Archive | February, 2012

Revenge: “Commitment” episode review

7 Feb

Our commitment to our choices tells us and others who we are.  Ok.  I will buy that.   I always love the ‘profound’ opening thoughts of Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), philosopher and destroyer of lives.  The big question for Emily is (and this is a spoiler alert):  now that Emily knows Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) is her half-sister, will she alter her plans?  Most likely, no.  But at some point Emily’s humanity will cause her some problems.  I would be willing to bet it will be with Jack (Nick Wechsler).  For now, Emily will try and frame faux Amanda (Margarita Levieva) for burning down Treadwell’s house in the previous episode, while simultaneously using Charlotte as not only a pawn in the divorce between the Graysons but also making sure she can confirm that Charlotte is indeed her half sister.  It’s at times like these the old saying, “you can choose your friends but not your family” comes to mind.  I actually almost feel bad for Charlotte.  She’s going to be screwed.

Sadly for Charlotte, just when things are looking up, they fall apart.  Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny) surprisingly offers to pay for young Declan’s (Connor Paolo) tuition to Charlotte’s school.  This offer is far too good to be true.  What kind of dad would do that?  Apparently not a real dad.  As soon as Conrad learns that Charlotte isn’t his, he not only rescinds the offer of Declan’s tuition, he rejects her and sends her to live with her mother.  Not a very nice move.  In fact, such a crappy move that it makes Conrad even more unlikable than he was before.  Which I didn’t think was possible.  This raises the stakes later in the drama as Grayson is surely being set up at some point to be killed off.  At least that is my guess.  You don’t make a character a terrorist, a ruthless capitalist pig and a bad father without him ending up paying some sort of price as the stakes raise.

Daniel (Joshua Bowman) proposes to Emily, who says yes.  Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) suspects that Amanda burned down Treadwell’s house.  She sends someone to find evidence in Jack’s place that will expose Amanda as the arsonist and thief  who stole the tapes revealing that Charlotte was hers and David Clarke’s (James Tupper).  Jack, however, manages to walk in while the perpetrator retrieves the tapes and ends up getting badly beaten.  Obviously it is dangerous to be a friend or acquaintance of Emily Thorne’s.

In the end though, it seems that it is even more dangerous to be the child of Victoria Grayson.  Especially since she would lie to her own son and claim David Clarke raped her rather than just admit she cheated on his father.    But we all know her lies will catch up soon enough.  And I’m not sure how I feel about this.  My overarching question is:  will Victoria be punished for being a bad mother or a bad person?   It isn’t her being a bad mother that caused so much pain, it is about her being a selfish person.  And while one can be a bad mother and a selfish person, I don’t always believe that one continually informs the other.  Or maybe it does.  I do know that while Conrad Grayson is a bad father we are supposed to consider him an evil person above everything else.  Perhaps it is because with men, they don’t always have a choice about becoming a father, but in at least free, democratic societies with equal rights and proper government funding, women do have the choice whether or not they want to be a mother.

As this episode ends, Daniel stupidly seals his own fate by telling Emily that he’d send her own father to hell for raping his mother if her father weren’t dead already.  So Emily decides to move forward with her plan and marry for revenge.  Is that any worse than marrying for money?  We are about to find out.

Smash: will it rise and shine or crash and burn?

7 Feb

I probably shouldn’t admit this but I am not a Glee fan.  Oh I started out liking it well enough.  It was new and fresh for about five or six episodes.  I didn’t actually like the cast’s renditions of songs.  Then it hit me:  I don’t like the show because they are ruining songs I like, or performing songs I already can’t stand.  So I stopped watching Glee.  I’m very touchy about music.   And I wasn’t sure what to make of Smash.  I decided, however, to keep a very open mind when a friend of mine invited me to a private preview screening.  I’m glad I did because after watching the pilot, not only did I enjoy it, I found myself looking forward to the next episode and hoping I would not be disappointed.  And that is a tall order to fill because what tends to happen when I like the pilot is that I end up disliking the series.  Not always, but a lot.

The series, created by veteran TV producer and Pulitzer Prize nominated writer Theresa Rebeck, follows the making of a musical about Marilyn Monroe bound for Broadway.  Debra Messing plays Julia Houston, a powerhouse Broadway writer who should be taking time off to adopt a baby (not sure why she needs another child because they already have one), but gets obsessed with the idea of Marilyn, The Musical.  Her professional partner and composer, Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) hopes to help launch his old friend’s career, Ivy (Megan Hilty), who has never seemed to make it further than the chorus line or in smaller supporting roles.  Trouble ensues when Broadway producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Houston) joins their ranks and insists on bringing in Tom’s arch rival/nemesis, Derek Wills (Jack Davenport – one of my favorite TV actors from both Coupling and FlashForward).  Personalities clash as Levitt firmly falls in the Ivy camp while Wills fights for newcomer and underdog (who won’t sleep with him – the ultimate turn on for any power player), Karen (Katharine McPhee).  It looks like it will be a battle until at least perhaps… the third or fourth episode?  Maybe it will keep it’s momentum.  And stay a well-done, top notch show.

If you have taken a film history class and remember what you studied, you will know that as a genre, musicals always do well during economic depressions.  Since we are most definitely in an economic depression world wide, Smash should be a continued success.  Until the economy turns around.  And if that is the case, it might be a hit for quite a while.

Smash airs on NBC on Mondays at 10/9 central.

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.

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