Television: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

old-televisionWhile I was serving my two-year mission in the Philippines, I was not allowed to watch TV. After I finished my mission, it took me a while to accept TV back into my life. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that I still thought of it as being that “devil box” until just recently, when I realized I could watch Netflix at work (I have a simple and tedious desk job that allows me to do this).

After watching hours upon hours of TV on Netflix, my love for TV has officially been reignited. I still don’t watch much network TV, but internet TV has become a saving grace as far as keeping me entertained at work.

In watching so much TV online, I have come to rediscover that not all TV is bad… however, some of it still is. And some things about TV are just downright wrong. So this post is dedicated to the good, the bad, and the ugly of television.

The Good

When I see aspects of my life reflected in a show, it enhances my TV-viewing experience and makes me enjoy the show more. Call me vain if you must, but I like shows that mirror my life.

In rare cases, a show takes a mundane part of life and enhances it. Parks and Recreation achieved this recently with its recent wedding episode, where Ben and Leslie tied the knot. I’m pretty sure I got much more excited about that wedding than I ever have for an actual wedding (no offense to anyone whose wedding I attended), which is more a reflection on how pathetic my life is than anything else… but come on, what isn’t to like about a good TV wedding? You get to witness a memorable (albeit fake) moment without actually having to be in the couple’s presence. And let’s be honest, couples are the worst, so it is best to stay as far away from them as possible (just kidding to all my friends who are part of a couple, which is most of them!) The only downside is that you don’t get any wedding food.

The Bad

As much as I love online TV, I am concerned that the internet is actually killing the television industry. Shows don’t get nearly as high ratings these days because so many people (including me) just watch TV shows online the day after they air. As a result, certain shows suffer. I have noticed that some of the greatest shows out there get the short end of the stick because they are aired at such awkward times that the majority of people have no choice but to watch online. Either that, or the cursed networks keep changing the airing schedule so often that viewers cannot possibly keep track.

Some shows, like Community and Happy Endings, are hilarious, but they have been in danger of cancellation. How can such good shows struggle on network television? How have funny moments like these gone virtually unnoticed to the general public?

I just don’t understand how such good shows can struggle while other lackluster shows do so well. I won’t mention any specific shows because I do not wish to offend, but there are just some shows that I feel do not deserve to do as well as they’re doing, and then there are shows like Community and Happy Endings, which struggle despite their undeniable brilliance. Luckily, these shows are still on for now, but the injustice of past shows that were canceled too early (Freaks and Geeks, a show that only lasted one season, comes to mind) still causes rage in my small, black heart… or maybe it’s possible that I’m getting a tad too over-dramatic.  And speaking of over-dramatic, that segues perfectly into the next section…

The Ugly

Maybe it’s best for some shows to get canceled in their prime, because it beats one alternative: a show going on so long that it becomes stale. Some shows just don’t know when to end. I’m sorry, The Simpsons, but you really do need to quit before you get too much further behind. And as for Scrubs, did you really need that ninth season? The eighth season finale was the perfect series finale!

But let’s focus on what used to be (in my opinion) one of the best sitcoms of all time: The Office. It hasn’t been so great as of the past couple seasons. They really should have ended the show when Michael left. Again, that would have made the perfect series finale. But they just had to drag it on, and now the show is more like a soap opera (Dwight is in love with Angela, who has a baby with a gay senator who’s having an affair with Oscar? What is this, Days of Our Lives?) than the comedy it once was. Honestly, it’s like watching a train wreck–I want to look away, but I just can’t. But the worst part is what they’re doing to Jim and Pam. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show lately (and I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped watching long ag0), they’re starting to set it up like Jim and Pam are going to end up getting a divorce or something horrible like that. Jim just up and decides to take a job in Philadelphia without consulting Pam, and then he yells at Pam for messing up the recording of their daughter’s recital? That is so out-of-character for him. And now one of the cameramen is supposedly in love with Pam, causing an even stronger gap in the Jim-and-Pam relationship, since the cameraman is there for Pam more than Jim is now. And then you realize that this is all a waste of time because you just know that they wouldn’t break Jim and Pam up after everything they’ve gone through.

And yet… as ugly as the whole thing is, I have to admit it’s not all that far-fetched. People change; often they regress instead of progress. Honestly, people are the worst. I’m just kidding, but it’s not uncommon for someone to act completely different from the person you thought them to be. So I guess the creators of The Office can’t be completely discredited for choosing to take their characters in this direction, but that doesn’t make the whole thing any less ugly. After all, comedies are supposed to be an escape from real life, not a reminder of just how depressing real life can be.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In the past, my unspoken philosophy on entertainment has been pretty simple: keep it light, keep it clean, and stay away from anything depressing.  Recently I discovered a piece of literature that breaks all those rules.

And I love it.

perks of being a wallflower movieFor some reason, in the past few weeks I have found myself wanting to read The Perks of Being a Wildflower.  I honestly can’t explain why.  It is a book I have definitely known about for a while, yet for some reason it was only recently that I felt any desire to read it.  And I don’t think I could have read it at a better time.  Seriously, it was almost like I needed to read this book at this specific point in my life.  That might sound cheesy and clichéd, but oh well.

At a slick 213 pages, Perks held my interest from start to finish.  The book is written as a series of letters from the perspective of the main character Charlie.  From the first page, I found myself connecting to this fictitious character as if he were an actual person.

Early in his first letter, Charlie writes:

“So, this is my life.  And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

What follows these poignant words is an emotional roller coaster that has completely changed my perspective on literature, life, and myself.

I can’t say I relate to Charlie’s specific experiences.  I have never (to my knowledge) eaten a “special” brownie, nor have I had a close friend commit suicide.  But his way of dealing with life and the people around him, his capacity to love despite all the hurt he has experienced, as well as his feeling that there’s “something wrong with him”–that’s something I can relate to.  Maybe all of us can, to a certain extent.

And it’s not just Charlie who makes this book so easy to relate to.  All of these characters are vividly, painfully real.  High school is a time of self-discovery, and these kids are struggling to find their way in a difficult world.  And isn’t that what all of us are doing?  I think that’s probably why so many people can relate to this book.

So the first few days of this week involved me reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower whenever I could find time in my hectic schedule.  Then the day after I finished reading, I went to Red Box and rented the movie.  And the movie was one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen, which I guess isn’t all too surprising since the author of the book (Stephen Chbosky) wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

The movie did a perfect job capturing the emotions of the book.  If you never get around to reading the book, I would definitely recommend watching the movie–if only for the opportunity to see Hermione Granger speaking with an American accent (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  But if you can, read the book too.  There are some explicit passages and foul language that I could have done without, but the underlying message of the novel is a message of hope, as stated in the final pages:

“We are who we are for a lot of reasons.  And maybe we’ll never know most of them.  But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.”

Some of us have come from troubled families; others have come from troubled circumstances.  Everyone has made mistakes.  We can’t go back and change the past, and we can’t always control everything that will happen in the future.  But no matter what, we never have to let our past determine our future.  It is up to us to choose what path we take in life.  Nobody can ever take that away from us, no matter what happens.  And in the darkest of times, we can still find ways to be happy and “feel infinite,” just like the characters in this story.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not meet my usual requirements of keeping it light and staying away from anything depressing.  But it gave me the chance to sympathize with the characters, to feel their pain, and to (almost) cry with them.  In doing this, the book brought me a sense of comfort.  It was like therapy.  Sometimes it’s good to face reality, even in fiction.  Reading (or watching) a story that deals with real-life problems can add a sense of normality to the difficulties we face, which can help us feel not so… alone.

The Marriage Blurse

Over the past few years, I have noticed something about me.  Actually, it isn’t so much about me as it is about the people around me.

It seems that many of the people around me have this weird habit of getting married.

Let me paint a picture for you.  Since starting school at BYU, I have been on many a road trip between Provo and Arizona, where I’m from.  None of these road trips ever seemed like a big deal–they were each simply a ten-hour means by which I could go back and forth between my hometown and my college town.  Yet after a few of these road trips I couldn’t help but notice something.

RoadTrip

Almost every time I went on a road trip with someone other than an immediate family member, somebody ended up getting married shortly thereafter.  And that person was never me (just in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not married… at least, not legally).  Here’s a brief rundown of what happened after my road trips between Arizona and BYU.

  1. Before my mission, I rode to and from home with two of my cousins for Thanksgiving.  One of them got married while I was on my mission.
  2. Also before my mission, I rode to and from home with two friends over the President’s Day weekend.  One of those friends got married while I was on my mission.
  3. When I left BYU and moved home in preparation to leave for my mission, I rode home with one of my best friends.  You guessed it–she got married while I was on my mission.
  4. After my mission, I rode from Arizona to BYU after Christmas break with a friend.  After that next semester, he got married.

I will admit that I recently rode home with three friends, and as of now none of them have gotten married yet.  Does that mean the blessing/curse (let’s just call it a “blurse” to keep things simple from now on) has been lifted?  Absolutely not!  You see, I figured it out.  My marriage blurse only works if I ride to or from home with one or two people.  If I ride home with one person, that person will end up married in the not-too-distant future.  If I ride home with two people, just one of those people will get married.  If I ride home with more than two people, the marriage blurse is invalid.  Just as a note, I have recently taken a road trip from home to school with two friends that has yet to be decided… but if things keep going the way they’re going now, I believe that one of those friends will be married before too long.  The blurse lives on!

bahamas-wedding

And the marriage blurse does not only apply to road trips.  In my Church we do something called home teaching, which means we go to other people’s homes, get to know them, help them with what they need, and share a gospel message with them on a monthly basis.  At BYU, I usually home teach around two girls and two boys in a given school year.  Since coming home from my mission, two of the girls I once home-taught are now married, two of the guys I home-taught are now engaged, and two of the girls I currently home-teach are engaged.

If you still don’t believe me, there was a group of four girls that I hung out with a lot in my freshman year.  They are all now married.

So what is it about me that causes all these people to dash to the altar?  Do they take one look at me and realize how horrible the single life can be?  Or do I inspire them to take the next big step in their lives?  I’m going to go with the latter, even if my self-doubting tendencies make me more inclined toward the former.

To conclude, there is much to be learned when you have many married friends.  Here are just a few things I’ve learned as a single friend to the married folk:

  1. It is important to be a good and positive third wheel.  Seriously, ask me if you need tips.
  2. It is important to win over significant others who might be suspicious of your presence in their lives.
  3. You should only expect to see married friends on a monthly basis, if that.
  4. In friendships with the married folk, it is likely that the single person will have to make most of the effort.  But you don’t get mad because married people have an excuse to not make an effort.

23 Goals While I’m 23

I’m happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.  It’s miserable and magical…

Those are the feelings that, according to Taylor Swift, come with “feeling 22.”

And I must say, I’d have to agree.  That is exactly how 22 felt.

But as of today, I am done feeling 22.

So what does that mean?  Well… nothing, really.  Honestly, how different can 23 be from 22?  On the other hand, a new year marks new beginnings, and since I “forgot” to make new year’s resolutions at the start of 2013, I thought I’d take this opportunity to come up with 23 goals I have while I’m 23.

23

  1. Tell people what I want, and do what I can to get it!  I’m tired of being that passive guy who never lets his opinion be heard because he doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.  Over the years I have had a difficult time getting people to read my mind, so it’s about time I’m more forthright with people in expressing my opinions.  If I don’t like the way you’re treating me, then I’m going to tell you.  This may cause some people to be offended, but as a wise man once said: “Are you offended?  I don’t care.”  I’m not going to let people walk all over me anymore.  And that brings me to my second goal.
  2.  Be more direct.  I tend to beat around the bush like no other when I’m trying to express something that might qualify as being even slightly uncomfortable.  But there was one glorious night a couple of years ago when I was able to be direct and to-the-point, and it was awesome.  I would like to be able to do that all the time from now on.images
  3. Enjoy my alone time.  This year, I want to reacquaint with an old friend.  He’s someone I’ve known my whole life, and when he’s at his best, he’s pretty cool.  His name?  Matthew Gilliland.  When I was little, I loved to be alone.  I could entertain myself for hours and hours using just my imagination.  In recent years, however, I have found it more difficult to get along with myself.  But since nobody likes you when you’re 23, I need to learn to like myself better in preparation for turning 24, when people will start liking me again.  (I’m aware that this last paragraph must sound really depressing, but it’s all in good fun, I promise.)
  4. Keep up with my blog more.  I have already kind of started this one.  I think I must have already written more blogs in the first two months of this year than I did all last year combined.  And if I had planned things a little bit better, this could have easily been my 23rd post, which would have brought things together quite nicely.  Anyway, I hope to continue my consistent blogging as the year continues, especially considering major upcoming events like my Europe study abroad and my wedding.  OK, I’m not really planning on getting married.  I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
  5.  Catch up with old friends.  I want to be better at keeping in contact with my friends, especially my friends from home as well as those from my mission… even if it is just through Facebook.  
  6. Go to Europe.  Even if something freaky happens and I end up not continuing with the study abroad program, I am determined to go to Europe this year!  Even if it means losing a ton of money, which makes me anxious just thinking about it.
  7. Simpsons_couch-1-Spend quality time with my family.  Ugh, I wish there was a less cheesy way to say that.  Cue the Full House music, please.  I’m in somewhat of a difficult position to do this right now, seeing as I’m living in Utah and my whole family is currently in Arizona, but I will definitely go back as much as circumstances allow… even if that’s just a couple weeks in the summer and then the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays.  I see my family as one of my most reliable support groups, and I will do anything to maintain that… even if we are actually not so much like the Tanners from Full House but more like the Simpsons: violent and dysfunctional.
  8. Give myself to the Lord.  This is kind of broad, but honestly this is as specific as I feel I can get at the moment.  I have tried most of my life to just do things my own way, but after almost 23 years of doing it, I must say that I understand what Taylor Swift means when she says “This is exhausting.”  It’s time to quit trying to drive myself down the highway of life and let Jesus take the wheel!
  9. Keep my Taylor Swift blog references to a minimum.  As of this post, I have decided that I have quoted/mentioned Taylor Swift far too often in my blog.  It has to stop.  I think I need serious help… an intervention, maybe.
  10. Serve the crap out of everyone.  Not literally, of course… that would be awkward and gross.  But all stupid jokes aside, I really do want to serve more.  Maybe then I can stop focusing so much on my own problems.
  11. Exercise… all year this time.  It seems like I’m always good at exercising during the summertime.  But then the winter comes along and my exercising comes to an end.  But since I will be living much closer to my school’s free gym next year, maybe I can actually motivate myself to exercise during all four seasons while I’m 23.
  12. Write in my journal at least once a week.  Whether my future kids like it or not, they will be able to read a detailed account of what their dad was like at the age of 23.
  13. Use my disappointments to my advantage.  I will not let myself be affected by the disappointments in life.  Instead, I will turn those disappointments into opportunities.  For example, in the not-too-unlikely scenario that I get a C in one of my classes this semester, I will celebrate my first-ever C by having a C-party.  Included will be C-shaped cake and foods that start with a C (chicken, carrots).  And then I will hang a banner that reads: “C’s get degrees!”  Actually, that sounds like too much effort… effort that would probably be better used trying to make sure I don’t get a C in that class.  But you get the idea.
  14. 100_5710Work, work, work.  No two-month breaks from work this year.  If I want to survive the financial toll this study abroad trip is going to take on me, I need to work as much as I can (and maybe even take a second job).  Also I need to do an internship or two before I graduate if I want to impress prospective future employers.  If I were to adopt a motto for this year, it would be this: work hard and play hard.
  15. Make a bucket list.  This may sound morbid, but for a while I’ve been wanting to make a list of things to do before I die.  After all, I’m not getting any younger!  Literally… I actually just recently aged a whole year.
  16. Maintain/improve my Tagalog.  Once upon a time, I lived in the Philippines and spoke Tagalog every day.  Now that I live in America, I rarely speak Tagalog more than once a week.  I am finding that my Tagalog skills are suffering as a result.  So I am going to do everything I can do to use my beloved second language, including speaking, writing, and praying in Tagalog.  I also want to finish reading my Tagalog Book of Mormon.    Ayaw kong makalimutan kasi ang aking pangalawang linguwahe.
  17. Go on another camping trip.  My twelve-year-old self would have literally thrown up at such a suggestion, but I actually like camping now as long as it doesn’t last for more than a night or two.  And as long as it’s nice outside.IMG_0261
  18. Quit hiding my true self from others.  I once had a companion point out that I was “good at hiding.”  He was not talking about physically hiding, and I think anyone who has played hide and seek with me could attest to that.  What he meant is that I put up a front so convincing that it is difficult for other people to see the real me.  Well, I’m tired of doing that.  I need to start being who I am and not caring how other people react.   If other people don’t like it, they can leave me alone.   I’m done hiding.  After all, I’m getting a bit too old to play hide and seek.  Actually, if I’m being honest with myself, I’d kill for a game of hide and seek right now…
  19. Get back into photography.  As I touched on briefly in my last post, I finally have a camera again, which gives me the perfect chance to take some legit pictures… especially when I go to Europe!
  20. Go on a road trip with friends.  I fully expect to go on at least one road trip with my family this year because we have already planned one (we’re going to Disneyland!!!  No, seriously.)  But there is just something about taking road trips with friends.  So I feel like I need to go on at least one this year.  Even if it means that one of those friends will inevitably end up married in the near future.  Confused?  Stay tuned for my not-too-distant-future post about how everyone around me tends to get married.
  21. Stress management.  I want to be more optimistic this year.  I want to allow just a small part of the day to let myself be stressed, then spend the rest of my time thinking positive thoughts.  I want to not worry so much and allow myself to be happy.  It won’t be easy, but since I would like to actually live another 23 years, I think it will be worth it to better handle the everyday stresses of life.
  22. Make mistakes.  This should be easy!  So maybe I should say that I want to become more comfortable making mistakes.  After all, it is trohugh our mstiakes taht we lraen, rghit?
  23. Move on.  Last but not least, it is the simplest goal to say and yet the hardest to do.  I feel like I’m still hung up a lot on the past, but I will work this year to move past all that.

moving_on

And that’s it.  I’m glad I did this, even if it is ridiculously long.  I feel really hopeful about my 23rd year now.  This is going to be the year of Matthew!