Pop Culture Rant of the Week: The Conundrum of '13 Reasons Why' and 'Big Little Lies'


Big Little Lies (HBO) and 13 Reasons Why (Netflix) are two of the biggest and most talked-about shows of the spring. Both are adaptations of bestselling novels. Both have sizable fanbases.

And both are being considered for second seasons.

This is a mistake IMHO.

If I remember correctly, BLL was sold to us as a "limited series." As in, "miniseries." As in, "just one singular season." On the other hand, 13 Reasons Why was not sold to us that way -- probably for good...um, reason. (Netflix loves keeping those doors open.)

Audiences of both shows want more. They're insatiable. If you are among them, ask yourself: Why am I pining for a second season? Why can't I be satisfied with each show's perfectly executed conclusions? Did I forget they're based on novels that aren't part of a trilogy or series (like the sprawling Game of Thrones)? Do I want another season of each just so that I can later bitch and complain about how it's not as good as the first? (Because half of the time, that's what happens with the sophomore run of a hugely popular show that captures the zeitgeist -- See: Empire, Desperate Housewives, and certain Ryan Murphy productions).

I am fine with both shows living within the capsule of a single story. I don't want new stories. I don't want new characters introduced to flesh out those new stories. I don't want creativity to be compromised. I want them to stay perfect in my memory, forever sealed and preserved for TV history.

But then again, I remember this is America. When something takes off, when something is an instant success, the eyeballs of those behind said success turn into cartoon dollar signs. We don't do things like the British do with their television hits; they're all about single-season programs (The Office, London Spy, Fawlty Towers). We push further. We take creative risks. We expand universes. We come up with superfluous backstories. We strive for at least 100 episodes to secure a sweet syndication package. We eventually run things into the ground.

Had Gone With The Wind been adapted in the 2010s and raked in a shit-ton of money at the box office (or in ratings), I can imagine there would be a producer somewhere scurrying to turn it into a five-film franchise. Gone With The Wind: After The War, presented in IMAX. In fact, someone did try it... back in the 80s. (Check it.)

Franchise. That's one F word I've grown the hate the longer I live and work in an industry town that milks things for all their worth...before rebooting them a measly decade later. After all, "franchise" is the spawn of capitalism, and that is the social system on which this country is arguably built.

So, go ahead. Stay tuned for 13 More Reasons Why and Bigger Little Lies. Just don't complain to me if and/or when they fall short of your expectations.

@TheFirstEcho

Hot Duet Alert: Dua Lipa and Miguel's "Lost In Your Light"


It may be April, but I've already started gathering tunes for my Summer 2017 playlist, and shooting to the top is this all-caps HOT collaboration from Dua Lipa, whose voice I'm loving more and more, and the sizzling Miguel.

The pair's vocals work beautifully on "Lost In Your Light," a track that needs all the traction it can get IMO.

But enough with all of these words. Just listen:

@TheFirstEcho

The Frustrating Brilliance of the 'Girls' Finale


Back in 2012, I placed HBO's Girls at the top of my annual "Best of TV" list. I praised it as follows:

"Those who have ignorantly labeled or dismissed Lena Dunham's polarizing comedy about entitled twentysomething white chicks living in Brooklyn as a Millennial Sex and the City should be pitied for their lack of open-mindedness, their trite arguments, and the huge sticks they have up their asses. Because they apparently haven't scraped away the surface to see that underneath the whiny, woe-is-me sensibilities is an acutely observed portrait of post-collegiate life, packed with embarrassing mistakes and complaints we've all been guilty of making (but never wanted to admit or remember). Many comedies and dramas have attempted to paint the Twentysomething Experience, usually with no real resonance, accuracy, or success. What this show has that others didn't is a creator at its helm who's actually living it in real time (note: writer-director-star Dunham is 24) as well as a female lead who actually looks like she's torn through an occasional pint of Ben & Jerry's (and yes, that matters)..."

Throughout the past six seasons, my view on the show didn't waver despite the fact that many have equally praised or bitched about the four titular heroines who populated the coming-of-age dramedy. (I admit: those two middle seasons weren't my favorites.) I accepted that the show, like its protagonists, was Messy and Awkward. Those were two of its "brand pillars," as marketers would say. Girls did its job in making me look back at my 20s, regardless of my gender, and acknowledge it as a time when I stubbornly held onto my own assumptions, made mistakes, and thought I knew what I wanted when I actually didn't know jack.

But as the show soldiered on, and as the characters headed deeper into those 20s, realizations were made and lessons weren't just learned -- they were ignored and learned again in subtle, beautiful moments when least expected. In other words, they matured. Two must-watch standouts that reflect this were Season 5's devastating "The Panic in Central Park" and Season 6's Emmy-worthy "American Bitch."

The final episode of Girls was another reminder that life is never neatly wrapped up in a big bow. And that's what made it satisfying in its own funky way. Lena Dunham's Hannah trades in the big city for some upstate greenery to accept a cushy job and raise her fatherless child in a picturesque house, and Marnie (Allison Williams) accepts the role of Hannah's non-lesbian domestic partner as a way to distract her from her own directionless life. (FYI, the previous episode had already bid adieu to Shoshanna and Jessa in an appropriate non-finale.) But not all is well. Suburban ennui sets in, and Hannah realizes motherhood is not what she expected. In one fun scene, after having a breakdown with her mom, she storms off and has a run-in with a teenaged girl who can't deal with her own parental situation at home. It's one generation attempting to console the next -- and if you thought Millennials were a handful, this glimpse into GenZ problems can't warrant enough eye rolls.


For more of my thoughts, check out my piece over at The Huffington Post.

@TheFirstEcho

Pepsi's Crappy New Ad Just Got a Hysterical 80s Sitcom Makeover


In less than 24 hours, the entire Internet agreed that Pepsi's "tone-deaf" music video-commercial, starring Kendall "never-drank-Pepsi-in-her-life" Jenner participating in an unspecified protest, is one of the worst pieces of advertising in recent memory.

But thank God for @JustTheTenOfUs on Twitter. The account, dedicated to redoing movie trailers with the theme song from the short-lived 80s sitcom (and Growing Pains spinoff) of the same name, just published an edit set to the Pepsi fail seen around the globe.

Enjoy:


@TheFirstEcho

Dear Virgin America...


To Whom It May Concern,

I have been a proud Elevate member since 2008, and I still remember falling in love with you guys back then with your great bicoastal routes (I'm a frequent LAX-JFKer), sleek look and vibe (nice mood lighting), and entertaining safety videos -- from the charming animation to the choreographed musical numbers.

However, during these past several months, as you gradually make your transition into Alaska Airlines, I have been very disappointed with you. (Flashback: Delayed flight #941 to SFO on October 28, 2016 prompted me to transfer to another plane, only to find out my seat had been triple booked, resulting in me being escorted off the plane and delayed even further.)

Specifically and most recently, I want to discuss my experience on Thursday, March 30. It started with Vegas-bound flight #490, which was scheduled to depart from LAX at 7:25pm. Due to the severe winds in Las Vegas, my flight was delayed by an hour, which was understandable. As a result, I transferred to another flight, which was scheduled to leave earlier (the # is unknown, but my record will indicate it). This new flight was also delayed, but no matter -- I anticipated arriving in Las Vegas to properly kick off my birthday (my account should also validate this information) as well as carry out an assignment for a travel article I am writing for Bello magazine. It is a feature tentatively titled "The Vegas Diaries," a first-person account chronicling my experiences with the hotels, restaurants, and entertainment offerings of the Caesars franchise.

That said, it would be difficult for me to NOT mention in my piece the following developments -- what essentially turned out to be one of the worst travel experiences of my life.

I could be upset and complain about the aforementioned delays. I could be upset and complain about the fact that we were unnecessarily put on the plane and waited an additional hour on the runway -- only to be returned to the gate and told to get off the plane (*more on this later). I could be upset and complain about the wrench thrown into the evening's plans, forcing me to cancel on a group of people who had traveled to Vegas from other parts of the country earlier that day. I could be upset and complain about not having eaten any dinner due to the unexpected late night.

I could be upset and complain about the shoddy handling of the overall scenario, especially the high tension and yelling matches throughout the terminal between passengers and the customer service reps who struggled to resolve the situation. I could be upset and complain about the chartered bus that I had to take as alternative transportation to my destination. I could even complain about how the bus arrived an hour late and then departed LAX at the godforsaken midnight hour. I could be upset and complain about the discomfort of the bus's seats. (I suspect they also double as torture devices.) I could be upset and complain about how our bus nearly left behind two elderly women after a brief pit stop at a gas station in the middle of the cold desert. I could be upset and make a report after eavesdropping on a customer service rep conspiring to prevent two passengers from getting on said bus because of a hostile exchange that unfolded earlier between them. And finally, I could be upset and complain about how I arrived at my hotel at 5am -- a full eight hours later than expected -- and had to proceed with my Friday schedule while running on three hours of sleep.

I could be upset and complain about all of those things...but I won't.

What I am mostly upset about is that fact that we had been put on a Virgin America plane when its pilots were nearing the end of their legal flying time. What I'm upset about is that we had been scheduled to fly into risky weather conditions with pilots whose mental and physical conditions were just as risky. What I'm upset about is that all of the above developments could have been easily avoided -- the lives of over 150 people could've been less interrupted -- if a better system had been established in which our pilots could have continued to fly and serve their passengers.

That all said, I would like to know what you're doing to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again. Because as of right now, despite your new transition, I am becoming more and more convinced to book my future travel elsewhere and recommend others to do the same.

Please feel free to reach me if you need more info or have any questions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

- Hiko Mitsuzuka

The Art of Adulting in the 2010s: Or, Writer Posts Self-Indulgent Birthday Blog


It feels like yesterday when I was a 23-year-old production assistant, driving a Ford Focus through Laurel Canyon, nursing a hangover with a Red Bull, and pondering whether or not I should succumb to the trucker hat trend that was invading the city of Los Angeles.

But many years later paint a different picture. Today I stand on the precipice of those late 30s, driving a two-door coupe with a sunroof (because nothing says "single and childless" like a two-door coupe with a sunroof), drowning myself in caffeine to meet deadlines, and pondering whether or not I should seriously adopt a low-sugar diet because, y'know, health.

My friends and I are dealing with some scary stuff nowadays. Stuff in the form of IRAs, preschool applications, mortgages, the death of a parent, the end of a relationship, health scares, the reality of Buffy the Vampire Slayer being twenty years old, and an administration that doesn't seem to care about the well-being of any minority group whatsoever.

Pardon my Japanese, but this shit sucks.


However, most of my friends and I live in a place (the aforementioned L.A.) and work in an industry ("Hollywood," to put it simply) that sometimes allows us to act a decade younger than our actual ages. In other words, being in your late-30s in the 2010s is not at all the same as being in your late-30s...thirty years ago. Whether or not this applies to other places in America, I am not sure, but I welcome comments and personal insight from others.

TV host and recently married Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick, at 44, has often talked on his podcast about the "extended adolescence" that many of us (GenXers, Millennials, and those in between) have been granted, and this a result of either our upbringing or (mostly) the culture our society has shaped over the past 30 years. The pop culture we enjoyed in our childhoods and adolescences is constantly being rebooted at an unprecedented rate in our adulthoods, forcing us to remember what it was like "back in the day," mentally and emotionally reverting us back to our younger selves.

In other words, there is always a reason to ride the wave of nostalgia nowadays. 2009's short-lived Melrose Place reboot on the CW sent me back to the eighth grade. Last year's stinker, Independence Day: Resurgence, made me look back fondly on the summer of 1996. And the current incarnation of Beauty and the Beast is prompting me to replay Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson's 1991 duet on my Spotify playlist and reminisce about life during a pre-Clinton White House.

There are other explanations for this "extended adolescence" as well, like higher life expectancies and the growing presence of child-free couples. (Look up the demographic that is "Dual Income No Kids," it's a thing.) As for any other explanations, I'll leave that up to the sociologists and behavioral experts. Because I am not one.

But back to reality:


Whoever coined the term "adulting," however long ago, was clearly in need of some validation. Because that's what it's mainly used for. "Here are the keys to my new condo! #homeowner #adulting." We thirtysomethings love to celebrate certain rites of passage with a hashtag that indicates we've arrived. Even more amusing is when it's used ironically: "Prominently displaying my old Power Rangers action figures at the office in honor of the new movie. #adulting." (No, that wasn't me.) But when "we've arrived," does that mean we've come to end of something? Have we stopped ourselves from going any further? Have we finally perfected the art of adulting?

In fact, the "art of adulting" is somewhat of a bullshit phrase. It isn't an art at all. Because to call it an art would imply there is a mastering of skills needed for maneuvering through all of the challenges that come with being a human over the age of 30. And really, has anyone mastered that? Not to be trite, but life is all about learning those proverbial lessons, big or small, that hit us in our everyday lives. It's a constant process, just like aging.

However, if you feel like you have mastered the art of adulting, I congratulate you. I also think you're deluding yourself, but good for you. Keep at it. I wish you the best.

As for me, I prefer to call my "extended adolescence" an "extension of my 20s." I don't feel like what a late-thirtysomething should be like because there is no standard now... and holy crap, I'm now realizing I'm older than the characters on thirtysomething.



Every now and then I might act a little reckless and not-my-age. I might wear a T-shirt with a visual pun or ironic phrase. I might have a third cocktail at the bar. I might shake my ass to that new David Guetta and Nicki Minaj single. Hell, I may even stay up until 3am on a Saturday night -- cleaning my bedroom closet. Does that count?

How about this: to indulge myself, I am going to celebrate my birthday this year in the Capital of Recklessness: Las Vegas. (I leave on a flight later tonight and expect to have a drink in my hand an hour after I arrive.)

Which reminds me: I better pack some antacids and aspirin (and those corn pads for my foot).

Just in case.

@TheFirstEcho