Modern Family 02/10/2010
 
One of my favorite Wednesday night shows is Modern Family.  The mocumentary half-hour show features the interactions of the daily lives of three related families: Jay and Gloria are each on their second marriages, and Gloria has a pre-teen son, Manny; Claire and Phil are high school sweethearts with 3 kids- Hayley, Alex, and Luke; and partners Mitchell and Cameron, who have adopted their first child- Lily.  Jay is the father of Claire and Mitchell, creating a relatable family atmosphere between the 3 units.

The show follows each family as their lives progress and run into relatively real-life problems.  Jay connecting with his stepson Manny; Phil is in utter denial, thinking he is “down” with his 3 kids; and Mitchell trying to get his father to be more accepting.  Manny is seemingly mature for his age, and is constantly hitting us with one-liners.  Claire and Phil’s kids are all opposites of each other- Hayley being the naive independent teenager, Alex is constantly outsmarting her siblings and more mature for her age; while Luke is the younger brother, not so smart but full of energy and innocence.  Lily is still only a baby, but there are plenty of funny moments involving her.

Mother-of-three Claire tries to keep her kids (and husband) in check all day long, while she and Gloria have moments of disagreement as the tension in the room builds- then is released with more amusement.  Cameron balances out Mitchell’s attitude towards everything and brings enjoyable instances with each of the other characters.

If you haven’t seen this show yet, give it a shot.  The variety of this show can be related to by nearly any family- especially since most families have some kind of unorganized, hectic aspects to them at one point or another.  The interactions amongst the characters will keep you laughing as every character brings their own hilarity to the show.
 
Kung Fu Panda 01/08/2010
 
One of my favorite movies in 2008 (of the few I watched) was Kung Fu Panda.  It is an animated movie about an unbalanced and rather uncoordinated panda, Po, who is the biggest fan of kung fu.  The Valley of Peace is protected by the Furious Five: Tigress, Monkey, Viper, Mantis, and Crane.  All 5 are up to be the Dragon Warrior and have been trained for ages by the red panda Master Shifu, who is the protégée of the wise and respected tortoise, Master Oogway.  

When the Dragon Warrior is about to be picked by Oogway, Po rushes from his father’s noodle shop to go and watch, but arrives too late and is blocked from entering.  After attempting every possible way of getting over the wall, Po straps fireworks together and launches himself into the air…only to land in front of the finger that was choosing the Dragon Warrior.  Disbelieving that a slightly overweight panda could really be a kung fu master, Master Shifu does everything he can to get Po to quit, which has the opposite effect. 

When Master Shifu gets word that snow leopard Tai Lung has escaped from the high-security prison he had been kept in.  With the plot set, the story unfolds with Tai Lung as the antagonist and Po needing to shape up and master his king fu skills.

This animated movie incorporates a mix of drama and comedy which comes out especially in the voiceovers of excellent, well-known actors.  Jack Black voices Po; Dustin Hoffman is Shifu; and other characters voiced by actors including Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, and David Cross, among others.
 
Alex & Emma 01/08/2010
 
If you’re a fan of Kate Hudson or Luke Wilson, or even both of them, you’ll definitely love Alex & Emma.  Released in 2003, this romantic comedy doesn’t seem to have gotten as much attention as I think it deserved.  The story unfolds as novelist Alex Sheldon must complete his next novel within 30 days or be killed by loan sharks.  They have broken his computer, and he must hire a stenographer to write it up for him.  Problem is, he’s got a serious case of writer’s block.

He tricks stenographer Emma Dinsmore to coming to his apartment and convinces her to type his novel for him.  As Alex’s writer’s block begins to dissipate, we also see his novel unfold.  The movie goes between him and Emma together, and their relationship growing, and then between the relationships of the characters in his novel; 2 of which are played by Hudson and Wilson.  It’s an interesting contrast that is built between the two worlds, and a new way to watch a movie.

The comedic aspects of it start from the beginning of the movie until the end, and it just might leave you watching it over and over again like it has for me.
 
Ghost Whisperer 01/07/2010
 
The hit television series Ghost Whisperer has caught my attention recently, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely one to check out.  On for five seasons now, it has built up a wide fan base of people at all ages.  Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the main character, Melinda Gordon.  Melinda has a gift she inherited from her grandmother, who also taught Melinda how to use her gift for good.  Both she and her grandmother have the ability to talk and see earthbound spirits, and help them to “crossover” to the other side by going into The Light, a metaphor for Heaven.  The ghosts are often earthbound because they have unfinished business- a common stereotype of the characteristics of ghosts- and Melinda helps them out to finish up whatever it is they need to do.

Her husband Jim Clancy is very supportive of her, and helps her out if every way possible.  Throughout the seasons, new characters come and go, but even if you don’t watch them in order, it should still make plenty of sense.  Along the way, Melinda helps out many different spirits and encourages them to crossover, and she learns more about her family along the way.  Her mother appears in a few episodes, and there are many other back stories that develop as the season progresses.

It’s definitely a show to watch, especially if you are interested in things of this nature.  It’s usually on every night of the week on the ION channel, and the station number varies where you live.  So check it out, or if you already have, then let me know what you think!
 
American Idol 01/05/2010
 
Only 3 shows have ever been #1 for five seasons in a row, and one of them is the uber-popular American Idol.  Heading into its 9th season on January 12th, some changes have been made to the formatting since its premiere in 2002.  It’s first 7 seasons involved 3 judges: Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul; each had their own professional backgrounds in music, and the most recent, eighth, season featured a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi, who also had a professional background in music.  For the ninth season, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres will replace Paula Abdul as a judge.  Some fans questioned this replacement decision because of Ellen DeGeneres not having an actual music career following, but anyone who watches her show does know that she definitely has good taste and rhythm.  Also, I think that Ellen DeGeneres will bring to the show a view that will be much closer to that of the viewers.  The show has been hosted all 8 seasons by Ryan Seacrest, who is also hosting the 9th season.  Contestants must be 16-28 years old in order to audition.

The show features contestants from around the country who have auditioned in one of the following locations: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and Orlando.  The judges will each be able to give their insight on the performances of the contest’s singing abilities, but it is ultimately the viewer’s decision.  The show airs two nights a week, and each first night the voting opens for viewers to have their say via telephone or text messaging, with the results on the following night.

This will be the first year I am going to be tuning in to watch this much-loved show, mainly because Ellen Degeneres is going to be judging.  So if you’re already a fan, leave a comment with your opinion, or let us know if you’re going to be watching this season like me, or why you don’t watch.
 
Dexter 12/31/2009
 
The Showtime series Dexter is based on none other than the book series, the first being Darkly Dreaming Dexter.  Featuring stars such as Michael C. Hall as the serial killing Dexter; Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter’s sister Debra; Julie Benz as the softhearted, caring woman in Dexter’s life who is completely clueless into his dark secret; and the rest of the cast who brings to life the characters from Jeff Lindsay’s novels.

The first season portrays the first book almost perfectly, though the endings differ.  The book is excellent (read my review on the book here) and the television series definitely does it justice.  Now in its fourth season, Dexter continues to be a big hit.

Dexter Morgan is a blood-splatter analyst working for the Miami Police Department.  He was adopted by the Morgan family when he was just a child, after being found at a horrific crime scene by Harry Morgan.  Debra Morgan also works for the Miami P.D. and we see her starting out working in the Vice and Narcotics Unit, but seeking a promotion for higher work.  Rita Bennett is Dexter’s girlfriend who has her own dark past: her ex-husband was very abusive towards her and her children, and she finds comfort in Dexter: he doesn’t want to rush into their physical relationship either.  Each of the secondary characters have their own back-stories that we see develop throughout each episode.

From episode one, Dexter will have you hooked.  If you have a weak stomach, the opening credits will make you woozy.  It is very gory and isn’t censored by any means, so it’s definitely not a show to watch with your kids.  But it is a show that you can have a marathon with on any day.
 
 
What does one do to create hype on a movie filmed for only 15,000 dollars?  They release it in less than fifteen theaters, of course.  By playing the trailer on MTV (which doesn’t seem like it’s really music television anymore) and asking the public to “demand it” in theaters near them, Paranormal Activity seemed like the buzz everywhere.  The hype didn’t disappoint in this incredible movie.

When Katie and her boyfriend Micah move into a new home, Katie finally reveals that ever since she was a child, she had believed that a ghost was haunting her.  Micah doesn’t think it’s too big of a deal, except for the fact that she kept it from him for so long.  When they get settled into their new house, the mysterious activity flares up, and Micah continuously dismisses it until Katie continuously expresses concerns.  When they are informed that the entity is a demon- not a ghost, Micah continues to reject Katie’s fears- and provokes the demon entity even more.

The DVD versions come with an alternate ending, which was suggested by Stephen Spielberg.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I highly suggest it.  It was great in the theater, and at home I’m sure it will be even scarier…you might notice similarities between things happening in the movie and in your own life…maybe you’ll have a friendly visitor too.  Who knows?  The movie just might provoke them enough to show themselves.
 
Pawn Stars 12/28/2009
 
Ah, the History Channel: The home of many programs that capture our attention and continue to awe us all.  Known for both historical fact and historical inaccuracies, the History Channel doesn’t necessarily disappoint.  One show in particular, Pawn Stars, caught my attention a few months ago, and I continue to watch on a regular basis.  The show premiered in July of 2009, and features a family-owned pawn shop in Las Vegas.  Richard “Old Man” Harrison is the head of the operation, followed by his son, Rick Harrison, and Rick’s son, Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison.  Corey’s friend Austin “Chumlee” Russel also works at the shop, and appears in most episodes.

I’m not sure what is most attractive about the show- the hilarity of watching this family work together under one roof, or the impressive items that they see every day and feature on the show, or even the bits of trivia during the commercial break.  The first season ended in September, and the second season began in late-November.

Each episode features a variety of items which people are looking to pawn or sell.  Some items are artifacts, and others are fakes or replicas which their owners believe to be real.  Other items are some of the most random- a big rig truck, guitars claimed to have been played around a famous person, a hot air balloon, to name only a few.

The interaction between each person adds to the fun and uniqueness of the show.  Chumlee is known for not being very bright, but is rather comedic.  Corey describes him by saying “He’s the village idiot, but he’s my village idiot”.  Corey often makes deals and buys from people who have outrageous items- such as the hot air balloon.  His father had already had him on a limit of 10,000 dollars prior to the hot air balloon incident, but that didn’t stop Corey from buying it for 38,000 dollars.

The items that come into the shop have personalities of their own, and if it is unknown what the real value is, Rick will often call in an expert to check it out.  It only took a few episodes to know who Rick would be calling in to check out an item.  It’s definitely a show to check out, so if you see any repeat episodes on, you might just like it.
 
 
Two shows which captured my attention this fall season of shows were V and FlashForward.  V is based on the original show which premiered in the 1980s.  The planet Earth is invaded by a species of aliens (the V) which claim to come in peace and mean no harm.  They offer plenty of great deals to the world- universal healthcare, miracle working abilities, and world leaders are questioning of the trust they should place in these aliens- who are not at all stereotypical.  They are beautiful and hard to mistrust- but there are a few people who are more cautious than the world leaders.  The few humans and traitor-aliens know that they can trust no one anymore, and have to continue their anti-V movement while staying under the radar.

FlashForward is an original series that aired during the same week in September as V, however FlashForward is slightly based on the 1999 novel Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer.  The premise is that the entire world blacked out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, and saw their future.  It turned into a catastrophe because not only did everything stop for over 2 minutes, but everything stopped exactly where it was, causing many accidents and deaths.  When there is proof that the blackout did not affect the entire world, but there are a few accounts of people who were awake and moving during it.  An investigation begins by a team of FBI investigators in LA, who set up a site on the internet so people can compile their FlashForwards.  What everyone in the team sees in their flash forward provides multiple side-stories and an insight to their personal lives.
 
 
NCIS: Los Angeles is the spin-off series of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Services), which was a spin-off JAG.  The first season began in September, and was the second-most watched show of the week, trailing behind the original NCIS.  Like NCIS, the show centers around the main characters and gives an insight into their lives, while providing a look at the procedural aspects of NCIS, only in Los Angeles.  Differing from NCIS though, is the characters’ personalities which still bring a comedic side to the show.  All of the actors have certain chemistry that go well together.  The characters have different personalities from the original NCIS, and we get an inside look into the psychological aspects of the criminal world and the world of the agents themselves.  The episodes air on Tuesday nights at 9 o’clock, but I think it’s on a break for the holiday season.

This show is really enjoyable, and if you like NCIS, you’ll most likely like this spin-off.  I’m a big fan of NCIS, and this one as well.  The characters capture your attention and bring to life this world within our own, and touch on subjects that are very real to us all, and we often see in our everyday lives.