedom, Charles finally confront Liza about her big secret, and Kelsey and Zane still being... well, Kelsey and Zane.

"The End of the Tour" focused pretty heavily on Pauline’s new book tour. Marriage Vacation has debuted and Pauline is making appearances all over the city. With her break-up with Charles fresh, she struggles with how much she should reveal to her new “friends” — a.k.a., her book’s fanbase — and consumers. While she is open with Liza and Diana about her impending divorce, she is concerned that if her fans don’t get the romantic ending in real life that the book provides, they won’t continue to support it. While she gets varying degrees of advice from the Millennial/Empirical staff (including Pauline lying about being happy and in love with Charles), Diana and Liza ultimately decide to try as hard as possible to get interviewers and fans to avoid personal questions and press ahead with the content.

Pauline does the best she can, but then has an emotional breakdown when a fan asks her a personal question. Diana asks Charles to show up for his wife and support her — not as a spouse, but as a friend and as a business partner invested in the success of this book. When Charles shows up, it provides a sense of closure and calm, which is exactly what Pauline needs at that moment. Pauline realizes that it is the end of the line for her and Charles, and finally tells her audience that her marriage is over in real life. A peace comes to her too as she gives Charles a piece of her mind, telling him that he is the real reason to blame for her leaving their marriage and he apparently can’t argue with that.

Elsewhere in the episode, Kelsey and Zane are competing for the attention of a new author in the form of President Obama’s former speechwriter, Jake Devereux (Jason Ralph of The Magicians). They both head to Washington, D.C. to woo him. Still arguing like children in Charles’s office about who will bag him, Charles wants them to tag team this effort and just makes sure they sign him since we all know he’s taking meetings elsewhere.

Jake, of course, decides he does not want to choose between working with Zane or Kelsey — he want them both! It is not a surprise to the audience, of course; this has literally been the theme of this relationship/storyline since Charles announced Zane was coming aboard. Oh, and Kelsey and Zane sleep together after choosing each other on the new elite dating app that Kelsey was selected for (via an application that Lauren submitted on her behalf). Oh, and Jake noticed Kelsey’s profile too, so here comes a love triangle!

The big reveal of the episode was Charles finally “confronting” Liza. I put that in quotes because he still didn’t have the gumption to directly tell Liza how he found out about her secret. Basically, in the middle of Charles and Pauline’s public end, Charles makes a not-so-vague statement about obvious things basically being right in front of his eyes. Pauline is flabbergasted and assumes that Charles is making a revelation of love to Liza (girl, you are way behind on that), but in reality, it was Charles letting Liza know that he knows her secret. When Liza runs after him and confronts him directly, they dance around the details (I kind of appreciate that since we already know) and Charles jumps straight to only wanting a professional relationship with Liza since she lied to him. I wish Charles would allow Liza time to explain, and I wish he would’ve approached her sooner.

What did you like about the episode? Lauren and Josh were unfortunately in the background, with Josh still trying to figure out how to end his cycle of heartbreak. I need more scenes with them. Will Charles ever allow Liza an opportunity to explain her story and feelings? Kelsey should give Jake a shot because I want to see more out of her character. Plus, she and Zane have done this dance before.

The question now is: where do Pauline and Liza stand? Now that she knows that Liza and Charles are more than co-workers, how will this impact their working relationship and budding acquaintanceship? Let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Supergirl 3x23 Review: "Battles Lost and Won" (The Word of the Day: Convenient) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Battles Lost and Won”
Original Airdate: June 18, 2018 

Previously on Supergirl: Sam has to drink from the Fountain of Lilith inside that creepy forest dimension, Reign will die if Sam gets stronger, M’yrnn is dying but wants to save his memories first, and some other stuff they probably should have cleared out of the storyline before the finale. But okay, I guess TV shows like ending all their season story threads in the big final episode — even if the result is a bloated mess of haphazard plot tie-offs, some of which are tying off plots that only started the previous week.

The good news is that it wasn’t a boring finale. It wasn’t a super exciting finale, either, but I didn’t almost fall asleep while watching it. Truly, though, the saving grace of “Battles Lost and Won” is that it ends on an overall optimistic note, perhaps indicating that the gloomy, plodding, angst-filled storylines of season three will be left behind in season four. What’s up with the third seasons of TV shows frequently being so dark, anyway? Has anyone figured that out? Is it a story structure thing or what?


Let’s start off with the most immediate threat to Earth: the terraforming that Reign instigates upon properly coming to life. According to the witchy Kryptonian trio of Selena and... the other two, earthquakes and such will transform Earth into a new Krypton. I’m not entirely sure why people with instantaneous terraforming capabilities decided to choose an inhabited planet. Just to be eeeevil, I suppose. The episode begins with the terraforming already underway and our heroes trying their best to minimize loss of life and property damage while J’onn and his father go to stop the actual terraforming.

Some important developments during the terraforming fight: James-as-Guardian unmasks to some scared lady who wants to go into a building and save her son. The Legion (or, because they seem to be the only team members, Imra and Brainy) shows up again to stop a tidal wave. We get a passing mention of Superman doing what he can wherever he is, but he doesn’t join the main battle.

I gotta be real honest: M’yrnn being able to sacrifice himself in order to stop Reign from tearing apart Earth’s molten core was one of those things abruptly introduced last episode, so I can’t really explain how it works. M’yrnn just shares one big, important memory with J’onn (about the first Green Martian to get scrolls of knowledge — I think — from a giant Martian head with flaming eyes) and then melts into magma, and the earthquakes stop. Why could he do this? Can all Martians melt into a planet and stop earthquakes? How convenient for Earth, that there was an earthquake-stopping Martian on the planet, ready to die for a good cause.

After the terraforming stops, everyone meets up to congratulate each other on a planet well saved. Oh, TV show characters. Blissfully ignorant of the running time and celebrating far too soon. So how did the Legion know to come back in time for battle? Well, the conveniently broken beacon that conveniently broke last episode conveniently un-broke just long enough to send out a signal for the future heroes to conveniently receive, allowing them to conveniently show up in the nick of time. It’s kind of hilarious how clumsily they explain it all in-universe, like I imagine the script just had a shrug emoji in place of all the dialogue and the actors just winged it.

Brainy has some bad news to rain on the parade: Although the future is saved from Pestilence, an evil Brainiac AI was also saved. Brainy can’t return to the future because if he does, Evil Brainiac will use a virus to kill all artificial intelligences to kill him. So, the future needs Mon-El to return, and also needs Winn. Apparently, some defensive technology Winn created last episode (again, slipping in huge plot point in the penultimate episode — great job, writers) is highly revered and Winn is a scientific hero.


Meanwhile, Sam is in that dark ooky-spooky forest dimension and has just found two pools. One of the pools is the Fountain of Lilith we learned about last episode, but — according to the Ghost of Patricia, who’s also hanging out in the spooky forest for some unexplained reason — the other pool will kill Sam. Sam has the choice of trusting this manifestation of her distant foster mother or trusting her own instincts. In the end, she chooses to trust Patricia, who serves the water from the Fountain to Sam while singing a lullaby.

This sequence is mostly a fulfilling end to Sam’s arc. Not only in terms of her gaining the strength from the Fountain and being able to defeat Reign, but also just Sam’s personal stuff: Sam finally trusting her foster mother and Patricia finally being a loving parent and genuinely caring for Sam without all the judgement over Sam’s choices in life. Overall, it’s a fine end; I just wish it hadn’t been crammed into an episode with half a dozen other storylines.

Hey, remember Thomas Coville from last episode? And how he got zapped with Kryptonian laser eyes for all his culty troubles? He’s conveniently not dead, so that he can conveniently send out a distress signal from J’onn’s stolen ship and alert the DEO to the witchy trio’s location. Everyone descends upon our villain’s lair. The witches get taken out by Mon-El, Alura, and J’onn while Supergir confronts Reign directly.

Sam wakes up after drinking from the fountain and she’s super! Like, Capital-S-Like-Supergirl super, not just “feelin’ super” kind of super. She’s just in time, too, because Reign has Kara pinned down and is boasting about no one on the planet being strong enough to fight her. Sam zips to Supergirl’s rescue, stabs Reign in the back, and Kara throws the season’s villain into the molten lava pit the Worldkiller priestesses birthed her from. In her death throes, Reign eye-blasts, like, everyone, and Kara’s left standing amongst the dead bodies of Mon-El, her mother, and Sam. Wow, bummer of an ending.

Just kidding! Kara grabs Mon-El’s Legion ring and, through technobabble, is able to turn back time to just before Sam arrived and stabbed Reign. Kara thinks everything went wrong because she agreed to kill Reign; I think everything went wrong because she failed to through Reign into the lava head-first. Either way, Kara decides that the best prison to use to keep Reign alive but harmless is the dark forest place, and since there’s a convenient weakening pool right next to the strengthening pool, Kara force-feeds Reign the weakening water and peaces out. Problem solved, without Supergirl having to resort to muuuurder.


J’onn resigns as Director of the DEO, leaving the position to Alex. Running the DEO means Alex would have less time in the field, which means less life risking and more time to spend with the kid she’ll eventually adopt.

Kara gives a tearful goodbye to her mother, who is heading back to Argo City with all the manufactured black Harun-el rock Lena made. Alura makes a pointed remark about how dangerous and mysterious the rock is, and how it’s good that none is on Earth. Yeah, Lena has some she’s experimenting with. Nice of you to set up that future fall from grace, Supergirl writers.

Kara also says goodbye to Mon-El and Winn, who are heading to the future. It’s less tearful and more proud, overall.

James channels his inner Tony Stark and outright tells a reporter: “I am Guardian.”

Somewhere in Siberia, a woman who looks like Kara walks up to an outpost wearing only a blanket.

See you guys next season!

Other Things:
  • Persephone is actually only confined to the realm of Hades for half the year, which is the entire point of the Persephone myth, Kara.
  • It’s cute that Ruby still has a Supergirl necklace.
  • I love when extras are in applauding crowd scenes because there’s always that one actor who goes over the top and nods his head enthusiastically, like absolutely no human being ever does.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Guest Blog: She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) and the Power of Boy Band Stories [Guest Poster: Ann Hood]

Boy band mania has been around for decades and one of the first big bangs in terms of boy bands was Beatlemania in the 1960s. After that first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles took over America and fans around the world were clamoring for any shred of news, information, new music release, or tour announcement. They burned brightly and fans stuck with them to end. 
This sort of thing still happens today, with groups like *NSYNC taking over the world in the early 2000s, One Direction holding court over the world for five years, and the Backstreet Boys still selling out their residency in New York. 
In Ann Hood's new book She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah), Trudy falls in love with The Beatles and Paul McCartney. She becomes the first fan club in Rhode Island. And when they come back around, her dad promises to take her. Only about 32 things go wrong and Trudy wonders if she'll ever be in the same room as the Fab Four. 
The book is a wonderful look at growing up, friendship and a love for the things that make our hearts swell. Here, Ann Hood lets us know what makes the stories of boy bands so relatable and desirable by readers even today and answers the question: If it started with the Beatles, what makes boy bands and the stories they inspire still so popular today?

For my mother, it was crooners: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby. For me — and every girl who watched The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 — it all began with The Beatles. Four guys in identical collarless suits and shaggy hair who shook their bangs and grinned at the camera and sang songs whose words we memorized and sang along to long after that first Sunday night. It started with The Beatles, but it didn’t end there.

There were The Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Beach Boys, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Rolling Stones — to name just a few of the boy bands we swooned over and dreamed of meeting one day, somehow. Each band had their own gimmick — Revolutionary War outfits, surfer gear, tie-dyed clothes, bad boy jeans and T-shirts — and the ones we loved best reflected, at heart, who we were. Or who we hoped to be someday. The Rolling Stones, with their tough stares and sex appeal, scared me. I didn’t want to fall in love with someone like Mick Jagger, or even worse, Keith Richards. Too dangerous. But the sweet-voiced Lovin’ Spoonful singing about it being a good day for a daydream and pleading Darling, be home soon, seemed both hippie-ish and safer. Like me, a daydreaming girl. Or The Beach Boys, who promised big waves and fast cars and California.

The last boy band I loved was Grand Funk Railroad, blue collar guys from Flint, Michigan who sang songs like “We’re an American Band” and a revival of Carole King’s “Do the Locomotion.” At the Providence Civic Center in 1974, I watched the lead singer, Mark Farner, strut across the stage as he sang, his long ponytail flying behind him, and knew that somehow my love affair with boy bands was over. Oh, sure, I still love The Beatles and all the others, but it was their music I loved, not them. My dreams of marrying Paul McCartney or catching a wave with Mike Love, were relegated to their proper place, where girlish dreams belong: tucked away in my heart and mind, making way for new dreams, dreams I might actually attain — being a writer, traveling the world, living in Greenwich Village.

Why do we love boy bands so? Because they are both at a safe distance and close to our hearts. Because they show us the parts of ourselves we are trying to understand or identify. Because when we outgrow them and move on, they still sing to us, but they step off the stage and allow the next act to begin.

Bio: Ann Hood is the author of the best-selling novels The Book That Matters Most, The Obituary Writer, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine, The Red Thread, and The Knitting Circle, as well as the memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice and chosen as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2008 by Entertainment Weekly. She has won two Pushcart Prizes as well as a Best American Spiritual Writing Award, two Best American Food Writing Award, and a Best American Travel Writing award. A regular contributor to the New York Times, Hood's short stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including Ploughshares, Tin House, Traveler, Bon Appetit, O, More, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Paris Review, and others. She is the editor of the anthologies Knitting Yarns: Writers Writing About Knitting, Knitting Pearls: More Writers Writing About Knitting, and Providence Noir. Hood is also the author of books for children, including the middle-grade novel, How I Saved My Father (And Ruined Everything Else), and the ten-book Treasure Chest series for young readers. Her new memoir, Morningstar: Growing Up with Books, will be published in August. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and New York City, and is married to the writer Michael Ruhlman.
Ann Hood's tale of Beatlemania, She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah), is in stores now. But beware: You won't stop singing Beatles songs for weeks!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Bachelorette 14x03 Roundtable: "Quick, Call the Ambulance!" [Contributors: Jen, Alisa, and Chelsea]

Welcome back to another fun week of The Bachelorette roundtables! Your favorites have returned to give you their thoughts on last week's episode, so let's dive right in.

We were graced with two ambulance visits on this week’s episode, with David the Chicken taking a fall off his bunk bed and Clay breaking his wrist, and ultimately having to leave. How do you feel about the chicken fight fake-out with Jordan? How much are you going to miss Clay? 

Jen K.: I feel my world will be a little darker without Clay. He has to come back as soon as possible. I knew Male Model didn’t hurt Jordan, but I was not expecting falling out of bed. It looked like fight club in the mansion. How far off the ground is his bed? I have questions. Although, I am with him on being used to a king-sized bed. Once you go king, you never go back.

Alisa: HE. FELL. OUT. OF. BED. Despite the many, many seasons of this franchise, THAT took me by complete surprise. Like Jen said, it clearly wasn’t going to be a fight between Jordan and David. Jordan wouldn’t do anything that put his moneymaker at risk. But falling out of bed is one for the ages. Are there no rails on those beds? How have we been watching this show basically our whole lives and this is the first time someone’s fallen out of the top bunk?

As for Clay, I’m super bummed he’s leaving but really hope he makes a surprise reappearance; it’s happened before! He’s final four and Bachelor material for sure, but he needs to come back to make that a reality.

Chelsea: We all knew the David and Jordan didn’t have a fight because this show is always trying to fake us out. But the editing was a beautiful and an inspired choice. Jordan drilling a rail to the top bunk and making all the chicken jokes made the fake-out completely worth it.

Clay is a treasure and I want him to be the next Bachelor or at least show up in Paradise. He was a real adult and made a smart decision for his career and the situation he was in, but he is one of my favorite dudes and is way too good for this franchise.

We finally got to hear Tia’s side of the Colton/Tia dating story. How do you feel about the show handling the revelation? Should Becca have forgiven Colton so quickly? 

Jen K.: No, Colton is shady. I’m not seeing what the allure is — other than the fact that he’s another Abercrombie & Fitch-looking model for Becca to choose from. Except she has plenty of others with that qualification who didn’t date her friend. I have trust issues with Tia as well. I think she expected to be the next Bachelorette so all this “support” for Becca feels fake to me. I have very little evidence to support this. It’s just my vibe.

Alisa: I’m not a fan of either Tia or Colton. As far as I’m concerned, they deserve each other and can get off Becca’s show. SHE’s the Bachelorette. I know that’s harsh but I don’t care. Tia was clearly gunning for the headline spot last season and seemed in it for all the wrong reasons, just like Colton does now. Becca needs a man who’s there for her, not to boost his own fame. She should have sent him packing the moment she found out. It seems clear he got with Tia thinking she’d be the next Bachelorette, and now he’s trying the same thing with Becca. It may make semi-interesting TV, but the producers really need to cool it with this nonsense.

Chelsea: The whole thing is shady and it’s painful how much both Colton and Tia want to soak up this reality fame. We all knew Tia was gunning for Bachelorette and it felt destined from the moment we found out she was friends with Raven, from Nick’s season. I wouldn’t trust either of them and I wouldn’t be surprised if they both ended up in Paradise to continue this story. The best thing to come from this whole mess has been Bekah M. spilling all the tea on Instagram and Twitter about these two, and looking out for Becca’s interests. That’s the kind of friend you want.

With Clay’s sad departure, this episode ended before a rose ceremony. Who do you think will go home? Garrett looks to be the man that gets a one-on-one next week. Who else are you hoping gets time to shine next week? 

Jen K.: My fave is on the injured list. I’m staying loyal and waiting for Clay to come off the bench. But... Blonde Nick is cute. Haven’t seen much of him. Also the long haired surfer dude who I thought joined the cast this episode because I never saw him before. MIKE. I googled him.

Alisa: I’m with Jen. Clay’s my man and I’m not switching teams now. That said, Leo is FINE. And his facial expressions have me cracking up every episode. I’d like to see more of him. I’m afraid he’ll turn out to be a jerk, but it’s hard to tell either way without more screen time. There was also a quick shot of one guy in Harry Potter glasses who I swear I’ve never seen before and I need to figure out who that was because he looked super cute.

Chelsea: After the adorable name snafu, I really want to see more of Jason in the upcoming episodes. He seems to have a fun vibe to him and is probably there to make friends. I don’t think Mike or Cute Glasses Ryan have said a single word this season, so they’re probably headed home soon. I’m not particularly impressed with this crop of guys at all.

How is Becca doing as the Bachelorette this season? How are you feeling about this season of the show? There are those problematic men: first Garrett’s questionable Instagram activity and now Lincoln’s assault conviction. How are we feeling about Becca’s chances at finding true love amidst the trash?

Jen K.: Becca is a big bowl of love. She seems sweet, earnest, and kind. I absolutely believe she’s here for the right reasons. Becca is also very trusting and forgiving. These are excellent qualities in people but can also lead to being used. So I have my Mama Bear Protective Mode activated. I don’t want her to get her heart broken again. I think she’s doing a good job of giving every guy their shot. There’s a lot of them and she’s rotating them nicely. I love she’s initiating every kiss (get it girl), but it would also be nice to see one of these boys man up and make a move. Thus far I am enjoying the season a lot. Although, I need to adjust to the rapid speed dating. It’s kind of unbelievable to me that one of the early dates was writing a love song. I think that would’ve been easier if Becca and Chris were actually in love rather than warm acquaintances who kiss. I think the song writing date should have been saved for the final four.

Alisa: Everything Jen said! Becca’s darling but I worry she’s going to trust the wrong guy and end up heartbroken all over again. Also, she deserves a truly amazing guy and I am just not optimistic with this bunch. The only guy I was super excited about (Clay) bowed out, and a lot of these men are just shady. And yeah, now with all this mess coming out after filming, I’m even more worried. I was sorta willing to give the producers a pass on not learning about Garrett’s Instagram activity until after the fact, simply because that does seem hard to find out.

But this assault charge with Lincoln? How does that not get uncovered before filming begins? I get he wasn’t convicted until last week, but he was charged in 2016! Someone, somewhere had to know about it and just kept quiet. I actually think people really could find love on this show, but the producers don’t want them to. They want the drama that comes with terrible contestants and that’s what they get it. It makes me sad for the people (like Becca) who seem to truly believe this show can work for them. Hopefully it still can, but I’m just not holding out hope.

Chelsea: I’m enjoying watching Becca’s season a lot even if the crop of guys are sub-par. She’s doing an awesome job trying to get to know each guy and I love that she’s really in control of all her dates. Clay was a real favorite of mine but now I’m only going to think about what might have been. I am co-signing what Jen said about wanting the guys to initiate anything with Becca. They all seem very scared of her for some reason, and sometimes a gal wants a charming Jordan-type from Jojo’s season or even Bryan from Rachel’s season. And re: the Chris/Becca date from this week, that did seem like a date for the final three or even final two. Becca clearly doesn’t remember their names yet, so how is she supposed to write a love song for *insert random brunette*?

Garrett is a forgivable offense for the producers because that would take some creepy friending and deep-diving online but Lincoln is a bit much. We know Lincoln was just convicted this past month but the producers should’ve been able to find this out if they did some simple Google searches or looked at public records. It’s not that hard to find out this information. I do feel better knowing the conviction means Lincoln probably didn’t make it too much further in the show and won’t be in Paradise.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The History of Jane Doe: An Interview with Author Michael Belanger [Contributor: Megan Mann]

First love can be equal parts incredible and heartbreaking, all in the extremes. Extreme highs and even great lows. What can complicate things is that person being gone to you forever. Then, the sorrow is all the more difficult to navigate.

This is the fate that has befallen history nerd Ray. He thought life in his small town was okay, but only the history truly excited him. That is, until Jane came blowing into town and changed his life. The mysterious new girl took a shine to Ray for his witty commentary and the two quickly formed a relationship where Ray found himself enamored by Jane.

... Which makes what happens later even harder on Ray. Told between the before and after, Ray narrates the story of first love, first loss, and all that happens in between. He realizes that maybe history isn't as cut and dry as he thought it was, and that the parts of us that we don't share as our personal history are what really make us.

I was lucky enough to get in touch with Michael Belanger and ask him just a few questions about what it's like to release his debut novel, as well as how history has many facets to it.

Congratulations on your debut! How does it feel to finally have the book hit the shelves?

Thanks! It feels exciting, scary, awesome, and surreal — which should really be a whole new emotion, although I imagine the corresponding emoji would be somewhat frightening.

To be honest, I’ve already gone to my local bookstore a few times just to see it on the shelves. I’m really not that great at social media, so I’m thinking about making that my main marketing strategy — go to every bookstore I can and casually tell people how great the book is. And if someone notices my resemblance to the picture on the jacket sleeve, I’ll just claim to be the author’s evil twin brother.

What made you decide to write this story? What was the catalyst?

The book began with Ray’s voice. I wrote a chapter from the perspective of Ray describing Burgerville and after that I couldn’t stop. Gradually, everything started to come together. As I continued to write weird stories about Burgerville, the other characters naturally became part of the landscape: Jane Doe from the other Williamsburg, fan of folk music and conspiracy theories. Simon Blackburn, obsessed with vampire fiction and milk. Their stories were an integral part of the strange world of Burgerville, they just needed someone to transcribe them — a historian, so to speak.

As a high school teacher, I’m well-versed in the issues teenagers face each and every day. Their struggles gave me the sense of urgency to write this book. Not to mention, I used to be a teenager myself. I think somewhere, deep down inside, there’s still part of me trying to come to terms with my high school life — the pain, the confusion, the unwavering devotion to nineties alternative music (that part never left). I wish I could give that kid a hug. Or, because high school Mike wasn’t good with physical contact, a nice old-fashioned high five.

You’re a history teacher by day. Is that why you made your main character a history buff?

Definitely! It was a long and winding path to becoming a writer, and I’m grateful for all of the different life experiences that have shaped how I see the world, and in turn, shaped my characters. Writing isn’t only about putting words, sentences, and paragraphs together in a way that sounds good — you also need to have something to say. Coming from a background in history and teaching high school for almost a decade has had a profound impact on my writing. I’m a big proponent of writing what you know, and even though the world of Burgerville doesn’t exist, my background in history gave me a deep well to draw from — or a big cut of steak, if you will.

What I find interesting is that Ray believes knowing history gives us all of the answers, but that there are always details that are left out — that some people are ashamed to admit. Were you conscious of the idea that as humans, our histories are much more complex than a presentation of facts?

I’m so happy that those concepts and ideas came through! We all interpret our lives according to our own worldview, and I loved the idea of applying a historian’s lens to a person. I’ve been really influenced by revisionist historians who’ve challenged traditional narratives of American history. But could this approach work on a person? How can we challenge the stories we tell ourselves? 

As Ray delves into Jane’s history, he begins to realize the limits of the historical approach. Sadly, life can’t always be explained by cause-and-effect patterns. Not every event has a clear why. Sometimes it’s on us to make our own meaning, to ignore logic and embrace the unknown — which sounds way more New Age-y than I meant. Though to be clear, I have no problem with the New Age community, so please, no angry tweets. I guess what I’m trying to say is that life can’t always be lived according to certainty. Sometimes you have to find solace in the uncertainty.

The History of Jane Doe is a coming-of-age story. It’s a concept that has gotten more attention recently with movies like Lady Bird and books like Turtles All the Way Down dominating in their markets and having crossover appeal. What do you think draws readers of every age to the idea over and over again?

First off, I love Lady Bird and Turtles All the Way Down! I think we’re all still coming-of-age in our own ways, and the journey of a teenager is filled with so many rites of passage that it strikes a chord in everyone. One that probably never stops reverberating.

For teenagers, it’s cathartic to see themselves reflected in books and movies. It creates an archetype for teenagers to follow. Take Turtles All the Way Down, for example. I wish I could’ve had that book in high school to help me make sense of my anxiety and OCD. We read books to escape reality, but they can also help us escape in a more literal sense; a good book can offer us a path out of our troubles.

One of the most common themes in reviews thus far has been your wit and comedic timing. Is heartache and loss easier to deal with through humor?

It’s great to hear that people are responding to the humor. I love books, movies and TV shows that mesh humor and drama. I think it’s more reflective of our everyday lives. Even during the darkest times of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to find some light. And one of the things therapy has taught me is to focus on that light. Let it grow brighter. Humor can help with that. Laughing during times of great sadness is a very human thing to do.

I’ve also always been drawn to writers like Kurt Vonnegut who find a way to be both funny and serious. There’s a blurb on the back of one of Vonnegut’s books from the Los Angeles Times Book Review that says, “[Vonnegut] is either the funniest serious writer around or the most serious funny writer.” Not only does that quote perfectly describe Vonnegut, it’s also a pretty great description of humans. We’re either the funniest serious species around, or the most serious funny species. And because we’re talking Vonnegut, I’ll extend that to include aliens too.

Mental health is finally starting to slightly push away its stigma. Do you think that a story involving it makes it easier for the work to resonate with audiences?

I think it’s really important for everyone to see mental health portrayed honestly in pop culture. People have to stop punishing themselves for having anxiety and depression. That only adds another degree of difficulty onto getting better. There’s something so liberating about seeing mental illness as exactly that — an illness, something you can manage and recover from.

I remember feeling so ashamed of my depression and anxiety in high school. I wouldn’t talk about it with anyone. It made me feel weak, weird, strange. But by having characters in books openly confronting their mental health conditions through therapy, medication, and talking to friends and family, I’m hoping teenagers will more readily speak about their own struggles.

A lot of our readers are aspiring writers. What’s your writing process like?

I try to write an hour before work and another hour when I get home. The whole full-time job thing tends to get in the way of my process. And when class starts, I can’t exactly tell my students to just sit quietly while I finish a scene. As a teacher, a Lord of the Flies-type scenario is always just one bad lesson away.

With that being said, it’s important for me to stay excited about writing too, so I don’t sweat it if I need to take a day off, whether because I have a lot of grading to do, my cats are demanding attention — and if you have cats, you know when I say demand, I’m not exaggerating — or I just want to watch a show on Netflix. Like life, writing should be filled with joy. Don’t make it a drag!

How do you deal with writer’s block? Or, like Neil Gaiman, do you not suffer from it?

My philosophy is to always write even if I feel like my writing really sucks. I just want to get words on the page so I can feel accomplished. Before: a blank page. After: words assembled together in a mildly coherent way. Success!

For me, writing has always been a game of volume. I need to write a lot of words so the world will believe I’m a writer. The funny thing is, when you go back and revisit your pages, you’ll often realize they’re not that bad, or maybe there’s one amazing idea or paragraph. And that’s enough to demolish the wall of writer’s block, which you’ll find never really existed in the first place. Just the idea of writer’s block. Uh oh, I’m sounding New Age-y again.

As someone who just released their debut, what advice do you have for aspiring writers when it comes to putting their work out there?

Find a community of writers whose feedback you can trust. Understanding your strengths as a writer — and working on your weaknesses — will give you the confidence you need to get your work out there. After that, it’s just a game of numbers, which as a history person, I was never really all that comfortable with. But the message is simple enough, even for someone who failed math senior year (I technically withdrew, but whatever Mom!):

submissions = ­ responses

time + experience = better responses

time + experience + x = getting published

In this equation, x = your unique voice as a writer, that indefinable something that’s impossible to describe, like trying to explain the glory that is pizza. It just is. You’re just you.

Finally, what would you like readers to know about The History of Jane Doe?

The History of Jane Doe is a deeply personal story in a lot of ways, but its themes are universal. Ray talks about alternative dimensions throughout the book, and depression can make you feel like you’re living in your own alternative dimension, a world where nothing ever seems to work out so why even bother? But it’s important to remember that the good dimension is always one little step away, just like Rich, Ray’s therapist, is always saying.

There are plenty of people who can help you take those steps: friends, family, teachers, school nurses, guidance counselors, librarians, and mental health professionals, just to name a few. If you don’t know who to turn to, you can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Don’t be afraid to reach out.

And if someone reaches out to you, do your best to reach back, or at least point them in the direction of someone who can.

You can purchase The History of Jane Doe today.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Supergirl 3x22 Review: "Make It Reign" (Make It Stop) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

“Make It Reign”
Original Airdate: June 11, 2018 

Fun fact: I almost fell asleep while watching this episode, because whatever the penultimate episode of a television season should be, this one was the opposite: boring, borderline inconsequential, repetitive, and unbalanced. “Make It Reign” is more like “Make It A Lazy Summer Drizzle When You Got Nothing to Do,” and I haven’t studied it with anything close to a scientific eye, but there was something... off about the pacing, which might have been 80% of the problem.

Did scenes last too long? Did action, emotion, and exposition scenes not come in the right order to keep up momentum? Or was it just a case of the show, once again, un-solving a problem we thought was solved, rather than simply streamlining their storytelling in a way that prevents the tedious treading of old ground?

Jeez. One episode after this one, guys. Just gotta hold on for one more episode.


Kara and Mon-El are still stuck on Argo, unable to communicate with Earth because of Argo’s shielding situation. Meanwhile, the Worldkiller priestesses have arrived on Earth and are ready to start their ritual to raise Reign again (note to Supergirl writers: “again” should not be a word I use in describing the main event of your main plot), with the added bonus of now having all the yellow sun powers Kryptonians get. So three evil, super-powered individuals are on Earth, National City’s primary protector is on a floating asteroid city light-years away, and the other good Kryptonian on the planet is absent, probably for legal reasons. Great.

Back on Argo, Kara, Mon-El, and Kara’s mom discover the evil Worldkiller Priestess cave where all the Worldkiller Priestesses have been doing evil things. A hologram of the lead priestess, Selena, pops up just to tell Kara and Company that Sam and Reign are in a Harry Potter/Voldemort “neither can live while the other survives” situation, and the Big Plan is now not to cleanse the universe of wrongdoers, as we have been lead to believe throughout this ENTIRE Reign plot, but to terraform the Earth into a new Krypton. Would that mean turning some Earth rocks into Kryptonite? Because under the yellow sun, that might be a serious flaw in their evil plan.

The Worldkiller Priestess room explodes, hurting Kara’s old friend from Krypton just to get her out of the story and conveniently damaging the Legion of Superheroes beacon that Mon-El has been carrying around, because clumsily eliminating extraneous or potentially helpful elements is this episode’s forte. Kara and Alura scope out ways to get a message back to Earth, finally landing on using the hologram crystals that are used like Kryptonian USB drives, I guess? Kara contacts Winn through the AI hologram of Alura, which is sectioned off in its own AI-specific room in the DEO, and drops all the info the folks on Argo know about the Worldkiller master plan. Alex is there too.

Meanwhile the Worldkiller priestesses have arrived at their Earth-based evil headquarters and, with the help of Thomas “I Started a Cult and All I Got For It Was Inevitable Betrayal” Coville, begin the ritual to bring Reign back in her non-Sam (but still played by Odette Annable) form. They hit a snag in their ritual when they realize that the other two Worldkillers’ blood isn’t in the mix, so it’s real convenient for them that Coville knows vials of Purity and Pestilence’s blood are being stored at the DEO. How does he know this? I don’t know. It’s never explained. Even I didn’t know the DEO was storing Worldkiller blood, and I review this show every week. Did I miss this little tidbit of information? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that the show just pulled this out of thin air because they knew they wanted to have the Worldkillers fight at DEO headquarters and wanted to kill off poor Demos for the drama.

So the Worldkillers attack the DEO, just in time for Kara, Alura, and Mon-El to use a portal cobbled together by old tech Kara’s dad was working on before he died and some mimicry from Winn’s side of things. Winn being able to duplicate Kryptonian technology made by never completed by a now-dead man is just Convenient Plot Point #3,402 of this season. Using the portal, Kara, Alura (wearing a nifty costume!), and Mon-El return to Earth just in time to see the chaos of the Worldkiller attack.

Speaking of the DEO/Worldkiller priestess battle: I noticed two things that struck me as odd. One of those things is, apparently heat vision doesn’t burn people anymore? The priestesses seemed to use their heat vision as more of a concussive blast. The other thing is that Alex fires kryptonite bullets at the priestesses and nothing happens. Why not? I don’t think it was ever established that Selena and her cohorts are particularly stronger than the average Kryptonian, although I suppose it could be handwaved as a side effect of their Kryptonian magics... but it’s more likely that the writers just wanted to up the stakes of the fight without really upping any stakes. So Alex shoots them with kryptonite bullets because you gotta make the audience think the good guys are gonna win! But the bullets do nothing. Just like much of the plot this season, the writers rely heavily on the implication of progress, without actually allowing any progress to happen — it’s the “treadmill to nowhere” approach to storytelling.

Oh, and they killed off a character just because. Way to stick to your comic book roots in some way, Supergirl. It's just a pity that killing off characters for the sake of drama is the worst way to do that.

Kara tries to trick the priestesses by throwing the vials of Worldkiller blood their way and then heat-blasting them in Selena’s hand, but it backfires when the three escape and Selena cuts open her wound and it’s apparently enough blended Worldkiller blood to complete the ritual. Gross.

Reign is back! Again!

Other Things:
  • Selena and her Priestess Pals say they have powers “beyond reason” on Earth, which just feels like a tongue-in-cheek jab at how illogical the Kryptonian powers are.
  • For a second I thought the Selena hologram was a recording and half expected it to interrupt Alura’s shaming-speech.
  • If Earth resets itself, wouldn’t they have to wait a few million years for all the magma to cool down?
  • “Always the hero!” says Winn about Mon-El. I’m pretty sure the entire point of Mon-El was that he spent 99% of his time not being a hero and sucking at trying to be a hero and it was only getting flung into the future that gave him even an ounce of heroism, and even that was lackluster and limited to cape tricks. So... nah, Winn. Not really.
  • Sam has to get her strength back by going to that dark evil Reign forest and finding The Fountain of Lilith. Sweet merciful skies, Supergirl, stop just adding lore to this plot in order to make it last longer.

Younger 5x02 Recap: “A Titanic Problem” (Rollercoaster) [Guest Poster: Kay-B]

“A Titanic Problem”
Original Airdate: June 12, 2018

Welcome back to your favorite Younger recap! Ready to dive in? Good!

This episode picked back up with Charles obsessing over the files that Edward gave him about Liza. All episode was focused heavily on Charles as he processed being lied to for years by Liza. Charles, giving us very much a two-sided conundrum, is professionally struggling from the hit on Empirical’s finances due to Edward’s sexual harassment revelations. Personally, he obviously loves Liza (and finally admits it this episode, eek!), but is having a hard time reconciling being fooled and foolish.

While he processes this professional and personal struggle with Liza, Pauline is at home hoping to reconcile with him as husband and wife. Charles avoids giving her an answer all episode, because he is still trying to sort out his feelings for Liza. He looks for clues as to how he could’ve missed this and without stating names, confides in his lawyer and friend, who — unbeknownst to him — also knows Liza. Charles’s attorney advises him to try to avoid this mystery woman at all costs.

Instead of fully focusing on the current demise of the Edward L.L. Moore brand, Liza and Kelsey get a welcomed distraction when Marriage Vacation is selected by Reese Witherspoon for her monthly book club. Historically, those books go on to become huge bestsellers, so this news couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Liza slides into Reese’s DM to propose a film adaptation with Reese portraying Pauline. And during the staff meeting, Reese responds to Liza, and a meeting is arranged. During the meeting, Reese’s people say they’d love to do a film. Pauline is incredibly shocked and offers to take the girls out to celebrate. Liza goes back inside and pitches an even better, long-term incubator deal to Reese’s team and they are immediately intrigued.

Liza, understandably thrilled about this new lucrative deal she just proposed to Reese’s team, goes back to the office to give Charles a heads up. The lengths that Charles goes to in an attempt to avoid Liza are both ridiculous and rude, especially in a work environment. Charles lets his heart do the work instead of his head and tells Reese’s team that he has to think about this deal. Liza's hand-delivered a monetary godsend in the wake of their financial woes, and Charles couldn’t look beyond his current knowledge of her double life to see the value and worth in it.

Meanwhile, Josh and Liza have an awkward run-in at his apartment, where Josh is awaiting the arrival of his new bride. However, later we find out she isn’t coming and truly only got married for the opportunity to live in the States — not for love. Josh is feeling broken and finds comfort in Liza. He probably should stay single for a while, and figure out who he is and — ultimately — a bit more about what he wants out of life.

After Diana puts things into financial perspective for Charles, he publicly agrees to the deal with Reese’s team at the Marriage Vacation book release party, stating he has no other choice when asked by Liza what changed his mind. Charles also makes a decision about Pauline and decides they need to proceed with a divorce. Professionally this was the greatest night of Pauline’s life; but personally, all of her hopes of having her family together again are crushed.

This season of Younger so far is moving at a much slower pace than I would like it to be. While this episode did show some career growth for Lisa, it never directly addressed the aftermath of Charles finding out Liza’s secret. I was hoping they would use this episode to have them talk directly and give Liza a chance to explain herself. Instead, "A Titanic Problem" danced around the actual problem, and Charles spoke largely in metaphors — when he wasn’t avoiding direct eye contact.

Also, I need more of a storyline for Maggie, apart from just being a part of the tour bus scam. And Lauren needs help with her PR firm and that film she designed! I am looking forward to seeing Maggie and Josh develop a real friendship outside of Liza (per the trailer) and for Lauren to really make her mark in the industry. Also, Zane needs a client and not be so prideful when Kelsey is trying to help him by letting him consult on Millennial books.

What did you like about the episode? What did you dislike? I feel like Charles’s decision to divorce Pauline was clear as day. He never really allowed space for her back in his heart and if Pauline was honest with herself, she knew that. Does Josh need to be in a relationship right now?  Will Charles ever confront Liza for lying? Guess we will just have to wait and see next week on Younger!

Image credit: TVFanatic

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Bachelorette 14x01 & 14x02 Roundtable: Let's Do It Again [Contributors: Chelsea, Alisa, Jen K., and Rebecca]

It's baaaaaaaaack! We've finally entered summertime and that means that The Bachelorette has returned. Chelsea, Alisa, and Rebecca are also back and they're ready to chat about all things related to their favorite (and sometimes frustrating) reality franchise. Joining them this season is your favorite Blindspot reviewer, Jen K.!

Let's dive in, kids.

Who had the best or most memorable introduction gimmick? Who had the worst? 

Alisa: Okay, so I thought the chicken guy would turn out to be the worst, but fortunately he was super sweet and even though I’m not a fan of people dressing up in costumes to be memorable, his personality ended up making it work and he became the most memorable in a good way! The worst was the guy who brought the cardboard cut-out of Arie. It was bad enough that like half the contestants mentioned Arie during their introductions (and we had to re-watch that agonizing break-up), but the cut-out was too much!

Also, I think I was the only one in America who didn’t like the whole pulling up in a van thing? Even before I knew Garrett was problematic, I thought the van thing was cringe-worthy and slightly Stepford Wife-y, but to each their own. Becca obviously liked it.

Rebecca: The best gimmick for me happened a while ago, back on After the Final Rose. I loved Blake’s cheesy “get back up on the horse” metaphor, complete with an actual horse! And then he rode in an ox on the first “real” night... absolute legend. I love how Becca was like, “Where does he keep getting these animals from?”

Seconding Alisa, the guy (don’t even remember his name) with the cardboard cutout of Arie had the worst entrance. Who wants a life-size photo of their ex when they’re trying to meet 30 new guys? I also didn’t like the guy (again, don’t remember his name) who wanted Becca to compromise 60/40 with him. Yikes.

Jen K.: I’m going to give best to Garrett because the minivan was an inspired choice. Also, that’s zeroing in on my demographic so I might be biased. #MinivanMom Chicken guy was also extremely memorable and — shock of shocks — pretty darn cute. I’m with Alisa. Cut-out Arie was the worst.

Chelsea: I was really charmed by the chicken guy and problematic Garrett’s entrances. I’m definitely the type who likes a goofy partner and they nailed it. Worst EASILY goes to the 60/40 guy who was later cut. Becca even mentioned him needing to turn around and leave after his entrance. Rude with a bad haircut doesn’t go far with the ladies. Overall, most of the entrances were pretty dang forgettable.

Garrett might have received Becca’s first impression rose but he certainly didn’t get America’s. Who left the best impression on you night one? When will the producers hire social media investigators for the contestants? 

Alisa: I’m in love with Clay! He was so, so sweet and adorable and just seemed like such a genuine down-to-earth dude who’s — wait for it — HERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS! But for real, y’all. I don’t really see Becca choosing him in the end, but I hope he goes far enough that he gets chosen to be the next Bachelor. Also, I don’t believe for a second the producers aren’t well aware of their problematic picks like Garrett (and Lee last season). They’re totally putting guys like that in to ramp up the drama.

Rebecca: My favorites so far are Clay, Blake, and Leo. Clay and Blake are absolute sweethearts, totally here for the right reasons, and seem super genuine and open to finding love. Leo... we don’t know too much about him yet, but I’m super into him and his luscious hair. And ABC totally already has social media investigators, they just don’t care. Like with Lee on Rachel’s season, how are the producers not going to know they brought on a racist for the first season featuring a black Bachelorette? I think the producers like to stir up the pot by bringing on controversial contestants. To be fair, someone did some absolutely insane digging to get the dirt on Garrett, but the type of person who “likes” things on social media making fun of trans folks and school shooting survivors most likely isn’t the greatest person IRL.

Jen K.: I’m here for Clay. Clay is my guy. I really liked Garrett until I found out about his Instagram. I’m new to all of this. The last time I watched The Bachelorette, Instagram didn’t exist (all my love Trista and Ryan). So I was rather floored that the producers didn’t know because they have to know, right? It’s super shady they keep people like this around. More worrisome is Becca on every morning show defending Garrett, so sadly, he sticks around.

Chelsea: Again, I’m so disappointed with the whole Garrett thing because I love a goofy dude. I know he didn’t post anything and that somebody went through a whole lot of work to find those likes, but still. Producers are just gonna have to keep stepping up their vetting game because this one was pretty difficult to find unless you were friends with him and followed a bunch of the same accounts he was liking.

I’m completely biased because Clay is an alum of my college and I briefly met him before; he was super nice then and even sweeter on the show. He’s the kind of dude that you get what you see and is such a cool and charming human — my frontrunner for the Bachelor. Blake, Wills, Leo, and Jason also really left me with really good vibes.

The only thing better than finding love on this show is finding a villain. Who has good villain potential? Is the male model there to stir the pot or is he just a doofus? 

Alisa: I think the male model — while fun to laugh at/with — doesn’t have what it takes to be this season’s villain. He’s just pompous fluff in great shoes. It seems like Garrett’s true colors didn’t surface until after the season wrapped, so I’m guessing he’s not the villain either. I don’t know. I didn’t get strong bad guy vibes from any of them on night one, but enough of them look like your typical Disney villian that I figure someone will step forward to claim that title soon enough.

Rebecca: Jordan is definitely the Corinne of this season, although probably not quite as conniving and sneaky. He brings the goofy drama though, and he’s a total diva. I actually laughed out loud when he said there were less than 100 male models in the United States and compared his footsteps to a gentleman’s heartbeat. He’s entertaining and annoying, but not mean (at least not yet), so I don’t see him becoming a villain. I think it’s a bit early to tell who will be this season’s villain yet, especially when there are still so many guys left that I can’t keep their names or stories straight.

Jen K.: I feel like to be a villain you have to be somewhat self-aware of your villainy. Male model is just too self-absorbed to be remotely self-aware in any regard, which makes him all the more ridiculous, but not necessarily evil. I find him more amusing than anything else. He is literally a Ken doll. Villain for me is someone who stirs the pot, is out for himself, or is just plain old mean. Then again, Male Model could be the devil. I can’t really tell who is going to be a villain yet, but I am on red alert. By the way, am I supposed to learn names? Because I’m calling him Male Model forever.

Chelsea: Jordan is more of the jester this season than a villain. He isn’t malicious with his actions and really is there to be silly. Lincoln, on the other hand, cheated his way through a date and stirred up drama with the guys immediately after. That’s who I would watch out for.

Group dates got weird quick this season with a race to the altar obstacle course and a kid-coached dodgeball tournament. Adding in Blake’s bizarre one-on-one date, which date would you liked to have been on? Would any of the men get your rose? 

Alisa: Uhhh yeah, those dates were not great. And at this point the obligatory obstacle course and sporty dates have gone stale. Like, we get it. These are macho men who are big and strong! Enough. How about a date that actually teaches you something about the guy? Instead of a "ball and chain" obstacle course complete with tuxes and wedding cakes, maybe a panel discussion on who the men voted for in 2016 and why, and a debate on contemporary issues like poverty, immigration, and gun control. But I suppose that wouldn’t make great TV. Ah, well. I’ll just have to pretend to be shocked when the happy couple inevitably ends their engagement because they (shockingly!) didn’t find out anything useful about each other during the season. Also, Clay would get all my roses; the other men can leave.

Rebecca: All right, I loved the dodgeball date. The kids were absolute savages, and I probably rewatched the scene of the kids screaming “TRAAAASH” at least four times. The obstacle date was fine enough, but the drama with Lincoln’s picture was just annoying. Like, just don’t touch stuff that isn’t yours? Blake’s date was infuriating to watch. While I’m sure destroying Arie’s things is therapeutic for Becca, that’s something to do on her own time with her girlfriends, not as a first date with her potential future husband. I agree with Alisa about needing dates that dig deeper into the men’s personal lives and political beliefs, although ratings won’t go up to hear a bunch of Ken dolls talk about social issues that most likely don’t even affect them.

Jen K.: What is with this show’s incessant need to remind Becca she was dumped? Arie is getting more airplay than he did on his season, which is many levels of gross. The whole Arie-themed date was really uncomfortable and weird. Epic fail. Let us never speak of Arie again. I’m also confused on how obstacle courses are illuminating marriage potential, but whatevs, producers. Wedding themes this early on in the competition feels like jumping the gun, but it’s also possible I’m watching The Bachelorette wrong.

And I’m with y’all. Let’s run through religious and political leanings. Maybe explore money management styles. Those kids were savage though, and I loved it. I feel like Connor escalated quickly over something pretty small. It’s a picture, dude. Calm down. So his temper is wildly concerning. Then Lincoln tattled and cried over a photo with a woman he’s known for five minutes. Are these guys for real? I’m looking forward to when it stops feeling like a sales pitch whenever these dudes sit down with her. Do they always kiss after first conversations? We don’t work up to kissing? I might be too old for this. Random thought: Becca slayed in the red jumpsuit.

Chelsea: Somebody PLEASE get me a GIF of those kids yelling "TRAAAAAASH" at the men. Best moment of the entire show.

I’m with Rebecca in that destroying all the Arie stuff is something you should do with your friends, not on a first date. That should’ve been a montage in the first episode with Caroline, Seinne, Kendall, Bekah, and Tia. I am so impressed though that they got a real artist with a recognizable hit song on the show. I’ve been convinced for several seasons now that they just grab a person off the street who can carry a tune and give them a fake name.

The dudes always bring the best kind of petty drama that shows their true colors, and that’s why I like these competitive dates. It’s not so much who wins as much as how can they handle the pressure. I really found myself loving Wills and how he stayed out of all the messes. Him, Clay, and Leo would get my roses for sure.

The men always bring bigger drama than the women and this year is no exception with Lincoln vs. Connor, Model vs. Chicken, and the Tia/Colton of it all. What is your favorite mess to cheer for? Who’s the most cringeworthy guy? 

Alisa: Lincoln’s a literal hot mess and I’m so bummed by the rumors that he’s a jerk IRL, but he does make great TV so I hope he sticks around for a while. The male model has already started grating on my nerves and it’s only week two, so I’d be happy to see him leave next week. Connor’s temper is just downright troubling and he does not need to be there anymore. And Colton? Okay, there is a guy obviously there for all the wrong reasons, and I can’t wait for Tia to spill the tea on this situation next week. I hope she gives us ALL the dirt!

Rebecca: I agree with Alisa about Lincoln; I’m so disappointed if the rumors are true! He is one of my favorites so far, and he’s totally entertaining. Model vs. Chicken is definitely my favorite feud as of now, because Jordan is a mess and David (is that the chicken’s name?) is turning out to be more and more normal and sweet. It’s hilarious to watch the guys get so mad he stayed around. Colton and Connor are both cringeworthy and should see themselves out.

Jen K.: My biggest question with Male Model’s stunt is where does Becca pin the rose? The self-involvement with that guy is unreal. He can go. Is Colton just working his way through bachelorettes? Umm... no. The whole Tia thing is a big red flag. Colton also should have fessed up on night one; he can go. Lincoln feels untrustworthy; he can go. Connor has anger issues; he can go. Stick with me, Becca! I’ll have whittled this down to the one in no time.

Chelsea: Colton is the Arie of football players in that he’s never really done anything and is just looking to capitalize on fame (see Aly Raisman viral video), and I am already so over him. You know this drama will let him go far but he’s gonna end up on Paradise trying to win back Tia. The show is literally writing itself.

Model vs. Chicken is definitely the funniest one to watch because they’re both driving each other crazy and there are no real stakes. Lincoln v Connor seems like where the real mess is at and both guys are coming out of it looking really bad.

Looking ahead, who do you have in your final four going to hometowns this season? Do any of these men have Bachelor potential? 

Alisa: Can we just have a moment of silence for the loss of the Fantasy League? I’m super bummed they’re not doing it this season. Okay, moment over.

So I’m not ever good at guessing this early in the game, but I do think Garrett is final four for sure, based on how quick the producers, Becca, and he have been to put distance on his Instagram actions. I think Clay is doing hometowns as well because they already showed his family sitting down to dinner in the night one intros which I think is a good sign  like, I’m guessing that was footage from a hometown date. You can’t tell me the producers would waste precious time filming some big, staged family dinner for a rando who gets let go in week three.

I’d really like to see Lincoln go to hometowns, mostly so I can just stare at him and listen to that accent for as long as possible. The only other guy that even made the remotest impression on me was Leo, because my goodness, that hair. So, yeah, those are my picks: Garrett, Clay, Lincoln, and Leo.

Rebecca: My final four are Garrett, Clay, Blake, and Lincoln, mainly for the same reasons as Alisa stated above. I traded out Leo for Blake though because her one-on-one with him seemed to go so well.

Jen K.: Can I pick Clay four times? No? That’s not a thing? Okay. Alisa is 100% on point with Garrett so I’ll say Clay, Garrett, Blake and... I can’t remember a fourth name.

Chelsea: I miss Fantasy League so much. Pouring one out for all the dumb questions we’ll never get asked.

My personal Final Four would be Clay, Wills, Blake, and Jason but I think Becca will go with Blake, Garrett, Colton, and maybe someone who hasn’t had a lot of screen time yet. There’s always one person who jumps out around episode five or so — like a Kendall  and captures our hearts. I’m feeling pretty meh on her batch of dudes, but her season is already more fun to watch than Rachel’s or Arie’s because I think Becca is more game for it all.