Ian Thomas Malone

Monthly Archive: August 2014



August 2014



The 2014 Summer TV Season Wrap Up

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A few weeks ago, I found myself in a state of disappointment over the summer TV season, a mentality that dissipated a bit as summer wore on. New shows such as Extant, Satisfaction, Rush, Tyrant, Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, The Strain, Manhattan, You’re the Worst, and Married certainly weren’t bombs, but it’s hard to call any of them must see television either. They join sophomore offerings Ray Donovan, Under the Dome, Defiance, Maron, Graceland, and Hemlock Grove as shows that have niche audiences that don’t really draw the same wider excitement that older summer shows like Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, Entourage, Nip/Tuck used to have. This could be largest offering of ho hum shows in summer TV history.

Which leaves a few standout shows that for the most part existed either on the front or back end of the TV season. Louie and Orange is the New Black were long awaited gems, but they were also done before June was even halfway over. For all that was on in July, Rectify and Masters of Sex were the only universally praised shows airing new episodes. The fact that they air on Saturday and Sunday doesn’t do much to help the lull of must see summer television. Then there are Royal Pains, Falling Skies, Suits, and Covert Affairs, which have devoted fan bases, but aren’t really turning heads with innovation or ratings. True Blood is the sole veteran show to bid farewell and followed in the footsteps of Burn Notice and Dexter in supplying plenty of reasons for why its departure should be celebrated and not mourned.

The new shows mentioned all share in common that they exist in the middle ground between celebrated and irrelevant. The aggregate for the positive say they’re entertaining while the common complaint from the detractors is that they’re meh. Then there’s The Leftovers, which might have a similar Metacritic rating but doesn’t belong with the aforementioned rookies as it was easily the most polarizing show of the summer season. Damon Lindelof’s first show since Lost deserves most of its criticism, but I can’t say that I regret watching the grim yet sporadically satisfying post Rapture drama.

August began to change my opinion of the season as a whole. Outlander and The Knick are exactly what the summer season needed. Both shows are visually stunning, well acted historical dramas that haven’t proved they belong among TV ‘s best yet, but show far more potential than any of the other freshman shows. Garfunkel and Oates is in a similar position, which isn’t a big deal as we tend to forget that many shows don’t hit their stride in their first season anyway. The potential is there and it’s appreciated. It’s also worth noting that as neither have finished their runs, this could change sooner rather than later.

So what to make of the 2014 summer season? There was plenty to watch and if you tried all the new shows, chances are you liked at least one or two. How memorable they’ll be moving forward is another story.

I can’t think of another summer season that saw so many rookie shows wind up in the no man’s land between good and great. The rise of Netflix makes that territory less appealing as there’s no reason to watch something that you aren’t completely into with so many other choices at your disposal. If even just one or two had separated themselves from the pack, we’d be looking at a very strong summer season. Perhaps we still are. But that will vary from person to person when it could’ve been a consensus.

Opinions of the 2014 summer TV season remain largely subjective. But there’s something to be said for all the failed potential. TV’s in need of a few new headlining must see programs and we didn’t really get that this summer. But if you look at what we did get, you see that it could’ve been one for the ages. History could be kinder to it should any of those shows step up their game, but for now it was a puzzling year marred by odd scheduling and missed opportunities.



August 2014



Five College Dialogues is Available

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The moment we’ve all be waiting for is finally here. Five College Dialogues is available from Amazon and Touchpoint Press’ online bookstore in paperback and e-book. I found the release date to be quite fitting as most colleges are getting back into the swing of things right about now. It’s the perfect time of the year to explore the ins and outs of college life.

I’m also happy to announce that two sequels have been commissioned. Five More College Dialogues and Five High School Dialogues will continue The Chief’s mission to encourage students to critically examine both their decisions and their environments in a comedic yet sincere fashion. Work on FMCD is going well and I’m on schedule to have it ready to send to TPP by October.

I wanted to thank you the reader. Whether you’ve been with me since my TV Hell days (or even before that), or if this is the first you’ve read of me, I’ve always appreciated every bit of feedback I’ve received over the years. Today is a day I’ll always remember.

I’ll periodically include updates for promotional appearances/events on the main page of the site as well as on FCD’s page. I hope you enjoy the book and thank you for reading. Namaste.Five College Dialogues_Print_5x8_front


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August 2014



Is the Pumpkin Spice Latte Back Too Soon?

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Starbucks has announced that the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the coffee chain’s answer to the McRib, is returning on August 25th (also the day Five College Dialogues comes out). The beverage has quite the cult following and this early arrival will certainly please followers of the drink’s twitter account. But should we be excited that an autumn treat is coming back so soon?

It would be hard to argue that using strictly seasonal parameters. While summer doesn’t end until September 23rd, the end of August is an acceptable time to stop worrying about sunscreen, tan lines, and Mojitos. We get much of that time back on the front end with June so the semantics aren’t a big enough concern.

However, this year especially should remind us how valuable summer truly is. This winter was miserably cold and refused to end. As a result, we lost most of spring. We should not be so soon to forget that when the cold comes, it stays.

I find it hard to blame Starbucks for this ploy. The supermarkets have started selling fall themed beer already just as stores start to stock Christmas stuff right after Halloween. August 15th is also valued much differently with regards to summer than August 25th, when nearly all colleges and many schools are back in session. The PSL arrives at a time when most parents can enjoy it after dropping their kids off at school and that’s okay.

But I don’t think it’s something we should wait for with great anticipation. It’s a drink whose arrival signals the end of beach time. Sure that might help some people cushion the blow, but why celebrate the coming of the blow at all?

Shark Week is very much the same way. It’s a fun event that comes around at a time when summer starts to slow down. It’s great to have, but hopefully your Fourth of July celebrations aren’t impeded by Shark Week anticipation. Unless you’re a marine biologist.

Drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte on August 25th if you want to. But don’t forget that it’s still summer and when that isn’t the case, it will be cold. The PSL’s early arrival also puts it at risk for a burnout before October even starts. It would be a shame to miss August in October without being able to console yourself with a pumpkin treat because you’re sick of it before you should be. Live for today, not for August 25th. Unless you’re me and you have a book coming out.




August 2014



Remembering Robin Williams

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Humor is largely a concept that’s largely indicative of its time period. That’s why we hold virtuosos like Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks, who transcend generational boundaries, in such high regard. Sadly we lost one of those artists last night.

Robin Williams was a one of a kind performer who seamlessly crossed both genre and time. It’s hard to believe that the man who brought life to Aladdin’s Genie was the same force who brought Jeff Bridges back to the path of righteousness in The Fisher King. Then of course there’s Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Good Will Hunting, and Jumanji, which established Williams’ versatility to adapt his one of a kind style to the worlds his characters inhabited. Williams didn’t just use his power for laughs. He brought genuine emotion to each and every performance whether he was acting in a comedy or a drama.

Williams also was an incredibly generous man who gave his time, money, and name to worth causes such as the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the USO, which provides entertainment for our troops. He used his talent for good. Which makes the circumstances of his death all the more tragic.

The idea that someone once dubbed the Funniest Man Alive could take his own life sounds like the plot of an especially irreverent Woody Allen film. That’s sad. It makes you rethink the accuracy of the famous Beatles quote “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” All you can hope for is that a man who brought joy to millions of people over a storied career finally finds the peace that this world couldn’t give him.

Robin William’s death sucks plain and simple. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy that will live on for future generations to enjoy. Few actors could take a film like Jumanji and turn it into an endearing classic. Thank you Robin Williams.



August 2014



The Ice Bucket Challenge and the Problems with Hashtag Activism

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If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve probably noticed a large number of videos featuring people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads. Unlike last spring’s Polar plunge challenge, which had no altruistic motives attached to it despite also being linked to cold water, this social media craze aims to “strikeout” ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On the surface level, this all appears to be a clever way to raise awareness and more importantly, money, to battle a truly horrifying disease.

But is it all that clever? Maybe, depending on the results. Certain videos depicting the challenge come complete with links for donation websites, which satisfies the monetary portion of the awareness goal. Those videos embody the rational purpose of said challenge, which is to raise the funds required to research ALS.

The problem is that many of them don’t. It’s just “thanks for the nomination,” followed by a couple hashtags, a bucket of water, and a list of future nominees to lather, rinse, and repeat. Where does ALS fit in to any of this?

It doesn’t. As Kony 2012 showed us, Facebook likes don’t change the world. They supply brief moments of feel good glee that are whisked away often seconds after they’re received. But that’s okay because there’s always more. Social media never rests.

I wish there was a study to gauge the effectiveness of a hashtag activism campaign vs. a bake sale or a car wash. There are plenty of differences between the two modes of charitable work. The big one is that one is actual charitable work.

Doing good things for others feels good. That’s the whole point or we wouldn’t do them. Dumping ice on your head might feel good because you’re included in something, which was the whole point of the hashtag to begin with. But you’re feeling good for a different reason. It isn’t charity. It’s “look at me, look at me, I’ve got ice on my head. Your turn.” No.

If you’ve actually donated to an ALS charity, feel free to ignore my criticism levied. Please do, because it’s not directed at you. I donated so I feel like I can also participate in the battle to strike out ALS. But I don’t want ice on my head. I want tangible results from charitable campaigns. ALS shouldn’t be bastardized into viral videos in the same vein as the Harlem Shake. If you choose to dump ice on your head, throw a couple bucks toward the cause. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to show that you actually care. Filming a video doesn’t fulfill that requisite. If charity was that easy, we wouldn’t have any people left in need of it.



August 2014



Cell Phone Abuse at Restaurants Endangers the State of Human Civility

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A recent study was conducted by the Market Diner, a famous New York eatery in Hell’s Kitchen regarding the establishment’s diminished reviews on popular websites such as Yelp! Rather unsurprisingly, cell phones were blamed for much of the issues levied against the restaurant, namely slower service and increased waiting time. While a place like the Market Diner would experience more extreme results by virtue of its popularity, there’s certainly much to be taken from this study.

The results challenge the age old question of whether or not the customer is always right. It seems rather ridiculous to suggest that a customer wouldn’t be able to use a cell phone in a non disruptive fashion. Or does it?

The problem is that the lines are blurred. What exactly constitutes disruptive? If customers are taking longer as a direct result of cell phone usage, then the restaurant has a legitimate claim that the phone usage is undercutting revenue. In the case of the Market Diner, patrons were spending nearly an hour longer at the restaurant than they were ten years prior. That could amount to a serious loss of earnings.

And for what really? Food pictures or further affirmation from Yelp! as to what entrée to order? How much does that really matter? To some people, it matters quite a bit. Which is okay.

To an extant. It’s perfectly reasonable to treat dining out as an experience worthy of documenting. Foodie culture exists whether we like it or not. The problem is that it’s cutting into restaurant revenues in a manner that’s hardly universally acceptable.

There’s no real easily applicable solution either. Exclusive restaurants with month long waiting lists could get away with a cell phone ban, but your average establishment can’t get away with that. It would appear on Yelp! and that would send customers away in a similar fashion as the cell phones themselves.

Which makes the best solution a hard one. Self-policing. It’s not fair to expect a restaurant to tell its customers off for cell phone abuse. That ensures that said customers will not return. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a rude practice that should be addressed.

I was at a restaurant for lunch the other day when a woman at the table next to me started to play a video on her phone. The ambiance at the place was quiet enough that the video could be heard from a reasonable distance. Naturally, the woman did a quick look around to size up the scene, but she continued to play said video at a rude volume. We made eye contact, but that was it. I wasn’t going to cause a ruckus by calling her out, but I wouldn’t blame anyone else for choosing to.

That woman sucks. Plain and simple. Next time, she should bring an iPod speaker so that the whole place can hear her nonsense.

The Market Diner study also suggested that customers were asking waiters for their Wifi passwords. Drawing the line here seems reasonable. A food picture doesn’t require data. Looking something up on Yelp! doesn’t use much. Why should the customer be entitled to anything more. Would you bring dirty dishes to a restaurant to have washed in the sink? Do you bring your garbage there so your waiter can haul it off to the dumpster?

It’s laughable that we’ve reached a point in our nation’s history where the restaurant industry is suffering as a result of cell phone addiction. Using a phone at the table is hardly a crime, but it should never reach a point where you become oblivious to the world around you. That appears to be the case with the Market Diner.

I also worry that studies like these undercut another problem. Bad waiters are likely to blame for the loss of revenue. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of those around. But truly bad service is fine to complain about. One just needs to consider if the patron did anything to contribute to the diminished service.

Cell phones “bring us together,” but they also create barriers that block the immediate world around us. This needs to stop. Everyone should take a step back and honestly evaluate whether or not their usage of technology is having a negative impact on the world around them. If the answer to that is yes, a change should be made. Livelihoods are a stake.