[17 August 2009]
Summer is already a near-perfect time in my life where any surprises I experience are typically unwelcome annoyances. Sunny, warm weather can be interrupted by surprise thunderstorms or freakishly repressive humidity. An unexpected meeting or visit from a boss will replace my laid-back, truncated schedule and Casual Friday vibe with a long afternoon spent indoors in a suit and tie. My vacation plans might be postponed for several hours due to unanticipated airline delays and diversions. A huge blockbuster movie or pop-culture event hyped for up to a year may fizzle faster than my jumbo movie theater soda.
So from May until mid August, I happily attempt to maintain the status quo of simple, mindless sun and fun. Still, the end is near for this particular pop-culture season, and I’ve got to admit, I’ve been pleasantly surprised for the first time in many summers. Below is my list of 2009 Summer Surprises.
SUMMER TV SURPRISE
I largely dismissed the first season of HBO’s “True Blood” because, well, “Twilight” turned me off of vampires and made me a little ill at the sight of blood. Big mistake. By the end of the phenomenal opening sequence of the second season premiere in June, I was sucked into this show. The basic premise: Vampires “came out of the coffin” and live among us mortals, sometimes peacefully. Set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, the series primarily revolves around the relationship between telepath/waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and her old Southern gentleman vamp-boyfriend Bill. However, the supporting characters – including Sookie’s brother Jason, the vampire sheriff Eric, changeling bartender Sam and gay transvestite blood-dealer Lafayette – are fully fleshed-out, human and engaging. There are allegorical road signs to the gay rights movement, and there’s much talk about intolerance, but it’s no more of a message-heavy series than the “X-Men” are. Yes, it’s a soap opera serial, but it’s a violent and sexy show (and darn funny at times) and is the first vampire franchise to come along in a while which appeals to both men and women. At last, a blood-sucking entry that you don’t have to be a tween, or embarrassed adult, to enjoy.
SUMMER DVD SURPRISE
“The Mighty Boosh”
It looks like “Flight of the Conchords” won’t be returning to HBO for a third season, and that had me down. Where could I get my absurd mix of music and humor now, I wondered. The solution came in the form of “The Mighty Boosh” Seasons One, Two and Three on DVD. Originally airing on the BBC beginning May 2004, it’s about the adventures of zookeepers Howard Moon and Vince Noir - interspersed with musical numbers and detours to limbo and the arctic tundra. The “Boosh” exists in the space between “Ziggy Stardust” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” and is easily one of the most whacked out, brain-warpingly weird and hilariously brilliant things I’ve seen. Sometimes it is so smart it’s great, and other times it is so stupid it’s great, but it’s pretty much always great, even when dealing with mod werewolves and needy polar bears.
SUMMER BOOK SURPRISE
“Chilling Tales From the Porcelain Seat”
The summer is a big reading time for me, but it’s not a serious novel that surprised me this season, it’s a book about plumbing. Plumbing and drain service Roto-Rooter’s new book, “Chilling Tales From the Porcelain Seat” is a collection of humorous and horrible porcelain-god stories has picked up over the years. OK, so the “How to Poop at Work” survival guide is puerile and purely fun potty humor, but more than just a book on how “everybody poops,” there are weird ditties about reptiles, flushed drugs, monster roots, a chocolate bunny and a rescued kitten. As an added bonus, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson - devoted Roto-Rooter plumbers and famous “Ghost Hunters” from the Syfy Channel – provide commentary in the book and pipe in (pun intended) with observations and one-liners every so often.
SUMMER MOVIE SURPRISE
“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”
This is not a great movie, but it’s a surprisingly not-bad one. After months of underwhelming trailers and TV spots, my expectations were Sarlacc-pit low for this flick based on the Hasbro action figures and cartoon. And yet, it delivers on the hammy world domination plot, over-the-top action sequences, explosions, goofy dialogue, cameos and colorful characters I want from a movie like this. Cobra Commander’s outfit stinks, and there is so much more that would have done justice to the original series, but “Rise of Cobra” is way better than the second “Transformers” movie, and there is enough going right with this origin story that I’m interested in seeing what they can do with the sequel.
SUMMER MUSIC SURPRISE
“The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies),” Black Eyed Peas
Much like the “G.I. Joe” movie, this album is surprising by not being awful. Sure, that’s not exactly the most one should expect from pop-culture, but I was somewhat shocked to enjoy anything from the Black Eyed Peas this much. A great summer soundtrack, “The E.N.D.” keeps pumping and thumping with funky sounds for 15 tracks. When Will.i.am (http://Will.i.am) beats the listener over the head with social lessons (“One Tribe”), things get goofy but remain incredibly listenable. It’s debatable how much I’ll be digging it once the weather gets cool, but it works on the beach and try as I might, I can’t deny the catchiness of “Electric City” and “Boom Boom Pow.”
Aaron Sagers writes about all things pop-culture each week, but follow him daily on Twitter under “AaronSagers” and on his site, www.paranormalpopculture.com . Aaron can be contacted at sagers.aaron AT gmail.com.