Posts tagged ‘Netflix’

January 20, 2013

Why You Should Be Watching: Scandal

I remember last year when the Scandal promos started hitting TV.  They pushed that it was by Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy.  This isn’t a great selling point for me because even though I have watched Grey’s from the beginning, I think it has lost so much of its momentum and is way overdue for a series finale.  I also wasn’t really interested because it was like “this show is about people doing bad things and getting away with it.”  I don’t watch the most moral shows, but I don’t like debauchery shoved in my face 24/7 even more than it already is.  So I passed on even giving it a three episode test.

scandal logo

Then season two happened.  I kept hearing how good and addictive it was and I kept seeing previews for it amidst my other ABC shows.  From the previews I picked up that the main character and the president were having/had an affair, the President on the show got shot at some point, and the person that shot the President was probably some character that was friends with Kerry Washington.  This whole assassination attempt plot line was somewhat intriguing, and I figured whenever I hit a lull in shows that Scandal would be one I’d go back and try to watch from the beginning.

Well, as luck would have it, Netflix e-mailed me offering another free trial month.  I then just happened to have an extra internet cord and set up my blu-ray player to stream it, and then started watching season one episodes.  Well, less than a week later I not only finished season one, but bought the first five episodes on iTunes and watched through all of those, watched one episode on ABC.com, and watched the most recent four episodes on my OnDemand channel- effectively catching me up to this Thursday’s most recent episode.  So yes, I am hooked.  Here’s why you should be, too:

1. The show uses a nice mix of flashback story telling.

scandal flashback

The show starts with Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington- whom I know as the sassy sister from Save the Last Dance) owning an independent (sort of) law firm.  The firm deals with clients who need secrets to go away, cover stories to be told, or the truth to be revealed.  Most clients are involved in messy affairs, but Olivia has at least a shadow of a moral compass that guides her to help in just the right way that you don’t feel like the bad guys got away with it (more that good guys made mistakes).  Anyway, you also know right away that she used to work for the White House and it comes out pretty fast that she also used to be sleeping with the President (dun dun duuuuun).  At first you are like OMG WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!?!  But occasional flashback episodes (there have only been about three) clear up how it started, why it continued for awhile, why it ended, and why it isn’t really over.  By the end of season one, I think everyone is rooting for the unconventional pairing despite it all.  My favorite flashback has been explaining what led to Olivia leaving because it was both romantic and heartbreaking, as well as making you appreciate Olivia’s strength.

2. Mellie is one of the most interesting characters on television.

mellie scandal

Mellie is the President’s wife, who, in rooting for Olivia, you end up resenting.  However, I have also felt sympathy for Mellie for dealing with everything she has, as well as admired her for being so damn smart politically.  I think my feelings towards her change  from episode to episode.  I can even say that right now, after the most recent episode, I don’t hate her and feel bad that not a lot of people are giving her credit for saving her husband’s job.  I’m sure next week I will hate her again, but that’s kind of the beauty of her character.  Just when you are about to write her off, you get pulled in again just like all the other characters on the show.

3. It will make you want to wear fitted jackets and tailored clothing.

This show has such a great sense of style.  When I think of stylish shows I think of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, which constantly have girls walking around in way too short dresses, high heels, and low cut necklines.  I think we are all kind of numb to how risque this dressing is because we are so used to it.  Oh, of course girls wear mini dresses and 6 inch heels to first period English!  Not.  But Scandal is all about the tailored clothing and making everyone look trend-setting and conservative at the same time.  And this show is an expert at fitted jackets:

Love the peplum fit of this one!

Love the peplum fit of this one!

Off center buttons? Genius.

Off center buttons? Genius.

Even the baggier jackets are flattering!

Even the baggier jackets are flattering!

Signature piece of the show- this girl looks excellent in white.

Signature piece of the show- this girl looks excellent in white.

And don't even get me started on the fabulousness of the formal wear.

And don’t even get me started on the fabulousness of the formal wear.

I kind of want to go out and get a bunch of tailored jackets now.  The only two things stopping me is my teacher budget and the fact that I am not a mere 112 pounds (I even think THIS is a high estimate) like Ms. Washington.  That girl is SO tiny!  For now I will just admire from afar and start creating a mental coat portfolio for future shopping sprees.

4. The story lines keep you guessing.

scandal hospital

Here are some questions I have about the show, even having seen every single episode.  You will want to skip this section if you are serious about watching the show someday.  Fellow fans, let me know if you have any theories!

1) Is anyone going to find out what Cyrus did to Amanda?  I feel like they completely dropped the ball on this.  2) Did the first lady know about the assassination attempt (based on her conversation right before they got out of the car)?  3) Did the first lady ORGANIZE the assassination attempt?  4) Are we supposed to assume the vice president’s old chief of staff was murdered, and has anyone looked into the fact that he just disappeared?  5)  What’s Olivia’s backstory pre-Fitz’s presidential campaign?  6) WTF was up with Abby’s crazy midnight rendezvous with David?  I found that so disturbing. 7) How did Olivia and Huck meet?

I think at least some of these will be answered- especially since those flashback episodes are thrown in every once in awhile.  I am legitimately concerned, though, that number one may never be addressed again.

5. It will make you want to just sit or stand with someone for a minute.

olivia and fitz

I know there are a lot of hot affair scenes in this show.  They have to be there for a show called “Scandal.”  But I think the most intimate scenes were the two where the President asked Olivia to just stay with him for a minute without really talking or doing anything.  I would classify these scenes as those rare “I need to hug a pillow” moments you see on TV.  These made me really care about the characters and solidified my being a fan of the show.  Good job Shonda Rhimes.

For those of you who have been watching the show since it started, sorry it took me so long to jump on your bandwagon.  For those of you who don’t watch Scandal, I hope I have succeeded in at *least* making you consider watching.  It’s worth it, I promise.

PS- One thing I don’t like about the show is the constant use of those shots through glass- you know, where you can see the blurry line of a glass door as the camera moves the subjects back into focus.  These are nice but WAY overused.  I figure if I actually notice a camera technique, it’s used too much.

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June 5, 2012

5 Cheap Cures for the Summer Blues

Since I decided to become a teacher, I still get a summer break.  And since I still get a summer break, I still hit that same period about a couple weeks into summer break where I feel completely bored. Yeah, sure, I’m grateful for the extra rest, but eventually sitting around doing nothing becomes less exciting.  I know a lot you are not teachers and don’t have this summer break problem, but perhaps you still feel a little bored with the lack of television options (another brutal reality for me the next few months) or you still feel phantom summer break boredom pains from your younger ears.  Here are a few ideas to add some fun into your life until the end of August rolls back around.

1. Rediscover Magazines

Remember when getting mail was fun and not just full of bills?  You can have that again!  Magazines are extremely cheap now because the industry is dying out with so much media being consumed online.  While print magazines may be out in a decade, you still have some time now to embrace their twilight years (at excellent prices, too!).  Amazon has several magazines available for only $5 a year!  This is how I subscribed to Marie Claire.  I feel you can get $5 worth out of any yearly subscription, especially if you are interested in the overall subject matter.  My sister got me into Marie Claire because while it does have a lot of fashion pages, it also has articles about real girls doing real things you can either relate to or admire.  I particularly loved the article “Love and the Single Girl” in this month’s issue.  Knowing there are single ladies out there thwarting parents from buying online dating subscriptions for them or being asked to move to make room for a couple, yet still completely content with their lives, makes me realize that being single at 24 is not a life sentence.

I will constantly recommend Entertainment Weekly till I die, but I am also one to love me some pop culture news.  Entertainment Weekly offers an extra tablet edition of their magazine free with your subscription, which is great on the go and offers extra interactive features (ex. jumping to a trailer of a movie you are reading about).  This has been especially useful to me while I am in Orlando.  EW runs about $25 for the year, but for $9 more you can get it for two years (remember, it’s “weekly”).  You can check out EW’s offer here, or pay less for a shorter subscription over at Magazines.com here.

I know there is a lot of digital media for us to consume, but nothing quite beats sitting down for an hour to flip through a magazine by a pool, curled up on your couch, or killing time during travel.  You will always get a little more written content than if you read the articles online, and you will help make sure future generations get the opportunity to post pictures from magazines on their wall (I still have EW covers as decorations in my apartment…haha).  Click here to check out Amazon’s current $5 deals on magazine subscriptions (through June 17th).  Also make sure to stalk Groupon and Living Social for magazine deals, as I have gotten a couple $12 subscriptions there, too.

2. Try out Fitness Classes through Summer Deals

Gyms are not stupid.  They know we as a human race hit summer and go oh….swimsuit season…damn those extra pounds!  I think even skinny people feel awkward sometimes when they pull out that swimsuit that has been at the bottom of their drawer the past few months.  But this ends up working in our favor because the gym and exercise class deals that pop up are great!  A lot of boot camps run shorter session deals where you can do a few weeks of classes at a highly reduced rate.  Tulsa Fit Body Boot Camp, the place I went in March and April under a Groupon deal, is offering 2 weeks of classes and a meal plan for $25.  You can e-mail tulsafitbootcamp@yahoo.com for more information.  For my Orlando friends, Fitness-n-Fun boot camp is offering 6 classes and a consultation for $29 on Living Social (ends by June 6th…so check it out now).  I just bought the Jazzercise deal on Groupon today (ends in a few days).  It’s offering 10 classes for $39 or 20 classes for $59, which is really good compared to their regular monthly and start up fees.  I’ll probably end up using this half in Orlando and half in Tulsa since it’s valid at any location.

If you are really tight on cash or really fickle about your choice of exercise, most classes offer the first class free to try.  You can be really budget conscious and spend weeks just hopping around to different classes.  Gyms will offer similar free day or week passes, though they might bug you a lot afterwards to make a financial commitment.  Just think of the summer as a time to play the field, exercise-wise, to find that one place you could see yourself making a long term commitment to come Fall ; )

3. Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (TV-wise of course)

After May, my busy DVR takes a 4 month siesta- this is probably crucial to its ability to function, but can be quite a bummer when night after night I struggle to find anything worth watching.  This is where my DVD/Blu-Ray player gets its yearly workout.  When June comes up, I usually dust off my DVD collection to find those few shows I feel I’ve taken a long break from and need to re-watch.  In past years I’ve gone through Buffy, Friends, Lois and Clark (90’s love!), and Roswell.  This summer I chose some old Grey’s Anatomy episodes (select seasons…I don’t have the patience to watch some of it’s dark periods, a.k.a. The Dr. Hunt Years) and The Vampire Diaries (TVD).  I’m watching TVD with my friend Erin, which has been really fun.  TVD is probably one of my top favorites on TV right now, and I’ve never re-watched episodes since they aired (minus one in Russian while I was in Moscow, haha).  Watching shows with friends who haven’t seen them is much more exciting than watching them by yourself, because you get to see them go through all the shock and awe you did when you first saw all the drama play out.  There’s nothing quite like marathoning through an old favorite…

…except maybe marathoning through a show that’s new to you!  I tend to pick up at least one new show each summer that’s been on the air already by watching reruns, taking advantage of the Hulu Plus free week trial, mooching off a friend or relative’s Netflix capabilities, or visiting the magical place called the Orange County Library System (once you go OCLS, you don’t go back…sorry Tulsa).  I’ve picked up Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, How I Met Your Mother, The Middle, and Chuck this way.  It’s even fun to do this with series that have finished because then you can relish in not having to wait after any cliffhangers (people who did this with LOST are so lucky!).  Here are a few of my recommendations for TV shows to catch up on based on your interests and time:

a) For people who don’t want to catch up on too much before the shows start next year, check out Revenge and Once Upon a Time.  Both of these were freshman hits for ABC this year, and have a pretty good following due to their unfolding mystery plots.  You’ll want to be up to date on these for break room conversations next year at work.

b) For those who take forever to go through episodes, try Downton Abbey.  It’s a hit with most and only airs for a short period each year.  It’s been on two seasons already, but only totals 16 episodes.  Note that season 2 is better than the first, so be patient if it seems a little dull in the beginning.  Like wine, it gets better with age.

c) Comedy fans should check out the underrated Community.  They just did an episode almost completely as an 8-bit video game!  If that isn’t awesome enough to entice you, there is also a fake flashback episode, a zombie attack episode, and 3 epic paintball battle episodes.

d) For fantasy/sci-fi fans, Supernatural is still one of my favorites.  It is one of the few TV shows to be banished to Friday and then sent back to a mid-week slot.  And it was just renewed for an 8th season….so I am not the only fan.  Two hot brothers solving supernatural crimes with rich, long-running plot lines to support the series? Win.

4. Create a Personal Style Book

Now this is something I haven’t tried before, but that I thought of while perusing the latest Marie Claire.  There are so many times where I have random thoughts while browsing online, walking through stores, or flipping through a magazine- “I love that print on that top!” or “I wonder what that nail polish looks like on…” or “I need to decorate my apartment like that.”  I feel like in my mid-20’s, I’m finally coming into my own style…or maybe I’m just beginning a new chapter of an ever-evolving life cycle of style (this is coming from someone who wore bike shorts in elementary school (they were comfy!!!) and every single Old Navy solid color top in middle school).  I kind of wish I had a book that had all those likes and interests together.  When I described this to Katie, she said..”Soooo, you want to make a Pinterest book.”  I went to defend it, but she’s right.  It’s a Pinterest book.

I like the idea of Pinterest, but never really got into using the platform.  I’m more drawn to creating a book by hand.  Not only will it take up some time (it can really be infinite if you fill it up a little at a time as time passes), but it’s more unique than a bunch of links on a website.  It creates a good way to get a second use from my magazines, forces me to be more aware of current styles (and the types of things I’m drawn to), and can be a great coffee table book for my apartment : ) I imagine my final product would have pages like this:

The above picture is from a blogger that already created books like the one I’m describing- one for fashion and one for home decorating.  I think this can be a fun project to help you get your ideas together whether you are freshening up your wardrobe, furnishing a new apartment, changing up a room in your house (ex. preparing it for a new baby!), or creating an idea book for special occasions.  I picture this done with a blank notebook with cardstock-like pages.  I think notebook paper might be too flimsy for a lot of gluing, but those notebooks with dividers built in are tempting to separate your idea collections.

5. Learn (some of) a New Language

Raise your hand if you’ve vowed to teach yourself a new language, bought a bunch of stuff to support your learning, and then given up this dream after a week?  ::Raises hand…3?…times::  I really want to learn some Russian so that when I go back to visit our family friends I can converse a little.  I was on a good roll by the end of my trip last year, mastering about 75 words and phrases, as well as learning how to read the language (just pronunciation, not comprehension).  But now most of those words I have to check on in my language book, and I only remember how to sound out a handful of letters.  Boo.  This summer I’m going to try to use my extra time to make a little more progress in my russian language acquisition.

For anyone else bold enough to take on a foreign language this summer, I highly recommend checking with your library concerning any free programs they offer.  OCLS offers an online program that is self-paced called Mango Langauges (oooo, Tulsa offers Mango Languages, too- see here). I worked with this a little last summer before all my TFA training started and loved it.  I made flash cards as I went (which I recently found!) to support long term learning.  All you need is your library card to access the online courses they offer (note that you can’t learn the whole language, but these free tutorials are great for building a good general knowledge to have short conversations with native speakers).  Here is a list of the languages offered:

If your language isn’t too obscure, you can also find CDs and workbook kits at the library to learn the language as well.  I wouldn’t recommend Rosetta Stone until you are fully committed to learning the language.  Even the cheaper kits online can put you out $30, which is only worth it if you’ll stick with it.  Try Mango first and checking out audio CDs for on the go…this could be you by the end of summer : )

I hope one of these (or all of these!) suggestions struck your fancy and will help you cure any impending summer blues in 2012.  I myself will be imploring all five, but then again, I’m an overachiever.  Even if you don’t get a break from work or school, find some time to pretend you have all the time in the world to just relax and enjoy the sun : D