Romi Stepovich’s answer to Were there any workplace comedies – film or TV – before women became a significant presence in the white collar workforce?

8 Mar

In terms of television, I think it’s significant to note that in I Love Lucy, Lucy is constantly trying to become a presence in the workforce but is continually thwarted by Ricky.  That entire show is about a woman attempting to break out of the housewife mold and find her place in a working world.

Along with all the Katherine Hepburn/Spenser Tracy films listed above, there is a Fritz Lang musical/comedy/noir (yes you read that right), You and Me (1938), written by Virginia Van Upp, the same writer who wrote the classic noir, Gilda.

There are also two Ernst Lubitsch comedies worth seeing.  The first is Trouble in Paradise (1932) starring Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis and Herbert Marshall. This one is a treat since it falls into the Pre-Code Hollywood Era and has far more bad morals all around without that punishment you get after 1934 if your film characters misbehave.  There is also the tamer film, The Shop Around the Corner (1940) starring Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart.

There is also Pillow Talk (1959) one of many Doris Day/Rock Hudson workplace comedies that deals directly with the anxiety of women entering the workforce. I’m listing this one since it is on the cusp of your list but technically from the end of World War II forward you have the problem of women as a permanent fixture in the workforce and where they “belong.”  You will notice that you get many more noir films during and after World War II with women working and that choice emasculating men.  And if they aren’t noir, they are melodramas about women being bad wives or mothers if they want a career and a marriage.       That is another list entirely…

Were there any workplace comedies – film or TV – before women became a significant presence in the white collar workforce?

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.

Revenge: “Infamy” episode review

24 Jan

Sometimes in a series there are episodes that just don’t grab me.  This one falls into that category.  I had to restart it 7 times.    There is too much and not enough happening at the same time.  Instead of wasting my time, writing about an episode that took me about 3 hours to watch with me continually zoning out, I’m going to give a very short recap.

Conrad (Henry Czerny) gives Daniel (Joshua Bowman) partial access to his trust.  He can have the cash but he can’t have voting shares in the company until he is 30 or married.  Gee, I wonder where that story line is going…

Mason Treadwell (Roger Bart), an author made famous by writing about David Clarke (David Tupper), comes back for a visit.  We get to watch flashbacks in which poor Emily, then still Amanda Clarke, decides to trust Mason Treadwell and sadly believes the lies he ends up writing about her father, having no idea at the time the Conrad and Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) bribed him.  I do like how Emily (Emily VanCamp) decides to get this wanker back though… first she sends faux Amanda (Margarita Levieva) to talk with Treadwell and sets up a contentious meeting between the two, then (SPOILER ALERT),Emily burns down Treadwell’s house while Nolan (Gabriel Mann) pretends to be interested in hiring him to do his biography.  At the same time, Victoria wants Treadwell to find out from faux Amanda why she has returned to the Hamptons.

Amanda is ramping up in every sense of the word.  Kissing girls in the bar, pretending like she’s staring in Coyote Ugly, and getting more jealous by the minute about Jack’s (Nick Wechsler) closeness with Emily.

One thing Emily rescues are the taped interviews with her father and she finds out some news I know I suspected from the start – that Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) is his daughter.  We all know Emily won’t be welcoming her with open arms.  Poor Charlotte is probably really screwed now…

Once Upon A Time: “Desperate Souls” episode review

13 Jan

This is the episode where we learn exactly how Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) turned… evil.  Not that he didn’t have his issues before he was imbued with magic.  And in Storybrooke, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Mr. Gold join in an unlikely alliance for her to become sheriff.  He also gives Emma Sheriff Graham’s old walkie talkies so she and Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) can play together.   A rare moment of kindness on Mr. Gold’s part.

It’s almost disarming to witness Rumplestiltskin as a kind, loving, and protective parent.  His son (I actually thought it was a girl at first oops!), is about to turn 14 and be drafted into the ogre wars (seriously?  ogre wars?).  He’ll do anything to make sure his son doesn’t have to fight including running away.  And this isn’t the first time, apparently, as a young man, he deserted his army and caused many lives to be lost in the ogre wars.  Who knew ogres could move so fast and fight so efficiently?  So now a chief knight has it in for Rumplestiltskin once he and his son are caught but the son shows he has integrity.  He’s willing to be drafted and fight.  And while he gets high on his own testosterone, Rumplestiltskin gets some advice from a beggar (Brad Dourrif) on the side of the forest road:  he should get the dagger that holds the Dark One’s name and then he will have power over the Dark One (at this point we have only seen the Dark One be commanded by the knight and he can do some magic but we don’t know the full extent of his power).  Rumplestiltskin takes his advice and with the help of his son, sets fire to the castle, breaks in and retrieves the dagger.  It turns out the old beggar is really the Dark One and Rumplestiltskin ends up killing him with the dagger and inherits all the magic powers.  Now at least we have some idea about him.

In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold deliberately starts a fire at City Hall and Emma saves Regina (Lana Parrilla).  She becomes a hero but discovers Mr. Gold was the culprit and outs him at the debate for the upcoming Sheriff election.  She stands up to Mr. Gold and Regina then walks away from her political debate resulting in her getting elected as Sheriff.  Later, Mr. Gold reveals that he orchestrated everything because he knew she’d stand up to him and gain the people’s trust.  Either way, now Emma has moved into a better position against Regina.  I’m hoping for a lethal, nasty fight.  Because that’s just the way I am…

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.

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