The Best Television Show You’re Not Watching (or ESL Theatre 3000 and NFL Opening Thoughts)

Friends, I would like to take a brief respite from all of my sports talk to champion a television show that I think you all should be watching.  A television show that has, surprisingly, brought me and the boyfriend great joy over the past few months.  A television show that has a heartwarming story, a somewhat famous actor, and just enough plot to keep you tuning in, but not enough for you to have to take notes and study philosophy (like Lost.)

Friends, let me introduce you to my new favorite television show, Connect with English.

Yes, Connect with English is an instructional television show for speakers of English as a Second Language.  Yes, there exist workbooks you can order, and you can order the whole series on VHS for free if you are a ESL teacher.  For the rest of us, it’s shown on “Boston Kids and Family Television,” a random public access/PBS channel on my cable system.  For my Rochestarian readers, “Boston Kids and Family Television” is the equivalent of City 12 – your premium outlet for second and third run reject PBS shows (like the Mexican cooking show with the woman who used to scrape Teflon skillets with metal spatulas that my mother was obsessed with when pregnant with my baby brother back in the mid-1990s.)

Chris and I randomly started watching Connect with English a few months ago because the Bruins game we were watching was in an intermission, and instead of using the on-screen cable guide, Chris actually decided to channel surf (a concept that is so dying out with the invention of the on screen cable guide.)  We stopped on Connect with English because it was showing random 1990s scenes of Boston, and for some reason, we became intrigued.

Rebecca, the lead character of Connect with English

Rebecca, the lead character of Connect with English

Connect with English is about Rebecca, a older twenty-something South Boston woman who works at Bell Worldwide Information Systems in 1997 Boston, who has (in my opinion) misguided aspirations to become a musician.  She lives with her old timey Irish father and her bad boy little brother.  She has a loser boyfriend who thinks she’s an idiot, a sassy girlfriend in an abusive relationship, and she wears over-sized 1990s Red Sox jerseys in her horrible adult softball leagues.  It glorifies every mid-1990s South Boston stereotype so well, you’d think it was Mystic River.

As one could probably surmise, this woman eventually moves to California (in reality, a sunny Brighton, MA – in fact, a few scenes were shot two blocks down from my apartment) to attend music school.  Her Irish dad doesn’t like it.  Her boyfriend and her break up.  Her brother doesn’t care.  While out in California, she gets involved in a love triangle between two brothers, one of which is played by a mid-1990s-freshly-married-to-Kelly-Ripa Mark Consuelos! (And I’ve explained my slight Kelly Ripa obsession before – I’m just enjoying her success because my Nana isn’t alive to.)

The show is entertaining for so many reasons.  One, the acting is pretty bad, and the singing is even worse.  The fake songs are so corny that you want to cry listening to them.  Chris likes to point out random scenes of Boston semi-landmarks that no longer exist (like Bell Worldwide Information Systems.)  The love triangle is so far-fetched, but yet, you get so into it (like when I saw two episodes out of order and realized that the opera tickets that Mark Consuelos’s character gives to Rebecca were actually free, and that he didn’t go out of his way to get them – oh snap!  How un-genuine of him, passing them off as special! Everyone in his office got them!)  It is almost like the producers threw the ESL teachers a bone and created a somewhat unpredictable love triangle with nuances that new English speakers won’t pick up on just to entertain them.  And there are so many funny comments and wisecracks you can make while watching the show with another person, that you never want the show to end.  We have come to calling it ESL Theatre 3000, after the long departed Mystery Science Theatre 3000, because making inane comments throughout the show makes the show.  Take the time Rebecca and one of the brothers spends Christmas together – let’s just say the episode is comedy gold for the double entendres you can come up with!

Heck, Connect with English is a good twenty times funnier than any actual sitcom on broadcast or cable television today.  It’s predictable, slightly nuts, somewhat cheesy – but gosh darn it, it’s good, old fashioned 1990s middle-of-the-roadness, and there just isn’t enough of that in 2008.  Why watch the misbehaving teens of Gossip Girl when you can watch the really poorly acted romantic angst of Connect with English instead?

Connect with English is on every weeknight from 8-9pm on Comcast channel 22, Boston Kids and Family. If you search hard enough, you’ll probably find it on other PBS or random public access stations as well.


Given that my blog is about sports, I must make mention that the NFL season begins tomorrow, and I am not in any way prepared.  I did some horribly mediocre fantasy drafts, have already had to dismantle my DB/DLs in my league with individual defensive players, and can make no educated Super Bowl predictions.  I chalk this up completely to my work schedule, although I can not use that as a crutch.  I have approximately 19 hours in which to turn this around.  I have 19 hours in which to cram for the 2008 NFL Season.  Wonderful. Maybe I’ll keep WGR on in the office tomorrow and try to learn from a non-Brady-centric point of view.  I may not know what’s going on across the league, but I can most certainly tell you every single thing you ever wanted to know about Tom “Pretty Boy” Brady’s feet, thanks to the mostly clueless fan base and sports media here in Boston.

I will say this, however – Tom Brady will not have a lights out year.  Randy Moss won’t either.  I have made this prediction since June, and I am standing by it – one of them will be injured and will miss at least one regular season start this season.  Every great QB-WR combo eventually runs into injury problems, and I think this will be the season for either Brady or Moss to run into trouble. Both are too old not to run into such problems.

I am worried about the Bills, since they are still without holdout Jason Peters, Trent Edwards has that nagging knee bruise, and they are hinging their special teams cart to a somewhat inexpeiernced long snapper in Ryan Neill.  But their win two weeks ago over the Colts was encouraging – I know it was the preseason, and I know it doesn’t count, and I know they were all second, third, fourth stringers – but they had so much more guts and paid so much more attention on every facet of their game than Indy did.  Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.  Maybe I’m getting my hopes up too much.

In my Bills related rant of the week, I must bring to everyone’s attention that the Bills-Seahawks game, a Fox 1pm game, is not being shown in Massachusetts.  See, Fox would rather show NOTHING in Massachusetts than show the Bills-Seahawks game or any of the other three matchups they are broadcasting at 1pm.   I know these games compete with the Pats-Chiefs duel, but sheesh – that game may have blow-out written all over it, and you would then get viewers turning over to another game.  Then you would want a NFC 1pm game on.  I never understood the need not to show double header action on every station every Sunday.  Football is football, and I, along with thousands of other Americans, will watch football regardless of what team is playing.  I don’t want the tired and annoying Pats to be my only option.



Filed under Boston MA, Buffalo Bills, fantasy football, Non-Sports Posts, Rochester NY

3 responses to “The Best Television Show You’re Not Watching (or ESL Theatre 3000 and NFL Opening Thoughts)

  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

  2. willy

    i was kevin in Connect With English. rebecca was my sister. email me.

  3. I’ve been a big fan of “Connect With English” for a number of years now, having lived in the Boston area in the mid-to-late 1990s. Everything you say about the genius of this program is spot on. I really hope someone finally releases Rebecca’s album!

    * This post is dedicated to the memory of Kevin Casey.

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