Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Television’

What we owe Sesame Street

October 17, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Television 9 Comments →

Whenever there is a lull in dinnertime conversation, we fill it with memories of Sesame Street. Sesame Street was one of our biggest formative influences, shaping our sense of humor, use of the English language, and musical tastes. It wasn’t just a TV show we watched twice a day; we lived there. If we were the Nobel Prize committee, we would give the Nobel Prize to the Children’s Television Workshop and Jim Henson.

These are the Sesame Street sketches that my friends and I refer to most often.

1. The Orange That Sang the Habanera from Carmen

This was one of the first times I heard opera. I suspect that this scene from Magnolia was written by a Sesame Street viewer.

I feel like most of the characters from Magnolia, but especially the quiz kids, young and old.

2. The Alligator King

3. The Golden An

“…put it in the tan truck. Take it to Dan, who’ll take it to Horace.”

4. A Loaf of Bread, A Container of Milk, and A Stick of Butter

We also remember “What would happen if I stuck this balloon with this pin and it popped and it scared my sister…” but cannot find the exact video online (A different one turns up).

5. Wanda the Witch

“And blee-ew it away forevah!”

6. Goodbye, Mr. Hooper.

Sesame Street did not shrink from the subject of death. The adults didn’t try to give Big Bird a load of sentimental crap, they addressed the topic head-on and said it was tough but that’s how life is. Pass me that box of tissues.

7. It’s the plumber. I’ve come to fix the sink.

We always thought this was from Sesame Street and stand corrected. It appeared in The Electric Company, which was for the older viewers of Sesame Street.

8. The Princess and the Mattress

9. It’s a lovely eleven morning.

10. Your pick.

On “shipping”: When fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly

August 14, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology, Television 6 Comments →

G-rated Johnlock fanart


Shipping is as old as fandom itself. But traditionally, fans never expected their particular pairing to “become canon” — that is, to officially happen on a show or in a storyline. In modern fandoms, however, fans of movies and TV shows often root for their ships to become canon the way sports fans root for their teams. If the football fans’ goal is to see their team win the Super Bowl, the shipper’s goal is to see their ship “win” by entering the narrative as an official storyline.

These shippers collectively form group narratives about their favorite ship. More and more, these group narratives are evolving into unshakable belief systems that usually take one of three increasingly common forms:

1) The belief that the ship in question is unquestionably going to become canon

Historically in fandom, liking a ship meant just that: You liked a ship. Anything more than that would get you a lot of side-eyeing. In the Harry Potter fandom, the advent of Ron and Hermione becoming a couple in the sixth book led to a very famous (and still ongoing) meltdown among Harry/Hermione shippers.

At the time — fandom in 2005 — their unwavering faith that Harry/Hermione would eventually become canon was widely seen by fandom at large as extreme, because shipping was typically viewed as something that existed outside of canon and generally had no particular relationship to the course of canon at all.

Today, expecting your ship to become canon is more or less the norm. But there are lots of complications with this line of thinking. Even if a ship does become canon, it might not become canon in a way that fans like — Buffy/Spike, anyone? And of course it might not be guaranteed to remain canon. Breakups happen, actors leave shows, and, as The 100 fans were brutally reminded earlier this spring, characters die.

Read it.

Rx: Pop culture therapy for anxiety, ennui, the fear that you’ve wasted your life

August 03, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music, Television 2 Comments →

Symptoms: Fear and despair over the state of the world

Treatment: Stranger Things.

It’s supposed to be a horror series—bizarre stuff happens, and some of it is quite scary—but its real hook is nostalgia. Specifically 80s nostalgia: Steven Spielberg of the Close Encounters and E.T. era; Stephen King’s The Body/Stand By Me, It, Firestarter; Goonies; a smattering of 80s music from The Clash, Joy Division, Foreigner, The Bangles and others; Winona Ryder as a harried single mom whose Dungeons and Dragons-playing kid goes missing. The early episodes are the best: they create a mood of unease and “What the hell!” while telling us nothing. When they start explaining the baffling events, the intensity slackens. The series becomes less interesting, but by that time you’re emotionally invested and you have to see it through. Part of the fun lies in identifying the movie references and predicting what happens next. Kids protecting a fugitive and fleeing the authorities on bikes: Will they fly?

Effects: Watching horror mysteries makes us feel that we can make sense of the absurd. And nostalgia is very comforting: it takes us back to a past in which we believed we could understand what was going on.


Symptoms: Life has lost its flavor, and you are mired in ennui.

Treatment: The Great British Bake-Off.

I’ve never been much interested in reality show cooking competitions in which judges terrorize the contestants and reduce them to tearful blobs of jelly. That does not happen here. Everyone is polite, the hosts are funny, the competitors don’t try to destroy each other (if they do, it’s not in the final edit), and the criticism is constructive (The judges soften the blow because life is hard enough as it is).

Effects: Observing the process of creating cakes and pastries is deeply soothing.

Symptoms: You suspect you will never fulfill your ambitions and that you have wasted your life.

Treatment: Sing Street

This musical drama-comedy by the guy who made Once and Begin Again (and got a lot of flak for bad-mouthing Keira Knightley) is about a bunch of kids in economically-depressed Ireland in the 80s who deal with domestic strife and school bullies by forming a band, writing songs and making primitive music videos. The pastiches of songs by Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall and Oates are actually good. I would buy “Drive It Like You Stole It”. The film features the best brother in the world, who makes the nerdy kid listen to Joe Jackson and tells him to follow his dreams while everyone else is mocking or ignoring him. Listen, it’s corny and it’s usually an over-promise, but everyone needs to hear some variation of the “Go for it” speech as a kid. (Technically I got a lot of “Go for it” speeches but they were couched as “Why are you wasting your time when you could be blah blah blah.”) Jack Reynor plays the big brother, and Littlefinger Mayor Carcetti is the dad. Think of it as The Commitments, junior edition.

Effects: The film has a contagious joyfulness, and may remind you of your younger, brasher, more optimistic self.

The North remembers to send handwritten letters.

July 25, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Notebooks, Television 1 Comment →

because sending ravens doesn’t tell the full story.

open box

Dear Jon,

The DNA test results are in. You are a Stark. . .on your mother’s side.


I am writing this on House stationery so you know I’m not Littlefinger. The information could fill the notebook but the blasted thing has lines and I cannot write on lined paper.


Here is my seal.

House Stark and House Targaryen stationery boxes, Php1679 at National Bookstores.

Congratulations to the winner of our GoT Moleskine contest

July 17, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Contest, Television No Comments →

That’s abcabc’s canine housemate, who looks like a handsome young Chewbacca.

The easiest way to get into Tolstoy’s War and Peace

July 13, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →


There have been many film and TV adaptations of War and Peace, but the 2016 BBC series written by Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Harper is especially accessible to the contemporary audience. In this case accessible is a good thing because it will drive viewers to the source. The Louise and Aylmer Maude translation, okay, we have learned our lesson.

The novel is huge and sprawling and this version is abridged to fit into six one-hour episodes. It makes short work of those pages and pages of scheming relatives trying to keep Pierre from his inheritance. You get just enough of a taste of the good stuff: Pierre getting roped into marriage with Helene who sleeps around, the dashing Prince Andrei who is sick of life, the lovely Natasha pining for her fiancé and seduced by that terrible Kuragin, the battles of Austerlitz and Borodino, Helene’s comeuppance, the heartbreaking dog. The cast is wonderful: Paul Dano as Pierre, James Norton (now the frontrunner in the betting for the next James Bond) as Andrei, Stephen Rea as Prince Vassily and Gillian Anderson as Princess Scherer.

Of course everything depends on our falling in love with Natasha, and Lily James has to compete with the ghost of Audrey Hepburn, but she acquits herself gracefully. That ballroom scene: we really, really want Andrei to ask her to dance.

And like Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which also takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, the Rostov matriarch is the one who worries about money.