Shows for Short Days

With the days growing shorter and colder, winter invites everyone to cozy up at home and to seek relaxation in form of a good TV show.

Television has enjoyed a kind of Golden Age with many great movie actors giving the small screen a chance. Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire, Kevin Spacey in House of Cards or Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock have brought a whole new quality of acting to TV. I’ve talked about some of my favorite series before, so I wanted to add the shows I’m currently watching to that list.

Breaking Bad

The first show I’m catching up on is AMC’s Breaking Bad. I’ve seen parts of the first season and have loved it so far. Bryan Cranston, whom I loved on the comedy “Malcolm in the Middle” plays Walter White, a High School chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer. In order to ensure his family doesn’t suffer financially, he turns to his old student, Jesse Pinkman and begins to cook Meth. The show finished its five-season run about one month ago and has been one of the most critically acclaimed series around. Even after seeing only a small fraction of Breaking Bad, I can tell why it was so adored. The story is gripping, the writing feels real and the acting is special. I can’t wait to see more episodes.

The next show I enjoy is far more cheerful than the bleak Breaking Bad.

New Girl

New Girl is one of the pleasant surprises for me. I remember watching the first few episodes and being annoyed by the quirkiness of Zooey Deschanel. Normally a big fan of the actress, I felt she was overdoing it at the beginning of the show. But I recently found myself giving New Girl another chance and I haven’t regretted it. Ms. Deschanel tones down the awkwardness of her character to acceptable levels, while Max Greenfield as Schmidt and Jake Johnson as Nick continue to steal the show. Coupled with strong guest stars such as the stunning Olivia Munn or Carla Gugino, the show hits its stride at the end of the first season. It’s funny and relatable. I’ve enjoyed many of the storylines on the show like Nick planning on getting back together with his ex-girlfriend or Schmidt trying to win back his model ex-girlfriend Cece.

Sherlock

Sherlock, based on the novels by Arthur Conan Doyle, is the show that has impressed me most in the last few years. With the third season coming up in a few weeks (January), you should definitely catch up on the famous British detective. After all, there are only six 90-minute episodes. The show, which runs on BBC, features the fantastic Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It transports their cases to the modern world. Seeing Mr. Holmes work with modern technology and laboratories is fascinating and intriguing. The cases are extremely gripping and well written. But without wanting to spoil too much, the highlight of the series so far have been the confrontations with his famous antagonists, Ms. Irene Adler and Prof. Jim Moriarty. Two more months remain until season three arrives!

Which shows are you watching currently? And what should I definitely check out?

Thank you very much for reading, see you on Friday with the next chapter in my story.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

A Trip down Memory Lane

Two weeks ago I asked my friends on Facebook about their favorite teenage characters or from their teenage years looking for inspiration for a new story I’m working on. I received over 20 responses including, but not limited to, the innocent teenage superstar (Hannah Montana), one of the most annoying love stories in history (Edward Cullen and Bella Swan), the most despicable young king played by a really cool guy (Geoffrey Baratheon) and a whole bunch of Harry Potter characters (Albus Dumbledore, Cedric Diggory, Hermione Granger). Some of the answers really resonated with me and instead inspired to take a trip down Memory Lane to revisit some of the defining shows and books of my childhood.

Captain Tsubasa, Kickers and other Anime Superstars

Tsubasa Ozara was the first answer I received to my question and rightfully so. He is the titular character of an anime series showing his rise from childhood football prodigy to Japanese National Team Captain and Barcelona player. This Saturday, I met up at friend’s place to rewatch the first episodes of the series and all the memories came flowing back. It has aged well.

One of the signature scenes of the TV show was a shot of a player (mostly Captain Tsubasa) running over a curved football pitch for ages, unstoppable by all the ordinary defenders. These displays of skill took up most of the time in an episode and ended by a fantastic shot on goal either resulting in a destroyed net or great save by his rival Genzo Wakabayashi. I remember trying to replicate iconic scenes like the “Tiger Shot” or the “Save off the goal posts”.

Similar to Captain Tsubasa was the football anime series “Kickers” starring the talented Gregor and Mario with their bunch of misfit teammates. I exactly remember the episode of the team captain and number 10 Gregor training hard at the beach before an important game, trying to hit a ball through the onrushing waves, finally succeeding after countless hours of practice. Every time I play football at the beach, I still follow his lead.

Of course these were not the only anime series. I remember “Mila Superstar” having the best opening theme of them all, “Detective Conan” being the perfect replica to satisfy my urge on following a Sherlock-type detective and “Dragonball” showing me how to never give up. But the franchise to rule them all still is…

Pokemon

Ash Ketchum, the star of the Pokemon anime series, was also mentioned in my little poll and it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment. The series and this journey with Misty and Rocko (these are the German names) however were only a minor part of the universe. The highlight were definitely the first Pokémon games for the Nintendo Gameboy. I remember saving my sparse pocket money for weeks to finally get hold of Pokémon Red. The games, which offer a high degree of replayability, feature a young hero sent on a journey to catch and train all 151 pokemon, animal-inspired pocket monsters. Most of my friends played the games.  We connected our handheld consoles by cable to battle and trade with each other. Every schoolyard pokémon was centered around which team was the best, how to beat the top four or which starting pokémon to choose (Charmander). Nowadays, I still keep my Gameboy Color around and still train my Pokémon during a boring commute or a lengthy flight. Some of the looks I’ve received by younger and older generations have been priceless.

I also played some of the newer versions of Pokémon, but none of them ever matched the charm and atmosphere of those wonderful first editions.

But now, let me move on to some shows, where none of the characters made it into the answers, but which had a great impact on me nonetheless.

From the Fresh Prince over the Simpsons to the O.C

In the days before highspeed internet and cellphones, connecting to the World Wide Web meant my parents were cut off from the outer worlds by having a busy telephone line. I got a flatrate when I moved to Germany in 2002, but our place in Switzerland still remained devoid from ISDN technology until we moved back in 2005. This meant I spent my time indoors watching TV (yes, and of course reading and studying *cough*).

One of the first shows I remember watching on a regular basis was the show that molded Will Smith into a star: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air“. I followed his good-natured antics over the years until the final episode. The finale episode with Will punching out the lights as the Banks family leaves their mansion, only for Carlton to hilariously come running down the stairs, still is my favorite series finale ever.

While Fresh Prince was a sitcom often aired together with competitors such as “Tool Time”, “Full House” or “Married with Kids”, for the adolescent me it also fulfilled a function as a coming-of-age in the vein of “Wonder Years” or “Boy meets World”.

And then the Simpsons came onto my screen and I was immediately hooked. I saw many of the episodes as a kid, laughing at the stupidity of Homer and the brashness of Bart, while admiring the cleverness of Lisa. But when I got older and finally noticed the often cynical jabs at society hidden among the more obvious jokes, my admiration for the incredibly smart show only grew. The wit of Simpsons is unmatched, even though there are some fantastic South Park episodes which come close to achieving that sweet balance between hiding criticism and going all-out just for laughs.

And then, exactly ten years ago, I clearly remember seeing the first episode of the O.C while on holiday in Switzerland. The show got me hooked at “Welcome to the O.C…“.
The relationship between Ryan and Seth stood out from the beginning and it portrayed a nerdy character in a positive light. And in that magical first season (the latter seasons range from terrible to okay) even the adult characters had interesting and believable storylines. Seeing Seth struggle choosing between his best friend and his manic pixie dream girl, Ryan saving Marissa in Tijuana and the all-around fantastic soundtrack are memories from the show that stand-out.

But who was my favorite fictional character when growing up? The Count of Monte Cristo.

So, how would you answer my initial question? Who are your favorite teenage characters? Which shows or games do you look back with a fulfilling sense of nostalgia? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

See you on Friday with chapter 19 of “An Elusive Hero”.

Sincerely yours,
Albert