One man's attempt at literacy

Category Archives: Television

People who have read my blog for awhile know that I love bad TV. Love it. To the extent that when I see a bad show on Netflix or Hulu, I will call people up or post on their Facebook saying “WE MUST WATCH THIS!” And then look even more awkward than normal.

It really is as good-bad as they say!!!

But the secret I don’t talk about that often, except with the people I watch bad TV with, is that there’s an art to making bad TV good. For instance, in Christmas I started at least twelve terrible Christmas/holiday movies, and only completed three of them. The other ones just weren’t badly good enough to be enjoyable. It turns out there is quite the science to making something that is as amazingly terrible as, say, Sharknado.

In this vein, I want to share my newest obsession: Breaking Amish. Breaking Amish is a TLC show — the same network that brought you My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding, so you know it must be quality entertainment — about five young Amish adults (technically, four Amish and a Mennonite, which is slightly more progressive) who decide they want to experience the real world by moving to New York for various reasons.

At this point when I was explaining the show to my boyfriend, he said, “so it’s about their Rumspringa?” And I say, “What’s that?” He responded, “Well, the Amish are often encouraged to go experience American culture in their teenage years.” I looked at him blankly.

No, it’s not about their Rumspringa, Joseph! That’s not dramatic enough! It’s just them being rebellious and angsty because — well, just because! Anyways, it’s not about their Rumspringa. End of story! They’re just… They just decide to all go to New York at the same time! When there happen to be a film crew there! Duh. Stop being silly!

The first episode of Breaking Amish explores the five characters and why they decide to leave their community. I didn’t actually see the first episode, but you really don’t need to because most of these people will explain their motivations over, and over, and over every episode. The characters are as follows:

Rebecca: Rebecca is a young, insecure girl who hates pretty much everyone and wanted to see New York because her father was English (what they call non-Amish people). Or her mom was. I don’t know. She’s pretty boring, but she makes up for any hobbies or interesting quirks by being extremely judgemental and easily offended. Also, she has dentures.

Kate: Kate is a very pretty girl who seems sort of fun and completely insane. She likes to drink a lot and also likes to break into tears. She especially loves to do both of these things simultaneously. Her goal for leaving is to be a model, even though she seems to despise English people — though she had to leave the Amish community because they think that trying to be beautiful is bad and prideful, to the extent they have super creepy faceless dolls.

Not creepy AT ALL.

Abe: Abe is boring. I don’t know why he left the Amish community, but I’m assuming it was to stalk Rebecca, because, despite being awkward and quiet, he is also kind of a pervert. We’re talking if he lived in Japan he’d be buying panties out of a vending machine.

Sabrina: Sabrina is Puerto Rican. She left to find out more of her culture, which she does by working at a restaurant in Astoria, an area in Queens mostly known for having a lot of Greek people, so that makes sense. She is the Mennonite, so the journey is a little less daunting to her. Does she have a personality? Well, she’s funnier and kinder than the rest — which is not saying much. I suppose the best way to describe her is she is the most human of all of them.

Jeremiah: Jeremiah is the other male, and he is also a pervert. He likes boobs, and I’m sure he’d like monster trucks.

They all have plot arcs that develop throughout the season, too. Sabrina hires a PI to track her parents, which is full of lots of juicy tidbits that conveniently pop up every week or two; luckily, she only has drama at her job when she doesn’t have drama concerning her parents. Rebecca and Abe start dating each other; they are perfect for each other because their most defining characteristic is their mutual contempt for everyone besides themselves. Jeremiah quickly turns into The Situation from Jersey Shore. Kate does something with modeling, but mostly she cries a lot because she needs mood stabilizers.

As you can probably guess, this is all terribly, terribly convenient. Too convenient. So convenient that if it wasn’t scripted I’d say God has a plan, and his plan is to make people’s lives into hilariously bad television shows. But with so many reality shows being overtly scripted — I had a friend who knew someone on the Real Housewives of Some Place who said they made them redo scenes liking flipping over a table — the fact that Breaking Amish can embrace the fact it’s all being thought up by someone being paid in spare change and Oreos at the TLC headquarters actually makes it better than all the terrible scripted “reality” shows that have come before it. When Abe’s mom comes in the second episode to ask him back, we don’t roll our eyes; we cheer, because that same plot very well could’ve happened in last week’s Grey’s Anatomy.

As it stands, Breaking Amish has perfected the scripted-reality show formula because it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. There are no boring plots that demonstrate these are real humans because — admit it — at the time of this filming they are not; they are Amish dolls (with faces, thankfully) who are being paraded around for our entertainment. As long as we remember that, I am all too happy to eat a gallon spoonful of ice cream in front of the boob tube.

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Totally belongs to Disney YORecently, one of my favorite comedy shows, Happy Endings, ended (unhappily, hahahaha PUN). This was a sitcom kind of in the vein of Friends, only I like it more. One of the best parts of Happy Endings is a certain character, Max Blum (Adam Pally). He’s a loveable curmudgeon who is chubby, hairy, and dirty, eats and sleeps most all of his days away, hates committing to relationships, and has no work ethic. Max is a slightly unusual character with all of this, but what makes him completely unique is that he also happens to be gay. In fact, Max is probably the single best gay guy I’ve ever seen in a show (not to mention one of the funniest characters), and it’s because he has such a huge list of vices.

You might think that me pointing to Max as the best gay character is preposterous, as he’s not even necessarily a good character with all of these flaws. You might say, “But there are so many other shows with better representations of gay men!”

There are, after all, many, more positive portrayals of homosexual men. You have Will and Grace, a show with two gay protagonists, where both are relatively successful, witty, well kempt, and fit. Will is masculine enough, and the other gay lead, Jack, is a sassy diva. The current gay comedy dream team, Modern Family, where Mitch is a successful lawyer and Cam is the stay at home dad. Both are witty, fashionable, and urbane. Again, Mitch is somewhat masculine (though still very effeminate) , and Cam is more of a sassy diva. Another show that only had a one season run in 2012-2013 was The New Normal, which is… Surprisingly similar. Both are clean, fit, and well educated. One is a masculine doctor, and the other is a sassy diva who is a producer for a musical TV show. There were also similar gay characters on Partners, but that was pretty bad so I didn’t pay attention.

All of these characters are very similar — they have good comebacks, and are intelligent, funny, clean, successful, kind, fit (generally), and metropolitan — but they’re all similar in good ways, really. Each pair follows a very similar trope, where one is vaguely masculine and one is vaguely effeminate, though both end up just being vaguely androgynous (which is not a problem). Their only flaws are also shared, being that they gossip a bit too much. That, admittedly, makes them pretty great, if a bit too similar. Shouldn’t I be praising Mitch, the lawyer, or Cam, the mom man who would sacrifice anything for his partner or child? After all, many gay people themselves have embraced the characters as being what people should look to when they think of LGBT people!

Greg, what is wrong with you?!

Liz Lemon/30 Rock owned by NBC and such DAWGMax is empowering — more empowering than any of these other characters — in the same way that Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s character on 30 Rock, is considered empowering: both, while they have some redeemable traits, also have many, many unique flaws. Liz Lemon is successful and attractive, but she’s afraid of commitment, is not afraid of devious action (including going to the AA meeting of the guy she likes to hear his secrets and using her power to create a fake job for a pregnant teenager as a ploy to get the baby), and is addicted to hotdogs.

What makes them both, somehow, role models, is that they are unique. Let’s get one thing straight: stereotypes are inherently bad — even if the traits that are pointed to are positive — because they create a narrow expectation of what is appropriate. It’s like how making a huge amount of  Black characters in movies the wise, friendly person who offers white people life advice doesn’t empower Black people; it makes it seem like there’s only one appropriate way for Black people to interact with white people. The same is true when you say that gay men need to dress well, be witty, and know the trendiest spots if they want to to earn a place on prime time TV.

Max is a character with just as many (if not more) bad traits as good ones, what with being chubby, lazy, moody, overly competitive, slovenly, insecure, afraid of commitment, etc. Surprisingly enough, this makes him an amazing gay character because he’s not at all what you expect from a gay character; he’s unique, and he breaks the mold from pretty much every homosexual in mainstream TV. Max’s faults end up being even more empowering for me, as a gay man, than any “positive” stereotypes from other gay characters.

It isn’t really acceptance to say, “I accept you as long as you fit into this box.” A box is, by definition, confining. In movements that are about embracing sexual/ethnic/gender diversity, shouldn’t there be just as much of an emphasis on embracing physical/mental/psychological diversity? The answer is, to put it as simply as possible, “Yes.”


Thanks to the wonderful Jules at Go Jules Go, I became aware of something wonderful, the Pi Day Pie Challenge. The short is this: Pi Day is March 14th (3.14). A pi pie is a pie made in honor of Pi Day, and it is extra delicious because it is the tastiness of pie with the awesomeness of math. It’s practically algebraic!

Not so pretty yet, but I swear this will make your socks fly off in pure happiness!

Not so pretty yet, but I swear this will make your socks fly off in pure happiness!

Prior to this I had only made about four pies in my life, and only the last — a pumpkin pie I made for a dinner with friends that had fresh, garden-grown pumpkins — was a success, so I immediately was wary going into this. However, I had something on my side: Pushing Daisies, and a pie discussed in that show, a “tart apple pie with gruyère baked into the crust.” Gruyère, for those who don’t know, is a wonderful cheese. Pushing Daisies is — well, let me explain.

Pushing Daisies copyright ABC etc.!

When you see this poster you might think, “Oh, now an apple pie with cheese sounds a little less unusual.”

Pushing Daisies was a show that aired a few years back with a short first season, that was cancelled in its second season. And it was magnificent. I will not deny that the second season wasn’t nearly as good as the first, but that’s partly because the first seasons was practically perfect. It was the story of a pie maker and his childhood sweetheart, whom he could never touch because it would kill her (again), as they assisted a private detective solve murders, often aided by the pie maker’s single employee who secretly loved him. Sound weird? It sort of was.

Pushing Daisies had everything; romance, comedy, drama, action, and mystery, and instead of being overloaded by any of these elements it came together to form a cohesive and unexpectedly wonderful creation (like a cheese, apple pie!). It somehow managed to be better at any of those aspects than 90% of the television that focused on merely one or two of them. More than anything, it had heart and it had magic. If there was a reason the second season failed it was because it tried to force what seemed to come so easily to the first. The first season of Pushing Daisies is probably my favorite season of any show ever because of how amazingly well crafted and thoughtful it was.

In the show, the sweetheart has two aunts who are recluses that love cheese, and she can’t see them so she tries to help them by giving them pie laced with homeopathic mood enhancers and, more importantly for this, cheese baked into the crust. I used this crust recipe but augmented the filling so it was a bit more substantial, plus I only had winesap apples, which are actually not tart. The end result was this: the filling was fine, but the crust is delicious. It’s so good. Even the dough was so delicious that I couldn’t stop raving about it, and the smells that wafted from my oven as it cooked were intoxicating.

The dough alone to this is so lovely. It's everything you love about cheese combined with everything you love about butter.

The dough alone to this is so lovely. It’s everything you love about cheese combined with everything you love about butter.

You know how when you’re in grade school the most common retort to something like, “I love this pie!” is, “If you love it so much why don’t you marry it!”? Well, I would marry this pie crust. I would. It’s basically like the flakiest, moistest, most perfect cheese puff pastry I’ve ever had.

It's basically like everything you love about a salad with oil, croutons, apples, and gruyère minus the stupid green things in a salad!

It’s basically like everything you love about a salad with oil, croutons, apples, and gruyère minus the stupid green things in a salad!

This pie is an ode to pi and a requiem for Pushing Daisies. It’s the Pushing Daisies Pi Pie. It’s simply heavenly. And because it’s so delicious, it will, like the show, probably not be around for long, but my life will be better for having experienced it.


This is considered an American classic. Will the new movie be regarded in the same light? God, let’s hope not.

This television season, the CW — that same network responsible for bringing you such quality shows as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diarieshas aired something completely different (not really): Beauty and the Beast. An ode to the movie novel of the same name, this new show takes some liberties with the source material. Specifically, the Beast is a smokin’ hotty. Continue reading


I know this may be surprising, but I have a confession today: I’m a pansy. A big pansy. No, I’m not talking about my sexuality (besides, posts on sexuality are just so blasé!), I’m talking about the fact that I am afraid of everything.

Do you remember the scene where the gremlin melted after getting wet? If that didn’t make you poop yourself when you were three then you clearly aren’t me.

The first movie I ever remember watching was Gremlins when I was about three. I remember it was Gremlins because it caused me so much mental trauma that I, to this day, cannot eat after midnight or touch water. Needless to say, thus began my phase of fleeing in terror to my parent’s bed in the middle of the night on a regular basis when I was worried monsters were going to eat me. That phase lasted for almost a decade.

Gremlins clearly ruined me. Continue reading


While I was in New York I did many exciting things, like eating and drinking and riding the subway. Most exciting of all, though, my friend and I watched a show: Vampire High — which is the worst show ever.

Continue reading