Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow: Some Early Thoughts


As we near Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays, I’m reminded of the days when I would do wild and crazy things like review old Thanksgiving episodes of Gilmore Girls or the Christmas Challenge of watching Christmas episodes every day leading up to Christmas. While I know it’s been tough to keep up with writing in recent months, maybe now’s a good time to get back into it. And I’ll start with some early thoughts of Lifetime’s new movie Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow, which premieres tomorrow night at 8:00 ET/PT.

If you haven’t heard about this movie, here’s a quick description:

The movie follows the story of the Emmerson family, recently divorced father Ron and his kids Tim and Annie, as they head to the quaint town of Turkey Hollow to spend a rustic Thanksgiving at the farm of Ron’s eccentric Aunt Cly. Surprised by the lack of internet and technology in Turkey Hollow, Tim and Annie soon find themselves swept up in tracking the “Howling Hoodoo,” an elusive monster that, up until now, Turkey Hollow residents have long dismissed as mere legend. The Thanksgiving holiday threatens to take a bleak turn when a scheming neighbor frames Aunt Cly for turkey theft, but the fractured family teams up with some surprising new friends to save the day.

Now, the minute I hear “Henson,” I’m interested. And while the Muppets haven’t met my expectations (or their potential) in recent years — sorry, I’m an old school Muppet Show and movie fan — I still wanted to tune into this and check it out. Plus, hey, it has Mary Steenburgen in it, so that’s a plus.

What I didn’t know is that it was based on original characters and a story written in 1968 by Jim Henson and his longtime writing partner Jerry Juhl. This definitely gives it some credibility. It also starred Jay Harrington, of Better Off Ted fame, as well as Ludacris as the narrator. Now, you might find the fact that Ludacris is in a Henson film is, well, ludicrous, but quite honestly, he was fantastic. He brought a great sense of humor to the movie, and I could’ve had more of him in it — had the narrative had allowed for it, of course.

Overall, it was a cute movie. Sure, the premise was a little contrived and cheesy — and it had some rather slapstick villains, which usually goes on my don’t-like list — but it was cute. I mean, the plot includes turkey theft and it’s a holiday-themed movie on Lifetime. What do you expect?

Now, my one caveat is this: If you’re looking for a movie filled to the brim with Henson creatures, like Muppet or Sesame Street films, this isn’t really one of them. It’s a good bit of time before any Henson creature appears. That said, once it does, they were adorable and used well. Plus, they used other elements throughout the movie in its scenery and setting that really seemed magical and fun. So you might have to wait for it, but it’s well done.

So my recommendation? Check it out. It’s a cute family movie and a little different from the usual TV movies coming out right now. And it’s a good taste of Turkey Day, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow premieres Saturday, November 21, at 8 pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

*Photo by Richard Paris/Lifetime.

In Defense of Not-So-Great TV

It’s no surprise that we all aim to find great TV to watch on a regular basis. Why waste your time with something that’s not amazing? And with so many amazing options, it’s not too hard to fill your time.

But last weekend, I found myself spending a large amount of time watching and thinking about two shows that I wouldn’t necessarily put in the “great” category: Girl Meets World and Young & Hungry. You can blame this on a three-part Girl Meets World series called “Girl Meets Texas” and, well, baseball playoff games, which meant that I needed to find a series to watch via Netflix on my iPad (hence, Young & Hungry).


It’s no surprise that I’ve been keeping tabs on Girl Meets World. I’m a big Boy Meets World fan, and I started to watch the series because of the surprise cameos. (Feeny’s not dead, by the way.) It does, on occasion, make me laugh, but I don’t think it meets the quality level of Boy Meets World. I just like the way they tie the two series together from time to time. But I somehow got invested in this love triangle drama that happened in Texas — but more so, I wanted to fix it. I spent the vast majority of my weekend (and let’s be honest, some of the beginning of this week) trying to figure out how the writers could have made this story line better.

I’ve been hesitant about this “love him like a brother” thing since it was first discussed — even more so after hearing that Rachel supposedly loved Eric as a brother back on Boy Meets World. (I do not recall those exact words, just that she liked Eric in a different way than she did Jack. The fact that they said this on Girl Meets World still bugs me.) The legitimacy of that statement aside, saying you love someone as a sibling is a change you can’t come back from. It’s not like feelings just go from attraction (well, crush) to brother back to crush. The writers were writing themselves into a corner. So after Part 1, when Riley told Lucas that she loved him like a brother, I was rather annoyed. It’s not like I’m a huge Riley/Lucas shipper, but that certainly doesn’t provide room for growth — or the potential for anything else to happen between them — in the future.

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Why ‘Falling Skies: The Final Battle’ Fails to Deliver

Falling Skies Ssn 5

As you probably saw from my last post on Falling Skies (and probably assumed from my lack of posts since), I’m more than a little disappointed with the show as of late. I hate to be so negative on it. I used to be such a fan of the show. I was enthralled with its early seasons. I love Hal, Maggie, Anne, Matt — even Pope. And yet, in a season that should be pushing the limits and dramatically leading to the end of the 2nd Mass (in one way or another), it’s just falling flat. We’re getting more of the same, episode after episode, which is quite frankly odd, considering that we’ve added a new race of alien into the mix.

Take, for example, last night’s episode. Here, we have Tom desperately trying to find Hal and Pope, while the rest of the 2nd Mass is in a standoff with a random stranger who, we discover, has lost his family. This is a middle-of-the-road, one-off plotline, which should have appeared somewhere in the third season. A random attack on the side of the road by an individual, discovering the loss he’s experienced? We’re way beyond that. Introducing new characters, like the gal Pope brought on as his “nurse”? What are we? Mad Men?

If that doesn’t convince you, consider Cochise from the previous episode. Suddenly he’s dying and needs a transplant? Even his father’s death didn’t change anything for the 2nd Mass, even though he was head of their ally alien race. Ultimately, all of these B-plots aren’t advancing the story.

The season is advertised as “the final battle,” and I suppose that’s the problem. What battle? We’re still facing the same ol’ war on the same ol’ turf with the same ol’ enemies. Sure, now they can be bugs (which we know nothing about). And there’s also a third alien race in the mix, courtesy of Tom (which we also know nothing about — and don’t seem to care to look into). There’s no indication of where this season is headed, and we’re only five episodes away from a finale. Sure, True Detective might be able to fit the drama, tension, and plot in the last two episodes of their second season, but Falling Skies isn’t quite that contained. We need to know that there’s an end point. And if there isn’t — if we find out in the finale that the humans can’t win and their way of life is to fight on — we still need tension to build until we get there.

What’s worse is that our favorite characters are suffering. Hal has nothing to do except occasionally declare his love for Maggie, but they’ve barely put them in scenes together. Ben and Maggie supposedly have this sexual tension, but beyond a forced declaration of “feelings” as their spikes were glowing in the last episode, we haven’t seen it. Tom is, quite possibly, unbearable. Pope is so one-dimensional it hurts. Heck, Sarah didn’t even get a good death scene because you could see her boots in the mud (seriously, go back and watch; you can see her kneeling where her legs are supposed to be underground). Where did the quality go?

I’m going to try to stick it out to the end. If Falling Skies has done anything well, it’s their finales. But I’m really finding it hard to get excited about the show, especially considering how amped I was about it when it premiered.

I would just hate to see the 2nd Mass drag their feet the end of the series. It’s one thing to win a war for Earth, but I’d hate to see them lose their fans in the process.

*Photo by TNT

Falling Skies: Find Your Warrior


FALLING SKIES: 5.01 “Find Your Warrior”

The final season of Falling Skies is upon us, and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s about time. Unfortunately, Falling Skies is long past its expiration date, no matter how many alien species you throw at it. For a show that used to be one of my favorite summer series, the season four finale was lacking — well, to be honest, season four was lacking. I never really got into the Lexi storyline. And while I was pleased to see her sacrificed in the season four finale, I wasn’t so pleased to see Tom’s face-to-face with a new monster.

It’s pretty hard to come back from that. Especially when you think about the fact that they have a mere ten episodes to wrap up not only that story but the entire series (and somehow, I doubt they’ll just let all the humans die). There’s a lot to do.

What’s more, Tom has lately proven to be one of the most boring characters on the show. He’s been someone quite interesting — a history professor turned army leader — to a one-dimensional guy. And the problem with a one-dimensional character is that when you try to change them, they come across too fake and too predictable. As we saw in last night’s episode, something’s different about Tom, and a whole bunch of people are starting to notice. The problem is, all we’re seeing is a few covert, concerned glances…and that’s it.

What’s worse, Tom’s “different” self is basically one that’s just guided by “rage,” an apparently muted, dull rage that doesn’t really come to the surface above a semi-passionate speech. We’re not even quite seeing it yet; we’re just told and guessing that he’s different. (Geez, even with Sam in Supernatural, it took us a while to realize something was amiss when he came back from hell. See, I can make that reference now.) In essence, he’s boring.

And there’s the problem with the episode: I was rather bored. I was bored with the battles. I was born with Tom. And I have no idea where we’re going from here.

It’s not that all hope is lost with Falling Skies. They just seem to have put themselves in a tricky spot with so little time to flesh it out. For example, if they had more episodes, perhaps we could have devoted an entire episode to Tom in his alternate dimension, seen the loving, compassionate side of him as he went back and forth with the woman he thought was his wife. Then we could see the rest of the 2nd Mass trying to adapt without Tom as their leader. Then in another episode, Tom suddenly appears, soaking wet. Where did he come from? How did he get here? And why is he suddenly so mad? This isn’t the Tom we knew. Is it really even the same Tom at all?

Now, wouldn’t that be more intriguing? The problem is, Falling Skies doesn’t have the time. And it also doesn’t have the B-stories. It has incredibly complex and compelling characters, but not enough interesting stories to tell about them. Yes, I’d prefer Hal with Maggie (though I don’t think she’ll end up with him), but it’s not sustaining my attention. And I’m sad to see Deni gone. But it’s not keeping my attention. And without an inkling of where we’re going from here, other than just the vague “war” ahead, I just don’t know what’s keeping us going.

All that said, I’ll stick with it (I’ll even try to keep writing about it). I mean, there’s only nine episodes left, right? We have to see what happens to the human race. But to make a real impact, it better step up its game.

*Photo by TNT

Why I Need to Break my Binge-Watching Habit

grace and frankie

In recent news, Mad Men creator spoke about the now widely talked about series finale of the show. And while, sure, I was curious to hear his thoughts on the matter, what stood out to me more were his thoughts on his next project and whether it’d be one for binge-watching. According to The Hollywood Reporter:

When asked about returning to TV in the future, Weiner said that if he were to go with Netflix, for example, “I would try to convince them to let me roll them out so at least there was just some shared experience. I love the waiting; I love the marination. When you watch an entire season of a show in a day, you will definitely dream about it, but it’s not the same as walking around the whole week, saying, ‘God, Pete really pissed me off.’ And then at the end of the week, saying, ‘When he said he had nothing, that really hurt.’ I remember people saying that. You can reconsider it. And you see it pop up in your life. … I feel like you should be able to be as specific as you possibly can, and let that sit with people. I loved having the period in between the shows, and it probably is the end of it.”

This really resonated with me, especially now that I find myself falling prey to binge-watching not one but two series right now: cult-favorite Supernatural, which just finished up its 11th season on the CW, and the new series Grace and Frankie, which was just released on Netflix. And while I’m eagerly looking to watch more, particularly when I’m away from home (especially with Supernatural), I think I’m honestly suffering from the habit. Not health-wise, but entertainment-wise.

Let’s first look at Grace and Frankie. Now, I’m enjoying the series. Sure, some episodes are better than others, but as I sat around on Saturday waiting for the gas guy to come, they were a great couple of gals to keep me company. But that’s just about all the engagement I had with the series. They were just…there.

Case and point: character names. Sure, I knew Grace and I knew Frankie. And if you reminded me, I could tell you Robert and Sol. More accurately, I could tell you the actors who played them — that’s who I recognized from episode to episode. Even now, at eight episodes in, I can’t tell you any of the childrens’ names. This is a problem. I’ve watched over half the first season, and I can’t tell you recurring character names.

More so, I didn’t quite get the poignancy of the episodes. For example, after Grace and Frankie attended a funeral for the first time without their former husbands, you’d think I’d feel a little sense of sadness. And I did. I had a little sense of sadness. It didn’t stay with me, though. Why not? Because I just flipped to the next episode and ignored any of those tinges in favor of new adventures. I’m not giving myself the time to digest and, frankly, feel for the characters.

This latter point is one that I’ve felt in Supernatural. I’m now in the middle of the third season (and given that this was many years ago, I figure spoilers are fair game here). There have certainly been some episodes that carry sentimentality and, well, feelings. And yet, I can skip all those feelings in favor of finding out what happens next. Let’s look at the episode “Heart,” in season 2. Here we have Sam finally falling for someone, only to be force to kill her. She explicitly asks him to do it. Sam is literally breaking down in tears — even stone-faced Dean let’s a tear fall out down his face. No one wants to have to do it, but it has to be done. It’s the kind of episode that stays with you for that week between episodes. Only, it stayed with me for somewhere between 30 seconds and a day (I can’t recall how fast I moved on to the next episode) before I hopped in for another ride in the Winchesters’ car.

Or, let’s consider an episode from the next season, “Mystery Spot.” This was actually a really humorous episode, but the last scene has Sam looking deeply at the hotel bed. I didn’t think much of it, until fellow Raked writer JC pointed out how that basically was his home for almost a year. Between over 100 “Groundhog Days” and the six months after Dean’s death, this is where he lived and conducted his business. A year doesn’t seem that long to me and you, but since he’s basically a nomad, that’s a significant period of time. He was leaving somewhere important.

The only problem was, I didn’t actually spend 100 days there. I didn’t even spend one hour, which was the original airtime including commercials. I spent 42 minutes and then moved on. I didn’t give it the time it deserved to really hit me with its poignancy.

The worst one? How about “What Is and What Should Never Be”? I watched, enjoyed. But then the next day I remembered a scene with Dean crying. That was one of the last minutes of the episode — Dean was crying. Dean never cries. This is important. But what was he crying about? For the life of me, I can’t remember. And when something important and emotional isn’t connecting with me (and I’m a self-proclaimed sap), something’s wrong with this picture.

So Weiner has a point. You need that time. You need that time to shape an initial impression into something else, or at the very least engage with it. To him, it means that time between Pete’s a jerk to Pete’s actually a sympathetic and complex character. To me, it means the difference between feeling and caring for characters, and just glossing by just so I can find out how it all ends.

All that said, I can’t seem to stop binge-watching. And I’m sure my long weekend coming up will be filled with nights of back-to-back Supernatural episodes (after all, I have to catch up by the fall).

If you have any advice, help me out. And for the sake of the characters we’re spending hours with, let’s take a little time to think and digest. And maybe just connect with TV again.

*Photo by Melissa Moseley/Netflix

Supernatural: Some Early Thoughts from a Newbie Binge-watcher

supernatural ssn1

I’ve grown exceptionally bored with TV lately. Ok, I know that’s hard to say since Mad Men is in its final episodes and Game of Thrones just started up last night. But The 100 finished its season (and I’m still recovering from it), and The Vampire Diaries just hasn’t been capturing my attention lately. I started watching Hart of Dixie. In fact, I binge-watched it on Netflix and caught up on The CW — and it just ended. I’ve already watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and while we’re going through Bloodline, it’s taking some time. Quite frankly, while Gilmore Girls is my go-to, I really don’t want to go through it again for the third time in two years (if that).

So I needed something new. I’d heard a lot about Supernatural in a way that told me very little. In other words, this is a little engine that could with a cult following that has standout episodes and is in its tenth season — and yet I can’t tell you any plotlines except that Dean from Gilmore Girls plays Sam, and Jensen Ackles plays Dean, which makes it incredibly confusing to discuss with someone who’s only seen Gilmore. Anyway, I figured, hey, let’s check it out.

(As a side note, I just realized that Supernatural is the only series left from the WB network era. Can’t say I don’t appreciate that.)

That was Friday night at about 10 pm. Keep in mind, I have a toddler, so I can’t really stay up all night long to watch a series since I really need to function early the next morning when he wakes up. That said, I still watched four episodes that night and another two on Saturday night.

And considering that (at least right now), it’s very much in the monster-of-the-week mode — like many famed supernatural shows started out with, like Buffy, Angel, Fringe, and The X-Files — I’m still really enjoying it. Sure, I’ve seen shapeshifters on all kinds of series in all kinds of forms…literally. But they still made the episode enjoyable and interesting. What I’m most appreciating about the series is the little tidbits they share about all of the various lore they’re fighting: where the windago came from, for example, or the woman in white.

I also like that they keep it light and humorous, especially since so many of the scenes take place in the dark. Fringe, for example, was very dark with little humor until the show settled on Walter’s ideal craziness, and even Buffy left humor to Xander for many years. Here, we get a good camaraderie with the two brothers, and I almost make it a game to guess when Dean will call someone either a bitch or son of a bitch.

As for downsides? It’s taking me just a little time to get used to some of the color choices, particularly in driving, and in these early episodes, it really feels like Sam’s story — not the story of brothers. And it might become a little too predictable if in every episode Sam gets in trouble and Dean jumps in to save the day at the last minute. But I’m only six episodes in; I’m sure a lot of that will get worked out. And sure, I am certain that there’s something magical, mystical, or at the very least mysterious about Sam that caused that dark figure to loom over his crib and kill the only women in his life. It’s about Sam, not the demon, and that might be a wee bit predictable.

But for now, I’m just enjoying the ride and looking forward to binging on more.

The 100: Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2


THE 100: 2.16 “Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2”

I have been thinking nonstop about last night’s finale of The 100. I had no idea where this episode would take us, where they’d draw the line. And for a show that’s been said to have never held back, last night was definitely a harsh example of that.

I’m constantly impressed with this show. Just looking at how much these characters have developed since the beginning — hell, since the beginning of season two — shows how much depth and complexity the show has. It doesn’t sugar-coat things. It doesn’t hide real life-and-death choices behind sappy melodrama. It’s tough, it’s brutal. I could go on for quite some time about how this show has exceeded expectations, how it’s so well-written, and how it’s become the show I’ve really been amped about watching week to week. All of that’s true, but I should probably focus on what actually happened in this finale.

I was crying for about 15 minutes during this finale. I’m a natural sap, so that shouldn’t surprise you. But I wasn’t crying over losing someone we’ve loved as a character for a while (ok, yes, perhaps some sentimentality over Maya did slip in there). And I wasn’t crying for some character I knew less well but was forced to have a reaction to because of the crescendoing music to give me sad feelings. I was crying because I was watching a tough, impossible situation. I was screaming at the TV through fat tears because I knew that what was about to happen was wrong, and I didn’t want to see it happen. I was crying because I saw Clarke do something that could never be changed, had so many shades of gray behind it, and ultimately, was something no one would be able to accept again.

I saw Clarke feel the weight of her people on her shoulders, the minute she put her hand on that lever. She felt the weight of family and friendships. And she knew she had to do it even though she knew what it meant she was doing. I saw Bellamy flash back to his days on the Ark, where his one responsibility was to watch out for his sister, no matter the cost. The characters we knew and love were changing before our very eyes, doing something they may never recover from.

But it wasn’t just the 100 I was thinking about. I was thinking about those kids we saw filing into a classroom a few episodes ago, and the kid playing with a soccer ball on Level 5. All the people dining, enjoying themselves, smiling, living life. They were all going to suffer because of this war and these actions.

The writers behind the show could’ve made all of Mount Weather’s people into greedy monsters. But they weren’t. And in the end, innocent people became casualties of war.

It was ugly, and it hurt. And here I am, more than 12 hours later, still thinking about it. Analyzing it. That’s the sign of an effective episode. Kudos.

I didn’t think they’d go there. Sure, I suspected Dante would die in some way, maybe Cage, maybe even Clarke’s mother. Jasper or Maya, for sure (by the way, I think it was IGN who commented that it was brilliant to kill off Maya in this way, illustrating explicitly how Clarke and Bellamy’s actions would hurt the ones who helped them). But the lines that were crossed. Just wow. They didn’t hold back.

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