Saturday, June 30, 2012

What to watch on a hot Fourth of July

With the Fourth of July holiday falling in the middle of the week this year – Wednesday to be exact – a lot of people aren’t getting those long holiday weekends they yearn for.

Instead, Wednesday is just a random day off in the middle of the week for some people.

For those that only have one day off – and it is supposed to be in the 90s again – sitting at home and watching a TV marathon could be an option -- especially since the bulk of us don't have access to a boat.

Following is a list of television marathons occurring around the Fourth of July holiday:

ABC Family: The show that never stops eliciting chuckles from the misfortune of others, ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos,’ runs for 12 straight hours starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday. 

AMC: It’s a few days after the Fourth, but the much anticipated ‘The Walking Dead’ marathon begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and includes a showing of the pilot episode in black and white and behind the scenes footage from filming on season three. For those that can’t wait for their zombie fix – this is the marathon to watch.

Antenna TV: Gidget returns to the airwaves from 7 a.m. Wednesday until 7 a.m. Thursday – including those “unfortunate” movies.

Bravo: The network isn’t breaking too far from their daily schedule. Instead they’re showing a ‘Don’t be Tardy for the Wedding’ marathon from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Chiller: The hidden camera show ‘Scare Tactics’ runs from 6 a.m. Wednesday through 5 a.m. Thursday.

Discovery ID: Anyone interested in cheating and murderous spouse stories can get their fix by watching ‘Who the (Bleep) did I Marry’ from 9 a.m. to midnight Wednesday.

Oxygen: America’s favorite blue collar family, the Conners, will be front and center for a ‘Roseanne’ marathon from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

SCIENCE: The short-lived but much missed ‘Firefly’ will be broadcast in its entirety starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Syfy: The still compelling ‘Twilight Zone’ will air from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 5 a.m. Thursday.

TLC: The always entertaining ‘Cake Boss’ runs from 6 a.m. to noon Wednesday. It will be followed by ‘Undercover Boss’ from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

TNT: Viewers can catch episodes of ‘The Mentalist’ from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then get caught up with the entire run of the new ‘Dallas’ reboot from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

USA: From the network that loves marathons, viewers can get their weekly fixes of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and ‘NCIS’ from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer reads to keep you hot this season

I’m a prolific reader – usually devouring anywhere from two to five books a week.

My tastes vary wildly – but I usually follow a general schedule: One heavy book to be immediately followed by three light-hearted ones.

It’s not that I don’t like reading profound books – because I do.

I like reading literary fluff too, though.

I’m multi-dimensional weird that way.

While I know a lot of readers have jumped on the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ bandwagon, I’m not one of them.

Quite frankly, I’ve read better prose from a middle-schooler and I’ve heard better stories from a lying teenager caught out with a boy after curfew.

It’s just not my cup of tea.

It’s not that I don’t like hot and steamy love stories – I just like them to have a little substance sometimes. Heck, I’ll settle for a romance story to be formatted around a mystery – paranormal or otherwise.

I’m not picky. I just don’t like crap – and ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ is complete and total crap.

Instead of telling you what you should read, though, I decided on a different tact. I’m just going to tell you what I’m reading this summer.

The good news is that I’ve already blew through a couple of these. The better news is that I still have plenty to look forward.

So, without further ado, my summer reading list:

Shadow of Night: Deborah Harkness’ debut novel ‘A Discovery of Witches’ took the literary world by storm last summer. It wasn’t perfect – but very little is. It was entertaining, though, and well worth the time expended in the read. This is a follow up, essentially the middle book in her All Souls Trilogy. Note to readers: These are not short books. If you’re looking for a quick read, you should probably look elsewhere. ‘Shadow of Night’ comes out July 10.

Lethal Outlook: Victoria Laurie is an author that used to live in Royal Oak. Her Psychic Eye series – featuring clairvoyant Abby and her federal investigator boyfriend Dutch – spent several years set in Royal Oak in fact. This latest installment sees the couple living in their new digs in Texas and planning a wedding. I enjoy the Psychic Eye series a great deal – but Laurie is better to keep her characters a little grounded. Last year’s book in the series saw the couple working undercover for the government. It was by far the weakest entry in the series. Still, one bad book isn’t enough for me to abandon Laurie as an author. Let’s hope ‘Lethal Outlook,’ which comes out July 3, is an improvement.

In a Witch’s Wardrobe: I came to the Juliet Blackwell witchcraft series late. Essentially, I only discovered it last year. Despite this fact, though, I quickly fell in love with heroine Lily Ivory and her gaggle of friends that frequent her vintage west coast clothing store. It’s still early in the Blackwell series – so nothing seems tired to me in it yet. This book also comes out July 3.

Undead and Unstable: This book came out earlier this month (June 5). I’ve been a fan of the Queen Betsy books for awhile. MaryJanice Davidson is gifted when it comes to dialogue. Sometimes her books suffer from a lack of forethought, though. This book would be an example of that. I still enjoyed the book – don’t get me wrong – it just didn’t have the magic of earlier entries in the series. It’s still a must read for fans of Betsy and her cohorts – especially since it wraps up one storyline and starts exploring another. That being said, it might be time to put Betsy to rest. Her schtick is starting to get old.

Deadlocked: Speaking of getting old, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse is at that point in literature when I don’t really care who she ends up with or if she even lives or dies anymore. Through the years, I’ve been a fan of sassy Sookie and her Wal-Mart outfits. I’ve kind of moved beyond it now. It used to be that I couldn’t wait for a new installment in the series. Now it feels like a chore to go through them. The good news is, though, Harris has set an end date for Sookie – and it’s next year. There’s only one more book. With that in mind, fans really should read ‘Deadlocked.’ Even though I’m tired of her, I’ll probably miss Sookie when it’s all said and done.

Explosive Eighteen: Janet Evanovich needs to let Stephanie Plum go. The character hasn’t had any growth since the 12th book and the antics of all the characters aren’t fresh and fun anymore. They’re just old.

Sparks Fly: A Novel of the Light Dragons: Katie Macalister has several popular series out right now – but the dragon series is by far my favorite. While I think the first four green dragon books are still my favorite, the three light dragon books are still infinitely entertaining (and much better than the middle three silver dragon books). The novels set up a rich back story and history – and they’re not the typical paranormal romances that litter book stores now. There’s something special about Macalister’s world – I’m just glad to get to be a part of it.

Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans: Gerry Bartlett’s vampire saga is starting to show it’s age – a little. I still find most of the characters entertaining – I’m just sick of the constant back-and-forth between Glory and some of the characters. This book has a big reveal which kind of feels wedged in and forced to create more controversy between Glory and her love Blade. That being said, the excerpt from the next book seems to indicate Bartlett is going to do something new with the series – and that’s a welcome occurrence. Even though this book is my least favorite of the series, there are still laugh-out-loud moments – and that’s all you can really ask for in a summer read.

Krewe of Hunters: Heather Graham has a new trilogy in the Krewe of Hunters series, including ‘The Unseen’ (May 27), ‘The Unholy’ (June 26) and ‘The Unspoken’ (July 31). Graham is hit or miss, but when I look back at the bulk of her work there are a lot more hits than misses. She’s pretty reliable – and her sex scenes are always hot.

And, for those willing to try something new, you can always try reading the two books I've written. They're both light summer reads featuring newspaper reporter Avery Shaw and the colorful people that surround her. The books are set in Macomb County – so that’s always a bonus. What? A little self-promotion never hurt anyone. ‘Who, what,where, when, die’ and ‘If it Bleeds, it Leads’ are both available on Kindle.

What do you think? What are looking forward to reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FX runs risk of ruining comedy block with Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen’s meltdown was epic.

No, seriously, it was legendary.

We were seeing a grown man completely fall apart.

The fact that he did it in the public eye and no one could stop him was only part of the entertainment factor.

The other part was that he had no shame while doing it.

He surrounded himself with prostitutes, drugs and weird catch-phrases.

Everyone in the world could see that he was having a mental breakdown – and yet all we could do is laugh about it.

In the months since he stopped “winning,” Sheen has managed to gain some traction in his fight to hold on to his sanity.

The world will get a chance to see how he’s progressing Thursday night, when his new show ‘Anger Management’ debuts on FX.

‘Anger Management’ is based on that bad Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson movie a few years back. If the show is worse than the movie – viewers are in for a world of hurt. If the show is as good as the movie, viewers are still in for some pain.

Sheen was once a great actor – ‘Platoon,’ ‘Wall Street,’ ‘Major League’ – but he hasn’t shown anything near those acting chops in years.

From the trailers I’ve seen for ‘Anger Management,’ it doesn’t look like there’s anything even remotely worthwhile about the show. Should it fail, Sheen says this is his last foray into television. Let’s hope he’s telling the truth.

‘Anger Management’ joins FX’s other two comedies, ‘Wilfred’ and ‘Louie’ – which are already established hits and are returning with new seasons this week, as well.

‘Louie’ stars Louis C.K. and is about a stand-up comedian and the lengths he goes to when trying to perfect his craft. C.K. not only stars, but he writes and directs the show, too.

‘Louie’ really doesn’t cover any new ground, but it is so funny as a retread that it really doesn’t need to. The show sparkles from start to finish.

‘Wilfred,’ on the other hand, is an acquired taste. I’ve personally fallen in love with the show – but I can understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

‘Wilfred’ has a certain surreal quality. Essentially, Elijah Wood plays Ryan, a down-on-his-luck 20-something that finds a partner in crime when he starts babysitting his neighbor’s dog. The problem is, everyone else sees the dog as a regular dog while he sees it as a mouthy man in a dog costume.

Yeah, it’s weird.

It’s also hilarious.

I’ve gone back and forth on my feelings for Sheen.

I loved him back in his ‘Young Guns’ and ‘Navy S.E.A.L.S.’ days.

When he made his comeback on ‘Two and a Half Men,’ I was indifferent on an entertainment level (I don’t find canned and formulaic shows like that funny) but I was happy for him on a personal level.

‘Anger Management’ is another story, though. I think the show has the potential to be another ‘Two and a Half Men’ when it comes to quality (and nobody wants that). I doubt the ratings will reflect the CBS shows’ numbers, though.

Personally, I would have liked to see something a little more creative to be paired with ‘Louie’ and ‘Wilfred.’

I’ve decided I’m going to give ‘Anger Management’ a chance. If it is subpar, though, I’m out of there after one viewing.

What do you think? Is ‘Anger Management’ going appeal to FX’s edgier audience?

What’s the matter with these kids today?

Even before a group full of pre-teen students made national headlines for bullying a bus monitor in the last few weeks I had decided that there was something wrong with kids today.

Sure, the ones on the bus were especially monstrous, but when you look around at their counterparts they’re really not that different.

I once read that you can’t diagnose a child with any mental illness until after they’re 18 years old because they all profile as sociopaths. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.

To me, that’s a scary thought either way, though.

When you look at it, I think the roughest age for kids is probably 11 to 15. They’re essentially shrill little hormone bombs that have no idea how to deal with what they’re feeling.

That’s no excuse for what they did to that bus monitor, though.

I think one of the problems is that kids today are a bunch of entitled pains in the – well, you know where.

I know people tend to look back at their own childhood with rose colored glasses – but I honestly don’t remember acting that way. Mostly because my parents would have never allowed me to act that way.

I don’t actually remember being spanked as a child. I knew it was a possibility, though, and I acted accordingly. I did get swatted with the flyswatter by my grandma a time or two – and I’m sure I deserved it a lot more than it happened.

So, yeah, I did get some form of corporal punishment. And, guess what, I’m still standing.

I think one of the reasons kids are so out of control now is that they know their parents can’t touch them. There’s nothing to instill fear in them – so they act like the monsters that instill fear in those around them.

I know that’s a simplistic argument. There are actually other reasons that kids today are such a mess – but I honestly think that’s the biggest one.

Now, I’m not a proponent of beating your child senseless – but a good swift swat on the behind never hurt anyone.

The other reason I think kids are such a mess is their parents. Yeah, I said it.

It used to be that parents would go to parent teacher conferences and if they got a bad report on their child they would return home and discipline that child.

That’s not how it is now.

Parents actually take the word of the child over the teacher – saying their kid would never lie.

Here’s a tip, your kid lies. That’s what kids do. You might not want to believe that is behavior your child would engage in, but they do. Get over it.

Parents treat teachers like babysitters and don’t give them the respect they deserve. That’s the simple truth.

I think the third problem with kids today is that they don’t have to strive for anything. I mean, these kids are playing games in which no one wins and no one loses. Even the last place team is getting a trophy – whether they earned it or not.

If kids don’t learn to strive for something, they’ll never accomplish anything. If they always win, then why try to actually win?

What we’re doing is creating a generation that expects everything to be handed to them.

They have parents that buy them iPhones, iPads and Wii video game consoles – without ever working a day to pay for them.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a job when I was 14 years old and I worked 20 hours a week (sometimes more) throughout high school. If I wanted a video game system – I had to buy one for myself.

My parents helped me through college and with school clothes, etc., but they also expected me to pull my own weight.

That helped cultivate something in me that kids today don’t have: a work ethic.

I know, especially given today’s job market, that it’s harder for teenagers to get part-time jobs. They could be doing something else besides sitting in Starbucks and complaining about how their mom won’t buy them a car, though, and how she just doesn't understand the struggles of the modern teen.

Because, you know what? I don't believe the modern teen is struggling all that much.

Is it just me, or is this something wrong with the kids today? What do you think?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Daytime Emmys are becoming a sad affair

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Daytime Emmys.

I love soaps as a genre – but daytime talk shows and game shows are migraine inducing bores.

So, watching the Daytime Emmys was usually a two-hour long drag – mostly because I only cared about a handful of categories.

In recent years, the show has struggled to find a home.

It used to be broadcast on primetime. Sure, it was never as popular as the primetime Emmys, the Oscars or the Golden Globes – but it wasn’t something that was openly ridiculed either.

That changed a few years ago – when all of a sudden no one wanted to host the Daytime Emmys because they were no longer profitable.

This year, HLN stepped in to host the show. I didn’t expect a lot from the network that lets Nancy Grace spout her bile on a regular basis, but I was just glad someone picked up the show.

Was it worth it?

I’m still not sure.

The production values weren’t awful. They weren’t great, but they were far from awful, too.

However, I do not understand what was up with the order of the awards.

Everyone that watches awards shows knows that the bigger awards are saved for later in the show. So when this year’s show opened up with best actor there was a collective “huh” heard from daytime fans around the world.

What’s sad is that there were only six soaps in contention this year – which means that wins just don’t mean as much as they used to. And next year there will only be four shows in contention.

Fans should probably ready themselves for the day when soaps won’t be part of the Daytime Emmys – because it’s coming.

What are we going to do when CBS is the only one standing with two soaps? Are we going to start giving some of the ridiculous actors on ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ awards just because there’s no one else?

As for this year’s award winners – I was pretty happy with most of them.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Best Actor: Anthony Geary won his record seventh lead actor trophy. Some people feel that Geary has won enough and should take himself out of contention. I’m not one of those people. The performance Geary gave last year when his alter ego ran over grandson Jake – whether he was drunk or not – and the follow up intervention were riveting. Geary is one of the best performers in daytime. He should keep claiming trophies as long as he can.

Best Actress: Heather Tom became the first actress to win in three different categories. Through the years, she has won the younger actress, supporting actress and now lead actress trophies. Pretending I’m a ‘Bold and Beautiful’ fan would be a lie. Tom, however, is one of the few performers on the show that actually has talent – so I’m glad she took home the trophy.

Best Supporting Actor: Jonathan Jackson took home his fifth Emmy for his portrayal of a father dealing with the death of his son – at the hand of his father. Jackson has always been a revelation as a performer and his steady presence is much missed on the ‘General Hospital’ canvas.

Best Supporting Actress: Nancy Lee Grahn won the trophy in a year when I didn’t think she had a lot to offer. I though for sure Rebecca Herbst would get the win, along with co-stars Jackson and Geary. It’s not that Grahn isn’t talented, because she is. She’s pretty much the most talented actress on GH. I just didn’t think this was her year. Perhaps voters were rewarding Grahn while they still could.

Best Younger Actor: Chandler Massey took home the award for ‘Days of Our Lives.’ Massey is currently part of one of the better storylines on DOOL right now – but his performances in this story won’t be submitted until next year – when we can assume he’ll take home the trophy yet again. The only other actor that could have even been considered was GH’s Chad Duell – but he’s not quite the actor Massey is so I think voters made the right choice.

Best Younger Actress: I think Christel Khalil putting her name in the younger actress category was kind of a copout. She’s been a lead on the show for what feels like 10 years. She should be putting herself in the lead actress category – or at least the supporting actress category. As it was, this was definitely the weakest group of the night.

Best Writing: The fact that ‘Days of Our Lives’ won this award made me laugh out loud. I love the campy fun factor of DOOL, I really do, but it’s not even close to being the best written soap. This was a case of GH being robbed of their trophy. The scenes from the intervention alone should have carried GH.

Best Show: ‘General Hospital’ may not have gotten the writing award but they did get the coveted best show award. The funny thing is, I think GH deserved the writing award and, in its last year, ‘One Life to Live’ deserved the best show award. Sadly, OLTL wasn't even nominated -- even though the wretched AMC was.

Of course, I’m not on the voting panel, so my opinion really doesn’t matter.

What do you think? Did the right people win last night?

Does common sense exist when it comes to fireworks?

I honestly think that common sense is one of those things that flies right out the window when it comes to fireworks.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July are going to be a noisy and obnoxious time period every year.

It used to be that it was just the week leading up to the holiday.

That’s not the case anymore.

Now it’s the month leading up to and following the Fourth of July.

I’m not talking about community displays. Those usually start right around 10 p.m. and last 20 minutes and it’s over.

I’m talking about residents setting off fireworks at their homes.

No, those seem to start around 9 p.m. and go until 2 a.m. – at least in my neighborhood. It’s not even just the weekends anymore. It’s Monday through Friday.

And we’re not talking the little fireworks that we had when I was a kid. You know, sparklers, a few firecrackers and those little pellets that you lit and would grow to look like snakes.

Now when people set off fireworks it sounds like we live in a Third World Country and we’re under attack.

When that happens, my oldest cat seems to undergo some sort of nervous breakdown – pacing the house and peering out the windows to see what all the noise is about. Since some people don’t understand the notion of sleep, some nights I can’t get him calmed down until well after 2 a.m.

It’s not just the noise, though.

As a person that has survived not one but two apartment fires – I’m a little nervous when it comes to the mixture of people, beer and explosive. Call me crazy, but that never seems like a good idea – and yet it happens constantly.

Given the lack of precipitation in the area recently – and the fact that my lawn looks like it hasn’t rained in months – all of these random (and flying) sparks haven’t escaped my attention.

What’s funny about the situation is that people don’t even bother setting them off on concrete anymore. Of course, that wouldn’t stop some fireworks, but it would still be a deterrent.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen people lighting off fireworks on their grass in recent weeks, though. The mere idea of that doesn’t scream smart to me.

Then there are my favorite fireworks fans – the ones that think it’s perfectly fine to let a 10-year-old light off a package of fireworks with his younger siblings in attendance – but no adult in sight.

I saw that twice on my street alone last night.

Trust me, I don’t want to infringe on the fun of others – and I’m a big proponent of staying out of my neighbor’s business – but can we come back from La La Land and exert just a modicum of control people?

Essentially, when it comes to fireworks, not only should parents be present at all times but they should also be willing to wrap up the displays by 11 p.m. I don’t think that’s unfair.

And if they don't? I think our friendly neighborhood police departments should be patrolling communities and issuing noise tickets. Not only would it be a deterrent, but it would also be a great revenue source for struggling communities.

What do you think? Are the fireworks in your neighborhood starting to drive you batty?