Making the Big Popcorn Purchase

Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote about a major life dilemma I was facing. In fact, the issue was bothering me so much that I had to ask for help. I did this by writing out all my thoughts and publishing it as a blog post so the entire world could counsel me on a tough decision. In the end, I opted not to make the investment.

In January of 2014, I wrestled around with whether I should buy a $20 tub of popcorn from my local movie theater. Living in Montana at the time, there was a Carmike Cinemas that I would frequent often. The chain offered a tub of popcorn that came with an initial price of $19.75. After the purchase was made, you could bring the tub back throughout the entire year for $3.75 refills.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn....not so much the microwave version though (photo from original popcorn blog post in 2014).

I LOVE movie theater popcorn….not so much the microwave version though (photo from original popcorn blog post in 2014).

After much deliberation and internal struggle, I decided against buying the tub. Although several factors made up my decision, the price was ultimately the one that carried the most weight and discouraged me from making the purchase.

Now fast forward to 2017 and wouldn’t you know it?! I found myself once again perplexed by another movie theater popcorn conundrum. This past Friday, Sidney and I went to our favorite theater in Myrtle Beach for “Patriots Day.” This particular theater is part of the Cinemark chain. I stepped in line to purchase our popcorn and right in front of me was another tempting deal.

For $14 I could purchase a tub of popcorn AND a giant soda, a price that these days usually passes for normal (if not a little cheaper than usual). But there was something that made the offer much, much better. Both were refillable throughout 2017! Like with Carmike, the price per refill was $3.75 on subsequent trips to the theater.

Spoiler alert...I ended up buying the soda cup and the popcorn tub. This is what they look like.

Spoiler alert…I ended up buying the soda cup and the popcorn tub. This is what they look like.

Okay, there was just one thing holding me back. At first glance, the tub of popcorn looked a little small. In fact, it really isn’t even a tub, it is a bucket. However, I reasoned that perhaps a little bit of portion control might be a good thing. Besides, the soda cup was huge, a screaming deal for only $3.75 (after the initial purchase) when your typical soft drink at the theater runs $6-$8.

I knew paying the $14 was the right thing to do. There was just one more obstacle. I had to ask the wife.

“You go ahead honey, it’s your gift card!” Sidney enthusiastically said.

It is true. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law gave me a $25 gift card to Cinemark. I earmarked the gift card specifically for concessions because I also received a couple Fandango gift cards that will cover strictly movie tickets. There was no holding me back, I made the transaction!

This leads me back to my comment about the size of the popcorn bucket. “Patriots Day” is over two hours. By the time the movie ended, we still had a little bit of popcorn remaining. The amount of corn you get in the bucket is more than enough for two people.

The Cinemark refillable popcorn/soda deal is a complete steal. While it probably won’t work for a family, it is perfect for a couple or for the movie watching fanatic who prefers going to movies alone. So far in 2017, this has been our best purchase thus far. Don’t Blink.

Sub Zero Ice Cream

Sidney and I just didn’t eat pizza this weekend. We packed on the calories by indulging in another beloved treat as well: ice cream.

Because I love ice cream, I naturally like all the recent industry gimmicks such as Dippin Dots, froyo, and ice cream prepared on stone/marble. As long as it is cold enough to induce a brain freeze, I don’t mind if it is a couple scoops of the classic stuff served in a cone or a cup containing a mixture of flavors and toppings weighed on a scale.

I once ate seven scoops of  ice  cream in five minutes.

I once ate seven scoops of ice cream in five minutes.

This past Saturday, just a couple hours after our MOD Pizza experience, we tried the newest ice cream craze. Not really craving ice cream since we were still full, we went inside of Sub Zero Ice Cream just out of plain curiosity.

Sidney and I visited the Myrtle Beach Sub Zero Ice Cream shop on Saturday.

Sidney and I visited the Myrtle Beach Sub Zero Ice Cream shop on Saturday.

Sub Zero Ice Cream puts quite the spin on the classic dessert. You order which flavor of ice cream you want along with the mix-ins desired at the counter. Then, the magic occurs. The staff makes your order right in front of you by using the science of liquid nitrogen.

Let me back up and explain this process a little better by using our order as an example. Because Sid and I were so full from lunch, we decided to just split a regular sized cup. Although Sub Zero has several creations with many mix-ins available for customers to choose from, we decided to go simple. We wanted just vanilla ice cream and Oreo cookies.

But even the simple is complex. We now had to decide what type of cream we wanted as our ice cream base. Given options such as low-fat, vegan, yogurt, lactose-free, and more, we chose original. The staff member poured the cream into a big silver bowl, added the Oreos, and then placed it under a liquid nitrogen shower/gun contraption. As the nitrogen engulfed the cream, puffs of vapor rose up, creating a pretty cool scene. After a couple more shots with the gun and after some serious mixing, our ice cream was ready.

A look at the set up behind the counter at the Myrtle Beach Sub Zero Ice Cream location. If you look to the left, you can see the staff member pouring the cream into the silver bowl.

A look at the set up behind the counter at the Myrtle Beach Sub Zero Ice Cream location. If you look to the left, you can see the staff member pouring the cream into the silver bowl.

As I paid for our dessert at the counter (it was around $5.50), I thought to myself how it was pretty cool that basic liquid cream could be turned into actual ice cream in just a couple minutes.

With the cup now in front of us, Sid and I dug in. It took just one bite to realize that we were eating some very rich and very heavy ice cream. Of course in the ice cream world that description translates into a taste that is nothing short of delicious. You know how with some ice cream you can dig out a spoonful and you can just see the creaminess and texture in it? This is what Sub Zero Ice Cream is like. Because our vanilla and Oreo cookie mixture was so flavorful and rich, we couldn’t help but think what a chocolate type of ice cream would taste like with multiple mix-ins.

This was our ice cream cup. As you can probably tell, it was very creamy.

This was our ice cream cup. As you can probably tell, it was very creamy.

While we were impressed with the ice cream, I don’t know if it is a place we will frequent that often. Besides the steep prices, it takes a long time for orders to come out, which is semi-understandable since they are making the ice cream right in front of you. But it took us at least 10 minutes from the time we walked through the doors to get our order, and there was just one person standing in line in front of us.

My photography skills are lacking in this photo because I failed to capture the intense vapor that is produced when the mixing occurs. However, you can still see a little bit of it.

My photography skills are lacking in this photo because I failed to capture the intense vapor that is produced when the mixing occurs. However, you can still see a little bit of it.

Also, part of the reason why I like ice cream places so much is because of the ice cream atmosphere. I love the fresh smells, the quirky décor, and the tubs of ice cream visible under the glass. At Sub Zero Ice Cream, you obviously don’t physically see all the flavor choices because everything is made to order. Also, the chain adheres to a science theme so instead of pleasant colors and neon signs, you have depictions of molecular formulas on the walls and liquid nitrogen tanks lining the floor area. It just doesn’t feel that welcoming.

A look at one of the walls inside the Myrtle Beach Sub Zero Ice Cream location.

A look at one of the walls inside the Myrtle Beach Sub Zero Ice Cream location.

Sub Zero Ice Cream hits it out of the park with its product. However, the atmosphere, and, to an extent, the experience, just doesn’t justify me becoming a regular customer. Don’t Blink.

MOD Pizza

I know I am really late to the build-your-own personal pizza craze but yesterday Sidney and I finally got around to jumping in. We ate at the premiere player in the individual artisan-style pizza creation business, MOD Pizza, and I must say it was excellent.

This was the MOD Pizza that Sidney and I visited in Myrtle Beach yesterday.

This was the MOD Pizza that Sidney and I visited in Myrtle Beach yesterday.

Before I write about our experience, let me offer a quick story. At my mom’s family Italian restaurant, there was a personal pizza on the menu. Customers could choose one complimentary topping but then would have to pay $.75 per additional topping. My uncle on my dad’s side of the family would always order the pizza off the menu and wouldn’t let the extra topping charge deter him. He would order almost every topping the restaurant offered, easily paying double the menu price of the actual pizza. Because he loved the Pastime Cafe’s pizza pies so much, he just didn’t care about running up the tab.

But a lot of other people do. When ordering pizza, many people will opt for pepperoni when really they would prefer a five meat pie. Many people will order a regular veggie pizza when they really want to add a few gourmet toppings on it as well.

Hello MOD Pizza! The chain’s business model is simple: Customers pay $8 for an 11-inch pizza and have the pleasure of adding however many number of toppings they please.

The line at MOD Pizza yesterday was decently sized.

The line at MOD Pizza yesterday was decently sized.

Sidney and I ate lunch at MOD Pizza here in Myrtle Beach on Saturday. Right when we entered the restaurant we picked up on a vibe. It could just be the Myrtle Beach location, but MOD Pizza seems like a progressive, edgy business. As we stood in line, the wall to our left was covered in a collage of diverse employees and customers. The actual staff working at the restaurant also fit the bill of the photos on the wall. It seemed evident that Mod Pizza lets employees be themselves whether that means having green hair, lots of tattoos, or numerous piercings. The only thing more diverse than the people of Mod Pizza would be the food offered!

The employees at the MOD Pizza location in Myrtle Beach are hard working and friendly.

The employees at the MOD Pizza location in Myrtle Beach are hard working and friendly. Here is one worker in the middle of creating Sidney’s pizza.

Customers can choose between a classic pizza that already has listed ingredients/toppings or they can go completely rogue and build their own. Sidney went with a classic pizza, opting for the Dominic (white sauce, asiago, fresh chopped basil, red onion, sliced tomatoes, mild sausage) while I decided to build mine from scratch!

MOD Pizza is set up like a mission burrito joint. You go up to the counter and all the ingredients and toppings are laid out between where you initially place your order and where you pay. The first employee asked me what I would be ordering. I told him I would be building my own MOD creation. He asked me what sauce I wanted and I told him pesto. He then asked if I wanted cheese (is that even a serious question?). After he layered my pie with mozzarella, a different employee asked me what types of meat I wanted. I opted for grilled chicken and spicy chicken sausage. Next came vegetables and I got corn (yes, corn is a pizza topping at MOD pizza). I was then asked if I wanted any of the more eclectic toppings. I requested roasted garlic.

Here is a look at the MOD Pizza set up in Myrtle Beach.

Here is a look at the MOD Pizza set up in Myrtle Beach.

After the ordering and topping selection is complete, you pay. For our two pizzas and a drink that we shared, we paid just under $20. More on if it was worth it or not later. Once the transaction was made, the pizzas were thrown into the oven.

When my pizza came out of the oven, this is what it looked like.

When my pizza came out of the oven, this is what it looked like.

Within five minutes, our names were called and we were handed our pizzas. They looked beautiful! They also looked really big too. We knew immediately that we wouldn’t be eating our whole pies during our lunch date. Presentation and size are important factors but nothing matters more than taste. What did we think of our pizza?…

This is Sidney with her pizza. She got the Dominic, a MOD Pizza classic.

This is Sidney with her pizza. She got the Dominic, a MOD Pizza classic.

It was absolutely delicious! Let me put it this way, MOD Pizza sure beats Pizza Hut or Domino’s. The flavors our taste buds immediately enjoyed from our first bites impressed us. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that we didn’t burn our tongues upon digging in. Each bite was incredible and the wood fired thin crust was perfect. The cheese was a masterful consistency and the toppings were adequately cooked. The word “gourmet” really does characterize the pizza offered at this place.

A photo of me with the pizza that I built from scratch. I really enjoyed MOD Pizza.

A photo of me with the pizza that I built from scratch. I really enjoyed MOD Pizza.

When Sidney and I eat Chick-Fil-A or burritos, it seems that our bill always runs close to $20. With this comparison in mind, I would say the value of MOD Pizza is excellent. Like I said, the portions are huge. We both ate just half of our respective pizzas. When we eat at a burrito joint, we are never taking any leftovers home. More importantly, just the quality of the food at MOD Pizza is above average. Sidney and I both felt we were getting what we paid for. This was reinforced when we ate some of our leftovers for lunch today. The best food always tastes better the next day and this holds true for Mod Pizza.

I highly recommend MOD Pizza. The business model is sound and the food is great. Make sure to give it a try. Don’t Blink.

Potato Parcel

Thanks to the internet, you can do some really random things. Oh, you want an example? Believe it or not, if you desire, you can send a customized potato to anyone you please in the world.

Yesterday I received a single potato in the mail delivered to me in an envelope. Read on to find out about Potato Parcel.

Yesterday I received a single potato in the mail delivered to me in an envelope. Read on to find out about Potato Parcel.

Last week on Instagram I shared an image of the new stationary I received for Christmas. Part of this stationary set that my mother-in-law gave me included envelopes with my address on them. The social media professional at the University of Arizona, Kimberly Davis, saw this and notified me that she was going to send me something.

In the back of my head throughout the week, I looked forward to what Kimberly was going to send me. She said it was a surprise and when the words “it’s a surprise” comes out of someone’s mouth who happens to work in social media you know it is most likely going to be a little wacky.

Yesterday I went out and got the mail. Stuffed in our box was a small manila packaging envelope. It was addressed to me and it contained an obvious object in it. Although it was from a San Francisco return address with no name on it, I knew the package was from Kimberly. I took it inside to open it up.

This was the package I received in the mail yesterday afternoon.

This was the package I received in the mail yesterday afternoon.

I sat on our couch, put the package on our living room table, and ripped it open. The object rolled out and caught me by surprise. The initial feeling of surprise went to a quick feeling of disgust that then turned into a feeling of I can’t believe the things people come up with…

Kimberly had sent me a POTATO in the mail. After the surprise went away, I immediately questioned whether it was sanitary to even come into contact with a produce item that went on a week-long journey inside an envelope across the country. I touched the potato just enough to turn it over and I saw the written message on it: Hey Brent! – Kimberly.

The contents of the package that Kimberly sent me.

The contents of the package that Kimberly sent me.

The potato was accompanied by a slip of paper. It was now clear what had happened. Kimberly used the services of a company called Potato Parcel. Customers pay $10 to have a potato with a message written on it sent to anyone in the country. For a little bit more money, folks can send a spud internationally or have a colored image superimposed on it.

Think about that for a second: There is a successful company that makes money off of sending potatoes with messages written on them through the mail.

A look at what Potato Parcel offers.

A look at what Potato Parcel offers.

Why didn’t I think of that?!

Potato Parcel depends on social media to get word out about its services. The slip of paper that accompanied the potato had hashtags to use and handles to follow. I posted my photo with my potato using the hashtag across a couple different social media platforms and immediately I received responses from the Potato Parcel social accounts. I browsed the hashtag myself on Instagram and it seemed like the posted images were endless.

Supposedly the creators of Potato Parcel went on Shark Tank. I have yet to look it up on YouTube but I am anxious to see how the presentation went and how the Sharks reacted. Kudos to the people behind Potato Parcel and thanks to my counterpart in Tucson for making me aware that it is possible to send a vegetable through the mail. Don’t Blink.

A Thursday Rundown Full of Variety

Good evening to everyone. I hope the week has gone well and that you are all excited for my latest Thursday Rundown. Here we go!

Eating Steak – Remember last week how I shared with you that Sidney and I received a whole bunch of gift cards for Christmas? Well, now I feel obligated to let you know when and how we used them. Great idea for content, right? Last Friday we went to Outback for dinner. I stayed traditional and got a ribeye steak with mashed potatoes. Sid decided to go with a chicken sandwich. Because we were using house money and because we had worked hard that week, we decided to splurge and get a blooming onion. Thank you to Courtney, my sister-in-law, for giving us the Outback gift card.

On Friday night, we redeemed the Outback gift card that my sister-in-law gave us for Christmas.

On Friday night, we redeemed the Outback gift card that my sister-in-law gave us for Christmas.

Elevated to Monsignor – From time to time I mention Fr. James LeBlanc, the priest who married Sidney and me. During the summer, Fr. LeBlanc hit a milestone when he celebrated his 20th anniversary of ordination. Recently, news broke about an even bigger achievement in his priestly career. Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston recently announced that Pope Francis had bestowed the title of Reverend Monsignor on LeBlanc. For those a little fuzzy on the Catholic hierarchy, this is a major honor. Congratulations to Monsignor LeBlanc! The two of us are proud of you and honored that you married us.

Father James LeBlanc is now Monsignor LeBlanc. Congratulations!

Father James LeBlanc is now Monsignor LeBlanc. Congratulations!

Proud Time for South Carolina – As I predicted, Clemson won the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night. This achievement was special for our state in many ways, including the fact that South Carolina is now home to the reigning NCAA baseball champions and reigning NCAA football champions. A lot of people on social media made sure to celebrate this show of dominance. Personally, I like to point out that I had the privilege of watching both national champion teams play in person during their respective incredible seasons.

Our audience had a great amount of pride for what the state of South Carolina has been able to do.

Our audience had a great amount of pride for what the state of South Carolina has been able to do.

The Graduate – This week I watched an all-time classic movie, “The Graduate.” I don’t usually watch films that are over 50 years old but because it was on Netflix I gave it a try. It was kind of interesting to see that some themes that are scrutinized and fantasized about in our modern era were also prevalent half a century ago as well. Watching “The Graduate” also made me realize that good filmmaking has been around for a long time. Have you seen it before? I recommend it.

I enjoyed watching "The Graduate." Tremendous performance by Dustin Hoffman.

I enjoyed watching “The Graduate.” Tremendous performance by Dustin Hoffman.

Another Comic Hitting Home – In the past, I have written about how spam e-mail has gotten so bad that it no longer irritates me. Rather, it just makes me laugh. The broken English, get-rich-quick electronic mail I receive on a regular basis never ceases to amaze me. I couldn’t help but chuckle at today’s installment of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip.

This Pearls Before Swine comic strip made me laugh.

This Pearls Before Swine comic strip made me laugh.

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I have the privilege of attending a Martin Luther King Jr. event this evening so I got to get going. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend and I will touch base soon. Don’t Blink.

A Speech and a Press Conference

Last night, Sidney and I watched President Obama’s farewell address. Shortly after I returned home tonight, I watched portions of President-Elect Trump’s big press conference. I enjoyed both speaking events, more for the historical significance than the content, but I still appreciated what both men said.

President Obama delivered his farewell address and President-Trump answered questions at a press conference. I enjoyed listening to both.

President Obama delivered his farewell address and President-Trump answered questions at a press conference. I enjoyed listening to both.

As many of you know, I am not a political person but I am a presidential person. I love following everything related to the Office of the President of the United States. To watch a farewell address from an outgoing U.S. President is a big deal for me, something that doesn’t matter one bit what party he is from or the success he had in office. I stayed glued to the TV while President Obama spoke.

Today’s press conference was a significant event just because it had been so highly anticipated. After a wild election victory and after two months preparing to take office, I think most of us were ready to hear from our next president. With all that has transpired and with the way the media treats President-Elect Trump, I think today’s press conference was even more historic than your typical pre-Inauguration president-elect reporter chat.

When it came to the content/performance of each man, I will start with the current Commander In Chief. I think President Obama did well. Throughout his presidency, Obama was intensely mocked and criticized for his use of the teleprompter. However, I don’t think he came across stiff last night. With emotion powering him through his speech, I think he spoke with purpose. Supposedly President Obama and his speech writer scrutinized over the address and I think that preparation and care was very evident. Knowing that much of his legacy could very well be completely wiped away the first day that Trump takes office, Obama delivered a speech that won’t be so seamlessly repealed and replaced.

Trump was Trump today. He spoke in the exact same way that got him elected. He was off-the-cuff, brutally honest, and very confident. For anyone out there who thought President-Elect Trump might be tentative or nervous to be sworn in, those doubts were squashed. Despite what many of us feel about Trump, there is little denying that he has probably accomplished more for the country during his time as president-elect than anyone else in that position beforehand. In typical Trump style, he let everyone know about it.

Now we move to the main event of the transition of power…The Inauguration. I can’t wait. Again, this has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with my love for our country and its history. I can remember as far back as Clinton’s second Inauguration and since that event in 1996 I have kept my eye on each one thereafter.

Thank you to President Obama for his faithful service. While the country has decided that it is best to go in a different direction, I am grateful that he tried his best. I am excited to see what President-Elect Trump will do in office. The man has already shown that he can get things done and hopefully it will continue once he arrives in the White House. We need to pray for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Don’t Blink.

A Question About Cardio

When I exercise, I focus a bit more on weights than I do on cardio. But that is not to say that I neglect the latter. Ever since I graduated high school and started to make up my own workouts, I have incorporated a cardio portion into each one. However, It just so happens that this “portion” I am alluding to has remained pretty much the same over the last dozen years.

My favorite way to get cardio in is to run on a track. Both of my home gyms at the universities I have worked at boast indoor running tracks. I have always completed my weight training first and then started running circles. This went on for year after year after year.

During Hurricane Matthew when the Coastal Carolina gym was shut down, I went to a variety of different area gyms to work out. Of course, none of these particular places had indoor tracks. I was forced to scope out an open treadmill and hope I didn’t look too stupid as I pressed the different settings to begin. During this week where I ran on these types of machines, I actually found them not that bad. However, once my home gym opened up again I was right back on the track.

This holiday season I found myself in a couple more different gyms where I was a visitor. Once again I was on the treadmill working to complete my cardio. This extra time running on the machine made me warm up even more to it. It got to the point where my treadmill experience shifted from “not that bad” to good.

When the Coastal gym opened back up last week, I didn’t exactly “hit the track running.” While I did still use it on certain days, I also used the super nice treadmills we have at CCU on other days. So far this week, I have used the track for one workout and the treadmill for another workout.

Here is the thing: I find running on the track harder than running on the treadmill. However, I sweat more on the treadmill. I can run on the track for 10 minutes and feel much more exhausted than if I ran for 25 minutes on the treadmill. But I am still more soaked after getting off that treadmill than when I exit the track.

My question for my readers who are fitness buffs is this: track or treadmill?

I know I can Google this (I actually already have) and receive a million different opinions, but I rather get feedback that is current and from people I know. If you were forced to do cardio on either a treadmill or on a track and you had to choose the one that would have the most positive results for your body, which one would you choose? Why? Any advice is welcome. Don’t Blink.

Clemson vs. Alabama, Round II

Tonight the College Football Playoff National Championship will take place. The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers will battle it out for the second straight year to settle the debate of gridiron supremacy at the college level. I am looking forward to it.

I am looking forward to it despite the 8:30 p.m. start time for a game that will last no less than four hours. I am looking forward to it despite the TV timeouts that will literally take five minutes. I am looking forward to it despite the sobering reality that once this game ends (probably around 12:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning) it means no more college football until August.

Honestly, I really am looking forward to it.

For all I care, the game could stretch until this Thursday with only old political campaign commercials played during game breaks and I would still watch every minute of it. You see, I love watching college football more than any other sport and what is better than the national championship of anything?

Perhaps I am even a little more excited for this year’s game. It is a worthy rematch between two powerhouses. In 2016, Alabama and Clemson played a great game. However, the two teams played even greater football. Yes, last year’s tilt was a nail biter that kept all of our attention. But besides the close game, the level of football that took place on the field was superb. Sometimes championship games are sloppy because of fatigue, nerves, and other factors. Last year, it was plainly obvious that the two teams playing on the field were the best in college football. It was a hard hitting, fast, well-coached game. It was a pleasure to watch.

When it comes to my heart, I want Clemson to win. I don’t live in South Carolina for nothing, right? More importantly, my two sisters-in-law and my brother-in-law both went to Clemson. In fact, that brother-in-law is in Tampa for tonight’s game. Additionally, I was in Memorial Stadium this season as the Tigers beat Louisville in a nationally televised matchup. So with geography, family ties, and an in-person experience all boding in favor of the team that wears orange, it goes without saying that I will be rooting for Clemson.

However, I won’t be inconsolable if Alabama wins. My dad entered a college football bowl contest and did extremely well. If the Crimson Tide win this evening, he wins a lot of money. How can I be mad if Saban wins another trophy and my dad picks up some extra cash?

In another great game, I pick Clemson to defeat Alabama by a score of 48-40. I hope everyone enjoys the action tonight and appreciates the talent on the field. Don’t Blink.

Reality TV Three Years Later

Exactly three years ago, I wrote a blog post that detailed the experiences of Bryden Vukasin, a former cast member on “The Bachelorette.” The night before I published that particular entry I sat down with Bryden to pick his brain at a now defunct restaurant/bar in Missoula, Montana. He graciously answered every question I had about his experience with stardom in the world of reality TV. Our conversation opened my eyes to the fact that many of these programs rely both on authentic and  rehearsed components.

I published my blog post about Bryden Vukasin exactly three years ago on January 7, 2014.

I published my blog post about Bryden Vukasin exactly three years ago on January 7, 2014.

This morning I asked myself this question: After three years, has reality television improved when it comes to delivering “reality”? I wanted to write a blog post taking one side or the other, either asserting that the genre has improved in portraying a genuine experience or vehemently arguing that it has gone completely downhill in serving viewers a load of scripted crap. However, after going back and forth I reached the conclusion that reality TV has not shifted either way.

Bryden Vukasin and I during the summer of 2013.

Bryden Vukasin and I during the summer of 2013.

I believe that reality TV can be categorized in two separate camps:
1. The shows that are centered around a competition and don’t need actors or a predetermined script to skew reality.
2. The shows that revolve around a family, business, moral ground, theme, or a makeover that needs an extra shot of energy to make it interesting to viewers.

Shows in my first group include “The Bachelorette,” “Big Brother,” “The Apprentice,” and “Survivor.” These programs pick casts comprised of competitive, motivated, successful people. They then bait these individuals with a significant prize, whether it be money or a potential spouse. The recipe of above average people battling it out for a grand prize makes for television that doesn’t need significant scripting. Rather, it just needs the type of touching up that Bryden explained such as recreating events or editing scenes for optimal suspense (such as the rose ceremonies).

When it comes to shows in the second group, we are looking at programming such as “The Kardashians,” “The Jersey Shore,” “Bar Rescue,” “Vanderpump Rules,” “The Real Housewives,” and many, many more. Producers have to constantly bring in outside talent and introduce unlikely events to make these episodes entertaining. But make no mistake about it, when it comes to generating viewers, this formula works. The thing is, I don’t think many of us who watch these shows have wool over our eyes. It doesn’t take an interview with a “Bar Rescue” cast member to know that the show is fake. As reasonable beings, we can all identify that shows such as “The Kardashians” aren’t based on reality. However, just because the name of the genre might be deceptive does not mean we can’t enjoy it.

Even though we know that many of these shows skew reality, it doesn't mean we stop watching them or liking them. Sidney and I once went on a road trip where we visited three different bars that were featured on "Bar Rescue." This image is of Sidney and I in front of the tank at Klick's 22.

Even though we know that many of these shows skew reality, it doesn’t mean we stop watching them or liking them. Sidney and I once went on a road trip where we visited three different bars that were featured on “Bar Rescue.” This image is of Sidney and I in front of the tank at Klick’s 22.

Reality TV over the past three years has changed much less than it had the three years prior. People who work in TV are smart and know what works. By 2014, the reality show formula was down to a science. If it isn’t broke, why fix it?  Look for the reality TV landscape in 2020 to look very similar to that of 2014 and 2017. Don’t Blink.

First Thursday Rundown of 2017

It is time for a celebration! Why? Because I have the pleasure of writing my first Thursday Rundown of 2017. Here we go…

A Winner – I want to congratulate Sidney for her skill and discipline at the casino. Last week, we went with my parents to Northern Quest, a resort casino just outside of Spokane. Sid played the slots and saw some success. The best part? She cashed out while still ahead! She took home an extra $16 in her pocket and it paid for our dinner after we landed in Charleston on Sunday night.

Sidney winning money at the slot machine at Northern Quest.

Sidney winning money at the slot machine at Northern Quest.

Meat Eater – One of the best parts about celebrating two Christmases is eating two prime rib dinners. We ate it with Sidney’s family on Christmas day and then we ate it with my family when we observed our Christmas celebration on Dec. 28. Sid’s family served the meat with baked potatoes and my mom served it with lasagna. Both meals were delicious.

The prime rib on the left is from Sidney's family celebration and the prime rib on the right is from my family's celebrationn

The prime rib on the left is from Sidney’s family celebration and the prime rib on the right is from my family’s celebrationn

Dinner On Me – When the dust settled on our Christmas celebrations, it became obvious that Sidney and I made out like bandits on gift cards, especially of the restaurant variety. In the near future, we will be eating at Five Guys, Outback, Chick-Fil-A, and Buffalo Wild Wings. In addition, my brother gave us a card that is good for the Darden Restaurants. Brands that fall under this family include Longhorn, Olive Garden, the Yard House, and a few other places I have never heard of. And, because it technically does serve food, can I lump in Target as a restaurant? Sid got gift cards to her favorite store from both her parents and my parents.

Oreo Truffles – As much as it pains me to admit this, the Oreo truffles I ate over the holiday break blew the Pop-Tart truffles I made out of the water. Sidney, my brother, and my sister (notice how they left me out) combined to make the truffles and they turned out absolutely delicious. They dipped some in milk chocolate and some in white chocolate. If you want an easy, fun, and yummy treat idea, go with Oreo truffles.

My siblings and wife combined to make these delicious Oreo truffles.

My siblings and wife combined to make these delicious Oreo truffles.

Baby Update – As you can probably imagine, our future baby daughter reeled in some serious loot over the holiday season. I think she now has a wardrobe bigger than her parents combined. Both of our families were very generous and thoughtful. Tomorrow, Sidney will turn 27 weeks. Then, on Saturday, it will mark exactly three months until our baby is due.

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Hope your first week of 2017 is going great. My mind is starting to shift to the big College Football Playoff championship game on Monday night. Go Tigers! Don’t Blink.