Archive for September, 2012

Ben and Kate (Fox)

For those of you who don’t know Nat Faxon, he’s the other half of the Jim Rash/Nat Faxon writing duo that scored an Oscar for The Descendents last year. For those of you who don’t know Jim Rash, shame on you.

In Ben and Kate, Faxon plays opposite the charming and tragically under-utilized Dakota Johnson as a brother-and-sister duo dealing with the various hijinks of modern sitcom pseudo-adulthood.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the show but for some reason the “‘Friends’ with siblings” format really works, making Ben and Kate one of the freshest, sincerest and most enjoyable sitcom offerings of the fall (so far, but there’s not much on the horizon in funny land). Johnson is a gem, who rightly deserves the spotlight she’ll hopefully receive, and Faxon toes the line nicely between oafish imbecile and endearing misfit. The character also works for Faxon’s unconditional physical presence (his writing partner Rash has a similar problem, and goes by the twitter handle @RashIsTVUgly) providing some deep chuckles in a pilot focused on the crashing of an exes wedding and a potential schmuck scamming on little sis Kate.

Between the avoidance of a Moonlighting will-they-won’t-they (which has become essentially required in any TV show) a great fill in-cast of his friend, her friend and Johnson’s daughter, Ben and Kate opens up a lot of possibilities for genuine comedy without trying to reinvent the wheel.

Grade: A-

Class: Subscribe

Elementary (CBS)

As always, prime time television is the last to capitalize on the latest trends, jumping on the Conan Doyle bandwagon with this CBS-ified crime procedural spin on the Sherlock Holmes character played with more intrigue by Benedict Cumberbatch and more revelry and charisma by Robert Downy Jr.

Elementary is a perfectly adequate show, shaking things up just enough by setting Holmes in the modern day and with a female (gasp!) sidekick Watson in the form of Lucy Liu.

But if the pilot is any indication, the show will spend less time in the fun and mystique of Doyle’s super-sleuth and instead will mire down in the same case-of-the-week nonsense that permeates CBS’s primetime schedule. Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes may make for a far-better protagonist than the average CSI/NCIS-spinoff star and overal a better show, but it’s still just an improvement on a tired genre that’s already cluttering DVRs. But, since it’s on The Eye, expect ludicrously large numbers with a marginal 18-49 demo.

Grade: B

Class: Keep an Eye On

Last Resort (ABC)

So much potential for such an ambiguous delivery. Alternating between moments of greatness and long stagnant periods lousy with awkward exposition, ABC’s rogue submarine show debuted this week and my reaction is…huh?

What we know, the crew of the Colorado receives suspicious orders to bomb the snot out of Pakistan and, when they hesitate to comply, are targeted by friendly fire. They then take refuge on a small island where they play nuclear chicken with the U.S. government until they can get home to their lives and loved one and, meanwhile, squabble with the local despot and some suspicious Navy guys they picked up before everything hit the fan.

Oh, and some girl in her underwear has some new piece of valuable technology conveniently placed on the ship that needs to be retrieved.

Is that enough MacGuffins for you?

I’m a sucker for the bottled tension of a submarine, but the minute these guys went ashore on St. Marina the show turned into some weird hybrid of Gilligan’s Island, Lost and Flash Forward (not a compliment). This show could very easily fly off the rails fast and I’m inclined to think failure is more likely than success.

Grade: B

Class: Keep an Eye On.

Vegas (CBS)

Oh CBS, here you go again. The pilot of ‘Vegas’ is a pure period-piece pleasure. Dramatizing the “true story” of the old days of Las Vegas, when incoming mobsters butted heads with local law enforcement and good-matured country folk, the show sets up a nice cat and mouse game between Michael Chiklis’ pinstriped mobster and Dennis Quaid’s shotgun-toting “I Am The Law!” sheriff.

Chiklis and Quaid look great, slipping into their characters’ skins like a tailored glove and injecting a sense of good-old-fashioned fun into what could otherwise (and may still become) a watered down attempt at nostalgia (Playboy Club, anyone?).

Throw in a solid cast of supporting players, including Matrix’ Carrie Ann Moss as an assistant D.A. and obviously love interest for Quaid, and you have yourselves the making of a rich universe with endless storytelling potential, set in the Fremont Street-era of America’s playground.

I’m impressed and hopeful, but we’ve also been here before and what starts out as a compelling drama could just as easily turn into a prequel to CSI at the hands of CBS’ geriatric machinations. Until then, though, let’s see what happens.

Grade: B+

Class: Keep an Eye On

Partners (CBS)

The second of two new sitcoms this fall featuring gay male lead characters, Partners is the muti-camera, laughtrack foil to NBC’s The New Normal. Where TNN aims to “push the envelope” with offensive dialogue and blatant caricatures, Partners seems to have no other goal then to just make 3-part jokes for the live studio audience.

Starring David Krumholtz and Michael Urie as childhood friends turned architects, Partners gives us three couples: the friendship between Joe and Louis and their respective paramours, Ali and Wyatt (played by Superman Returns Brandon Routh, a.k.a the worst Superman of all time or the awesome vegan guy from Scott Pilgrim).

It’s a perfectly adequate show, fitting in well in with CBS’s perfectly adequate Monday lineup and scoring a few bonus points by simply winning the comparison between NBC’s awful TNN and for one well-placed West Side Story Reference. I’ll never watch this show again, but I wasn’t miserable watching the pilot.

Grade: B-

Class: Keep an Eye On

The Mindy Project (Fox)

I wanted to like The Mindy Project, but what essentially amounts to The New Girl without the three roommates or good writing falls flat fast. Mindy is in jail, apparently she got drunk at her ex’s wedding, gave an ill-adivsed Rom-Com toast and then biked into someone’s swimming pool. From there the pilot is a series of ineffective one-liners and incessant commenting about Mindy’s weight issues.

We’re supposed to understand that because Mindy watched to many RomComs growing up, she’s ill-prepared to tackled the realities of human drama and modern relationships. Problem is, the same reason we hate RomComs are the reason this show comes off as grating and unpleasant. Like New Girl, Mindy’s “problems” are trivial at best, but instead of laughing at the ignorance and naivete of the star we’re supposed to feel sympathetic, or solidarity, I’m not sure.

In the end, it’s a lot of wasted talent in an otherwise forgetful retread of subjects that other shows do better.

Grade: C+

Class: Kill and Bury

The Neighbors (ABC)

In Neighbors, a New Jersey family of 5 moves in to a sub-division where literally every other person is an alien from another planet.

A disaster waiting to happen? I thought so to, but despite sounding like the worst idea for a TV show since Work It! Neighbors manages to exceed your low expectations.

After all, Alf and 3rd Rock from the Sun were TV staples way-back-when. When you watch Neighbors you do get the feeling that you’re watching some relic from the mid-90’s, Wonderful World of Disney-era when people weren’t so skeptical and TV was uniformly innocuous crap.

Do I expect The Neighbors to succeed? No, no chance. Do I even intend to watch episode 2? Probably not. But I sat down expecting a train wreck and instead got…not a train wreck. Heck, it’s better than Two and a Half Men.

Grade: B

Class: Beats me

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*The following grades refer ONLY to premiere episodes. In addition to a letter grades based on the quality of the single episodes, I will also suggest — based on what those episodes suggest for the season to come — that you “Subscribe” on Hulu, “Keep your eye on” for the odd episode here and there or “Kill and Bury,” which should be self-explanatory.

The Mob Doctor (Fox)

It’s easy enough to be fooled by the pilot of Mob Doctor into thinking it might be a decent show. The story of an ends-justifies-the-means doctor with a debt to the local organized crime syndicate has intriguing possibilities.  But after some time and distance you begin to remember all of the unpolished nonsense that transpires in one 44-minute episode.

TMD — intended as the medical procedural replacement for the great albeit inconsistent House M.D. — is packed full with a rather forgettable and mostly unlikeable cast, the worst of which is the series’ protagonist  Dr. Delvin (Jordana Spiro) with an ever-present pout, and an inexplicably off-putting snake-like stare.

To call the pilot convoluted would be an understatement. The good doctor fights to save the lives of not one but three patients and crosses paths with not one but two mob bosses. We’re also introduced to the boyfriend, a co-worker (obviously) with whom Spiro shares no chemistry whatsoever, and two medical superiors, one of whom is the Mr. Miyagi for Delvin, and the other the thorn in her side.

Seeping with melodrama (one teenage patient has apparently experienced an immaculate conception and is at risk of losing her super-important swimming scholarship. “DRAMA!”) and lacking really any compelling character or structure (with the exception of one, carefully-placed sleight of hand twist) Mob Doctor flatlines fast.

Grade: C

Class: Kill and Bury

Revolution (NBC)

In the latest Show-That-Would-Be-Lost, the world is inexplicably plunged into an un-correctable darkness as all electric power and activity shuts off. From there, human society decays into a feudal system ruled by militias and plunderers.

We meet our heroes, a nice family of four getting by in a friendly commune of survivors, but one day the local militia rides into town, shoots up the place, kills Katniss Everdeen’s Charlie Matheson’s father, steals her brother and gets out of dodge.

As you would expect, Charlie, with the help of her step-mom and a pudgy in-over-her-head neighbor, go trekking off to 1) find her uncle so that they can 2) rescue her brother. The producers have talked about how Star Wars was an inspiration for the show (watch for a shout-out to the sci-fi franchise in the form of a lunch box) so in a nutshell, Charlie is Luke Skywalker, her brother is R2-D2 and her uncle is both ObiWan Kenobi AND Han Solo. Oh, and Giancarlo Esposito is Darth Vader and some guy named General Monroe is Emperor Palpatine. Oh, and instead of storm troopers we have a bunch of guys with the letter “M” carved into their forearms who (much like Storm Troopers) can’t shoot the broad side of a barn.

Got it? Good.

The show is purely and utterly “ok” and while it’s full of logical inconsistencies (is it really that hard to build new stuff or did the “event” somehow make the scientific principals that define electric energy somehow inert? And I’m not sure where they started, but it sure didn’t take long to walk to Chicago) it also has a fair share of fun and the action is pretty decent. When was the last time you saw blood spray and sword fighting on primetime television. I mean seriously, SWORD FIGHTING? Props.

It’s not great and it ain’t no Lost, but in the Lost-esque spectrum it’s much more digestible than Flash Forward and far less sappy than Terra Nova. Here’s hoping they can make it work. (p.s. I’ll bet you a Gajillion dollars that the reports of Elizabeth Mitchell’s death are greatly exaggerated).

Grade: B-

Class: Keep and Eye On

NBC Thursday Comedy Block (The Office, Parks, Up All Night)

NBC has made a big deal about the “farewell season” of the office. They brought back the original showrunner and have heavily advertised the swan song of NBC’s most successfully scripted comedy (extra sad when you see the viewership ratings, the most recent season premiere matched the show’s lowest rated episode…ever).

Less fanfare has been spent on the new seasons of Parks and Rec and Up All Night, despite the well-understood fact that Parks will likely be joining the Office in death at the end of the episode. As for Up All Night…well…it’s a cute show that no one really seems to care about.

All three premiered this week, giving us sit-commy plot points that will set the pace for the next few weeks. Andy is back as the full-fledged manager of Dunder Mifflin and Jim and Pam are looking at a huge transition for their little family. There’s also a New Jim and New Dwight, a gag that would have been funnier if they actually acted like Jim and Dwight instead of just showing a minor resemblance to the best comedy rivals of our generation.

On Parks, Leslie Knope has taken on a polluted river as her new project and is dealing with her long-distance relationship with boy-toy Adam Scott.

As for Up All Night, well, something about a show being canceled and Chris deciding to go back to work with Reagan’s brother. Let’s face it, the only reason any of us watch this show is because we love Will Arnett and want him to be successful.

Parks is still a great show you should be watching. Office is still a decent show you probably are watching some of the time and Up All Night is a show with Will Arnett and a baby. Let’s be honest, at this point your opinion of NBC Thursday isn’t going to change and it’s a shame that the Peacock’s strategy for trying to win back it’s title of Must-See-TV-Thursday seems to have only consisted of moving Community to Fridays. For shame, Peacock. For shame.

The Office: B

Parks: B

Up All Night: B-

Class: Keep an Eye On

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*This is a re-posting of a review I wrote in February after attending the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in light of Liberal Arts’ current theatrical release. It has received minor revisions for the sake of historical accuracy.

Fans of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother — and casual passers-by marginally aware of the show — will notice how the cast has begun to diversify their portfolios. It started with Neil Patrick Harris becoming the default host of the world, followed swiftly by Jason Segel inching away from stoner-comedies to more mainstream box office fare. Cobie Smoulders picked up a rather decent supporting role in this year’s The Avengers and Allison Hannigan will always be the most successful thespian from the American Pie family.

That leaves “star” Josh Radnor, whose quest for his soulmate is the keystone of HIMYM’s dramatic setup and who has, for the most part, remained largely unknown to those outside of the juggernaut of CBS’s Monday comedy lineup. Turns out, Radnor has been cementing his status as “The New Zach Braff” by not only focusing on his breakout sitcom role — that of a quirky hopeless romantic everyman — but also padding his resume as an up-and-coming writer and director of Independent Film. Much like how Zach Braff had his Garden State, Radnor has given us HappyThankYouMorePlease — a 2010 Sundance award-winner that saw a modest theatrical release to mixed reviews — and now Liberal Arts, a light dramedy about the romance of academia and the unstoppable passage of time.

Radnor — again writing, starring and directing — is Jesse, a mid-30s New Yorker numbed by his job as a University admissions counselor. When he’s invited back to his Alma Mater for the retirement dinner of a friend and former professor his memories of unhindered youth and the adventure of learning are revived and in the ensuing glow he falls into an ill-advised romance with a 19-year-old sophomore (played by the Indie girl-of-the-moment Elizabeth Olsen, of Martha Marcy May Marlene).

What unfolds is a charming cautionary tale about accepting the changing times, learning to act your age and enjoying life, all personified by a small but delightful supporting cast — Richard Jenkins, Allison Janey and Zac Efron against-type as a hippie stoner.

If I were to name a fault, it would be that the plot moves forward along a natural — I hate to say “predictable” — path with few earth-shaking surprises but even that comes with a caveat: how often in life is our earth shaken? While yes, the movie stays mostly above water, resisting the urge at a number of occasions to plunge into darker depths, the result is story that from end to end would plausibly exist in the universe of a boring 30-something’s life. That he learns something and that the audience gets some well-deserved laughs is gravy on the 2-hour slice of life.
The comparison is inevitable and Liberal Arts falls short of Garden State, but Radnor still crafts a worthwhile tale that is sweet, clever, sincere and relatable to anyone who has ever been to college or who has ever aged. He avoids the pull of a lurid, hard-to-watch-romance, instead allowing his character the sense to recognize the disaster of loving a teenager, while being tortured by a believable attraction to her. What’s more, the movie is shockingly tame toeing the line between PG and PG-13 — Sundance movies aren’t rated — which, to anyone who’s been to Sundance, can be a refreshing surprise. B+

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*The following grades refer ONLY to premiere episodes. In addition to a letter grades based on the quality of the single episodes, I will also suggest — based on what those episodes suggest of the season to come — that you “Subscribe” on Hulu, “Keep your eye on” for the odd episode here and there or “Kill and Bury,” which should be self-explanatory.

Well boys and girls, after a long and painful summer hiatus season we are finally back in the land of the living (televisions). NBC is still being goofy and rolling out their new shows early so this first week is a little sparse. As an added note, I’m focusing mostly on NEW television shows, with the occasional returning series thrown in for sentimental value. For example, Glee premiered this week but isn’t on the list mostly because I couldn’t bother myself to watch it (Kill and Bury) but when HIMYM or Community premieres later in the month they’ll make the list becuase a) I’d move mountains to watch those shows and 2) they are quantifiably, categorically and incontestably better than most things on TV.

Guys With Kids (NBC)

There’s nothing particularly bad about GWK, but there’s nothing particularly good about it either. It is a perfectly average, laugh-track and multi-camera sitcom, and feels like it could nicely occupy an hour on CBS paired with Rules of Engagement, racking up 10 million viewers every week and running for 6 years even though no one actually watches it, talks about it or is even aware of its existence. Unfortunately, it landed at NBC where it feels woefully off-brand in the land of too-good-for-their-own-good single camera masterpieces.

What worries me is that after NBC found relative success with the comparably abysmal Whitney, it’s possible this type of white-bread innocuous programming could be the new direction of the peacock. Bit I digress.

GWK is about three friends, two of whom are happily married the other recently divorced, who have kids. Jesse Bradford is the leading man (because he’s single, thus giving us a character to watch juggle the competing priorities of parenting and socializing) and while he may have grown up a little since having Cheer-sex with Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On he still is far from leading man material. The shows best asset is the underrated Anthony Anderson, who frankly deserves better.

Like I said before, the pilot is innocuous, and filled with less-than-plausible moments that are supposed to make us laugh while we watch these men play Mr. Mom. Obviously, no three bros in the world would go to a bar with their kids strapped to their chests, but if they went to Chile’s and had high chairs by the table that wouldn’t be funny. This isn’t funny either, and it’s all too obvious their trying.

With all the rubbish on television, GWK certainly isn’t the worst thing out there (Whitney is), but sadly it’s mediocrity is not enough to wet my appetite even slightly, especially given my distaste for mutli-cam. Frankly, I’d rather watch Animal Practice and I completely hate monkeys.

Grade: B-

Class: Kill and Bury

The New Normal (NBC)

You can read my full review of New Normal here, but for the scorecard let me just say that NN isn’t funny, but could be. If you like Glee (still), you’re bound to enjoy this show because it occupies the same universe, borrows some of the same actors, includes essentially the same characters and is similarly washed so every surface bounces with bubble gum colors. While they may have different names, the show is essentially about Glee’s Kurt and Blaine growing up and deciding to have a baby with the help of a surrogate who is Sue Silvester’s granddaughter.

A lot of critics have made that connection, and some members in the LGBT community have called foul for the way it minimizes the diversity of the gay community. I say don’t blame us, blame Ryan Murphy for only knowing how to write 2 characters.

Much has been said about how offensive the show is. To me, it’s not as offensive as it is derivative and contrived. BUT the lead actors are charming and enjoyable and the premise certainly opens up the possibility for genuine storytelling and a little humor. Hopefully NN will take the New Girl route and weave straw into gold but as likeable as Rannels and Bartha are, they ain’t no Schmidt.

Grade: B-

Class: Keep an Eye On

The Voice (NBC)

Singing competition reality shows are, in my opinion, the lowest of the low of modern entertainment. That said, if you’re going to do it, then you should do it like The Voice. The producers have wisely decided to give us what we want: More Spinning Chairs! The initial blind auditions are longer, beefing each team up to 16 and this year the coaches can steel each other’s talent, which sounds like fun.

If The Voice’s only claim to relevance were the fact that its better than Idol (which it is) that would be enough, after all Idol continues to be the most watched show on television (I have my doubts they’ll retain that title this season). But Voice is entertaining, they avoid the schadenfreude of most reality by beginning with people who are actually talented and from there the production and quality only go up. Here’s to a new king of sing!

Grade: B+

Class: Keep an Eye On (if you like Idol, then subscribe).

The X Factor

Nothing on earth could make me watch this utterly pointless Idol rip off and Simon Cowell ego massage. Also, I’m sorry Demi but Paula Abdul you are not.

Grade: Who knows, who cares

Class: Kill and Bury

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Let’s talk for a minute about Bradley Cooper. I’ve been a fan for a long time, due in no small part to how much I wish I had his hair, (I mean seriously, what does he use?) and also because of his tragically short lived sitcom Kitchen Confidential.

In the year since — rightly — being named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (again, the hair), Cooper has stepped away from the raunchy R-rated comedies and studio action thrillers that made him famous to instead dip his toe in obscure indie films. He recently played supporting act in the under-sung Hit and Run and later this year will star opposite Katniss Everdeen in The Silver Linings Playbook, a quiet indie dramedy about people on the other side of emotional breakdowns.

We’ll have to wait to see what he pulls out in Playbook, but for now The Words is the best we’ve seen of Cooper to date. Starring opposite Zoe Saldana (a couple the gods would envy for their beauty), Cooper plays Ryan, the struggling writer trying to break out of the pack in a world full of struggling writers. Ryan gets his golden ticket, seemingly, when he discovers an old unpublished manuscript in an antique satchel and, deciding to publish it under his own name comes face to face (literally) with the emotional demons of stealing another person’s life and passing it off as your own.

The movie is quite layered, with interconnected parallel plots of the man who actually wrote the book (played by two different actors with the superb Jeremy Irons filling the role as The Old Man) and the story of Dennis Quaid, a successful writer, narrating Ryan’s story during one of his  readings. That’s right, Ryan is a fictional character of Quaid’s creation…or is he? Words is also structured as a three-part book, with Quaid winkingly acknowledging the curtains between each Act to thunderous applause during segments of his book reading.

I won’t attempt any more synopsis because it would get somewhat confusing but presented in video form the plot that jumps back and forth between time and place is effortless to follow and hypnotic in prose. Ryan’s internal struggle is familiar to anyone who’s ever had a dream and it’s all too easy to see yourself in him during one powerful scene when he screams out “I’m not who I thought I was” and questions how anyone ends up where they are.

Words is a beautifully-written, beautifully-acted tale. If there is a weakness, it rests in the Quaid portions of the story through no fault of the actor’s. The final scene between Cooper and Irons is the perfect ending, leaving so much said an unsaid, but the movie unfortunately continues a few minutes longer to allow Quaid and Olivia Wilde to both say and not say things, ruining the poignancy of the previous resolution while still leaving more to be desired.

The Words will likely fall short during awards season, but it makes for the perfect transition from the sugary pop of the summer blockbusters to the heft and artistry of the fall season. It also signals great things ahead for our ranking sexiest man. B+

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I don’t remember much of my life before age 5. Even if I did, it wouldn’t really change the fact that for almost all of my life the end of August has been attached, inexorably, to the advent of a new school year.

With the exception of those pre-5 years, I had exactly one year, 2011, when the academic calendar was irrelevant to me. But now I’m employed as an education reporter for a daily newspaper, and while I may not have worried about what clothes I’d be wearing or whether I would see my friends, I was still keenly aware of the first day of school.

Valley Elementary School (1992-1999)

My education began at Valley Elementary School, home of the Bulldogs. I never went to pre-school (fancy that) so my first experience with an organized classroom was Mrs. Day’s kindergarten class. I don’t remember much. In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure my teacher’s name was Mrs. Day.

I remember learning about Bill Clinton in first grade. I remember getting in big trouble in second grade for attempting the Heimlich maneuver on a classmate who wasn’t choking. I played the Mouse King in a 3rd-grade production of The Nutckracker and blew the performance out of the water. One critic said my portrayal of the King’s rise to power and eventual fall captured, effortlessly, the duality of man and the fragile nature of life…I may be paraphrasing.

I remember that even back then I wanted to be writer. I used to craft these pathetic short stories and submit them to a yearly Jr. Author’s Fair that Valley put on. If you wrote something for the fair, you got free pass to the Seventh Street Skating rink which, at that age, was pretty much the best motivator I could fathom.

Remember skating rinks? Everyone would get their passes from the fair and the whole school, or so it seemed, would be there on the same night. Seventh Street had a doughnut and hole track and all the guys would hang out in the center ring and dare each other to go and skate with the girls. Few did, fewer still lived to tell the tale.

In fifth grade we had a talent show. My friends Blake, Trevor and I did the dance to the original Men In Black theme song (“Just bounce with me, Just bounce with me”). We’d practice at my house after school.

After our performance, Blake had a second talent, singing “Truly, Madly, Deeply” with a couple of other guys. Even at 11 years old I thought that was kind of stupid.

Sixth grade was my last year at valley. We terrorized our teacher, Mr. Hull. People are monsters, and children are just little people.

Snowcrest Jr. High (1999-2002)

Snowcrest, home of the Skyhawks (not an actual bird) is a small school. At the time there were around 350 students, or just more than 100 per grade. It was a great place to go to school. Valley was the only feeder elementary so we truly did know everyone and I remember it as one big party.

Because of its size, Snowcrest didn’t have much in the form of elective courses. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every student had to choose between taking a music class or taking Spanish. I’ve never had any desire to learn Spanish and it had always been a dream of mine to play the saxophone (“There’s so many Buttons!”) so I signed up for band along with most of my friends.

I only wore the hat once, but I always wore something (cue sarcastic, “duh”). Over time the tradition started for the saxophone line to all wear sunglasses to a performance (“So I can, So I can”). We thought we were really, really cool.

We really, really weren’t.

My other elective (ok, you got 2) was drama. In Jr. High there was nothing wrong with being in Band and Drama. In high school I luckily learned that things were different before making a huge mistake. Every year we’d put on a melodrama. I was on track to be The Villain in 9th grade and Trevor was to be The Hero, but then Trevor dropped out to go to some alternative pseudo-homeschool and our drama teacher had some sort of stress attack and stopped putting on melodramas.

Suddenly I had a hole in my extracurricular so I decided to run track. I did the 110-meter hurdles and threw disk.

I wasn’t very good, but I had long hair and wore a headband and it was shortly after the Salt Lake City winter Olympics so people called me Apolo (as in, Anton Ohno). It’s the only nickname I’ve ever had. I loved it.

I played rec football since our school was too small to have a team. I was a defensive linemen. I wasn’t very good at that either, but I rocked at the saxophone.

If you remember my last quarter century post, I started Jr. High with atrociously-awful parted-down-the-midle hair. Luckily around 8th or 9th grade I was able to start moving past that and emerge from my cocoon like a beautiful butterfly, or at least a not-as-creepy-gross-as-some moth.

Weber High School (2002-2005)

We had a tradition when we were kids. The night before the first day of school we would lay out our next day’s outfit on the floor from shirt to shoes in the shape of a person. I don’t remember when it started but I was little, the only picture I have of this weird practice is from my Sophomore year.

I didn’t break the habit until college, when I decided that my roommate would probably think I was a lunatic.

But I digress. Weber High School, home of the Warriors and nestled in picturesque North Ogden which, if you’ve never been there, is actually a terrible place. It’s a 5A High School, the largest classification in Utah public ed, so I went from knowing everyone in a 350-student school to a 1,600-student school where everyone seemed to know everyone except me.

I drifted away (quickly) from band and drama and instead got into the student government scene. My junior year campaign was my best (and the one that I actually won) helped in no small part by my mom’s amazing ability to make awesome posters (note, we fixed the typo on the Matrix design).

Student Government is a complete joke, but we had a good time. Luckily, I lost my senior year election so I’m under no obligation to plan a reunion.

I ran track for two years at high school, but it became increasingly apparent that I was not going to grow taller than 5’10”, couldn’t compete with guys taller than me and was never very good to begin with. When I finally threw in the towel I put my extra-curricular focus into the Future Business Leaders of America which pretty much consisted of traveling to various competitions around the state and trashing hotel rooms.

My big thing was Entrepreneurship and while I still wrote for the school paper (and a Teen Section in the local daily) I had forgotten about being a writer and instead thought of myself as some wunderkind who would create a business and make boatloads of money. Never mind that I had no idea what that business would be or what product I would sell; business classes don’t teach you HOW to make money, they just teach you that if you don’t make money you’re worthless.

I graduated with honors, which besides meaning absolutely nothing when applying for colleges allowed me to wear a very fetching yellow rope around my neck. Totally worth the hours of AP homework and never having a girlfriend.

Utah State University (2005-2011)

And with that, we made the move to Logan for Utah State University, home of the Aggies. I lived in the dorms my first year, which is an experience I think everyone should go through because of how simultaneously awesome and awful it is.

I made some classic freshman mistakes. I had a 7:30 class, I would actually get dressed in the morning, I ate nothing but pop tarts and Eggo waffles.

We lived in the top floor of the Alva C. Snow hall, which we nicknamed Alva Heights and Greek-ified into Sigma Alpha Eta as an inside joke about how stupid fraternities are. We use to do this thing in the elevator where someone would yell “Go Ninja!” and you had to jump up onto the walls and keep your feet off the floor. We also had this running gag where we would stash bottles of rotten things in other dorms.

We were SO cool!

We also invented the “Tool Dance” which consisted of holding your hands above your head and side-stepping past an open doorway.

I lived with some friends from High School but after a few months adopted myself into an apartment down the hall. There were two Bens, two Daves and two Zachs so we implemented a numbering system to tell everyone apart in conversation. Dave 2 continues to be designated as such in my cell phone.

I started out “undeclared” trying to decide between business and journalism. The conflict was a classic one, a choice between love and money. By my sophomore year my mind was made up, I registered as a JCOM major and kept a business minor so my credits wouldn’t go to waste. I hated my business minor, every class was an hour of self-congratulation for being better than the rest of campus and pontification about the free market and the spirit of enterprise. Never mind the fact that most of my classmates couldn’t name the Vice President and, as far as I could tell, had never read a book.

Things were great on the journalism side. I got an in at the campus paper as an opinion columnist, which turned into news reporting, which turned into features editing and finally editor in chief. I had an office, a desk, a campus phone line and a key to the student center. I was a king, and it didn’t go to my head at all.

My friends started getting married, having kids, having SECOND kids. At the same time the list of people who wanted me to graduate and go quietly into the night got bigger. I loved Logan, I love Utah State, but when my four (six) years were up it was time, and I was ready, to go.

So I did.

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