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May 20 2014

The Jewish Woman Who Revolutionized Children’s Television

By at 9:47 am

peggy-charren

Imagine what children’s TV would be like without Peggy Charren. You can’t! Peggy took on the burgeoning television industry of the 1970s and won. She fought to keep advertising out of children’s programs, to keep quality children’s shows on the air, and to place limits on programs designed to sell toys to kids. Some people thought she was in favor of censorship, but Peggy vehemently disagreed: for her, content for children was all about context.

Journalist Janet Beyer tells her story:

The product of a liberal upbringing–Peggy learned union songs and noted, “We belonged, as did a lot of people, to all those organizations that were on McCarthy’s enemies list.”–Peggy majored in liberal arts at Connecticut College, then became film department director at WPIX-TV in New York City. She married and had two kids. At home with her young daughters, she grew concerned over too few educational TV programs for kids and too many violent, toy-focused shows. In 1968, armed with her TV experience and skill for organizing, she founded Action for Children’s Television (ACT), a nonprofit dedicated to diversity in children’s TV choices. Originally a small group of concerned mothers, ACT grew to become a grassroots organization of almost 20,000 volunteers. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 28 2014

Television Has Come A Long Way to Represent Queer Families Like Mine

By at 12:29 pm

ellen-portia

Last fall, I watched a reality show on MTV (whose target population is, of course, adolescents) called “Generation Cryo,” in which a lesbian couple’s daughter went on a search for her sperm donor and her biological half-siblings. Not only was I fascinated at learning how this impacted the different children and how a parent could best support them, but I was so moved at the realization that “donor kids” around the country could see themselves, their families, and their experiences reflected on a TV show. And their peers could be exposed to such an alternative family structure and begin to see it as not so abnormal, opening up opportunities for conversation and disclosure.

My wife and I are also watching “The Fosters,” which appeals to me both as a queer woman and as a social worker in foster care. It amazes me that there can be a show on ABC Family, targeting middle school and high school kids, showing a blended family with same-sex parents, not to mention the real complexity of co-parenting with an ex-husband, incorporating teens in foster care into the family unit, and wanting biological parenthood for the partner who has never given birth. The network doesn’t shy away from the real details of this, either. The parents do not act like friends or roommates. There is just as much physical affection, cues that sex is about to happen, and fighting as would be included in any other family TV show. The show even delves into some areas that are specific to queer couples, such as the tendency to stay friends with exes and the jealousy that can create for the current partner. They have it right on.

But this isn’t just about me seeing ourselves reflected on TV (though it’s ridiculously validating, I admit!). It’s about the exposure for people to whom this type of family and life is otherwise foreign. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 28 2014

Jon Stewart and Jason Bateman Are “Meshugah” For Passover

By at 12:55 pm

 

Jon Stuart hosted Jason Bateman on “The Daily Show” recently. Bateman was promoting his newest film, “Bad Words,” but of course the conversation devolved into nonsensical Yiddish before he even sat down. Then, naturally, the pair moved on to bizarre Passover rituals.

Hilarity ensues. See for yourself.

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Mar 13 2014

Purim Costume Evolution: From Princess to Star Trek

By at 4:19 pm

star-wars-purim

Like many little girls, my daughter went through a Princess phase. I never had a problem with it. Frankly, I’m thrilled my youngest child has somehow managed to pick up a knack for those feminine graces which I incontrovertibly lack. She was Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” a couple of years running for both Purim and Halloween. That lasted up until she watched “Fiddler on the Roof” and, 15 minutes before the start of Halloween 2012, decided she now wanted to be one of Tevya’s daughters, instead.

I was OK with that, too, even when she stressed that she wanted to be “the daughter that got married and had a baby,” not the one “who read too many books.”

This Purim, my first-grader has a new passion. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 6 2014

Your Kid’s Terrible T.V. Shows Make for Lovable Purim Costumes

By at 6:50 pm

Your Kid's Terrible TV Shows Make for Great Purim Costumes

This winter was rough. There is nothing like a Polar Vortex that can undermine a lifetime of painstakingly implemented household rules and limitations. That tight ship you run has long been sunk by a tidal wave of television shows. Well, since Purim is around the corner (March 15th, to be exact), why not make the most out of your child’s newfound obsession with “Dora,” “Wonderpets,” or whatever infuriating cartoon your kids are into these days.

Here are some costume ideas inspired by your child’s favorite–and your most reviled–T.V. shows of all time. The more annoying the character, the more kids have a tendency to love them to pieces, so these guys are sure to be a hit:

1. My Little Pony.

This is the perfect choice for little girls who love to get glammed up. There are so many ways to do “My Little Pony.”  Think: glitter, fake lashes ($6.99), pink hair extensions ($9.99), and make-up. Star Song ($29.99), Pinkie Pie ($29.27), Rainbow Dash ($26.79)–take your pick. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 25 2014

A Tale of Two Olympics (Now with Kids!)

By at 10:58 am

Figure_Skating_Venue_in_Sochi

I worked my first Winter Olympic Games in 1998, as a member of TNT’s production team (where I immortalized one skater’s costume as “She looks like she was mauled by a lion while escaping a brothel.” I noted it off-handedly, but commentator Rosalynn Sumners liked it so much she repeated it on-air. It was like the movie, “Broadcast News.” I say it here, it comes out there….).

I spent close to a month in Nagano, Japan, working 28-hour days with no weekends, and came home so exhausted that I proceeded to spend the next 48 hours near-catatonic in front of the TV, catching up on all the shows I’d taped. (This was before Tivo or downloading or watching on demand, so I actually had to pre-program my entire primetime line-up weeks in advance. All on a tape that could only record for eight hours. Truly the dark ages, kids.)

My oldest son was born in 1999. And though I tried to continue working in figure skating production, his refusing to acknowledge my presence after I’d returned from yet another business trip when he was 18 months old pretty much put the kibosh on that plan. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2014

Forget the Sochi Games–We’re Watching the Shoshi Games

By at 10:27 am
Forget the Sochi games, we're watching the Shoshi Games

via Shoshi Games 2014

 

We love “Girls.” Lena Dunham‘s hit HBO show epitomizes the New York City, mid-20s, struggling writer/artist experience. One of the most exaggerated, but lovable (and Jewish!) characters of the show is the neurotic, OMG-dropping, Camp-Ramah-going Shoshanna Shapiro. Aside from her highly quotable one-liners, Shoshanna, played by Zosia Mamet, is known for the most intricately knotted hair-dos you have ever seen.

That’s why we were pretty psyched to see this perfect Tumblr dedicated to Shoshi, and her true calling, the Shoshi Games 2014–it’s, like, totes amaze. Enjoy.

Forget the Sochi games, we're watching the Shoshi games

via Shoshi Games 2014

 

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Jan 31 2014

Torah MOMentary: What is the Point of All These Rules?

By at 9:41 am

girl watching tv

This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat Terumah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

After binging on Internet reading last Wednesday (thanks in no small part to the polar vortex that kept me and my kids inside far longer than is healthy or recommended), I spiraled down the rabbit hole and beseeched my Facebook friends to tell me if I was letting my kids watch too much TV.

Thirty-six comments later, and I had been reassured that basically, I was within the “acceptable” zone. After the fourth or fifth Curious George episode, I shut the TV off and took the kids to the basement to do some puzzles. I brought my phone. After a half hour of being semi-attentive to them, I realized I wasn’t being even remotely mindful, and spent a few ill-advised minutes panicking about their emotional well-being.

The next morning my husband suggested that we start drizzling the girls’ pancakes (and everything they eat, really) with flax oil. Later that afternoon, my mother intimated that perhaps it’s time to get serious about the potty training. Then I got a call from school that one of my twins had bitten the other one (because we are forever in and out of the biting stage, a Groundhog’s Day of biting, if you will). Sometime around exasperation-o’clock, I read this Forbes.com article about the “crippling” (CRIPPLING!) behaviors that we, as parents, are guilty of. And then after all of that, I read this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, and wanted to cry.

There are too many rules. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 4 2013

Seven Tidbits That Will Make You See the “Sound of Music” in a New Light

By at 12:06 pm

the sound of music live with carrie underwood

Tomorrow, December 5th, NBC will air The Sound of Music – Live! Rather than a remake of the much loved Julie Andrews movie, this is actually a revival of the original Broadway production.

The Sound of Music was the first movie I saw upon immigrating to the U.S. as a child. It gave me nightmares. Not, as so many people guess, due to the overabundance of lederhosen, but due to the overabundance of Nazis. Maybe the guys in the crimson armbands didn’t mean much to American kids in the 1970s, but, coming from the USSR, I knew all about fascists and how they were out to get little children. (What I didn’t know then, was that the Nazis had been out to get Jews, specifically. Despite the existence of graveyards like Babi Yar, that detail was minimized in the Soviet Union.)

Maybe it was as a result of my (over)-reaction, that my aunt simply never showed my little cousin the final part of the movie. She turned off the videocassette after Maria and the Captain get married.

When my cousin grew up and found out how The Sound of Music really ended (it’s very possible I may have been the one who enlightened her; I was that kind of kid), it changed the entire movie for her.

Meanwhile, as I grew up (and got a degree in Media Studies), I learned numerous tidbits about the making of the film that made me see it in a different light, too.

In honor of the brand new production, I will share with you seven of these tidbits… one for each of the Von Trapp moppets. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2013

Parenthood? I Think You Mean Marriagehood: Recap for Episodes 6 & 7

By at 3:37 pm

courduroy

It’s possible that we’re wired to notice those aspects of art that apply to our own lives–one person staring at a Degas painting might see light, truth, and love, while another might simply see smashed up crumbly cheerios because they are the bane of her existence.

What? My point: the story lines on Parenthood that I am most interested in talking about are the ones that I can relate to, or the ones that somehow reflect my life. As such…

I have been less interested in the Amber/Ryan kerfuffle, or the Drew-goes-to-college-and-tries-to-figure-out-girls saga (though I do love Drew, such a sweet boy) and way more interested in the Julia-and-Joel-chaos and, to some degree, the Bonnie Bedelia-Coach-autumn-of-our-years plot.

First, though, let me take a moment to pay homage to Crosby, my favorite Braverman who, in episode six, rages against the minivan. Now, this was indeed a hackneyed storyline. Surely we all know someone in life (or on Facebook) who has struggled with a similar reality. (I don’t think anyone does it as cutely as Crosby does, though.) To get the details out of the way: Jasmine wants to get a minivan and get rid of Crosby’s “cool” vintage car. This comes to pass, and they make out in the backseat and all is well. Read the rest of this entry →

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