Top 10 Syd Barrett Songs (non-Pink Floyd)

Syd Barrett, with his nursery rhyme lyrics and rhythmic guitar strumming, was an unfortunate casualty on the road to rock and roll music as we know it. This isn’t to say he died as young as some of the other greats (though he wasn’t really old, dying at age 60), but he was unable to continue creating music after his mental illness (presumed to be schizophrenia) became unmanageable, and he was forced to part ways with the band he formed: Pink Floyd.

Unfortunately, he isn’t remembered as well as musicians like Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin. But after forming Pink Floyd, and before he left our realm of “reason,” he released lesser mentioned solo material, all the while experimenting with what music could be. Since there weren’t any rules to rock music yet, he got to make a few.

And this is really just a starter kit. If you like these and aren’t familiar with his music, check out the rest of Madcap Laughs and Barrett. There are many great songs. But here are my top 10, in order of release.

Love You (Madcap Laughs)

The tinkling of the piano sounds like something out of a saloon in the wild west. It’s upbeat, while seeming effortless and maintaining its even rhythm.

The chorus employs every overused trope-y cutesy name. However, at one point, the official lyrics seem to be “ice cream, ‘scuze me,” but could just as easily be “I scream ‘scuze me’,” which I quite like, because at that point in the song he’s introducing or reintroducing himself to the person the song’s about.

You can just picture a guy either trying to get a girl’s attention from far away or even being close up and speaking much louder than he intended: “SCUZE ME! I’VE SEEN YOU LOOKING GOOD THE OTHER EVENING!” Like that.

And then: it just ends. All of a sudden. The instruments all simultaneously stopping on a pinpoint.

Here I Go (Madcap Laughs)

One of the more accessible tracks from Syd, “Here I Go” is fairly simple in its story, a love song with a bit of a twist ending. But, as almost always is the case with Barrett, there’s a little more to it than what’s on the surface.

The song actually becomes extremely meta when you realize it’s about the very song he’s playing. One of the lyrics refers to the song as “kinda catchy,” and that it definitely is. It’s just really fucking cute.

I think the stand out lyric is “so now you see my world is…” and then he doesn’t complete the thought, the next line being “because of this tune” of this tune.” Which is more accurate as to how people talk really, than a grand love song. If we could see him (and he weren’t playing a guitar), he’d be gesturing vaguely around.

Octopus (Madcap Laughs)/Clowns and Jugglers (Opel)

The reasons I’ve put two songs together like this is that there are two versions of the song on two different albums, each with its own virtues.

“Octopus” has a slightly harsher sound to it than many of Syd’s other songs. Quick short strokes and over-enunciated words, emphasizing “T” and “K” sounds. And in the chorus he really let’s himself wail, unafraid of the occasional voice crack.

“Clowns and Jugglers,” the latter version of the song, starts with a rattatat drumming, like toy soldiers, By the end, the sound becomes psychedelic.

All the song is really about is wandering around a carnival. And there’s this one ride that’s shaped like an octopus. Not so mad and non-sensical. Just a really good song. And another really good version of that song.

Feel (Madcap Laughs)

I probably wouldn’t have put “Feel” on the list on the merit of the song alone. But several tracks from Barrett’s albums include him talking to the guy recording him in the booth.

I kept checking to see if this was because I’d reached the bonus tracks (and he does a lot of talking on those), but nope! It was actually a regular song released that way on purpose. Cause, why not? Who says you can’t?

And I know he’s not the only or first person to do it, but I can think of several other songs since then that have a bit of talking, just left in there for ambience. They’re part of the songs, not only auditorily, but the way we think of them. The spoken words are as important as the lyrics or the music. And some of that wouldn’t have stuck around if it wasn’t for people like Syd doing weird shit on their albums.

Baby Lemonade (Barrett)

“Baby Lemonade” has an intro that work’s almost as its own tiny track. It’s a good way to start an album. That almost western twanging guitar is in there, starting the song off alone.

I heard it was Syd warming up, and attached by Gilmour, who was one of the album’s producers. It’s worth noting that both David Gilmour and Rick Wright played on Barrett’s albums.

When the rest of the instruments join in, the tone shifts. I think Syd’s saying a lot in the lyrics on this one.

It’s message, whatever it really is, isn’t cheery. It starts on a drab scene, and he’s comparing someone or something to clowns and suggesting a cold audience applauding at their antics, quite possibly commenting on his own experiences playing live music.  He seems frustrated and lonely, but it’s a great song.

Rats (Barrett)

Repetitive in both its music and its lyrics, “Rats” creates a sense of anxiety, an air of restlessness.

The lyrics that don’t repeat, seem like a stream of consciousness, and while love is mentioned several times in the former half of the song, it seems anything, but romantic. Rather the ending lyrics (the bit with the rats) seems more at the core of the song, which, of course, is more likely a metaphor for people feeling unneeded and unloved, simply trying to keep out of the way.

All the elements together create a hypnotic effect. Placing it between “Is It Obvious” and “Maisie,” makes the three tracks seem to work as part of a larger whole, the pace becoming slower and Syd’s voice getting lower. The guitar part playing during all three, while different, is similar enough to create an arc.

Effervescing Elephant (Barrett)

Jungle sounds set the scene for this track, and an upbeat tuba accompanies the song as a stand in for the ill-fated elephant. The track is less than 2 minutes long, and the music doesn’t start until 20 seconds in, and continues for 20 seconds after the song ends.

Of all Barrett’s songs, the lyrics to this one sound the most like they could be a children’s book. With wild animals, a Suess-esque rhyme scheme, sound effects, the afore mentioned tuba, and the jaunty tune, this track’s delightful.

It seems like it should have some sort of moral to it, but I can’t figure out what it would be, other than don’t be an elephant when there’s a tiger nearby. Though when you listen to the elephant sounds after knowing how the story turns out, it’s a little disturbing. That elephant sounds distressed.

 

Lanky, Pt. 1 (Opel)

Well, you can’t make a list of Syd Barrett songs and not include a track that’s purely 5+ minutes of instrumental only music. At points it’s reminiscent of “Interstellar Overdrive,” but with chimes and bongos.

The title of the track also tickles me. While it’s possible there was meant to be a follow up, it’s just as likely Barrett never intended a Lanky, Pt. 2. I wonder if the Kinks took a cue from that for their album titled Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, which was never to have a sequel. Combine that with the fact the Lanky ends with the instruments seeming to sort of just peter out, almost as though the musicians all became distracted by something outside the studio and just sort of wandered off, and it really seems to suggest it ends in the middle.

Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe) (Opel)

“Dark Globe” first appeared on Madcap Laughs, but when Opel was released, this track was titled “Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe),” and I like this version better.

Not unlike “Octopus” and “Clowns and Jugglers,” the version of this track on Madcap Laughs is a little more manic sounding. There was clearly a theme he was going for on that album. The Opel tracks seem to be more mellow versions.

This particular selection hits me for certain lines that sound as though they’re almost prophetic, specifically “please lift a hand. I’m only a person” and “wouldn’t you miss me at all?”

Unfortunately, suffering from a disease that so little was known about at the time, he didn’t get that help. But he is missed.

Bob Dylan Blues (The Best of Syd Barrett: Wouldn’t You Miss Me?)

This song appears to have been written earlier than most of the others, though it wasn’t released on any of Syd’s albums (it was recorded while he was working on Barrett).

Syd, like many artists in the 60’s (and forever after), was greatly inspired by Bob Dylan. So, Barrett wrote a Bob Dylan song. And it’s really good. The lyrics are from Dylan’s perspective, and it showcases the folksy and bluesy style to Syd’s music that is sometimes overshadowed or overlooked by the rock and psychedelia he became famous for.

This song is pure charm and admiration. It would have been written not long before he formed Pink Floyd, and there’s a freshness and optimism to it that’s atypical of most of his music, but a very welcome turn. So maybe it’s actually a perfect note to end the list on.

Syd Barrett performing in 1964

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8 Stand Out Stories for the 12th Doctor

We have a new Doctor. But with each new Doctor comes the end of an era. And each era comes with incredible episodes. So I compiled a list of my own favorites. And a lot of what’s on here are likely not the ones you were expecting. But these are the 8 stories from the 12th Doctor’s era that made me want to run off on an adventure,  take on an army of monsters, or hide behind the couch.

In chronological order:

Listen

Oh, HELL no!

This is, arguably, the first time we see the real power of this incarnation of the Doctor. And it’s a little…scary. But scary is good in Doctor Who, and this isn’t the only scary story I’ve included on this list even.

It plays on a very common fear that many children have: there’s something under the bed. Even as an adult, and I’ve talked to many people who are the same, I never let my leg or arm hang over the side of the bed. And I sleep on a mattress atop a boxspring atop a bed shaped wood shelf. There couldn’t be anything under the bed. Yet, that’s the rule, you never hang a limb outside the bed. Something will grab you.

The twist ending with the childhood Doctor’s ankle being grabbed by Clara hiding under the bed was brilliant, the episode has some really nice timey-wimeyness, and it creates a lovely creepy atmosphere that sticks with you.

It lost a little favor with me as I was waiting for the episode to be the beginning of a search for Gallifrey story arc that we never got, but if I can keep that out of my mind, this episode, as a single, is a knockout.

Mummy on the Orient Express

Not sure if my distaste for Clara is exacerbated or alleviated by the fact she gets to wear this dress.

It’s trains and the 20’s and a mummy, but also it’s space and time travel with Queen covers, and if that’s not enough for you, then I don’t know what you could possibly want out of life.

Much in the way that I adore “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” this one just ticks all the right boxes. While I wouldn’t put it on the same level as “Listen,” as far as the scares go, I do think it’s got a cracking monster and people keep dying, so there’s a definite threat that will keep you hand-wringing. And the clock (which was an idea apparently added by Moffat, despite the episode being expertly crafted by Jamie Mathieson) was a great touch.

And, oh, how I wish Frank Skinner’s character could have left with the Doctor and Clara at the end. He could have made a great part-time companion. Just popping his head out beneath the TARDIS console, as he did repairs.

The costumes and sets are especially fun in this one. The blend of past and future, or maybe more accurately, the future’s take on the past, is really fun to see in action. Plus, there’s that “are you my mummy” call back.

Flatline

I’m very much not a Clara fan, but I was delighted by how much this episode delighted me. She’s joined by Rigsy (another great coulda-companioned, written again by Jamie Mathieson), while the Doctor is trapped in a rapidly shrinking TARDIS.

The Doctor is incapacitated for almost the whole of the episode. So Clara has to go do the investigating Doctor-y things with some instruction from the Doctor, while he tries to get the exterior of the TARDIS back to its original size. And Rigsy, who they meet early on in the story, basically has to play companion for them. I admit seeing the roles all switched around is a good bit of fun.

All the while, they’re in danger of these graffiti monsters catching them and turning them two dimensional, while the monsters themselves, become multi-dimensional. This leads to some really interesting shots, forcing director Douglas Mackinnon to get creative.

Of course, what people really remember, and why I love it so, are all the visual gags with the Doctor stuck in the tiny TARDIS, having to spider hand walk it around and everything, which succeeds at being properly funny.

The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar

The two parter nature of series 9 let’s the stories really take their time. Sometimes the stories feel long, but in this case there was enough going on to keep me interested, and it’s one of the better Dalek stories we’ve had in a good long while.

I’d argue we really get Missy, who I LOVE, at her best here. As evil and nasty and dangerous as ever, but absolutely necessary. And she’s not even the bad guy! No! We’ve got to deal with Davros, in the ultimate if-you-could-go-back-in-time-and-kill-Hitler-would-you allegory. Not the first time this was done on the show, but still very effective, with the Doctor forced to face little boy Davros and decide his fate.

The Doctor riding into a medieval arena on a tank, while playing electric guitar is probably the best re-introduction to a character ever (and a great way to signal “this ain’t your series 8 12th Doctor”).

My only disappointment was, when Missy stuffs Clara into the Dalek casing, I thought the narrative was gonna wrap around, so it turned out Clara became Oswin from “Asylum of the Daleks,” which turned out not to be case. But it doesn’t really track when you think about it, and it wasn’t the story being told.

The Woman Who Lived

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you’ve probably pegged that I’m a Maisie Williams fan. So I was a little let down by “The Girl Who Died,” which both introduced her character and was written, in part, by Jamie Mathieson, who had never let me down before.

“The Woman Who Lived” really stands on it’s own. Though it’s set up as part 2, really it’s not connected to any of the episodes. Considering how important Williams’ character becomes, I’d have been curious to see “Girl” sprinkled in earlier in the season and “Woman” later. Anyway, point is, the episodes are totally different, and I love what they did with Williams in “The Woman Who Lived,” riding in like she’s Adam Ant in a music video.

It feels like a good old-fashioned “let’s go on an adventure” episode, the likes of which we hadn’t had in awhile, with Ashildr as the unmanageable companion. But there were also some real issues that went along with her immortality that were touched on.

Ashildr really gets a chance to arc in this episode, more than any of her others, and the Doctor gets the chance to make some puns, and they play just lovely opposite each other. The setting, the tone, the atmosphere, I just want to crawl into this episode and play awhile.

The Pilot

In which we are introduced to the infectiously enthusiastic Bill. If you don’t like her, put this post aside a moment, you seem to have misplaced your soul somewhere. She was the right companion at the right time.

Clara knew as much about the Doctor as anyone. Bill knew nothing about him. After two and a half seasons with the girl who had literally wandered around in the Doctor’s time stream, your zeal may start to waver. Seeing the 12th Doctor from a new perspective gave us yet another re-introduction. The 12th works as a professor at a university, giving him a place to show off, while keeping him grounded.

The student/teacher relationship that the two quickly form, while it was done with the 7th Doctor and Ace in the classic series, wasn’t something that the show had done anything with since it’s reboot. It works really well in contemporary times.

“The Pilot” is fast paced and has enough intrigue to keep you interested without making you want to claw your ears off with frustration. And we’re given the thread of Heather, who, while I wish she was further established over the series, is important in the finale.

Thin Ice

We get to visit regency era London, play at a carnival atop a frozen lake, and watch the Doctor punch a racist in the face! All in the course of a single episode! Bill’s excitement at her first real outing in the past is a big part of what makes this episode so joyous.

The Doctor is really in his element here, getting to show off his historical knowledge, while also having to use his detective skills. He eventually learns the “monster” is not so monstrous and gives it its freedom. Again, we’ve seen similar stories on the show before, but the execution of this one maybe works best of all. The Doctor even manages to set up some street urchins with a pretty hefty fund.

I love all the costumes in this episode. Obviously the main costumes that the Doctor and Bill wear throughout, but also the regency-era scuba gear they need when they go under the ice. It has an air of steampunk about it.

There’s also a lot of fun with the sonic screwdriver, which, now that it’s a screwdriver again, I found very enjoyable. Admittedly, it’s very sciency-wiency, but in a very entertaining and true to form science-fantasy way.

Oxygen

This is the other spookier episode on the list. Space suits that can control you, blind you, or kill you is properly chilling. It makes for the Doctor doing some really top-notch bluffing. Evil suits not enough? He may just blow himself up!

It’s a space set episode, which we hadn’t had in awhile and I think it was a nice place to slot it in. As much as I love the show jumping around in history, it’s cool to have these more science fiction feeling episodes in the middle of it, all technology gone wrong and evil corporations and running out of oxygen in space. The idea of oxygen, something so basic to human survival, being considered a commodity is the stuff of great dystopia.

This episode employs the stranded without the TARDIS situation. It’s the perfect set-up for a Monster in the House style story. The Doctor without his TARDIS is always a heartbreaking thing, and whenever they’re reunited, it feels like a huge triumph.

The episode opens with the Doctor saying “space, the final frontier,” and even I, who am not much of a trekkie, felt a little trill in my heart at the idea that the Doctor is a part of the same geeky fandoms that the fans are.

************************************************************************************

That’s my list! Bracing myself for the hate at not including “Heaven Sent,” but the truth of the matter is it just isn’t one of my favorites and it’s my list. So there. But really Peter Capaldi was magnificent, and it breaks my heart that he’s no longer the Doctor. Now I just have to wait for Jodie Whittaker to mend it.

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The Runaways: Thoughts on Episodes 1-5

Netflix has been getting a lot of attention from the series’ they’re doing with Marvel. After the success of 2 seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, and a season of Luke Cage, and even the, er, more lukewarm reception of Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher, they seemed to absolutely have the formula down for how to do a series about adult heroes (or antiheroes) in gritty contemporary America. But what if someone made a show about teenage Marvel heroes? That formula would have to be different. So Hulu decided to take a whack at it and picked up The Runaways.

I’ve read a good portion of the comic. My enjoyment of it was the reason I wanted to watch the show in the first place. I liked the source material. Of course, leading up to its premier there was a lot of muttering about how this or that looked too different from the comic. I don’t have a problem with things being changed. They absolutely have to be if you’re converting a media, so I decided to be cautiously optimistic, and I think that was 100% the right way to feel.

I don’t love Hulu’s The Runaways. I like it. There are a lot of things that I don’t like, but there are some really great things about it.

Whether, in your brain, you want to say the universe of this show and the universe of all the Netflix shows is the same, could essentially be left up to you. I’ll be clear, they have nothing to do with each other. Yet. And those shows are all set in New York. Runaways is set in LA. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m from LA. And I slightly resent New York for being considered America’s “it” city. Like, we’re always somehow seen as 2nd best, and that slightly needles at me. But the LA in The Runaways feels a little glossy in a way I don’t love. I get that it’s stylized. It’s a TV show about a comic, and most of the people in this show are ridiculously rich. Like insanely ridiculously rich. So maybe they can afford to somehow have a filter inserted in their retinas. I’m just saying, if the whole series looked like the credits sequence, I’d not being sticking around for the ensuing episode.

It’s a little more teen-angsty than is ideal for me. And there’s this whole thing about how Chase had a falling out with his Lacrosse buddies after he stopped them from raping Karolina, which, like, ugh. That’s not a thing from the original content and is clearly just there to say “look! Chase may act like a dick, but he’s a hero to root for.”

It follows the comic. And it completely strays from the comic.

All the characters got updated a little. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think it especially worked for Gert. But, like, in the comic, my favorite character was Nico. And I still like her in this, but there’s this whole storyline about this dead sister that was invented for the show. And I get why they put her in there, but it just casts a dark angsty shadow over the whole series. And I thought this was supposed to be the light Marvel show.

One of the major differences is how much of the show focuses on the parents. In the comics, they quickly become the villains. They’re still villains here, but we’re shown quite a few of the events from their perspective. And the kids are less willing to believe that the parents are super evil and less anxious to…er…runaway. 5 episodes in and that hasn’t happened yet. It will, right? I mean, there’s the title to think of.

The parents are all given their own little plots. Alex’s father is an ex-convict, who married his lawyer, Nico’s parents are trapped in a loveless marriage and the father is having an affair with Chases’s mother, whose husband is physically and mentally abusive and played by James Marsters.

The problem is when I hear a young whippersnapper giving lip to James Marsters, I want to grab him by the lapels and yell, “first of all, he’s Spike! Second of all, he’s made out with John Barrowman! So sit down and shut up! You might learn a thing or two!”

Then there’s Karolina’s mother, who started a cult and has some disconcerting relationship with, like, Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road. And her husband’s sort of a well-meaning idiot, who doesn’t really know anything. Finally, there are Gert’s parents, who are also Molly’s adoptive parents. They’re just sort of quirky and entertaining and my favorite. And there’s that whole dinosaur thing. I’ll get to that in a bit. You got all that? Great. Moving on.

For the most part, characters and costumes are spot on. The most notable exception being Molly Hayes becoming Molly Hernandez, but I’m totally okay with it. As a matter of fact, I think Molly may be my favorite of the kids. She’s younger than the others and develops super strength (which coincides with her first getting her period. That’s right, kids. Menstruation gives you super powers), and she’s just really psyched about it. The others are happy about their abilities and weapons, as well, but they can’t control them in the same way, and they don’t have the same giddiness about it all, like Molly.

But the pacing! The pacing has GOT to pick up. That’s one of my major problems. Where we ended up by the end of episode 5 (which was great) needed to happen by episode 3, or even episode 2 if you really wanted a nice clip. That was really where all the stuff I’d been waiting for happened. The gang was all together. Their superpowers or super weapons were all revealed. The relationships with the parents were all heightened in one way or another. The time machine premise was finally named (meaning they finally were like “yeah, here’s the time machine”), and the future’s gonna be dire. And we actually got some good quality time with Old Lace. It was great. But we should have gotten there sooner.

So finally, let’s talk bout Old Lace. Cause honestly who the hell cares about literally anything else when there’s s goddamn dinosaur on the show? To be fair, the series actually does a good job about making you care about the anything else you have to watch to get to the goddamn dinosaur bits. They really buried the lead on Old Lace when they were first promoting the show. There was no mention of her or confirmation she’d appear, she was missing from all the photos…and then, that glorious teaser. It was only a moment and only at the very end, and it was only a salivating snout, but we had our dinosaur. Clever girl…

The way she’s used in the show, so far has been pretty great. There’s, of course, a big mysterious build up, and she pounces on Molly, but the scene between Old Lace, Molly, Gert, and the parents in episode 5 is exactly why I’m tuning in to this show. It also makes me wonder what other possibilities this could open up in future. Like, all my friends are probably sick of me saying this, but can we have a Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series/movie now? It should be for a slightly younger audience, but bring me them dinos!

The other thing I really appreciate about Old Lace is that she’s not 100% CGI. They used practical effects for some of her scenes too. It seems like there’s something there. Because there’s really something there!

So there’s a lot in The Runaways I like. As I’m writing this. the 6th episode is already available, but I’m saving it. I like to watch them in little groups. If you’re on the fence, it may be worth checking out. Just be prepared. You need to give it a little time. Then it just may runaway with you. (Sorry.)

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Running Commentary of “Home” (The X-Files)

Okay. I’m a massive fan of The X-Files, but when first watching the show all the way through, I skipped the episode “Home.” I was watching it with my mother and she didn’t want to sit through it again.  I also have a friend who stopped watching The X-Files after this episode, because she was so disturbed by it. On top of that, there are all these stories about how they wouldn’t rebroadcast it, about it being the first episode of the series to get a viewer discretion warning and TV-MA rating, and it all built up this kind of mystique in my head. But I decided to be brave and watch the episode (in the morning. Before work. With daylight. And total control over volume and playback). Let’s do this.

It’s a cute house, really. Bit of a fixer upper…

-Yikes. That opening is unsettling. Though nothing necessarily paranormal happened.

-Mulder is a child. Whenever they’re at a crime scene he has to play with the victim’s/suspect’s/witness’s stuff. Put the baseball down.

-Interesting. Mulder and Scully don’t have the same picture of an idyllic lifestyle.

-I can almost hear banjos dueling in the distance.

-Ew! Ew. Ew. You kept the dead baby on a tray in the fridge? With your food?! Eeeeew!

-Loving the Andy Griffith references.

-Always with the flirting.

-I’m expecting to hear a chainsaw revved up at any moment…

-But why does the Peacock family choose to live in the dark like that in the first place? Actually, to be fair, I usually keep the curtains drawn as long as possible. But I’ve not boarded up my windows yet. Yet.

-Mulder going into yoga poses to pick up the TV signal is a problem today’s kids won’t understand.

-Are the Peacocks wearing goth lipstick in the scene where they all pile into the car?

-“Maybe you don’t have to lock your doors around here.” There’s  a murderer on the loose, Mulder! How ’bout tonight we lock the door?!

-I’m terrified for Sheriff Andy.

-Yep. There he goes.

-Could they smell the wife? Cause I’d actually count a heightened sense of smell as a plus on the evolutionary track.

-I get that they’re inbred, but they’re also all incredibly deformed, which could just be a different thing. Like, do they ever address how long this family’s been like this? It couldn’t have been more than two generations, right? Also, they really remind me of something…

Buffy vampires. That’s what it is. They look like Buffy vampires.

These lovely gentlemen kill newborns.

-Ooooh, Deputy Barney’s out for blood.

-I don’t wanna know what happened to the chickens all those feathers belong to.

-Bye, Barney. But, like, obviously that was gonna happen.

-Maybe they should have more than 2 people handling the Monster House job. Though now I’m really hoping for some serious Home Alone antics.

-Ohmigod. Scully speaking Babe to the pigs. But, of course, that’s the command to herd sheep, not pigs. I presume that’s why it isn’t working.

-Yes! Indiana Jones house!

-Mulder’s reaction to the news about Elvis has me in stitches.

-Okay, so I had already heard about the mother under the bed, which makes this all…well, less surprising, I don’t know about less disturbing. Also, there are a lot of women being stowed under beds in this episode.

-“They’re such good boys.” They’re really not.

-WHY ARE THEY IMPERVIOUS TO BULLETS? And baseball bats for that matter?

-She’s not there…how…

-Just chilling in the trunk (no, I know what was actually happening in the trunk. They just had to cram a little more incest in the end).

-That seems risky though. What if he locked himself in and couldn’t get back out? I’ve never been locked in a car trunk before. How do you get out of a closed trunk?

-Aaaaand the song “Wonderful Wonderful” is effectively ruined for me now.

-Other than the fact that they’d been shot a dozen times before going down, which was never commented on, there was nothing supernatural about this case, and I don’t understand why Mulder and Scully were specifically assigned to it, and the audience subjected to it.

Okay. It actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. But I think a lot of that can be chalked up to the fact that I knew what it was about going in. And I knew that the limbless mother was under the bed. I had really built this one up in my brain, based on everything I heard about it, but I’m actually feeling pretty okay. Almost…I’m tempted to say underwhelmed, but that makes it sound like it wasn’t good. I’m not saying that. It’s a great episode. I was just expecting nightmares.

But no time to linger. I have a re-watch to finish before the new episodes come out in January.

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Why Maleficent is Definitely 100% the Best Disney Villain

You know the movie Maleficent? Fuck that movie. Not because it’s a terrible movie. It’s not. I mean, it isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. Maleficent, the movie, is basically the concept of Wicked (more the musical than the book) with the ending from Frozen tacked onto it. And, hey, Disney? You know that stunt you pulled where the crow turns into a dragon and Maleficent definitely doesn’t? YOU HAD ONE JOB! Turn Maleficent into a dragon at the end! And you couldn’t even do that right!

No, for this post, I’ll be looking at the animated film, Sleeping Beauty, from 1959. A movie whose villain stole the show in such a way, that Disney thought “gee, she’s popular. Wanna give her an origin story that fucks up the reason people like her?” (I’ll lay off now, but JEEZ. US.)

The reason that people are so taken with Maleficent is that she goes above and beyond the call of evil, and she enjoys it. Not that she goes around attacking random people, but if she feels you’ve wronged her, she will take her revenge. But not by going after you, by going after your loved ones.

What happens is, Maleficent makes everyone a little uneasy, so the king and queen have a baby and don’t invite Maleficent to the christening or baby party or whatever. Like she wouldn’t hear about that shit.

Fun fact: In the original fairy tale there were a bunch more fairies and they couldn’t invite them all cause they didn’t have enough golden plates. So the 13th fairy, the only one who didn’t get invited was like, “well curse you, and your stupid baby.” Maybe invite her and give her a silver plate next time? Not indicative of anything. I just think it’s funny. I’ve never not invited someone over because I didn’t have enough cutlery.

Oh, and you may have noticed that in the fairy tale, she was a fairy. That didn’t change in the adaptation. Kindly stop calling her a witch. I’m sure that’s not doing you any favors.

Anyway, of course she hears about the baby party, and of course she’s upset she didn’t get an invite. So she whooshes in (THAT ENTRANCE) and chats with the party guests and the king and queen. And they’re embarrassed, but Maleficent claims she fine with it. As a matter of fact she’s gonna give the baby a gift. Then PSYCH! She’s super pissed, she has been wronged, and as a punishment to the parents, she curses the kid, so she’ll die on her 16th birthday by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Admittedly a weird method of execution. Then she evil laughs and disappears. She’s clearly enjoying herself.

And another fairy’s like, “seems unfair to the kid, maybe she’ll just be a really deep sleeper if I enchant her.” So, yeah, Cruella wants to skin puppies, but Maleficent likes to curse babies. Babies that have done nothing to her. To settle a score with the parents.

Fast forward to Aurora (the baby from the baby party) being 15 years and 364 days old. Maleficent has her literal pig-headed henchmen looking for Aurora and they just can’t find her. Why? Cause ‘”they were looking for a baby.” As at the party, Maleficent laughs it off at first, giving her minions a false sense of security. Then she starts shooting crazy lightening at them all. She’s so good at being evil.

But Aurora is found, and it doesn’t matter that the king has burned all the spinning wheels, Maleficent just magic’s one up, puts Aurora in a trance, and Aurora pricks her finger. By the time the “good” fairies get there, it’s too late, and Maleficent does the most dramatic reveal of the dead princess in maybe all of cinematic history. Feel badly about yourselves, good fairies! Feel very very bad!

She also decides to kidnap Prince Phillip, Aurora’s betrothed, for good measure.

Side note on the subject of Prince Phillip: He’s the first Disney prince to don a personality. Up to this point, Disney had featured only 2 other princes in an animated feature. These are Snow White and the Seven Dwarves‘ prince, who is never mentioned by name in the film (apparently they retconned him the name Florian), and  “Prince Charming” from Cinderella. Neither have much screen time, nor many lines, but are meant to represent a happy ending for a put upon, soon to be princess. Sleeping Beauty went in a different direction. First off, Aurora’s already a princess, though she doesn’t know it. When she finds out she’s a princess, she thinks this will be a problem, because she likes Phillip and she has no reason to think he’s a prince. Phillip has even less reason to believe Aurora’s a princess, and if everyone had just been upfront from the beginning, it would have saved a LOT of trouble with this vengeful fairy. Ah, well. It may be better actually, because this is where Maleficent goes above and beyond the call of baddie.

So, anyway, Phillip’s personality is that of an arrogant dick. Oh, I never said it was a good personality, but it’s a personality nonetheless. He’s brash, he’s stubborn, he’s patronizing, and goddamn it, I still prefer him to the previous princes. At least, he’s interesting to watch. And this is actually important, because it makes Maleficent more evil, facing off with a more fully realized character. Now, unfortunately, this personality only lasts for the first half of the movie. He turns mute and cliche at the end, which is too bad. But at the point he’s captured, he’s a realized character.

Cat got your tongue? She took that gag off, dude.

Maleficent takes the captured prince home and proceeds to physically, emotionally, and psychologically torture him. Is it any wonder we all adore her so much?! As a villain, I mean. Great villain. When else has a Disney villain psychologically tortured the captured hero?

To refresh your memory, she throws Phillip in a dungeon,which is pretty basic bad guy fare, but she pays him little visits. During these visits she tells him stories about princes rescuing princesses and waking them with true love’s kiss. The narrative she tells is the happily ever after narrative that we are all waiting to have happen already. Here’s the nasty part, as she tells the story, she conjures visual images to go along with it. They show the story she’s telling, but in them Phillip is an old man, barely able to stay atop his horse, who is also incredibly old, struggling to walk towards the tower where Aurora sleeps, in her eternal youth and beauty. Maleficent absolutely intends to release Phillip. Just as soon as he’s actually dying of old age. Then he can wake up Aurora.

So, anyway, the goody-two shoes fairies show up to ruin everyone’s fun. They release our suddenly boring hero, and give him magic shit, which is absolutely one hundred percent the only reason he wins the fight. Phillip goes thundering toward Aurora’s tower on his trusty steed, while Maleficent’s up in another tower making weather, when she decides to create a literal barrier between Phillip and Aurora and magics up some wicked thorns. Phillip begins hacking away at them, and Maleficent’s like “this turd just won’t stahp!” But she’s got one more ace up her flared sleeve, and it’s a doozy.

SHE TURNS INTO A DRAGON.

That’s it. We’re done. Nothing can ever top that. Jafar’s giant cobra is the only thing close, but snakes are a thing. Dragon’s are mythological. That doesn’t slow her down for a moment. Oh, and Maleficent’s using her own damn magic.

There’s one teensy little thing that Maleficent is missing, that a lot of other Disney villains have. A song. This was before Disney started giving their baddies songs though, so it seems a little unfair to dock her for that.

So cursed babies, captured princes who are torture in all the ways, making lightning, conjuring thorns, and turning into a dragon. All while looking fashionable and balancing a green and purple motif (two colors I would not have thought go together). She’s the best at being bad.

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Top 14 Episodes of Psych

The movie is coming and my mind is stuck on Psych.

I should note that, heartbreakingly, Omundson suffered a stroke (BUT HE SURVIVED. HE’S FINE.) just as production on the movie was about to begin, and his role was mostly cut. Though they have promised his presence will be felt, and I hear he will have a brief appearance. I’m still excited, but that’s a bummer.

This was going to be a top 10 list, then a top 11 list. I wasn’t expecting this to to be so hard. It was actually really hard. I had a few episodes in my head that I knew I really liked, but I recently rewatched the series in preparation for the movie, and I had forgotten how many awesome episodes there are of this show. Why top 14? Because I can! But no more than that, because damn, this took a long time to write.

But, yes, there’s a lot of good stuff missing from the list, and I probably left out all of your favorites. Go make your own list! But the episode with my favorite ever joke isn’t even on here, so I was really going for overall quality.

Oh, and I’m discounting the musical, because it was a feature length television event, and that’s not fair. But the musical is wonderful. Yes, I realize that you can split it in half, but why would you do that?

14. Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster’s Goblet of Fire (08×01)

I couldn’t not include a Despereaux episode. That would be madness.

Aside from that, this episode is like if Guy Ritchie directed The Italian Job, starring Dulé Hill as Harry Potter. What about that doesn’t make you want to drop whatever you’re doing and watch it immediately?

I’m partial to Mini Coopers, so it didn’t hurt anything that that was the getaway car. And the episode makes us question if, after all his previous nefarious involvement, Despereaux was actually working undercover for the government (or then again, maybe he wasn’t). It was done really well.

One of the other things that I appreciate about this show is, while it does poke fun at nerds and geeks, Gus is one. A lot of the people who watch this show are as well. As the series wore on, the references to things like Harry Potter, conventions, and cosplay became kinder. And Gus wanting to attend a Harry Potter convention wasn’t so much a point of ridicule, so much as an obstacle for Shawn, who was trying to convince him to help with the case.

This was also a really great way to start season 8. Season 7 ended with our beloved SBPD being dismantled. Setting the first episode of the next season outside of the country allowed for the first episode to be fun and lighthearted. An immediate return to form, thus leaving some of the more serious elements for later episodes. I was one of the people who watched this show as it aired, so it was nice to have this open the season after waiting out the season break.

13. 1967: A Psych Odyssey (08×06)

Seeing the list laid out like this makes it seem that it’s stacked in season 8’s favor. This is odd to me, because on the whole, I don’t think of season 8 as being the stand out season. But it has a lot of important endings that were the moments that really stuck with me, and I couldn’t bear not to include them.

While seeing the characters as their 60’s counterparts was a lot of fun (as was Dulé Hill’s awesome musical number), that’s not the reason this episode is on the list. Lassiter is finally appointed police chief, but on the condition that he be assigned a new head detective, meaning the job won’t go to Juliet. He tells her that, and then says that’s the reason he’s not taking the position. Juliet in turn, tells him to take the job. Instead she’ll take the head detective position Chief Vick offered her in San Francisco.

Then she has to tell Shawn, and the night before she’s supposed to leave, she takes off while Shawn’s still asleep, snatching away any last attempt Shawn would have made to make her stay (she knows him well), but also taking away his chance to say say a proper goodbye.

The scene with Lassiter was actually the thing that got to me the most. Shawn she’d continue to see, but Lassiter, not so much. They’d worked side-by-side for 7 years, and as he was promoted, the plan was always to promote her along too. When the role was offered to him the way it was, he felt like moving forward without her would be a betrayal, so instead, she moved on without him. Their final scene (and it was the last scene the two of them have together in the series) had me in tears.

12. Santabarabaratown 2 (07×01)

…he’s so happy.

Again, this one got a spot because of how emotional it was. Shawn’s relationship with his father, Henry, is complicated. Paren-child relationships often are, but there were a few moments, when the show would do flashback sequences, and I’d find myself thinking, “okay, we’re bordering on child abuse now. We’re not quite there, but we’re close.” Not that Shawn made anything easy for his father, ever, but Henry was always pushing Shawn to be more analytical and grown-up. The resulting rebellion meant that Shawn never grew up.

But when Henry gets shot at the end of the previous season (and props to Corbin Benson for some of the best getting-shot acting ever), Shawn becomes both angry and terrified, in a way that we just never saw before (or really after). The scene where Shawn breaks into the shooter’s house, and proceeds to destroy every valuable item he sees, hits an oddly emotional note, and one the show doesn’t often explore. Shawn’s dealt with countless murders and shootings, but when it’s personal, he can’t cope.

But it’s not completely devoid of comedy. Lassiter find’s his “favorite landmine,” Shawn and Gus accidentally set one such mine and need to be rescued, and there are multiple gun-conga lines, which Shawn insists on mistakenly calling “Mexican standoffs.”

And Juliet has to save Shawn at then end. I love when that happens. To be honest, there was some casual sexism earlier in the series that was mostly eliminated by the end. The only sexist comments by this point were meant to show that someone was a terrible human being.

Oh, and Henry doesn’t actually die. That’s important.

11. Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion (02×15)

Because Shawn and Gus have to be models and that’s just funny. What lands it, of course, is that Shawn thinks he’s hot shit, then he’s repeatedly taken down a peg throughout the episode, when the real models are baffled by his presence. Even Gus fairs a little better than Shawn.

This episode isn’t gimmicky in any way, nor does it have a particularly strong movie tie in, like many of the episodes do. It’s just a strong episode that’s a lot of fun, with as good a mystery and resolve as any other.

And we learn Shawn and Gus should never be allowed at a funeral ever. But that scene is bloody brilliant. Plus, it’s open casket, and everyone’s a little too handsy with the body, really.

Of course, the joke that everyone probably remembers from this episode is Shawn and Gus going by the aliases Black and Tan. Respectively. And calling out the bouncer who refers to them by each other’s names.

And this show is sort of famous for its guest stars, but somehow people seem to forget that this episode features Amanda Pays! From Max Headroom and The X-Files. I’ve written about both of those shows on this blog before, and Pays is awesome. I love her in the former and love to hate her in the latter. A joke of the episode is that her character’s set up on a blind date with Henry, and in the beginning he claims they don’t have any chemistry. The actors are married in real life.

10. Murder?…Anyone?…Anyone?…Bueller? (03×02)

This episode gets a lot of credit for being their Breakfast Club episode. There have been numerous references to The Breakfast Club throughout the series, including several of the cast members guest starring, some in major and recurring roles, but this is the episode that just exists as homage. (The only actor from the main five that they failed to ever get on the show was Emilio Estevez. Maybe he’ll turn up in the movie or  some other future incarnation.) As the title would suggest, there are a few send ups to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off thrown in the mix, as well.

Gus is organizing his and Shawn’s high school reunion when, of course, Shawn thinks he sees a murder and has to convince everyone of what’s happened. Lassiter, it turns out, is already there, on a date with an intense and dramatic woman, played hilariously by Janet Varney (whose character also been illegally filling prescription medication). Juliet agrees to attend the reunion undercover. Then, after Shawn has to make a phone call to his dad, both his father and mother show up at the reunion, much to Shawn’s horror.

WhenGus realizes that there has been a murder at the reunion he’s been so carefully planning for so long, he and Shawn have to carry the body, stuffed in the mascot’s costume, through the halls of the high school.

This episode also marks the introduction of Abigail, who becomes the first real girlfriend we see Shawn have. Yes, unfortunately, her personality begins to erode away in later episodes, but she’s great in her first showing. She’s able to match wits and 80’s references with Shawn. Their banter provides some really excellent dialogue and some sweet moments.

9. Pilot (01×01)

The first pineapple.

Pilots are always a little off. It’s all the actors’ first crack at playing the characters, the creator/writer is still figuring things out, moments are bound to change as their being shot, and it doesn’t have the polish that any network is going to give it. They’re always just a little strange. Psych is no different. Juliet isn’t even in the show until the next episode! (Though I always attributed that to Anne Dudek getting cast in House. Is that what happened?) I’m really happy we ended up with Maggie Lawson though, so I can’t complain.

That being said, the pilot episode of Psych is a really strong showing. The original pilot is longer than the one that was aired and really gives the whole thing time to breathe. Seeing how Shawn uses his non-supernatural abilities in a way that seems supernatural is handled really well, both in the way he works out the murderer as well as how he convinces the police department that he’s psychic. The elements themselves may not be the most original, but the way they’re assembled and the characterizations laid over it is incredibly effective. Also, it explains why he needs to pretend he’s psychic, and keep the charade up. This isn’t just for fun, there are stakes. Shawn’s in a lot of trouble if they realize he’s faking. But in the moment, it’s the only way he thinks he can keep out of trouble.

The chemistry between Shawn and Gus is instantaneous and never weakens. And it’s probably the most important part of the show, so it’s impossible to oversell this. We know everything we need to about who these characters are and what their relationship is from the first scene they have together. Like writing should do. Lassiter, Vick, and Henry are also pretty clearly drawn from the start, which I think is a combination of good writing, casting, and acting.

8. Dual Spires (05×12)

Alright, so if you’re not a Twin Peaks fan or have never seen Twin Peaks, you might have seen this, thought “that was weird,” and then moved on with your life. But if you are familiar with Twin Peaks (especially if you actually enjoy it), then you may very well still be recovering from this episode.

It included several actors from the original cast: Dana Ashbrook, Catherine E. Coulson, Sherilyn Fenn (my favorite!), Sheryl Lee, Robyn Lively, Lenny von Dohlen, and Ray Wise. Wise had appeared in an earlier episode of the show, so they devised a way that his character would end up in the strange town of Dual Spires.  The episode followed a similar plot line to Twin Peaks: a girl washes up dead, but in a town full of weirdos, how do you find the killer?

There were maybe more Easter eggs in this episode than any other (especially if you watch the extended cut). The episode clearly had a lot of love for the series, though wasn’t afraid to point out some of its flaws, like its lack of minorities (at one point, a little girl asks Gus if he’s Frederick Douglass).

I’ve written about Twin Peaks twice in the last year (and seen the original series again), so I found myself catching even more of the references in the Psych episode than I had the first time around, which means it gets better on repeat viewing. I consider this the mark of a great episode.

And, hey, maybe “Dual Spires” is part of the reason they got the attention of Jennifer Lynch, who went on to direct future episodes of Psych. Jennifer Lynch is the daughter of Twin Peaks creator, David Lynch.

7. Mr. Yin Presents… (04×16)

I back and forthed on this one. I knew I wanted a Yin or Yang episode on the list. Seasons 3, 4, and 5 each had an episode where the villain was either Mr. Yang (played by Ally Sheedy) or Mr. Yin. And these episodes were DARK. Yin and Yang would go after people close to Shawn and threatened to murder them if Shawn couldn’t solve the puzzles left for him. The first episode gets major points for it being the first time they tried something so dark and doing it so well (and Gus does some of the best best friending), and the last episode ties up the arc really well.

But “Mr. Yin Presents…” had to win in the end. It’s a love letter to Hitchcock films and has some really gorgeous technical elements. There are some shots in there that are unlike any other in the series. There are also just a million awesome references. Ally Sheedy gets to be heavily featured, as they visits her in the institution where she’s being held, and she gives them information on the new killer.

Eventually, Shawn is forced to chose between saving Abigail (his girlfriend at the time) and saving Juliet. He saves Abigail and gives Lassiter the information to reach Juliet. In the end, both are saved, but each comes with a price. Abigail realizes the dangers that Shawn’s work really brings (after nearly being drowned) and decides it’s not a life she’s comfortable with and breaks up with him.

Meanwhile, Juliet is traumatized (after nearly being dropped off a building), and it affects her work, an arc which continues into the next season, forcing her to take a leave of absence, and then having trouble when she tries to return to work, with an overprotective Lassiter trying to dissuade her.

I also feel like “Mr. Yin Presents…” was an episode for movie lovers, and I’m maybe that above all else.

6. The Break Up (01×10)

This is another emotional one. Actually, it’s THE emotional one. I know because I recently watched it and just bawled the whole episode. But then it was also really funny, so I choke-laughed and sob-giggled through the whole friggin’ thing.

The title doesn’t refer to Shawn and Juliet, it refers to Shawn and Gus. As I previously mentioned, that relationship is the real heart of the show. Shawn gets to be with Juliet, but it means sacrificing his friendship with Gus. Or so he thinks.

It’s almost cruel, really. Shawn completely packs up, clears out the Psych office, tells Juliet he’s moving, makes a good-bye video for a few key people, and leaves. The face-to-face good-bye’s are just to hard for him. But, ouch, Gus’ expression when he’s finished watching the message. It’s a mixture of confusion, sadness, frustration, anger, and betrayal. He doesn’t understand. Is it true? Is it a joke? And then he realizes that Henry found out Shawn had left in the same way, and he realizes it must be real.

Again, one of the real gut-punches of the episode involved Lassiter. Lassiter, who so often played light antagonist to Shawn, watches his good-bye message. And then comes the moment. Shawn’s gonna admit it. The one person who always doubted he was psychic, and Shawn’s gonna come clean and tell Lassiter he was right, and Lassiter turns off the message and breaks the DVD it was on. In the end, Shawn left, Psych was closed, and Lassiter would rather have the illusion. And I fucking wept. (Guys, I’m beginning to think Timothy Omundson is, like, a really good actor.)

The episode also incorporates a murder mystery as per its usual. Shawn’s Billy Zane obsession gets a hilarious payoff as Billy Zane plays the killer. (And the often mentioned Val Kilmer also makes a cameo.) There’s also a really great car chase where Shawn and Gus are both steering a student driver car.

In the end, the whole main cast, minus Lassiter and Henry, are together again, but in San Francisco (where the Psych business will be reopened), and the idea is that they can basically continue on as always.

5. Last Night Gus (06×02)

Full disclosure, as of my writing this, I’ve not seen The Hangover, and this episode is a send up to it. But if anything, I think that it deserves points for me enjoying it as much as I do without ever having seen the film is references.

Shawn, Gus, Lassiter, and the coroner, Woody, all wake up in the Psych office and try to piece together the events of the previous drunken night, which ended in a murder. Each of them could potentially be the murderer and none of them remember what happened.

Shawn is especially out of his element, eventually exploding in a rant about imaginary ice cream cones. Lassiter spends the day trying to conceal that he has a black eye, getting into an insane argument about sunglasses with Juliet. His gun is also missing bullets. Gus goes into a panic after discovering the Blueberry, his company car, has a dent in it. Woody has a strange substance all over his face that looks like cocaine, but turns out to be from powdered donuts.

Everywhere they go, people remember them and no one’s pleased to see them again, particularly the donut guy.

Of course, none of them killed anyone, but them trying to follow the clues while they’re all hungover is hilarious. And Shawn’s utter despair at being unable use his memory and observation skills to go faux-psychic are where much of the fun stems from.This is compounded with Henry waking up in an unfamiliar hotel with a similar problem, no pants, and discovery that a corpse has turned up in one of his shirts.  That and the group dynamic. Anytime Lassiter has to work with Shawn and Gus is great. And Woody is always an excellent addition.

4. Cloudy with a Chance of Murder (01×13)

This episode was so good they made it twice. But the remake just couldn’t live up to the original (though I love the My Cousin, Vinny joke). Full of puns, this early episode is a great example of the show’s ability to take any category, like weather station, and turn it into a murder mystery. The reason the original worked was it didn’t feel overstuffed or even heavily themed. And, as this list has made abundantly clear, I love my themed Psych episodes, but it’s nice to see the show successfully pull off a more straightforward episode of TV. Because it can. The show’s legitimately good.

The plot isn’t all that complicated: a lawyer, Adam Hornstock, played by the excellent character actor Michael Weston (who is seriously a big part of the reason this episode works), is trying to convince a jury of his client’s innocence, but he just doesn’t have the confidence to back up his claims. But Shawn doesn’t think the defendant has killed anyone and decides to step in. He and Gus become legal consultants, helping Hornstock build up his case.

I challenge you to find a better scene than Shawn handing Adam alternate and increasingly ridiculous names for the weatherman. And then I’d like to refer you to the gag reel for the rest of the names, which were left on the cutting room floor. That sequence brings me so much joy.

Shawn’s antics in the courtroom, Adam’s boomeranging confidence, and Shawn wrestling Gus’ tie off made this episode an instant classic for me. Apparently the crew disagreed. I still love it.

3. Heeeeere’s Lassie (06×11)

Like “Dual Spires,” appreciation for this episode involves some prerequisite viewing. But, oh man, do I love The Shining, and this episode! It makes me giddy with glee. And alliteration, apparently.

Lassiter moves into a new building and starts experiencing some strange things there that he can’t explain. Embarrassed that he finds himself considering the disturbances may be paranormal, he asks Shawn and Gus to take a look. They’re THRILLED by this turn of events, showing up at the building in Ghostbusters-esque jumpsuits and wielding ghost-hunting equipment.

They meet several of Lassiter’s strange neighbors, each reminiscent of a character from a horror film. But overall, nothing seems suspicious while they’re there, which drives Lassiter nuts. But that night they witness a light fixture filling with blood. Lassiter becomes increasingly sleep deprived and paranoid and Shawn and Gus suspect a neighbor is trying to drive him away. But by the time they tell Lassiter, he’s gone full Jack Torrance and begins chasing Gus around the building with a sword, until they’re reenacting THAT scene. You know the one. They find out that one of the tenants was pumping amyl nitrate through the vents, which resulted in all of Lassiter’s strange behavior, and the tenant is arrested.

Some of the best moments include my personal favorite alternative credits sequence, Amy welcoming Lassiter to the building, the pregnant woman, Rosemary, the bloody light fixture, the holiday photos (akin to those at the end of The Shining), and the Lassiter/Gus chase.

2. Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast (01×16)

The season one finale very nearly took the top spot. And depending on my mood, these top picks could all jostle for position and shake down a little differently, but here it’s ended up just shy of the top spot.

Haunted by a death Shawn thought he saw as a child, the urban legend of Scary Sherry has been passed around town and survived into his adulthood. Meanwhile, a sorority has had some strange activity and the girls in the sorority house suspect ghost activity. Shawn and Gus are only too happy to investigate. Juliet goes undercover as a graduate and alumna of the sorority when bodies start dropping.

It’s the perfect set up for the show, a scream queens style setting and cast of characters, bizarre, but amusing deaths (the second half of the title refers to an unfortunate incident one of the girls has in the bath with a toaster), and the setting of Halloween night.

By the time Juliet finds herself the next target of the murderer, she’s been lured to the hospital of the Scary Sherry scene. Shawn and Gus overcome-ish their fear of the site, and they and Lassiter rush to the old facility, hoping to rescue Juliet, but she proves she can handle herself. When they find her, Juliet has taken the ax from her would be attacker and stands over her with it, screaming “you’re under arrest, you crazy crazy bitch!”

Lassiter’s side of the episode involves him trying to train an aging rookie detective, who drives him crazy, but who he also seems to have a begrudging affection for. At the end, the rookie ends up in the hospital, and Lassiter sees Shawn, Gus, and Juliet having lunch together at the station. He seems to want to join them and, for a moment, looks like he might, but then turns away. Shawn calls after him and tosses him a fortune cookie. Lassiter wanders off with it, but smiles. He’s making progress. Not that he ever really reaches the level of friendship the trio have. Ah, well. Still, a great episode.

1. Tuesday the 17th (03×15)

Fun fact: the original airdate of this episode was Friday the 13th.

I’ve actually written about this episode before on my 11 excellent episodes of TV post, so it may not be surprising this ended up at number one. And I’ve not seen Friday the 13th in its entirety, so like the Hangover episode, I’m not terribly familiar with the source material. Though I have seen scenes from it, including the ending, and I’ve seen Freddy vs. Jason (WHICH IS A GODDAM MASTERPIECE. FIGHT ME).

Like Scary Sherry, Tuesday the 17th is a great set-up for Psych and in a somewhat similar vein: Shawn and Gus are asked for help by an old camp friend (whose name is Jason…hmm) after a counselor at the camp he’s opening goes missing. As they head towards the camp, they’re warned by a guy on the road not to go there. While touring the camp, Shawn finds bloody clothes. True to horror movie fashion, the counselors, who are each perfect horror film archetypes, want to split up and search the grounds. Shawn wants to stay put and call the police. The others all leave, but Shawn calls Juliet who meets him at the camp. Shawn then finds the missing camper shoved in a laundry sack as a hooded figure bursts in. Shawn runs off, before realizing this is all an elaborate prank. The camp is horror themed and they were testing it out on Shawn. Even Gus was in on it. They break into a celebration montage complete with champagne and Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” (LOVE IT. I basically claimed this song as my anthem in college, so I felt like this episode was speaking to me personally, while watching it in my dorm room). Then a real dead body turns up. From there on out they have to figure out which of the counselors is a murderer.

Meanwhile, Lassiter has to face the fact that his estranged wife is, in fact, divorcing him and does more good acting.

Shawn literally being placed in a horror movie setting  and situation is brilliant. So often he’s able to dance around the edges of any real danger. Here, he recognizes the signs, and there’s not really anything he can do about it. And Shawn’s childhood Rick Astley piñata?! Brilliant. Seeing Gus have such a close friendship with Jason and witnessing Shawn’s jealousy adds an interesting layer to their characters that we don’t often get to see, without tearing  a rift in their relationship. This episode is quite simply everything I want from a Psych episode.

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What Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Taught Me About Addiction

Several months ago I fell down the rabbit hole that is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I didn’t watch the first two seasons when they premiered. I admit, I found the title a little off-putting and didn’t get how the plot could sustain an engaging week to week scenario. And musical TV shows are very hit and miss. While the idea of a show creating multiple original musical numbers week after week sounded appealing, it seemed unlikely they could pull it out of the hat. But several people I knew were watching it and all thought it was great. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t heard a single bad thing about it. And I had been watching a lot of dramas and was ready to start a new show. Something light and fun. I gave it a try, and I sopped up the first two seasons like a mop.

And here’s the thing. Yes, it’s a little like a soap opera with ridiculous things happening week after week, and you can often sense where it’s going next, but there are some real issues it brings up, which makes it continuously relatable. And the musical numbers, as it turns out, are brill.

There are a lot of different things I could talk about in regards to the show, but I want to focus on addiction. Because the lead character has an addiction. But it’s not in the way you’d expect. While they do touch on her use of prescription medication, she doesn’t have the drug/alcohol problem that many other shows lean back on.

I’m going to very openly state here that I have an addictive personality. I’m aware of it, and so far I’ve been able to (mostly) keep it check. I particularly careful of,  you know, the obvious addictions. But it’s so easy to get addicted to things. And the type of things you may find yourself habitually doing, might not be talked about really. Like, bingewatching. Yeah, that an addictive thing. I do that. I have for awhile. I’ll zip through shows that have been on for years in a couple weeks. Other than the fact that it’s just easy to sit on the couch and let a show wash over you, the thing about TV watching that’s addictive for me, is that I can get really caught up in the fantasy. Really really really. I want to live in that TV show world. Doctor Who, Supernatural, The X-Files, Max Headroom, Jessica Jones…alright, some of those might seem like odd choices of universes to live in, and maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. I might not actually survive a Wendigo attack, but I could try!

I’m getting off topic. The point is, my addiction isn’t just to watching a show. It’s also this fantasy it’s created. Or I’ve created. I dunno, it’s my head. So I retreat into my disturbed little brain and plug myself into that world. Whether or not I’m watching the show. I imagine scenes with myself in the universe. Everywhere, and all the time. Home, work, out for a walk, driving, trying to fall asleep. Of course, the same goes for movies and books. Star Wars? I’m there. Harry Potter? Hold my Butterbeer. And sometimes they’re universes that I’m writing, and I can at least pretend that’s not as bad, cause, like, it’s kind of working on the script in a weird way?

But what does this specifically have to do with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?

Yep. Yep yep yep yep yep.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is all about addiction. The lead character, Rebecca, is addicted to Josh. Actually, no. She’s not so much addicted to Josh, but rather the fantasy version of him (and them) that she has in her head. She needs to attain him, so that she can carry on with the fantasy life she’s created. Along the way, the audience retreats with her, into her brain, and experiences the musical numbers that she’s imagining. That’s the addiction.

But she’s not the only one with an addiction. Paula’s addicted to the drama that comes from Rebecca’s love life, Valencia’s addicted to health crazes, Greg’s an alcoholic, and Josh likely has some sort of relationship addiction (and keeps pinging back to Rebecca, maybe from an alternate fantasy of his own). Most everyone in the show has an addictive personality.

The characters begin as over-the-top caricatures, stereotypes even. You know a Rebecca type and or a Josh type or Paula/Greg/Valencia/etc. And it’s a musical, and it plays into musical tropes, which are very formulaic. And then the show completely fucks up those tropes, and that’s where I learned something.

In the beginning we’re introduced to Rebecca and her McGuffin, Josh. Then after the inciting incident and her move from New York to West Covina, we meet Greg and go “oh, so obviously he’s the guy she’s supposed to be with.” They followed that storyline to a T, and then wrote Greg off the show. Wait, what?

Now that may not have been the intention of the writers from the beginning, but when the actor (Santino Fontana) left, it brought that storyline to a close. It upended the trope. And it jarred me, because I had let myself fall for the trope, hook, line, and sinker. But the thing is, that’s every well meaning feel-good rom com with a bad message about being with the wrong people for the wrong reasons. SO, actually, it may have kinda saved the show. And I liked Greg, I didn’t want him to leave, but for the sake of a better message…maybe it wasn’t the worst thing in the world?

Cause I think we all have a certain addiction to story formulas too. The romantic comedy musical formula goes: Girl chases wrong boy. Girl meets right boy, but isn’t interested because of wrong boy. Hijinks ensue. Girl realizes wrong boy is wrong. Girls ends up with right boy. They walk off into the sunset together.

We were expecting that. She even has the airport scene where she dramatically stops him before he gets on a plane. To which he responds by going into a showstopping number, in which he calls their relationship shitshow, and then gets on the goddamn plane. And he’s not totally wrong to say what he said or do what he did. And isn’t that more like…life?

And they left it so Greg could come back, but he and Rebecca wouldn’t be able to pretend like they had a perfect relationship and could just pick back up where they left off. That shit needs some work.

Then, okay, fine. I can’t just roll over and rewire my brain out of fantasyland. And I’m not sure I want to. But some of us have this trope addiction. How do we treat it? By letting our expectations evolve. Letting shows grow beyond their tropes, really pushing for and supporting new stories. Or, okay, if it’s a familiar story, tell it in a new and exciting way. Go in a direction the audience didn’t see coming or, you as a creator, hadn’t planned. I’m hopeful, we’re going in that direction. TV is so exciting right now. Some people don’t get that, and it’s SO frustrating to me. Shows coming from streaming platforms have been ON POINT, but shows coming to us through traditional networks are also crafting good stories. Let’s acknowledge them. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a great place to start for a little trope rehab.

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