The Happy Days / Scarlet Letter Crossover You Never Knew You Needed

At the end of major reading units, I often have students do a series of small creative tasks to demonstrate understanding by extending or reinterpreting material in various ways. This pivotal scene from The Scarlet Letter has been combined with a classic TV reference. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while. Several months ago, the same student who did this drew the courthouse scene in The Crucible with Sesame Street‘s Big Bird sitting in the rafters. Very clever.


Stranger Things and Logan

Between Stranger Things and Logan, this is a golden age for young female British actors, born in Spain, whose characters don’t speak much.

























Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

download-1I watched the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back in 1993, and I hated it. I was a teenager, and this show bored me to tears (it’s called Trek, but they don’t actually go anywhere!). I did the natural thing: I forgot it existed for more than two decades.

I checked out some episodes on Netflix recently, and I was quite amazed: Deep Space Nine is awesome!

If Rogue One is Star Wars for grown ups, Deep Space Nine is Star Trek for adults. Even the opening credits (whose slowness baffled me as a kid), illustrate this contrast. Where the first two Star Trek series had zippy, bombastic anthems playing, DS9 has a somber, stately processional.

And I never knew that DS9 was a tense political thriller! World building is a big thing in the realm of fantasy writing these days, but unlike the rest of the franchise up to that point, DS9 isn’t an obvious analogy for the political environment of our time, but has completely invented its own wholly complete and complex political milieu from scratch.

And it’s unabashedly a military thriller! This is a story of the world at war. (Gene Roddenberry always wanted Star Trek to be about a hippie Utopia without real violence; hence the emphasis on families on board the Enterprise in season 1 of TNG, and hence the detachable saucer to whisk them off to safety in time of need–both awful plot devices that quietly disappeared as that show became much better).

But DS9 is absolutely saturated in military conflict. It’s everywhere, all the time. And, again, it’s a rich, mature world of serious political intrigue. This will definitely be my next Netflix binge show. For anyone else who might have written this off back in the 90s, do yourself a favor and give Deep Space Nine another chance.

Sherlock and The X-Files

untitledI’ve seen a couple of episodes of BBC’s great Sherlock series with Benedict Cummerbatch, but now I’ve been watching them all on Netflix. As I watched the pilot, “A Study in Pink,” I realized that this show is built on the same dynamic as The X-Files.

Each show is about a man who already investigates mysteries. The man is a social outcast because of his peculiar interests and obsessive personality.

Each series starts with a new partner teaming up with him. The partner is much physically smaller than the man, and has a much more reserved personality. Clearly, the two main characters are foils.

The partner is a medical doctor.

Throughout the series, each character grows by becoming just a little more like the other.

Their adventures are complicated by powerful behind-the-scenes interests who alternately help and oppose them.

It’s a great foundation for any high-energy mythology. Surprising it isn’t used even more often.

American Ninja Warrior

Watched this series the last two summers.  The kids love it, too.  Pretty entertaining, and inspiring to see what they achieve.  At the end of last summer, this guy got further than any other American has: almost the end of the 3rd stage of the 4-stage final course:

Here’s a guy on the original Japanese version making it all the way, showing all four stages:

Farewell to Poirot

I read with abject sadness this BBC article last week.  I know that Downton Abbey has been all the rage for small-screen Anglophiles of late, but I’ve especially loved Agatha Christie’s Poirot for years.

The series was an unabashed love letter to the period settings, with little bombast and constantly restrained dignity from all characters.  Watching these subdued murder mysteries always felt, oddly enough, calming in their quiet culture.

David Suchet’s portrayal of the cool, mincing Belgian genius who loves exercising his “little gray cells” was masterful.  Suchet truly loved the character, and it showed.  Such acting is rare, and a treat to enjoy.

Over 25 years, Suchet has made several dozen Poirot episodes and films–now encompassing everything Christie ever wrote about the detective.  I didn’t realize there were so many.  I think I’ve only seen about fifteen.  I’ll catch up on the rest before the final episodes air here in the States next year.

My favorite Poirot memory: a few years ago when they made Murder on the Orient Express.  My eldest son and I watched it, including a charming documentary about it beforehand.  We were both very impressed.  It was a delightful evening.



Family Feud Surveys

Every round of this show says that the answers came from a survey of 100 people.  Wikipedia says that there have been at least 8000 episodes.  Say there’s five rounds in each game (a pretty conservative estimate): that makes 40,000 of these surveys.

And at 100 people per survey, that makes 400,000 people.  Or one out of every 750 people in America.

I’ve never been called by their show with questions.  I don’t know anybody who has been.  Do you?  Sounds fishy to me.

Classic Simpsons Essays

I’ve been enjoying Nathan Rabin’s loving analyses of classic Simpsons episodes over at the AV Club.  Right now he’s in the middle of season 5, and his musings are making me realize that that one might be the best season overall.  Just wall to wall perfection.  Looking forward to more of these.

From yesterday’s brilliant summary of “Bart Gets An Elephant:”

Later, Bill and Marty, the premiere chatter-monkeys of KBBL, face down their greatest threat in the form of DJ 3000, a computer that plays CDs and boasts three different kinds of inane chatter and consequently represents a grave challenge to their jobs after the gabby twosome end up in hot water with management when Bart shocks everyone by taking the crazy gag gift offered in a radio contest (a free elephant) rather than ten thousand dollars.

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Pro Community

Everyone knows I love The Simpsons.  Usually, when talking about it, I tend to focus on the quality of its satiric social commentary.  However, there’s another area where it excels which draws me in, too.

The Simpsons invented and perfected the art of both subverting sitcom conventions while generally operating within and even celebrating those conventions.  It’s a genius balancing act of ironic innovation and standard storytelling, and they were the best.

Until now.  Certainly the reigning champ of satire for at least a decade has been South Park, and now the geek contingent has a new paragon of worshipful TV meta-analysis.  It’s Community.

I’ve watched on and off for all three seasons, but it was only in the second half of this last season that I started watching faithfully.

If you haven’t seen the two paintball-themed, spaghetti Western parody episodes that closed season two (“A Fistful of Paintballs,” “For a Few Paintballs More”), you’re missing some of the funniest TV ever made.

But they just got snubbed in the Emmy nominations for the third year in a row.

Here’s  a great bit from the credits of the second episode they aired.

Ten Best Simpsons Episodes

Wired celebrates the new, 23rd season of The Simpsons with a list of top ten episodes.  They have some good ones (notice that most of their choices come from the first several seasons), but this is hardly the best of the best.  My choices:

10. “Bart the Daredevil,” season 2, writtern by Kogen and Wolodarsky

Great quote: “Bones heal, chicks dig scars.” 

Why I love it: What may still be the single funniest joke in the history of television:

9. “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love,” season 3, written by Kogen and Wolodarsky

Great quote: “Bet the eight ball didn’t see that one coming.”

Why I love it: The brilliant Raiders of the Lost Ark opening sequence, perhaps the entire series’ best parody.

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