My exams have been over for a week and a half, so naturally I’ve been inhaling TV like a bowl of spicy wedges with sour cream. If we’re being COMPLETELY honest the TV-inhalation started during the exams, in fact the exam period is generally my peak TV-watching period. I thought I would kickstart my new attempt at regular non-tumblr-blogging with a round-up of some of the things I’ve been watching recently and my random thoughts about them.
I’m going through a bit of a Christine Baranski obsession at the moment (OMGSHE’SSOAMAZINGILOVEHER) so I watched all four seasons of Cybill on youtube. For those of you who don’t know, Cybill is a 90s sitcom featuring the apparently famous Cybill Sheridan (I’d seriously never heard of her, except about three eps in I realised she was madam-sexy-film-lady in The L Word, so there’s that) playing herself, except in a world where she isn’t famous. Cybill Shepherd (we see what you did there) deals with her flagging career as a character-actress, her two ex-husbands (one stunt man, one neurotic lawyer-turned-acclaimed-author), her two daughters (one of which, played by Alicia Witt, is the most ridiculously beautiful person I’ve ever seen) and her boozy, criminally-obsessive best friend Maryann (CHRISTINE MY ANGEL) who spends her entire life trying to get back at her ex-husband by covering his stereo in molasses. Among other things.
It’s a typical mostly banal sitcom but for some reason (probs Christine Baranski) I watched like 80 episodes of it. It has its moments of brilliance though, like Tony Bennet showing up and hanging out in bed with Cybill and Maryann. Or any time Cybill and Maryann sing. It’s also a showcase of 90s before-they-were-famous moments (featuring such Hollywood giants as Jane Lynch, Seth Green, Dot Marie Jones and that guy who played John Hoynes in the West Wing). I think what kept me watching it though were the sincere, if often forced in terms of the tone, references to what I would call ‘women’s issues’ if I were a rural vicar in sixties Britain. The show deals with things like menopause and periods, with double standards about ageing in Hollywood and its obsession with beauty.
Also Christine Baranski wears ridiculous outfits, drinks vodka martinis like water, commits criminal damage and sneers her ex-husband’s nickname ‘Doctor Dick’ every ten seconds.
The whole thing is on youtube (BLESS YOU INTERNET) so have a go. It is in no way important television, but it’s fun. Watch out for the creepy nineties-spirituality/rampant cultural appropriation though. It’s self-aware appropriation a lot of the time, but still.
This show is the cutest. It’s on ABC family, so it’s obviously full of cheese and is a little lacking in the subtlety department, but I love it. Mostly because of Stef and Lena, the two mums (I nearly wrote ‘moms’ there, has it come to this?!) of the Foster family. Stef is my favourite, she’s a police officer who seems to have to wear her uniform in almost every scene (kinky) and manages to be cagey and emotionally available at the same time. Lena is awesome too, if a little too willing to let herself become too invested in things. The kids are interesting for the most part: Brandon is a little bland, Jesus is such a cutie and Mariana is your typical self-involved 14-year-old with very little understanding of how her actions have consequences. This is of course complicated by the fact that her birth mother is back in the picture. The most interesting character is of course the Fosters’ foster kid Callie (did they REALLY have to call them ‘the Fosters’?) who is dark and beautiful and mysterious. I think the greatest appeal of the show is that it features a multi-racial family with two mums and some foster kids, which allows a lot of very important things to be discussed. For example, the latest episode includes a conversation between Lena and her mother about light-skinned privilege and what it is to be black in the USA which (as has been pointed out by people smarter than me) is an amazing thing to happen on US TV. Additionally to the show being great, the Autostraddle recaps are worth reading even if you don’t watch.
If you follow my tumblr you’ll know that I am a rabid fannibal. Now that the He-Ate-Us has begun (yes, we know, we’re out of control obsessed, leaning towards pathetic. Just realise that there’s no more episodes until next year, so it can only get worse. Hopefully not Sherlock-level worse though) I am of course re-re-re-watching the whole thing. I just re-watched Oeuf (or as the USians appear to be weirdly calling it: Ceuf. Yeah I don’t know either) and come things fell into place in my mind about that episode. (Warning: spoilers are forthcoming). The threads of the episode’s discrete and ongoing plots are expertly wound together, but in a much more subtle way than Meredith’s voiceovers in Grey’s Anatomy, so they don’t feel as moralising as these kind of theme-eps usually do. As my friend Jon would say: you can’t see the edges in this show. The contrast between Molly Shannon’s character’s attempts to make a family by violence and Hannibal’s artful manipulation of the vulnerable Abigail serves to make Hannibal all the more terrifyingly compelling as a character. Probably because although her methods are chilling, MS does what she does out of her own twisted need for love, whereas the creation of Abigail’s new ‘family’ is done entirely to serve Hannibal’s as yet unrevealed agenda. I’m not sure that any of that made sense, but you should watch the show anyway. I think it’s the best crime drama I’ve ever seen. That’s including all the British ones by the way.
Anyway, read that post of Jon’s that I linked to, ’cause it is honestly brilliant.
Top of the Lake
I’ve got one episode to go on Top of the Lake (it’s taken a while to get through it because it is so so hard to watch) and while I can see that it is brilliant, I have my qualms. It’s a great example of the New Zealand Gothic, the lake and the landscapes acting as powerful characters in the story, and the mystery is extremely compelling, but I have problems with the way it is portraying NZ. I and every other New Zealander who watches the show will know that it features a New Zealand which doesn’t actually exist. We don’t allow minors to be interviewed alone by police officers, we don’t call mental health hospitals ‘asylums’ anymore (because we’re not 1890s Britain: newsflash) and I’m pretty sure that Queenstown is not actually a drug-fueled millionaire’s playground rife with child prostitution. Also rapists don’t get treated like prisoners at Guantanamo, they either escape investigation, get prosecuted or go on to have a successful sporting career. I’m not denying that these things happen in NZ by any means, but Top of the Lake makes the South Island look like a modern AU Game of Thrones, complete with a character who is a mixture of Balon Greyjoy and Craster (Matt Mitcham, obvs) and one who I’m pretty sure is going to turn out to be the Littlefinger of the piece, perhaps with a drop of Walder Frey (Al Parker). I’m surprised that Jane Campion, a New Zealander, was comfortable presenting NZ as an incredibly backwards place, especially as I don’t think it was necessary to the drama of the show. I just hope that people who watch it (especially Brits who it was made for) don’t think that our country is actually like Top of the Lake. In fact, we are increasingly turning into the United Kingdom. This must be how Swedish people feel.
I’m 3/4 through a re-watch of the Good Wife (Christine Baranski, duh) and I don’t have much more to say beyond COME BACK GOOD WIFE I NEED YOU. Except: I have come to the realisation that Kalinda Sharma basically IS the girl from Short Skirt/Long Jacket by Cake. ‘I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity / who uses a machete to cut through red tape. / With fingernails that shine like justice / and a voice that is dark like tinted glass / she is fast and thorough and sharp as a tack…’ Seriously. That is Kalinda.
Meh. If the whole show was about Gina Torres’ character then maybe I would get more into it, but it just feels to me like yet another show about a straight white male mentor-mentee relationship, but without anything different to hook me in. The fact that Michelle Fairley is going to show up at some point may be enough to keep me going, but two-thirds through season one I’m still unconvinced. I was amused by a suggestion from a work mate that Mike Ross is a young and impressionable Jeff Winger though. Think about it: they even have the same forehead.