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My Trip to Strangerville

I had the honor of being interviewed by It Just Gets Stranger‘s Eli McCann about one of my most favorite subjects in the universe: Punky Brewster!

He tried to keep the topic on only the refrigerator episode, but as I harbor deep-seated resentment toward that episode (see link to his post below), I kept trying to steer the conversation to Punky Brewster in general. (He edited that out, and rightfully so).

The whole time I was crazy nervous on this phone interview with him and his cohort Meg, I wondered why we were going to all this trouble for a blog post.

Turns out the interview was actually for his Strangerville podcast. That is right, America. I am now in a podcast.

And it is good I didn’t know it was for a podcast, as I would have been more crazy nervous.

If there is anyone else out there that would like to interview me about Punky Brewster or Growing Pains or my love of Matthew Perry, please just contact me at: jennifer_friess@mrugly-manentertainment.com

Here is the link to Eli’s website and the podcast: http://www.itjustgetsstranger.com/2017/10/the-world-of-spooks.html

Don’t be scared by the title. It isn’t that spooky. I appear in segment titled “Refrigerator Death.” Has a cheery ring to it, huh?

Your past shapes you. It can’t be undone.
ANGRY MACEY
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F*ck Ya, That’s My Dream

Ever since I was a little girl watching Laverne & Shirley and Punky Brewster, I have wanted to be a sitcom writer. I knew I could never be an actor, for various anxiety-related reasons. But the actors don’t choose (in most cases) what comes out of their mouths anyway. That is controlled by the writers. So, that is what I wanted to be.

I never really believed that that dream could come true. Recently, I have thought, “What the hell. I am going to believe that it could be a possibility. And things like when The Mindy Project began following me on Twitter for no apparent reason get my hopes up. What if they realize my genius?

I was losing faith that there would still be shows like that for me to write these days. In recent years, everything became a “reality” show (although I believe that they actually have writers too. Really real, right?) Now everything is a serialized horror anthology. Not my style at all.

Photo: Netflix

Photo: Netflix

But then there is The Ranch on Netflix. It restores my faith in the half hour comedy with a little-drama-thrown-in-to-grow-the-characters format. Plus there are LOTS of swear words, which the 12-year-old boy that lives inside of me loves.

The premise is that professional football player Colt (Ashton Kutcher) returns home to the ranch to live and work with his goofy brother Rooster (Danny Masterson) and their grumpy father Beau (Sam Elliott). They spend lots of time with their hands up cows’ asses, and the rest of the time drinking. All the dialogue is very easy going and it just feels like Ashton and Danny showed up to hang out for the day. Ashton even looks like he might just wear his clothes from home. Then maybe Sam Elliott is just grumpy because he came in expecting to actually make a real TV show, although he seems in on it as well. It just seems like something I would love to be a part of.

One of the few occasions where Ashton Kutcher is not wearing a baseball hat. Photo: Netflix

One of the few occasions where Ashton Kutcher is not wearing a baseball hat.
Photo: Netflix

In the episode I watched today, the sexy weather girl Tanya Showers was giving the lottery results on the Bennetts’ television. All the men were hypnotized by her. “First reading the weather, now the numbers. Is there anything she can’t do?” My brain jumped ahead to the punchline before they got there. Maybe everyone’s would, but I like to think I have a talent for it. I relish the predictability.

But then the cliffhanger at the end of part (season?) two totally surprised me. I was actually mad at myself for not predicting it, because they did foreshadow it in the preceding episodes. But it was still good.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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My Current Obsessions

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I am currently totally obsessing over Night Court.

What? You expected me to say Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black?

You haven’t been hanging around here long, have you?

Yes, of course I realize that Night Court is old. I’m old too, and watched it in its original run.

A scene from Night Court.

A scene from Night Court.

If you don’t remember, Night Court is a zany comedy set during the night proceedings of a courthouse in New York City. We have Brandon Tartikoff to thank for green-lighting the show and keeping it on the air when it was still trying to find its footing. I love Brandon Tartikoff. He was the head of NBC during its golden time in the 80s and the birth of Must-See TV. He is also the one who came up with the idea of Punky Brewster, naming it after a childhood friend of his. In turn, Punky’s dog was named after him. And then when I got my Punky Brewster-inspired tattoo, a guy named Brandon did it.

Coincidence?

Tartikoff also allowed Night Court creator Reinhold Weege to hold on tight to his baby and craft the show as he felt it should be, with as little network interference as possible. When there was, Weege firmly held his ground. I think I need to take a lesson out of that for my writing.

I totally need to add Brandon Tartikoff to my list of who I would want to eat dinner with, living or dead. One of my favorite episodes of Night Court even includes Tartikoff when he comes to the rescue of a Nielsen family in court. They never go on dates because then shows get cancelled. My heart aches right along with the woman when she wails, “WE LOST PUNKY!” Of course, I also love the episode guest-starring Michael J. Fox. I can see how tall I would be compared to the other cast members (Mikey and I are roughly the same height). I also love all the episodes with hard-luck couple Bob and June Wheeler. Brent Spiner is so laugh-out-loud funny in that role. I also love the episode where the hurricane hits and they are trapped in the courthouse and must deliver a bunch of babies. Paco is in that episode, who I love. It is also where we learn that Dan’s real name is “Reinhold.” But also that is where I learned what the word “breech” meant, which would come in handy around 25 years later when my son was born.

Bob & June Wheeler & their daughter little Carol Ann. And yes, that is totally the same actor who plays Data (Brent Spiner).

Bob & June Wheeler & their daughter little Carol Ann. And yes, that is totally the same actor who plays Data (Brent Spiner).

Night Court is a show that when doled out in weekly episodes is pleasant and funny. But it is really a show that benefits from binge watching. I realized this when it first hit syndication in the late 1980s. At that time, I could watch it four times a day, five if the prime-time episode was on that night as well. Currently, we own the DVD of season one. And when I binge watch Night Court, I always fall in love with Harold T. Stone.

Or is it Harry Anderson? Hard to tell. I also own season one of Dave’s World that I watch quite frequently.

Part of it may be that the first season episodes contain more “heartwarming” scenes than later seasons. Harry gets to be the voice of reason. Anderson claims he is more of a con man than an actor, but you wouldn’t know it from those episodes.

This sent me on a search for all things Harry. I found a Showtime special featuring his magic tricks and cons from Showtime in 1986 on YouTube. This is one of those times modern technology is great. (Unless you are Harry Anderson, wondering where all your royalties for “Hello, Sucker!” have gone.)

I am eagerly awaiting getting season two, although I realize the show hit its stride and was the best when Markie Post joined on in season three.

Still no Pikachu for me :-(

Still no Pikachu for me 😦

I wanted to mention that I also tried Pokemon Go. I have never ever played Pokemon in my life. But with all the news stories about how dangerous it is and people walking into traffic while playing it and such, it was like an irresistible commercial for it everywhere. (I am the girl who used to go home from drug awareness day at school and see if any of my glue would give me a high, because the school had just opened my eyes to the world of inhalants. Everything works the opposite on me.) I had to try the game. I like it a lot, even though the camera on my phone and the game don’t seem to like each other. I do think it is cool how Google Maps (I assume) is integrated into the game, customizing it to your neighborhood. It is kind of slow. My husband and I walked for up to ten minutes sometimes without a Pokemon showing up. I love that the game is incredibly simple, because I am not good with most video games.

I’m not sure how much I will continue to play it, as I have to actually leave the house. It also eats up the battery on my phone like Cookie Monster at the Keebler factory. I can’t walk my dog while playing it. But I did take two walks yesterday, that I honestly probably would not have without the game.

Here is a fun article about the phenomenon from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2016/07/10/five-things-we-learned-pokmon-go/86928122/

And now I totally can see how people follow their Pokemon right into traffic. I might be playing it right now as I typ tis..

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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What I Learned This Week – 3/6/16

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This week I learned that you can go home again.

Especially if that home is the “painted lady” where the Tanner family resides in San Francisco.

I binge-watched Netflix’s Fuller House this week. I was a fan of the original: on my list of Top 10 shows, it probably comes in at 10.5. If you have hung around me or my blog for any amount of time, you know by now that I am a big fan of cheesy 80’s sitcoms, so I am the target audience for this resurrection. Was it lightning in a bottle? Well, no. There are rough edges and things that can be improved. But the many critics who spent their time panning it WASTED their time. I guess they got a paycheck out of it (which I won’t get for my review). They bashed it as “nostalgia culture”. Um, hello… I freakin’ LOVE nostalgia culture. It is so prevalent that Entertainment Weekly caters to it with at least one article every week. But before there was ever an announcement that Full House was coming back, the audience was already decided. It would be loyal fans of the old show who didn’t mind seeing that the characters had, in fact, aged, and a new younger audience brought up on cheesy Disney sitcoms, which were crafted from the mold of the original TGIF anyway.

Recently, I was at my sister-in-law’s 40th birthday party. I found myself in the same room with three other women from my same high school graduating class. It was familiar, but in a new weird way. I used to spend eight hours a day in school with these people. And while years and years had passed, essentially they were the same people I had passed everyday in the halls or sat next to in French (or Art) class.

The women of Fuller House.

The women of Fuller House. I think there is lots of TV magic happening here, with spanx and extensions, but they look fabulous.

That is exactly how it felt to watch D.J., Kimmy Gibbler, and Stephanie as adults and mothers on Fuller House. Sure, they were different. But it was like a weird high school reunion. Except now Stephanie, played by Jodi Sweetin, is set up to be the “cool, hip aunt”, filling in for the former cool, hip Uncle Jesse. And she is great in the part. Although I can’t help but remember that in real life she is a recovering meth addict. It makes me happy to be able to see that she is winning that battle.

If you loved the old show but aren’t interested in watching a reboot, then just watch the pilot. It is like a Tanner family reunion, and the one episode that contains the highest concentration of stars from the original run of the show. No, there is no Michelle. But even though she was a highlight of the original run, I really didn’t miss her here.

Future episodes rely heavily on guest stars and the aforementioned nostalgia. There is dancing and music from both New Kids on the Block and Dirty Dancing, unarguably two of the best things to come out of the late 1980s. Now that I mention it, there is A LOT of dancing on this new incarnation of the show. Here is what else I learned this week from Fuller House: As a woman, mother, and member of Gen X, I am apparently not dancing OR DRINKING enough. I will have to remedy that soon.

The men of Fuller House

The men of Fuller House

While the children were a big draw in the original run, the new batch of children are only agreeable. The romantic leads for the women actually make the show. D.J.’s coworker Matt Harmon (John Brotherton) and Kimmy’s soon-to-be ex Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) steal all the scenes they are in. By the end of the season, you see where D.J.’s competing suitors, good ol’ Steve and Matt could have the beginnings of a beautiful bromance.

You will see some things in this full house that only time has allowed to appear in this reboot, such as men dancing with (and kissing) men and women dancing with (and kissing) women. I fully believe D.J.’s middle child is already being written to be set up as the gay child.

I have heard that a season 2 of Fuller House has already been greenlit. Probably because it got a large audience, because Netflix subscribers have already watched the stale movies and first-run TV series that are already a full season behind what the networks are airing.

Welcome back Tanners, Fullers, and Gibblers.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It CLICK HERE TO WIN!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Young & Hungry (& Good TV)

Emily Osment stars in Young & Hungry on ABC Family

Emily Osment stars in Young & Hungry on ABC Family

A few months ago on Netflix, I stumbled upon a show called Young & Hungry. I may have skipped over it completely, until I saw that it starred Emily Osment. I always enjoyed her as the sidekick on Hannah Montana (yes, I am an adult who watched Hannah Montana. Deal with it.). I actually always liked her character of Lilly better than Hannah.

I gave Young & Hungry a try, and I am so glad I did. If you are looking for a realistic, deep, intellectual drama… ya, keep walking. But if you just want a little bit of marshmallow fluff to make you smile at the end of a rough day, this show is for you. It is a multi-camera sitcom in the tradition of humor based on misunderstandings, the type that no longer exist on the big 5 television networks. I love that by reading one word in the episode title, I can guess the plot of the whole ensuing episode pretty spot-on. That brings me great joy.

It is the only show that has made me literally laugh out loud in a really long time. And yes, much of the humor is based off of stereotypes, but I think it is done in a way that doesn’t come off as offensive as many other shows.

The basis of the show is that Gabi (Osment) is a young and poor girl who is good at cooking and desperately needs a job. She interviews to be a personal chef for a wealthy, successful tech developer named Josh (Jonathan Sadowski). They discover that they have a bit of chemistry. They sleep together, then realize it is a mistake for several reasons. And then he hires her anyway.

And, that my little friends, is THE PILOT.

Yes, they go THERE in the pilot. The ensuing episodes all have a standalone plot, while the overarching theme of the series is always “When will Gabi and Josh get together as a couple?” Which, unfortunately, is something I totally fall for.

Elliot (Rex Lee) & Yoland (Kim Whitley)

Elliot (Rex Lee) & Yolanda (Kim Whitley)

The supporting cast is great, and one that makes you believe that old sitcom falsehood of “they are all one big, happy family,” even though they bicker with each other. It is a very diverse cast. And the actors mesh together so that I actually believe they might all talk to each other if they were in the real world. There is Kym Whitley playing the strong, outspoken black woman. There is Rex Lee playing the gay Asian who bosses everyone around, but is actually quite insecure when not involved in his job. I LOVE Aimee Carrero as Gabi’s roommate Sophia. She gets some of the best lines.

I loved it when Gabi was going to set up an online dating profile against her wishes and stated that her name, “Sofia Maria Consuela Rafaella Rodriguez,” would be an auto-correct nightmare.

Aimee Carrero as Gabi's roommate Sophia.

Aimee Carrero as Gabi’s roommate Sophia.

I love it when Gabi’s car breaks down, so Josh figures he will remedy the situation by buying her a new used car. And his other employees Yolanda and Elliot are like “What about us? Where are our new cars?

“Or when Gabi thinks she may be pregnant. And she has only slept with Josh. And apparently the only place she can take her preg test is at work at Josh’s apartment?!? Hi-jinks and confusion ensue.

Josh often wears this expression. As if he is frustrated with Gabi, but about to bust out laughing any second. Photo: ABC Family

Josh often wears this facial expression. As if he is frustrated with Gabi, but about to bust out laughing any second. Photo: ABC Family

This show is currently in the middle of its second season on ABC Family. You can check out past episodes on Netflix. And it is a show that, with my brilliant synopsis above, you could join in the fun at anytime. Just know that as the season comes closer to an end, the writers will give you the illusion that Josh and Gabi are getting closer to a real romantic relationship. Then they will find a way to RIP it away from you! (That is what happened at the end of season one, and before the mid-season two hiatus.) But, the show is so cute and funny, you will find that you will come back for more anyway.

Don’t forget I have a NEW CONTEST running where you can win a pair of passes to the GREAT LAKES BOOK BASH October 10th in Kalamazoo, MI. Winner provides own transportation and/or lodging. See contest for complete rules. Hurry! Contest ends September 15, 2015.

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