TV focus group

I recently participated in a TV focus group. It paid $125, but I did it more for the experience of it than anything.

I was contacted about a TV study and asked multiple questions about whether or not I watched certain TV shows and how much of them I watched. For more than half the shows they asked me about I hadn’t watched them at all, like “Modern Family” and “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” but when I said I had seen all the episodes of one TV show, “Younger,” I was in.

Season Two Group Shot

Season Two Group Shot

Let me first tell you about “Younger.” It’s a half-hour sitcom on TV Land that is from the creator of “Sex and the City.” I loved “Sex and the City,” and since “Younger” started on a Tuesday night in January, when I’m in hibernation mode, and when I didn’t have any other show I watched on Tuesdays, I checked it out. It’s about a 40-year-old woman, played by the fabulous Sutton Foster, who gets a divorce and needs to head back into the workforce, but she was a stay-at-home mom and hasn’t been in the workforce for awhile. Interviewing in the book publishing industry, she tried to get entry level jobs, but they weren’t hiring her because of her age, so her best friend, the amazing Debi Mazar, told her to pretend she was 26. She gets a job and then has to carry on the facade of being 26, and you can imagine that a lot of silly situations happen because of it.

It’s not a great, award-winning show. It’s sweet, with some funny and touching moments, but it’s pretty fluffy. We all need a fluffy show from time to time, so I do enjoy it when I watch it, but I don’t have to watch it. It’s not like “Orphan Black,” which I can’t miss, but if I’m home and it’s on I’m going to watch it.

At the focus group, it was me and about 8 or 9 other women between the ages of 25 and 50. We were ushered into a boardroom where one whole wall was a two-way mirror, a TV was on the other side of the room, and a camera system was at the end of the table, right behind where the moderator sat. The moderator told us there were people watching us and that we were being recorded so we should speak up and make sure not to interrupt each other.

She first started asking us questions about what TV shows we really loved and I was surprised at some of the shows the women mentioned. Women in their late 30s/early 40s loved shows on MTV, like “Awkward,” which I had heard of, but they mentioned a ton of other shows I had never heard of that were on MTV and E. The only show I can say I’ve watched on MTV is “Catfish.” I can’t help it. It’s fascinating. But I can’t think of any E show I’ve watched, except for “Chelsea Lately” when that was on.

Anyway, it really surprised me that a bunch of 40-year-olds watch MTV shows. When I was younger I was big into “Real World” and “Road Rules” on MTV, and I have no idea if those franchises are even in existence anymore. I suppose I could find out easily if they are, but I really don’t care, so it surprised me that women around my age loved shows on MTV.

So since that surprised me, I shouldn’t have been surprised about their answers to some things on the show “Younger,” but I was. One thing you need to know about “Younger” is that there is a love triangle between the woman pretending to be 26, the 26-year-old boy she starts dating as she’s pretending to be 26, and a 40-year-old executive at the book publishing place where she’s working who thinks she’s 26.

The 26-year-old she’s dating is very good looking, as is the 40-year-old book publishing guy, and when we were asked whose team we were on, as in which man should our main character end up with, almost every woman said the 26-year-old. Only me and another woman who was 31 said that she should be with the book publishing guy. Seriously? The 26-year old who lives in a dirty apartment with roommates and plays video games? The 26-year-old who wants to go to overnight outdoor festivals that are muddy and dirty and full of bad music? The 26-year-old who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed?

I am team 40-year-old book publishing guy all the way. I told them that the 40-year-old guy would take you to nice restaurants, maybe a play, and you could fly off to Paris together and stay in nice places. If the 26-year-old took her to Paris they’d be staying in hostels.

But no matter what I or anyone else said, they were team 26-year-old all the way. I honestly thought that we’d be split by age, that the women in their 20s and early 30s would want the 26-year-old, and those of us in our late 30s and 40s would want the book publishing guy. I still think those women are totally crazy, but hey, to each her own.

Another thing I found interesting is that I was one of the only people in the room to say they watch live TV. Most of these women watch TV shows using their DVRs, Comcast’s On Demand or services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Only a couple other people said they’ve watched the show live. I don’t always watch things live either, especially not for shows I don’t love, but for shows I love I try to watch them live. I guess I’m in the minority on that one.

But one of the biggest things I found doing this focus group: I do not watch as much TV as I thought I did. These women watched a lot of TV. They were going on and on about “The Bachelorette” and “Dancing with the Stars” and a ton of other shows I wouldn’t watch, and then they started talking about shows I’d never heard of. There was a big portion of the focus group where I just watched and listened to everyone else talk about TV.

Or maybe it’s not that I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I don’t watch the TV they watch. Only one other person watched “Orphan Black” and “Game of Thrones” with me, and they all hadn’t heard of “Mr. Robot.”But one thing is crystal clear after the focus group: I’d much rather date a 40-year-old than a 26-year-old. Most definitely.


The one where Roseanne Barr liked my tweet

On Monday night, Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” premiered on TBS. I’ve been waiting for this show for months. I wanted it before I even knew it existed, which is basically a week after Trevor Noah took over “The Daily Show.” I’m not saying Trevor Noah is awful, but he’s not good. He lacks the political satire I watched “The Daily Show” for, so when I heard about “Full Frontal,” I was excited. I wanted Samantha Bee to take over for Jon Stewart, so I hoped this would be good.

I was not disappointed. Within the first 10 minutes, I was in and I tweeted this:

I wasn’t alone in thinking that “Full Frontal” was kicking “The Daily Show’s” ass, because a bunch of people favorited my tweet. I’m not claiming it went viral, far from it, but a few handfuls of people favorited it so I’m hoping “Full Frontal” sticks around for awhile.

But it wasn’t until later in the evening I really looked at who favorited my tweet. Most of them were people I’m not friends with on Twitter, and they’re just like me, tweeting things they like ranging from job stuff to television favorites, but then I saw it. Amidst all of us regular people there she stood. Roseanne fucking Barr. THE Roseanne Barr:

I can only imagine that Roseanne also enjoyed “Full Frontal” and was checking Twitter when she saw my tweet and clicked the heart icon. For one second, Roseanne and I were connected. She thought something I said was funny or snarky or clever or just simply true.

Or maybe it was Roseanne’s employee, because I’m not silly enough to think that she is the only one monitoring and using her Twitter account, but even knowing that, I don’t care. Roseanne Barr favorited my tweet without any sort of prompting or tweeting to her and I’m stoked.

This may seem simple to some people, and it really is, but the reason I’m stoked is that I love her. When “Roseanne” aired, it was a big deal to me. A fat woman had a life. And a family. And it wasn’t about her being fat. And there weren’t jokes about her being fat, unless she was telling them. And it wasn’t about her losing weight. And she wasn’t shy or reserved but loud and proud. And she was smart. And sassy. And behind the scenes, she was the boss of this show. A fat woman was the boss.

I didn’t have that image of fat women growing up. Being fat was bad, and being a fat woman was especially bad. Fat men were okay and had lives, ever since “The Honeymooners,” but for fat women it was drastically different. Fat women were wrong. And I was supposed to be ashamed of it. And I was supposed to always feel bad about myself. And I was supposed to want to change. And I was only ever going to have happiness if I was skinny. And I would never be desirable. And I was going to get turned down for jobs because I was fat. And I was never, ever supposed to be loud and proud. Being a fat woman was awful and shameful and disgusting.

These messages still permeate our society, and I’m sure always will, but Roseanne wasn’t buying it. That was so powerful to me.

You have to know, before and when “Roseanne” was on, it wasn’t that fat women weren’t on television, but the conversation was quite different. Any fat women on “Married with Children” were ridiculed by the (ahem) stunningly gorgeous Al Bundy. And every single show on ABC’s TGIF line-up had episodes where the young girls were trying to lose weight in awful ways (remember when DJ passed out after not eating and working out too much on “Full House”) because they didn’t want to be fat. And any after-school TV special with a fat girl was always about eating disorders. And oh my god, did Oprah get such flack for being fat, so much so that it’s still bothering her and she’s now touting that she’s found the magical Weight Watchers cure.

The only fat women that were acceptable on television were fat, old mothers or grandmothers. They were old so it was okay, but young women, fuhgeddaboudit. Being fat was bad and they’d only have a life once they got thin.

Except Roseanne. She wasn’t perfect, and she certainly didn’t have the life that I wanted, but she had a life. She wasn’t shy and scared and degraded. She was living a life just like anyone else and that was the first time I saw a fat woman doing that on television.

So, yes, all Roseanne did was favorite my tweet, and I’m sure she forgot about it soon afterwards, but I won’t forget for awhile. It still makes me smile, me, in my adult life, not hiding in the corner, not feeling bad for myself, and definitely not being quiet.

Under the Dome, the show

Wow. There are a lot of differences in the “Under the Dome” TV show.

In preparation for the show, I recently read Stephen King’s Under the Dome. It was 1072-page beast, but I raced through it, and while the ending wasn’t my favorite, the story as a whole was fabulous.

And I knew that they’d have to cut things and change some characters for the transition to the small screen, but I don’t think anyone is the same.


First of all, Dale “Barbie” Barbara, what the hell? He’s supposed to be our savior, our ex-military man, our idealistic, never-do-wrong hero. Why was he burying someone at the beginning of the show? And not a nice burial in a cemetery with a clergy, family and friends, and flowers. He was in the woods burying someone on the down low.

And when he drove away (he’s not supposed to have a car), who was he talking to on the phone where he said, “Your guy, Smith, shows up. He doesn’t have the money. And then he tries to renegotiate, aggressively.” What?

At least the actor they got is delicious, because Barbie was delicious in my head, too.

As for Rose the diner owner, she’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s Aunt Zelda! There’s nothing majorly different about her, at least yet, but her voice is so distinctive that I instantly wondered what spell she was cooking.

And then there was the dome. I was so hoping for the perspective from the woodchuck, but alas, no woodchuck. Instead we get a cow sliced in half, the long way. It was gross. And funny. It probably shouldn’t have been funny. I’m not a serial killer, I promise.

And couldn’t they hear through the dome? Here they can’t. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I thought they could speak to people on the other side. And they said it was 20,000 feet high, but in the book it’s 47,000 feet.

Julia Shumway is also different. I pictured her older with more balls. Maybe she’ll grow some as we go.

Oh, and she’s supposed to be single, but here she’s married to Peter the doctor, who’s supposed to survive for a long time, but he was actually the guy Barbie was burying.

My head is spinning.

There’s a lot more. Norrie doesn’t live in the town and she has lesbian parents. The radio station plays rock music instead of Christian music. Phil in the radio station isn’t crazy and Dodee is helping him. Angie and Dodee don’t get murdered by Junior, but Junior keeps Angie prisoner in a storm shelter. And Joe is apparently now Angie’s brother. And Duke was part of Big Jim’s drug trade.

Although I’m still not sure it is a drug trade. It seems like it will be what with the massive supply of propane tanks, but no one has mentioned drugs yet.

With all this being said, I actually really like the show. They set up the panic of the dome really well with the plane and car crashes into the dome, the silence from the outside world, and the subtle but fabulous story Angie tells about a goldfish trapped in a tank eating the other goldfish. That’s foreshadowing, folks!

I think from here on out I have to ignore the book. I kept comparing things while I watched it and tweeting the differences, but the show is really interesting. I kind of wish I hadn’t read the book because I would’ve loved the show. Right now I like it, I’m intrigued, and I’m going to keep watching.

One thing I was happy about was the ending of the episode where Duke’s pacemaker bursts out of his chest, killing him. I’m so glad they kept that from the book.

Really, I’m not a serial killer.