Posted in Freedom Friday

Binge Watching

Netflix has given rise to the term binge watching. It happens when viewers have the choice to watch full seasons of a TV series available online, rental or for purchase. Not only does the definition include TV series, but it also includes movies. Some folks, including me, call these binge watching sessions marathons. I know of a couple of friends who have gone a weekend watching full seasons of 24.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II

Today, for Freedom Friday, I would like to talk about my binge watching sessions and tell you a bit of what I’ve learned from the experience.

For me, it all started with The Godfather. One Christmas, many years ago, I received The Godfather collection on DVD. It’s a gift I’d always wanted, since I’d eaten through my VHS tape copies and needed a replacement for the films. Way back in the distant past, the only way to enjoy this series was through TV. Like everyone else, I had to wait until the next movie in the series would air to find out what happened with Michael Corleone. I eventually purchased the VHS tapes, but sometimes my VCR mangled the tapes and it left me with a free night to do nothing other than stare at a blank television screen.

Anyway, once I had The Godfather series on DVD that fateful Christmas morning, a day later I took to my TV and gorged on all that is mob-related. Watching the movies in context with one another is an experience. Gone is the delay of waiting to see what happens. The other benefit was not having to remember what the character’s names were because they were still fresh in my mind. With subsequent marathons, I also could connect the various events that happened in the movies with each other and determine how they related with one another. I find it’s something I can’t do when I watch something once a week or every few years or so.

Breaking Bad's Jesse and Heisenberg
Breaking Bad’s Jesse and Heisenberg

Recently, my binge watching has included The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Trailer Park Boys, Breaking Bad and, just a few weeks ago, The Walking Dead.

In particular with Breaking Bad, I found the show more enjoyable without the interruptions between episodes. Walt, the cancer-stricken meth producer became more real as did his addict assistant Jesse. I could feel the adrenaline rush as they attempted to escape death from every turn.

In the case of The Walking Dead, when watching the last episode of Season 4 and the first episode of Season 5 back-to-back, my stomach tightened from one scene to another as I wondered what will happen next. I couldn’t stop from watching the protagonist unravel. Rick had me from the opening and wouldn’t let go.

Experiences like that provide for an awesome event to remember. And I also think the stories and characters become more meaningful. I know as a writer, I appreciate the plot beats to the point where they are now something to spot, “Ah, there should be a twist right about now!” Things like that make binge watching a treat.

My recommendation? If you haven’t done it, try it. It truly is something everyone should appreciate.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What shows or movies have you dedicated to binge watching either in the past or recently?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Meadow Soprano

If you’ve ever seen The Sopranos then you’ll know Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is Tony Soprano’s daughter. Some may think she’s an unlikely candidate for a Women Who Wow Wednesday tribute. I beg to differ. As you’ll see, Meadow is a lot smarter than the average young woman and a heck of a verbal fighter. There’s nothing in her vocabulary that would compel anyone to call her a doormat.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano
Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano

[Author’s note: For those who have been following my Women Who Wow Wednesday series since its inception in December of 2012, I write these posts in honor of female fictional characters who show more than an interest in being good role models for women everywhere. Yes, I write about darker characters, too (i.e. The Wicked Witch of the West, Kathryn Merteuil from the movie Cruel Intentions, etc.), but only in the context of them possessing the ability to lead. Other than that, I do not enjoy watching female characters in film act as doormats when I know they could do better. The same goes for real life.]

In Meadow’s case, she’s a mob boss’ daughter, an honor student and will eventually end up working in law under the auspices of social reform and aid for the less fortunate. If anyone deserves a U.N. honorary role for human rights, it’s Meadow Soprano. She never agrees with government policy that works against poverty. Not only is she a social issues maverick but also a leader.

How did she get this way? Having Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as a father helps, since just when he thinks he has the upper hand, she knows how to play him perfectly. For instance, one evening she uses her grandmother’s house for a late-night party, but gets off with minimal punishment from her parents. This is after her friends had trashed the place, leaving behind broken windows, soiled walls, and vomit on the floor. The next morning, she apologizes and, as a preemptive strike, suggests her parents take away her Discovery card for three weeks. They cede thinking it’s a great idea. She walks away with a smile on her face.

Robert Iler & Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Robert Iler & Jamie-Lynn Sigler

The other instance where she shows her metal is when she is dating Jackie Aprile Jr., the son of the late mob boss of the Soprano family. She suspects him cheating on her, but it isn’t until she chases after him that she discovers the truth. In the throes of a massive head cold, she catches him with another woman and dumps him right on the spot that evening. She never returns, which shows her resolve as someone who thinks better of herself than stay with someone who lies and is an abusive mate.

Meadow Soprano is more than a young woman on the road to discovery. She grows to become an advocate for the poor, a loving daughter, and a close friend to those who need a friend. She’s a wonderful role model for women looking for an alternative lifestyle without all the drama associated with personal relationships.

In other words, Meadow is someone who would make a good friend for life.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you seen The Sopranos? What are your feelings toward the character Meadow Soprano?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Carmela Soprano

On the evening of June 19, 2013, I came to learn actor James Gandolfini, star of the dramatic series The Sopranos, died of an apparent heart attack. He was 51.

Carmela Soprano
Carmela Soprano

The first time I’d watched The Sopranos, a scene from one episode on a free pay TV weekend here in Canada, I didn’t know what it was. I thought of it as some goofy comedy I’d surfed to on my way to watching Everybody Loves Raymond. It wasn’t until the fall of 2000, when CTV, one of our national networks, decided to broadcast the entire series uncut, that I took interest.

Being Italian-Canadian, I felt the show typified, with realism, how I grew up in the rough part of the city. Back then, you either held your own or became the punching bag for those who needed to prove their worth to society. I didn’t need to prove anything. I knew who I was.

Some critics had panned The Sopranos for its often-brutal display of violence, nudity and coarse language. When reading their reviews, it became obvious those critics did not grow up on the streets, and had privileged lives in some Ivy League institution.

What I like most about The Sopranos is its portrayal of life being Italian-American. The food, the characters’ mannerisms, the dialect language, the food, the gorgeous vistas of Italy, the large families, the weddings, the food, all make up our culture in an extraordinary way.

Portrait
Portrait

At the center of every Italian family, keeping it together, ensuring we remain in contact with one another, that we don’t forget about each other in the good times, is mamma. In The Sopranos, mamma is Carmela Soprano, Tony’s wife. Since the events of the past few weeks are still fresh in everyone’s mind, I thought I’d include Carmela in my Women Who Wow Wednesday series.

Tony and Carmela married young. They were high school sweethearts who went to Montclair State University until dropping out. She’s a devout Roman Catholic who has issues with Tony’s dealings in the underworld. She feels he trusts her enough to confide in her with very limited “family” information. But her main focus is her own family, even if Tony’s behavior, running off at all hours of the night, threatens their marriage.

Although Carmela’s nature is that of a materialistic hoarder, in her loneliest times, when Tony’s not there to pay attention to her, she attempts to remain close to her faith. Despite her behavior, getting too close to other men in a play of sensual tension, she remains loyal to Tony. It isn’t until Tony admits to multiple affairs that she kicks him out of the house. Imagine that, Carmela Soprano kicks out her mob boss husband who in an instant could have her disappear into nothingness.

Regardless of what anyone might think of Carmela, she tries her best to live a life befitting the morals given to her by her loving parents and faith. She loves her children very much and keeps them safe, even brandishing an AK-47 if she hears an intruder at the window.

Whatever anyone says about The Sopranos, Carmela proves life in isolation can have a positive impact, in particular, the children.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever seen The Sopranos? How has James Gandolfini’s death affected you?