Author K.B. Owen on Historical Fiction, Mysteries, Gardening, and the Game of Survivor

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Kathy “K.B.” Owen on social media back in 2011.  We hit it off… talking about writing and pop culture, particularly Survivor.

Historical Fiction Author, Kathy "K.B." Owen
Historical Fiction Author, Kathy “K.B.” Owen

But Kathy and I share something greater than our minor obsession for the popular “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” reality television program—we both LOVE mysteries.  I keep an eye on Kathy’s blog because I know I can count on her publishing some fabOoolous posts, featuring some of the literary and television sleuths I grew up reading and watching… like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Perry Mason, Columbo, and even Scooby Dooby Doo.  She has also introduced me to a few 19th century historical facts, from clothing, to holiday celebrations, to true crime.  I’ve never been one who’s big on the past, but the stories Kathy shares are fascinating!

However, Survivor, mysteries, and 19th century facts aside, Kathy is also a wife and mother, who squeezes in gardening where she can between writing and taking care of her beautiful family.  She’s one of the most genuine and supportive people I have met and I’m lucky to call her a friend.

For those who are unfamiliar with Kathy, here is a brief bio:

K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.  Unlike the fictional Miss Wells, K.B. did not have to conduct lectures in a bustle and full skirts.  Thankfully.  No doubt, many folks are grateful for that little fact.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Kathy’s blurb for her debut historical mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery

Enjoy!

Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery –

An unseemly lesson…in murder.

cover art by Niki Smith

The year is 1896, and Professor Concordia Wells has her hands full:  teaching classes, acting as live-in chaperone to a cottage of lively female students, and directing the student play,  Macbeth.

But mystery and murder are not confined to the stage.  Malicious pranks, arson, money troubles, and the apparent suicide of a college official create turmoil at the women’s college.  For Concordia, it becomes personal when a family member dies of a mysterious illness, and her best friend is attacked and left for dead.

With her friend still in danger and her beloved school facing certain ruin, Concordia knows that she must act.  But uncovering secrets is a dangerous business, and there are some who do not appreciate the unseemly inquiries and bold actions of the young lady professor.  Can she discover the ones responsible…before she becomes the next target?

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Nancy Drew, LOL.  But I also enjoyed writing short stories as a kid; I just didn’t think of it as a career.  I remember one story I co-wrote with some school friends that involved a gladiator who had his arm severed, and the hand came back to life and took revenge…but that’s another post!

What little girl didn’t want to be Nancy Drew?

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories and what made you decide to write historical mysteries?

My doctoral area of study was the nineteenth century, so I knew I wanted to go with that time period for my mystery.  I was inspired to set it in a women’s college when my mother-in-law passed away; I stumbled upon old letters and yearbooks from her time at an all-female community college back in the 1950s.  My own years in college teaching provided plenty of inspiration, too – lots of quirky characters in that environment, I can tell you.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Just a few?  That will be tough, LOL.  Some of my fave mystery writers are Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margaret Frazer, and Conan Doyle; outside of the mystery category, I like Jane Austen, Dorothy Gilman and Kazuo Ishiguro (among others).

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Thanks!  I hired a very talented artist – Niki Smith, who does mostly graphic novel art.  I wanted the cover to be in the art style popular in the 1890s, called “Art Nouveau.”  I sent her some samples and explained what impression I wanted to convey by the cover, and she took it from there!

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Miss Concordia and why?

I didn’t have a visual image of any particular Hollywood celebrity when creating Concordia, but I’ve realized since then that she’s sort of a cross between a grown-up Nancy Drew and Harriet Vane (from Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night).

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Ha!  You got me.  Sean Connery.  I don’t care how old he gets, I still have a crush.  I could listen to his accent all day long.  Well, he’s easy on the eyes, too. 😉

Bond. James Bond. AKA Sir Sean Connery. I, too, could listen to his accent all day long…

Besides writing, you seem to love gardening.  Do you consider yourself to have a green thumb, and if so, what plants would we find on your back porch?

I have a somewhat-green thumb – sometimes plants won’t cooperate, or get diseases, or bugs from hell will descend upon your carefully-nurtured beloveds and feast upon them.  Stink bugs, spider mites, powdery mildew…the list is endless.  But I try to be prepared.  *wink*  In the summer you’ll find tomatoes, peppers, beans, raspberries, impatiens, and morning glories in the backyard.  All container plantings, because it’s mostly deck back there.

 What other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love to read, backyard bird-watch, knit and crochet, and bake yummy things.  I have a real weakness for cookies.

Photo provide by K.B. Owen
Photo provide by K.B. Owen

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your favorite television programs airing today? 

Good thing you asked that, Tiffany – I was getting worried there for a minute, LOL.  No pod in the basement…phew!

There are so many good shows out there, but I don’t have time to watch that many.  I do make time to see Survivor, Big Bang Theory, and Downton Abbey regularly – although we’re done with Downton for a while! *sniff*  Sometimes I’ll catch Sherlock, Person of Interest, and Elementary, which are terrific, too!

Let’s switch to the big screen… what is your favorite movie all-time?

Casablanca.  And there are so many quotable lines from that, don’t you think?

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

I’m a big fan of popcorn – WITH salt and butter!  I might as well go all in.  But I don’t go often, so my waistline has been (somewhat) spared!

Lastly, you, like me, love the game of Survivor.  So let’s get down to it… 

Who’s your favorite Survivor all-time and why? 

Wow, you don’t hold back on the tough questions, do you, Tiffany?  While I admire Ozzie and Boston Rob, Rupert has always been my favorite: big, loud, unpretentious, and a heart of gold.

Have you ever applied to be a contestant, and if not, would you tomorrow if the producers came to a town near you? 

No, and no!  I’m definitely a spectator when it comes to that show.  I’d be the wimpy girl that everyone voted out first.  Have you seen all the RATS that crawl around their camp at night?  *shudder*

Can you start fire using only the elements and supplies one would find on a deserted island? 

Sure – if the deserted island had a Bic lighter and a Duraflame log.  No problem!  😉

KBOwen Porch
Photo provided by K.B. Owen

I don’t know, Kathy… if your porch is as beautiful as the pictures you provided, I bet you could start fire using only flint!

What would your one luxury item be? 

Chocolate!  (I would have said my Nook, but it would run out of power fairly quickly).

AND, who are you rooting for this season?  Malcolm, right?  

You bet!  There are a few others on the Favorites tribe whom I wouldn’t mind winning if Malcolm was eliminated (gasp), but fingers crossed!

Team Malcolm!!

*****

Isn’t Kathy great?

Need more Kathy?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Kathy?  Have you read Dangerous and Unseemly yet?  Or do you enjoy Survivor with us?  We’d love to hear from you! 

To help celebrate Kathy’s debut novel, The Ooo Factor has decided to participate in her book tour and the Whodunnit giveaway!

So, how about a little mystery fun… with a prize!

Each stop in K.B. Owen’s book launch tour has a mystery question/s (below).  The alphabet letter next to the correct answer is what you want.  By the end of the tour you’ll have enough letters to unscramble the answers to which ROOM, WEAPON, and SUSPECT.  

Question #1 –

Sherlock Holmes is partly modeled after a person in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life.  His name was:

O) Han Solo
P) Dr. Joseph Bell
Q) Dr. Joseph Whittingham
R) Oliver Wendell Holmes

Question #2 –

Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer/amateur detective on the long-running Murder, She Wrote, lived in which town (whose per capita murder rate would have been the despair of local real estate agents)?

J) Ann Arbor, MI
K) Intercourse, PA
L) Cabot Cove, ME
M) Martha’s Vineyard, MA

But it’s just for fun, so even if you just want to answer one quiz question, email Kathy with the answer at kbowenwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.  She’d love to hear from you!

She’ll draw a winner from all the entries and announce it at Karen McFarland’s blog, the last stop of the tour.

What could you win?  A free ebook copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, and a $25 gift card of your choice to either Starbucks, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble!

Find the full details (with the story of the untimely demise of Sir Reginald “Good Riddance” Crenshaw) here.

Good luck!

Email Deadline: Monday, April 1st

And if you can’t wait to win a copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, the first book of the Concordia Wells mystery series, grab a copy today!  Available in KindleNookKoboSmashwords, iTunes, and Scribd formats, as well as in paperback.

Unseemly Pursuits, the second book in the series, will be released later in 2013, and Kathy’s hard at work plotting Concordia’s next adventure.

Advertisements

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Continuing with Continuum

We have some changes coming to Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday… but for now, those can wait.  Today, Amber West and I are going back to our old ways and we’re covering two different shows—she’s reviewing ITV’s mystery, Broadchurch, and I’m taking on SyFy’s newest drama, Continuum.

I love the supernatural; however, I’m not that big on science fiction television… not like my guy, anyway.  He has watched everything on the SyFy network, from Battlestar Gallactica to Caprica, and all the Stargate series.  Wanting to spend some quality TV time with him, I have jumped in and checked out a few of the shows on his favorite channel.  And I have found a few of the more recent programs, like Warehouse 13, Haven, and Being Human very enjoyable.

Last year, SyFy began airing Lost Girl, a TV series already primed for season two in Canada.  The network started the episodes from the beginning and ran them consecutively so US audiences were all caught up.  I loved it—watching Lost Girl every week for almost twenty weeks was like an extended season of supernatural greatness.

And now the network is at it again… only this time, it’s with the SyFy UK hit and Canadian series Continuum.  As this show prepares for season two in Canada, the American audience gets to first catch up.

So, in true Tiffany fashion, I decided to give it a try…

This science fiction program follows a group of convicted terrorists, or rebels (known as Liber8), from the year 2077 back in time to 2012.  Just as the gang was scheduled for execution in 2077, they somehow mastered time travel and jumped through a portal.  Inadvertently following them is Officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols from Criminal Minds), who takes it upon herself to prevent this group from altering events in the past and hopes to return them to their time.

Will Kiera control the past to save the future?

As one would expect, the technology in 2077 is far more advanced than we’re accustomed to in 2012.  In the future, Kiera and the other police officers wear special uniforms—suits that enable them to research, analyze data, and track criminals once they are “tagged” with trackers… kind of like a computer.  But technology isn’t the only difference between their time and our time; small things have changed too, and games such as Rock-Paper-Scissors don’t exist anymore.

Lost in this new world, Kiera attempts to make contact with her control station via her communications system, but instead connects with a teen (Alec Sadler, played by Erik Knudsen from Jericho) working out of his family’s barn.  This boy happens to be the one responsible for inventing the technology she and the police use in 2077, and he begins serving her as her guide and confidant in 2012.

While still tracking Liber8, Kiera finds she must do something to fit in with the current times.  So after helping a local detective (Carlos Fonnegra, played by Victor Webster from Charmed and Mutant X) solve a case, she accepts a position with the Vancouver police as a member of a terrorist task force—after all, the VPD believes she’s a federal agent and sees no harm in extending this offer to her.

The series also stars: Tony Amendola (Once Upon a Time) as Edouard, the leader of the Liber8 rebels; Roger Cross (24) as Travis, another Liber8 member who takes charge until Edouard arrives; Lexa Doig (Andromeda) as Sonja, one of the female Liber8 members; and Stephen Lobo (Falcon Beach and Smallville) as Matthew, a former Liber8 member, who, after having a falling out with his fellow rebels, decides to help Kiera in 2012.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not all that big on science fiction programs; however, I have managed to watch the first six episodes of SyFy’s latest series with my guy (who really likes it, by the way).  And while I still don’t think Continuum is the best show on SyFy, it’s not bad; therefore, I’ll award the Canadian hit with the JFTV rating.  When there’s nothing else to watch, I’ll continue with the series… kind of like when I am searching for something to satisfy my late-night cravings and a bag of greasy potato chips is all I can find in the pantry.

But if anyone was to ask my guy, he’d probably give it a MacTV rating.

What do you think?  Have you watched Continuum?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about the ITV mystery she just so happened upon this last week…

Come back next week when we share some big news… and maybe review something too.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

Why Deception Deserves a Renewal

In January of this year, I reviewed the first episodes of the debut season of NBC’s serial murder mystery, DeceptionAnd now that the season is over, I feel I owe it to the writers and cast members to blog about it again.  Why?  Because like most freshman television series that aren’t Fox’s The Following, Deception has neither been renewed or cancelled yet, leaving me to believe it is on the bubble.

Granted, the ratings weren’t really all that great, averaging just shy of four million viewers per week the entire ten episode season.  But let’s be honest, NBC doesn’t really do all that great on any given night; just look at these numbers: Chicago Fire averages the most with around 6.5 million; Law & Order: SVU comes in second with just over six million; and Grimm third with around five million.

These numbers might seem impressive, but when compared to the other networks, not so much: ABC’s biggies, Castle and Revenge, bring in around ten million each week; CBS hauls in the most with NCIS and its almost twenty million viewers; and Fox grabs up almost ten each with both their veteran hit (Bones) and their freshman series (The Following).

Clearly, NBC is the weakest of the networks when it comes to viewership of the primetime dramas (I’m not taking any of the reality programs into consideration for this post).  So, why not stop killing series so early (Smash is now gone for those that don’t already know—but the network will air the rest of the episodes this summer… supposedly), quit bringing in even more new shows… only to be cancelled after one season, and give the existing programs “on the bubble” a chance to build a viewership?

Now, I was excited for Deception before it even aired one single episode… mainly because I love whodunits.  Twin Peaks was and is one of my favorite all time TV serial mysteries ever; well, the first season anyway.  And of everything I watch today, and I watch a lot, Pretty Little Liars might just be my favorite program of all.  There are simply not enough murder mysteries on television now-a-days.  Most of the primetime spots are filled with police procedurals, medical dramas, comedies, and soap opera-type shows.

But the writers and creators of Deception broke away from the norm, producing one of the most skillful whodunits I can remember.  There were tons of twists and turns week in and week out, but everything centered around one question: Who killed Vivian Bowers?

So what is Deception?

Deception follows the story of two friends—Vivian Bowers (Bree Williamson), the wealthy socialite who is known for her partying, and Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good), Vivian’s childhood best friend.  The only problem is, Joanna must now investigate the murder of Vivian…

Will Joanna discover who killed Vivian? Or will her undercover operation fail?

The first hour raced by.  I have to say I was impressed with the way the series introduced all of the characters AND hinted as to why each Bowers family member would have had motive to kill Vivian.  Well, almost everyone—I wasn’t sure after the pilot as to why daddy would have wanted to harm his daughter, but I was beginning to by the end of the second episode.

To help explain why Deception was such a successful whodunit, let’s first meet the people with the motive to harm Vivian—the Bowers:

To begin, we have the patriarch of the family—Robert Bowers, played by Victor Garber from Alias.  Robert is the founder and CEO of the family’s pharmaceutical company.  He seems to be really torn up about the death of his daughter, more so than the rest of the family anyway… at first.  As the layers of the onion are peeled back, viewers learn Robert is really nothing but a cutthroat business man who will do anything to protect himself (notice I said himself, not his family).

Next, we have the stepmother—Sofia, played by Katherine LaNasa from Three Sisters and Judging Amy.  Sofia has made it very clear that she’s the one that cleans up the family’s messes.  Plus, she knows Vivian’s biggest secret and threatened her stepdaughter when she announced it was time to tell the truth.  Just how wicked is this stepmother?

Next, we have the older brother—Edward, played by Tate Donovan from Damages.  All fingers point to good ol’ Eddie, especially since he has a temper and was suspected of strangling and killing another girl years earlier.  Not only that, but his wife (Samantha, played by Marin Hinkle from Two and a Half Men and Once and Again) has taken their children and left him which seems to just add to his anger issues.

Next, we have the other brother—Julian, played by Wes Brown from True Blood and Hart of Dixie.  Julian appears to be a lot like Vivian; he loves to party and has a history of drug use.  Plus, for whatever reason, Julian is the one who tossed a ring into the river that seems to match the indentations left on Vivian’s head just before her death.  But did he kill her?  Oh, and Julian is credited with creating the new Bowers’ pharmaceutical drug nearing release—a drug that allegedly caused harm during the testing phase that the family is covering up.  So, if his sister was sleeping with the whistleblower, that clearly gives Julian something to lose…

And finally, we have the little sister—Mia, played by Ella Rae Peck from Gossip Girl.  There’s more to Mia than meets the eye… the first episode hinted at the fact that she might be Vivian’s daughter, which I thought was great.  Then, they confirmed it before the first hour was up, which I thought was a bit fast.  However, doesn’t this give Mia motive?  She seems to be really upset by the death of her sister, but did she know that her sister was really her mother and had been hiding the truth from her all these years?  Hmmm….

They look like one happy family… right?

Of course, there are also the people outside the family with motive.  Could it be the boyfriend/whistleblower/baby-daddy (Ben, played by Tom Lipinski from Suits)?  How about the loyal Bowers’ handyman who will do anything for his employer?  Perhaps it’s the state senator (Haverstock, played by John Larroquette from McBride and Boston Legal) who has been around for decades and knows all about the Bowers’ secrets?  And let’s not count out the competition who will do anything to get their drug to market first.

As expected with a whodunit, the list of potential suspects grows with each additional episode…

But Deception wouldn’t be a murder mystery without the police investigating the crime.  Joanna didn’t go undercover on her own, as much as she wants to know who murdered her best friend; instead, she was sent in by FBI Agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso from Breakout Kings).   Many at the FBI and police department are sick and tired of the Bowers family getting away with murder—literally.  So, could the men and women in blue be potential suspects as well?  Why not?  Anything’s possible…

There were a few specific questions I hoped would be answered before the season finale, with the primary being the show’s tagline:  Who killed Vivian Bowers?   Most of my questions were answered, and that doesn’t happen often.  The ten episode debut season wrapped up very nicely with only the slightest cliff-hanger, leaving us wanting more.  Perhaps the series was written this way because the staff didn’t know at the time whether or not the show would be picked up for a season two; or maybe this storyline was the plan all along.  Regardless, I applaud the writers and creators of Deception.  Really, I do.

Who killed Vivian Bowers?

Deception did have one downfall as far as I’m concerned though—the series ended potential story lines and mysteries way too fast.  For one, they hinted at Vivian being Mia’s mother… and then they confirmed it.  Bam!  They introduced a reporter with inside information as a potential informant for Joanna and her undercover investigation… and then killed him.  Bam!  I mean, c’mon.  Slow things down just a bit to add to the intrigue.  However, I can’t blame the writers—shows never know if or when they’ll get canned, so why not move fast?

NBC, for what it’s worth, I loved sitting back and watching the Bowers family members unravel and reveal more and more about themselves and as to why they each had motive to kill their beloved Vivian.  Each and every week, I literally thought Vivian’s murderer was a different family member.  I wouldn’t want that person to be the killer, but from all the twists and turns I thought for sure he or she had actually done it.  And the next week, it was someone else.  That is until the very end when the series revealed exactly who was guilty of murdering the beautiful socialite.

So, who killed Vivian Bowers?  I’m not going to tell; but I will say this—the show deserves another season!  The one mystery may have been solved, but the authorities still need to make their case in order to arrest him or her.  Plus, we have so many directions the show could go with even more mystery and intrigue.  And don’t forget about the cliffhanger; after all, someone was kidnapped…

What do you think?  Did you watch Deception?  Do you think NBC will bring it back for a second year or kill it, making it yet another one and done?  I’d love to hear from you!

High School Movie Showdown – The Footballers

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love high school football.  Growing up in West Texas, I lived the real Friday night lights.  Everyone in the community either plays, cheers, or supports the local teams.  It was this atmosphere that gave me the idea for my Football Sweetheart series.  I took two things I loved—high school football and mysteries—and twisted them into stories of my own.

But enough about that.  Today’s post is the second installment of the High School Movie Showdown, and we’re featuring two of my favorite high school football movies—Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights.

First up, Varsity Blues

Varsity Blues follows a group of high school football players in the fictional town of West Canaan, Texas.  Anybody who’s anybody plays their part for the team.  Training begins at a very early age—girls perfect their toe-touches as soon as they can jump, and boys practice tossing the pigskin through a tire hanging from a tree as soon as they can stand.

Everything comes crashing down around the boys in West Canaan when the star quarterback (Lance Harbor, played by Paul Walker from the Fast and the Furious franchise) injures his knee during a game and his good friend and backup (Jonathan “Mox” Moxon, played by James Van Der Beek from Dawson’s Creek) is thrown onto the field and thrust into the spotlight.

James Van Der Beek (Jonathan “Mox” Moxon) and Paul Walker (Lance Harbor)

Varsity Blues isn’t just about football, but more about teens finding their way in spite of what they have been conditioned to do.  This film is about as realistic as it gets when talking about high school football in West Texas, without actually claiming to be inspired by actual events: the coach’s win-at-all-costs attitude; the quarterback’s celebrity (everyone remembers the whipped cream bikini, right?); the realization that great moments are oftentimes the most painful; and the understanding that character is built by going against the norm.

Oh, and the ending can make even the toughest man cry.

Next up, Friday Night Lights

Two things come to mind when people outside the state of Texas think about West Texas—high school football and oil.  So, if everyone outside the state knows about the teenage pigskin programs, what do the people inside the state think?

Football is life.  Win at all costs.

By now, everyone has heard of Friday Night Lights—whether it is the book by H.G. Bissinger published in 1990, the motion picture produced by Brian Grazer in 2004, or the television series starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton that aired from 2006 until 2011.

But today we’re focusing on the film. 

Friday Night Lights follows Coach Gary Gaines (Hollywood great, Billy Bob Thornton) and his Odessa Permian football team.  Everything seems to be right on schedule and the boys are well on their way to accomplishing their one goal—win the Texas state championship.  That is until their star running back tears ligaments in his knee.

Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) MUST win to save his job…

Coach Gaines is immediately under fire in the media and around town; a head football coach’s job is never safe in West Texas without wins.  And when a star player goes down, people panic.

And his players?  They’re faced with a mound of obstacles—a coach that pushes them too far, parents living vicariously through their teenage lives, and the societal pressures of the Odessa community.

The team pushes through and the season ends with a three-way tie in the district between Permian, their arch-rival Midland Lee Rebels, and Abilene Cooper.  With a flip of a coin, Permian and Lee move on (yes, they really flipped coins in the ’80s to break a three-way tie in conference when determining playoff spots).   And of course, Permian rolls through the playoffs and meets a Dallas team (Carter High School) in the state championship.

But you have to watch the movie to find out what happens next….

The Permian Panthers…

So, when paired up side-by-side, which of these films would win—Varsity Blues or Friday Night Lights?

Look, like I said earlier, I grew up in West Texas.  I served my football team as an athletic trainer and have first-hand knowledge what it’s like “behind the scenes” on the practice field, in the locker room, and on the sidelines.

These movies take me back—whether I’m watching Friday Night Lights and remembering the rivalry games between Midland Lee and Odessa Permian that I, myself attended since childhood; or I’m watching Varsity Blues and vividly recalling the blood, sweat, and tears I felt with the players on my team as they struggled to maintain greatness and take it to the next level.

Bottom line: Both films are fantastic and portray what high school football is really like in West Texas.  I truly believe that both movies will achieve cult classic status and live on through their fans year after year.

But which one would win in a head to head battle?  The fictional West Canaan High Coyotes, or the loosely accurate portrayals of the real Odessa High School Permian Panthers?

I say Varsity  Blues.

Regardless of how many times I have watched this movie, I still bawl my eyes out at the end of this film.  Yes, it’s fictional; but man, does it bring back memories of my senior year and our final football game.

Yes, Mox… you are the winner!!

Oh, and the music rocks!  Collective Soul, Loudmouth, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind, and Van Halen are just a few of the artists featured on the soundtrack.  Even though these artists and their featured songs are popular in their own right, I still can’t hear one of these tunes without thinking of Varsity Blues.

How about you?  Varsity Blues or Friday Night Lights?  Leave your pick in the comments… I’d love to hear from you!

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Is “Golden Boy” Golden?

Television’s winter premiere season is officially here!  We’re currently down to the very last of the new shows premiering this TV season, but Amber West and I still have our work cut out for us—especially since she doesn’t have cable and my DVR crashed a few weeks ago, losing over 120 recordings.  Regardless, we’ll make it work.

And speaking of making it work… we have had so much fun posting dual reviews this season, we’ve decided to keep going.  Will Amber and I agree or disagree after watching the new CBS police procedural, Golden Boy?

Golden Boy follows Walter William Clark, Jr. (Theo James from the British series Bedlam and Downton Abbey) on his unprecedented rise through the New York City Police force from a beat cop, to detective, to police commissioner.  This rise to the top took Clark only seven years, making him the youngest police commissioner in the history of NYC.

The role of Clark supposedly belonged to Ryan Phillippe in the early stages of the series’ development.  I don’t know why Mr. Phillippe backed out, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed by this… at first.  But after watching the first four episodes, I have decided Mr. James will do just fine—he’s quite cute, especially when he smiles.

But let’s get back to the show…

Each episode begins in the future, or the present, depending on which way we want to look at it.  Either way, we know that Clark is now police commissioner.  After the opening scenes, the series rewinds back in time to Clark’s days as a homicide detective.

Clark’s heroism helped him advance to detective after only four years on the job as a beat cop.  This heroism comes as a sort of double-edged sword.  On one hand, the women find him irresistible.  But on the other, not all of the detectives in his squadron agree that he’s so golden—particularly Christian Arroyo (Kevin Alejandro from Southland and True Blood).

Bottom line: Clark has great instincts… he just needs a little mentoring.

It was reported that this crime drama is more character driven than most.  Instead of focusing on the cases the police solve, Golden Boy focuses on the Clark character and the relationships he forms with his partners and mentors, specifically Detective Don Owen (Chi McBride from Boston Public and Human Target).

Now, I’m not going to argue that the show hasn’t given the audience glimpses into Clark’s character because it has:  he’s a good guy, evidenced by the fact he lives with and supports his younger sister; he’s humble, possessing the tendency to give credit to others for his accomplishments, especially to his partner who has been in homicide for eleven years and is looking for a promotion; and he’s generous, giving money to patrol officers to buy coffee and donuts.

I also won’t argue with the fact that the series has shown the relationships forming between Clark and a few of the other characters… First, there’s his partner; Clark truly seems to value what Owen has to say, and he genuinely wants to see good things in Owen’s future.  There’s also his budding relationship, good and bad, with Deb McKenzie (Bonnie Somerville from NYPD Blue and Cashmere Mafia) and Arroyo, the other partnership in the department.

However, all these developing relationships aside, the series still reminds me of all the other police procedurals already on the air today…

And even though the show follows Clark as the main character, let’s talk about Arroyo for a minute.  This guy can’t stand Clark.  Generally speaking, Arroyo has a horrible attitude… he even slaps a female suspect in interrogation.  He is so determined to be top dog, that he’ll do anything to stand out to the higher-ups, including framing and threatening other detectives, as well as rushing into crimes-in-progress without the proper warrants AND at the risk of his partner’s life, a partner he is currently having an extramarital affair with.  And Clark’s not the only one on Arroyo’s hit list—he can’t stand Owen either.  This guy is a real tool and not at all deserving of his level-headed and beautiful partner.

And while we’re on the subject of the supporting cast, the new series also stars a few other familiar faces: Holt McCallany (CSI: Miami and Lights Out) as Joe Diaco, the detective with all of the connections; Stella Maeve (My Super Psycho Sweet 16-Part 2) as Agnes, Clark’s sister; and Odette Annable (House) in a recurring role as ADA Kat O’Connor (and perhaps a potential love interest for Clark).

So, how does Golden Boy rank?  It is just another police procedural, like all the others, but I have enjoyed it so far.  Do I prefer it over the other CBS police procedurals, like CSICSI: NYBlue BloodsHawaii Five-0?  NCIS: LA?  Maybe… but probably not.  It’s too early to decide; but I’m definitely not deleting it from the DVR queue anytime soon.  What can I say? I’m a sucker for these shows and I want to know what happens to Clark.  Heck, I even want to know what happens with Arroyo.

For that, I’m awarding Golden Boy with the JFTV rating… it’s like a bag of potato chips; there are all those different flavors out there, and regardless of the fact that we prefer one particular flavor, we can’t keep ourselves from trying all the others.  And just like the potato chip companies, television networks can’t keep themselves from putting out new flavors, I mean police procedurals left and right.  One never knows when they might strike gold.

Oh, and before we go…

As commissioner, we notice Clark walks with a limp; as a homicide detective, he does not.  It will be interesting to see if the show lasts long enough for viewers to learn the reason why…

After premiering on a Tuesday night, CBS indicated it was going to move Golden Boy to Friday nights in CSI: NY’s timeslot.  And depending on which show scored higher rankings on that particular night and time would determine which one would be back in the 2013-2014 season.  But after only one week partnered with Blue Bloods, Golden Boy is now back on Tuesday nights in Vegas’ slot.

What does that mean?  Is CSI: NY safe and Vegas not?  Who knows…  Honestly, I hate all the back and forth the networks do with TV series.  Just pick a night and time and leave it alone!!

What do you think?  Have you watched Golden Boy?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about the new CBS series.  Did we agree or disagree?  Trust me; we usually have very different tastes in our television viewing pleasure….

Come back next week when Amber and I review something…

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV):It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (NyQuil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
Inedible TV: Exactly how it sounds…

A Twisted New ABC Family Murder Mystery

I’ve not kept the fact that I love ABC Family’s teen mysteries a secret.  Heck, I’ve only blogged about Pretty Little Liars at least five times.  The ongoing questions have me hooked: Who killed Alison? Who is leading the “A” team? How do they have so much dirt on Aria, Hanna, Spencer, and Emily? Why do they continue to torture these girls—what could they have possibly done to deserve this?

One can only assume that the “A” team is composed of primarily teens (Mona and Toby for example) and young adults (I’m convinced Melissa is in on it as well), so how is it that they know the deep-dark secrets of the girls’ families too?  No one is safe on this show; not the teens, not the parents, and I love it!

With every episode of Pretty Little Liars, the questions keep coming.  And every once in a while, we get answers… but not many before the show breaks for hiatus.  I hate the mid-season hiatuses.  I can’t stand waiting for the new episodes to return.  However, I do appreciate ABC Family’s seasonal run—they split each season up, usually airing new episodes in the winter and in the summer, instead of the traditional September through May like the major networks.  And more times than not, we can expect a new one-hour special, usually around Halloween, that keeps with the story and introduces more mysteries to us.

And because I enjoy Pretty Little Liars as much as I do, I decided to give The Lying Game a try last year when it premiered.  While this teen drama didn’t start out as a murder mystery, we have seen a few dead bodies since…

I can’t say I like The Lying Game as much as I do PLL, evident by the fact I’ve only blogged about it twice, but I do watch the new episodes every week.  Similar to PLL, The Lying Game is riddled with questions:  Who is the twins’ biological mother?  Who is the twins’ biological father?  Why were they split up at birth?  And who split them up?  How could Sutton have turned out so nasty (she really is a Queen B) in such a loving household, and Emma so sweet when she was bounced from one horrible foster family to another?

One by one, most of TLG‘s secrets have been answered; and as they’ve been revealed, I have literally found myself with goose bumps (while some have sadly been predictable).  But don’t be fooled; once a truth is uncovered, another mystery opens.

So, it’s because of the allure and success of these two teen programs that I plan to watch ABC Family’s newest mystery coming this June—Twisted.

Twisted follows Danny Desai (Avan Jogia, from the popular Nickelodeon series, Victorious), a troubled teen recently released from juvenile detention after serving five years for his aunt’s murder.  Looking for redemption, Danny immediately reconnects with two of his best girl friends from his past—Jo (Maddie Hasson, from The Finder) and Lacey (Kylie Bunbury).

Since Danny’s conviction, Jo has had trouble moving on and is considered by many as a social outcast, while Lacey has left her past behind… for popularity and a new boyfriend.  Bringing this group back together doesn’t go as smoothly for Danny as he had hoped, especially after a classmate is found murdered and he becomes the prime suspect—again.

This new series also stars: Denise Richards (mostly recognized for her tumultuous marriage to Charlie Sheen, but also from her seductive and messed up role in Wild Things) as Karen, Danny’s mother—the former socialite, whose social status hasn’t quite recovered since her son’s arrest; Sam Robards (Gossip Girl) as Kyle, Jo’s father and the town’s sheriff; Grey Damon (Friday Night Lights and The Nine Lives of Chloe King) as Archie, Lacey’s new boyfriend; Kathy Najimy (Veronica’s Closet) as Mrs. Fink; and Kimberly Quinn (Terriers) as Jo’s mother.

As mentioned before, Twisted premieres this June on ABC Family.  But tonight (March 19th), following the Pretty Little Liars winter finale, we can watch a special Twisted sneak preview.  My DVR is already set!

Are you an ABC Family fan?  Do you plan to check out the new teen mystery, Twisted?  I’d love to hear from you!      

When Fantasies Become Reality And Vice Versa – Total Recall (2012)

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and me to break down another cinematic original and its remake.  Sticking with our usual ways, Catie reviews the original and I take on the remake.  This month we tackle the classic dystopian action film, Total Recall.

Usually, I include Catie’s summary that applies to both films.  But this time, I tweaked it just a bit:

Set in a dystopian future (end of the 21st century), a factory worker named Douglas Quaid is haunted by dreams he can’t explain—he’s trapped, being chased, and he can’t get away. Ignoring his good friend’s warnings, he decides to check out Rekall.  Promising him any memories he wants, he chooses to be implanted with memories of being a secret agent.  There’s only one problem—none of the implanted fake memories can be true… and during his psycho polygraphic panel, the administrator discovers Quaid is not who he says he is.     

Before I begin, let me just say why I requested the remake.  Regardless of how ashamed I am to admit it, I usually choose the newer versions because I have not seen the originals.  However, this is not the case this time.  I’ve actually seen the 1990 film at least once.  So why did I request the remake?  Two words—Colin Farrell.

Yes, Colin Farrell is the exact same reason why I chose the remake last month when we covered Fright Night.  Clearly, I have a Colin Farrell addiction here…

But let’s get back to the movie…

If watching the remake of Total Recall taught me anything, I learned that I needed to rewatch the original.  My guy kept insisting that the two films, while somewhat similar, were still quite different.  Clearly, I don’t remember enough about the Schwarzenegger version; however, I do know this: if action is what you like, the 2012 release doesn’t disappoint.

Loosely based on the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, Total Recall (2012) takes place at the end of the 21st century.  Global chemical warfare destroyed the planet as we know it and only two territories remain:  The United Federation of Britain and The Colony.  The only transport between the two territories is a train that actually travels through the planet, known as “The Fall.”  Everything is peaceful between the two territories, except someone keeps bombing trains in the UFB, and “The Resistance” (a group of domestic terrorists from The Colony) is being blamed.

Workers travel every day from The Colony to UFB, the more developed of the two territories.  Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is not any different.  But one day after waking from the same nightmare (Quaid is trapped, being chased, and can’t get away… however he manages to help the mystery woman he is with—played by Jessica Biel—escape), he realizes he is a creature of habit… and he’s ready to shake things up a bit.

Against the advice of his best friend, Quaid decides to check out Rekall; after all, they promise to “remember it for you.”  All one has to do is tell Rekall his or her fantasy and they’ll make it a memory.  There’s only one catch—none of the desired fantasies can actually be true in one’s real life.   If the fantasized memories are indeed true, it can cause irreparable conflict and confusion.

Quaid agrees to Rekall’s policies, chooses to be a secret agent, sits down in the chair, and the administrator begins the psycho polygraphic panel.  There’s only one problem—Quaid is not who he says he is.  He’s not who he thinks he is.  The machine wouldn’t lie…  Soldiers storm the room and one by one Quaid fights them off.  He is definitely in a state of confusion; he has no idea what is going on or how he has the ability to kill these trained men.

In a state of panic, Quaid rushes home to find his beautiful wife (Lori, played by Kate Beckinsale) watching the local news—a terrorist has attacked and killed multiple soldiers at one of The Colony’s Rekall locations.  Quaid confides to her that it wasn’t a terrorist… it was him.

Lori can’t believe what she’s hearing and tries her best to console her husband.  She pulls him in for a loving hug, and holds on tight… too tight, squeezing tighter and tighter.  Turns out, she’s an officer of the UFB who was sent in undercover to play his wife.  One thing leads to another and the action of the film kicks into high gear.

The dystopian future is very interesting in the film.  Technology is obviously more advanced, indicated by the fact cell phones are implanted into the palms of one’s hands, giving “talk to the hand” new meaning.  And as one would expect, the world’s currency has evolved and now includes “Obama Bucks.”

And while the 2012 version is quite different story-wise from the 1990 flick, one thing’s the same—the three breasted woman.  I mean, how could they leave that out?

So how does the remake hold up?

One thing’s certain—Colin Farrell is much sexier as Quaid than Arnold Schwarznegger.  Two other hotties (Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender) were reportedly considered for the role, but I personally think the casting directors went with the right man for the job.

And let’s talk about the ladies for a minute… the two female leads in Total Recall (2012) are to today what Sharon Stone was to 1990.  Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel are not only gorgeous and have a list of successful films on their resumes, but they are also well suited for action/adventure movies.

However, if anyone is looking for a remake of the story with an updated version of a trip to Mars, this may not be the movie for you.  But if non-stop action is what you like, this remake won’t disappoint.  As Catie suggested, the up-to-date special effects definitely make this film a better choice today… in my opinion.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of Total Recall?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.