Father Figures: Role Model

“I grew up without a positive male role model for the majority of my childhood and honestly never even thought about becoming one myself.

But the day after my senior prom, I became a dad. I worked a few factory jobs trying to get by then decided that joining the army would be the best way to provide for my little family.

I went through all of my training and deployed a couple months later. When I came home, it was really the first time I could bond a lot with my daughter. We’ll always be “best freaking friends forever Frankenstein” because of that time.

7 years later, my youngest daughter came along. She had open-heart surgery when she was 4 days old and that was the toughest time any of us had ever been through. Mom stayed the strong rock that we all needed to lean on, and my 7-year-old took on the role of big sister and continued being the funny and sweet girl she’d always been.

It’s been 6 years now. We’re all happy and healthy, my youngest is now the one who wants to be dad’s best friend; she follows me everywhere I go. While my oldest is now 13 and would never let the public know we’re still BFFFF’s, but she’ll still hang out with me – as long as I don’t tell everyone.

No matter how much I do for these girls, I know I couldn’t do it without their mom by my side. We’re one of the rare cases of high school sweethearts who stayed together; it hasn’t always been easy but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Growing up without that male role model didn’t stop me from becoming one. It helped me realize everything I can be for my girls.”

– Donald Gorman

PBS Teams Up with Apple TV+ to Air Charlie Brown Holiday Specials

Charlie Brown Specials
(Apple)

When it comes to movies and TV, Thanksgiving gets the short end of the stick. Halloween has tons of movies you can watch all Spooktober long, and Christmas movies dominate cable and streaming services from Thanksgiving until New Year’s.

Thanksgiving has Planes, Trains and Automobiles and not much else! Unless you count the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, which, despite being the third-best Charlie Brown special (Christmas and Halloween again!).

I remember loving it when I was a kid, and my kids definitely count it every year – there’s still something special about a holiday-themed TV episode! – but this year it seemed like they weren’t even going to get to watch it, because Apple TV+ snapped up the rights to the Charlie Brown specials and pulled them from network TV.

Despite having aired on ABC and CBS for decades, it seemed like their run was over, and any Peanuts fans without an Apple TV+ subscription was going to be out of luck.

Thankfully, someone at Apple had a change of heart, and Apple teamed up with PBS to air the Thanksgiving special on Sunday night. And if you missed it, you can watch it for free on Apple TV+ from 11/25 to 11/27.

Even better, you can catch the Charlie Brown Christmas special on PBS on December 13th, and catch that free on Apple TV+ from 12/11 to 12/13.

I won’t lie, I don’t totally get the appeal of these specials. They’re sort of depressing and not all that funny unless you like watching Snoopy pretend to be a fighter pilot. But they are nostalgic, and there’s something to be said for that.

Regardless of how you feel, it’s great that Apple and PBS found a way to make it happen. Even though I’m not a fan, I can’t pretend the holidays are the same without Peanuts!

Accidental Thanksgiving Tradition Continues Even in Covid’s Shadow

Accidental Thanksgiving Dinner
(Twitter/Jamalhinton12)

When it started four years ago, it was one of those things that delighted social media and reminded people that the world actually is a good, kind place, sometimes.

Jamal Hinton received a text from a number he didn’t recognize, inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner. Wanda Dench had tried to text her grandson, but his number had changed, so she reached Jamal instead. Confused, Jamal asked for a picture of this woman who claimed to be his grandma, and when he got it, he sent his own back. It was immediately clear they weren’t related, but that didn’t change Wanda’s invitation.

“You not my grandma,” the then 17-year-old Jamal texted. “Can I still get a plate though?”

“Of course, that’s what Grandma’s do. Feed everyone,” Wanda replied.

Wanda wasn’t bluffing. She did have a plate for Jamal that Thanksgiving, and he’s been coming back, driving from his home in Tempe, Arizona to Wanda’s in Mesa, ever since. This year will be their fourth Thanksgiving together. Unfortunately, it will be a little different. Wanda’s husband passed away from Covid in April.

“It’s going to be different, my first Thanksgiving without him,” she told the New York Times “My husband was always right behind me, telling me how proud he was of Jamal and me for what we’ve done.”

They’ve stayed in touch, sharing visits, including Jamal’s girlfriend, even when it’s not Thanksgiving. Jamal has even helped the Denches set up their phones when they upgraded.

“After meeting her the first time I just knew, she’s another person, age is really just a number,” Mr. Hinton, who is now 21 and works as a car salesman, said of Ms. Dench. “It doesn’t matter, you can be friends with anybody, you can be family with anybody.”

This year, due to the pandemic, the pair decided to keep their tradition going with a small dinner last week, just the two of them, and a candle in Mr. Dench’s memory.

“I’m just grateful that we are here, we are together,” Mr. Hinton said. “I don’t know what I would be doing for the holidays this year, last year or years before if I didn’t have Wanda in my life, so I’m just grateful.”

Superfan Turns House Into ‘Home Alone’ Shrine With Realistic Sculptures

Home Alone House
(Instagram/thefrenchcallmelesincompetents)

The holiday season is upon us, and in my house, that means one thing: all Christmas movies all the time.

My wife has been forcing me to spend the entire Christmas season watching Christmas movies, from the classics like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life to the junk they put on Hallmark and Lifetime. Now that we have kids, they’ve been roped in as well, and thankfully there are a few family-friendly Xmas flicks that actually deliver for adults too. Like Elf, and Home Alone. But mostly Die Hard.

Home Alone doesn’t NEED to take place over Christmas (imagine if Kevin got left alone on July 4th, and had to torture the burglars with fireworks? CALL MY AGENT!) , but it’s nice that it does, if only because it breaks up the sentimental stuff we watch in December with a fun movie about trying to murder people.

Home Alone has a lot of fans. it was an enormous hit in the 90s, and there have been countless articles and conspiracy theories about it, from speculation on where the McAllisters get their money to why the cops wouldn’t just go over to the house and bring Kevin in. But articles are nothing. One guy made sculptures of the Wet Bandits, and their tiny tormentor, in action!

Kevin Urrutia-O’Riley posted pics of his Home Alone sculptures to Reddit stunning the community with how realistic they are.

My wife and I sculpted the Wet Bandits and Kevin McCallister from Home Alone. from r/pics

He explained how he made them: “I digitally sculpted the faces and printed them out of resin. I then made the heads with a combo of construction foam, wood filler and Bondo attached to Styrofoam. I painted them using an airbrush. The hair are wigs and the facial hair is worsted wool.”

And he didn’t stop at the sculptures either. He printed a Michael Jordan cut-out for one window and recreated the gangster movie scene in another. He created an Instagram account – TheFrenchCallMeLesIncompetents – to showcase his work.

One can’t help but be impressed by the craftmanship, and level of detail, that Urrutia-O’Riley put into what amounts to elaborate Christmas decorations. One also can’t help but be impressed that his wife let him do all of this to her house. But she did, and we are all better off for having witnessed it.

Now I have to make sure my wife never sees it, lest she adds a new tradition to our Christmas season!

Jeopardy Resumes Filming With ‘Interim Host’, Jeopardy GOAT Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings is the GOAT
(Courtesy of ABC)

After the passing of legendary Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, the long-running game show will resume production with its first new host in 37 seasons. The baton is being passed to the greatest Jeopardy player ever, Ken Jennings, who will be the first ‘of a series of interim-hosts from the Jeopardy family.’

Trebek was beloved, and whoever replaces him long-term will have enormous shoes to fill. But, at the same time, Trebek frequently spoke about wanting the show to continue into a new era. Jeopardy executive producer Mike Richards released a statement about resuming production with Ken Jennings at the helm. Jennings recently started an official role on the show, so the move makes perfect sense.

“Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy and always said he wanted the show to go on without him,” Richards said. “We will honor Alex’s legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved with smart contestants and challenging clues. By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers.”

Jennings said there will only be one Alex Trebek, but that he was honored to help out Jeopardy during this time.

Jennings was widely seen as one of the favorites to replace Trebek, as he’s the most recognizable name in the Jeopardy world and is also the greatest contestant to play the game. He owns the record for the longest winning streak (74 games) and won the Jeopardy Greatest of All Time tournament earlier this year.

Trebek had mentioned who he’d like to see as his replacement over the years, telling Good Morning America a couple of years back that he jokes with the audience about it. “I say it should be Betty White because they want somebody younger and somebody funnier than me,” he said.

While production resumes November 30th with Jennings, there’s no word about other hosts. Possibilities include James Holzhauer, another Jeopardy standout, or maybe LeVar Burton, if petitions count.

Either way, we’re getting more Jeopardy, and it starts with Jennings.

There’s a Dark ‘The Hardy Boys’ Series Coming and Here’s the Trailer

Hardy Boys Trailer
(YouTube/Hulu)

When I was a kid, I read a whole bunch of Hardy Boys books. They were easy-to-read adventures and mysteries that served as a nice bridge between the Bunnicula and Judy Blume books I read in elementary school and the Anne Rice and Stephen King books I read in high school.

They were fun and simple and I was a kid with brothers too. I also loved to pretend I was a detective and that something sinister was always afoot in my boring Connecticut suburb. It was kind of a more realistic Scooby-Doo, and I suspect a lot of guys my age read them, just as girls my age read Nancy Drew.

Well, now our kids can find out about the Hardy Boys, in a much darker and sexier way! Hulu is hopping on the teen soap strain, picking up the baton from the CW’s Riverdale and bringing the sibling detectives to the small screen.

Based on books created in 1926, the TV series follows Hardy brothers Frank, 16, and Joe, 12, as they move from NYC to Bridgeport, CT (I was right!) and quickly become suspicious that there’s a conspiracy in town – and that their parents may be involved.

Check out the trailer for the show, which hits Hulu on December 2nd:

Tributes Pour in for The Undertaker Who Is Now Retired in Peace

Undertaker Retires
(WWE)

After 30 years of greatness, the Undertaker can finally Rest in Peace (from the professional wrestling world). The iconic WWE superstar made his official final appearance as a wrestler at Sunday’s Survivor Series and got a hero’s send-off as he enters retirement. rid

It’s easy to love the ridiculousness of pro wrasslin’, especially if you grew up in the 80s or 90s. And there’s a reason it was deemed an essential business during the dark early days of the pandemic. But the sad truth behind professional wrestling is very few of its stars get a proper send-off into retirement. There are far more tragic early deaths and bittersweet controversies than proper salutes to legends, which is why Undertaker’s final show was so great.

You know a wrestler has impacted the pop culture fabric like few others when even SportsCenter gives a nod to your retirement. The Undertaker, Mark Calaway’s character he’s embodied for three decades of ups and downs, gave one last heartfelt farewell speech, saying:

“For 30 long years, I’ve made that slow walk to this ring and have laid people to rest time and time again. And now my time has come. My time has come to let The Undertaker rest in peace.”

In an extremely touching twist, the WWE used a hologram of the late Paul Bearer, Undertaker’s longtime manager, recreating their old pose.

It was a fitting end to a career that started 30 years ago at a much different Survivor Series show, but his character impacted pro wrestling like few before or after. And many greats of the wrestling world were quick to highlight that, as The Rock quickly fired off a touching tribute.

Vince McMahon summed up Taker’s impact fittingly: “The measuring stick. The locker room leader. The Phenom. Three decades ago today, Undertaker changed the landscape of sports-entertainment. His legacy is incomparable, his impact immeasurable, ” he wrote on Twitter.

Soon, the #ThankYouTaker hashtag took off, letting other WWE stars chime in with the impact he had, with praise from John Cena, Shawn Michaels (they had some classic matches together), Triple H, Ric Flair, and more.

A truly legendary career, and a retirement tribute fitting of one.

Dad Has Sewn Over 200 Dresses for His Daughter To Bond Through Creativity

Dad sews over 200 dresses for daughter
(Instagram/daddydressedmebymg)

For many of us, getting our kids dressed in the morning is little more than a necessary chore to fit into our already hectic days. But for one dad named Michael Gardner, his daughter’s wardrobe became something that helped the pair bond throughout the years. Helping his 9-year-old daughter Ava get dressed doesn’t mean laying out an outfit the night before – for this crafty dad, it means starting from scratch. In fact, Gardner has started from scratch over 200 times, and he has no plans to slow down.

“I decided to start sewing for Ava to teach her to be confident, have high self-esteem, and to believe in herself,” Gardner told The Dad. “I have been creative since I was a kid, I was in search of a new creative challenge and sewing became the catalyst to achieve my mission. My goal was to bond with her through my creativity, which is the most impactful way that I express myself.”

 

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A post shared by Michael Gardner (@daddydressedmebymg)

When Ava was younger, her dad took creative control. Gardner started sewing dresses for Ava when she was just 3 years old, but as she’s gotten older, Ava has become an essential piece of the creative puzzle. She helps choose styles, fabrics, and once her masterpieces are complete, she helps choose locations for photoshoots.

“Ava and I have been inseparable since she was born,” Gardner explained. “The journey of me sewing and her modeling strengthened our bond. It is truly a collaboration on all levels. We share ideas, inspiration and encourage each other throughout the process. It has also allowed us to have in depth conversations and simply have fun together.”

 

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A post shared by Michael Gardner (@daddydressedmebymg)

Gardner is self-taught when it comes to sewing, and if he can do it, he truly believes that anyone can. Gardner learned to sew through YouTube videos and Pinterest, and last summer, he was named a brand ambassador for Janome Sewing Machines. This talented dad even started Daddy Dressed Me by Michael Gardner, a fashion brand and social media campaign. Through sharing the creations he and Ava have brought to life on social media, the creative duo has received support from around the world.

 

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A post shared by Michael Gardner (@daddydressedmebymg)

“Every time I am thanked for bringing joy, happiness and complimented for being a positive light in what’s been a challenging year I am truly amazed,” Gardner said. “Hearing that I am an inspiration as a creative and parent means so much to me.”

The bond between Gardner and Ava is immediately evident through their photos and videos, and since Gardner’s relationship with his own dad was less than ideal, being a great dad to Ava was especially important.

 

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A post shared by Michael Gardner (@daddydressedmebymg)

“I want people to know that it is absolutely possible to be the parent you choose to be, regardless of the circumstances in your childhood,” Gardner expressed. “I am blessed to have an amazing relationship with Ava, it’s a totally different experience than I had with my parents. I put in the work, time and love into providing Ava with all the things I wish I had as a kid, I broke the cycle and for that I am proud.”

Netflix Creates Bizarre Christmas-Themed Witcher Promo

Netflix The Witcher Christmas Promo
(Twitter/Netflix)

I’m not entirely sure that I would associate swordplay and dragons and monsters and Henry Cavill with Christmas, but I don’t work at Netflix.

Cavill stars as The Witcher in Netflix’s popular adaption of the videogame, and about the only thing he has in common with Santa Claus is the white hair. And maybe the enormous arms, I’ve never seen St. Nick with his shirt off. But that didn’t stop the streaming service’s social media people, who cobbled together a bunch of Witcher scenes and made a little holiday video out of it.

So far, Netflix has only aired one season of the show, and a making-of documentary and season 2’s production has been delayed by COVID, like everything else. So they don’t have a lot of new footage to work with, but they did their best, layering a Christmas song over clips from the show in a strange effort to connect it to the holiday season. They’ve even added Christmas lights and presents and more, for some reason!

Not sure how seeing a bunch of people get stabbed in the throat is the reason for the season, but gotta respect the effort!

Check it out:

‘The Last of Us’ TV Series Coming to HBO From Writer Behind ‘Chernobyl’ Series

The Last of Us
(HBO)

I don’t like starting every paragraph about a Hollywood project by bemoaning the constant remakes and reboots and hijacking of existing intellectual property, but you play the hand you’re dealt!

This time we’re talking about an adaptation of a video game, and for once it’s not another version of Resident Evil. This time, it’s The Last of Us, a beloved zombie game whose devotees swear is one of the best stories, videogame or otherwise, out there.

HBO must agree because they’ve just announced a plan to bring the popular game to their network in the form of a series.

If you’ve never played the game, Variety describes it as taking place twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. (Spoiler alert: there are zombies GALORE!)

It sounds pretty bleak, which may explain why HBO has hired Craig Mazin, who created the network’s devastating Chernobyl miniseries, to write and direct. Mazin will work alongside Neil Druckmann, who created the game.

“Craig and Neil are visionaries in a league of their own,” said Francesca Orsi, executive vice president of HBO Programming. “With them at the helm alongside the incomparable Carolyn Strauss, this series is sure to resonate with both die-hard fans of ‘The Last of Us’ games and newcomers to this genre-defining saga. We’re delighted to partner with Naughty Dog, Word Games, Sony and PlayStation to adapt this epic, powerfully immersive story.”

The Last of Us was released in 2013, to acclaim and blockbuster sales, and last summer the sequel came out. We’ll see if that one eventually makes its way to HBO too.