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The Books I Didn’t Write

In my previous post, I mentioned I was setting hand to keyboard again as part of #NaNoWriMo, an annual virtual, asynchronous event where people set time aside each day in November to write. The traditional intent of the event is to help spur authors to start or finish a book they’ve been postponing. I, however, really just wanted to habituate myself to the practice of blogging.

When I posted a link to the blog on Facebook and mentioned that it was “my first for NaNoWriMo,” my younger sister (an aspiring children’s book author herself), excitedly responded by inferring that I meant I was in the process of writing a book. I assured her that was not the case, but I thought you would also like to see a bit more detail about the books I am definitely not writing. To wit:

The Trolley Problem

What’s this? A modern take on the philosophical conundrum of whether to spare many lives in lieu of taking just one? No, not that at all. This is the tale of two 60-something trolleys facing down the dissolution of their decades-long marriage due to issues related to erectile dysfunction.

A Symmetry of Nouns

Told from the perspective of a newspaper crossword puzzle editor who finds herself in a rut after crafting the perfect puzzle, Lizzabelle is mentally stuck on using the same words over and over while designing ever more cryptic clues to avoid having to come up with a new design. It is at once both an allegory for people who refuse to upgrade their smartphones and a (heavy-handed) metaphor for the devaluation of newspapers in contemporary society, as no one complains about this lack of novelty.

The Fire that Feeds

Wow, sexy title, huh? Maybe it’s even been used before for an actual book. I can’t be bothered to look that up, especially for a fake novel that’s never going to be written. Anyway, it’s a parable of our times and the scarcity of resources as we follow a man struggling to convert his gas fireplace to a wood burning one that also has a built-in rotisserie capable of spinning a 25-pound turkey.

Maime, the Reverse Cat Burglar

A psychological thriller following the titular character as she breaks into homes in order to place cats from the shelter at which she volunteers.

The Storytelling Biscuit

This one is straightforward: it’s about Wendell, a sentient biscuit with ESP. Capable of telling the future, he communicates telepathically only with Genk, a clumsy 10-year old to whom Wendell owes his existence after the lad accidentally knocked him off a kitchen counter and he landed behind the stove, thus escaping consumption. Unfortunately, as a disciple of Noam Chomsky, Wendell communicates to Genk only in minimalist riddles and the boy is not exactly a sharp knife. Will Wendell succeed in doing the minimum while watching the world fall to anarchy, or will Genk save the day in spite of himself? Featuring a denouement everyone can root against.

Look for none of these at a bookstore near you.

Your birthday is today, and also three months from now

I’ve been meaning to post more regularly as part NaNoWriMo this year, but like any good writer I’ve successfully procrastinated for a few days. My first post was going to be an uplifting missive on my ongoing recovery from Bell’s Palsy, but when I was on the toilet this morning I saw Twitter wanted to know when my birthday is. Why does Twitter need to know my birthday? Not for anything good, I’m sure. Maybe it’ll be as benign as them promoting more tweets about snowblowers into my feed, but I doubt it.

What I was reminded of at that moment, though, is that not only should you never share your actual birthday on any sort of social media, but you should also be strategically deceptive about when the online world thinks your birthday is. For example, I belong to any number of “clubs” for various restaurant chains and they also invariably want to know my birthday. In these instances, however, it’s because on my birthday they will send me a coupon for something free. Sharing this information is a good trade, because I like free things, particularly of the food variety. (If they offer me merely a discount — including BOGOs — it’s an automatic cancel.)

Security issues aside, though, you can quickly see the problem with using your actual birthday for these dozens of memberships — all the freebies will arrive at once, and even Joey Chestnut would struggle to redeem every offer, to say nothing of actually savoring them. Therefore, you need to space out your birthday over the course of the year so you have a steady supply of offers from which to choose. To Sbarro, I’m a Capricorn. Corner Bakery knows me as a Virgo. And my local brunch place gets a visit from me late in every April.

The point is, like someone who is recovering from Bell’s Palsy, you have to take care to give yourself regular breaks. It’s ridiculous to stress out over whether you can cash in both that free burrito and an order of falafel at lunch after you already downed a gratis donut from one place and a comped muffin from another for breakfast. That’s the Virgo in you talking, and remember, it’s not real.

Fittest Loser, 2019 – Week 2

“Said I can’t go on, not in this way
I’m a dream that died by light of day
Gonna hold up half the sky and say
Only I own me
And I feel my heart beating
I feel my heart underneath my skin
Oh I can feel my heart beating
Cause you make me feel
Like I’m alive again” – Adventure of a Lifetime, Coldplay

One adjustment contestants in the Fittest Loser competition need to make is seamlessly transitioning from one week to the next. As soon as you step off the scale at the conclusion of the first week, the second week has already started. I saw everyone made a meaningful drop this first week. Congratulations to all of you on that! It’s amazing how effective the change in diet is, plus the exercise you’ve put in as well. However, you should prepare for a different experience at the end of week 2.

This week you will eat the same, be disciplined with the amount of water you drink, continue to put in hours of work in the gym, but at the end of this week you may not see the same weight loss you did at the end of week 1. I hope that’s not the case and that you lose at least as much weight as you did in week 1. The fact remains, though, that over the course of a 12-week contest, there will be ups and downs. If it does turn out that at the end of this week you lose less than in week 1, do not be discouraged. Keep after it, and you will continue to see success.

One other change you might be experiencing – besides weight loss – is feeling like you’re in a bit of a fugue state. Last year after week 1 I remember feeling unfocused, forgetful, and struggling to concentrate after the first week. A fellow contestant reported the same experience. You’re putting yourself through a fairly dramatic change, and this is part of the adjustment. In time, it passes but it may persist yet for a few weeks.

Hope everyone has a great week 2! Remember, only you own your success.

Fittest Loser, 2019 – Week 1

I’ve been running from my demons since the day that I was born.
I’ve been losing too much sleep, just like a kid.
I’ve been hiding from the memories of the things that I once did,
but I don’t want to be defined by them no more.
All I get is this one little life you see…

– “Morning Light” Dirty Guv’nahs


Today was the start of the 2019 version of the Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser contest. The good news about week 1 is that by the end of it, everyone should lose weight, as long as you do one thing: follow the diet. Yes, you need to exercise as well, but strictly following the diet plan is paramount for your success.

Not a noodle of pasta, not a bite of a sandwich, not even the crust of a pizza or a single French fry. Pancakes and waffles are strangers to you now. Those days are past. The only thing you should drink for the next three months is water. (And lots of it!) No juice, no Gatorade, no beer, wine, or other alcohol. The abstinence you show now will reveal just how sweet milk is once the contest is done. 

Also, one item I forgot to recommend for contestants in my last post was a fitness tracker, like a Fitbit. You’ll need to track your heart rate to ensure it’s within a particular range for a prescribed period of time as noted by your trainer. Remember to keep moving throughout the week, even if you’re sore. Moving will make you feel better, even though it sounds a bit counter-intuitive.

Looking forward to seeing some (if not all) of you at the bootcamp classes this week!

Guest Blog Post: Kirsten Binder

Fittest Loser 2019 Prep List—A View from the Middle of the Pack

Kirsten Binder
February 10, 2019

Last year’s winner of the Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser contest, Chad Lowry, posted this Prep List recently, primarily meant for the next round of soon-to-be announced competitors but truly appropriate for a much wider audience. I encourage everyone to read it and take it to heart—anyone at any stage of their resolutions/intentions/self care/transformations/journeys… Whatever you want to call taking care of your health treating yourself with respect.

He and I had the same opportunities and comparable instruction from trainers at Push Fitness (the gym hosting the participants and a sponsor of the contest), but the similarities fall away after that point.

  • His job has him commuting to Chicago each day and taking frequent trips to trainings he conducts across the country; I run my business from home.
  • He loves to run; I prefer yoga and Pilates, although my experience in the contest has brought new types of exercise into my sphere.
  • And let’s recognize another big difference: Chad is a man; I am a woman. Does that make a difference when it comes to weight loss? Not really. A lot of people predicted that Chad would win “because guys lose weight more easily” but that diminishes the effort he put into winning. He might have had a slight advantage at the beginning of the 12 weeks, but once our metabolisms adjusted and the toxins and excess water were out of our systems, all of us had an equal chance to come out on top. Other than some clothing considerations for different anatomy (read on…), all of his advice and mine is equally suited to anyone.

When Chad challenged me to share my own thoughts about Fittest Loser strategies, I jumped at the chance—not because he didn’t cover all the bases, but because each person’s experience is different. Gender, age, resources, schedules, injuries, allergies, or any other preferences or circumstances… all of these contribute as much to the real obstacles standing in the way of our ability to lose weight as they do to the misconceptions, self-delusions, and excuses we manufacture for ourselves.

Sometimes it takes hearing the same message in a different way, with different analogies, inspirations, tips, etc. to take effect. With that in mind, here are my thoughts for all of the competitors this year—in the Fittest Loser competition and beyond.

  • Suppress your instincts… for now – Sorry to be the one to tell you, but you don’t have good instincts in this arena of your life. You crave the wrong foods, trust the wrong advice, and, if you’re doing any exercise at all, it’s inconsistent and ineffective. Your instincts are what have gotten you to this point, and they’ve affected more than just your waistline. You’ve become a master self-manipulator—constantly making and breaking promises with yourself. The end of that heartbreaking cycle is coming, but it’s going to take a wholesale abandonment of your previous ways in order to make improvements that will last.
  • Do what your trainers tell you to do… 100% – The program doesn’t work if it’s followed only halfway. You can’t make changes that will last while holding onto old habits. Piecemeal, cherry-picking of some habits while ignoring other advice just won’t fly, and even the most well-intentioned advice from people outside of the program can derail your efforts. You’re going to go through some big changes over the next 12 weeks. Let this be the one aspect of the journey where things are predictable—where the rules are the rules, the end. As you’ll soon see, you’ll happily adopt these new ways of living as your own, actively choosing to continue following them after the artificial constructs of the “contest” are long over.
  • Without backing away from my previous statement, be sure communicate candidly with your personal trainer about what’s working for you and what’s challenging you. It’s right there in the title—personal trainer—they’re there to customize your program to your needs. If something hurts, say something immediately. If you think you can go harder, speak up (I really doubt this’ll happen, though… Push is right there in the title, too; they’ll keep you working at full capacity). Hate running? Sorry… you’ll be doing some, but maybe it doesn’t have to be as big a component of your program. Want to row? Box? TRX? Spin? Swim? It’s all good, but you have to let your trainer know so it can all be incorporated in the grand plan.
  • Chad talked a little bit about clothing for men; I’ll talk to the women… starting with your “girls”. Invest in a few well-made exercise bras and be ready to replace them when you start to shrink and you don’t fill them out in quite the same way (you’ll notice the changes here, first… again, I’m sorry). If you’re self-conscious about how you’re bouncing around when you’re bouncing around the gym, that’ll be one more rationalization you’ll make to get yourself out of a workout. I know that good exercise bras aren’t cheap, but off-price retailers have a surprisingly good selection and can relieve some of the stress on your wallet.
  • Learn to love your new gym shoes. Trust the retailer who tells you the type of shoe you need. Pay no attention to what they look like (they’re going to be colorful and go with nothing you own—it’s inevitable). Change into them when you get to your gym/studio instead of wearing them there and, when you do use them outside, clean them up when you’re done. It’s a total cliché, but take it to heart—treat them right and they’ll treat you right in return.
  • Personally, I liked wearing long, tight-fitting yoga pants or leggings and looser cotton tops while working out. Some people will swear by Dri-Fit fabrics, loose shorts, certain brands, certain colors, etc… To any of these suggestions, I have to answer simply: You Do You. If you feel best wearing your exercise bra for a top, even though everyone in class is wearing a cute t-shirt with a charming little mantra… You Do You. Feel comfier in a big, ratty old sweatshirt than anything else you could buy? So long as it doesn’t restrict your movement or make you overheat before your workout is complete? Say it with me: You. Do. You.
  • Get ready to pee. Often. You’ll be drinking what will seem like an absurd, ridiculous amount of water, now—in your home, at your desk, on the road, and certainly while you’re working out. Your body isn’t used to getting the hydration it really needs and will respond, at first, by flushing your system of it… literally and rapidly. As you adjust to the new levels of hydration, your bathroom visits will become somewhat less frequent, but get used to near-hourly visits to the facilities from now on. No, this isn’t normal by societal standards, but it’s how a body is supposed to function. By many experts’ estimations, something like 75% of Americans are perpetually dehydrated. You used to be one of them, but you won’t be anymore. Once you know how your brain functions, your moods regulate, and your skin feels when there’s enough water in your system, you won’t go back.
  • Mourn the loss of simple carbohydrates—breads, sugars, pastas, etc.—as well as most dairy products and (this was the toughest one for me) alcohol. This is a time for your body to reset, so please, please don’t cheat on this. After the 12 weeks, you’ll really be amazed at 1) how awful a lot of these “forbidden” items really taste and how they make your newly detoxed, clean system feel 2) how, once the program ends and you’ve moved into maintenance mode, just a few sips or a bite or two of something decadent and indulgent are more than enough.
  • Some people in the competition prepared all of their food for the week ahead; I didn’t. I did, however, find it much easier to stick to the program by eating virtually the same thing every day for 3-4 of my 5 meals (Yes, 5… you’ll see). What I liked about the routine is that it took decision-making out of the equation. Decisions were opportunities to stray from the program. Whatever you need to do to stay on program; do that. Make it as dead simple as you can for yourself while you let the program do the work. You’ll have the rest of your life to make decisions and enjoy variety. Take this time to let the reset take its course.
  • Here’s a snapshot of what my meals looked like on any given day: one portion each of protein, complex carbohydrate, and fat—five times daily. It’s totally counterintuitive (remember, I said to ignore your instincts!), but you’re going to feel like you’re eating all the time. Breakfast was usually eggs, avocado and vegetables. A mid-morning snack often involved yogurt with nuts and berries or oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit. Lunch was often something left over from the previous night’s dinner (read on…). Most afternoons, I’d have almond milk blended with protein powder and a banana. Dinner had a little more variety because I shared it with my family, but it didn’t stray far from the script: lean protein (chicken breast and salmon were the main staples), with a generous portion of vegetables or a big green salad with vinaigrette. Later in the competition when my weight loss seemed to plateau, I stopped including yogurt, peanut butter and oats, too.
  • Get obsessive about label reading—although, honestly, if you’re eating as many fruits, nuts, vegetables, and meats as I was, there aren’t that many labels to read. There are so many pitfalls with packaged food, it’s almost not worth the bother. The single most important think to watch out for when you’re eating anything you didn’t prepare yourself is sodium. Even a passing glance at a saltshaker will make you swell up like a balloon and, while water weight isn’t permanent, it’s disheartening just the same.
  • On the subject of getting disheartened, don’t lose faith if you happen to experience a setback; just reset and continue. Also, don’t get frustrated when, even though the scale is changing, you’re not pleased with how your body feels. Mid-way through the contest, I felt like I was deflating, not tightening up despite some really rigorous strength training. The numbers were going in the right direction but I felt flabbier than I had before the contest had begun. It takes some time for your body to catch up with the new demands you’re making of it; be patient. Definition will come in time.
  • On this last point, I’m going to echo what Chad shared in his original post. Throughout the weeks of competition, we were told that our group had a more cohesive dynamic than many of the other years’ participants. This makes me happy, yet it bums me out at the same time—knowing that other groups didn’t become as close as we have. I can’t imagine what it would have been like not to feel genuinely supported by and get excited about the accomplishments of my fellow Losers. During the contest and to this day, we trade emails, texts, and social media posts celebrating when we reach goals and encouraging when we’re struggling.

The takeaway, here, isn’t to force friendships with other contestants that don’t feel real; it’s to make sure that, whoever you choose, make sure you engage your support network. You’re going to find that plenty of people are watching you, following your progress, and supporting you, even from afar—it is in the newspaper and online, after all. Learn to share your story. Learn to say “Thank you” to compliments (it sounds weird but it’s one of the hardest lessons I learned during the experience). Learn to field well-intentioned advice but filter it through the lens of the program you’ve embraced. In other words, ignore most of it and focus on what’s working for you.

Fittest Loser 2019 Prep List

The next iteration of the Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser contest is around the corner. Having participated in it last year, I thought I’d pass along a list of tips for this year’s participants. Things I wished I’d known when I was starting out on the same challenge.

In no particular order:

  • The trainer you’re assigned is unimportant. They are all fantastic at Push Fitness (the gym hosting the participants and a sponsor of the contest), and your results in the contest will not be different based on which one you are paired with. This challenge is about what you do for yourself, with the support of your trainer, friends, and family.
  • Make sure you have the right clothes for working out. I can’t speak for the women who might be participating, but for the guys you’re going to want some boxer briefs and dry-fit shirts. Cotton T-shirts are not your friend when working out.
  • It’s February. What coat are you wearing when you leave the gym that you won’t mind putting on when you’re soaked with sweat?
  • At least two workouts you do each week will be on your own. If you plan to run and have a history of shin splints or discover this is a problem for you, I recommend wearing a pair of compression sleeves. Once I started wearing these my shin splints, which previously were crippling, went away.
  • If you’re given the opportunity to pick up a new pair of shoes, do so. Working out in old shoes will cause all kinds of pain for your feet, ankles, and back.
  • Sign up for a music streaming service, like Spotify, and start putting together your workout playlist. Having music to distract you from the tedium of exercise can make the difference between pushing yourself harder than you planned to, and giving up early. Paying for a service ensures you’re not constantly being interrupted by commercials. If you don’t already have wireless headphones, I recommend those as well.
  • Buy a couple of sport water bottles if you don’t already have them. Really useful to have these during the group classes and your trainer sessions.
  • You probably already assume this, but say farewell to carbs such as pasta, pizza, white rice, and potatoes. (Sweet potatoes are OK.) Same goes for sugar, and most dairy. It’s tough, I know, but you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy “eating clean.”
  • Carve out time each weekend to shop for food and prepare it for the week. This will take hours. Remember to include time for cleanup, too.
  • Make sure you have containers for bringing leftovers to work every day. Failing to do so will likely lead you to making excuses throughout the week about why it will be OK to eat out. It’s not. It isn’t the case that you can never eat out again; you’ll just want to take these three months off from having restaurant food. (With likely one exception, which I won’t spoil for you.)
  • Start drinking water. This part of the program was one of the biggest changes for me. You’ll hear that you should drink half your weight in water each day, but going beyond that will be even more beneficial. It’s more of a challenge than you think.
  • Another diet tip: Not only will you be consuming less sodium on account of fewer restaurant visits and eating less (read:none) processed food, but you also should become used to not salting your food either. It’ll cause you to retain water. Note that most pre-mixed seasoning blends include salt.
  • Buy a food scale. The portions in the guide you’ll be given are mostly measured in ounces and you will want to be accurate in your measurements.
  • Some aspects of the diet will likely surprise you, depending on the caloric limit you’re assigned. For example, a meal might call for two servings of protein. Two eggs equal one serving of protein, so you could find yourself eating four eggs for breakfast, and that’s before you include the starch and fat components. Hardly sounds like a diet, right?
  • Finally, the participants in the contest are your competitors, but they are not your enemies. They’re present for the same reason you are – to transform their lives. You’ve just been given a handful of new friends to support and cheer for you along the way. You should be as happy for them to lose weight as you are for yourself.

I’ll have more tips and reflections throughout the contest. Good luck to all contestants! I look forward to seeing you at Push Fitness.

Sunday Is Coming Too Soon


Cecilia helps clean the cat dishes

I’m posting this Wednesday night. In a little more than three days, my wife and I will say goodbye to our 16-year old beagle, Cecilia. Her health has been declining for some time, and although we would love more time with her, we know she is in pain and not living a great life with her arthritis. The medicine and acupuncture we’ve been using to treat it no longer offer her the relief they once did. She also has Cushing’s disease, and a heart murmur. She has fought the good fight to eat as many treats as she could wrangle and charm from you.

When we first adopted Cecilia, she was already seven or eight years old. She walked into our house as if she’d lived there for years, and made herself right at home. Never the most affectionate dog – Cecilia never learned to give kisses –  she mostly warmed up to you at meal time. Still, she would occasionally jump up on the couch, not to make herself comfortable, but to wander over to me, climb on my lap, and lean against me. It was her way of giving a hug. Because of her arthritis, she hasn’t been able to do that for a couple years.

Another trick Cecilia can no longer do is one her former owners must have taught her. Whenever she wanted a treat, she would stand on her hind legs, put her front paws together, and wave them at you. As a beagle, she always wanted a treat. If she could not coax one from you, she would take any opportunity to sneak off and try to help herself to the cats’ food.

A few years ago, my wife and I used a baby gate to block off the family room from the kitchen and the rest of our house, to keep Cecilia corralled when we would leave to run errands. One day, we came home to find Cecilia standing on the kitchen side of the gate, instead of the family room. As best we could figure, she jumped up on the couch in the family room, jumped from there to the recliner, jumped up on the back of the recliner, launched herself from there onto the counter in the kitchen, and then jumped down from the counter onto the kitchen floor. That last move proved a bit too much for her, as she tore her ACL. Still, she dragged herself to the back of the house, ate the cat food from the dishes on the floor, then dragged herself back to the kitchen which is where we found her when we came home. After a $2,500 surgery, her ACL was back to normal.

Like most dogs, Cecilia loved her walks, and always insisted she be allowed to go, even when it was too painful and tiring for her to do so. We bought a baby stroller to push her around in, and she insisted on standing up in it the entire time we were walking.

Last winter was rough on Cecilia, and I remember wondering if she would be able to make it through the bitter cold and snow. Finally, the weather warmed and her ability to move up and down her ramp improved. But in the past couple weeks she’s struggled to both stand up and lay down, and I know another winter would be a punishment to her. We’ve made arrangements to have a vet we know come to the house on Sunday, when we will help her cross the rainbow bridge.

I need so much more time with her.


2017 Fall TV Preview

The 69th (nice) Emmys were tonight, which means the new TV season is just around the corner. Let’s review this fall’s lineup of new network shows to see which might be the next big hit, and which might be the next “The Real O’Neals.” All shows are listed alphabetically by network, with the expected air date and time listed.


9JKL (Monday, 8:30/7:30)

OK, before I tell you what this one is about, try to guess its premise. How long did it take you to come up with three adjacent apartments on the 9th floor? If there’s anything audiences like about a comedy, it’s a challenge. This one explores a man who lives in an apartment (9K) between his parents (in 9J), and his brother and his family (in 9L). I understand if they make it to a second season, they’re moving to consecutive floors.


Alex, Inc. (TBD, midseason)

Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) returns to TV with this sitcom based on a podcast about a journalist and family man who starts his own business. Whew. So, he’s not a journalist, I guess.


The Crossing (TBD, midseason)

Set 250 years in the future, this gritty drama follows refugees from a war in America who seek shelter in a small town in…America. A conspiracy drives the narrative, and the conspiracy is about who thought it was OK to put BBQ chicken on pizza.


Deception (TBD, midseason)

This is a show about “a superstar magician” whose career is ruined. It was ruined when one of his tricks goes awry and a woman in the audience is trampled by a buffalo named “Chicken Wings.” I’m guessing. The important thing is, he ends up at the FBI, where he uses his skills to help trap criminals. Basically, it’s “The Mentalist” with magic instead of fake psychic powers.


For the People (TBD, midseason)

Do you remember “Boston Legal?” This is “Boston Legal,” except it’s set in NYC.


The Good Doctor (Monday 10/9)

Do you remember “Doogie Howser, M.D.?” This is “Doogie Howser, M.D,” except the doctor is a little bit older. And has autism.


Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (Tuesday, 10/9)

Originally called “The Gospel of Kevin,” this drama centers on a man going through a mid-life crisis related to his series being the first one canceled for the season. I kid. Jason Ritter stars in the title role as a man tasked with saving the world. God is the one who has tasked him to do this. Joel Osteen is just untouchable right now, otherwise it probably would’ve been him.


Inhumans (Friday 9/8)

ABC takes a novel approach as it returns to the Marvel well by launching this series with two episodes that showed in movie theaters in early September, then wasn’t seen for another two weeks. The show runs for just eight episodes, and revolves around a royal family that lives, uh, on the moon with all its amenities, and end up fleeing due to a coup and end up in Hawaii. The main things are that it stars Serinda Swan, and a giant CGI dog.


The Mayor (Tuesday 9:30/8:30)

A rapper runs for mayor on a lark, but – get this – ends up being elected.


Roseanne (TBD, midseason)

Ugh. Here’s hoping John Goodman and Sarah Chalke are the saving graces of this relaunch of the 90s sitcom.


Splitting Up Together (TBD, midseason)

“The Office” alumna Jenna Fischer stars in this show about a couple whose relationship finds new life after divorcing. It’s apparently based on a Danish series, which is always a recipe for success.


Ten Days in the Valley (Sunday 10/9)

Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) stars in this short-run drama about a TV producer whose daughter disappears, just like in the TV show she produces. “Why didn’t I produce a TV show about chicken wings?” she wonders aloud in the pilot episode.



By the Book (TBD, midseason)

A man going through a midlife crisis decides to live according to the Bible. I believe this is a comedy, but not sure. Stars David Krumholtz (“Numbers”).


Instinct (TBD, midseason)

A former CIA employee (played by Alan Cumming, “The Good Wife”) helps the NYPD stop a serial killer on the loose. Although apparently not, because there’s a whole series about it, and if they actually caught the guy it would be, like, three episodes total.


Me, Myself, & I (Monday, 9:30/8:30)

Remember Urkel from “Family Matters?” He’s in this! So is Saturday Night Live alum Bobby Moynihan. He plays the present-day version of a man who’s played as a teenager by Jack Dylan Glazer, and a future version by John Larroquette. It’s not a show about time travel, just a story about a guy told from multiple perspectives. Unless they struggle in the ratings, in which case they’ll probably switch to being about time travel.


S.W.A.T. (Thursday 10/9)

“Criminal Minds” alumnus Shemar Moore stars in this drama based on the 2003 film by the same name. How many flies and mosquitoes will he be able to swat? Tune in to find out!


SEAL Team (Wednesday 9/8)

This team of highly trained circus seals has escaped and are hellbent on a journey of revenge. Kidding! It’s about a military team led by David Boreanz (“Bones,” “Angel”). Sometimes, they gots beef with each other, not just the enemy. They train like the dickens.


Wisdom of the Crowd (Sunday 8/7)

Oh, god. This is going to be terrible. People download an app to help solve crimes. Like “Person of Interest,” except out in the open, and it involves everyone instead of just three or four people trying to keep a secret. Are there points? Do I get points for finding criminals? Will I be Venmo’d money? Can I redeem the points for chicken wings?


Young Sheldon (Thursday 8:30/7:30)

Going to the “Big Bang Theory” well, Chuck Lorre produces this show about a pre-teen version of the character Sheldon Cooper as he grows up in Texas and attends high school as a nine-year old.



A.P. Bio (TBD, midseason)

Hooray! A show about a high school class most people loved!! This comedy stars Patton Oswalt as part of the story of a former Ivy-league professor who misses out on tenure (so, not a professor) and plots revenge by teaching high school. As one does.


The Brave (Monday, 10/9)

A show about military special ops. See, S.W.A.T, SEAL Team above.


Champions (TBD, midseason)

This comedy produced by and co-starring Mindy Kaling concerns an unambitious gym owner (stereotype much?) and his dimwitted brother. Their bro-lives go topsy-turvy when Kaling shows up with the gym owner’s bastard. So, “Three Men and a Baby,” expect “Two Men and a Pre-Teen.”


Good Girls (TBD, midseason)

Have no idea what this one is about, neither can I tell from the description if it is a drama or a comedy. It stars Retta (“Parks and Rec”), so maybe comedy?


Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers (Thursday, 10/9)

If there’s anything an audience loves, it’s seeing a story rehashed over and over again. This mini-series covers the trial of Erik and Lyle Menedez, who killed their parents several decades ago. Mercifully, this show will last for only eight episodes.


Reverie (TBD, midseason)

Remember “Robocop?” This isn’t that. Instead, stars Sarah Shahi (“Person of Interest”), Dennis Haysbert (“24,” Allstate commercials), and Sendhil Ramamurthy (“Heroes”) in a show about a former detective brought back to work after a virtual reality program does some bad things.


Rise (TBD, midseason)

Remember “Glee?” This is “Glee,” with Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”).


Will & Grace (Thursday 8/7)

High hopes for the relaunch of this series following Will, Grace, Jack, Karen, and Rosario.



911 (TBD, midseason)

Drama starring Angela Basset as a supervisor of 911 dispatchers. Bold move not making this a comedy.


Ghosted (Sunday 8:30/7:30)

This comedy partners stars from two successful NBC sitcoms (“The Office,” “Parks and Rec”) as a team investigating paranormal or unexplained events, like when my wife empties the dishwasher without being asked. Ha! Just kidding. They look into ghosts, specters, that sort of thing.


The Gifted (Monday 9/8)

Based on Marvel’s characters, this show addresses a number of teenage mutants just discovering their powers as they are pursued by the government. It’s not clear whether Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy plays Professor X in this one.


LA to Vegas (TBD, midseason)

This Will Ferrell-produced comedy covers a flight from LA to Vegas on Friday night, and the return trip on Sunday morning. In between? Hijinks!


The Orville (Thursday 9/8)

Fox has a long history of canceling sci-fi dramas. This season, they wanted to see what it would be like to cancel a sci-fi comedy. Starring Seth Macfarlane (creator of “Family Guy”), the show lampoons space travel (ala Star Trek) as it follows the crew of the eponymously named ship across the galaxy.


The Resident (TBD, midseason)

A medical drama, in the vein of St. Elsewhere, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, etc. Nothing to see here. Unless you like that sort of thing.



Black Lightning (TBD, midseason)

Just when he thought he was out of the superhero game, they pull him back in! Cress Williams stars as the titular character of this DC-based metahuman whose real name is Jefferson Pierce, a black man named after one white slave owner, and a white southern sympathizer. He returns to the vigilante life after his daughters are threatened. His superpower involves the ability to summon a broom and clean a room in a heartbeat. Just kidding, that’s Nanny McPhee. I think. Black Lightning uses lightning for both offense and defense.


Dynasty (Wednesday, 9/8)

Winner of this year’s “The Show No One Asked For” award, this rehashing of an old prime-time soap opera revolves around two wealthy families (the Carringtons and the Colbys) as they fight over…I don’t even know. Some crap. No one cares.


Life Sentence (TBD, midseason)

Hey, good news! The lead character in this show doesn’t have cancer as she thought she did!! Bad news: the lead character did and said some real messed up things when she thought she was going to die. Time to atone for eating all those chicken wings.


Valor (Monday 9/8)

Finally, another show about helicopter pilots! “Airwolf” broke the mold, and “Valor” is here to inherit its title as most unrelatable profession depicted on TV. This one is about military helicopter pilots in an elite division. The lead character, Capt. Jack Valor, flies his helicopter (also called “Valor”) on missions in Valor Valley. No way this one gets canceled.

The Things We Do (or not) Before We Die

One of those viral lists is going around Facebook right now. This one is about popular bucket list items – things you want to do, and places you want to see before you die. You mark an X next to whatever you’ve accomplished, and if you haven’t been there, done that, you just leave the item blank.

Rather than limit this information to only those I’m friends with on Facebook, I’ve decided to copy and paste it here for you to use as a litmus test for the value of your own life and the regrets you’re collecting:

Swam in a pond

Visited Hawaii – X

Went camping – X

Went on a blind date only to realize I have nothing in common with this person, and while she’s a lovely individual, why did anyone think we would work together? – X

Ordered spaghetti and meatballs at a white tablecloth restaurant – X

Continued to spend the night in a tent even after someone in there threw up on me – X

Showed restraint at a catered meal after a funeral

Thought about how nice it is to breathe through my mouth most of the time – X

Fired a potato gun

Ate a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs at a white tablecloth restaurant without using utensils or my hands – X

Made a parody film called “Close Encounters of the Second Kind,” about a peaceful turd from outer space

Successfully put together a piece of patio furniture after six tries

Considered planting potatoes, but then didn’t – X

Farted while parasailing in Hawaii – X

Threw one of my shoes in a pond, so I could complain about having only one shoe – X

Fired a gun at a potato – X

Had a nice time while riding the bus once – X

Fell off a roof while attempting to hang holiday lights for Cinco De Mayo

Went to an Air & Space museum’s gift shop to ask if they had one of those posters of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” – X (they didn’t)

Thrown away a pair of underwear

Been in a car accident, due to the BBQ ribs slipping out of my hands

Had a child

Had a child look me up & down while I was seated, and was told, “You’re big.” – X

Went to the dentist recently

Had a telephone conversation with Jay Leno about what a nice guy he is – X (he did all the talking)

Eaten just waffles and breakfast sausage and cantaloupe and fried chicken and chocolate mousse and roast beef and asparagus and mashed potatoes for dinner – X

Watched more than one episode of “My Cat from Hell,” for some reason – X

Successfully used diet and exercise to lose 20+ pounds, only to gain it all back again because pizza – XXXX

Jumped out of a plane while it was on the ground – X (technically, I missed the last step, but I’m still counting this one)

Swam in a volcano to retrieve a potato I dropped in there

2015 Fall TV Preview

Tonight is the annual Emmy awards show, where actors and shows from the previous television year are recognized for excellence, or because they air on a network and have flumped their way to broadcasting a level of pablum that is an achievement in itself. It also marks the start of the new fall TV season, so this guide to the new network shows is just in time to let you know which shows are worth your time. My selflessness knows no ends.


Network Time (Eastern/Central) Show Why should you watch?
CBS 8:30/7:30 Life in Pieces This is one of those multi-family shows, in the vein of ABC’s Modern Family, except no one is gay, and they’ve found a new way to make bodily function jokes. Also, Jordan Peele (from Comedy Central’s Key and Peele) shows up for what I hope is more than just a cameo.
8/7 (Nov. 1) Supergirl Remember the CW show Smallville, which was about Superman when he was a teenager, but played by a 30-year old? This is the story about his cousin, who like Superman, was jettisoned by her parents from a dying Krypton (too bad that family didn’t bother sharing their child-saving technology with anybody else, huh?), and like Superman protects her identity by wearing glasses and living in the most densely populated city in the U.S. Importantly, the trailer for the show manages to include both a woman providing an excuse for the sexist title (why not Superwoman?), and a male co-star who mansplains to Supergirl how to be a hero. Good times!
ABC ABC is airing no new shows on Monday, preferring instead to take their counterprogramming chances with the 83rd iteration of Dancing with the Stars.
FOX 9/8 Minority Report Remember the 2002 movie by the same name, which starred Tom Cruise, and had the same dissatisfying ending of every Philip K. Dick story ever? Now you can experience that dissatisfaction every week! This is Fox’s latest failed Sci-fi drama, following last year’s Almost Human, 2012’s Alcatraz, 2011’s Terra Nova, and 2010’s Dollhouse (I had to look up that last one).
NBC 10/9 Blind Spot OK, so tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A duffel bag shows up in the middle of an empty Times Square. Inside is a naked woman, covered with tattoos. Turns out, she’s an amnesic super spy whose tattoos are a cryptic message about her past, or maybe something having to do with the future, or perhaps a lasagna recipe. This show is apparently an attempt to capitalize on the wildly popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novel by Stieg Larsson, with the hope that audiences will remember nothing about it except that it featured a girl, with a tattoo.
CW 8/7 My Crazy Ex-girlfriend This show was originally a racy, foul-mouthed half-hour comedy on Showtime, but is now an hour-long comedy on the CW, because sure, why not?


Network Time (Eastern/Central) Show Why should you watch?
CBS 10/9 Limitless It seems most of the TV shows this season started with the pitch, “Hey, remember that time when there was that show/movie/idea…” This show is no exception, capitalizing on the somewhat popular 2011 movie by the same name, which starred Bradley Cooper as a drug-fueled supergenius. Cooper makes a return in the pilot, but only sticks around long enough to get a new guy hooked on whatever he was using. A strong, family message for the kids, really.
NBC 9/8 Heartbreaker Quick: what do you expect a show called Heartbreaker to be about? A supercute guy or gal who’s constantly disappointing would-be paramours? A horrible cardiac surgeon, perhaps? Two flatulent mice sharing a flat in Budapest? Well, the second choice would’ve been the closest, as it’s actually about a heart transplant surgeon. This show will be replaced at the start of the TV season by Chicago Med (wonder what that one will be about?), while the lead in Heartbreaker takes leave to have a child.
10/9 Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris The title of the show is somewhat confusing, as it’s not clear to me whether this is, in fact, the best time you could ever, ever have, or merely the best time you could ever have with Neil Patrick Harris. But I digress. As does the show, apparently, consisting of a hodgepodge of skits, pranks, games, celebrity appearances, and amateur performances. If the opening credits don’t show someone throwing spaghetti at a wall, I’ll be disappointed.
ABC 8/7 the muppets No one will ever voice Kermit the Frog exactly the way Jim Henson did. No one else can seem to quite capture the spirit of his creations either, but we’ll watch this show anyway, in the hope it won’t be as bad as past resurrections, and for the can’t-miss doses of Statler & Waldorf in the balcony.
10/9 Quantico How often you must’ve found yourself wondering, “What do young FBI recruits look like when stepping out of the swimming pool?” Finally, here comes a show that can answer the question. Other secrets from the FBI’s training program are also revealed, such as, how to look sultry to your co-workers, and hey, one of us is a terrorist?
FOX 8/7 Grandfathered John Stamos, who played the hilarious Uncle Jessie in the iconic sitcom Full House, plays the hilarious role of a Greek restaurateur who irresponsibly fathered a child he didn’t know about for a couple/few decades, and that child also just became a father, so now John Stamos is a grandfather. Therefore, he’s not really “grandfathered” into anything, but he’s joined in the cast by Paget Brewster who played the hilarious serial-killer hunting Emily Prentiss on CBS’ Criminal Minds. It’s unclear at this time what could possibly go wrong with this show.
8:30/7:30 The Grinder Oh, I sure hope this is a show about a baked sub-style sandwich! Let me check the previews. Nope. Not about sandwiches at all. Turns out this is an Odd Couple-type story where Rob Lowe plays a character who played a lawyer on TV, and is brother to Fred Savage, who plays an actual lawyer. William Devane also stars as their father. It’s not explicitly stated in the advance materials, but I’m guessing he fathered them with two different women. After the end of an eight-year run for his show where he played the most popular lawyer on TV, Lowe’s character moves back to Boise, ID, as most TV stars do, and busies himself by meddling in his brother’s life. This is a comedy.
9/8 Scream Queens I’m a little nervous to out-and-out guess what this one might be about, so let me do some research first. Ah, I see. It’s a black comedy/satire type show that centers on Kappa House, a popular, elitist sorority that’s forced to change its ways and accommodate all comers, even though there’s a bunch of murders that happen, or something. The show is executive produced by the team that brought us Glee, and stars Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis (who plays the Jane Lynch-type role of antagonist/disciplinarian). The color of Curtis’ track suit was not revealed.


Network Time (Eastern/Central) Show Why should you watch?
ABC ABC has no new shows scheduled for Wednesdays.
CBS 10/9 Code Black If you’ve missed a high-stress, fast-paced hospital drama in your TV life, this is the show for you. Well, either this one or Chicago Med on NBC Tuesdays. You make the call. This one has the advantage of taking its name from a situation where there are more patients than resources available to help them. Look for its spinoff next year, Governmental Allocations and City Planning.
NBC NBC has no new shows scheduled for Wednesdays, because – incredibly – they couldn’t come up with anything better than Mysteries of Laura.


Network Time (Eastern/Central) Show Why should you watch?
ABC ABC has no new shows scheduled for Thursdays. Does ABC know they’re allowed to have new shows? This is confusing.
CBS CBS has no new shows immediately scheduled for Thursdays, as they will be airing an NFL game, and laughing at the other networks for showing anything other than reruns.
8:30/7:30 Angel from Hell Probably the fall’s most promising comedy (although, if you’ve been reading all of these previews, that’s not a tall hurdle to clear), it stars Jane Lynch (not in a tracksuit) as the guardian angel/weird friend to dermatologist Maggie Lawson. Can a woman of science accept a spiritual being in her life? Or will it turn out that Lynch’s character isn’t an angel after all? Or will fellow co-star Kevin Pollack lose his mind and just start doing Sinatra impressions out of nowhere and the director shrugs and says, “What the hell, let’s see where this goes?”
FOX Fox has no new shows scheduled for Thursdays. They know Bones and Sleepy Hollow aren’t beating the NFL. Way to give up, fellas.
NBC 8/7 Heroes Reborn Another deceiving title for a show that is not about sub-type sandwiches. Someone lost a bet with this one; that’s the only way to explain it. (Probably the bet was with Greg Grunberg.) The original Heroes show from a few years ago had about 2.5 good episodes, but stumbled badly after that, like someone who trips over the threshold while walking into a room and clumsily attempts to regain his balance all the way across it, only to fall into the fireplace. That was the original Heroes. How this one will differ from that one, I don’t know. My suggestion is to turn it into a cooking show that demonstrates how to make great sandwiches.
10/9 The Player You probably think this one will be about a card player, or maybe some suave dude who picks up women all the time, or a suave card player, right? Well, it is set in Las Vegas, but it’s not clear why. The gambling that takes place is about crime, which presumably could happen anywhere. The important thing isn’t the ridiculous, outright laughably bad premise, it’s that it stars Wesley Snipes.


Network Time (Eastern/Central) Show Why should you watch?
ABC 8:30/7:30 Dr. Ken There you go, ABC! Way to get off the Schneid. I knew you had to have at least one more show in you. If you’re a fan of Ken Jeong, this is the show you’ve been waiting for, as he plays the eponymous character. If you’re a fan of unimaginative, thinly drawn, poorly written comedies, I’m pretty sure they’ve got you covered here as well.
NBC 8:30/7:30 Truth Be Told This show was originally going to be called People Are Talking, but apparently no one could come up with what it was they should be talking about. A more common problem than you’d think. Instead, we have a show about, um, two couples who hire a babysitter that they think might have done porn. Well. That certainly seems like something to talk about. I bet it turns out the babysitter has a twin sister. No wonder ABC felt safe putting a new show up against this one.
CBS Instead of coming up with new shows for Fridays, CBS and Fox looked at the two above, then gave each other a high five.


Nobody watches TV on Saturday nights. Probably why no new shows are scheduled.


Network Time (Eastern/Central) Show Why should you watch?
ABC 9/8 Blood & Oil ABC is the only network to offer new shows on Sunday, as Fox already has a solid lineup of comedies, NBC has football, and CBS just hopes CSI: Cyber and Madam Secretary don’t end up poisoning The Good Wife.

This half-baked monstrosity sees Don Johnson (occasionally) faking a southern accent, while acting as a patriarch eking out the living of a hardscrabble Texas oil tycoon. Some other characters are also present, but whether they’re supposed to prove more entertaining than Johnson and his accent, I can’t tell.

10/9 Of Kings & Prophets Finally! Another biblical drama. This one covers King Saul, Samuel the prophet, and David. It’s for the Game of Thrones crowd that doesn’t want to have to pay for HBO, I guess. Expect plenty of palace intrigue and politicking, bronze-age warfare, and sexytimes with people who have no access to indoor plumbing.