November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013

Hulu Originals

I was reminded during a brief Twitter conversation with friends of blog M and D that Hulu is a wealth of original/exclusive programming these days. As if you didn’t have enough to watch between television, film, and the crazy show being put on by the dude across the street. (That last one applicable only to urban apartment dwellers.) We’re living during the best age of entertainment since bread and circuses. (GLADIATOR!)

But back to Hulu. They dipped their toe in the original programming pool with Battleground, a series I enjoyed a great deal. It was about politics. It was set in Wisconsin. Friend of blog M worked on it. And so on. This was a series that radiated quality, despite the fact that it aired on a website and not a network. (These days, they’re becoming the same thing.)

And Hulu’s been purchasing and airing various British productions, including Spy, Whites, and QI—some of which you may be able to find on YouTube elsewhere, sure, but still. Spy is a bit like a British version of Chuck (or so I assume, having only the vaguest idea what Chuck was about). Same with Whites and Kitchen Confidential. QI, short for Quite Interesting, is a panel show that teaches me more in 30 minutes than some of my college classes taught me in a semester. Word.

Currently, two Hulu shows are tickling my fancy.

Behind The MaskThe first is Behind the Mask, which follows the lives of four mascots at different levels: high school, college, semi-pro, and professional. They’re scattered across the country, from Las Vegas to Pennsylvania. Some of them are just doing the job while it’s convenient. Others have made it a life calling. I’m pleased to report that the dude who plays Bango (of your humble blogger’s very own MILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLWAUKEE BUCKS!) is not only amazing at it; he loves doing it.

Not as much of the show is dedicated to logistics, but they’re definitely in play. Those costumes are hot. Block your sightlines. Make it even harder to do cartwheels, or slam dunks, or whatever crazy routine you had in mind to pump up da crowd. Plus you’ve got to come up with dances and stunts, get along with the players, keep the peace with your parents/spouse/children…cripes.

In this era, when every profession under the sun has its own reality show, it’s refreshing to get a series about a job I’m actually interested in. Nothing against loggers, truckers, fishers, cupcake artists, duck call makers, beauty pageant contestants, or the Kardashians. But still.

The Wrong MansBut let me also mention The Wrong Mans, about two lowly municipal government employees pulled into a Jack Bauer kind of day. The main character played the sidekick on Spy, so don't keep asking where Tim is (as I did), because they're different shows entirely. It's set in Britain, and chock-full of comedic misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and general incompetence. Think David Brent pretending to be James Bond. I believe it's limited to six half-hour episodes, so the entire time commitment is barely three hours. You know you've wasted more time on movies that weren't half as deserving.

November 18, 2013

November 18, 2013

What Happened in Vegas, Part 3

The third day of my trip to Vegas ended up involving the three Cs: chocolate, cactus, and Copperfield. Pretty standard desert stuff, really.

The chocolate refers to Ethel M, the fancy-schmancy branch of Mars. Y’know, the M&Ms people. TheBoy has a long-standing family connection to the company, so I’m only allowed to eat Hershey bars in secret. (Not really, but I pretend.) Ethel M has a factory in Henderson that you can tour (!) and that gives out free samples (!!) and that is accessible by public transportation in case you’re a tourist without a rental car (!!!).

Indeed, we took not one but two buses to the factory, and I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to do that. (My second-finest public transportation-related hour, after the time I rode the bus in LA. That was a scene straight out of Southland.)

Can you spot the heart containers? They were producing for Valentine’s Day already.

For some reason, the Ethel M factory has a delightful cactus garden outside. Because it’s in the desert? Because the Mars family is really into cacti? Because they’re secretly putting cactus in the M&Ms? Perhaps all three. But for your humble Wisconsin-raised, Virginia-living blogger, getting to see a real-live cactus was sorta mind-blowing.

In the books of my childhood, these were always wearing sombreros.

Called the purple pancake cactus, for (hopefully) obvious reasons.

It may always be Christmas in Vegas, though I doubt it’s ever snowy. Rendering these snowmen even more incongruous.

The evening was spent watching David Copperfield make stuff appear and make stuff disappear and pretty much Blow Everyone’s Minds just as he did during the television specials of my youth. No pictures because I'm pretty sure they would have executed me on stage and I'm too young to die in a non-food related event.

After the magick show, I played $1 at a penny slot machine (walked away with $2.32 so booyah) and spent not a little time Googling the secrets behind David Copperfield’s tricks. You’d think that sort of thing would be easier to find out these days. It isn’t. The magician’s guild apparently has a pretty close hold on the internet.

In part 4: A dam, Vegas after dark, and a drink named Beverly.

November 4, 2013

November 4, 2013

What Happened in Vegas, Part 2

My birthday trip was happening smack dab in the middle of what has been referred to variously as a government shutdown, a government slimdown, sequestration, and WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THEY’VE CLOSED THE GRAND CANYON?

It was that last one that worried me most, because one of the side trips I’d planned for my time in Vegas was a visit to said canyon. Turns out it’s not that far away, despite being in a completely different state. (Now that I live in the DC area, jaunting from state-to-state isn’t nearly as exotic to me as it seemed when I was a kid. Growing up in Wisconsin, out of state license plates are cause for excitement. Until you realize it’s just Illinois. BEARS SUCK.)

So I spent August and September haplessly planning for my once-in-a-lifetime 30th birthday trips to the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. Tra la freaking la. Then the government shut/slimmed/sequestered down and I would say I was up a creek without a paddle except the National Parks Service had barricaded off the entire creek. Closed for business.

But wait! Turns out that not all of government shut down, for reasons many and varied. In my specific case, both the Grand Canyon* and Hoover Dam** were open. At which point I stopped paying attention to the news because GRAND CANYON.

The West Rim is operated by a Native American tribe, and they do their best to make you feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a John Wayne movie. Complete with western village:

In my opinion, the orange safety cone just adds to the ambiance.

And wagon rides. Oregon Trail, anyone?

You have died of dysentery.

To be fair, my favorite part was the meal:

Not pictured: The rest of my chicken, and all of TheBoy's chicken, which I also ate.

Shuttle buses moved us from lookout point to lookout point. And though it was cold and windy, at least I got to see the thing.

It was so cold, the Hualapai were selling a boatload of Grand Canyon hoodies. I toughed it out, but barely.

In part 3: The Candyman can ‘cause he mixes it with love. And cacti. Also, David Copperfield blows my brain. Figuratively.

* The West Rim of the Grand Canyon is operated by the sovereign Hualapai Nation.
** The Hoover Dam is funded by fees, and so is not subject to authorization by appropriation. Real life West Wing is boring.