Category Archives: Television

Posts about television.

What happened to Mark Brendanawicz?

Mark Brendanawicz was a character on NBC's Parks and Recreation for seasons 1 and 2. Before I get into any detail, I wanted to settle something...

What is up with that surname?

I don't know a ton about Polish names (Leslie refers to Mark as Polish in season one), but "Brendanawicz" sounds like a made-up name, like someone was making fun of a guy named Brendan at a party, forgot his last name, and ended up referring to him as "Brendan Brendanawicz." I found a website where you can check whether a name is in the top 150,000 names in the 2000 census. Here's what I get back on Brendanawicz:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.46.33 PM

As a point of comparison, I queried the surname of a long lost friend from high school:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.58.17 PM

That's only about 30,000 from the bottom! And now someone I knew at Brandeis:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 10.10.01 PM

This is clearly not scientific, nor is it even pretending to be conclusive. Anyway, I guess appearing in the top 150,000 surnames is a bit of a wash. I still think it doesn't sound real.

The real point of this post

Mark begins the show as kind of a playboy and a bit of an ass. When he begins dating Ann, he starts to act less selfish and actually comes across as a good guy. In fact, he just keeps hitting home runs in the good guy department over the course of season two. Here are some reasons why Mark actually turns out to be a good guy:

  • Rather than behaving territorially, he shows compassion toward Andy (Ann's ex), who still hangs around, expecting Ann to take him back.
  • Unlike Andy, Mark understands that Ann is not a prize, but a person. He doesn't ever try to assert control over her, and he never stoops to the sitcom stereotype.
  • Rather than purchasing something useless and typical for Ann's birthday, he buys her a computer case. She had mentioned many weeks before her birthday that she needed one. He listened to what she was saying, wrote it down, and waited to surprise her with one.
  • He makes fun of himself. On Valentine's day, he dresses up and enacts all of the cliches, giving Ann a Teddy bear, chocolates, roses, etc., because he's never been in a relationship with someone on Valentine's day. Ann is not dressed up, she's hanging out on the couch, and she's just enjoying his company.
  • When Ann fails to introduce Mark as her boyfriend to a childhood friend she's always had a crush on, Mark doesn't get jealous, confront her with it, or otherwise act super dramatic. He has ever right to be hurt -- it was a glaring omission, and her feelings for this friend are obvious. However, he deals with it with grace, even going so far as to talk to Andy about it.

What I appreciated about Mark was that he was a good guy who, despite never having been in a serious relationship before, knew enough about human interaction to treat Ann like a person, and not just TV Girlfriend Stereotype. They had one of the healthiest, most respectful relationships I've ever seen in t.v. Sure, the way the writers began their relationship was kind of shitty, but somehow Ann and Mark worked.

The way they portrayed Mark contrasted with Tom Haverford, who thinks he's starring in Entourage (a show I've never seen), or Ron Swanson, the manliest man or something. Tom hits on women so aggressively, but with such little tact and appeal, that he's turned himself into a joke (a joke who should also be disciplined for sexual harassment on a regular basis). Yeah, his character is funny, but what he does is NOT OKAY. Ron Swanson is Teddy Roosevelt, constantly performing masculinity. He's also quite entertaining, but definitely a caricature.

I very much enjoy watching both Tom and Ron, but having Mark balance them out is a rare treat. You just don't see men behave with such grace, maturity, and self-respect on t.v., without being...well, Captain Adama.

Are all the admirable men on T.V. admirals?

Finally, a post devoted entirely to television: Scandal needs some Sandra Oh!

I have pages of notes for a blog post about correlation, but since it's 11pm, let's put that off for now and have a little summer fun!

I had a chat today with Myung-ha Jang about Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. Myung-ha's watched more Grey's, but hasn't tried Scandal yet. I unfortunately dove into Grey's at the height of its ridiculousness (the icicle that stabbed Cristina, the romance of The Lady of the Lake and poor homely Sonya, and Izzie's hallucinations that turned out to be cancer). If it was about to get worse, I didn't want to see it.

Okay, you know what? That clip of the icicle stabbing Cristina begins with a great moment between friends:
Yeah, it was a little judgey. Cristina isn't known for sugar-coating what she thinks. Even if it's not the smoothest move in real life, it's nice to see a character say what you're thinking. This is television fantasy land, where all your male coworkers are McSexy and you're surrounded by awesome, interesting women who speak their minds and are really f***ing good at their jobs.

Now, I told Myung-ha I preferred Scandal because the story lines were eerily believable. However, the thing that's been nagging me has been that Olivia Pope has no friends.

Sad Olivia

While I think Scandal's plot lines are more believable, I find the relationships between characters sad and emotionally stunted. Of course, these characters are in a morally bankrupt universe of bad actors, whereas the Grey's folks are trying to do good in the world. In any case, it would be great if Sandra Oh guest starred as Cristina and had a long-distance besties relationship with Olivia. Apparently Cristina is in Switzerland now, and I think Olivia might have been sent there for her internal spy training secondary schooling. I wish they would ship in someone like her, rather than yet another emotionally crippled assassin/torture artist.

Christina Yang: A+ Surgeon, A+ Friend

Celebrities : they're just like us!

Hopefully this post will be short and sweet, since I'm trying to get back on EST.

Highlights from this year's PLDI:

  • Year of PLASMA! John Vilk's DoppioJVM won Best Artifact. His talk was great, and he event got a mid-talk round of applause for a meta-circular evaluator joke. Nothing like Scheme to whet the appetites of PL nerds! (I admit it, I clapped and laughed, too.)
  • Year of PLASMA! In a surprising turn of events, my work on SurveyMan won top prize in the Graduate category of the ACM Student Research Competition. This means I'll submit a short paper in a few months to compete in the Grand Finals! Exciting!
  • The APPROX was awesome! It was very exciting to see current work presented across approximate computing and probabilistic programming. Emery was chair of the event. Given the amount of discussion it engendered, I would say it was a resounding success.
  • I met a bunch of new people, and connected with those I haven't seen in a while. Shoutouts to Adrian Sampson and Michael Carbin. I'll be following Adrian's blog now, and pestering Michael about formalizing the SurveyMan semantics (using his work on reasoning about relaxed programs as a guide).
  • A cheeky dig at the New York Times lead to Phil Wadler telling me that I had the best teaser! Famous professors : they're just like us!
  • Shriram Krishnamurthi declared he'd read this blog.

In other news, I need to try uploading my VM for the OOPSLA artifact evaluation, now that I have reasonable internet again. But first, I need to sleep (though I did set aside time to watch GoT -- OMG, the ending was awesome! Arya's face! That exchange! WTF just happened?!?!? Also, shit's finally starting to get real, north of the wall! You know nothing, Jon Snow...)