12 Relatives of Famous Disney Characters Whose Names You Never Knew

In much of Canada, Family Day is what’s going on today. For those not in the loop, Family Day is a totally BS “holiday” that was first observed in February 2008. The idea behind Family Day is that it gives Canadians in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia a holiday so that they may spend time with their families, because February isn’t depressing enough, apparently.

I’m something of a Family Day Scrooge, myself. Mostly because I can’t partake in any family gathering without being asked by my brethren if I’m seeing anyone, and being met with pitying glances when I say no, but also because Family Day wasn’t a thing until I was well into university. As a result, it always coincided with reading week, keeping me and my peers from taking advantage of the extra day off. Should I ever spawn my own brood, I may change my tune. As long as I remain a parent only to cats, I will not count myself among the fans of Family Day.

Nonetheless, if my Women of Marvel calendar tells me that today is a holiday, I will find some way to exploit it. So I have chosen to observe Family Day in my own way, sans family, with an entry inspiringly titled “12 Relatives of Famous Disney Characters Whose Names You Never Knew”.

Trixie, Ria, Daisy, Tessie (Thumper’s sisters, Bambi/Bambi II)

sistersweb

Bluebell (Flower’s mate, Bambi)

bluebellweb

Mathilda (Alice’s sister, Alice in Wonderland)

mathildaweb

Annette, Collette, Danielle (Lady and Tramp’s daughters, Lady and the Tramp/Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure)

ladytrampweb

Queen Leah (Aurora’s mother, Sleeping Beauty)

leahweb

Sarafina (Nala’s mother, The Lion King)

sarafinaweb

James (Tiana’s father, The Princess and the Frog)

jamesweb

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A Subtle Punch to The Gut – “Belly” A Short Film By Julia Pott

My relationship with my emotions and cinema is complicated.  Most of my childhood traumas were the result of premature encounters with dystopian sci-fi and horror (CURSE YOU JAMES CAMERON!).  While extremely reticent to cry in front of family and friends, I openly relish a good sob in the theatre. I still, to this day, cannot watch the romantic scenes in movies – its too embarrassing.  I have strong reactions to moving images. I know this. That being said, I was still greatly surprised by the tumult of emotions elicited in me by the surreal animation of Julia Pott in her short film “Belly”.

Premiering at Sundance in 2012, Pott’s short is populated by boys with elephant and horse heads, a fantastical bisecting beast, and the ingurgitating stomach of a blasé whale. While chock-a-block with whimsy and weird visuals, the animation doesn’t detract from story, but rather effectively showcases a very poignant and universal tale about the moment when childhood is lost.

In an interview with the Motionographer, Pott attributes some of her inspiration for the short coming from her own childhood, much of which was spent tagging after her older sister. She describes her eagerness to achieve maturity and the mournful nostalgia that it’s loss produces this way, “Once [childhood has] been given up, it’s gone. You can remember the sensation, you can feel it in the pit of your stomach, but you cannot get back there – hence the title, ‘Belly.’”

Boy howdy, does she recreate that feeling in the most wonderful and terrible way, and all in under ten minutes!  The film makes me feel things that I am not entirely sure I want to feel. While I can’t recall the moment when childhood was over for me with any vivid detail and I can’t quite understand the strangely familiar feeling that grows in my stomach when watching this film,  that feeling is present throughout the duration of “Belly”.

I don’t cry when I watch the short – the film doesn’t invoke that kind of emotion (at least not in me). Instead, it goes deeper than that. It finds that soft part of my gut and hits it so subtly that I don’t even notice. However, I can assure you that when the film is over the ache lingers.

If that didn’t totally bum you out, you can watch Ms. Pott’s most recent short “The Event” along with other 2013 Sundance selections here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ytscreeningroom

All of the shorts are good, but I highly recommend “Marcel, King Tervuren.” Never did a tale of a Belgian Rooster so closely resemble the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy.

There Is No Modern Romance

Now that Downton Abbey has fulfilled its second season run here in North America, I grieve its passing. Not a big TV watcher to begin with, I, like innumerable other women, am a sucker for a period drama laced with the promise of some suppressed sexual tension. None of the Dickensian woe and STDs, only happy endings delivered after a tolerable amount of angst for me, please. Surprisingly, every Sunday night I made time for this extremely well received show, with its ups and downs, and its ridiculous plot devices.

Sexual Tension - turn of the century style!

Now that it’s finished, I find myself feeling a little lost. Where will I get my fix of will they/won’t they now if not from Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew? Where will I watch as stalwart hearts such as Anna and Mr. Bates come together only to be torn apart again and again? Certainly I won’t get such needs met in shows like New Girl or films like The Vow.  I cringe at the saccharine (although sometimes hilarious) love pains of these characters. They just don’t do it for me like Downton or any Austen or Bronte can. This led me to ask myself, well, why? If love is a universal and timeless subject, shouldn’t I enjoy all these familiar stories of love, loss, and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks? Maybe it is because I don’t believe in modern romance. Or at least, I remain unconvinced that it exists.

I don’t consider myself a big romantic, as my cynicism and inherent pragmatism bludgeon any tender sympathies harbored towards star-crossed lovers to death. Even as a kid, I loved Disney cornerstones like Beauty and the Beast, Pocahantas, and especially, The Little Mermaid, but I would hide my eyes or leave the room during kissing scenes. I to this day still feel uncomfortable during the musical number “Kiss the Girl” in TLM.

Then, in my formative teen years, I discovered the unpretentious and subtle love of the Austen world and was hooked.  It is obvious that I wasn’t the only one taken in by the siren song of the period drama. I loved both Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor (oh God, I was so naïve) and created impervious Mary Jane characters who bore a striking resemblance to me (only skinnier) to win the heart of fair Legolas. And yet, I can’t stand any of these actors as romantic leads in contemporary stories. 40 Days and 40 Nights? Give me a fucking break. I saw it when I was 15 and thought exactly that. So what gives? Why do I feel like the love between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett is more convincing than say the love of Rachel and Ross?

Ah, the follies of youth...

It comes down to conflict.

In modern romance there are no conflicts such as those found in period pieces. Mom thinks your girl is a gold digger? You get a prenup. Hubby is an alcoholic, an abusive dick? You divorce the shit out of him. Get caught in flagrante delicto with a married man? Sell the videotape and get your own reality TV show! The very stuff of ruin and damnation have pretty much been written out of contemporary life. Not so in 19th century England. When you married that abusive douchebag, it was until he hopefully got shot dead in a duel. That gold digger mom warned you about? She runs off with a Nabob to India and sends you to debtor’s prison.

The conflicts that threaten our romantic heroes and heroines in period dramas are very real and very believable, whether they are truly realistic or not. For example, *SPOILER ALERT* Lady Mary’s one time lover, diplomat Mr. Pamuk dying in her bed? Ridiculous (although, it’s based on a true event), but it had me on the edge of my seat. Rewrite this plot in a contemporary setting, and CSI will have figured out that he died of an aneurism and was moved back to his room, but was really in Lady Mary’s! This lack of true romantic roadblocks in contemporary society has forced writers to move from conflicts born of social restrictions to increasingly ridiculous situational hijinks. This explains the popularity of rom-coms. Just think of the bizarre plots and gimmicks of any chick flick that stars Matthew McConaughey. Or Sandra Bullock. Or Ryan Reynolds. This lack of conflict has also resulted in the popularization of paranormal romance. Things get real angsty when your sparkly boyfriend doesn’t know if he wants to fuck you or eat you.

Hijinks!

I find it ironic that magic and the absurd are the things that are bringing romance back to the modern world. This is the part where I talk about how the Internet is killing love. But, to be honest, the construct of romantic love is just that, a construct. And while at once story telling and Valentine’s Day and DeBeers are telling us it exists, a few clicks of a mouse is sort of ruining the illusion we’ve been taught to cherish. Finding the love of your life through a compatibility quiz is not as harrowing as having him save you from a mustachioed villain who tied you to the train tracks.

"You can't text message breakup!"

Conflicts make for good story-telling. It’s not as if soul-mates don’t exist, but meeting them online, dating for a few months, getting a mortgage, raising some well adjusted kids, and dying within two months of each other at the ripe old age of 91 and 92 doesn’t sound very riveting. It’s just not the stuff that a 21 year old sophomore in university wants to watch with her bff and a tub of ice cream after her boyfriend broke up with her.

ONE SEASON WONDERS: MTV’s Downtown

The 1990s was an exciting time for animation.  Cartoons reigned supreme from the box office to the living room.  In addition, the ’90s ushered in a genre of animated storytelling which had previously been unable to find its footing in mainstream culture: cartoons for adults.  When a little ‘toon on FOX called The Simpsons became a sleeper hit in 1989, every network wanted its own version of the series.  Most early attempts were met with poor reviews, and quickly axed.  A few managed to garner positive attention, and developed cult followings, particularly those produced by MTV.  Among the station’s lesser-known cartoons (basically every cartoon that wasn’t Daria or Beavis and Butt-Head) was a tasty little slice of Gen X pie called Downtown.

Downtown premiered in the summer of 1999, and chronicled the escapades of a circle of mostly 20-somethings and older teens living in Manhattan.  The show’s central character is Alex, a geek who has recently moved out of his parents’ house, and desperately wants to shed his toy-hoarding tendencies.  His best friends are despondent Jenn, and Goat, the resident weirdo who knows everyone.  Alex’s love interest is goth gal Serena.  Feisty Chaka, Alex’s little sister, leads the pack of adolescent characters – dreamy Mecca, wannabe player Fruity, and laid back tagger Matt.

Positive reviews from critics, and an Emmy nomination for outstanding animated program in 2000 could not keep the show on the air, however.  Many of the show’s fans attribute poor marketing on MTV’s part to the series’ cancellation after its thirteen-episode first season.

I didn’t become acquainted with Downtown until about 2001, when I was in my first year of high school.  At that time, YTV (Canada’s answer to Nickelodeon, more or less) was airing reruns of the show at the ungodly time of 1 a.m. on Saturdays.

Growing up in a Ukrainian Catholic family, I was raised to believe that swearing made you evil, and that babies came from Heaven. Merely hearing “the f word” uttered by one of my degenerate classmates was enough to cause me to go into anaphylactic shock. Shows like The Simpsons and South Park, with their comical child abuse and proliferations of  profanity, were strictly verboten in our household.

Nonetheless, Downtown appealed to me, because in spite of its intended audience, it was relatively “clean”.  Sure, I caught the allusions to sex and drugs, but the references were neither frequent nor blatant enough to scare me away.  I immediately identified with snarky Jenn, wanted to look like Serena (a desire which may have subconsciously influenced my later penchants for rings, leather, slate-grey nail polish, and aubergine-hued locks), and my soft spot for Alex had a tremendous influence on my taste in men over the next few years.

While Downtown has been off the air for over ten years, it remains one of my all-time favourite shows.  I loved watching it in my teen years because it made me feel grown-up, but I appreciate it even more in my twenties.  Although it’s animated, Downtown may have presented audiences with one of the most realistic and honest portrayals of young adult life in the history of television.

In developing the series, creator Chris Prynoski would visit Manhattan’s lower East Side, and record conversations with people he met there.  Episode plots were then based on these anecdotes.  In addition, many of the residents to whom he spoke were recruited to provide voices for the characters.  They were literally people off the street, and their lack of vocal training allowed characters’ speech to flow realistically.  By using non-actors, Prynoski also ensured that aurally-inclined viewers would not recognize someone’s voice from a kids’ cartoon on the WB, further enhancing the show’s naturalness; these weren’t cartoon character voices, but “regular people” voices.

The “actors” were also encouraged to improvise many of their lines, resulting in the characters’ use of more fillers like…well, “like”, “um”, and “uh” than audiences are used to hearing on scripted TV. Much of the dialogue is lost when characters interrupt and talk over one another.  These disfluencies may be off-putting to those who long for razor-sharp writing, but they highlight the fact that the show reflects how real people actually speak.  The improvisation of script also results in a very natural delivery of amusing lines that aren’t contrived for maximum LOLs.  Viewers aren’t going to be bowled-over with laughter, wishing they were as witty as the main cast; they probably already are, or are at least friends with people who are.

Regarding the episodes themselves, their titles are mostly nondescript.  With easily relatable names like “Train Pain,” “Hotel Bar,” and “Night Shift,” viewers are able to recall their own experiences of taking the wrong train with friends, or working late. These are everyday happenings that hardly merit being the focus of a television episode. However, the playful banter they’re punctuated with reminds audiences that often, the funniest times in your life are those spent doing mundane shit with your buddies. While the idea of a show about “nothing” had already been exemplified by sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Friends, it was a novelty in animation directed at older viewers.

The dynamic of the core cast feels sincere without the audience needing to see it evolve.  Whereas many TV shows throw characters together so that friendships develop over the course of the series, Downtown’s relationships are already firmly established.  Viewers listen to (and watch via flashbacks) Alex and Jenn’s shared recollections of highschool, and Chaka and Mecca talking about where they went the other night.  There’s never any sense that these characters stop existing once the credits roll.  Their exchanges are so casual and realistic, that we feel as though we’re listening in on actual conversations.

Through its varied and colourful cast, it’s clear that Downtown does not glorify one subculture at the cost of another.  Playful jabs are taken at Chaka’s club-hopping, Alex’s toy collecting, and Serena’s goth lifestyle; no one is spared.  Each character has their own niche, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t all co-mingle.  This fluidity between subcultures is illustrated by Goat, who embraces a sleazy biker attitude and wardrobe, but isn’t too proud to venture out and try new things.  He’s as comfortable on his hog as he is donning a red onesie and going to a trendy club, or attending a comic book convention. The show is totally objective in its depictions of its characters, and maintains an air of realism without choosing sides.

When discussing shows that aim to satirize various facets of society dominating the television landscape (this has generally been the case since The Simpsons premiered, especially with regards to adult animation), it’s difficult to know what to make of a program like Downtown, which viewed everyone with a neutral eye.  It had no agenda, no heroes, no villains.  “People just hanging out and talking” is a pretty accurate description of the series. It didn’t provide us with a lot of social commentary, but it sure as hell painted a much more realistic portrait of young adult life than the protagonists of Friends or 2 Broke Girls do.  Not that I’m trivializing the cultural significance of such sitcoms.  The horse community was severely under-represented on primetime comedy shows prior to the premiere of 2BG this past fall, for example.  Still, I think we could do with a few more Goats on TV.

LATE ARRIVALS: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”

Late Arrivals

This is a project that I’m going to loosely term a “section” in which I (and Nina, if she so pleases) can approach pop culture corner stones that’s that we haven’t gotten around to or just plum forgot. It is inspired by the AV Club’s “Better Late Than Never?” Section and really forces me to watch all the wonderful films that I’ve just been too lazy to watch.

The Birds

What Little I know about it: Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Birds menace Melanie Griffith’s Mom.

A Truly terrified Tippie Hedren

After Hitchcock’s Psycho everyone talks about The Birds as being a masterpiece. Of course, I prefer Psycho with its chilling black and white ambiance, superb execution, and chilling portrayals (and its bird motif!) But I ultimately feel that The Birds embraces camp more and ultimately is Hitchcock’s answer to the trope of the monster movie (I’m sure somebody has written a thesis, or something profound about this, but I haven’t even bothered to wiki the film so I’m just giving you my impressions).

The only thing I like about birds is that they’re occasionally tasty, occasionally pretty and can be transformed into dinosaurs through the scientific whim of man! So the fact that they’re a menace doesn’t really surprised me. Oh, I was galled when the lady ornithologist was going on about how about the birds would never attack and they aren’t aggressive. Bull, I cried at my netflix! She’s obviously never dealt with pigeons or seagulls or those little cute sparrows at the UofT St. George Campus who act like beggar children when you’re eating your hotdog. But I digress. Lets examine the cast of characters. I thought it was interesting that Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) was a pathological liar – established by her poor attempt of bsing at the beginning of the film – and that Mitchell Brenner (Rod Taylor) was a criminal lawyer, which is usually depicted as a job for liars. I wondered to myself, like the hysterical mother from later on in the dinner, if Melanie was not to blame for the birds’ unholy wrath, because she was a liar, but that didn’t add up. The whole point of the story was that you didn’t know why, it’s the antithesis of the monster movie. In the monster we know how the monster was made (normally radiation is to blame) and the hero and his bedraggled, but lovely heroine, ultimately defeat the monster and peace is restored. Not so in the Birds! There’s no magic or gamma rays, there’s no electric lines to stop them, there’s no mad scientist to blame. It’s just a bunch of pissed of birds and everybody in the film is utterly useless.

This brings me back to the characters. Of course, the whole film is an outlet for Hitchcock to terrorize a pretty blonde woman and he does that in spades. Melanie Daniels, I feel is an interesting woman trying to break out of the sexist traps of early sixties characterizations. She’s a bit of a wild child, she is manipulative, a liar and she tries her best to get what she wants. But, she is also self-possessed enough to realize that she doesn’t know what she wants. Does she or doesn’t she want to be Mitch’s main squeeze? Does she or doesn’t she care if his mom likes him? Does she or doesn’t she want to go to Cathy’s party? She flitters about, she screams, she’s bad at saving herself. But, I feel that’s for more real than the “contemporized” heroines of films like the Mummy or King Arthur, where suddenly the Victorian Era is pumped full of GIRL POWER! Melanie grows as a character – and then becomes catatonic – and then grows some more. As she reveals her mommy issues, and bonds with Annie the no-nonsense school teacher and distantly polite Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy), I begin to hope that she’s not really in pursuit of Mitch Brenner, but of a guiding female figure. There’s a moment at the end of the movie when the Brenner clan plus catatonic Daniels head for the car, Lydia Brenner holds her and they look at each other as if they’ve found what they truly wanted. Lydia wants someone to talk to and give a shit about her, and Melanie realizes that she doesn’t want a lover, but rather a mother.

Douchebag pictured on the left...

Or at least this is my wishful thinking because I hated, HATED, Mitch. Considering he was the hero of this outfit, he was a smarmy jerk. I didn’t find him charming, I found him bossy and ultimately, unfeeling towards any of the women in his life, accept maybe Melanie (and that’s because she was putting out). He even reminded me of a less hairy, swarthier Robin Williams, which did not win him any brownie points in my book. While Mitch doesn’t reveal anything about himself as a character – it is the women in his life who do, Annie reveals him to be a player and an oblivious heartbreaker, and his own mother says to Melanie “Mitch has always done exactly as he pleases.” This is mom speak for “my son is a dick.” So, with my disdain toward Mitch, when Lydia and Melanie, both fragile and traumatize gaze at eachother, I will interpret that they have found something in each other  that they couldn’t get from the emotionally detached males in their life.

Menacing, very menacing.

For the most part I like The Birds, the execution of the effects appear somewhat campy through the rust of time, but I must say there is nothing like actually having a real murder of crows waiting behind you. The menace is real, and isn’t that the whole point?

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…The Cast of Ghostwriter

If in the early ‘90s, you were a) between the ages of 7 and 14, b) owned a television, and c) literate, then you probably watched Ghostwriter.  Produced by the Children’s Television Workshop (now called the Sesame Workshop) and BBC One, it premiered in the U.S. on PBS on October 4, 1992. Despite its popularity, the show was abruptly cancelled in its third season due to a lack of funding.  The final episode was broadcast on February 13, 1995.

Ghostwriter focused on a racially diverse group of pre-teen friends who lived in Brooklyn, and solved neighbourhood mysteries with help from an invisible ghost.  While much of the young cast’s acting was painful to watch, especially in the earliest episodes (most of the kids were from non-acting backgrounds), the show was a hit with its target audience.  It was also lauded by teachers, who praised the series for teaching writing and research skills to young students, and emphasizing the importance of reading.

Generally, the members of the main cast have kept pretty low profiles since the show wrapped almost two decades ago.  So, what are they up to these days?

Todd Alexander Cohen (Rob Baker)

After Rob bid farewell to his pals in Brooklyn and left a gaping black hole in my first grade heart, Cohen appeared in a handful of commercials.  He attended NYU with fellow cast members Sheldon Turnipseed (Jamal) and Mayteana Morales (Gaby), and graduated in 2002.  He now lives in Los Angeles, where he works at the William Morris talent agency.

Blaze Berdahl (Lenni Frazier)

While Berdahl continued to perform in commercials, soap operas, and New York theatre after saying goodbye to the Ghostwriter Team, it was voiceover work that appealed to her the most.  In 2006, Berdahl became the voice of “Swiffer” products.  Most recently, her voice has been featured in commercials for Subway restaurants, Bermuda Tourism, and the Ford Focus.  With a steady supply of work to keep her busy, I guess we shouldn’t expect her to release a remix album of Lenni’s “You Gotta Believe” anytime soon.

David Lopez (Alejandro “Alex” Fernandez)

Queens-born, Colombia-raised Lopez attended Rutgers University in 2002, and hopefully graduated.  In 2004, he lent his voice to a character in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game.  He has since returned to Colombia, and probably has a very happy wife.

Mayteana Morales (Gabriela “Gaby” Fernandez)

Mayteana graduated from NYU in 2003 with a degree in dramatic arts.  She is now part of funk/R&B/jazz/reggae/fusion/hip-hop/soul group The Pimps of Joytime.

Tram-Anh Tran (Tina Nguyen)

After graduating with a degree in finance from Penn State University in 2001, Tram guest-starred on Lifetime’s Zoe Busiek: Wild Card in 2004. She seems to have made her family her top priority, crushing the souls of Alex/Tina shippers everywhere.

Sheldon Turnipseed (Jamal Jenkins)

Sheldon has fallen off the radar entirely. Maybe Ghostwriter can track him down.

William Hernandez (Hector Carrero)

At age 15, William left home because his family did not accept his homosexuality.  He continued acting, and landed parts in various obscure movies.  In 2004, he was part of the cast the Philadelphia season of MTV’s The Real World.

Lateaka Vinson (Casey Austin)

Vinson, who played Jamal’s annoying little cousin, traded in her knock-knock joke books for university textbooks. She completed her Masters in speech pathology at Hampton University.

Melissa Gonzales  (other Gaby)

Melissa took over the role of Gaby for the final two story arcs of the series.  She has since been seen as “girl two in bathroom” in a 1999 movie nobody saw called Light It Up.

Several recurring and one-shot characters in Ghostwriter have had relatively successful careers in film and television.  Julia Stiles, who played an intense young hacker in a fleece hat in season 2, went on to become a Hollywood actress and it girl in the early 2000s.  She also graced the cover of my very first issue of Seveteen in September 2000.

Jamal’s father was played by Samuel L. Jackson.  I hear he’s had a few roles here and there.

Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Ghostwriter.  Because of its “real world” setting, and heavy dependence on computers (through which the team “spoke” to the titular character much of the time), the show is now painfully dated.  Still, that didn’t keep Shout! Factory from releasing the first season on DVD last year.

Ghostwriter was a gem of a show from a time many (well, I) consider to be the golden age of children’s programming. It was an educational program, but never pandered to its viewers, never laid on the lessons too thickly.  Its (for the most part) amateur cast may not have been destined for Oscar-winning roles in the future, but they portrayed their characters to the best of their ability, and with total sincerity.

Due to the fact that most kids have access to the entire world at their fingertips thanks to the Internet and cell phones—neither of which were very sophisticated or mainstream when Ghostwriter was on the air—a reboot of the series would prove to be an incredible challenge for producers. Who needs Ghostwriter when you can text? No need to follow suspects around the city when you can gather all the information you need on them via Facebook. Mysteries could be solved with a single Google search. Ghostwriter was a product of its time, and maybe it’s best left there, along with Alex’s striped Hammer pants.

“Suburgatory” and the Limbo of Contemporary Adulthood

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I hate the obligation of having to follow story lines or emotionally invest in character who will eventually disappoint me. With my eccentric viewing habits in mind, it is surprising to me that I’ve actually put some effort into watching the new show “Suburgatory.” I like much of its cast and find its over the top antics amusing. However, as much as I want this show to win my favour, I believe it falls short. I labour over the hows and whys – poor writing? Too exaggerated? Characters have no depth? Although, those are all problems for me, they don’t bother me too much. Ultimately, what bothers me is that the show is navigating the hilarious pitfalls of suburbia with the wrong demographic. Instead of wry urban teens, and their hunky overwhelmed city slicker dads, I think Surburgatory should be about twenty-somethings.

 

The premise of Surburgatory goes as follows: Tessa (Jane Levy), savy ingénue mahattanite, is relocated to the suburbs after her working-joe, single father, George (Jeremy Sisko) discover that she is in the possession of condoms (as if teenagers never have sex in the suburbs). Tessa and her father move from the wonderful city only to discover a shallow, pretentious, mean and absurd society in the suburbs (as if only nice, humble and down to earth people live in New York). The teenage and suburban fish-out-of-water stories are tried and true recipes for hilarity. Mean Girls, certainly comes to my mind, and Surburgatory shares some familiarities with the hit movie (both maintain narrative metaphor of suburbs as animal kingdom, and feature in a supporting role Ana Gasteyer). Even though I feel like I’ve been there and done that as Surburgatory throws television tropes at me, I still want it to like it. I find Tessa charming and amusing with her unpretentious narrations, and George’s gruff discomfort in the societal trappings of the suburbs in endearing. Yet as much as I try to like it, I still think it really should be about twenty-somethings.

 

This belief stems from the Tessa character who takes us with her on her strange journey is this foreign land. Depicted as mature beyond her years due to her upbringing, Tessa’s self-awareness and dry sarcasm read more as a recent college grad, than an educated young woman trying to survive highschool. She even dresses like she just got out of a Liberal arts college! Her relationship with George, who is supposed to be a young parent, feels more like that of a couple than a father/daughter duo. When they affectionately bicker about how to get out dinner with the neighbours it reads more like a pair newly-weds than parent and child. With all this in Tessa’s growing pains just aren’t all that convincing, and the pithy story-lines about the pitfalls of highschool seem old and tried.

 

Suburb as purgatory is how the show got its name, and we all know that purgatory is the timeless limbo between heaven and hell. Yet as a space where a sinner goes to expiate their sins before starting their afterlife, the shows premise reads more as the condition of a partied-out college grad who just can’t seem to jumpstart his or her adult life than the impatient highschool who knows they will be leaving eventually (hopefully).

 

20-somethings seem to be the in things these days with shows like “the New Girl,” “Two Broke Girls,” and “How I Met Your Mother.” Yet, as a member of this demographic myself, I know for a fact that not all twenty-somethings live in the city and scrape by at diners, hang out at coffee shops, and go to bars to observe the antics of their womanizing friends. Some of us have to move back home after university, some of us can’t get awesome, well paying jobs, especially in this climate. We’re taught about and lived in a bigger world only to return to where we began. Yet where are we in Suburgatory? Rather than always talked about teen, I would love Tessa to represent that feeling of limbo that so many us pseudo-adults are facing.

 

Top 5 Artists from Shows from My Childhood

Some people lead normal adult lives. But some of us people wile away the twilight hours on YouTube, watching painfully wholesome episodes of 20-year-old kids’ shows. This phenomenon I know nothing about inspired me to compile the following list of the top 5 artists from TV shows from my childhood.

 

 

5. Jacob (Join In!, TVO, 1989 – 1995)

In the pantheon of classic Canadian children’s television, Join In! is a show that is often overlooked. For those who have never heard of the series, allow me to break it down for you. Join In! revolved around three roommates who lived in a loft that looked not unlike a wunderkammer. They sang a lot of songs. That’s kind of it. It was adorkable Zack in his suspenders and tie-dyed shirts who made my 5-year-old heart flutter, but it was artsy Jacob in his very strategically paint-splattered overalls and socks/sandals combo who kept it real.

 

 

4. Splatter Phoenix (Darkwing Duck, Disney Channel/ABC/UPN, 1991 – 1992)

This former painter’s weapon of choice was a magic paintbrush, which allowed her to trap her victims in works such as “Guernica” and “The Persistence of Memory” (which I guess were on loan to St. Canard’s gallery from the Museo Reina and MoMA). Shunned by the art industry, Splatter Phoenix proved that Hell hath no fury like an artist scorned.

 

 

3. Van Go Lion (Zoobilee Zoo, 1986 – 1987)

While I questioned his judgment as an artist when he recruited mischievous Lookout Bear to work on one of his paintings, Van Go remains one of my favourite Zoobles. One of the most attractive (and elusive) qualities in an artist is humility, and Van Go showed viewers that he had it in paint buckets when he gave up a life of fame, probably women, and possibly drugs to stay in a town with a population of seven. The cat was not only a great artist, but also a great friend.

 

 

2. Milo Kamalani (Pepper Ann, ABC, 1997 – 2001)

Created by former comic strip artist Sue Rose, Pepper Ann was unique in that it featured a predominantly female cast of characters, most of whom aggressively rejected conventional notions of femininity. If that weren’t awesome enough, its most prominent male character, Milo, did NOT conform to society’s standards of masculinity. He wasn’t a jock, he wasn’t preppy; he was an artist. For challenging gender norms, my wool beanie’s off to you, Milo.

 

 

1. Mr. Dressup (Mr. Dressup, CBC, 1967 – 1996)

Mr. Dressup, played by the late, great Ernie Coombs, was Canada’s answer to Mr. Rogers. He’s probably most well-remembered for the costumes in his “Tickle Trunk” but for the young and artistically-inclined, the highlights of the show were his trips to the drawing easel and craft counter. Mr. Dressup inspired kids to see opportunities for creative expression in junk which most parents would not think twice about throwing away. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, an appointment to the Order of Canada, and a brief dabble in rap (for serious), Mr. Dressup is a true Canadian icon, and a champion of quality children’s programming.