Category Archives: Everything I Know I Learned on TV

Reunited and It Feels So Good

I love pop culture, as you know. But what I really love is ’90s pop culture. And what I really really  love is when ’90s pop culture BFFs pull off a modern-day reunion. Like the selfies above. The top, from Thelma & Louise, 1991. The bottom, from Susan Sarandon’s Facebook page, 2014. (Can we all just agree that these women are ageless?) Thelma and Louise basically stand for all things best friendy, and just seeing these pics reminds me why I started my partner-in-crime search in the first place.

In other ’90s-pop-culture-friendship-reunion news: Lifetime is set to air The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story. You read that right. Bayside is back, y’all.  The movie, which will air in September, will be about the behind-the-scene shenanigans of everyone’s favorite Saturday morning teen sitcom. You know, before Screech became a porn star. Lisa Turtle for president is all I have to say.

I will also admit, right here, right now, that I bought a number of hats at Contempo Casuals in an attempt to be more like Blossom and Six. I have a picture of my 5th grade BFF and me wearing our hats with giant flowers on them. I’d say it’s not my proudest moment, except I’m kind of into the fact that my 10-year-old style could best be described as Clarissa-meets-Blossom. I’ve never since been that much of a fashion risk-taker (that might be a good thing). All this to say: Yay! The Blossom folks reunited yesterday!

We live in a culture hungry for nostalgia. So I say thank you to my childhood heroes for feeding that craving. And, also, Party of Five, we’re all waiting.

Which old TV gang are you dying to see again?

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Saying Goodbye to (Fictional) Friends

Last night was the finale of How I Met Your Mother, which, you may know, has long been a favorite of mine. The finale itself was pretty divisive. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.) I was satisfied with the ending—I liked the closure, I appreciated that they didn’t dwell on the mother’s death, I was glad they set the story-telling six years after her death, so we could see that Ted turned out ok and I didn’t have to cry for him too much. I didn’t love that Barney and Robin got divorced after approximately two minutes. I HATED her old lady hair in the final scene. But when those closing credits rolled, I was smiling.

Episode specifics aside,  I did go to sleep with a sense of sadness. It was as if I’d said goodbye to old friends. I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother since 2005. I’ve known Marshall and Lily and Barney longer than I’ve known most of my Chicago pals, and it’s amazing how much I truly feel like I get these people who, I have to remind myself, aren’t even real people.

While researching Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, I learned about a scientific concept called “parasocial interactions”: one-sided relationships where one party knows a lot about the second party, but the second party knows nothing, or next to nothing, about the first. It is most commonly observed between celebrities and their followers—I , for example, feel like Mindy Kaling is my BFF; she, on the other hand, doesn’t know I’m alive. A study out of Kansas State even found that one of the most common parasocial relationships people have is with the characters from Friends. Guilty. Could I be any tighter with Chandler? 

Parasocial interactions aren’t bad for you, provided you have enough self-awareness to recognize you don’t actually know these people. (Stalker territory, folks.) Research has shown that, when kept in check, we can reap the same benefits from an imagined relationship, like mine with the HIMYM gang, as we do from the real-life kind. We might feel more connected, less isolated, and more confident. If we identify with someone, and also think highly of her, we might even by association think more highly of ourselves.

So I’ll miss the slap bets and Robin Sparkles and the reminders that nothing good happens after 2 am. I’ll miss MacLaren’s and Puzzles and all the Interventions. But most of all, I’ll miss my (parasocial) pals.

Ever had a parasocial relationship of your own? Ever miss the fictional characters of a TV show or a book as if they were your real-life friends? Or am I just too committed to my TV?

My new book, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, comes out three months from today! (The release date was changed to July 1.) You can preorder it here and I’d be so grateful if you did. Publisher’s Weekly said readers will “alternately laugh and cringe” and “examine their outlook on perfection, self-acceptance, and aspiring to be one’s very best self.” Who doesn’t want that?!?

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In Good Company

Turns out I’m not the only one looking for a new BFF. You know who’s on a similar search?

Cue Oprah voice.

Liiiiiz Leeemoooooooon!

The clip below is from Thursday’s episode of 30 Rock.  I’m not going to lie and pretend no part of me thought, “Hey Tina Fey! Get your own search… BFF searching is taken.” I kid, I kid (sorta). Mostly I was jumping out of my skin that even Ms. Lemon knows the importance of a good bestie.

Stick it out to the end of this clip to catch my favorite line. (To those of you reading this in an email or a feed reader, you may need to click on the image to watch the video.)

Did you watch? Don’t you think Liz Lemon would be a great BFF? And what’s your favorite BFFish TV moment?

Friends in the Olympia, Washington area! I’ll be reading from MWF Seeking BFF at the Olympia Timberland Library on Wednesday night, Feb. 1 at 7:30. I’d be so excited to see you there!

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Growing Our Separate Ways

Ok. Now that we’ve all seen Bridesmaids (more or less) can we commence discussions? When I first wrote about the movie I had seen a sneak preview, and was happy to give a glimpse into the competition between the Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne characters.

As I mentioned back then, and now maybe you agree, I was surprised by just how much of the movie had real weight to it. Relatable situations. At its core, Bridesmaids was a movie about friendship more than it was about ladies pooping in the bridal salon and getting drunk on planes (though that whole airplane scene had me doubled over. “What kind of name is Stove, anyway? Are you an appliance?” “It’s called civil rights. This is the ’90s.”)

The relationship between Kristen Wiig’s Annie and Maya Rudolph’s Lillian is another one that deserves some analysis. They’re in that “we’ve been BFFs for life but now one of us is moving on and forcing the other to miserably re-examine her life” phase of the relationship that movies and TV shows (*cough* Private Practice) love to highlight. There is this sense in entertainment that whenever a woman gets engaged or pregnant, somewhere in the world one of her friends dies inside. I think that’s silly. 10 percent true and 90 percent silly.

I do think there’s truth to the distress that both Annie and Lillian feel as they see their lives moving in different directions. They adore each other, they want to still be close , and yet there’s no denying that one of them is about to be living a fancy country club life and one is unemployed and living with freaky British brother-sister roommates.

I’m happy to say I haven’t encountered this friendship conundrum. Yes, I’ve grown apart from friends. But not because one of us got married or because of any underlying jealousies. My faded friendships have been the result of living in separate cities and both parties becoming less and less interested in making the phone call effort. Suddenly you realize you haven’t spoken to one of your “good friends” in approximately six months.

That said, I’m young. When I see my mom-friends I don’t ooze with envy.  I’m not there yet. My reaction is more of the thank-god-I-can-still-sleep-in-on-a-Sunday variety. And when I got married, I was young enough that none of my single friends had those “she’s getting married and I’m going to die alone” thoughts. I don’t think.

As my friends and I get older and pass the ages at which we’ve arbitrarily decided we should be getting married or having kids, perhaps then this jealousy, or hostility, will kick in. I don’t know. I mean, I hope not, but what do you think? Do friendships get hostile and tense as we grow in different directions and develop separate lives?

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Honesty Vs. Support: A Battle of the Ages

It’s the rare moment that I laugh out loud while watching TV alone, but yesterday I couldn’t stop. I was watching one of my all-time favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother, in which Lily performs in an off-off-off-Broadway play. When Barney tells her, honestly, that the play was wretched, Lily lectures him on how friends should support each other. Barney doesn’t see it that way and, in an effort to make his point, stages the world’s worst one-man show. He then characteristically forces the gang to sit through said show until they admit friends can’t always be supportive.

Lily’s argument: “I am going to sit through the whole thing and I am going to say something nice about it afterwards. You know why? Because that’s what friends do.”

Barney’s argument: “Friends don’t let friends come see their crappy play.”

Both arguments hold water. When I pour my heart into something, I want my friends to say something nice. Of course, I want them to be speaking honestly. But even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t need to know. Good ol’ fashioned support is a blessed thing.

But sometimes I participate in something—for whatever reason—that I’m not especially proud or enamored of. Maybe it’s a project I was asked to help out with, or something I had no choice but to work on. In those cases, I usually leave my friends out of it. I don’t want to bore them with my so-called crappy play.

Obviously in a world of Lily vs. Barney, Ms. Aldrin is almost always right. She’s Barney’s conscience, after all. But the episode made me wonder, in what circumstances is it better to be honest than supportive? When is “don’t quit your day job” the right response? (Maybe not those words, exactly, but that sentiment at least.)

When a friend decides she wants to pursue her life-long dream of acting or designing clothes or becoming the world’s oldest trapeze artist, at what point do you tell her it’s not going to work out?

Certainly before it comes to this:

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My Reality TV BFFs. Who Are Yours?

On Saturday night, Entertainment Weekly published a blog post entitled “David Tutera is my reality TV BFF. Who’s yours?”

In case you are wondering (as I was) who David Tutera is, apparently he hosts a show called My Fair Wedding on WE.

I have come to the very surprising realization recently that I don’t actually watch very much reality TV. I came to that conclusion after repeatedly saying, “Oh I actually don’t watch that” in response to people’s comments regarding different shows, assuming that I would watch them because, well, I’m me.

“I actually don’t watch that” has, in the past 30 days, referred to: The Bachelor, Real Housewives of Anywhere, Teen Mom, 16 & Pregnant, Millionaire Matchmaker, American Idol, Bethenny Getting Married, Jersey Shore.

The reality TV I do watch is usually limited to the competition type: Survivor, Top Chef, Biggest Loser.

But still, I couldn’t resist a chance to chime in on a combo of my two favorite topics: TV and Friendship. So here you go—my reality TV BFFs.

1)    Jeff Probst, Survivor. I’ve had a thing for Jeff since I was 18. Embarrassing but true. He’s on my celebs-I’m-allowed-to-sleep-with list. Matt knows this. I actually have a video of him wishing me a happy college graduation. Long—but true!—story. So maybe he’s more my reality TV boyfriend than reality TV BFF, but I’m including him here. Those dimples! That incessant harassing of Survivor contestants and never letting them off the hook for anything! Love.

2)    Sahil and Joel of Girls Who Like Girls Who Like Boys. These guys are very different from each other but equally hilarious. I’ve not been shy about my desire for a Will to my Grace, but unfortunately these men are both taken. But whatever, this is my dream list. I can stake claims.

3)    Samir Patel, National Spelling Bee. Perhaps this doesn’t count as reality TV but I’m going with it. Watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee is one of my favorite traditions, and Samir made it five times. The poor guy never brought home the trophy but he won the viewers’ hearts. Including mine. Wikipedia tells me that people refer to him as “the Tony Romo of Spelling,” which just make me sad.

4) Jay McCarroll, Project Runway Season 1 (Winner). Tim Gunn or Christian Siriano are the obvious choices here and I do love them both. But I feel like Jay was the original style maven to emerge from Project Runway. If you ask me, the show went downhill after the switch to Lifetime, but that’s a discussion for another day.

5) Tiffany Derry, Top Chef. She just seems to have her head on straight. (That phrase makes me feel like my mom, or a middle school teacher, or both, but you know what I mean.) So many reality contestants are nuts, and the chefs especially can  get unnecessarily hostile and full of themselves. She’s funny but calls people out just enough when they are being crazy. I applaud that.

I know there are some reality stars I am missing. I feel like there is one show where the sidekick is sort of the deadpan awesome one, and I can’t figure it out. And I hear I would really love that Bethenny Frankel if I gave her a chance.

Who would make your list? Oh, and don’t forget to check out the Literary BFF and Scripted TV BFF lists.

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How I Met Your BFF

Who saw How I Met Your Mother this week? It was a veritable BFF gold mine. First, there was the Lily-Robin storyline, about the very motherhood-and-friendship conundrum we discussed last week. Then there was a side plot about Ted and his best friend from high school, who comes to visit New York from his hometown of Cleveland.

The Ted-and-Punchy storyline struck me for two reasons:

1) Marshall’s claim that they weren’t friends because, he says, nobody stays friends with kids from high school.
2) Ted and Punchy each have a completely skewed view of the other one’s adult life.

Let’s take this point-by-point. I know many people don’t keep in touch with high school friends after graduation. It’s largely an issue of someone wanting to put her teenage days behind her, but even more so a byproduct of friends growing up and figuring out who they really are. Sometimes the adult versions of two high school pals just aren’t compatible.

I’m actually still incredibly close with my high school friends. Eight of my former classmates were at my wedding. My husband’s best friends are almost all from his high school days. His little gang still takes a boys’ trip together every year.

I don’t know what it is exactly—maybe the fact that we went through those awkward hormonal years together, maybe just having been friends for so long—but my high school friends understand me in a way not everyone does, even if I go months at a time without seeing them.

When I posted about my high school reunion earlier this summer, plenty of you commented that you would never go back. But for me? It was a highlight.

Which brings me to point two. When Punchy came to visit Manhattan, he drove Ted crazy. His hyped-up high-school self didn’t work in the big city. But as we later learned, Punchy thought it was Ted who was struggling. He was trying to cheer up his old buddy using the juvenile jokes that first made them friends.

It was interesting how each thought the other was having a rough time. Ted saw Punchy as being stuck at home and going nowhere, while Punchy saw Ted as being miles away from friends and family and the people he loves. From each perspective, the other was in a bad spot.

We do that with friends a lot. We project however we’d feel in their situation onto them, whereas they might see their life from an entirely different viewpoint.

This might be more likely to happen with a high school friend, because we think we know how her mind works when in fact so much could have changed between then and now.

Are you still friends with your high school gang? What do you think it is that works—or doesn’t—about teenage friendships once we’re all grown up?

And in case you missed it, enjoy a little taste of HIMYM’s “The Beaver Song,” Robin Sparkles’s totally innocent ode to friendship.

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