Art Biz with Liz: The Masked Dancer

Today, I found myself spiraling down a YouTube binge. One video turned into another until two hours had passed in the blink of an eye. Instead of the usual vine compilations, however, I watched clips from Fox’s new show, The Masked Dancer.

While I only stumbled across The Masked Dancer this morning, I’ve previously watched a few episodes of The Masked Singer, a singing competition television series based on the Masked Singer franchise that originated in South Korea. In the show, celebrity contestants sing songs in elaborate, head-to-toe costumes that conceal their identities. Clues are provided throughout the season, and panelists attempt to guess the celebrities’ identities. The panelists and audience members vote for their favorite singer, and the celebrity with the lowest number of votes is voted out and unmasked.

The Masked Dancer is fairly similar to its predecessor, though celebrities dance instead of sing. Dance genres include tap, salsa, and more, which is interesting given the differences in dance backgrounds among celebrities (some have extensive training whereas others have none). Like The Masked Singer, the over-the-top costumes worn represent a range of characters, including Tulip, Moth, and Ice Cube in the show’s first season. Ken Jeong acts as a returning panelist from The Masked Singer, with Brian Austin Green, Ashley Tisdale, and Paula Abdul appearing as new panelists.

Luckily for me, I discovered The Masked Dancer mere days after the show’s first-ever finale, which meant that I didn’t have to endure an excruciating wait to discover the identities of my favorite characters (spoiler alert if you click on the hyperlink). Of course, the hidden identities are part of the fun. There’s one moment in the show where the contestants’ voices are unmodulated for a segment called “Word Up,” and even then it’s just one word. It’s enjoyable to make guesses based on the celebrities’ dance moves and clues sprinkled in throughout the show.

Image result for the masked dancer
“The Masked Dancer” Promo, Courtesy of Fox

The dancing, humor, and mystery element all contribute to the show’s entertainment factor. Of course, the show wouldn’t exist without the arts and outside influences, either. The costumes in the show are intricate and zany, showcasing a variety of colors and textures. Ingenuity and imagination are necessary to create the artwork and actual pieces for the costumes within limited time frames. The dance performances, true to the show’s name, reflect dance as a form of art. The mechanical side of the performing arts form is important, as are the sense of rhythm and expression of emotion. The show is also associated with music, important to both The Masked Singer and The Masked Dancer. Overall, The Masked Dancer seems like an engaging show that I’d be interested in binge-watching again.

American Idol vs. The Voice

The fall season is about the weather, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and TV shows.  All of the good shows worth watching come back on in the fall: the dramas, comedies, game shows, reality, or a combination of several.  A popular mix between reality and game shows are talent shows; these include things from American Idol to Cake Wars.  It’s a staple genre all throughout the world, not only in the US.  A big chunk of the talent shows have to do with singing.  There is the X-Factor, American Idol, The Voice, about half of the contestants on America’s Got Talent, and Boy Band.  With so many shows for people to choose from the question is: How do you decide which show(s) to watch?



How do all of these shows have an audience?  Is it the same audience watching all of these shows?  Or do different people watch?  If that’s the case then how do people choose which show to watch because they are all virtually the same show (except AGT because you can do more than sing)?  

Do they decide what show to watch based on the judges?  This is likely, because once Paula and then more notably, Simon, left American Idol the show lost viewers and ultimately ended until it will be rebooted next year.  Then The Voice has Adam Levine and Blake Shelton to get viewers who like pop a

nd/or country so they could potentially be reaching more people.  Then The Voice added Miley Cyrus for younger viewers and for people who wanted to see what she is doing now after her wrecking ball phase and they watch to see if she will actually be a good judge.  So Miley brings in more viewers.  The Voice is good at getting people to watch more based on the judges then based on the talent and the a

ctual show.  The X-Factor had Simon as the main judge after American Idol (because he created the show) and the show ended within 5 seasons because it wasn’t producing stars like American Idol had and the judges weren’t good enough to watch on there own compared to the entertainment on The Voice of watching Blake and Adam talk and argue back and forth.

People don’t watch the show because they like the way its set up better than other singing shows.  Each show is essentially set up the same way: auditions, cut offs, then live shows where people can vote from the top 24 contestants.  So there is really no difference in the big picture, each show just changes a little bit in each stage to make it unique.

People could possibly watch for the stars that arise from the show.  If that’

s the case then American Idol should not have stopped because they were the only show that brought any big stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Daughtry (and Daughtry didn’t even win!).  No other show has created a star on any level like the ones that American Idol produced.

Based on these factors and more people decide which talent singing show they want to watch.  For some, they can also be interchangeable based on the judges and contestants each season.

Science Fiction For Dummies: Orphan Black

Although I’m not proud of it, I spent almost all day Saturday marathoning season three of Orphan Black, this crazy awesome show that some people have heard of but most people haven’t. But for those of you that don’t know, Orphan Black is a show about clones. Crazy, cool, awesome, kick-butt clones. And I absolutely love it.

My time with Orphan Black started this past summer, when I was studying abroad in England. Although I definitely had zero time for Netflix, and to be honest who wanted to spend time watching Netflix when you could literally explore Oxford, I still explored the offerings that UK Netflix had to offer and was pretty satisfied. And though I wanted to watch all the things, I decided that perhaps starting one show would be good. So when the pubs closed at midnight, I grabbed some food from the awesome food trucks and started a new adventure with Orphan Black.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and burned through both season one and season two pretty quickly, although I ended up stopping around episode 6 of season two because I couldn’t completely ignore my papers, even if I wanted to.

Although I tried to pick it back up once I got back stateside, I never really had time for it, and since I didn’t have it on the convenience of Netflix, I ended up kind of giving up, at least for the time being. Instead, I picked up awesome shows like Jane the Virgin and Quantico on TV right now, and I was satisfied.

But for some reason, last week I decided I wanted to watch Orphan Black, and my roommate chimed in “it’s on Amazon Prime,” which we have on our amazing smart TV in our apartment. So, of course, the order of the day was to finish it as soon as possible. Last night I finished season three and season four thankfully starts next week, and actually at a time when I can watch it live.

As I was watching it, though, I started to wonder what made me like it so much. I do like sci-fi, and I love that the lead is a woman, and it’s definitely a woman-empowerment show, without it necessarily being in your face about it, because Sarah Manning definitely has other things to worry about besides the patriarchy. I love watching the intricacies of Tatiana Maslany’s acting, how freaking amazing she is at portraying all of these completely distinct women. Like seriously, she often has to play one version of a character pretending to be another version, which is honestly mind-blowing from an acting standpoint. Give this woman an Emmy already.

But I also realized that one thing I love about it is that it’s not just sci-fi. It’s almost a whole new genre, realistic sci-fi. I remember when I learned about magical realism and how it essentially blew my mind. That’s what Orphan Black is. It’s sci-fi realism. Although the science, I’ve been told, is pretty far from being accurate, it’s really fascinating how they use the science throughout the show. It grounds the entire plot, making it not “clones from another world,” but real people dealing with this scientific thing. It sometimes gets out of hand, and you are thrown into a world where things happen not as logically as they would in real life, but for the most part, everything seems plausible. Everything crazy that happens on the show happens for a reason.

Science fiction is definitely a strong, diverse genre that often does not get enough credit, being written off by people who don’t like “that Star Trek stuff.” And I’m sure Orphan Black is not the first sci-fi narrative to use science as a way to make something unrealistic seem plausible. But it’s possibly one of the most successful, which is really, really cool, and I hope there’s more like it in the future.

Why I Absolutely Adore Jane the Virgin

This week, something extremely important happened in my life. What was it, you may ask?

Jane the Virgin returned after its mid-season break this Monday night.

*screams very loudly*

I love Jane the Virgin. I don’t know how many times I can say it in a week – I said it on Monday when the show came on, I said it on Tuesday night to my friends, I said it Wednesday to a girl I had just met. I love this show.

So here’s the story. Last semester, I was scrolling through Netflix to see what they had added recently, and I saw Jane the Virgin on there. I was instantly excited. I had heard really good things about the show, even if I didn’t know anything about it. However, this meant absolutely nothing. There are about 100 things on my Netflix queue that I was “really excited about” 3, 4, 5 months ago.

So when I was having a particularly bad day, and I didn’t feel like doing any homework (although, to be honest, when do I feel like doing my homework), I laid on the couch in my apartment with the lights off and looked on Netflix for something to make me feel better. Surprisingly, I clicked on Jane and started episode 1.

Eventually, one of my roommates migrated into the living room around episode 2 or 3, and we ended up watching either 7 or 8 episodes together. And after that I was hooked. The show was funny, dramatic, serious, clever, intuitive – everything I never knew I could have in a TV show but now needed.

I began telling everyone I knew about this show. I ended up convincing my other roommate to start it, and with one roommate already done, and three currently watching it, Jane the Virgin kind of became the apartment show.

However, all good things must come to an end, and by the time winter break rolled around, we were all done with season one and had to catch up on season two, so that this week we could all watch it together. And of course, we did, and it was fantastic.

Now that we’re all caught up to the present, I should maybe talk about the actual show. There are so many good things I could say about the show, I don’t even know where to begin. As someone who truly cares about diversity (#OscarsSoWhite y’all), I tend to get excited about things that feature a diverse cast. Last semester, I was all about Quantico. Though they could do a bit better, especially in the male cast, I am in love with Priyanka Chopra and Aunjanue Ellis is queen. Last year, I was all about Fresh Off The Boat, featuring the first Asian-American cast on primetime television in 10 years, even if its been surrounded in some much-needed controversy about representation of minorities on television.

So when I started watching Jane the Virgin, I was already pleased at how well the cast was organized. Jane has very strong latina roots, and they come across loud and clear on the show, and yet because of her sunny disposition and ability to befriend anyone, the cast opens up so that it isn’t just a latin@ show, and it doesn’t claim to be one. It doesn’t stigmatize or stereotype the lives of the women on the show, and yet they clearly aren’t there for diversity’s sake. They have complex, emotional lives, and are highly relatable characters.

And not only is the show centered on the lives of latin@s, it also focuses on female relationships and even, at times, prioritizes them over male relationships. For Jane, family is everything, and all of her decisions, her thoughts, feelings, dreams – they are all closely tied to her family. And for a very, very long time, her family has been three women. Three strong, independent, resilient, vulnerable, caring women. Even when portraying Jane as the “good girl” who took care of her teenage mom at times, Xiomara herself isn’t portrayed as helpless. I mean she raised Jane for crying out loud, so that’s saying something. And while Alba may be the grandmother, and therefore the oldest out of the three, she isn’t portrayed as “outdated” or “old-fashioned” in any way. She’s portrayed as strong and caring as well, clearly showing how her traits have been passed down all the way to Jane.

I could keep going, but I think my point is clear. Both comedic and dramatic, both sad and hilarious, both fresh and funny, Jane the Virgin is dazzling. It’s complex, it’s diverse, it resists and even challenges stereotypes, and seriously, when’s the last time you saw the main character of a TV show pregnant for the majority of it? And as evidenced by my apartment, it brings people together.

So your homework this weekend, then, is to sit down and marathon Jane the Virgin. You won’t regret it.

Master of None

This week has been a monster filled with to-do lists, late nights and early mornings, which is why I definitely should not have started Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, Master of None. And yet there I was last night, telling myself that if I just watched the first episode while eating dinner, it would be fine! Because how much could I get done when my hands were otherwise occupied by feta bread from Pizza House anyways? (Shout-out to my roommate for only slightly guilting me into stopping there for her student org’s fundraiser.)

If you’ve talked to me in the last 24 hours, you are probably not surprised that I am once again talking about this show, because I have grasped at so many straws today in order to bring it up in conversation. I’m not playing – I brought it up in a Women’s Studies class. To make a serious point. That’s how geeked I am about this show.

The first episode in the series, appropriately titled Plan B, starts off with a casual hook-up for main character Dev, played by Aziz, that culminates in an uber ride to the drug store to pick up the morning-after pill. The scene serves as an intriguing look at the lives of our generation and our reliance on technology, showing the two characters Googling whether or not his hook-up could get pregnant and then calling an uber X to pick them up, all while still undressed and under the covers.

The main character is then sent down a rabbit hole full of babies, trying to figure out if he should be thinking of settling down and starting a family. He attends a birthday party for his friend’s baby (but only for the bounce house, of course) where he gets a look at the beauty of parenthood, only to see the other side of the coin when he babysits his friend’s devilish children later in the day. When I say devilish….this woman’s 7 year old son took out his genitals at the grocery store and rubbed it on 30 boxes of frozen waffles because “it feels good!”

At the end of the day, Dev is left exhausted and the viewer is left with a more moderate view of parenthood, which is generous for a show created by Aziz, who spent half of his newest comedy show talking about how awful the concept of parenthood is. We learn that Dev is definitely not ready to have children (as alluded to by the numerous instances in the episode where his actions mirrored those of a child), but that parenthood in general is a collection of wonderful and hair-pulling experiences.

I went into this show expecting something larger-than-life out of a comedian who screams half of his punchlines (I love you Aziz, I promise I do), but what I was with was a show created by a super intelligent dude full of social commentary. He touches on some really interesting issues and brings a fresh take to some issues that some might think have been talked dry. It’s the kind of show that you start for the laughs and stay with for the message, which is why I think that it will reach a broader audience than some of his stand-up.

I would definitely recommend this show, so I’ll leave the trailer here:

(Shoutout to Dev Patel from Meet the Patels, and also Aziz Ansari’s real dad who plays his father on the show)

Watching TV Together

Despite all its perks (and yes, it had quite a few, I will admit), growing up an only child was difficult. From very early on I was an outgoing, happy child – nothing’s really changed on that front – and I loved making friends. I loved talking, I loved getting to know people, and again, not much has changed. But after school, when I got home, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to. My dad was gone a lot of the time, working to support me and my mom, and I thank him every day for that, and my mom was there but she also had her own life, which of course I don’t fault her for. She didn’t spend every waking moment with me, and that’s okay – but it was hard. Sometimes I’d go outside and talk to my dog, wishing that she’d talk back, or maybe that she’d bring me a little sister to play with (I would have taken a little brother too, but a sister would be preferred).

Which is why, when I got a bit older, I always looked forward to about 7 or 8 pm. Why? Because that’s when me and my mom would watch TV together. My mom always tells me I wasn’t like other kids – they would get up and walk around about 30 minutes into watching Cinderella. Not me. I’d sit in front of the TV, staring at it as though all my wishes could come true. I loved the TV. I didn’t have to sit and think about how bored or lonely I was – the kids on the screen would entertain me, tell me stories. I was best friends with Lizzie Mcguire and went to the same crazy school as Raven. But things got even better when my mom started letting me watch the adult shows with her.

I remember it, the nights when we’d go sit on the couch, maybe with popcorn or ice cream, snuggle in with a blanket and watch Heroes together. I think Heroes was our first, though I could be wrong. She wouldn’t let me watch Lost, because it might scare me, but Heroes was our show. I think we even watched The Bachelor together at some point. Watching TV with my mom has always been comforting, which may be why, now that I have an apartment with a TV, I’ve been turning to it more and more.

This week was a pretty stressful one for me (ugh, midterms), but what did I do? Marathoned seven straight episodes of Jane the Virgin of course. My roommate came and joined me around episode 4 and ended up staying through episode 8 – mostly ignoring her work, but also doing some reading too. Whereas I just laid on the couch and let Jane make me forget about all my stress. Sure, my work didn’t go away, but in some small part of me I remembered what it was like, at home with my mom, snuggled up to watch a show.

There’s no doubt about it; TV is obviously changing. Netflix is coming out with original (fantastic) television shows, and HBO has an online service separate from their television package. More and more people are turning into themselves to watch their favorite shows. When I told my friend that for one of my film classes I had to go to a movie screening every week she said “it’s on Netflix right? Then why go – you could just watch it here in your pjs?” And don’t get me wrong – I love my pjs, and I love my Perry the Platypus pillow pet (thanks Sarah) – but my professors aren’t wrong to make us all watch the movie together. It’s the same thing as when my roommates gathered to watch the premiere of Scream Queens.

There’s just something magical about watching TV together.