Category Archives: Television

My Gift to You

So, we’re all aware that US celebrities do commercials (ahem, adverts) in other countries to make some dough without hurting their Hollywood reputations. (Anyone ever see that Conan Bud Light commercial?) One of my favorite—while also cringe-inducing—things about living here is that we’re privy to some of these, er, indiscretions. It’s hilarious. It’s also terrible, a little, because these people take so much money I’m sure, and well, let’s just say they’re not exactly bringing their A game. I present to you, here, three currently on television every four seconds, in descending order of barely acceptable to utterly heinous.

1) Clooney for Nespresso. George is doing OK here. He’s not totally embarrassing himself, and—granted—Nespresso is a MUCH bigger deal in Europe than in the US. But as far as I can tell, it’s still instant coffee we’re talking about here, my friends.

2) Brad for Chanel. Then we have Brad. Brad, Brad, Brad. Dear Brad. Who the hell talked you into this? I gather this one is also airing in the US from my YouTubeing this morning, which makes this more horrifying I think. He doesn’t even have the excuse that this was only in other countries? This has been in every duty-free shop in every airport I’ve been in for the past six months and it is basically the MERMAN ad from Zoolander. Moisture is the essence of wetness, y’all. Compare and contrast, if you will.

3) Scarlett for D&G. And Scarlett. Please tell me this is not on in the US. This is halfway to making me lose ALL respect for her. “I’m not looking for a million things. TEE-HEE.” To use a phrase I have not used since 8th grade: Gag me with a spoon. Isn’t she better than this?

(And for anyone who missed that Conan Bud Light ad…watch now and get “vroom, vroom party starter” into your vocabulary as soon as possible. Your life will improve.)

The BBC and This Blog

I wake up pretty early now. Too early for work. But too late to go to they gym. I’m trying to change that. (You might say that what I should have been doing with that time was writing this blog.) But until then, I actually, for the first time in my life, have time to watch the news in the morning before I go to work. So I find myself watching the BBC every morning and am, over and over, impressed. There’s a lot happening here right now with the BBC. It seems that there was a former much-loved presenter, three decades ago, who did some bad stuff to kids. And now everyone is crying a “crisis of confidence” in the BBC. Oh, how they have no idea HOW GOOD THEY HAVE IT.

I’ve talked with my mom a few times about the news here. She has come to the (only half joking) conclusion that because the BBC is—technically—owned and operated by the government, that it is most definitely propaganda. (N.B.: They are run entirely independently.) While there is certainly programming on the channel that I think is meant to soften public gripes (e.g. the Tube documentary that clearly intended to introduce whining commuters to the soft, lovely personalities behind the control room doors so they’d ease the heck up), the news is not in this category. I feel lucky to watch REAL news every morning; news with a global focus, and with fair, but pointed questions, where everyone comes away looking mostly happy with how the interview went. There doesn’t seem to be any unspoken prize for making your guest feel the most uncomfortable; no pat on the back and “job well done” for making someone cry on air. To be clear, this kind of stuff most definitely exists in the country on other stations and other programs—so this is not a statement about this country’s superior culture. But the BBC, man, that is just good, solid reporting. And they even manage to balance some personality with it, so it’s actually enjoyable to watch. And Chris and I really love our weather person. Her name is Karen. She has nice hair and is always happy about this shit weather. Ya gotta give her credit for that.

I, personally, am feeling no crisis of confidence in the BBC. But perhaps that’s just that I have the context of what the news can be, and how poorly the world’s events can be reported on. Perhaps it’s that I studied journalism in a time just before this sensationalist, wannabe mud-raker style took over, and I have an idealist’s view of what the news should be and know that the BBC pretty much nails that.

Sorry this post didn’t have pictures of Europe in it, guys.

OLYMPICS. OLYMPICS, OLYMPICS, OLYMPICS.

I totally did not expect to be this excited about the Olympics. I was with everyone else in my new country, whining about what it was going to do to my travel plans and getting to and from our friends’ flats. I was with everyone else in my new country thinking something (if not many, many things) were going to go horribly wrong. And while I don’t want to speak too soon: it seems like things are going swimmingly so far. (HA. SWIMMINGLY. I swear I wrote that before realizing it was a pun.)

We started our Olympic journey at a pub on Friday night to watch the opening ceremony. While probably one of the most fun nights we’ve had in London so far, it was also sort of a strange atmosphere to watch what ended up being an extremely cerebral event. We had lots of pints and trouser-dropping and a drinking game happening, while we were being read William Blake poetry by the country’s premiere Shakespearean actor. Cool, Americans! What was strange was how excited we all were—8 of us together—compared to the rest of the Brits in the room. No one clapped. No one cheered. No one made a peep when Team GB came into the arena. We had to cheer for everyone. After all of the crazy patriotism we saw here leading up to and during the Jubilee, I really just didn’t know what to make of that. We stayed for the entire ceremony and the pub didn’t even kick us out and kept serving us. I was shocked.


I should have asked them to mark it: “Reserved: For the loud Americans. You probably don’t want to sit anywhere near this table.”


Still early.


Before Chris spilled a full beer on Katie trying to get to some pickled onions.


Megan tries on Matt’s USA glasses. They are determined to improve vision.


Things are getting more serious. Thanks to our drinking game, we’ve all already stood up and said “God Save the Queen” five or six times, much to the chagrin of our fellow patrons. But I actually think we all really love her maybe more than they do. In typical English fashion, though, no one said a word to us. They all just went home seething, I’m sure, and we have informed another ten years’ worth of of stereotypes, at least.


Merrills!


My man, Kenneth Brannagh.


Jimmy’s USA “pants” which were the biggest hit of the evening.


American ladies in London.


Nice, normal, American lads in London.


Oh, wait.


Matt showing off his amazing knee socks.


Brother and sister.

Guys. We found our people.

It was really hard to understand the significance of so many of the elements of the show in the loud pub. Without hearing the explanations of some of it, we were—frankly—a little confused. I was guessing at the literary references because I only caught half of them, and was so excited when I saw J.K. Rowling pop up that I didn’t even hear that she was reading J.M. Barrie. So the next morning, in our hungover state, Chris and I watched the whole thing again on the BBC website from the couch. So my official ruling after this, is that it was totally awesome. I cried, like, 30 times, because I am pretty sure I live in the coolest city on the planet, in one of the most amazingly historically-rich countries. For a person who is as obsessed with history and literature as I am—I kind of felt like that ceremony was made for me. Voldemort! Anyway. Some “Moments in Buffering” for your enjoyment:



A little interjection: I am loving this P&G campaign with the parents, and can’t get enough of all of the ads with the word “mum” in them. I am so happy it’s happening here in the UK, too, because I saw it sort of launch when we were home in May in the US and I thought it was just absolute genius. Moms love things like dishwasher detergent and hand soap! EXCELLENT brand work, P&G.

So last night we went to our first Olympic event! Team GB vs. Brazil women’s football at Wembley, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure I’ve never waved a flag in my life, of any nation, but I am shocked how quickly I got really into it. Chris picked up a pack of little plastic Union Jacks for £1 yesterday, and I was so pleased. I was downright CHUFFED, as they say here, that he was getting so into it. (Best word for “happy” ever.) So we waved them around and had a great night with our real English friends Colin and Rox, and we WON!


Chris outside Wembley before going in!


All those empty seats. Tsk, tsk, London 2012.


Filling in those obviously empty seats.


Team GB wins!

It feels kind of awesome to be able to genuinely root for two different countries in this thing. There are just so many amazing athletes between the two. Phelps! Lochte! Wiggins! Wieber! Armitstead! The horses!

Speaking of: Chris and I watched an equestrian event on TV the other day and we thought they were just like, being announced and walking around, but it was an actual event. I still don’t understand what happened.

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Come Dine with Me

We have been watching so much Breaking Bad that I haven’t been watching much British television, which I think has sort of become my de facto specialty here on this blog. There is just so much to say about it. It is so good. And so…English. A favourite has absolutely risen to the top in the past few weeks. Come Dine with Me combines everything I love about television and life in general, and, of course, the Brits: dinner parties, hosting, cheeky commentary, and a £1000 prize. I am dying to go on this show.

Here’s the rundown:

Four strangers are chosen. Each of them hosts a dinner party at their home for the group, where they are required to prepare three dishes: a starter, a main, and a pudding. (That’s how they say “appetizer”, “entree”, and “dessert” here, you classless Americans!) At the end of the evening, the three guests rank the experience from 1-10. That night’s host is judged based on the quality of the food, and the quality of the company and hosting, but it’s all rather squidgy. (That’s how they say “squishy” here, you classless Americans!) At the end of the fourth and final dinner, the results are all tallied and the person who has the most points wins the £1000. (That’s $1,550ish you…Ahem. Sorry.) Sometimes there are themes. Sometimes there are weirdos. Actually, there’s always weirdos. It is just so damn entertaining. And it’s on pretty much every day after I finish work and am starting on dinner, which I usually put aside, pour myself a glass of wine, and sink into the couch to watch the madness unfold. There is always someone horrified by someone else’s table manners, always someone who says they are “gutted” after they lose, always some amateur gourmand who is too smug to bear, and always a question of what the spouses of these people are doing and if they’re sad they don’t get to be on television, too?

Variations:

— Sometimes there are themes, and the host makes them dress up in costume, which they call “fancy dress” here. So don’t show up to a “fancy dress” party in black-tie. As you might guess, sometimes it is just an excuse for the host or hostess to wear something ridiculous and/or slightly revealing. I told you: weirdos.

— There’s one that I can’t tell if it’s a direct spin-off because I have only seen it once, but it’s a dating version. One person goes on three dates throughout the week, and the “contestants” cook for him or her in their respective homes. It really does add something special to the mix. I also don’t remember what it’s called.

— There was one on a few days ago that was filmed in Northern Ireland and I had to change the channel because I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying. And that includes the one American that was on it (a rare case). Some Americans who have lived here for a long time start to take on really strange accents that aren’t really of either land. I don’t get it.

So once I get a better handle on the type of food these people really go for, I am going to get myself on this show, for sure. I would SO win!

Missing.

I’m not. I’m here. Living, breathing, attempting to continue a normal life after a crazy whirlwind of a trip back to the US and, frankly—utter chaos on both sides of the Atlantic.

Important things happening:

  • My baby sister graduated from college on Sunday. God bless the internet, because Chris and I watched the entire webcast, which means I saw her get her diploma right up close, and had better seats to the whole thing than some of the speakers sitting on stage did. I took about 30 screenshots, because it was as close as I could get to taking photos. I know it’s not the same as being there, but I saw it all and heard her name and watched all of her friends, too. It was better consolation than I imagined or expected to get.
  • We are going to see Elvis Costello at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow. I am what you would call “stoked.”
  • We booked a 3-day trip to Norway for the Jubilee weekend. We’re flying RyanAir on the way into Oslo, which I have never done before, and I am terrified. I have no idea what to expect of it. It can’t be good, though. It just can’t be. Please save your horror stories for when my feet are safely on the ground. (Knock on wood.)
  • Finally, all of the photos you never wanted:

MOM AND DAD IN LONDON!



ONE GLORIOUS DAY WITH AL, KOB, and CALLUM!



And, THE FRAWLEY-HAWES WEDDING!



Which left time to get reacquainted with MR. ABERG THE SMALLER!


Getting Back in the Game.

Sorry about all of the downer posts lately and, actually, the overall lack of posts. I swear we’re really happy here and things are going swimmingly. We are making friends and having a great time! We went on a booze cruise up the Thames on Saturday with some new friends and I am really so excited about the next few months.

I just watched television for like, five minutes, though, so I have plenty to talk about now. It’s cool.

  • Since they don’t use the word “coupon” here, sites like Groupon do not make sense. So, instead, they have Wowcher. Get it? Like “voucher.” Which is, like… a coupon?
  • Did you guys know that Kate Moss is still, like, a thing here? Chick’s everywhere.
  • And Ryan Reynolds did Marks & Spencer ads?
  • I’m sorry, but am I the only person who loves the ridiculous cameos that show up on Gossip Girl? April Bloomfield? And hi, Sloane Crosley and all of those lit-folk when Dan was getting published? One time I was in the elevator at RH with her and I was talking myself out of being starstruck, but she was dressed really cool so it was hard. And, did that doorman just ask Rufus what he thought about The Magnetic Fields? What I’m saying is that this show is better than it gets credit for. You can’t tell me tweens are picking up on Martin Amis references. Let’s just pretend that I’m not currently watching an episode that is not at all making sense to me because I can’t even count how many eps I’ve missed. And it happens to be about a Brit-themed party thrown by Dan and Blair. (And, sorry, Serena is Gossip Girl? I should never have moved to this country.)
  • I don’t even want to talk about New Girl. I live in fear of facebook status updates these days and the spoilers they may contain.
  • They love saying “the new hit series from America!” or “the new, hit snack food from America!” here for everything they advertise. I’m serious:  That’s how they market Pop Chips here.

 

 

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Snap, Crackle, Pop.

And other noises of London.

An alternate title to this post could have been “LOUD NOISES” a la Steve Carrell in Anchorman.

So, first: the cracking. There's a wall behind our refrigerator that has been making loud CRACK! noises for the past week. The friendly man from our management company came today to have a look/listen along with two handymen, and everyone sat around our kitchen table for ten minutes listening. I thought, "This is not what I imagined my first dinner party to be," and almost said it out loud, but I wasn't sure they'd find it funny, and I was also trying to maintain a very businesslike demeanor. I'm not a very scary person, so I need to try really hard to be serious and un-friendly when speaking to people-who-have-to-do-something-for-me-even-though-they-don’t-want-to kinds of people. I don’t know if it worked. I offered them all glasses of water. But I DID make them take their shoes off. So, there!

Second up on the list of Noises I Would Prefer to Live Without: BIRDS. I do not know what kind of nonsense is going on in that menagerie of a backyard of ours, but it is apparently a haven for all sorts of squawking birds with no sense of dignity, who parade around at all hours of the night like drunken idiots. ALL NIGHT. HAVE SOME SELF RESPECT, BIRDS. Right now? Silence. It’s unbelievable. Literally: night owls. Except not actually owls.

So we finally have a sofa. And it is amazing. But: we don’t have a TV yet. It was supposed to come Monday with the sofa, and then it was supposed to come today, but, thank you John Lewis, it is not. Hopefully tomorrow. Or someone is in for a world of pain. Chris hooked up the desktop PC on Monday night and put the monitor on top of the entertainment center. We brought one box of DVDs with us, as I had the foresight that I might have sad rainy days when I just needed to watch Dirty Dancing or Singin’ in the Rain because I missed my grandma. I warned Chris when I was choosing what to bring that now was the time to speak up, and he shooed me away. But, as you know, I’m kind of an awesome wife and not only did I pack Star Wars in the box for him, but I also suggested that be what we watch our first night on our sofa. I’m still waiting for the day he says, “Honey, I have a great idea! Let’s watch every single Harry Potter movie today and do NOTHING else!”

One last note: Tulips are like, crazy cheap here for some reason. I want to be like: Holland, stop underrating yourself and giving it up for so little. You are worth just as much as these tiny roses, if not more. For goodness’ sake, what do you think you are: a carnation?!

Welcome to my brain, guys.

Snog, Marry, Avoid.

This is a real show. And it is on right now. And it is amazing.

I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT TELEVISION HERE. Uh, like, how they do something to the tenor of everyone’s voices? I swear I am not making this up. Everything is higher. Across every show. Suddenly Blair and Serena are like, two octaves more girly. Every show I know and love suddenly has a cast full of Alvin & the chipmunks. Bob Saget as the narrator in HIMYM sounds like… I don’t know… SOMEONE WITH A REALLY HIGH VOICE. I do not understand it. But I am absolutely not imagining it.

So back to Snog, Marry, Avoid (before I get too upset about the voices). They take people and give them “make-unders.” People who dress a little slutty, or wear way too much make-up and paint their eyebrows on, or walk around like it’s Halloween every day. You know the ones. And they put them in front of “The Pod” which is a personified camera, and actually a woman hurling insults through a robot voice filter. It’s incredible. So they take a photo (or video? I don’t know. I only saw one episode. Stop asking me.) of the person out to the streets, and poll strangers on whether they’d snog the person, marry the person, or avoid the person altogether. So the person is all indignant at first, obviously, and then POOF, they show them with their make-under and obviously they look gorgeous and stylish, and then they re-ask more people on the street, and now eeeeeveryone wants to snog and marry them.

Here’s my second television item: There is this amazing Colman’s commercial that comes on every 3.5 seconds here. I have included it for your viewing pleasure, below. Colman’s like the mustard. Except here, they have a much larger “range.” That’s what they say here for “product line.” Which, honestly, I have to give them credit for because that’s a much nicer term.

Gotta go, the Swarley episode of HIMYM is on.

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