background img

My overachievements in parenting…thanks to television

Once upon a time when we retrieved my then-3-year-old daughter Hadley from preschool, her teacher pulled me aside.

“I need to talk to you about Hadley,” she said in that voice. The same cautionary voice my third-grade teacher used right before she wrote on my report card that I had “verbal diarrhea.”

Shockingly, the report was positive.

“Hadley is doing such a great job with her letters! Not only is she really advanced on sounding them out but she is already piecing them together in words. You must be regularly working on them with her at home?”

After retrieving my jaw from the floor, I paused long and hard. Should I tell her that my kids were addicted to “The Letter Factory” DVD by LeapFrog? And that perky tadpole Tad was even inspiring my then-1-year-old Bode to sound out his letters, like a stuttering infant prodigy, with very little help from me?

“Why yes, we have been working on them at home. Regularly. Nice to know it is paying off.”

Note: This was not a complete lie. I just failed to divulge who “we” included.

This is not the first time one of my children has been taught and inspired by television.

Finally, some good TV: The 2011 Denver Post fall TV preview

When life gets scary, TV lets us face our fears from a safe distance. A haunted house, rampaging dinosaurs and menacing storybook characters bow as antagonists this fall, stand ins, perhaps for a teetering economy, reigning terrorism and incendiary political climate.

Escapist comedies provide relief, too, the best being Zooey Deschanel​’s endearing turn in “New Girl” on Fox. She single-handedly proves it’s still possible to build a bright half-hour around one can’t-miss talent.

Deschanel brings the adorableness, alright. But horror, terror, the prefeminist ’60s and recycled confusion about modern manhood are the bigger themes of primetime’s Fall 2011 TV season.

No matter where it goes for escapism, TV seems to circle back to current anxieties. Jokes about underpaid waitresses get a laugh, but the real-world pain underneath threatens to gut the enjoyment. A serial about a young woman exacting revenge from the super-rich may lead to unwanted thoughts about that top 2 percent of American wealth. An experimental comedy about co-workers struggling after an office affair may be more uncomfortable than entertaining.

At least there are oddities reaching to be more than bland this season.

With 27 new shows, and TV’s traditional failure rate of 80 percent, only five of these newcomers can be expected to stick around.

Battling it Out at Denver’s Marriage Ref Auditions

On Saturday, my husband Jamie and I were invited to audition for the Marriage Ref, Jerry Seinfield’s brainchild on NBC.

No, Mom. We’re not on the brink of divorce but we need a comedic mediator for our ongoing dispute:

Jamie’s all-consuming obsession with growing The Great Pumpkin.

The whole thing unfolded almost by accident. When I was driving to my daughter’s Halloween Party on Friday, the hosts of Alice 105.9 were talking about the Marriage Ref’s auditions in Denver that weekend. Casting directors were looking for humorous squabbles that could be resolved by their celebrity panel.

I listened with moderate interest but then something clicked. The inordinate amount of time Jamie spends nurturing The Great Pumpkin is a kooky dispute, on par with past Marriage Ref episodes that included Fonzie the stuffed dog and a stripper pole in a bedroom.

I am not proud of this.

The show had open-call auditions at a few different locations. I did not want to stand in line for hours so tracked down a few different emails of casting agents who were scheduling auditions. Though they assuredly had a flood of emails, I figured I would hear back if it was meant to be.

And I did. Later that day,