Summer TV Reviews for: The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Misfits, and Friday Night Lights

The Nine Lives of Chloe King (***) – Chloe King is a normal teen living with her single mom in San Fransisco, going to school, working at a vintage clothing store, and hanging out with her best friends Amy and Paul.  Weird things start happening to her on her birthday — like she can easily walk on the edge of a bench, has retractable claws, and can hear conversations from far away.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King isn’t the greatest show ever, but so far, it is kind of adorable, fun summer TV.  Skyler Samuels, who plays Chloe, is not only beautiful, but plays Chloe with a winning combination of vulnerable likability.  The interactions with her friends are playful and realistic and the whole superpower plot is enjoyable, so far.  I love all the San Fransisco scenery and like that no one keeps too many secrets. Chloe keeps a few from her mom — who is probably my least favorite character because that relationship is a little boring — but even Chloe’s relationship with her mom has some sweet moments and the lack of secrets between Chloe and her friends keeps the plot moving and free from unnecessary melodrama.  Some of the acting is a little wooden, but overall, the leads are competent.  It’s a fun, easy to watch summer teen superpower show.

[On ABC Family, Tuesdays at 9pm Eastern Time/ 9pm Central. The pilot is available on iTunes for free; Hulu has only 1 episode up at a time for free viewing.  (Today it’s episode 3, which I still have to watch.)  The new episode is up on Hulu the day after it plays on ABC Family, then taken down when a new episode is posted. All episodes are also available to buy on iTunes.]

Misfits (*** 1/2) – is like Skins meets a British Heroes, but without the boring save-the-world plots.  Five young offenders show up for community service on a day that a wicked thunderstorm hits.  They’re all struck by weird lightening, but seem fine, until weird things start happening, like one of them can hear people’s thoughts now.  While it’s not actually on TV, Hulu is showing the first season for free online viewing on its site, one episode a week. 

The daughterling watched the first two seasons of Misfits with a friend and liked it so much I promised I’d watch once it came to American TV.  It’s entertaining so far. 

Like a lot of British shows the characters are more realistic and less polished than American characters tend to be.  The language can be a bit rough and there’s a lot more nudity and sex than on an American show.  I also like that the characters are clearly working class, instead of the pseudo poor characters on American shows, who have unexplained fantastic apartments and fabulous wardrobes. The characters are also more regular looking. Yeah, a couple are quite good looking, but not everyone is required to be as glamorous as on your average American teen show.  The daughterling says the show gets better as it goes on and that season two is even better than season one.

[The first three episodes are currently on Hulu for free online viewing. New episodes are posted on Mondays. You need to have a free account though because the content is for over 13 years and above.]

Friday Night Lights (****) – If you never watched Friday Night Lights now is your chance because seasons one through four are available on Netflix Instant. 

Kyle Chandler plays Eric Taylor, the new coach of a small Texan town where high school football is the main entertainment.  I love this show!  It’s realistic, moody, sweet, and has me cheering for the football team while at the same time thinking, "This town really needs to get a life."  You don’t have to like football to enjoy this show because Friday Night Lights is really about mentoring teens and it’s one of the best fiction shows I’ve seen on mentoring teens.

The first couple episodes have some handheld camera work but they do away with that technique after the first few episodes.  Season two has some over-the-top plotlines, but fear-not, the writers realize their mistake and get back to normal in season three.

[Netflix Instant has seasons one through four.  Season five is available to rent on DVD through Netflix too. Hulu posts a new episode for season five each Saturday, but the episodes expire after several weeks.  Currently episodes 6-10 of season five are up on Hulu. Season five episodes are also available to buy on iTunes.]

August 2009: In Brief, Part 2

Allergies, The SequelA forty-five year old American woman finds out she’s highly allergic to mold. When a small water leak in one of her bathroom pipes makes all kinds of sporing mold, she discovers mold isn’t one of the allergens she’s getting shots for and her talented DIY husband is working so much this month he can’t tackle the mold until Fall. Since cleaning it herself would send her into torturous allergic fits, she salvages her summer vacation by downing Benadryl, and taking….

The Rowena Eureka Mega World Tour of Cinematic Armchair Travel
(This tour was made possible by Netflix, Netflix Instant, itunes, and Rowena’s Trusty Laptop)

TV Portion of the Tour:

(Cardiff, Wales) Torchwood, series 1 & 2 (****) – Captain Jack Harkness protects the world from alien invasion by leading Torchwood Division–an independent agency located in Cardiff, Wales on a rift between time and space. Part police procedural, part sci-fi adventure, part character exploration, Torchwood became one of my favorite shows because it has a little bit of everything: dark edgy action, fun dialog, a little romance, and a bit of camp.

The characters are talented, devoted, and deeply flawed. Nobody’s all good or all bad, just very human. Women and men are equally the heroes and the ones in need of saving. Everyone’s sexuality is pretty fluid and sex is treated both more casually, and yet, more respectfully than it’s usually shown on American TV.

The main characters are pretty, but in a realistic way, not the glossy American way. Policewoman Gwen Cooper begins investigating Torchwood after she witnesses their strange actions at the scene of a murder investigation. She’s quite attractive and just happens to also have a gap in her teeth.

The best thing about the show is that the equal treatment of sexuality and people is never the point; it’s just how things are. This is no public service announcement or after school special; it’s a sci-fi action adventure show full of dark, fun escapism.

The beginning of the series is a bit shaky and a couple episodes are pretty awful *cough* Cyber Woman *cough*. Even they have their charms though since they come early in the series when the viewer is getting to know the characters. While this is a spin-off from Dr. Who, you don’t to need watch Doctor Who to understand it. [Watched on itunes, also available on Netflix]

(Cardiff/London) Torchwood: Children of Earth (*****) – This is one roller coaster of a ride! Instead of individual episodes like season 1 & 2, this Torchwood series is one five-episode mini series. Though less campy, there is still a good mix of fun and darkness within the same egalitarian world. This time aliens are speaking through children and things get tense, dark, dark, dark, and definitely worth watching. [Saw on itunes, also available on DVD through Netflix.]

(The UK and Beyond) Doctor Who, series 4 (*** 1/2 ) – Donna Noble turned out to be an excellent companion. [Saw on DVD through Netflix]

(The Whole World) Michael Palin’s 80 Days Around the World (*** 1/2) – In this 1988 travel series, former Monty Python member Michael Palin tries to travel around the world in 80 days using only the transportation available to Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg. Palin makes a smart, funny, and likable guide. Though it’s 20 years old, it’s interesting to watch Palin visit India and China right before their dramatic changes. His brief adventures in the US didn’t seem that different from today. The best sequences though were his 8 days on a Dhow (a tiny open cargo boat) crossing the Arabian Sea from Dubai to Bombay with an all Indian crew who spoke little English.

(Manhattan in the early 60’s) Mad Men, current season 3 (****) – AMC’s evocative drama about a Manhattan Ad Agency in the early 1960’s is one of my favorite shows. Season 3 starts off in the summer of 1963 after the Brits have taken over Sterling Cooper.

August 2009: In Brief, Part 3

The Rowena Eureka Mega World Tour of Cinematic Armchair Travel – The Movie Portion

(Sweden) Slim Susie (*** 1/2) – Erik comes back to the rural Swedish town where he grew up in search of of his missing younger sister Susie. He meets up with a cast of eccentric characters and the tale of Susie becomes increasingly more tangled and dark. No one should be likable in this movie but for some reason they are. It’s the blackest of comedies but quite a fun movie if you like your comedy dark. It’s also interesting to see how much influence American movies have on the Swedes, as the movie borrows from and references American movies from Pulp Fiction to Star Wars and beyond. [Saw on Netflix Instant Viewing, also available on DVD through Netflix]

(Norway) Buddy (***) – A simple romantic comedy about a twenty-four year old billboard hanger whose girlfriend just broke up with him. When his video lands in the hands of a reality show producer, his reality show star life becomes more complicated with his housemates than he imagined.

There’s nothing really special about this plot but it’s a fun way for an American viewer to get a sense of twenty-something life in Norway– both the similarities and the differences. My favorite bit of trivia? Hearing the English phrases that would pop up in their Norwegian conversations, like "okay" and "I’m sorry". I realized "okay" has become pretty international, but I had no idea the phrase "I’m sorry" was used anywhere but English speaking countries. [Watched on Netflix Instant; also available on DVD]

(Italy/ Greece) Ginger & Cinnamon (***) – A fifteen-year-old Italian girl decides it’s time she lose her virginity and see the world. So she runs away from her school field trip and convinces her 30-year-old Aunt to take her on a trip to Greece instead. The Aunt, recovering from a painful recent breakup, relunctantly agrees. Neither aunt nor niece really fits into the party-like international twenty-some island experience. The niece is a bit too young and the aunt, who acts likes she’s already 50, is a bit too old. But both come to understand themselves better and figure out why their current lives aren’t working for them.

While I ended up liking this movie, the aunt and the niece did drive me crazy at times. Both main characters talked non-stop and seemed to lack any self-awareness at the beginning of the film. But their relationship was kind of sweet and the Greek island scene was interesting. [Watched on Netflix Instant; also available on DVD]

(NYC) Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (****) – Two seventeen-years-olds, each nursing broken hearts, meet at a Lower East Side club and are drafted by their friends to turn their encounter into a nightlong first date. This is one of my favorite books so I was pleasantly surprised how well the movie captured the book’s spirit.

It’s true that Michael Cera isn’t the actor I imagined for Nick and Cera plays basically the same character he’s played in Arrested Development, Superbad, and Juno. Still, it’s a likable character and it works for NIck. Also, Nick’s ex-girlfriend Tris is more nuanced and realistic in the book, while in the movie she’s a cliched mean girl. Kat Dennings is absolutely perfect as Norah though and the movie offers a fun adventure with lots of music and a bit of physical comedy. The language and sexual content is much cleaner and family friendly in the movie, though there is a brief sex scene that we only hear, not see. [Saw on Netflix Instant Viewing, also available on DVD through Netflix]

(Kingdom of Andalasia/ NYC)
Enchanted (*** 1/2) – They day before Princess Giselle’s wedding–in the cartoon Kingdom of Andalasia–wicked Queen Narissa banishes the princess down a well that just happens to lead straight to Manhattan. I started this movie with low expectations as I’m not terribly fond of princess movies, Disney, or Patrick Demspy. I was pleasantly surprised how enjoyable it was to watch though. Somehow this movie manages to pay homage to the Disney princess movies while gently mocking them and tells a story that kids will enjoy while entertaining adults. Patrick Dempsey is likable and Amy Adams is spot-on as Princess Giselle. A fun movie for mixed-aged audiences. [Watched on DVD]

(Germany) Hilfe (*** 1/2) – This could have been just a German version of those Freaky Friday body-switching type movies. The nuanced characters and respectful tone make this movie deeper and more enchanting than the usual glossy Disney-like story though. (Parent Note: While this movie is made to be suitable for kids, there is more cursing and mild sexual innuendo in this movie than some American family movies.) [Watched on Netflix Instant; also available on DVD]

February 2008: In Brief


1) The following math problem describes my 1st three weeks in February:

School holiday + Snow day or delay + sub job = 2 writing days = frustrated writer


I’m glad my kids enjoyed the time off though. Thankfully, my sub job for the last week of February was cancelled and I had 5 straight days of writing. Whoo hoo! (Also thankfully, my sub job was rescheduled for March.  Subbing for the music teacher is fun. We’re going to learn to play, “There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” on xylophones.)


2) Four nasal irrigations a day keeps the sinus infection away!

Fiction Books Finished:

**** Heat, by Mike Lupica- I don’t even really like baseball and still couldn’t put down this kid’s book about a twelve-year-old Cuban immigrant living in the Bronx and striving to make it to the little league finals. Excellent read for 3-6 graders or for a classroom read aloud.

Non-Fiction Books Finished:

*** Literacy in America, by Edward E. Gordon & Elaine H. Gordon -Finally finished! Long but interesting history of teaching in America, from the colonial times until now—heavy on the colonial & frontier times, light on the now.

Still Reading:

Dreams Underfoot, by Charles de Lint


**1/2 Wuthering Heights (1992)– Maybe the book is better, but in the movie, Cathy and Heathcliff were pretty unlikable.

Sub Jobs:

1 day- Kindergarten

½ day- Music

1 day- 2nd grade

1 day- Music

TV Enjoyed:

**** Supernatural– I loved the “Groundhog Day” episode.


*** Friday Night Lights– Finally finished watching all the current episodes.  Not bad, though Smash’s storyline seemed to come from nowhere and lacked credible build up, for me.


*** Ugly Betty (finished season 1 in Spanish)- Cute, cute, cute, then sad.


** Smallville, season 1 in French- Mediocre show with enough pretty people and cute wholesomeness that it’s worth using to practice French.


** Sopranos, 1st episode- I don’t get what is ground breaking about a show that could be called, “It’s Hard to be a Rich Patriarch.” As a guy friend said, “When almost every character in the show annoys you, it’s hard to keep watching.” Exactly.  I did like the shrink but it sure feels like something bad will happen to her. Maybe I’d have liked it better if I watched when it first came out, before the hype. Bye Sopranos. I wished I liked you better.



I need an hour of smashingly good storytelling each day or I’ll die.  Probably.  Notice how I’m still alive each summer even though my “stories” are on break.  How do I survive?  With TV shows on DVD.   I try out shows I’ve heard good things about and am sorry I missed.  The show is available whenever I want.  I don’t have to remember the day or time either.  I rent them through netflix, check them out at the library, or buy them.


Here are some of my favorites:

½ Shows:


Arrested Development– Remember “Soap” with Billy Crystal?  This is kind of a modern version.  It’s the over the top story of a rich family dealing with the arrest of the their father for embezzlement, but done almost completely in dead pan humor combined with dozens of silly sight gags.  It’s very silly and lots of fun.


Coupling– Susan, Steve, Sally, Jane, Jeff, and Patrick are the British version of Friends with a little Seinfeld meets Sex in the City thrown in. Very fun.  Martin loves watching these over and over just like Seinfeld. .  (The three guys all looked alike to me at first but by the third episode they all had their own clear personality.)


Sex and the City– If you never got HBO you can watch this fun R-rated sitcom about 4 New York City women on DVD.  Some people have told me that they prefer the PG-13 versions rerunning on TV but I get such a kick out of the random nudity and swearing in the middle of a half hour sitcom that I have to watch the real thing. 



Hour Long Shows:


Buffy– Yes, the concept sounds dumb: a blond high school cheerleader is the “chosen one” to kill vampires and demons.  Despite the cheesy sets and costumes there’s a reason this show had mainstream crossover popularity beyond horror/fantasy viewers.  This is one of the best-written shows of the decade with likable characters, razor sharp dialog, and lots of heart. It’s like Grey’s Anatomy but they’re in high school instead of a hospital, fighting monsters instead of injuries.  High school is hell. Each monster story episode is a metaphor for high school trauma:  “My mom is such a witch”. “The cool kids are a pack of hyenas.” “My boyfriend is a monster.”  Just be warned, if you start watching, there’s a good chance you’re going to be seriously addicted.


Firefly– Another sci-fi/fantasy show that crosses over to the mainstream because of it’s superb writing.  It’s Star Wars meets Indiana Jones for adults with all the action, fun, and great characters you’d expect from that comparison.  There’s only 13 episodes so it’s perfect for summer viewing.  Then check out Serenity, the movie that completes the cancelled show’s story in a satisfying way.


Gilmore Girls– Fun generational family story about a strongly independent single mom, Lorelei Gilmore, trying to raise her teenage daughter, Rory, without interference from her controlling rich parents.  When Rory gets accepted to her dream school, Lorelei is forced to accept her parents’ money and forge a relationship with them again.  This show works because each generation is written in a realistic, layered way.  The battles ring true and the dialog is rapid fast and lots of fun.  


Veronica Mars– Everything falls apart for Veronica Mars when her best friend Lilly Kane is murdered. Veronica’s father, the sheriff, is voted out of office for questioning the powerful Kane family, her mother leaves without keeping in touch, all her friends turn against her, and she wakes up from Shelley Pomeroy’s party in the guest room without underwear.  Determined to find Lilly’s killer, Veronica grits through the turmoil by helping her dad with his new detective business.  The story is told with dozens of layered characters, zinger dialog, and one of the best father-daughter relationships in TV, plus it has a satisfying season ending.


Have you ever had someone warn you about a strong tide?  As you go through the first set of waves you heed their warning, but once you reach beyond that those waves it seems so calm you think they were exaggerating, until you look back realize you’re 20 feet from where you started.  Don’t let season 1 of Veronica Mars fool you, once you get past the moving pilot you’ll be lulled for a few episodes and wonder what all the fuss is about, until somewhere between episode 10 to 12 you’re hooked 20 feet out. 


Wonderfalls– 13 fun episodes about a slacker college graduate who thinks she might be crazy because ordinary objects start talking to her. Meanwhile she’s working a retail job, living in a trailer park, dealing with her crazy super achieving family, and starting a friendship with a cute guy whose fiancé cheated on him on his wedding night.  (The writers got advanced warning about cancellation so the story has a satisfying end.)


And you?  Feel free to post yours too.