Thursday, July 5, 2012

Top 11 Teen TV Shows

Okay, here's the truth. If you couldn't guess based on my love of romantic comedies, I happen to also enjoy soapy TV. Between the ridiculously good looking actors in their 20s and 30s playing teenagers, hormonally charged drama, family, fighting, sex, scandal, love triangles, after school special messages, and sometimes supernatural elements--what's there not to love? It's nothing like real life, generally campy, but every now and then, there's a moment of realness. Here are my top 11 all time favourites...

11. One Tree Hill (Seasons 1 - 4)
Characters from left: Nathan Scott, Haley James Scott, Peyton Sawyer, Lucas Scott, Chris Keller,
Mouth McFadden, Brooke Davis, Skills Taylor
A show about half-brothers who hate each other (one was raised by the rich --but evil-- father they both share, while the other by a struggling --but loving-- single mom) and end up trying out for the same position on their high school basketball team. Eventually, they become best friends and in between, (at least in the early years) there was tons of lying, stealing, backstabbing, cheating, teenage pregnancy and marriage and so on. Get to the 5th season, where they fast forward five years to bring all the characters into their 20s and all of a sudden, they live perfect lives as we all do in our early 20s as NBA players, writers, record label owners and fashion moguls. Yeah... you can understand why it's not worth watching after the fourth.

10. Beverly Hills, 90210
Characters from left: David Silver, Kelly Taylor, Dylan McKay, Brenda Walsh, Brandon Walsh, Donna Martin,
Steve Sanders, Andrea Zuckerman, Scott Scanlon
Between the original version in the 90s (10 seasons) and the reboot (3 seasons), I do not think there is any single campy plot line this TV show did not explore about a group of upscale teens living in the coveted 90210 zip code. The show begins with the entrance of a middle class family into this society, caught between their values and blending in. This show is essentially mindless and yet, completely addictive. It had everything OTH did including the lying, cheating, betraying, but most importantly of course, my favourite almost reformed bad boy (enter Dylan). The reboot is basically the same thing, focusing on the same school, it's the type of show where school is merely a background set to act as home base to the main characters.

9. The O.C.
Characters from left: Seth Cohen, Summer Roberts, Ryan, Marissa Cooper, Sandy Cohen, Kirsten Cohen,
Caleb Nichol, Jimmy Cooper, Julie  Cooper
A show about a "troubled youth" that gets adopted into a wealthy family living in Newport and becomes part of a family. There's rich people parties, beach, drama and a love story between haves and have nots. Classic. However, by the start of the second season, the show pretty much covered every plot line they could think of between exploring bisexuality, pregnancy scares, fraud, fights and affairs... which means, yeah after the first year it sucked.

8. Saved by the Bell
Characters from top left: A.C. Slater, Mr. Belding, Samuel "Screech" Powers, Lisa Turtle, Jessie Spano,
Kelly Kapowski, Zack Morris
Okay, so this is absolutely after school specialed out, and I probably enjoyed this show more as a child than I did as a teenager but Zack and the gang always made me laugh. It's PG and yet so good, complete with a love triangle. It draws parallels to all things wonderful: like the Breakfast Club (six individuals so different and yet they get along--you know the jock, the troublemaker, the nerd, the princess, the overachiever and the pretty one all anchored with a principal who is easily fooled). And like Archie comics, cheesy yet addictive. And like Dennis the Mennis, as Zack Morris is really a grown up version (add a brick cellphone and subtract the slingshot), and freaking cute. I think I've watched every episode two to three times as I'd watch in the mornings between 7 and 8 AM right before school from Grades 4 to 12.
7. That 70s Show
Characters from top/left: Jackie Burkhart, Steven Hyde, Fez, Michael Kelso, Eric Foreman, Donna Pinciotti
Seriously, I know, this list keeps getting better. Hilarious. Awesome characters, lots of mishaps, awkwardness, pot, stupidity and sarcasm. It's a comedy about a group of teenagers growing up in 1970s Wisconsin and the cast dynamic makes every 20 minute episode pretty enjoyable. 

6. Veronica Mars
Characters from left: Eli "Weevil" Navarro, Parker Lee, Wallace Fennell, Stosh "Piz" Piznarski, Veronica Mars, Sheriff Mars, Logan Echolls, Dick Casablancas, Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie, Sheriff Don Lamb
This show was severely underrated and one of my favourites even though it only lasted 3 seasons. Veronica Mars is your modern day Nancy Drew, teenage detective working to crack the story of best friend's murder mystery, a case her father tried to solve as county sheriff in the affluent town of Neptune. My favourite thing about Veronica Mars was that there was an overarching mystery every season, and so many details unraveled throughout each episode. Completely unrealistic? Absolutely. But Kristen Bell as a naive freshman turned rebel sophomore? Amazing.

5. Gossip Girl  
From left: Vanessa Abrams, Dan Humphrey, Serena van der Woodsen, Nate Archibald, Chuck Bass,
Blair Waldorf, Jenny Humphrey
A show about privileged teens running in elite upper class New York City society. What ties all the characters together is Gossip Girl, an anonymous texting gossip machine that seems to have eyes and ears everywhere. I don't even know if real Upper Eastsiders lead the lives of the characters on the show, but every episode features some exclusive event, and the fashion is to die for (obviously quite exaggeratedly). The scheming characters of Blair and Chuck, a couple that is so wrong for each other and yet meant to be together is probably what keeps people watching. However, it gets repetitive and excessive with each passing season... and episodes can drag on, so maybe again worth only watching for the first few seasons.

4. Dawson's Creek
From left: Jen Lindley, Dawson Leery, Pacey Witter, Joey Potter, Andy McPhee, Jack McPhee
Ah, now we're getting to quality! This show followed a group of self-aware average kids in the fictional small seaside town of Capeside. It's overly melodramatic and offers the best love triangle ever. Dawson, film-geek and Joey Potter, ultimate girl next door grew up together are soul mates (barf, I know) but then... somewhere along the way Pacey, Dawson's other best friend and black sheep, falls for Joey. Who will she choose? It's amazing how they managed to drag out this storyline for practically 5 years. Also starring Jenn, a rebellious New Yorker banished to a small town, and Jack as the gay football jock, which I must say must have been somewhat pioneering for teen TV shows about kids in high school. With the overly complex dialogue and scandals, I must say, I absolutely love this show.

3. Vampire Diaries
Characters from left: Elena Gilbert, Stephen Salvatore, Jeremy Gilbert, Bonnie Bennett, Damon Salvatore, Caroline Forbes
(Missing: Matt Donovan, Tyler Lockwood)
By far one of my favourite shows, maybe ever. It's fast paced, it doesn't beat around the bush and it's about two ridiculously good looking, vampire brothers in love with the same girl. The supernatural elements only enhance the plot lines, which include witches and werewolves. There's a sense of doom and gloom, but the quick pace of the show leaves little time to dwell on anything. I'm constantly surprised and drawn into the characters and stories and I can only keep my fingers crossed the show maintains it's quality.  

2. The Inbetweeners
Characters from left: Will McKenzie, Neil Sutherland, Jay Cartwright, Simon Cooper
I can only gush about this show. Let's start with it's British. They're funnier. They're offensive, and unapologetic about it and I love it. The show is about four friends, who are neither at the bottom of the totem poll but are no where close to being the cool kids. There's a lot of awkward growing pains throughout the series, and only hilarity ensues. You know what, this show is so good, watch a clip and it'll speak for itself.

And finally...

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 
Characters from top left: Willow Rosenberg, Rupert Giles, Buffy Summers, Oz, Cordelia Chase, Xander Harris
On right from top left: Angel, Drusilla, Spike
She's 16 and moves to a new school. She's concerned about making friends, dating boys and not to mention... she's a vampire slayer and lives at the hellmouth, a portal of supernatural activity. Add to this, Buffy falls in love with a 400 year old vampire, and you have the greatest teen TV show ever. Amplifying teenage melodramas because of the supernatural elements, and it's 7 seasons of great.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lessons on Working (From a Millennial)

It has taken me longer than I thought it would to adjust to working full-time permanently. There is no inevitable end, and after years of constant changes and milestones like semester, break, semester, summer job, semester and so on, it’s unsettling to be at the same place at the same time, day in day out.

The transition from an academic life to a professional one has been harder than I thought and I am nowhere near really understanding the work place, but here are some of the lessons I’ve learned…

On being prepared and continuous learning.
Getting a job does not mean it is the end of learning. The truth is, you don’t know it all. In fact, you might even know less than you thought you did because the hypothetical and past experiences do not always translate the same way into present reality. No matter how prepared you are, there will always be situations you cannot anticipate; so be flexible and willing to adapt. And at the same time, be open to learning— new ways, new strategies and new skills to make work easier, better or maybe just make you smarter.

On opportunities and asking.
There are lots of opportunities to grow and develop professionally. You have to be willing to look for them, and to ask for them. Whenever I was afraid to ask for something, my parents always used to tell me “What’s the worst that could happen? Someone says no.” Maybe it’s not that simple, but it can be. If it isn’t possible for your work to sponsor you to attend a conference, gain a membership to a professional association, whatever it may be – rest assured, they will tell you they can’t. It is not embarrassing to ask, so long as you do it professionally and so long as you really do ask and not tell or suggest.

On the difference between school and work.
Being a keener in school, I was used to the “work hard, get rewarded” method. While there is praising for jobs well done, it is not the same as school. There are no grades to show how you’re doing or gold stars for A’s. Work is an expectation, and there are no participation ribbons just for showing up, not that I ever thought it would be that way. However, I think after years of frequent milestones and feedback loops (i.e. progress reports and report cards) as a measure of success, it is strange to adjust to verbal agreements and annual performance reviews. The rest is all jumbled into one big bowl of spaghetti that indicate your ability, professionalism, character and so on to coworkers and bosses, but do not necessarily mean anything in terms of success.

On work/life balance.
Balancing is never easy and this will probably been one to juggle for the rest of my working life. I have not yet gotten the hang of it, some weeks it’s too much work and other weeks, it’s too much life. I think the key might be to work hard, and play hard. There is a time and place for everything, and that’s just how it goes. Never neglect your work to live your life. At the same time, learn to recognize the events and situations where everything else is more important than what is going on at work. I think there’s a lot of trial and error to figuring out what works and what doesn’t and where that thin line lays. 

On saying I don't know when I don't know. 
It's okay not to know how to do something. I think sometimes it's expected. I know I've had a hard time, because I am eager to show my ability and initiative, but I think it's important to ask for more direction if something isn't clear about the assignment/task/project. One error on my part could lead down a path that snowballs into many more. I think saying I don't know but I want to, while it can be embarrassing, also demonstrates an openness to learn and is an opportunity to take something new away (think of it not only as a resume builder, but professional growing).