My Week in Pop Culture: Crap Therapy

masterchef

Kids,

My Week In Pop Culture is a new feature here on the Seanologues. Since I consume film, television, books and music like Pac-Man does little dots, I thought one weekly ramble about it would be cool. Each Sunday, I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading, watching and listening to and hopefully you’ll be inspired to do the same.

xo, S.

It’s been a week since my heart basically fell out of my ass. It’s been 7 days since I went to a meeting on Sunday morning feeling like a lost lamb with crying the only thing I was capable of doing. It’s been a week. Fuck has it.

 In addition to the people in my life who’ve graciously nestled me like a baby bird for seven days, I’ve relied on a lot of outside help. Meetings. Meditation. Prayer. Animals. Flowers. Chocolate. And lots of bad television and a juicy, trashy novel. I’d say they’re my guilty pleasures but in the words of the immortal Barbra Streisand, “We’ve got nothing to be guilty of.”  I mean I also love highfalutin arty stuff too. But it’s all about balance. Back in the day, in order to ease the pain of modern life I’d simply drink enough tequila and snort enough cocaine until I couldn’t feel anything. This is obviously a healthier route. After all, hours of reality TV never made me throw a shoe at someone or get kicked out of a bar. My Sunday ritual of Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley was entertaining although I kind of don’t remember them because I still felt pretty sad and numb.

Monday, I needed an extra heaping helping of brain rot. Enter Food Network Star. Now, by all accounts this show should probably be against the law seeing as it is solely responsible for thrusting the food and television plague that is Guy Fieri onto the global consciousness. Yet I can’t stop watching this bizarre combination of Star Search and Top Chef. The idea is that the contestants should be able to cook and be able to present themselves like cohesive human beings in order to win their own show on Food Network. Weirdly enough, they’ve cast some people who can barely do either. It makes for foodie trainwreck complete with the douchey guy obsessed with bacon, the scary skinny lady who wants to teach healthy eating and the sassy girl who speaks in Internet clichés. (Yaaasss, Tregay!) The whole thing about reality TV (spoiler alert!) is that they often pad the cast with people who make for good television but some of these people are so boring and so untalented that it almost has the opposite effect. Like Anna, for example. She apparently was a Real Housewife of Wherever the Hell but what she really wants to do is be  a chef. Uh. Okay. So boring and uncharismatic, Anna’s food must taste really incredible or she’s using some Miami via Stepford sort of mind control to stay in the competition. Really though, I think I actually watch Food Network Star to see itty-bitty judge Giada De Laurentiis make a stank face while she chokes down disgusting food and raise her perfectly waxed brow as the hot mess contestants try to present garbage to the camera.

tv_pic_001_383_giada-de-laurentiis_food-network-star

Speaking of food reality shows, I should probably attend a 12 Step meeting for Gordon Ramsay shows. Listen, I don’t even love Gordon Ramsay. I think his whole goofy empire of yelling at people cooking shows is really ridiculous. And people who think he’s sexy?gag

I’ve somehow managed to quit watching his other 187 shows but every year I get pulled into MasterChef. This summer is no exception. I caught the premiere and I’m toast for the rest of the season. Unlike the aforementioned culinary sideshow, MasterChef presents normal folks who can really cook. Or they tell us they can. This being television we can’t actually taste the food so the whole thing could be a big Milli Vanilli style lie but we trust our judges Christina Tosi and Gordon Ramsay. This season they’re doing faster eliminations, head to head cook-offs and have trimmed it down to just two judges allowing space for guest judges. This Wednesday kept the action moving while trimming the fat of contestants that seemed to be taking up space. It’s a better format so far but honestly if they held it in a swap meet parking lot and had six weeks of contestants frying corndogs I’d probably watch it and still love it.

Elsewhere this week, I watched more Girls reruns on HBO Now, continued my brain-sizzle with America’s Got Talent, caught up on movies for the new season of Sloshed Cinema and tore through a really juicy book. The novel in question is 2014’s Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty. This Australian based potboiler is one party mystery, one part suburban confessional and all parts addictive. I haven’t finished it yet but am looking forward to doing so as I take a little train ride up to the mountains today. After reading several depressing ass books in a row about rape or World War II, Moriarty’s little elixir is just what I needed plus it’s really, really funny. Next year, you’ll see it as a series on HBO with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern. Can’t wait.

I’m writing a piece celebrating 30 years of Madonna’s True Blue so I listened to that a few times. This was a wise move. As a gay kid from the 1980’s Madonna is often my musical therapist during times of strife. From lip synching “Dress You Up” in my basement as a kid to voguing at gay dance clubs as a teenager, Madonna has always been there for me. This week was no exception. It occurred to me was that True Blue was the very beginnings of Madonna starting to develop a narrative as a pop artist and songwriter. I’ve got lots to say on this record but we’ll get into it (as well as the groove) next week when I publish it.

So the answer is no. No, the candy-coated dance songs of Madonna nor the delights of reality tv didn’t make my pain go away but they did help me move through a tough week. But that’s enough out of me. Please. Tell me what you’ve been reading, listening to or watching over the last week. Also, I wanna know what’s your go to movie or album when you feel terrible. Also, share with me some hidden pop culture treasure you’ve recently discovered. Finally, share with me your guilty pleasures. This your safe space to tell me the crap you unabashedly love. No judgement.

 

Embracing the Rosiness of Catastrophe

catastrophe

An odd thing happened to me yesterday as I watched the first three episodes of season 2 of Catastrophe: I laughed. Not like I’m some fucking humorless rock with no soul but I ACTUALLY laughed. Listen, I’ve tried to see the humor in Melissa McCarthy riding a scooter through cement. I’ve tried to laugh at Andy Samberg movie trailers. I’ve even forced out a snicker during a Kevin Hart monologue. I’m not proud. I just want to belong. I want us to say “Holy shit is that latest Sandler movie the bomb or what?” over a couple of beers, even though I no longer drink. I want to laugh at what you laugh at. But goddamnit. I cannot. I’m sorry. So when the laughs came out of me as I roasted tomatillos (seriously who isn’t roasting  tomatillos on Tuesday and if you’re not, well we might be done here) and watched episodes in my kitchen, I was shocked but relieved. Shocked because despite my best efforts I apparently can’t laugh at anything anymore. And relieved because I remembered season 1 being a brilliant, laugh out loud treat and these episodes, now available on Amazon Prime, didn’t disappoint. In fact, they might even be funnier and it’s where these laughs come from that makes Catastrophe unlike any other show on television.

The premiere episode of Season 2 finds us against all odds laughing at dementia, a dog dying, postpartum depression and sobriety. Not the things big ha-ha jokes are made of but just what you’d expect from a show this smart. The setup for Catastrophe is an easy one: American guy named Rob visiting London meets an Irish woman named Sharon they have sex Sharon gets pregnant and the two are forced to fast track a relationship and figure out what the hell they’re doing. Like everybody, Rob and Sharon (played by and written by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan) come with considerable baggage. He’s a recovering alcoholic with an insane mother (played by my spiritual godmother Carrie FIsher). She’s slightly neurotic with a father experiencing dementia and a brother who seems prone to financial drama. As a couple Rob and Sharon are in uncharted waters and we the audience are along for the ride. The second season starts roughly a year after season 1 ended which is smart because the real life time between the two seasons was about a year. In that time, their first child has been born and Sharon is pregnant with baby number 2.  Sharon’s transition from career gal to full-time mom, Rob dealing with temptations at work and familial insanity on both sides are a few of the pots simmering on the range for season 2. In Catastrophe-land there are no sitcom tropes like the wacky mistaken identity episode or the misheard conversation episode or the stupid camping episode. Instead, we get to laugh at (and identify with) the real. Created by Horgan and Delaney, many of the storylines are pulled from their own lives– she got pregnant late in life, he has been sober for years. And that might be the secret to the show’s success. Part of what makes me not laugh like some communist gymnastics judge is the jokes usually ring hollow. Here, I’m laughing at what Rob and Sharon are going through because I’ve been there or know someone who has or I can at the very least feel compassion for these characters while chuckling at the fucked up-ness of their lives. As a person who’s sat through countless 12 step meetings, I can tell you part of what “keeps me coming back” is the ability to laugh at dark horrible crap and watching people get on the other side of that. Catastrophe embraces much of that same spirit. Life is not perfect for us the viewer and it isn’t for Rob and Sharon either. We identify with them. We root for them. Most amazingly, we laugh at them. For this stone faced, barely  smirking television viewer, this is the miracle of Catastrophe and it’s these catastrophes the make the show so deeply funny.

I’m talking

hello

“Talks too much.”

That’s what they always said. They, ubiquitous they. They who fill out report cards. They who guide boring class field trips. They who lead tedious classroom discussions. They who never understood the true value and genius of my side conversations. They had no sense of humor. They were only interested in policing creativity. Truth? They were probably underpaid and exhausted by smartasses like myself who knew it all and had to comment on every. fucking. thing. “Not everything needs an editorial, you know,” an old friend once told me. While this friend and even “they” were probably right, I just couldn’t help myself. I still can’t. talking too much in the digital age, as luck would have it, is a good thing. As a blogger, a podcaster and a tweeter, I am now offered endless opportunities to never shut the hell up. I write plays and my favorite part has always been long stretches of ambling dialogue. I wrote a show once and someone who read it told me, “Wow. You really love people just standing around talking.” Guilty as charged. When I finished a new show last year, something didn’t click. Although, it was a monologue show (a wet dream for someone who likes to write shows where people just stand around and talk) there was something missing. that something? Me. seemingly overnight, I couldn’t fake wanting to write for other characters anymore.It started to ring hollow. It felt like I was pushing phony conversations I didn’t actually want to have. Turns out, the character that couldn’t wait to open his mouth was the character who wouldn’t shut up during class all those years ago. Turns out, I wanted to write for me.

That’s how we, you and I, got here. It’s me talking. My old beloved blog where I met so many people and learned so much kind of talked about my journey of being recovery and that was sort of it. And while I’m still in recovery and not some fucking crazy person who woke up and thought they could drink like a gentlemen, I want to talk about other stuff too. Life has given me opportunity to write about pop culture so I’ll talk about that since it’s an obsession and something I love yammering about. And I’m gay so I’ll talk about that because that still seems like something people get all fucked up about. And of course I’ll talk about being sober and the other assorted mental health delights I get to have. The images here are all mine or manipulated and changed by me so they become mine. I’m learning to talk with pictures too so maybe my next monologue show will be standing around showing you pictures. I know. You’ve already bought your ticket. So if you’d like to use any of them, reach out to me. I’m no professional photographer and just another tool with an iPhone who likes taking pictures of his french fries. Translation: I’d be thrilled if you wanted to use them and will probably be very easy/accommodating. I guess I should also mention that in true monologue style I’m not really going to get my grammar panties in a wad and edit 4 billion times. I want to talk and have a brain vomit, sort of stream of consciousness ramble. Like Jack Kerouac crossed with a drunk Care Bear. Or something. So yeah. I’m talking.

(thanks for listening)