Top Things For 4/01/13

I hope you’re all surviving your April Fool’s Day, everyone. I personally hate this stupid day each year, as my patience for outlandish articles and “shocking” tweets grows thinner and thinner. More and more, today seems like a day to just avoid everyone/the Internet. But worry not, fair reader, for you will always have a safe haven here! My lies will always be comforting and/or self-preserving, and never malicious! So without further ranting, let’s get to the best of this coming week! Because it can only go up!

Books

On Tuesday, The Sword and Laser is kicking off their discussion of The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. While I won’t be reading this month, I always enjoy listening to the podcast, watching the YouTube videos, and creeping on the Goodreads forum. If you want to see this month’s sci-fi/fantasy releases, they have a calendar here. If you have any interest in their discussions, or want to see which six books I am currently reading, head to Goodreads.

Comics

This is actually a pretty light week, for once – for which I am immensely thankful. The last several weeks have been jam-packed with releases, and it was getting tiring. Probably the most notable release on Wednesday is the new Action Comics #19, which sees Andy Diggle taking over from Grant Morrison. Of course, Diggle walked away from the title almost immediately, and artist Tony Daniel will take over for at least an issue. Apparently more info on what’s next for the Superman series is forthcoming. So while there’s drama behind the scenes, Daniel’s art looks pretty amazing, and hopefully worth the price of admission so to speak.

Movies

This week sees the release of the Evil Dead reboot, but honestly I could not care less. The original is a cult classic – though I’ve never seen it. A roommate in college tried to get me to watch one of the sequels, but I just couldn’t get through it. Some of that might be because this guy had the worst. Taste. In movies. EVER. I mean, Daredevil, Electra, and Ghost Rider were unironically two of his favorite movies. His favorite actors included Nic Cage. So maybe I didn’t give the movie the chance it deserves. That being said, this reboot just looks… meh. Like a Cabin in the Woods without any sense of self-awareness or humor.

The movie I am actually excited about, however, is the re-release of Jurassic Park in 3-D. In general, I’m pretty cynical when it comes to these 3-D re-releases, as they seem like the absolute laziest way to make money. On the other hand, Jurassic Park is a phenomenal movie that still holds up twenty years after its initial release, and the chance to see it (again? I can’t remember) in theaters is just too great to ignore.

Music

My frankly embarrassing lack of investedness in the world of music is well documented. I mean, I probably spent $10 on music last year. And the year before that. And probably the year before that. I’M NOT THAT HIP YOU GUYS. But if I had to point out an album release this week, I’d probably have to go with The Band Perry. I don’t love them, but the only other artists I recognized were Rilo Kiley and NKOTB. And I couldn’t name a song by either. Rilo Kiley brings back really embarrassing memories of a phase I went through in college where I was really into indie folk music. So… yeah.

Television

I warned you guys. GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES holy crap did you see when they cut that guy’s nipple off and did you see the dragons eating fish and oh man Cersei wants to totally strangle Margaery Tyrell and she and Loras are her worst nightmare because she can’t seduce them and when are Jon and Ygritte gonna get DOWN and where was my homegirl Arya?

Sorry. Deep breaths. Calm.

Anyway. If epic fantasy isn’t your thing, Parks and Rec is coming back on Thursday after a few weeks off! And New Girl has been moved to Thursday too, where we’ll get to see Nick and Jess try to have a first date as Schmidt and Winston attempt sabotage! AND APPARENTLY MAD MEN IS BACK ON SUNDAY??? How did I not know this??? And Doctor Who is back on Saturday! SO MUCH TV YOU GUYS I CAN DIE HAPPY.

OK, well I just managed to make my own day with those last few revelations. I hope you guys find something to enjoy this week in the world of pop culture. Or in your fulfilling lives with your real jobs and stable incomes and significant others. NOT THAT I’M BITTER. Anyway. Peace out.

Thirty Days of Feelings: Day Twelve

This year I’m undergoing a bit of an experiment: Thirty straight days of doing/watching/listening to/reading something that makes me feel – however fleetingly – like an actual human being, in the hopes that this will thaw a layer of ice off my frozen shriveled little heart, and allow me to not be such a buzzkill this year. So let’s get to it.

Day Twelve: Parks and Recreation

Parks

Once upon a time, I really liked The Office. And then, over the course of a season, I grew tired of it. And then I stopped watching it. And then every time I randomly saw an episode, I liked it less. Until by now I can basically say that I hate it – not so much because it’s no longer funny and the characters are awful – but because it’s another classic case of diminishing returns in television and an industry that refuses to tell complete stories, insisting on greedily drawing out every franchise until it is a lifeless shell of its former self.

What I did like about The Office was something the show never really seemed willing to run with: good, competent people. I know, the show is basically about of underachievers and screw-ups who only work at Dunder-Mifflin because it’s all they could get, and don’t really care about it – and about the numerous ways they snipe at each other. But every now and then it would show Michael closing a really difficult deal, or winning over a new client, or just generally proving how he made it to manager. Or it would show Pam or Jim doing something genuinely heartfelt for Michael or someone else. These moments, few and far between, were the times I liked The Office the most.

Parks and Rec is like that all the time.

It’s the story of a small branch (Parks and Recreation) of a small town (Pawnee) in a small state (Indiana). At first (season 1) no one seems to be really passionate about their job, except Assistant Director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), and in general they seem to be just like the characters of The Office. But over the course of the show, it becomes quite apparent that they not only love their jobs, but each other, very deeply. For example, when the government of Pawnee reopens after being shut down temporarily, they all jump – literally – at the chance to return. This is due less to their fascination with politics, but because of Leslie’s passion and kindness, and the family she has forged them into.

A strong highlight of the show is Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), and I admit that he is roughly half the reason I started watching it. Ron is, well, the ultimate man. He loves red meat and bacon, drinks whiskey and smokes cigars. He owns a cabin and chops his own wood and hunts his own food. He teaches wilderness explorers and buries his gold in strategic locations across town. He despises and distrusts government and loves guns. But the best thing is that he is not misogynistic. He works with women, he respects women. He hates some women – the truly terrible ones – but at the same time he hates most people. This makes the rare occasions when he giggles, cries, or offers compassion to his coworkers all the more touching.

The other reason I started watching is Rashida Jones (who plays Ann Perkins, nurse, best friend to Leslie). Guys, she’s like my new obsession. She went to Harvard. She has written comic books. She sang back-up on Songs About Jane by Maroon 5 – one of my favorite albums. She knows Paul Rudd. She’s into philosophy and religion. She’s super funny. Oh yeah and she’s smokin’ hot but still classy. She and Leslie have such a cool relationship. It’s like a classic bromance, except with females. I don’t even know what to call that. I honestly want to call it a homance, but Leslie would totally disapprove.

What’s been really great about Parks is how it surprises me. Take Chris Pratt for example. Before, he was just that stoner on The O.C., and that guy from – ugh – Moneyball. Now, he’s this lovable idiot who cares about people really deeply, and is just a sweet, innocent, kind-hearted guy. Think Doug the Dog from Up. Or April (Aubrey Plaza) who starts as the single most bitter, cynical, sarcastic character I’ve ever seen and gradually opens up to occasionally smiling or even giving a hug at one point. Or how Tom – Aziz Ansari – slowly shows us the true man underneath all his “swagger” and false bravado.

At the end of the day, Parks is a reconstruction of The Office. Whereas the latter is cynical, Parks is earnest. Where The Office centers on finding the humor in failure, Parks finds triumph in success (the humor comes from the near-miss). Where The Office features characters pranking or snarking at each other, Parks shows characters repeatedly coming through, sacrificing and supporting each other through anything. Ultimately, this show has a lot more in common with Modern Family than The Office. 

So, next time you’re looking for a new show, ask yourself – do I need racist jokes to make me happy (New Normal)? To I need sexism to make me happy (Two and Half Men)? Do I need Kat Dennings to make me happy (2 Broke Girls)? Do I need nerd culture showed in incredibly broad strokes, with caricatures instead of characters and women portrayed as achievements to unlock (Big Bang Theory)?

No. Resoundingly no. You want characters that get into hilarious hijinks through their own mistakes, but ultimately make things right. You want characters that aren’t afraid to care about things, even if it makes them look lame. You want positive male and female role-models. Face it, you need sappy sometimes. Real life is just too serious and cynical already. Treat yo’ self to some earnest, unabashedly sweet comedy.