Described by host Amy Poehler as “a celebration of real friendship, real fellowship, and a kind of community with other girls,” the web series “Smart Girls at the Party” is a kind-hearted, fun and educational program for kids and their parents alike, but especially for young girls. Often specifically focusing on girls who enjoy activities traditionally thought of as being more for boys, the series enjoyed a significant viewership boost in its first season when it introduced its youngest interviewee, seven-year-old Ruby, who speaks precociously about feminism. Its most-viewed episode to date features a 14-year-old boxer named Precela, and another highlight features a young robotics engineer named Rachel.
These are the “girls who are changing the world by being themselves,” in the words of Poehler, who hosts the show with the tongue-in-cheek seriousness of a news anchor before ending each episode with a dance party. Along with producer Meredith Walker and musical director Amy Miles, Poehler explores the special talents and interests of each girl – or in a few episodes, groups of girls – and interviews them, always ending on a “very serious question,” such as “pizza or cotton candy?” or “which is cuter, a baby panda or a baby monkey?” However, despite poking fun at self-serious interview questions, the series never makes fun of the girls or treats them or their interests with cynicism or irony. Instead, it clearly aims to imbue its young audience with a sense of self-worth and individuality, without being boring or preachy.
Now in its second season, the series has markedly improved from its first few episodes, adding a “World Famous 20 Second Song” segment for Miles and boasting higher production values. There are also some familiar faces in the dance parties that parents will enjoy spotting, including Poehler’s husband Will Arnett (who returns from the first season), as well as her “Parks and Recreation”co-stars Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza. Look closely and you’ll also spot folks like Jon Hamm, David Cross and Jack McBrayer in later episodes. With its own new channel on YouTube, “Smart Girls at the Party” is slicker and more fun than ever, and is highly recommended for viewing with children, especially daughters, between the ages of five and fifteen.
Last night at the Hotel on Rivington in Manhattan, ArjanWrites.com presented a special ARTIST #TALK session with Miami-based club rapper Flo Rida, a massively successful artist who has sold 60 million records and scored 14 hit singles, including the ubiquitous hits “Low” and “Right Round.” Arjan describes the ARTIST #TALK series as “as a listening session meets ‘Inside The Actors Studio‘,” and this is a fairly accurate way to put it. The evening began with a basic interview summing up Flo Rida’s career thus far, and then proceeded to a preview listening session for his new album “Wild Ones.”
Flo Rida began as a hype man for the legendary 2 Live Crew, who were equally loved and hated in their time for boundary-pushing songs like “Me So Horny.” Of this experience, Flo says, “I heard about the crazy things that went on, but I never took part in that. I just went out and did the shows.” This is a large part of of his persona as an artist, a relentless positivity that embraces partying while avoiding explicit lyrics about drugs, guns or any other negative tropes often heard in club music. He says, “I was happy to have music that my mom could listen to … and put smiles on the faces of young and old people.” He has even started his own charity, Big Dreams 4 Kids, to give back to underprivileged youth in slums like the one in which he grew up. When asked about the way his music has mixed Hip-Hop with electronic dance music, he also points to his upbringing: “Growing up in Miami, Florida, it’s like a gumbo of different cultures.”
We then moved on to the listening portion of the evening, previewing 90-second snippets of all nine tracks from the new album, “Wild Ones.” The first single, “Whistle” has a pleasant, laid-back feel to it, with a hook that is almost reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The title track, “Wild Ones,” features the up-and-coming singer Sia, and Flo spoke of his interest in finding new talent because “when you’re starting out, you don’t have the chance to work with who you want to, you just have to do what you can, and that’s how I started out.” He would seem to have a good instinct for future success, judging by songs like “Starstruck,” an early collaboration with a then unknown artist named Lady Gaga.
The rest of the album largely follows the template of “Wild Ones,” with thumping dance beats and Flo’s facilitating delivery. It should give fans exactly what they’ve come to expect, but it would be nice to hear him switch up his style more. Flo is a club rapper, though, not an emcee’s emcee, and he has found a sound that works for him. Even his more reflective song, “I Cry” has a similarly up-tempo flow on the verses, though the beat is a bit slower than the rest. “Good Feeling” is another standout track, featuring a beautiful Etta James sample, and according to Flo, “she passed away right after we went number one” with the song, a strange omen that meant a lot to him. Perhaps the worst track on the album is “Sweet Spot,” which features a guest turn from Jennifer Lopez and lots of lazy sugar/sex references, even dropping the phrase “candy shop,” a reminder of 50 Cent’s most embarrassing work. Still, this is a record for people to dance to, not analyze, and it should satisfy that need quite nicely.
Derek Waters’ “Drunk History” is one of the strangest, funniest, most absurd concepts in web series history. Playing on the inherent comedy of drunken incompetence and memory loss, each of the series’ six episodes takes a different comedic actor or writer, puts way too much booze in them, and then follows their muddled, profane accounts of important historical events. The episodes then cut between these slurred, rambling monologues and dramatic reenactments of the events, featuring famous actors such as Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel. The genius of these reenactments is how closely the actors follow the exact words of the inebriated nonsense that forms the basis of their script, lip-syncing the dialogue perfectly right down to the inadvertent sniffles and hiccups of the actual speaker.
The first episode features Mark Gagliardi recounting the story of Alexander Hamilton’s famous duel with Aaron Burr after drinking a bottle of Scotch. Though it is unclear how large the bottle was, it was clearly quite a bit of liquor, as he spends most of his segment reclined on a couch with a bucket nearby, just in case. Hamilton is played by a suitably innocent-looking Michael Cera in the reenactment, but the real show-stealer is Jake Johnson in a brilliantly shifty-eyed performance as the loathsome Aaron Burr. In episode 2, Eric Falconer takes on the famous story of Benjamin Franklin‘s discovery of electricity, expounding upon his theory that it was actually Franklin’s “bastard son,” William (Clark Duke), who actually flew the legendary kite with the key tied to it. This is also the series’ first instance of vomiting in the midst of the storytelling, but not its last, so be warned that the series is not for the weak-stomached. Jack Black portrays Franklin again in a special volume 2.5 episode, in which Falconer tells a hilarious tale of Franklin’s sexual deviance.
These are the only official episodes of the series (plus a very special Christmas episode included below), so beware of the unofficial knockoffs, most of which are pretty terrible. In fact, the one I linked to there is pretty much the only one that’s watchable, and it’s still nowhere near as good as the real thing. In addition to the recognizable stars, look for Waters’ name and also that of series director Jeremy Konner to avoid being duped.