kicking and screaming my way to Hulu

Over the winter, Sam and I decided we were spending too much money on our cable bill. It’s weird how it can sneak up on you – we have a satellite dish and over time added a sports package here, a movie station there, until we looked at our bill and realized we would be embarrassed for our parents to know how much we were spending on television. We rarely have time to watch television so the return on investment was nil, and he agreed to cut out his expensive sports packages if I eliminated my (less, cough cough) expensive movie packages.

“We have a deal,” I said. “But you have to make the call. If I make the call they’ll somehow talk me into keeping HBO, I just know it. I am weak when it comes to Game of Thrones.”

Indeed, Game of Thrones and Outlander are the only television shows I really miss, and I won’t have to miss them for long – one thousand different ways exist for me to access them once the seasons are complete. I’m actually looking forward to watching Game of Thrones in box set form with my dad next winter. It was, though,one of the only television shows I watched in real time, and in sacrificing it I’ve eliminated myself from any water cooler conversation I was able to participate in. More than one well-meaning millenial (all male, for some reason) have thought it necessary to fix my predicament…if I just buy this gadget for seven dollars and then get a password to access this site and then connect my ipad to my television…

“Wait right there,” I say, to these well-meaning colleagues and friends. “You’ve just made t.v. work. The whole reason I watch an hour or so an evening is to not be working. I appreciate your efforts but I’m going to just wait for the box sets like I always have and catch up then.”

Even in exchange for my life, should such a dire situation occur, I wouldn’t be able to explain how hulu, netflix or amazon t.v. work. Logically I know I could save a lot of money by choosing to understand this sort of thing but, meh. Mostly I can’t be bothered.

At least, that was the case until Fox decided to cancel one of my most favorite television series of all time: The Mindy Project.. This is probably what I looked like:

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I have loved this television show since it began. I don’t know all the different places I’ve read about Mindy Kaling’s affinity for romantic comedies, but I knew about it before I started watching the program and expected her series to be an homage to romantic comedies which are not, in fact, not funny every second. That The Mindy Project is often so wickedly funny is a wonderful surprise – I don’t think I’ve laughed harder – as an adult – than I did the night I watched the episode “My Cool Christian Boyfriend.” Part of what makes the show so great is, of course, Mindy – but the collaboration of the entire cast is what makes the show work so damn well. Because Mindy’s character tends, especially in earlier seasons, toward the more superficial, with passions for clothes, popular culture and brunch, most of the rest of the characters bring some level of gravitas to the show, whether it’s straight man Jeremy trying to run a successful clinical practice or serious, Catholic Danny (and Mindy’s love interest) trying to excel at everything from cooking to caring for his mother. Don’t get me wrong, there is a pretty high level of jack-assery involved in every episode, but the characters create a balance I’ve rarely seen in other comedies. As the seasons have grown so have the characters, and so have the issues the show has been willing to tackle. Because it’s modeled, in some aspects, after a romantic comedy, things do take some time to unfold, and I suppose that might have frustrated some viewers. I’ve also read criticism claiming every show isn’t equally funny, but I’m not really sure how that could be achieved. What I really love about the show is how oddly true to life it can be – Mindy works in a multigenerational office that reflects a lot of current work places, with millenial ideals clashing against Gen-X ideology. There are family issues and race issues and work issues and body image issues – I defy anyone to find a show that more realistically portrays a woman’s true feelings about weight gain during pregnancy – especially if she already struggles with her weight – than this one:

http://www.tv.com/shows/the-mindy-project/what-to-expect-when-youre-expanding-3069084/

All of which is to say, by the time The Mindy Project returns, I have no doubt you’ll find me a very loyal Hulu customer and, who knows? I might catch up on Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, for I will be streaming or downloading and attaching cords to cables while, apparently, spending even less money than I am now, which seems incredible. I guess I owe a thanks, after all, to Fox!

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Is McDonald’s just a memory?

A few months ago, McDonald’s ran an advertisement that was nothing more than a collage of its various signs in different cities, with community-focused messages highlighted. Some of the messages, like “Boston Strong,” would be understood globally, while others were locally focused – high school football championships and Happy Birthday messages. The commercial struck me, even though it has been years since I set foot in a McDonald’s for anything other than a cup of coffee. I grew up in a small town, and for a long time the only fast food restaurants we had were McDonald’s, Burger King and maybe Arby’s? Taco Bell didn’t come around until I was in high school, and it was a really big deal when it did, that I remember. You can watch most of the ad, and the Today Show commentary, here (I couldn’t find an unedited version):

I found this commercial so effective because, where I grew up, restaurants like McDonald’s and Big Boy were anchors in the community. We rarely, if ever, ate dinner at McDonald’s as a family, and I was a senior in college before I tried an Egg McMuffin, but occasionally on Sundays after church my mom would take us to McDonald’s and I can still feel the anticipation in the car as we drove home, the smell of French fries moistening the air, running into my room to change my clothes so I could devour a cheeseburger and fries at our kitchen table before starting homework or heading off to hang out with friends (for the record, coming home from church and changing my clothes is still one of my favorite things in the world.) I spent the majority of my time at McDonald’s in high school, when our local chain hosted all-you-can eat pancake dinners to support various causes around town – our football team, the high school choir, my theater troupe. These dinners were ubiquitous, and fueled more dance and play rehearsals than I can count. Sometimes my entire family would go, other times, I would go with group of friends, and even now I can taste the crisp-yet-gooey pancake dough, the tang of the artificial syrup, the gristle of the three-sausages we were given (sausage, alas, was not all you can eat). These are, by far, some of my best memories of growing up in a small town – the convivial air inside the restaurant on winter nights as the wind from Lake Huron beat off the lake. Much better than the slow-simmering racism, sexism and homophobia, to be sure.

I have virtually no memories of McDonald’s from my mid-twenties – first in North Carolina and later in Pittsburgh. By its very nature fast food needs to be convenient, and after high school I never lived near one that was terrible close, and as we began our series of school-dictated moves, we never lived close enough to one to make it on our radar. The lack of proximity, coupled with a heightened sense of our wellness, meant we saved McDonald’s meals for long car rides, and now we’ve even eliminated those. Evangeline hates McDonald’s – we’ve taken her on a few occasions and she refuses to eat the chicken nuggets, the apple slices, the french fries, the cheeseburgers. Because she dislikes it so much, and because Sam and I are convinced Duncan would love McDonald’s too much, we’ve removed it as a dining option altogether.

Following a 400 million dollar quarterly loss, McDonald’s has been in the news a lot lately. I oddly read quite a bit of business news because of my job, and I know criticisms of McDonald’s range from not changing with the new, more health conscious America to not sticking with what it does best – burgers, fries and fountain Coke. According to The New Yorker, it has suffered even further from the rise of “fast-casual” chains like Chipotle and Panera, which offer better quality food for a small percentage increase in price.

It makes me a little bit sad. To be sure, I don’t think McDonald’s always played fair – they may have manipulated their food so customers developed a kind of addiction to it – and with all we know about health and wellness, it’s hard to rationalize eating regularly, if at all, at the chain. But the company also gave so many of my friends their first jobs, and in my hometown it provided a reliable and safe place to meet up with friends before or after a movie. The restaurants make wonderful pit-stops on long road trips because the bathrooms are clean and bright, and their coffee is good. I hope the chain finds a way to be solvent while still remaining true to itself – I read somewhere they want to introduce an artisan chicken sandwich, which I would never order. There’s a lot of good behind the organization, especially for kids growing up in small towns with limited job and social opportunities. But then again, I guess that’s the paradox – I love it enough to want it to succeed, without having to support it myself.

(It has occurred to me that I started thinking about McDonald’s after reading this post from Chez Danisse, and as I was doing some light fact-checking I came across this as well.)