Zack to the Future Podcast Review (2020 to 2021)

Every era and every age group has its own archetypal character that sort of sums up the creative ideas of the time.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this character was Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar)  on Saved by the Bell. Zack was an overconfident, smooth-talking kid with a slightly used salesman con artist veneer. He had a good heart, but it wasn’t always on the surface.

Zack to the Future (2020 to 2021) is a rewatch podcast in which Gosselaar sits down with co-host Dashiell Driscoll to watch the program with adult eyes. Having never watched the show, it is an opportunity for the cast, crew, and fans to reminisce about the gang at Bayside High.

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I looked forward to this podcast every week. Gosselaar’s insight provides a unique perspective on his time playing one of television’s most well-known teenage characters. Unfortunately, it has since been canceled. But like its small screen predecessor, there are always returns.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Illegally Yours: A Memoir Book Review

America has been built on the back of immigrants for over two hundred years. But in every generation, there are those who forget this and try to limit who can enter this country.

Illegally Yours: A Memoir, by Jane the Virgin writer by Rafael Agustin, was published this month. Born in Ecuador, Agustin entered the United States with his parents as a young boy. He believed himself to be as American as any other child. That belief is shattered when he tried to get his driver’s license in high school and is unable to do. When he gets home, Rafael is told that they entered the country illegally and have been undocumented ever since.

Though the truth is out, the question of Rafael’s future is now unknown.

I loved this memoir. His voice is so clear that you can easily see the world as he knew it to be then. The narrative speaks to the American dream and why so many have walked on that same path.

If nothing else, it reminded me of why my own relations immigrated more than a century ago. Their dreams of their future and their children’s future were the same as Agustin’s parents, even in a different time and place.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Illegally Yours: A Memoir is available wherever books are sold.

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Is CRT Really About the Kids or is it About Politics?

Every era is marked by its own political agenda and bold-faced names. But there is one issue that unfortunately, stills holds sway over us: racism.

These days we know it by another name: critical race theory (CRT).

CRT was the subject of last Sunday’s episode of CNN’s United Shades of America. Host W. Kamau Bell interviewed experts and ordinary citizens to get a grasp on what is actually known about the subject and what has been twisted to fit one’s political perspective.

The last group of interviewees was a handful of high school kids. The message I got is that CRT (especially if you are on the right) is not about the students. It is about political gain and maintaining the chokehold that white supremacy has on this country. If anything, it hurts our children. If we do not teach them the complete history of the United States (warts and all), we are willfully condemning them to repeat the mistakes our forebears made. It is also used as a tactic to denigrate and marginalize young people who are different from their peers due to factors such as race, religion, gender, etc.

The only way to face our past is to look it in the eye and understand what amends must be made. But this cannot be done until every one of us is ready, willing, and able to do so.

United Shades of America airs on CNN on Sunday night at 10PM.

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Throwback Thursday: Hang Time (1995-2000)

Everyone has that one thing in high school that defines those years and that experience. It could be sports, music, art, etc.

Hang Time aired on NBC from 1995-2000. This high school sitcom followed the lives of seven members of a high school basketball team at fictional Deering High School.

In short, this show was Saved by the Bell on the basketball court. Other than the sports angle, the only thing that made this show stand out was that the team consisted of both male and female players. I can recall watching an episode or two, but I was not a regular viewer. Obviously, there was enough of an audience to keep the series on the air for five years. I was not among them.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Married… With Children Character Review: Al Bundy

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting last weekend. There is only so much that can be done in a day.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television show Married… With Children. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

The image of the family sitcom father is one that was developed in the 1950s and has changed over the decades. Though he is imperfect and has his flaws (as well do), he does the best he can to take care of his wife and children. Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill) from Married With Children is the exact opposite.

His adult life is one long string of miseries. After knocking up his wife, Peg (Katey Sagal), he was forced to marry her in a literal shotgun wedding. To support his wife and kids, this former high school football star is a shoe salesman in the local mall. He hates his job (which pays nothing) and hates the customers. The only bright spot is that it gets him away from Peggy, who is frequently looking for some bedroom alone time with her husband.

It doesn’t help that his children are moochers. His daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) is the epitome of a dumb blonde. His son Bud (David Faustino), is well, an idiot. His only outlet is drinking with is spending with his friends and drooling over half-naked women half his age.

When Al is home, he has more than his family to contend with. Neighbors Marcy and Steve Rhoades (Amanda Bearse and David Garrison) are introduced as the new neighbors and newlyweds who are the picture-perfect couple. While Al is able to corrupt both Steve and Marcy’s second husband, Jefferson D’Arcy (Ted McGinley), he frequently buts heads with Marcy. But, when push comes to shove, he is the man you want in your corner.

To sum it up: To say that Al Bundy is politically incorrect is an understatement. He is rude, he is crude, miserable, and sarcastic. But he is also, in a sense, more true to life than some of his counterparts in other sitcoms. The humor in his character comes from the crassness that is over the top, but completely relatable.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

Thoughts on the 25th Anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You never forget the first female TV character that inspires you to become a badass.

March 10th was the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It was more than your standard coming-of-age high school drama. The supernatural elements were an allegory for the messy and very complicated experience of being a teenager. Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has more to deal with than grades, boys, and friends. She is the Chosen One, the Slayer who has to save the world from all manners of evil that only exists in the very darkest of imaginations.

Writer and showrunner Joss Whedon (whose reputation has recently tanked due to his inability to act like a mature adult), took the allegory of growing up, added a few literal monsters, and in doing so, made the audience feel seen and understood. We related to Buffy and her friends because they were just like us. The fact that she could kick butt and had to save the world was just the cherry on top.

What made the show appealing was more than its title character. The other people who populated this world added additional flavors and colors. Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) was initially introduced as an unsure young woman trying to find her place in the world. By the time series ended, Willow had come out, both as a gay woman and a witch, lost the woman she loved, and grieved in a way that was representative of how powerful that loss was. Angel (David Boreanaz), was both Buffy’s antagonist as a vampire and her first love. After they slept together for the first time, he turned into Angelus, a villain of the first order. The analogy of sleeping with someone who then becomes someone unrecognizable was all too clear. Buffy’s mother, Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland) tries to understand what her daughter is going through. Like any good parent, she is doing the best she can. But that does not mean that she is fully comprehending who Buffy has become.

The reason why BVTS has lasted a quarter of a century and continues to appeal to young people is its ordinariness. Underneath the supernatural nature of the series was the everyday experience of becoming an adult and the pitfalls of that experience.

Happy Birthday, Buffy. Here’s to another 25 years.

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It’s Been Nine Years Since Sandy Hook

December 14th, 2011, was a day that broke America’s heart.

Twenty-six people, most of them six and seven-year-old children, were murdered. They were killed because someone had a gun who shouldn’t have had a gun.

I remember Columbine like it was yesterday. I was in high school then, the kids who died were around my age. They at least had the opportunity to see some of the world and experience a little of what life could offered them. The children who died 9 years ago today were just a few years out of diapers. Had they lived, these beautiful and innocent souls would now be teenagers themselves.

What kills me is that even today, after too many young Americans have lost their lives for no reason, that some in the halls of power refuse to take simple steps to protect our future. They are more concerned with saving their own behinds.

May the memories of those precious lives forever be a blessing. Z”L.

Passing Movie Review

When one is part of a minority group, there are two obvious choices. The first one is to be who you are, regardless of what is being said about you. The second is to pretend to be someone else and fit in, otherwise known as passing.

Passing is the title of the new Netflix film. Based on a book written by Nella Larsen, it is set in New York City in the 1920s. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) were friends in high school. Both are biracial and have not seen each other for many years. Irene has embraced her identity as a woman of color while Clare is passing as Caucasian. Upon meeting Clare’s very white and very prejudiced husband John (Alexander Skarsgard), Irene is both curious and disgusted by her old pal’s life preference. For her part, Clare is drawn into Irene’s circle of mostly African-American friends (including Irene’s husband, Brian, played by Andre Holland). Unlike Clare, they have openly and proudly embraced their identities. She is forced to grapple with the self-applied mask of passing she has put on.

Written and directed by Rebecca Hall (who has been speaking to the press about her own biracial identity), this is a powerhouse of a film. Though both the book and the movie tell the story of two women who are both partially of African-American descent, I felt like understood them. I’ve often spoken on this blog about my own Jewish faith and identity. I could, if I wanted to, pass as someone of another faith or no faith at all. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I am of Irish ancestry due to my red hair.

At the end of the day, it is this decision we make that defines our lives. Do we not give a fuck and just be ourselves or do we submerge who we are to be accepted by others? It is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, knowing the outcome has to potential to have life-altering consequences.

Do I recommend it? absolutely.

Passing is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. I would not be surprised if Passing did well come award season.

Throwback Thursday: Beautiful Girl (2003)

We all know the image of women that Hollywood and Madison Avenue projects. Though we know that this image is completely unrealistic, we are told in both subtle and not to subtle ways, that this is who we have to be.

When we initially meet Becca Wasserman (Marissa Jaret Winokur) in the 2003 TV movie Beautiful Girl, she is content with her life. She is happy in her career choice as a 4th grade teacher and wants to teach her young students to be proud of who they are. Becca is what is referred to in Yiddish as zaftig. She has a supportive mother, Amanda (Fran Drescher), a loving fiancé, Adam Lopez (Mark Consuelos), and her grandmother, known as Nana (Joyce Gordon), who supports her unconditionally.

Becca’s perspective begins to shift when she runs into Libby Leslie (Reagan Pasternak), a former high school classmate who did not make those four years easy for her. With a limited wedding budget, she enters the local beauty contest to hopefully win a trip to Hawaii for her honeymoon with Adam. Will she win and more importantly, will Becca stay true to herself or conform to the image she is seeing around her?


The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is cute. The acting is good and the topic is as timely then as it is now. But it is a little too preachy for my sake. If I am to be honest, I prefer Winokur as the lead character in Hairspray. It has the same message, but the narrative has a subversive element that makes it appealing without being oversimplified.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

I Don’t Want to Die Poor: Essays Book Review

When we are young, many of us are told getting a college degree after high school is a must. There is truth in that statement. Without that degree, our career potential and possible income is stuck in the mud. But there is another truth that is often ignored. College is expensive and getting more expensive with every passing year. Our young people are graduating with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans that seems impossible to get rid of.

Writer Michael Arceneaux is one of these people. In his 2020 book, I Don’t Want to Die Poor: Essays, he talks about his own student loan debt and how it has affected his life so far. He discusses being both black and gay, trying to earn a living while making ridiculous payments, and going after your dreams.

I really loved this book. He is funny, charming, and authentic. I found myself laughing, crying, and knowing exactly what he was going through. I remember being in my twenties and having the college debt hanging over my head. Thankfully, it was relatively low and I had help in paying it off. Not everyone can say that.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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