Amanda Gates
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A Musings

My mom passed away last April 21, after a nearly six-year battle with Multiple Myeloma and kidney failure. She endured dialysis, chemo, a stem cell transplant, weight loss, hair loss and a heart attack in those six years, and those were just the physical strains. Watching her go through all of that was it’s own special pain. Watching her choose to let go, another. The fight within myself of wanting her to be at peace and not wanting to let her go was nearly unmanageable.

Nothing, not one single thing, prepared me for this loss. A year earlier, I thought birthing a baby and taking care of a newborn was the hardest thing in the world. In retrospect, for me, that was easy as pie compared to losing my mom. Grieving for her, and managing that grief, has been a continuous dance for the last 11 months. It ebbs and flows; there are good days and bad days. But have I ever felt mentally unwell? No.

Which is why I found the idea that prolonged grief could be categorized as a mental illness a bit worrisome. I firmly believe in mental health and the need to take care of one’s mind just as much as one’s body. And I have no doubt that for some, the loss of a parent or a child or anyone important could bridge to depression. But as Leeat Granek & Meghan O’Rourke* put it in a recent Slate article, grief happens to everyone.

“Unlike most disorders in the [Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], it is a condition we will all experience. It is not a disease and it has no place in a book dedicated to listing mental disorders. In a culture that has largely turned grief into a private experience rather than a communal one, the decision to include grief in the DSM risks doing more harm than good, making it easier than ever to view those who are simply experiencing a painful rite of passage as abnormal.”

Because, honestly, I feel/felt completely alone in my grief, especially in those first few months. Even if you’ve lost a mother, too, your experience is different than mine. Even my own brother’s experience is different than mine. So, to feel alone in grief, and then God forbid that grief goes on “too long” according to medical standards, I would’ve felt even worse to be labeled mentally ill. I would’ve felt like even more of an outcast.

I already cried in my cube at work on a daily basis (I still sometimes do, if something I read or hear reminds me of her) and worried people would see me and think, “Oh, she’s not over it yet.” I hated how simple conversations could bring tears to my eyes and a hushed tone to the room. Leeat & O’Rourke nailed that, too:

“The problem with [the potential designation] is that more people’s grief will be diagnosed as abnormal or extreme, in a culture that already leads mourners to feel they need to just “get over it” and “heal.””

I worried I was being too sensitive when comments like, “How was your Mother’s Day?” made me want to curl up in a ball. I hated that some people completely ignored what happened to me, never asking me how I was doing; but then also, there were certain people I didn’t want to talk to about it anyway. So, maybe that was for the best? I was insulted (and then felt bad about it), when people mentioned grief counseling to me, some three weeks after her passing. Are you kidding? Give me some time to work through this on my own first; I don’t think I’m handling this any different than anyone else would, I thought. While I think therapy and counseling can help in many situations, I didn’t think in this case I was in any way out of the ordinary with my grieving. (However, if I saw no progress in my grieving, or inability in life, that's another story. Case by case.) Again, Slate article to the rescue:

“To date, the research has consistently shown that grief counseling and medications do not alleviate grief; they seem most helpful in the cases of people who had pre-existing mental health issues.”

The best advice I latched on to came from a variety of sources; so many people said this next idea in one way or another. Grief never goes away. You just learn to fit it into your life and live with it. It changes you and becomes a part of you. While I no longer cry every single day (I would say I had three to four months of that), I still think of her every single day—sometimes with tears, sometimes with a smile. I’ve discovered, too, that more tears come lately as the one-year anniversary creeps up on me. I get sad that she’s missed her grandson learning his ABCs and all his future milestones. I get sad that she doesn’t call me at work anymore. I get sad that I can’t share great books with her, like The Forgotten Garden. She would’ve loved that book.

I will always be sad; I will always miss her. But that’s just one part of me. That doesn’t define me. Because I’m happy, too.

* Meghan O’Rourke has written extensively on grief and the loss of her mother. While they hit very close to home and were hard to read, her essays definitely hit on feelings I was experiencing last spring.

Posted: Tue, 03/13/2012 - 13:20 | Comments: 9

Ever since we got an iPad in the household, we've been perusing YouTube for short videos to watch before bedtime. Our 2-year-old loves watching "vee-dos" and I thought I'd share some of his favorites. His tastes ebb and flow, somedays he wants nothing to do with Elmo and other days Elmo's all he wants. But here are several of his favorites of the last couple months.

Caspar Babypants

We bought one of this band's CDs for Christmas (he's the former lead singer of The Presidents of the United States). I love the songs, so I started looking up videos and they sure have some cute ones, and very creative executions.

Mister Rabbit

Baby's Getting Up

Light it Up (my personal favorite)

Sesame Street

There's obviously 1 million Sesame Street videos, but we like ones with numbers and letters and Elmo and Ernie, particularly.

20 & Y - these are the cleverest, quickest little spots, we wish there were more.

Sing After Me

9 Pigeons

12 - I remember these little ladybugs from when I was watching Sesame Street

Adam Sandler sings About Elmo

Choo Choo Soul

He's always loved these shorts on the Disney Channel.

Animals on the Farm


Bullet Train

Blue Zoo Train (my favorite)

Random shorts

Twinkle Twinkle - seriously the cutest thing

Old MacDonald

ABC Song

How about you? Does your family have favorite videos?

Posted: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 20:31 | Comments: 4

I used to get so excited for the Oscars. I just loved all award shows. But, I don’t know, I got older and celebrities patting themselves on the back during a super long ceremony lost its appeal. Plus, as a parent, now I don’t have time to see all the movies. But, I still tune in for a bit – though I don’t miss my bedtime anymore – and I like to hear who wins.

While the Oscars can be pretty predictable, especially if you read as many entertainment blogs and magazines as I do, I always hope for a little something different to happen. Here are my predictions of the winners…ahem…recipients. I’m also including a Dark Horse, just in case the voters took time to think outside the box a bit.


Will win: The Artist. While it seems silly for a primarily silent film to win in this day and age, you can’t deny the hype. Plus it won the Golden Globe for Comedy/Musical.

Dark horse: But, The Descendants won the Golden Globe for Drama, so.


Will win: Alexander Payne or Michel Hazanavicius. Whatever film above wins the Oscar, I say the other’s director goes home with this prize.

Dark horse: Martin Scorsese. Hugo’s been getting a lot of praise, so if I could have two Dark horses for Best Picture, I’d pick Hugo, thus making Scorsese a possible winner here.


Will win: George Clooney. I thought he did a great job in The Descendants.

Dark horse: Jean Dujardin. Again, the hype, and American voters don’t shy away from giving Oscars to nominees from other countries.


Will win: Viola Davis. I’m totally fine with this; she was amazing in The Help.

Dark horse: Glenn Close. She’s never won, which seems absurd, like it’s time for a “body of work” honor this year. Plus, she plays a man in Albert Nobbs and voters like that sort of thing.

* But this happens nearly every year. The ladies are just too good and it’s impossible to root against any of them.


Will win: Christopher Plummer, if only because he’s awesome (see also “body of work” honor mentioned above).

Dark horse: Plummer will win, so I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say Jonah Hill. They don’t call it “dark horse” for nothing. Plus, if Moneyball is going to get any love, maybe it’s here?


Will win: Octavia Spencer. If anyone was better than Viola Davis in The Help, it was Spencer.

Dark horse: Melissa McCarthy. While I don’t think her acting in Bridesmaids was quite worth the astounding praise it received, I would be lying if I didn’t say it would kick ass if she won for being the fat girl in a gross-out comedy written by women.


Will win: Wow, the pickings are slim, so Rango, if only because it’s the strongest of the American offerings.

Dark horse: Chico & Rita

MUSIC (Original Score)

Will win: Ludovic Bource for The Artist.

Dark horse: Because John Williams is nominated twice and probably cancels himself out, I’ll say Howard Shore for Hugo.


Will win: The Descendants, especially if it doesn’t win Best Picture.

Dark horse: Because they won’t give Clooney two Oscars in one year, I won’t say The Ides of March, but instead Hugo for its praise as of late.


Will win: The Artist. How a movie can win for Best Picture but not for writing doesn’t make sense, so that’s why I predict The Artist.

Dark horse: But I hope its Bridesmaids, just for the Girl Power and hearing Kristen Wiig’s acceptance speech.

Here's hoping I'm wrong about a lot of these and the Oscars shake things up! What are your predictions?

Posted: Wed, 02/22/2012 - 15:03 | Comments: 4

It’s always hard to know what to say when you enjoyed reading a book about complicated, and frankly disgusting, issues. “I loved it!” doesn’t quite seem right when you’re reading about the hardship of war or child abuse or eating disorders or drug addiction. Or, in the case of The Kitchen House, when you’re reading about the turn of the 19th century when people were bought and sold, raped, beaten and killed in the South.

The Kitchen House focuses on a young Irish girl named Lavinia, who finds herself owned by a ship captain and placed under the responsibility of Belle, his slave who works in the kitchen house. As Lavinia grows up as an indentured servant, she’s taken in by the slaves on this plantation as one of their own. Because she’s white, she winds up getting some extra opportunities and her role in the family (either family) gets confused. The book follows Lavinia from about age 7 to 27 and then briefly beyond.

The book covers the classes of slaves on the planation; those who work in the quarters are worse off than those who work up closer to/in the Big House. The book covers different types of plantation owners—those who are kind and those who are not so kind. The book discusses the loneliness a woman of the Big House might go through when she’s in the middle of nowhere without her husband raising his children. The book highlights in depth the hidden relationships among the slaves, among the slaves and the owners and among the owners—these relationship consist of all the same people but can be so, so different.

It’s easy to fall in love with many of these characters, but all through the book you don’t know if you should. You have no idea what their fate will be. I found myself trying to protect my heart in a way because I wasn’t sure how long some of these wonderful, soft-hearted people were going to be around.

I won’t lie, the book is sad up until the end. There are only brief moments of joy, yet the book is so gripping and engaging that you just kind of embrace the sadness and keep reading. While I didn’t love it, I did like it a lot, even though it broke my heart.

Posted: Fri, 02/17/2012 - 16:07 |

I was having a discussion with a close friend who’s on the verge of starting a family. She’s a bit discouraged, because in recent years a majority of what moms write on the Internet or tweet about tends to be negative. Here’s what she said to me:

“I just feel like everything I've read online lately is so negative and depressing and anxiety-making and justifying decisions and not about the crazy miraculous awesome transformation (and what transformation ISN'T hard?) of mom and child. Everything seems to be about letting go and feeling like you did all this to be left and your body is destroyed and identities have been lost. Sounds like a war zone. Or self-inflicted abuse. Why are they all having kids then?”

And she’s absolutely right, in a few ways. Being a mom is hard. But also, we don’t talk enough about what we love about being moms. I compare it to customer service in a way. When we have great customer service, rarely do we call over the manager and sing praises. But when we have a bad experience? Oh hell, someone is going to hear about it!

It’s the same with our kids. We tend to talk more, tweet more, blog more when things are a struggle. Don’t get me wrong – we should! Personally, writing it out is sometimes the only way I feel better about things. And the commiseration you can get from other moms who have “been there”? Priceless.

However, my childless friend made me realize that while it’s OK to talk about the hard stuff, I don’t talk nearly enough about the wonderful stuff.

I don’t say enough to people how awesome my kid is. (He’s so awesome, by the way.)

I may complain, but then I don’t balance it out with, “Guess what? I love this life.”

Because I do. And there are people out there (my friend) who need to hear that.

So, here’s my list for Why I Love Being a Mom.


The giggles. My kid has the best laugh on the face of the planet. Our daycare provider says we need to bottle it up and sell it.

The sound of him saying “mama” makes me feel like the most important person in the world. No other being on the planet can make me feel that way.

Our conversations in the car. He’ll narrate what he sees (Truck! Car! BIG Truck!) and I’ll answer back. He’s not even two, so I can only imagine these getting better as his vocabulary expands.

That I can still rock him to sleep some nights. Holding him, rocking him in his glider, hearing his breathing slow down and him start to snore – It’s really hard to put him down that I hold him until my arms feel like they’ll fall off.

Because before we fall asleep each night, my husband always says, “He’s the best baby.” And I agree.

Jonna put it a great way in one of her posts: it’s like when you first fall in love with someone – the stomach butterflies, the falling feeling, wanting to kiss them all over all the time. With your kid, you feel that way every day for the rest of your life. (Go read her comments on that post; they’re just what we all need to say all the time.)

The cheeks. I could kiss his cheeks all day every day if he would let me. (But, that kind of gets in the way of his playing time.)

Going into his room before we go to bed to see what funny position he’s sleeping in. Sideways, diagonally, knees up, flat on his tummy. Listening to him lightly snore. And then teasing my husband because they sleep exactly the same way.



Watching him learn. I look back at videos and pictures of my boy when he was a tiny baby and how amazed we were when he was cooing at the camera or learning to smile. And now we’re amazed at him for knowing his letters and numbers and colors. I’m 31 years old and I just made my dad proud the other day. THE AMAZEMENT, IT NEVER ENDS.

When you get married, you feel like, “We’re in this together; we can take on the world as our little unit!” That feeling only escalates when you have a kid. You find yourselves alone together in this challenging yet rewarding new life. We’ve never felt closer.

When I figure something out. Like how to get him to nap in his crib. Or a new food that he likes. Or how to get rid of a pesky rash. Those little tiny victories really aren’t that little or tiny.

I’ve never felt so protective about anything in my life. I would take a bullet for that kid. I would murder someone for that kid. And that feeling of protectiveness, sureness and unwavering passion makes me feel powerful.

While some things may still rile me up, I’ve found I’m more laid back about things. Because in the end, nothing matters more to me than my family. Sure, I’ll get riled up and fight for them, but as for the other bullshit out there in the world – politics, poor relationships, mean people, competitiveness – I could care less. Stuff that would make me mad before just rolls of my back. I love that new part of myself.

To go along with that, I’ve found I’m more honest with people, more willing to share my opinion, even if it’s different, because I care less what people think about me.

Finally, when I look at him, the miracle I brought into the world, I know I’ve made the world a better place.

**Now, I’ve only been at this for two years, so I need others to chime in, too. Those of you with newborns to teenagers and more than one kid. Help me out, give my friend some love, and tell us Why You Love Being a Mom.

Posted: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 15:28 | Comments: 5

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead. Also, um, it's wordy.

Well, I finished. And it was sad, but not as sad as I thought and not as devastating as others experienced. I saved the last episode for Friday night, I cried through one Kleenex and then I read a book for the rest of the night. And that felt nice.

I loved the show. Like I said before, it’s up there with some of the best dramas, for sure. When I started season 3, the jump from season 2 was quite disjointed, and I’m contributing that to the unsure future of the show at this point. But once I got over that, season 3 turned out to be one of my favorites. Here are my random likes and dislikes of S3-S5, in bullet form:

+ I had no idea Lyla, Tim and Tyra were sophomores when we first met them. Wow, by S3 they were quite the mature seniors. However, this seems like an obvious move because the show’s creators would want to keep around their most popular characters for as long as they can (see also: Glee).

+ So, Tami Taylor, a stay-at-home mom for 15 years/guidance counselor for two years is somehow qualified to be principal? This seemed far-fetched to me. But, my girlfriend brought up a good argument in that why would a school that cares more about its football team than anything else, really care about who was principal? And once I got used to the idea of her as principal, of course I loved Tami as principal. Such a good woman. Her struggles with the JumboTron, the boosters, the budget, Becky’s abortion, etc., were really, really interesting. And I loved how she handled pretty much every single hurdle that was thrown her way.

+ I appreciated Jason Street’s story arc. His effort to be a good father and provider seemed in true character for him. While I loved his coaching, he seems even more fit to be a sports agent, so that was an awesome end to his story. I just wish his last episode in S5 ended on a little higher note.

+ Man, I hate the McCoy men. First JD is this whiny little wanker and his dad is a giant pain in the ass, then they just become disgustingly awful people. I wanted Coach to punch Mr. McCoy so many times. While there are a few characters I couldn’t care less about (more on that in a bit), I actually liked hating the McCoys. However, what did I miss once S5 started? Where did the McCoys and the S4 Panthers coach go? Why wasn’t JD QB when the Lions played the Panthers in S5? I figure I missed a quick reference to them somewhere, right?

+ While Tyra’s constant back and forth on wanting to be a good student and with Landry and not caring about her future (and not with Landry) got a bit old, she was still one of my favorite characters. I cried when she got the letter that she got into college. I missed her character the most in seasons 4 & 5. (And nearly had a heart attack when she returned, I was so happy.)

+ Becky, Billy & Mindy. From the moment Becky entered the show, I really wanted her to exit. Unfortunately she stuck around. I never cared for her or any of her problems. (It could’ve just been a casting thing? Maybe another actress wouldn’t have rubbed me the wrong way?) I understand why Billy and Mindy were important to the story, but I think because I so preferred Tim and Trya, I felt like Billy and Mindy, especially in S5, were just the leftovers or second best. Every time they were on I thought, “I wish you were Tim or Tyra instead.” I didn’t care about them, besides wanting to smack Billy for being such poor role model.

+ I also didn’t give a crap about Epic. Even though I knew Tami needed a project in S5, I felt nothing for Epic or her struggles. Boring.

+ Matt. Gosh, he just broke my heart at the end of S2. And then in S3 Coach benches him. Ugh. But, I loved his arc in S3. I liked the storyline with his mom and I liked that he made himself into a wide receiver. I didn’t like that he decided to stay in Dillon (at first). Seeing him deliver pizzas was one of the saddest things ever. The death of his father was also some great character acting on Zach Gilford’s part. In the end, I definitely appreciated where Matt ended up.

+ Oh, Julie Taylor, how I want to shake you. I want to shake you for thinking your poor little 18-year-old self with no boyfriend in a new college just has it so rough. I want to shake you for sleeping with a married man. I want to shake you for pretty much being a whiny brat to your parents for five years. I want to tell you that if you can’t handle life now, well girlfriend, you’re in for a big surprise. At least she ended somewhere stable.

+ Because I first watched Parenthood, I think I came into FNL with a bit of an advantage. I knew Alex (Michael B. Jordan) was going to show up sooner or later. And when he did in S4, I cheered. So, the switch over to the Lions didn’t hurt quite as much because I was excited to meet Vince Howard. And while he had his bad moments, he was a great character. Just great. I also liked Luke, Jess and Tinker.

However, in the end, I always missed the S1-S3 cast of characters. S4 & S5 just didn’t have the same flair for me without a consistent presence of Matt & Tyra & then Tim & Landry. I cared less about more of the characters (like mentioned above), so S4 and especially S5 were a bit lackluster for me.

+ I’m still in love with the Taylors, too. One of my favorite lines between the two of them: Coach says, “You know who I miss? The coach's wife.” And Tami replies, “You know who I can’t wait to meet? The principal’s husband.” Love them. They went through ups and downs and power struggles but have always been so in love. Her support for moving for him is unwavering, that it’s frustrating when Coach gets stuck in the “what about my job?” mindset. But he always comes around.

I enjoyed the series finale and that we got a wrap up of many of the characters. If I had to rank the seasons (the last couple episodes of the series notwithstanding –they were great), I think this would be my order by most to least favorite: 3, 1, 4, 2 & 5.


Posted: Mon, 02/06/2012 - 12:53 | Comments: 1

I’ve always loved where I lived. From pretty much day 1, my parents exposed me to the museums, arts, sports and attractions that MSP has to offer. But I never truly appreciated it until I started working in publishing and got paid to write about our awesomeness. I learned things I never knew; and now I spout that knowledge to anyone who will listen. (Sorry to family and friends who have heard the same “fun” facts over and over.)

Two weeks ago I saw Pop Candy’s new blog feature called Pop Traveler, where she was asking readers to submit posts about why their cities were awesome places to visit. And I thought to myself, “Uh, piece of cake.” That’s my JOB, to tell visitors why they should come to Minneapolis-St. Paul, so 1.) I could easily whip up a post, 2.) What a great way to hype up our Twin Cities on another avenue besides the publications I work on and (selfishly) 3.) This could be some good exposure for me.

(Note: It was hard to narrow it down to 10! I could've easily included the Mall of America, Target Field and so many other places... I love my town.)

I contacted Whitney, she was game for a post and then yesterday she posted it: 10 Reasons to Visit Minneapolis-St. Paul. I have to admit, I was really excited. I’ve been reading Pop Candy for years and am envious of whom she gets to meet and the experiences she gets to have. But what pop culture junky isn’t envious of Whitney?

I have to say, the outcome has been pretty cool. This website got 75 hits yesterday (perspective: 25 hits is a very, very good day around here). In the past 24 hours, I’ve gotten nearly 20 more Twitter followers. My post was tweeted, RT’d or Facebooked several times, by organizations like Target, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Minneapolis CVB, The Local, First Avenue, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts—and those are only the ones I found on my own. Plus, several locals whom I’ve never even met tweeted my post and messaged me that they liked my list (not to mention all the love from my friends). I even got a personal email thank you from one of the organizations.

All in all, it’s been a lovely surprise to see the response. It strengthens my faith in humanity, increases my love for my city and state and gives me a little spring in my step. Minnesota Nice indeed! Thanks to Whitney for posting it, to everyone who read it and to those who reached out to me. I appreciate it so much.


Posted: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 14:50 | Comments: 4

I feel a bit sorry that Mindy Kaling’s book came out the same year as Tina Fey’s. Because the comparisons are going to be there, and one is definitely the stronger, funnier book (Bossypants). But then, Tina Fey has a longer, more varied career (plus a marriage and children) and much more material from which to draw. With that being said, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? was definitely a delightful, quick read.

I like how Kaling affirms that people think she’s just like Kelly Kapoor on The Office. I like the stories of a writer’s life and how she really worked to get where she is today. I like how she’s just more proof that kids who were on the fringe in high school can go on to make it big. I related to so many of her ideas: having best friends, wanting marriage and a family, not understanding one-night stands, the difference between boys and men. And while I’m not in the limelight like she is, her struggles with being a size 8 or 10 (and fluctuating) and being accepting of that, especially in Hollywood, were taken to heart.

Some of her other essays were just quick peeks into her creative and silly mind. While some were head-scratching and a bit of a miss, others were completely hilarious. Like I said with Bossypants (again with the comparisons), it’s refreshing to read a self-deprecating book about someone famous and realize they could be your friend in real life.

So, my request: Amy Poehler, you’re next. I want to read about you! Because both Tina and Mindy have the most wonderful things to say about Amy that I know I’d love to read essays by her too.

Posted: Mon, 01/30/2012 - 08:49 |

We read Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden for book club last year and it ended up being one of my top books of 2011. After falling in love with that story, I wanted to "Jodi-Picoult" Morton. What’s “Jodi-Picoult-ing”? When I read one book (i.e. My Sister’s Keeper) that I think is fabulous and proceed to read every other book by that author. Alas, I did get tired of Picoult’s formula after several novels and haven’t read her since.

Anyway, I grabbed up The Distant Hours almost immediately last fall, but once I got about halfway through, my library holds kept popping up and I had to put it down until the new year. Like Picoult, Morton has a formula. She tells stories that take place in different times/generations; there’s usually one main narrator, but her stories will jump away from that person frequently. And she always jumps away right when you don’t want her to. You’re constantly like, “No! I was just on the edge of my seat and now I’m back to 2006 again…” But it works. (I’ve heard the formula is similar for her other book, The House at Riverton.)

Morton has a way of telling haunting, mysterious stories. There’s usually even a creep factor involved, but not so creepy it turns you off completely (or the creepiness comes right at the end, so by that time you're done). The Distant Hours focuses around a young editor, Edie, Edie’s mother Meredith, and a castle in England, which houses three sisters who Meredith stayed with during WWII. The story bounces between all these characters, and centralizes around the mysteries that the castle, and the sisters, hold. Morton does a good job of throwing you off the scent, which is saying a lot, because I can usually figure out the mysteries of books, movies and TV shows well before the mid-point.

If I had to compare, The Forgotten Garden is better. I was invested a bit more in the characters and the mystery wasn’t quite as creepy. I was left thinking for days about the story, and not so much with this one. And while both have a sad note to them, The Distant Hours is far sadder. I expect that one could get tired of Morton’s formula if she had five or more novels to burn through. But she really does excel at jumping back and forth in time, and developing secondary story lines that are just as intriguing as the main story.

Posted: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 15:54 |

Warning: There may be spoilers.

After I got all caught up with Mad Men, I turned to Friday Night Lights. So many of my friends (in real life and Twitter life) have watched this show and claimed full-out love. I’ve even seen the phrase “best show on TV ever” thrown around quite a few times. I’m now in to season three. Is FNL the best show I’ve ever watched? No. But do I love it? Yes. Here are a few thoughts so far:

The Bits of Ridiculousness

Teenage Drama: My main concern with getting into this show was the teenage drama. I hate teenage drama. If that’s all FNL was going to be, no thanks. (It’s not, see below.) However, there’s still plenty of it and some of it drives me insane. The “I love him, I hate him” stuff with Lyla & Riggins and Lyla & Street and Tyra & Riggins and Tyra & Landry – it gets old. Julie Taylor’s whiny-ness also gets old. All the testosterone in that locker room when those football boys get together – enough already. The drinking, the sex, the more-mature behavior than seems natural… I didn’t grow up in that world, so maybe I just have a hard time understanding it, but it all seems over the top. (If high school is really that way, then I’m home schooling my kid.)

The Mexico storyline: Completely ridiculous, because juniors in high school just take taxis down to Mexico for a week without their parents worrying about them. It meant nothing to the story arc overall and definitely didn't need to last over four episdoes.

Tyra & Landry’s secret: If your dad’s a cop, you call him. You don’t dump a body. And then a couple episodes later, it’s all OK? Please.

Buddy Garrity: Why does Coach put up with him? I understand his place and his importance (he’s the money), but he’s so annoying!

What I love

The Taylors: Hands down, the marriage of Eric and Tami Taylor is my most favorite parts of the show. They’re so cute I could squeeze them to death. I love the sarcasm, I love the respect, I love Coach’s grumpiness, I love how Tami is (almost) always right. In a life where I can only imagine the stress – that town, that job – it would be hard to maintain such a great relationship, yet they do. Plus, I love the way they love those kids. They take them in, they teach them lessons, they offer tough love. They’re great. Love them.

The football: I’ve been a football fan for a long time, so I enjoy the football scenes. I also like the behind-the-scenes peek at the coaching meetings, the locker room and the coach-player relationships. And while it frustrates me to no end the pressure that’s placed on these teenagers – and then what they go on to become in college with the bling and the cars – it’s still so intriguing to get a peek into that life. These kids are put up on pedestals by an entire town and it gets even worse when they’re in college. No wonder they have a hard time when anyone tries to say no to them.

The different types of families: You have single moms (Smash’s mom is kick ass), rich families, down-and-out families, blue-collar families, Matt and his grandma, white, black and Hispanic families. It’s a nice mix they put together and while it may not be representative of every community out there, it would be hard not to find a family you could relate to in some way while watching.

The characters: Besides the Taylors, I like Riggins (it took me 30 episodes but I finally discovered why he’s a favorite character), Matt (he can be a bit of a sad sack, but he’s sweet), Landry (he’s an actor who says his lines just like they do on Parenthood; I really see the overlap between the two shows when I watch Jesse Plemons speak, plus he's funny) and Tyra (minus her wishy-washy love life, I like her spunk, her toughness and her hair).

FNL falls right up there with my other favorite dramas like The West Wing, Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, Mad Men, Six Feet Under and The Wire. So, another “bit of ridiculousness” is the fact that this show didn’t gain a following big enough to stay on NBC. Why is it that reality TV, procedurals and Two and a Half Men always beat out the truly great shows? That’s another post entirely.

Posted: Thu, 01/12/2012 - 16:16 | Comments: 2