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Episodes: some thoughts on the series and the Season 2 premiere

19 Jul

Episodes Season 2 Promo Poster

Last season, I was on the fence about the Matt LeBlanc comedy, Episodes.  I couldn’t decide exactly how I felt about it, although I found myself drawn to the show every week.  First of all, it was a mix of British and American television comedy which is, for American television, I would argue, a bold step.  I believe it was the shift in comedic sensibilities, between the British-ness of the UK leads Tasmin Greig and Stephen Mangan, the American-ness of Matt LeBlanc, and the overall satire of the television industry represented by the network honcho, Merc (John Pankow) and his pot-smoking creative exec who he screws, Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins), that kept me a bit unbalanced.  I started wondering if the average American audience would even understand the subtleties at play.  Then I had to remind myself:  this is pay cable, they can take these liberties.  The fact I kept musing on this every week threw me.  That isn’t the show’s fault, that is a sad commentary on the state of many television shows. Second, any television show with any of the Friends actors has to contend with their former respective roles on the popular sitcom.  And yes, it took me a few weeks just to stop thinking of LeBlanc as Joey, even with the gray hair.  Note to Matt LeBlanc:  yes while you can pull off the gray hair, I honestly think you would look better with it gone.  Your face is far too young to have old hair.  It’s not a criticism, it is an observation.  After getting past that small hurdle (yes, I am that shallow), it was hard knowing that I was going to be watching a train wreck because that is the only plausible outcome that can happen when bringing British TV writers/producers, in this case a married couple, into the very screwed up Hollywood system.  Furthermore, it is clear their partnership and marriage would have to suffer as again, that seems to be par for the course for many couples in Hollywood when they first arrive and can’t help but be seduced.  Even when they dislike the individuals they work with.  I suppose, if nothing else, it should serve as a cautionary tale.  A kind of — this is how not to screw up your life if you come to Hollywood manual.

The storyline of the first season is simple:  Beverly (Tasmin Greig) and Sean (Stephen Mangan) get ‘invited’ to Hollywood to turn their hit British sitcom into an American television adaptation.  By the end of the first series, the entire subject has changed from an old headmaster at a boy’s school to a youngish hockey coach (Matt LeBlanc) who flirts with the female school librarian at a boy’s school.  And the title becomes Pucks!, one of the worst possible words for a title in the English language.  Things get crazy for Beverly and Sean as they negotiate network politics and Sean’s infatuation with the actress playing Morning (Mircea Monroe), the librarian.  By the end of the last episode, Beverly and Sean have a giant fight (row if you are British) and Beverly somehow ends up having sex with Matt LeBlanc even though she detests him.  Sean finds out which leads to another fight/row, featuring Matt LeBlanc spraying Sean in the face with his signature cologne.  It should not be missed as it is more of a girl fight and possibly the funniest scene in the first series. Just as the two might actually physically harm each other for real,  they get a call with the worst possible news, the network has picked up the Pucks! pilot for the next season so everyone now has to work together.  Just a note to anyone who hasn’t worked in film or television, you had better hope you like your co-workers because once something goes into production, you are looking at twelve to fourteen hour days at a minimum with those people and there is no escape.

Episodes is a joint financial venture between the BBC in the UK and Showtime in the US.  It was created by former Friends‘ creator David Crane and former Mad About You producer, Jeffrey Klarik. In several interviews, Crane and Klarik explain how the process of working with a premium cable network affords far greater creative freedom than the regular American networks.  Or even cable networks.  They credit Showtime’s freedom with giving them the ability to hone the story lines and character arcs they didn’t always have the time to think out so intricately when working for network television since they could actually write all the scripts before anything was shot, a luxury network shows never get.  This is also because there are far fewer episodes in premium cable shows (as well as all British series) so there is the possibility that some actual quality work can get done instead of pleasing focus groups and being slaves to ratings. And while we learn about the pilot process in the first series, since Showtime picked up the series for a second season, we get to learn about the pitfalls of producing a sitcom for a network, something Crane and Klarik have experienced — intimately.

In the Season 2 series premiere, we enter into a slightly more sedate world for Beverly and Sean when it comes to their marriage.  They are now separated.  Matt LeBlanc tries rectifying his friendship with Sean who wants nothing to do with Matt.  Merc (John Pankow) still knows nothing about his own shows and continues his blatant affair with Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins), the weed-smoking creative exec but Jamie (Genevieve O’Reilly), his blind wife, spices her life up a bit when she ends up deliberately giving Matt LeBlanc a hand job at the private screening premiere of Pucks! in their home.  While Beverly deeply regrets her romp with LeBlanc, Sean is about to get the opportunity to enjoy a bit of revenge when Morning offers herself as his birthday gift.  And yes, that really does happen in Hollywood.  It’s clear this season will hold yet another high learning curve for Beverly and Sean, as Pucks! premieres to outstanding numbers and they are on top of the world but in previews we see the numbers plummet and everything starts to go wrong including LeBlanc’s starring role in the show in jeopardy.  The real question will be what is going to happen with Sean and Beverly.  Crane and Klarik have done an excellent job of taking a happily married couple and throwing them back into a status of utter uncertainty.  I’m not on the fence any more, I enjoy the show thoroughly and can only hope for yet another cat fight between LeBlanc and Sean which I’m sure won’t happen but still… I can hope.

Watch the Episodes Season 2 premiere on Showtime while it is still available.

Showtime’s Summer Dramedy Hour is back: Weeds and Episodes premiere, part 1

10 Jul

Weeds Season 8 Promo Poster

I always like to wait a bit before I judge. I’ve spent time mulling over both of Showtime’s summer Dramedies:  Weeds and Episodes.  While Episodes can be thought of as an understated comedy that satirically examines the television industry, from concept of a series to its premiere, Weeds can be seen as a black comedy that looks at everything in the most pessimistic possible light.  It isn’t completely clear why Showtime decided to give Weeds one final season to wrap everything up since the end of Season 7 was satisfying in a Botwinesque way:  Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) gets shot and will she survive?  Sometimes it is better to leave an open ending.  American audiences hate open endings though.  They want closure.  In reality, closure is rarely something anyone gets to experience and that is most likely why the American television audience craves knowing a clear outcome. This is usually to the detriment of the storytelling process.  I hope it won’t be true for the final season of Weeds.

Shane (Alexander Gould) dealing with the neighbors after Nancy’s shooting.

In the Season 8 premiere of Weeds, “Messy,” we pick up right where we left off at the end of last season:  with Nancy having just been shot.  In the head.  Ironically this happened in her seemingly safe suburban mansion, in Old Sandwich, CT.  The title, “Messy,” comes from one of my favorite scenes of the episode, when two exceedingly old neighbors climb on ladders to snoop over the fence and see what happened at the Baldwin compound.  If Jenji Kohan got one thing right in this episode, it was the obnoxious behavior of the elderly wealthy residents of Connecticut.  I’m sure there are some very nice elderly people in Connecticut but my personal experience was almost the same while I lived in the uh, nutmeg state – I would sometimes find my landlords standing at the window staring inside trying to eavesdrop. I was brought back to that creepy experience as I watched the busybody neighbors from Old Sandwich comment on the “messy” lives of the Baldwins.  Connecticut hates messy.  Ironic that it is safer to walk around East Harlem than parts of New Haven and Bridgeport, but who am I to judge?  A disgruntled Californian, I guess.

I had pretty much given up on Weeds by the end of last season.  In fact, the only reason I watched it was because I was living in East Harlem at the time, and I could relate to Nancy’s plight of the halfway house, as I was job hunting and staying at a former friends’ condo (yes former, a story which I am sure I can relate to another cable show’s episode considering my life is surely as messy as any fictional characters’), when Weeds aired last year.  And as that bullet rang out at the end of last season, I thought it was a fitting and somewhat sophisticated way to end the series.  I will admit I was highly skeptical when I discovered there was going to be a final season of the series.

But I digress.  We quickly join Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Nancy in the ambulance witnessing Nancy make sexual references to the paramedic in front of her son while shot in the head, bleeding and possibly near death.  And that is the last we hear from her in the episode since she is put into a medically induced coma.  This episode is about Nancy’s family and friend’s reactions to her – tragedy.  Shane (Alexander Gould) at once becomes a predator and a cop, trying to chase down the gunman and then investigate the crime since he is secretly enrolled in the NYPD police academy.  I won’t reveal the shooter’s identity specifically, only to say, it is a former step-child of Nancy’s.  Someone I didn’t even remember existed and a bit disappointing for the triggerman.

Doug (Kevin Nealon) is inappropriate as always, hiding under the table after Nancy is shot (I secretly don’t blame him) and then later feeling her up while she is in a medically induced coma.  Very bad form, even for Doug.

Nancy’s sister, Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), inappropriately has sex with Andy (Justin Kirk) in the hospital room next to the bed where Nancy slumbers in her coma. Andy later has a conversation with a Rabbi in the hospital cafeteria.  Very Andy-esque.  Finally, Jill’s evil twin demon daughters post a picture of Nancy online after she has been shot.

Nancy’s (Mary-Louise Parker) shooter returns to her hospital room.

Nancy’s shooter comes back to the hospital to either finish the job he started or muse on his feelings about attempted murder.  Either way, he is interrupted by Nancy’s roommate’s daughter who has been walking in on inappropriate activities throughout the episode.  Nancy must sense danger as she seems to go into cardiac distress as the episode ends.

Will Nancy die? I doubt it.  Only nice people die young.  Evil people live to ripe old ages.  As my father said about one of my mother’s aunts, she was so mean, even the cancer couldn’t stand being in her.  I kind of see Nancy in the same light, though I still enjoy watching her mess up everyone’s life.

And if you think things are screwed up for the Botwins, they are not that much better for Beverly and Sean in Episodes which I will be happy to discuss in my next installment…

Jane by Design: ABC Family’s newest installment in female wish fulfillment

6 Feb

I guess I missed the memo that told me if I needed to get a paying job in New York City, what I really needed to do was go back to high school, apply for an internship in fashion and accidently get hired as a top designer’s new executive assistant for a part time rate that didn’t seem to exist when I was looking for part time jobs in New York.  But that little issue in the premise aside, this show is fast becoming my secret guilty pleasure.

Jane By Design was created by April Blair and executive produced by Blair and Gavin Palone (think Gilmore Girls which is wholly ironic considering Polone’s reputation for not being cozy and cuddly; but that’s fine with me, as sickly sweet people not only make me entirely suspicious but make me want to well, either be sick or deck them, most likely, both).  Palone is also executive producer of Larry David‘s Curb Your Enthusiasm, far more Palone, far less girly.  But this show, whose premise is that Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher) is a high school outcast who lives a double life, isn’t wholly sweet by any measure.  In fact, Jane encounters so many bitches by the fourth episode and has figured out how to make them either human or at least cope with them that I think she needs to create her own self-help guide and sell it.  Honestly, I wish I had taken lessons from her years ago.  Her best friend, Billy (Nick Roux), helps her navigate high school and sometimes aids her in some of her many fiascos at the fashion house.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the episode where he plays her personal dresser in the girl’s bathroom where she must change in between a formal dress for a school dance and one for a fashion show event on the same night.  Maybe times have changed concerning girl’s toilets and getting dressed in front of guy best friends.  Again, I must have missed that memo.  It seems creepy.  Even more so because we know he is straight and in love with Jane’s arch nemesis in school, the most popular girl, Lulu (Meagan Tandy).

Not to worry, Jane has her own personal arch rival at the fashion house as well, India (India de Beaufort). Watching India operate is like watching a primer in how to deal with workplace enemies.  She is especially slippery as she is older and far more cunning than Lulu.  The problem is that sometimes, India can be a bit human.  Yes, that happens after adolescence.  At least to females.  I’m never sure if straight males evolve that far.  Sorry straight males, I know, a few of you have but you are in the minority.  The other strong female presence in Jane’s life, who is at once the greatest challenge to Jane and her greatest asset, is her boss, Gray Chandler Murray (Andie McDowell).  McDowell does a wonderful job playing the exact type of hard-assed woman who I detest working for.  The ones that are never happy and constantly undermine and undercut you and your performance.  The question is:  will McDowell’s character become human by the end of the season?  Because that fascinates me even more than if Jane will survive her internship/assistantship.

While I have some feminist issues with women’s wish fulfillment television shows and films, I find this show a bit refreshing, most certainly when it comes to Jane’s drive and ambition.  The fact that she isn’t letting her loser status in high school influence her confidence when it comes to her career and natural gifts (in her case, fashion design) is a lesson we all need to remember.  As Jane’s confidence grows through her professional work and accomplishments, her personality starts to shine through, even at school.  This is probably the most important message coming from this show:  believe in yourself and your natural abilities.  Some of us were not lucky enough to realize our natural abilities in high school.  So think of this show as an intervention for assessing your natural abilities.  I wish I had.

Yes, there are stereotypes in the show.  But with men and women.  Billy undermines his friendship with Jane because he likes Lulu.  Jane’s brother and guardian (their parents are dead) is a jock who isn’t the brightest person, but he is learning to be kind as he… matures.  Finally, Jane’s workplace romantic prospect, Jeremy (Rowley Dennis) is just as big a louse as the jock, Nick Fadden (Matthew Atkinson) she likes in high school.  Both play around.  There isn’t a version of the idolized male here.  Certainly not in teen boys nor in some men in certain professional positions.  Of course, maybe most females don’t see this the same way I do.  Perhaps they like to accept some guys are players (or think they are).  Perhaps that makes them feel even more wanted.  That would be the female viewers with low self esteem.  At least Jane sees Jeremy for the snake that he is and chooses to form a professional alliance/friendship with him rather than any romantic entanglement.  I’m sorry but I’m not sure I believe any teenage girl would be that strong or sophisticated in her emotional choice when it came to some hot, successful guy’s attention.  But then, I’m just a pessimist watching a teenage girl’s wish fulfillment show.

Jane By Design can be seen on Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC Family.

House of Lies: Pilot “The Gods of Dangerous Financial Instruments” review

12 Jan

I’ve been a fan of Kristen Bell ever since Veronica Mars so I was enthusiastically looking forward to this series. But this isn’t really in any way Veronica Mars especially since it is a Don Cheadle vehicle.  So if you were in any way hoping for any type of Veronica Mars-like elements, just let it go.  I had to.  This show is all about Don Cheadle’s character, Marty Kaan, the Hank Moody of Management Consultants.  Now, the only real problem with this is that Management Consultants are not actually glamourous.  They are um…. boring.  At least all the management consultants I’ve met.  So, I’m looking forward to seeing if House of Lies created by Matthew Carnahan (Fastlane, Dirt) can keep me entertained this season.

Now, I will give the pilot points for the clever beginning because as I watched Marty try to dress his naked and very wasted sex partner only to discover as his son walks in (SPOILER ALERT!) that this is his ex-wife, Monica Talbot (Dawn Olivieri).  Even more surprising is that about halfway through the episode we discover (SPOILER ALERT again) that she’s his chief competition in the consulting business and usually smarter than him – she has the #1 Consulting firm to his #2.  There is something refreshing about the line Marty says to Monica, “… you’re a sociopath and an addict and I can’t even stand to look at you right now…” and her reply is, “Right back attcha…”  Then you suddenly have a clear idea of the characters you are dealing with.  Fatally flawed.  The show has some hope.  Because seriously, who wants to watch normal characters?  If I want to see normal, I’ll go to Ralph’s and watch people shopping.  I don’t have to pay a monthly subscription for that.

Domestically, Marty has a full plate, his live-in retired psychologist father, Jeremiah (Glynn Turman) fully judges and doles out advice, ignoring, for the most part, the fact that he helped shape his sociopath son into what he’s become.  An even bigger handful seems to be Marty’s skirt-wearing adolescent son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.), who announces he’s trying out for the role of Sandy in his school’s production of Grease.  We learn by the end of the episode that not even Roscoe’s dreams are safe from Marty’s desires as he negotiates his son’s hard won lead role away from him so he can sleep with his stage rival’s mother — during the performance of the show.

Professionally, Marty and his Pod (his consulting group – I really hate business jargon – I’m convinced it’s created by men with very small penises) must win the New York City mortgage banking client, MetroCapital (one of the evil companies that helped ruin our economy).  His contact and rival, Greg Norbert (Greg Germann who has never failed to entertain me yet), go head to head although they really should be on the same team.  Marty and his Pod expense a night with strippers as a legitimate business dinner.  Really?  Ok that was really just pathetic.  No, I’m not a prude, but strippers?  That is just unimaginative and honestly, the only thing that saves that narrative misstep is the payoff when Marty’s stripper pretends to be his wife at business dinner with Norbert the next night.

By the end of the first episode, I’m intrigued enough to want to keep watching this show, because the characters are appropriately flawed and will do things that will get them into enough trouble to keep me entertained.   And it looks like Greg Germann will appear in more episodes and he’s a great foil every time.  Not that Marty’s greatest foil isn’t simply himself and his screwed up desires.  But a little extra always helps.

Californication: Season 5 “JFK to LAX” premiere review

11 Jan

I was not sure how I felt about Hank Moody (David Duchovny) coming back for another season.  Not that I don’t love Hank.  I do.  But after last season and the whole statutory rape trial and the ending, which seemed like a series finale more than a season finale (which is how the producers meant for it to look since they were not sure if the show was definitely coming back at that point in negotiations), I didn’t know where Hank could go to be happy.  Or miserable.  Since he is always happiest or maybe at peace when he is mostly unhappy with everything.  But I shouldn’t have worried on Hank’s account.   Hank is still Hank, even if Tom Kapinos takes us a few years into the future at the beginning of Season 5.  Because in this episode, Hank leaves New York City to come back to Los Angeles for work and to get away from the most recent crazy woman he dumps.  Since there are always a few crazy women in Hank’s life.  Hank’s written a new best seller, titled what else but…. Californication and now he’s been invited out to the West Coast to work with a notorious rapper/actor, Samurai Apocalypse.  Or Apocalypse Samurai (does it really matter with a name like that?) played by RZA.  Can’t anyone just have kind of normal names anymore?

SPOILER ALERT:

A plane ride with Hank would not be complete if he didn’t at least try to get laid while in the air.  He does try, but fails.  Not because his participant, Kali (Meagan Good) was unwilling, but because an old lady needs the toilet and kicks them out.  She leaves without giving him her information, but we know they will meet again.   This is Hank Moody after all.  But Hank doesn’t have time to dwell on lost partners because Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) has arrived in the quintessential Hank Moody ride, a convertible black Porsche, complete with his two and a half year toddler in tow, spawn of Charlie and Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

If I tell you all the sexual situations you encounter, it will take away from the fun of watching the episode yourself, which you can currently watch online at Showtime.  But you won’t be disappointed.  Marcy and Charlie are divorced.  Karen (Natascha McElhone) has remarried her former professor (also a novelist), Richard ( Jason Beghe), who got in a fist-fight with Hank in a previous season.  The only reason Hank probably doesn’t assault him now is that Richard doesn’t like Becca’s (Madeleine Martin) new boyfriend, Tyler (Scott Michael Foster), who is essentially Hank at 24.  Karma’s a bitch Hank…

Since things seem to be going a bit too smoothly in Hank’s life, we get to discover, along with Hank, the chick who almost entered the mile-high club with Hank, Kali, is Samurai Apocalypse’s girlfriend.  And seriously, wouldn’t you be looking elsewhere as well if your boyfriend has a stupid name like that?  I, for one, am looking forward to all of Hank’s screw ups this season.  And unlike a real boyfriend, I can forgive him for all his character flaws since he keeps me entertained.

Young Adult: When women refuse to grow up

19 Dec

Charlize Theron in "Young Adult."

Most of my friends are married with children. And I am happy for them.  I prefer not to be married with children.  At least so far.  And as I sat watching Young Adult, I couldn’t help but sickly identify with and enjoy the anti-heroine, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), who lived in her own narcissistic slightly delusional world and decided that to be happy, she would go back to her hometown and win back her old boyfriend who has just become a new father.  Diablo Cody who has written both Juno and Jennifer’s Body expertly creates a female character who is searching for happiness in all the wrong places, which is something most women tend to do, expertly.  Jason Reitman brings her words onto the screen seamlessly.  Perhaps that is because he directed Juno and produced Jennifer’s Body.  The previous collaboration illustrates what happens when writers and directors understand each other’s goals and intentions with films.

What is so appealing about this film is that Mavis Gary is unapologetically selfish, something women are never allowed to be.  She is saying and doing things most women fantasize about doing when they hit a point in their lives, usually between about 35-40 when they realize they haven’t ever been happy and they have no idea what happiness constitutes for them.  This is the story about a woman who has settled, even though she believed she had evaded settling.  The only difference between Mavis and the women from her hometown, besides her extraordinary drinking abilities, is that she settled in Minneapolis instead of her small town.  It takes  her experience in the small town to realize what she won’t settle for by the end of the film.

One of the most compelling aspects of Mavis’ character  is that she sees absolutely nothing wrong with destroying a happy marriage for her own pleasure.  Now yes, on the surface that sounds despicable and completely irredeemable, but there is something fascinating about watching a character do things most of us would find so wrong we could only fantasize about doing them.  And that is what Mavis is all about – living out her fantasy.  And that is a dangerous game to play.  Because she has done everything else she has wanted to do, had a successful career, that is now not so successful, had a marriage that was no so successful, and had her first romance that was not so successful.  Mavis wants to do something spectacular, and, honestly, to just keep herself busy and there is one way to keep yourself busy and put off your life and that is to create great drama in it.  The more drama you create, the less you have to actually live a purposeful life.  But sometimes, actually most times, to a character like Mavis, a purposeful life, one as a wife and a mother (which is how a purposeful life is illustrated in this film), seems like it would be no more fun than prison.

While there are many types of women in the world, there is one line that is silently drawn and that is the line between women who want children and women who don’t want children.  And it seems that there is always a question about what is wrong with these women, who go against nature and do not have children.  Who decide they prefer to live a life without caring for babies and that choice, first and foremost, it appears, makes these women seem selfish.  Is that my assessment of these women?  No.  Because loads of horrible selfish women become mothers.  Are these women more evolved than the women who still feel the need to breed?  Who knows.  But what I find compelling is that in this film, Mavis Gary is a neurotic, narcissist who has no problem attempting to destroy a happy home for her own selfishness.  What I find even more disturbing, however, is that her romantic rival invites her into her home, feeling that she is far superior as she is stable and evolved and really all Mavis needs is kindness and compassion – at least that’s her attitude on the surface.  She almost flaunts her condescending attitude toward Mavis who actually doesn’t really need or what kindness and compassion.  She just wants happiness but doesn’t know or understand what it is.

SPOILER ALERT:

This film illustrates figures of so many women, all not quite satisfied no matter where they are in life.  Mavis, you could argue, represents a composite of all of them.  She is the embodiment of unchecked emotion run amok.  She also represents a complicated figure for women in the movie and in real life:  she serves as both a warning to women who do not choose the traditional route to follow in life and inspiration for those women who are too afraid to choose any path.  In one of the most embarrassing scenes in the film, we watch Mavis as she hears what her old boyfriend really thinks of her and what her former friends think of her.  It’s disheartening enough for her end up in bed, having sex with the physical cripple, Matt (Patton Oswalt), in the film, a mirror to herself as an emotional cripple.  It isn’t the sex that f’ixes Mavis.  She doesn’t get fixed.  She does realize that she is missing something and feels like there is something wrong with her and she needs to change, although I’m hard-pressed to ever see her becoming a happy housewife and mother, she would end up killing herself like poor Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road.  No Mavis was never cut out to live in a small town and be a mom, which is really what she needs to hear from Matt’s sister, Sandra (Collette Wolfe), in one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve heard in a long time.

No.  Mavis is still in her Young Adult phase.  The phase she excels writing about.  The phase she is most comfortable in, when we are at are most selfish in life.  Sandra, too, was also stuck in the same Young Adult phase and it a shining example that you don’t have to be a selfish narcissist to be in a regressive spot.  You just have to be scared of life and taking chances on your own.  What this film illustrates is that all the characters are still in a Young Adult phase and nobody completely grows out of it.  Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), might enjoy being a new dad but he doesn’t admit he likes all Mavis’ attention and won’t even acknowledge the drunken kiss they share on his doorstep, in front of the babysitter.  Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), his wife, was just as regressive really, playing in her fourth-rate girl band at the local bar/restaurant and dedicating the same high school song that represented love for Mavis, to her husband, which illustrates Buddy doesn’t have much of an imagination and simply substituted one girl for another.  If Mavis hadn’t had her miscarriage early on, she too could be a teacher of emotionally handicapped children and a loser drum player in a band in nowhere town.  Beth is so desperate for fun, she’s willing to let her rival take her husband home in order to party and be away from her marriage.  In some ways, Beth is an even more disturbing figure to me than Mavis, as she has her husband and child and although she claims to love them and be happy, she is letting a malevolent force into her life and throwing caution to the wind.  Any sane woman would not be insisting her husband invite his ex-girlfriend who obviously still loves him to their home, to her mini-concert and to the baby naming.  And to have her husband do it as well is just a little more disturbing.

Each character has visual tells about how they hold on to their young adulthood.  Beth has her drums, Matt has his dolls he creates and Mavis, she surrounds her life with juvenile things.  She writes young adult novels.  Actually ghost writes them which is an even bigger sign she’s not quite ready to put her name on her work and acknowledge herself as a writer, she wears Hello Kitty t-shirts, drives drunk, and toward the end of the film, starts driving her old car from high school.  She hangs out where she can hear teenage girls talk and adds their conversations into her novels.  When she’s upset she eats her ice cream and pigs out at the local KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut (honestly this concept of putting two or more fast food restaurants together at the same place is both appealing and somehow a horrific hybrid to me but I secretly love getting Long John Silvers and drinking A&W root beer) and orders from all menus.  And just when you think she is far too juvenile, she ‘dresses up’ and looks like an adult.  Until we witness her actions.  Mavis’ life to this point is essentially an elaborate masquerade that is starting to come apart at the seams.

All these characters are stuck.  Some think they are happy and other’s know they are miserable.  Only Mavis has a short epiphany that she needs to do something to change, but instead, she listens to Sandra who tells her she must stay greedy and selfish and serve as an inspiration to people like Sandra.  It will probably take Mavis a few more years to figure out that yes, she does have to change, but that would entail learning how to love someone other than herself and as the film ends, she is satisfied with that.

The Big Bang Theory: the sexual politics of the socially challenged in “The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition”

20 Nov

Amy Farrah Fowler: newfound object of desire

Sheldon Leonard (Jim Parsons) is what I call… socially retarded.  Yes, I know that is a politically incorrect word to use but challenged honestly doesn’t even begin to cover his problems when interacting with others.  Since the introduction of Amy Farrah Folwer (Mayim Bialik), his issues have only expanded since now Sheldon has entered, well, pre-pubescence.  It is a crap shoot whether or not he will ever become an even halfway competent sexual being but I have a feeling Amy Farrah Fowler can push Sheldon’s buttons beyond anything his vast little brain can comprehend.  And I look forward to seeing the sexual domination of Sheldon by Amy even though I’m not quite sure if that is truly a conquest worth bragging about for any woman.

What I always find amazing is how confident men are once they think they have a woman hooked.  It tends to be this smugness that usually leads to their loss of their love object at some point, then their subjection, I mean, their compromise and capitulation to having a relationship with rules and clearly defined expectations;  in this case, outlined by Sheldon’s ridiculous relationship agreement.  Of course, if men could be that clear with what they expected from us up front, I believe there would be less divorce.  Because there would be less marriage once the women understood they are marrying children.  Now before every male gets his penis in an uproar, I’m just calling it like I see it.   Because it seems to be the norm for the male to put out as little emotional effort as possible while at the same time expecting the female to shower him with love, attention and kindness mixed with the perfect measure of indifference because as every female has probably learned, if you don’t throw some indifference into the mix, you are essentially a doormat.  Worse, you are taken for granted.  Perhaps one of the best moments in the episode is when Howard (Simon Helberg) muses, “… are you telling me that Sheldon’s patented blend of condescension and no sex isn’t enough to hold a woman?”

It appears Howard’s rhetorical question does indeed have an answer and that is NO.  Even apparently, Amy Farrah Fowler has her limits and she can only tolerate disappointment for a year.  It’s a moment every woman who has been in love with someone who toys with her dreads:  the moment when someone else is interested in you.  It’s a moment of disappointment that your object of affection can’t get it together to step up to the plate but at the same time, it’s a glimmer of hope, that perhaps it isn’t you that is flawed after all.  So, when Amy Farrah Fowler accepts the date with Stuart (Kevin Sussman) it is an opportunity to see what it is like to go out with someone who appreciates her and isn’t afraid to show it.  Although Stuart may not be the love of Amy Farrah Fowler’s life, she is learning. albeit late, that sometimes it’s a nice change not to feel taken for granted.  That can be a dangerous thing for her love object though, because then the female becomes aware of the power she didn’t realize she had and once she does comprehend this newfound knowledge, she can use it any way she sees fit.  Of course, in terms of karma one is better off using it for good, not evil.  The evil will come back and bite you in the ass every time.

Although Amy Farrah Fowler does not realize it, she is driving Sheldon mad with jealousy.  And watching Sheldon go to Penny‘s (Kaley Cuoco) and ask her out on a date is a good lesson for all of us females to learn.  Because suddenly we see that any males we might care about who do not seem capable of taking action, can indeed take action and drastic action at that if the female in question does not matter to him emotionally.  We have never see Sheldon ask someone out on a date through the show and suddenly, he goes so far out of his league even Penny is shocked.  Penny realizes this is Sheldon’s retaliation by trying to make Amy Farrah Fowler jealous by asking her (Amy Farrah Fowler’s bestie) out.  The strange self-confidence men have when the women mean nothing to them and they are happy to use women is something I will always find baffling.  It isn’t that the men will use the women.  Women will use men just as much.  It’s the strange self confidence that is baffling because with a woman, if she doesn’t have self confidence with men then that is basically true across the board.  It doesn’t matter how hot or nerdy he is.  The most interesting aspect of this is that Sheldon, someone who doesn’t seem to have a sex drive, even unconsciously understands how to hit your love object where it might hurt the most, going out with her best friend and illustrating not only a double betrayal but exposing how badly he is secretly hurt.

I will give Sheldon credit though.  At least he is smart enough to listen to Penny and not play games but go directly to Amy and talk.  On her date.  Even that is preferable to a very long drawn out sequence of game playing which for Sheldon, seems like it might have been preferable for at least a season if not two.  No, Sheldon shocks all of us and does something actually as grown up as it can be for him.  He goes to Amy Farrah Fowler on her date because he actually cannot bear the thought of her being in a movie theater with another man.  And it is at that moment that Amy Farrah Fowler finally moves from being an inexperienced girly woman to becoming a full-fledged woman.  She now sees that Sheldon cares.  Something she has been waiting to see and hear for over a year.  And she won’t allow him to ask her to become his girlfriend in a roundabout indirect way (dear men:  it is insulting when you insist on being indirect as THAT is a form of game playing and power control, implying that we are not good enough to warrant direct interaction).  As soon as he starts with his hedging, she cozies up to poor Stuart who has unfortunately become a pawn.  It only takes Sheldon seeing Amy Farrah Folwer move a few inches away from him and closer to Stuart that sends him over the edge and directly as her what she has been waiting to hear for so long:  will she be his girlfriend?  She unhesitatingly says yes.  Naively.  Because those of us who know emotionally withholding men know she has gotten a bad deal already.  Oh but Amy will learn sooner than she thinks.

No sooner does Amy arrive home from her date but she finds Sheldon has broken into her apartment and is waiting for her, not the actions of a healthy relationship but one that indicates Sheldon might just stalk Amy now.  He already started with watching Stuart on Facebook.  His possessiveness will most likely only expand as the season continues.  Because now that Sheldon has exposed his feelings (the the extent he is capable of which isn’t much) and now that he knows other men can find Amy Farrah Fowler attractive, there will always be the implied sexual threat of another man.  What will be interesting is to see if Amy Farrah Fowler can figure out that she can dangle this in front of Sheldon when he gets out of line, or rather, doesn’t get in line.  Or even hold her hand.  Because the non-sexual relationship will implode soon enough.  Amy has what she wants, or at least the first installment of Sheldon.  But she is going to soon violate terms of that relationship agreement as she discovers she is acting more like Sheldon’s mother and care-giver than girlfriend.  Amy’s compromise – what she is willing to give up in order to get Sheldon as a boyfriend, the emotional and sexual aspect of the relationship, will create untold trauma for both.  Currently, she substitutes closeness with female friends.  But very soon this will be emotionally unsatisfying and will blow up in Sheldon’s face.  Because Amy is horny.  And in all fairness, she has been waiting long enough.  Poor Sheldon.  He’s going to be in for quite a ride when Amy violates the relationship agreement and he learns that he cannot control female desires.  I have a feeling this season will be a bumpy ride for the new couple.  But maybe with a bit of behavioral therapy, Sheldon can get past being and acting like a child emotionally and start to be a man.  I, for one, think it’s time.

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