TV Shows to Watch if You Work in an Office

The shows listed below are enjoyable all on their own and I could talk about The Big Bang Theory for hours, quoting and reenacting my favourite parts, which measure whole episodes. Obviously the list I’m posting here is based entirely on my personal opinion and experience. There is a lot of cool TV and film content (let’s use the modern word, darlings) to choose from across countries and decades, should you feel the burning need to find fictional visual representation of what you may have witnessed in the workplace.

(I didn’t watch The Office because I just have other tastes and I did need a bit of mental distance, preferring to transfer what I had seen back and forth on my own terms.)

Any office is a world of its own, where we might sometimes have to come up with a bit of a character to survive encounters with all sorts of other characters. And so, I lean heavily on…

The Big Bang Theory

This is arguably one of the best sitcoms and TV shows ever made. Whip-smart writing and jokes, memorable characters, relatable humor and immediately recognizable situations, a talented cast that only got better season after season, terrific comic timing, masses of quotable quotes and that constant influx of nerdvana and pop culture that I feed on in my daily life. The Big Bang Theory was also more than the comedy in it, reminding of the bigger things beyond the laughs – friendship, love, family, movies, physics…

The reason that it’s perfect fuel for navigating an office job is because it’s like a catalogue of quote cards for the inevitable absurd or funny situations we encounter. Pull up a scene from TBBT and it adds some sparkle to a frustrating moment, or creates a shared laugh with a coworker who might also be a fan. The best part, of course, is seriously quoting suitable passages at someone who has no clue. This trick also applies to the other two shows I’m about to mention, and they are…

The IT Crowd

Another one for the books. This is a British show from some years back, starring the brilliant Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson, as well as many other wonderful actors.

The IT Crowd literally saved me from succumbing to a bad case of nerves during the first weeks of my new job. Not being an IT person, I had the typical episodes when trying to deal with a computer problem and then I had to actually contact someone about it. That was only half bad, being new and a shy person, but trying to explain what I thought was wrong and then attempting to answer additional questions was terrifying. But because I’d watched The IT Crowd and some of the things happening during my conversations with the lovely people trying to help me out were verbatim what I’d heard on the show, I knew this was real and that I would be alright.

In addition to the above, plenty of scenes in the show do deal with working in an office space and the resemblance to what I had seen in real life was, as they say, uncanny.

Downton Abbey

I got on this train rather late, after the first hype and leveled out a bit (or has it?). There’s something about all those British accents that makes me sit up straighter and feel like I can take on the world. Even when a chain of sudden social occurences threatens to create a scandal of horrific proportions one will never, ever recover from, the characters still sound like they could carry on. Or at least affect that posh accent and regal bearing while desperately figuring out what to do.

In the case of the “upstairs”, if you take away the grand setting and manners, it’s clear that the near constant upshoots of intrigue, emotional and social manipulation, mind games, but also attemps to work on things together are not much different from the day-to-day of interacting with other people while working on projects or creating something between the time spent at your desk.

Just as with the other two shows, a quote never hurts when someone tries to catch you out. In which case I would recommend either turning to the inimitable Lady Violet (hat off to Dame Maggie Smith) or Lady Mary, because whatever you may think of her, she certainly never has to look for words in her pocket, as the Russian saying goes.

 

Mary Higgins Clark, a True Writer

I saw the news that Mary Higgins Clark had peacefully passed away at age 92, with her friends and family near her. At first, of course, you don’t quite believe it, seeing as how this author has been around for so long and for so many readers. Decades of reading memories in my own family are attached to her unforgettable suspense thrillers, and my bookshelves are full of her novels that I pick up again and again and again.

Reading was and continues to be an enormous part of my life. As a child I was always curious about what the rest of the family was reading and I vividly remember my mother being immersed in the newest Mary Higgins Clark, a sight that I continued to enjoy year after year. I would ask her what she enjoyed so much about the novels and we would talk about different points as I grew up. Later on I’d see my father and my sisters with a new thriller in their hands. Once begun, the book was impossible to put down and I’ve been known to read some of her novels in one day. We would talk about whether we had guessed “who did it” and which bits scared us so much that we didn’t want to turn the lights out.

Some volumes from the family library made their way to my own after I moved away from home. Others I collected by myself since my university years, browsing second-hand bookstores for older novels, regularly checking international sections in bookstores across Europe after the release date for a new book was announced. It was so exciting. One of my favourite gifts ever was a beautiful autographed copy of The Shadow of Your Smile from my mother.

Mary Higgins Clark was not only a truly gifted writer and creator of suspense in her stories, but she also brought to life so many memorable characters. Menley in Remember Me, Celia in No Place Like Home, Maggie in Moonlight Becomes You, Ellie in Daddy’s Little Girl, Laurie in the Under Suspicion series, written with the talented Alafair Burke. How lovely and poignant that Laurie got her happy ending. The list of characters we grow attached to goes on and on. It includes both men and women, children, older characters. The people our characters have lost remain just as vivid through recollections of past actions, things said that contributed to where our heroines and heroes find themselves when we open the book.

While suspense thrillers build the bulk of fiction written by Mary Higgins Clark, she is also the author of many gripping short stories, an autobiography of her amazing life titled Kitchen Privileges, and she has co-authored several lovely books with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, a successful and gifted writer in her own right.

You start to create and image of what your favourite author is like as you read more and more of their works, then actually find out about their life. Mary Higgins Clark was amazingly prolific and successful as a writer, but her life story is truly an example of not only a gifted storyteller, but a woman of exceptional strength and depth. All the hardships she experienced didn’t take away any of her vivacious joy of living, the drive to overcome.

A full life well lived, no unfinished business, a treasure trove of stories to keep forever, a true grande dame in more ways than one. Simply and from the heart, thank you, Mary Higgins Clark.

 

 

Downton Abbey the Movie

Downton Abbey the movie is a beautifully filmed 2-hour bit of escapism. Gorgeous English landscapes, a magnificent mansion of a house bathed in history, fabulous costumes and loads of accents to feast your ears on. It’s 1927 and they’ve been expecting me.

Is it possible to follow the film if you haven’t watched the show? I’d say yes. The story is very neatly wrapped up, without getting tangled in itself. Otherwise a bit of Wikipedia reading and some wonderful behind-the-scenes interviews on the Downton Abbey YouTube channel are both very helpful if you want to know more about the characters and their backgrounds. The Internet has your back.

Dame Maggie Smith is unforgettable as ever, playing Lady Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. I bow. She both scared and surprised me way back in the day in The Secret Garden, delighted as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies, just to name a few examples, and she’s given us an array of quotable zingers from Lady Violet.

I’m not a die-hard fan and I haven’t seen all the seasons of the show, but I have a lot of respect for the many examples of impressive acting in there. Step aside from the inevitable (and, of course, necessary) discussions about what life in England was like back then in terms of class, society, British aristocracy, women’s rights, equality, and it’s still a vast collection of stories about people and family.

The Woman in Black

October is a great month for ghost stories. The leaves change color and then start to fall, bare tree branches stand out against the sky, cloudy weather sets in, the days become shorter and it gets dark earlier – a perfect set for a mysterious, even spooky atmosphere. You just want to either curl up with a scary book or watch a movie with plenty of suspense in it. The Woman in Black, originally a novel by Susan Mill published in 1983, is a great example of a story with spine-tingling thrills of terror that don’t leave you for at least two weeks (speaking from personal experience).

This blog post isn’t about the book, though, which I have yet to read. One Friday evening I was sitting in the audience of the English Theatre of Hamburg with two friends. The lights went out, two actors appeared and the stage adaptation of The Woman in Black began.

I had managed to stay away from spoilers and had only read snippets from a few reviews which all repeated the play was terrifying, chilling, scared audiences everywhere etc. To be honest, for the first half hour I was a bit sceptical and wondered whether I’d manage to get at all absorbed in the story, since there was quite a lot of narration going on. But there was no need to worry.

The moment of transition to the action unfolding, rather than being remembered or talked about, was hard to pinpoint later, and I was on the edge of my seat (at times also shrinking back into it), waiting with everyone else when the woman in black would appear next. This play is also yet another good example of the impact of a well-crafted, well-played wordless role. The story becomes increasingly spooky and atmospheric, using lights and sound to their fullest advantage, coiling tension like a rope. We’re told at the beginning about an audience using their imagination, but I don’t need to. I’m completely drawn in.

What many might remember when seeing the title, and which I did as well, is the 2012 movie adapation with a very telegenic, fresh after Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe.

Which is scarier? The play or the movie? Or the book? Take your pick. Don’t forget the 1989 film version as well.

ME! By Taylor Swift (feat. Brendan Urie) – Top 5 Inspiring Moments

Much has been said, written and shared about this already, but the internet is forever and so is music, plus I prefer to let the storm die down a little (not that it really ever does in the case of the undeniable powerhouse that is Taylor Swift), and then pop out (no pun intended) my own musings after what might have been dozens of repeated perusals of whatever content is occupying my brain at the moment. And after all, to quote ME!…

I promise that nobody’s gonna love you like me

Yes, it’s poppy, catchy, colorful, possibly campy, easy to sing along to and does everything a successful pop song should, without sounding manufactured. It also echoes my support of spelling being fun. So among the many moments we can single out and scrutinize to our heart’s content, which 5 would I pick as especially inspiring? Well…

1. Taylor Swift is the mistress of transformation and she just goes for it, doing whatever she wants in expressing her creative ideas. Speak French in a totally unexpected acting scene at the beginning of the video? Mais oui! Insert some laugh-out-loud, disarmingly dorky comedy? Sure!

2. All that psychedelic, glittering dance glamour, bring it on.

3. Over-the-top theatrical romance that concludes with gifting a kitten (of course).

4. Strutting along in a pretty gown on your way to an epic musical flash mob in the street is always a good idea.

5. And of course staging the color-soaked twilight ending of your mini-musical extravaganza with huge splatters of paint raining down from the sky as you and another lovely gown become works of art.

As of right now the music video for ME! has over 164 million views, having broken the VEVO record for speediest leap to 100 million. The thoughtfully composed lyric video (for us written word and stationery geeks) is worth a look as well, currently standing at an also impressive 4.5 million views.

 

Kate and William Wedding Nostalgia

Yeah, yeah, I’m one of those people. Deal with it.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently celebrated 8 years since they got married and seeing all the predictable photo galleries being pulled up online sent me on my own small trip down memory lane.

At the time I was I was doing an internship at an online women’s magazine which proved to be educational in many ways, and also provided valuable interactions with supervisors that I still remember clearly, and fondly. It was a special, formative time for me, and while I knew that when it ended, I would be facing most likely several months of looking for my first post-graduation job, I enjoyed my internship to the fullest.

April rolled around and everyone was excited about “the big day”. While I was definitely not a lazy intern, I won’t lie that I was more than pleased when I was told I was allowed to watch the Royal Wedding right there in the office. Basically all day long. My supervisors and colleagues had to work – tweeting, writing, editing photos, you name it. Meanwhile, I sat back and watched Kate Middleton arrive at Westminster Abbey, hoping all the while that our internet connection wouldn’t break.

When she exited the car and turned around, smiling, to wave in that first amazing moment, the whole office collectively sighed. I was sitting right opposite my boss and as I emitted my own “Ohhh”, searching for words, she quietly said, “Yes, she’s beautiful.”

Besides the excitement of watching an event I knew was being followed internationally, I suppose it also offered some natural respite from whatever sad things were going on in the world at that time, and of those there are always more than plenty. Aside from the pomp, the glamour, the jewels, the staggering media coverage all over the world, I think the refreshing part was that there were plenty of moments watching the bride in particular (and as a woman, I guess I looked  more at her than at anyone else at that wedding) that were relatable. I had been to several lovely weddings and seen my own sisters become brides, looked at various wedding pictures from my family – regardless of circumstances, that special bridal glow was the same everywhere.

I can’t not quote something about the Duchess of Cambridge’s unforgettable wedding gown, and Megan Hess said it especially well in her beautiful book The Dress. 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion: “Kate’s wedding dress was always going to have an impact on style history – seared into our minds and inspiring thousands of knock-offs. Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen designed the chosen gown, which, with its full skirt and long sleeves, was inevitably traditional.” Additionally, one commentator from this clip of the BBC coverage of Kate Middleton’s arrival expresses it accurately too: “I am beside myself, this is such a fashion moment, I can’t tell you <…> It’s exquisite. She…” Trailing off, she stops for a while, leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves, and then she simply concludes with “That is a fabulous dress.” True!

 

 

 

You’ve Got The Power, Agathe Bauer

“There are whole websites devoted to what people heard wrongly in a song,” was what I started to say during a routine German workday lunch, when one of my buddies interjected, “Yes! Do you know Agathe Bauer?”

I was confused at first, because what I thought she said, in a mix of German and English, was “I got a Bauer”, which translates as “I got a farmer”.  The irony is that Bauer is also one of the most typical German surnames ever. Meanwhile, “Agathe Bauer” is apparently what scores of Germans heard instead of “I got the power” in the 1989 hit The Power by Snap! The cycle continues! Predictably, the gif inserted at this point of my post is…

After  I learned this piece of information, I couldn’t stop imagining what the fictitious Agathe Bauer would look like and making up what she did in life. I think she’s a sturdy German woman who lives on a farm with her three grown sons, and she wants them all to get married. But most likely none of the candidates the sons brought home would be good enough for her, my friend added firmly, and I felt like agreeing. I think that besides investing her thoughts and emotions in her sons’ future, Agathe would be great at making jam and would be very hands-on at the farm.

Nationally songs where people heard something wrong are affectionately referred to as Agathe Bauer songs and the interpretations are endless.  I would still like to add, though, that while I still have plenty to contribute myself, I never joined the Starbucks lovers team. One thing in life I can be certain of.