Saturday, May 27, 2017

Recap: Kate Plus 8 "Game Night": Mind-mouth! Mind-mouth!

Coming up on Kate Plus 8, in quite possibly one of the dumbest, and incredibly low-budget episode ideas ever, the family gathers around the mismatched cluttered living room for a game night. Only this Trivial Pursuit is all about their own family trivia, which is stupid and narcissistic. This is what the industry calls a bottle episode, an episode that takes place in just one or two locations (the store, and the living room) and usually only involves the main characters (Kate and the kids), usually to save money when the season has gone over-budget. In many cases, though, a bottle episode can be one of the best of the series (see Breaking Bad's "Fly," Dr. Quinn's "To Have and to Hold", which literally is set in a shack the whole time somewhere outside Colorado Springs, and Seinfeld's "The Chinese Restaurant," which takes place not even in the main dining room but entirely in the waiting area, LOL). That's usually because it gives a chance for characters to really develop and actors to play off each other and for writers to stretch themselves without the distraction of car chases, snazzy locations and other special effects in the plot. But here, as expected, it's just dumb.

Best portrayal of game night on film? The Break-up! Mind-mouth, mind-mouth, mind-mouth!

These days everything Kate does seems to warrant a fresh shopping spree at Michael's on the company card. Doesn't she have a closet or at least a bin full of art supplies they could raid for these very sort of events like normal mothers?

After all this time TLC still hasn't fixed their TLCgo player, such that every time you pause it, it starts over. Gaa! It's going to be another long night.

Kate had the idea to do family trivia and puts Mady in charge. Sure, Kate, you had the idea. Mady is always in charge, and it's not fair to the other kids. Mady is sipping a crafted iced drink from Starbucks. Those really add up, Kate. Last episode you were just complaining about not having hired help. One can easily spend a couple hundred dollars a month at Starbucks on drinks for them and their kids. That money might be just enough for a monthly housekeeper. It's the little things you spend your money on that make all the difference.

Mady has morphed into a poor man's Kardashian with that thick layer of doll-like makeup and wavy black hair. As per the usual, the kids are annoyed that Kate is trying to micromanage everything.

This is unnecessarily elaborate to the point where you're in danger of this not being fun, which I thought was the whole point. Now Kate and the twins have to go shopping to get team t-shirts? Cara wants grey t-shirts, which Kate vetoes. Why? There's nothing wrong with grey t-shirts. Talk about not picking your battles.

Kate goes on an equally elaborate explanation as to why the twins talk back to her all the time and are so gosh darn disrespectful. You see that's because Kate has made them feel "safe" to say whatever is on their minds. Haha, that's some fine spin there. I've never seen anything like this. My kids are brats because I have made a safe zone for them to be brats? Heh! What idiot parenting.

Hey, Kate, your kids are disrespectful because they are so disrespected by you, and also, because you don't dare ever put your foot down that the way they speak to you is not appropriate. Honest is not the same thing as being mean. It's not cute, it's not free-thinking, it's certainly not funny in the slightest, and you are setting them up for absolute failure in so many aspects of adulthood I don't know where to begin.

Next they head to what is obviously Target to buy sheets and curtains to make the living room look like a game show set. Huh? Why can't they use what they already have around the house? There's nine people in the house, they should have bedsheets galore. What a waste of money.

After a whole lot of bickering back and forth they finally check out with their cart absolutely brimming with sheets and other junk, to which Kate mutters, "That's an expensive game show," as she swipes the company card. Still way cheaper than another dumb vacation, says the bottom line for this episode. I think it's funny that they won't tell you this is Target, because Target's clunky shopping carts and red decor everywhere are so distinctive you'd have to be really dense not to know where they are.

Just in the episode before this Mady was lamenting how mean the younger kids are, but in this episode, Mady is snapping at everyone and overall being a very unpleasant pill. Kate remarks that she sees a lot of herself in her. I agree, especially the way Mady favors the girls. They at least got to cut some colorful paper, while Aaden was ordered to sit still as a soldier in his chair and don't touch anything. Poor guy, he just takes it. I doubt Kate knew what clip they were going to use when Kate said she sees a lot of herself in Mady, which is funny, because they picked the meanest, bossiest clip ever to match up with Kate's statement. Heh.

Collin makes a sudden appearance. I think we had all speculated this was filmed out of order based on the snow on the ground and no puppies, but deceptively, they don't explain that, leading the dumber fans to believe he's back. As usual, Colin looks fine to me. If anything, he's one of the best behaved of the bunch. He obediently helps decorate his team t-shirt, is quiet and well behaved, and with a huge smile on his face, helps to hit the marker and announces the next segment. It's just so incredibly hard to picture a child with this much ability and self-control, having to be institutionalized.

For some reason TLCgo is pushing endless ads for Oregon tourism, which is odd for a show that takes place in Pennsylvania. Why not put these ads on Little People? They live outside Portland. In any case, Oregon really is an awesome place. I recommend Yachats, if you ever get out there.

The game finally starts. It's sort of a cross between Family Feud and Trivial Pursuit. Hey, did anyone see Saturday Night Live's recent Family Feud skit starring Liza Minelli? "You know, it always feels like someone just freed you from a bubble!" Inspired. Also, I love that they're not afraid to take risks, like going full on Liza Minelli skit with the full knowledge that the bulk of their millennial audience might not even know who she is. I could watch SNL game show parodies all day as opposed to this drivel.

The constant power struggle between Kate and Mady gets exhausting at least for this viewer, and you can tell it wears on all the kids. Kate said Mady could be in charge of Game Night, so let her be. Stop trying to micromanage her! It's a stupid game night, what does it matter? Save it for the important things. "Strike one!" Mady snaps, when Kate tries to name the game. Hm, what happens on strike three? Does Kate leave the show? Pretty please! I guess this is the kind of rude talking back that Kate calls Mady feeling "safe." Heh. Hey, does it feel like Kate's explanation of why the twins talk back, because they feel "safe", could easily be something said in an SNL parody of helicopter 2017 mothers? Lol!

The intern kind of ripped off the Price is Right theme song to compose his own little ditty for the game show. Good one.

Already the rules of this game are annoying and being made up as Mady goes along. Who gets to spin the wheel? And what happens if they both ring in at the same time? And once they're allowed to go consult with their team about the answer, then who gets to go first? Mady wings all of this, and already she's changing up the rules. Aaden is not allowed to answer first because he knocked his bell off (Why not tape the bells down with some gaffer tape? Production is sure to have some.). But Joel knocked his bell off on the first go around, as one of the girls pointed out, so how come he got to answer first last round? Stupid. You're better off getting out Pictionary, reading the rules until you understand them, and going for it. You'll have a great time, I promise.

Great, is every question going to prompt an old boring clip of something? I can't even!

At the end of the day these kids genuinely don't like playing with Kate, I believe them when they say that. Her extreme competitiveness is obnoxious, they explain. Of course it is.

Just as we all said years ago, Alexis reveals that the vast majority of these questions she has no clue about because she doesn't remember the vast majority of the things they have filmed. Mind-mouth it, Alexis! Of course she doesn't remember this shit, she was four.

Mady is favoring Cara's team, laments Kate. Shut up, Kate. Shut up, shut up, shut uppppp!

Speaking of four years old, Alexis sulks like a four-year-old after she forgets to ring the bell when she knew the answer, and Leah wins that question because she remembered to ring. Instead of Kate pulling Alexis aside and telling her to grow up, Kate assures her they are still going to win so don't worry about it.

But, what if they don't win? (Spoiler alert: they don't win) And even if they do win, that doesn't mean you shouldn't sulk because you are going to win anyway. You shouldn't sulk because it's childish and stupid. Good grief.

There's still a good 20 minutes left in this episode not even including ads, are they going to do this boring trivia the whole time? (Spoiler alert: yes) On a positive note, Collin looks happy. He's paying attention, participating, and giggling. It's kind of heartbreaking to think he's about to be sent off to an institution.

Kate's philosophy on parenting which she has said before is that she wants kids to know not everyone wins. That's all well and good, but how about teaching kids that not everything is a competition and that some things you should just let go and not worry about, one of them being a family game. Equally valuable to teach children, I propose, is, it's not worth it. Also, you don't need to "teach" kids note everyone wins. Even if you did everything you could to let them win everything, they would still encounter many times where they would lose at school or at a friend's house. They'll learn. Not everything a child learns about life needs to be micromanaged with such purpose by their parents. Let it be once in awhile.

I swear these kids have been programmed to react "it's not fair!" to everything. Alexis goes into a long explanation about how this is not fair because she can't remember any of these past events. Well, number one, her mother says they all watch the episodes all the time, so if Alexis would watch the episodes, she would know as much as anyone who was actually old enough to remember. And number two, the teams actually are fair, Alexis. Each team has three younger children on them, and one older person. Kate on Alexis's team and Cara on the other. Therefore, each team has one person who can remember that far back. Since everyone else has access to the library of episodes and could have watched them, it actually is fair. Arguably, Alexis's team has a slight advantage, because they have Kate, and these episodes go so far back even Cara is a little young to remember them all. The thing with saying something is not fair is that sometimes, it's totally warranted. But you better make sure it actually is unfair before you pull that card. Otherwise, you're just whining.

Alexis is getting herself so worked up she looks a thread away from bursting into tears. Just mind-mouth it, Alexis! Kate again reassures her they're going to win. Oh for Pete sake! At this point even that comment is trite. Even if they do, Alexis is going to feel like yeah they won but it's no thanks to me. Sheesh. That being said, some people just aren't good at trivia, at remembering random useless facts. I'm not the biggest trivia person myself. I remember big picture things more than nuances, and I forget dates and names easily even if I could tell you everything else about what happened. Eventually I'm usually able to recall most things, but I'm not able to do so under the pressure of two or three seconds to draw the information up. So, for someone that just doesn't have a knack for trivia, playing trivia games just isn't fun, I can attest. Still, in life you will now and again end up playing games you don't like. You just have to deal with it and get through it, it'll be over soon. Why doesn't Kate reassure Alexis that not everyone is good at trivia and it's okay, that there are many other things Lex excels at?

Cupcake gate was okay because the kids now laugh about it, explains Kate. Nope, the fact that you laugh later at something does not make it okay in that moment, Kate. For example, Life is Beautiful is a film about an Italian-Jewish prisoner who makes other concentration camp prisoners smile despite their absurd situation. It doesn't make the gas chambers, or shall I say holocaust centers, okay. It's just a way to cope. Does it occur to her the only way the kids can compartmentalize a very upsetting moment in their childhood is to just laugh? Strike two, say I! The kids laugh about cupcake-gate daily, claims Kate. Well, that sounds healthy.

Not the Hannah pooped thing again, let this poor child be!

Because Kate is nuts, she then proceeds to go on some random spiel about how this wasn't about winning. But she just spent the first half of this episode reassuring Lex that they would win, and, she wrote on her team shirt "Who's your winner!" so WTF! She's certifiable.

Clearly the producers put together all these questions, they are starting to get really specific and elaborate, one even has a photo they are to identify (of the turtle hatching).

Mady snaps at Kate that Kate doesn't get to call it when they can go back to their team and discuss the answer. Only Mady can call discussions. I think that's strike three!

Who said, This is awkward? Mady asks. I'm surprised I didn't remember who said that until they show the clip of Kate's staged date with Vann where as soon as she meets the poor guy, she blurts out what she is thinking, "this is awkward." Ohhh, yeah! Lol! Dating tip number one, it will be awkward on the first date, but for God sake, don't say it's awkward! 

A very bizarre fight erupts, spearheaded by Leah, who says it's unfair to ask about that episode, which aired in January 2016, because they haven't seen it. I thought they all gather around the boob tube together, holding hands and singing about harmony, to watch these episodes as they air, as Kate paints the picture. Then, even more oddly, Leah blurts out several times that Kate won't let them watch. I'm confused, won't let them watch any episodes, or just the date episode? Kate denies this, saying it's on the TV, go watch it. But why would Leah say that if it had no basis in fact? Really weird exchange there with little explanation of the backstory, leaving my rather curious what that's all about. Did Kate at some point not want them to watch the dating episode, and if so, why not? Was it because the kids know how fake it was? This almost deserves a Reddit conspiracy thread.

I'm struck by the sharp contrast between Kate's contrived relationship with Vann, and Little People, Big World, where both Amy and Matt are in real relationships with new people now. I'm not sure I know how to feel about Amy's boyfriend Chris. Something about me thinks something is off there. And the kids seem a little wary too, which is important to note since they would know. He claims he's happy to be with her, but when after six months she very gently tries to press him on demonstrating a little commitment, he won't agree to anything. Does he even call her his girlfriend, because I haven't heard him say so. He's in his 50's, what is he waiting for at this point? But, I am genuinely convinced it's a real relationship, organic, would happen cameras or not. I just think Amy is going to end up terribly hurt by that guy when he decides on a whim, eh, I'm gonna move on now. In any case, because it's so real, it makes for much better T.V. than Kate's stupid blind date.

Cara's team starts to pull away, and Kate's team starts to get bored because it actually is all about winning for everyone in this room.

Kate dresses up as a clown with a pink wig and passes out popcorn like she did for one of their early birthdays. The kids find her mortifying. Kate thinks she's hilarious.

Once in awhile they show a clip that's not mind-numbingly boring, but rather interesting, this one because of its foreshadowing. In this one they show Kate engaging in a battle of wills with 5-year-old Mady, insisting that Kate must hold her hand on a decidedly not busy New York City sidewalk. Mady is not two, she is five, and perfectly capable of walking alongside her parents without having to hold their hand like a baby. But Kate insists. And what's worse, argues the point with the poor kid, giving her false hope this is a negotiation. It's that kind of repeated, tenacious refusal to give up any control over your child, that breeds a teen like Mady ten years later. Mady woke up one day, probably at age about 13 or 14, and realized she could actually be in control from now on, and it's been misery ever since.

Kate, who says she doesn't care if they win, is sulking and going on about how some question and answer was unfair. I'm too bored to try to figure out why she said that. "That's wrong!" Kate, who doesn't care about winning, gleefully shouts out when the other team misses a question. "I really wanted to win," says Kate. But she just said she didn't care! Brother, she is such a nut job.

Kate announces the prizes toward the end of the game. The winning team picks the takeout and the losers clean up. Sounds like she made that up on the fly. I know that's not that big of a deal as prizes go, but something about that feels very dysfunctional, and I think it breeds unhealthy competition, and bitterness. Why can't they just finish the game and that's it, without this unhealthy focus on winners and losers? How about decide take-out on a majority vote, or rotate who chooses the takeout fairly each time?

More dumb questions and bickering. The only thing interesting that happens is somebody says Kate thinks she's funny, but she's not. Pretty much!

Collin, who apparently has such special needs that he needs to be institutionalized, is the only one to correctly identify and name the liberty bell, in Philadelphia. He gets both the landmark and the city. Whatever, Kate. Where is he?

Cara's team wins, and Cara calls the other team "losers." Sigh.

Of note, this recap took me several weeks to finish because I broke up the chore as I had time to do it. At the beginning of the writing, the TLCgo app was doing its usual crap. But I think the interns may have tweaked the code, because today, it's running much better. It doesn't restart all over when I pause it, and the commercials don't pop up every time I try to move the slider. Thank you, interns! Finally!

It was so much more fun than she thought it could be, remarks Kate. She's said something like that before, and I find that kind of comment odd and kind of mean. Why wouldn't being with your family and talking about the fun things you've done together be just great? Why would it surprise you to have such fun with your family? Weird!

Kate, you're the only loser here.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Discussion thread: 'The Keepers'; and the Duggars file a really stupid lawsuit

Sister Cathy, who was murdered for trying to protect children from abuse.
We've been riveted to The Keepers since it first appeared on Netflix this week. Equally heartbreaking and painstakingly detailed, The Keepers tells the story of Jean Wehner, who was molested by a priest at her high school in the 60's. But this is not just another all too common tale of betrayal and sexual abuse towards children at the hands of the Catholic church. This one is also about Jean's beloved young teacher, a nun named Sister Cathy, who ended up murdered around about the same time she discovered some of her students were being abused. When Cathy set about to stand up for her students, one of the most shocking cover-ups to come out of organized religion ensued.

The internet has been ablaze with amateur sleuths on this story for years, and now it comes to our screens. One review calls The Keepers, which has been compared to Making a Murderer, similar fare yet much more haunting, and that Sister Cathy's murder is a corner piece of a jigsaw puzzle. We agree. Discuss here.

In somewhat ironic timing, the Duggars this week filed a lawsuit against various government officials, protesting the release of police reports and other documents in connection with Josh Duggar's molestation of several of his younger sisters many years ago. The City of Springdale quickly responded with a press release, denying any wrong-doing and pointing out that the documents were heavily redacted, and protesting the use of tax dollars for this scheme.

If there's one thing that comes through in The Keepers, it's that keeping the story quiet about sexual abuse makes it worse, not better. In fact, because Jean and others kept quiet until the early 90's, one perpetrator continued to sit on the pulpit for decades. He was finally removed when Jean decided she must come forward no matter how painful. Because people thought sexual abuse must be kept quiet, Sister Cathy, who did not think so, was murdered. Disclosure and public acknowledgement of abuse is how we solve this problem, Jim Bob, not more covering up. Perhaps if Jean lived in a society in which sexual abuse was not regarded as something so shameful and private, she wouldn't have been so reluctant to come forward, and Sister Cathy would still be alive. Shame on you.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

'Little People, Big World''s Jacob Roloff: 'Money, things, and trips cannot ultimately compensate for the immaterial experiences of a childhood innocently experienced'

Jacob Roloff is sounding off against about the dangers of growing up on TV, and how he feels about all the "trips" he received in exchange.

I remember once seeing my parents go into a room in a restaurant to do a scene, and in the show's storyline it was about the beginning of my parents' separation, although I'm bad at gauging time. In the scene they were supposed to be discussing some serious matter, I don't know, I was just outside the room. I remember though that the scene they were doing was inherently staged and fake. Whatever discussion they were acting out had already happened in real life, so this was at best a rehashing. When they came out though, I saw tears in my mom's eyes and I suddenly realized that this staged 'joke', 'fake' thing was effecting real life in a profound way.
I see the money I have earned and the vacations I was lucky enough to go on as 'compensatory', for lack of  a better word, for a tainted childhood. I feel disappointed in language here because saying that makes it seem like my childhood as a whole was not enjoyed and just a waste. Not true. I had tons of fun and so many opportunities and friendships, and also anger, frustration... the myriad of emotions. However; money, things, and trips — all material — cannot ultimately compensate for the immaterial experiences of a childhood innocently experienced. 
One of my least favorite things to do while filming was formal interviews. We sat down on a tiny uncomfortable chair, small enough to be hidden so as to not break the fourth wall; "Who set up that chair anyhow?" — this was Reality TV after all. Then the producers asked us silly repetitive questions that no right headed 6-10 year old would have a solid answer to; rather I should have been asking the questions to the adults! But I suppose they probably knew that, further creating a certain shy, relatable character in contrast to the brat that ordinarily wreaked havoc —— cunningly dynamic. 
The post actually dates back a few months, but seems to have been recently discovered by the media. The only thing the adults who exploit children on reality TV can't stop is that someday they will grow up, turn 18, and can finally say whatever they like about the experience. Thank you, Jacob, for being the voice of the first generation of children who have grown up on reality TV.