Hello everyone, as always I hope all is well. This piece was intended to run last Tuesday and then today you’d get a different column but I didn’t turn one in due to the fact that over my spring break my grandfather suffered a debilitating heart attack and over the week I dealt with both the emotions and me and my family before he finally died on Saturday.
Suffice it to say I didn’t feel like writing at all but now that I’ve had a chance to catch up on movies, and TV I present to you a bloated column designed to clear some shows off the books (“Luck”, “Shameless”, “Justified”, “Eastbound and Down”) and introduce a new one (“Mad Men”). So starting next week we will have sleeker columns featuring “Mad Men”, an occasional pilot (“Girls” and “Veep”), and the movie (or movies depending on the week). I won’t do any news of the week considering that we have a TON of stuff to catch up on so that’ll be back next week.
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I would officially like to light a candle and say a few words about the end of “Luck”. Obviously it had to go considering the horse deaths but I wish they could’ve made it work. The show was really starting to find itself as it ended its first and only season. David Milch did an amazing job on this series and I’ll miss the racing sequences, making fun of Nick Nolte’s voice (my buddy Justin and I thought it sounded like a blown speaker), the clever dialogue, the beautiful shots of Santa Anita, the character interactions, and the degenerate gamblers. I’m glad that they were classy (unlike “American Horror Story”) and didn’t enter themselves into the Miniseries category for the Emmys.
Now that the eulogy is out of the way, let’s get to the reviews. I’m pleased to announce we have new destinations on our journey which requires me to break out my Delorean time machine because we will now be going back to the 1960’s. We will also be going to the land of Westeros. The Delorean isn’t quite fired up yet, so we will begin in Myrtle Beach.
“Eastbound and Down: Chapter 19/Chapter 20/ Chapter 21”
Last week ended with us being introduced to Kenny’s mom, played by Lilly Tomlin. This week we got to see her in action and see what the Powers family is like when they are all together. The episode begins where last week’s ended and her announcing to the other bowlers that her famous ball player son is coming and her rival has the gall to question his character. She brings up that his steroid and prostitution scandals causing Mrs. Powers to punch her in the face (which makes Kenny’s violent competiveness genetic). She gleefully greets Kenny and Toby at her home but then she becomes upset when Kenny reveals that he brought Stevie, Casper, and Eduardo (he introduces them as part of his Hollywood entourage and tells her that his “magicianist” couldn’t make the trip). I loved the fact that apparently Eduardo had gone out for a pack of smokes and came back 27 years later. He tries to sweet-talk Mrs. Powers and she justifiably knees him in the groin. Kenny’s mom then takes him to her trophy room and instead of having a heart to heart, they trade a variety of pharmaceutical drugs (hidden in her trophies). She even lets Eduardo sleep in the house after he volunteers to just sleep in the RV because he’s still family.
Even though Eduardo and Kenny are there with sinister motives they at least allow themselves to have fun as a family and we are treated to a wonderful montage of the Powers family at the bowling alley. The grandparents play with Toby, Kenny and Casper trade sex stories and moves, then fight while playing pool and even Stevie gets to participate. The night ends with Kenny in his room smoking a joint and his mom coming in to remind him of the house rule (don’t smoke if you don’t intend to share). Kenny asks his mom for advice about Ivan and dealing with April’s absence and she gives him the pep talk that Shane never could.
This was one of many surprisingly sincere moments and because it’s “Eastbound,” those moments are undercut by selfishness. Kenny catches Eduardo and Casper stealing fine silver (they are the worst thieves in the world, by the way) and Eduardo tries to lie to Kenny about hooking up with his mom once again. When they are confronted by Mrs. Powers, Eduardo bails but not before breaking her heart by telling her that Kenny intended to leave Toby with her permanently (Tomlin plays this moment of devastation perfectly). She agrees to take him but her eyes show how disappointed she is in Kenny. Kenny and Stevie leave (by the way I could never say no to anything involving Kenny on a power vehicle) and Stevie tells Kenny that they are “two broken men” and need to make a clean break. Kenny feeling the rare sensation of shame, decides to forgo his plan and seek forgiveness from his mother.
Kenny shows up at the bowling alley, only to have Eduardo there as well. Eduardo and Kenny are very much cut from the same cloth (to which Kenny reluctantly agrees) and Eduardo sums the two up by saying that they are “tragic heroes in the book of life,” a line that is both poignant and hilarious. Mrs. Powers is off her game and during the last game, the Powers men have competing apologies (Kenny asks to be allowed to prove himself as a father, at least until April comes back) and they are both forgiven because she’s no saint either. She wins her game and they have one last celebratory moment as a family. Eduardo and Casper leave forever (I hope not) and Kenny returns home and actually raises Toby. The episode closes with Kenny’s voiceover stating “most people have things like feelings and sentimental attachments” and for the first time in a while, Kenny does too. I loved this episode and it is clearly the best in the season thus far. Lily Tomlin is incredible and her chemistry with Don Johnson was electrifying. They both deserve some Emmy love but because it’s “Eastbound,” they most likely won’t get any.
“Chapter 19” dealt with how even a dysfunctional family like the Powers’ can come together when needed, “Chapter 20” deals with that in spite of himself Kenny may be able to love someone other then Kenny Powers. All season Kenny has gone out of his way to not allow Toby to cramp his style. The episode starts with Myrtle Beach’s annual Black Biker Week and the return of Kenny’s nemesis (okay, another nemesis) Reg Mackworthy (played once again by the underrated Craig Robinson) who is now the leader of the black biker gang the Grim Creepers (don’t be shocked to see that come up in a ton of fantasy leagues) and sporting an eye patch. He isn’t here to enjoy Black Bike Week, but to exact revenge on Kenny for taking his eye in the first place. Kenny isn’t aware of this yet and is dealing with a suspension from the Mermen and Stevie goes to visit Maria at work (on the side of the highway selling oranges). Stevie spruces himself up by donning a ridiculous wig which is unceremoniously ripped off revealing his bald head covered in glue just as he had finished a heartfelt speech to Maria (poor Stevie can’t catch a break). Things get worse when Stevie discovers that Toby has been stolen out of his back seat.
Kenny and Stevie go in search of baby Toby and find Ashley Schaffer with the Grim Creepers. Will Ferrell is in fine form as Ashley Schaffer (unlike most of “Chapter 15”) and he has realigned with Reg in order to exact revenge on Kenny by breaking his arm (an eye for an eye, so to speak). Kenny and Stevie (dressed as Rambo and Freddy Krueger, respectively) fail to fight off the gang and just when things look bleak for Kenny, Ashley goes over the line by calling Reg his property and is beaten up and in the background, lit on fire (watching Will Ferrell act like he’s on fire is scrumtrulescent, it really is). Reg and Kenny bond over being older athletes and Kenny even tries to get Reg to be a catcher on the Mermen (though Reg only has one eye, so that was a no). Kenny does however get to redeem himself by winning the game when Ivan struggles. The episode ends with the return of April and she comes to take Toby off Kenny’s hands. Danny McBride continues to elevate the brief emotional moments of Kenny. He acts like he is thrilled Toby is going away, but his eyes show us just how much he really loves the kid and brags about the toy he built for him and when April takes him its devastating to see Kenny lose his son. I’m curious to see how much more human Kenny Powers can really be.
The final chapter in the saga of Kenny Powers proved to be a satisfying end to the legend that is La Flama Blanca. We start in Texas where Seth Rogen cameos as a relief pitcher who fails in hitting on some girls at a bar. He tries again outside and is killed after being hit by a bus. This tragedy allows Kenny to be brought up to the big leagues following his epic save in the previous episode. In a scene that felt like a great moment of improv, Kenny and his Mermen manager gleefully trade insults while saying good-bye to each other.
At his apartment, Kenny has Stevie and Maria all set to turn Toby’s room back into a dojo. He sees Toby’s hermit crab which has taken residence inside one of Kenny’s pipes and decides to return it to him. Kenny, Stevie, and Maria throw all of Kenny’s possessions into the ocean and then Stevie tells Kenny that he and Maria are having a baby, Kenny at first reacts selfishly but then releases Stevie from his servitude (a hilariously heartfelt end to one of the most bizarre friendships on TV). After the beach, Kenny barges into his girlfriend’s class for the final time and ends the relationship and rejoices in being a more mature (by his standards) man.
He then visits April who tells him that in Season one when he left her during their trip to Tampa, it hurt her and she knows that she returned the favor. She also tells him that she didn’t just come back for Toby but also for Kenny. In typical Powers fashion, he suppresses his feelings and instead has a man to man talk with one year old Toby, telling him that he will earn every penny and bed every woman for him and he leaves.
On his way to Texas, his eyes show the sadness at leaving April and Toby but he marches on. Kenny gets reunited with Roy McDaniel and they have a prayer centered on Kenny living his dream (and centered around a metaphor about third base that, while it’s funny, I can’t repeat it). He takes the mound and quickly throws two strikes. Before he can scream “You’re f****** Out” on the professional level again, he recognizes the fear in the batters’ eyes and realizes he’s already gotten back what he’s always wanted – to command fear in another human being. Kenny shocks the fans by walking out on the game and driving away. His drinking and driving finally catches up to him when his car careens into off a cliff and it explodes, ultimately ending the life of Kenny Powers. A heartfelt montage featuring all of the characters that Kenny has both positively and negatively touched over the show react to the news with a surprising amount of devastation because whether they liked him or not he was a force of nature and made their lives more exciting. His brother is obviously broken, Cutler smiles in both victory and with a sense of loss, Ashley Schaffer (who is still alive somehow) is sad, his parents grieve, and Stevie takes a somber memorial ride on his jet ski. The twist (that we all sort of see coming) is when April gets a knock at the door and a blonde Kenny greets her (he would’ve been there sooner but he had to get his truck back). He tells her that Kenny Powers had to die so that he may focus on being the husband and father that April deserves to be with. She logically points out that he didn’t have to do that but of course Kenny doesn’t see it that way.
Kenny felt that the myth he’s built is so great that he is always under pressure to live up to it. While that may be a bit of an ego stroke its kind of true and now that he is no longer that man anymore he can now focus all of his manic energy into being a better man and to me that was a fitting end to this story. At the end of the day, I feel that this show was an achievement in television because it always pushed the boundaries of how far we are willing to stay with a character that is a borderline sociopath. Danny McBride did a great job of being likeable enough for us to continue on the journey and Jody Hill and David Gordon Green did a fantastic job of directing the series, and all involved created an experience that can’t be replicated. It’s sad to see the story end but it ended with a bang and a heart. I thank you for sticking it out with me and I’ll leave you with Kenny’s last words to the world “I hope this inspirational novel-story helps to give you inspiration in your attempts to stop being a regular normal person and to start being a champion instead.” Well said, Kenny, and now for the last time, “You’re f****** Out!”
Moving on, we now visit the South Side of Chicago and close out an uneven yet highly enjoyable sophomore season.
“Shameless: Just like the Pilgrims Intended/Fiona Interrupted”
“Shameless” has always had a difficult time balancing all of their characters and the levels of disgusting things that they all do. Sometimes the things they do are justifiable considering the surrounding circumstances but other times it’s clear the writers are trying to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. This episode is more of the latter, unfortunately, and while it does set up some things for the season finale, it didn’t offer much else. After going off her meds, Monica is facing the lows of her bi-polar disorder. The kids try to talk her up but she’s in a morose state. Meanwhile, Carl finds a gun and shoots a bald eagle mistaking it for a duck (even by “Shameless” standards, c’mon) so the family has something to eat for Thanksgiving.
Steve (now going by his real name Jimmy) stops them from serving the bald eagle, gets them a Butterball turkey and Thanksgiving is saved. Lip meanwhile is still living with Jimmy and Estefania whose real husband Marco returns to claim her and attempts to kill Jimmy following the revelation that he and Estefania hooked up. Jimmy solves this by giving Marco his Steve identity (thank God that plot is over) and now Jimmy can be himself again. Lip also awaits the birth of his child and records messages to it to be played later by the baby’s adopted parents.
The big action in the episode occurs when Monica attempts to kill herself and is taken to the hospital where Karen is delivering her child. Lip excitedly greets the adoptive parents and the whole family is in the delivery room awaiting the baby. Lip’s emotionally pistol-whipped when the baby is revealed to be Asian and have Down’s syndrome (making it obviously not his kid), he has to tell the family about the baby and they don’t take the child. Karen doesn’t want it (I hope she’s off the show, by the way, because she’s outlived her place in this universe) and it is left to the hospital. Sheila decides to kidnap it and run off with Jody though she’s seen by the cameras, so that will be addressed next week. Aside from that, Ian goes to the gay club Monica took him to and gets a wealthy sugar daddy in the process. This was a big letdown of an episode and I’m hoping that it’s all set up for a powerful finale. The great thing about “Shameless” though, is that it usually follows an off game with a spectacular game (much like Kobe).
Following the uneven action that we discussed above, the season ends on a note similar to the Thanksgiving episode but with a more satisfying conclusion. The episode beings with Fiona and Steve comforting a grief stricken Debbie and Carl (who knew Carl could be that vulnerable multiple times a season?) and everyone coming to grips with the events of the previous week. Lip is hurt over the baby not being his and Sheila and Jody try to hide the baby from the cops (the dryer was quite clever).
Frank meanwhile tries to organize a scam to get Monica out of the mental ward. The second half of the episode is where things get clunky. Fiona has dinner with Jimmy’s family which only really serves to show how much of the black sheep Jimmy is and to reveal that Ian’s new sugar daddy is Jimmy’s dad (nice on “Shameless,” this means more Harry Hamlin next season). Frank and Debbie “free” Monica from the ward, but because Monica can’t do anything good without immediately doing something bad, she leaves the family again with her new girlfriend. Sheila finally realized that Karen’s toxicity couldn’t be overcome after she makes Sheila choose between keeping Karen around or the baby and Sheila puts her foot down, sending Karen to a rehab facility and hopefully off the show for the foreseeable future. Lip reunites with the family and takes his finals despite not going to school for months (and he passes).
Frank tries to steal Ian’s beer and Frank tries to fight Ian but is knocked out cold by Estefania who, despite not liking the Gallagher clan understands that abuse is universal especially after Marco goes all Chris Brown on her. They leave Frank in the snow and go about their daily lives. Showtime shows are notorious for hitting the reset button every year but in this case it’s fitting because to the Gallagher clan, that’s how life is and the tag with Frank rising out of the snow was a great capper to what has been a flawed but outstanding sophomore effort and I expect the show to continue to grow with season three. As long as Fiona continues to be the nucleus and the universe remains vast but focused. I expect more growth next year. Thank you for reading my “Shameless” recaps, I hope they were either educational or entertaining or somewhere in between.
Moving on, we go to Harlan for the last time in 2012 and close out what has been an amazing third season of “Justified”.
I’ve been dying to know what Graham Yost could possibly be building towards with all of the moving parts he’s put in place all season and what’s funny is that all of the spinning plates took my eyes off what he was really building towards. A parallel to this would be season four of “The Sopranos” where it seemed like the whole season was being built to the moment where Tony kills Ralphie and the fallout therein. What shocked me about that season was it was really about the slow-dissolving Soprano marriage finally collapsing and here, that dynamic comes into play. Sure, we wrap up our time with Robert Quarles (by the way, solid work by Neal McDonough all year) but the season finale reminded us what the show was really about. I’ve always joked that “Justified” is “Walker, Texas Ranger” if it were good but that isn’t fair because this show actually has several deep-seated themes that often go unnoticed because of the rat-a-tat dialogue and gunplay. The show at its core is really about Raylan Givens forever remaining a prisoner of his Kentucky roots and despite all attempts to leave, getting sucked back into Harlan mostly due to his own faults but also due to his family ties.
“Slaughterhouse” implied that there would be mass violence and, while there was some of that, the slaughterhouse in the title was more of an emotional one (and the climax did take place in one). Over the last few weeks, Quarles has gone from would-be conqueror of the Bluegrass state, only to come undone (mostly by Boyd and his own hubris) like a Rivers Cuomo sweater (all the way to lying naked on the floor in fact) and now he’s on the run. After surviving Winn Duffy’s attempt to blow him up, he flees and kidnaps a family (the mother played by former Vic Mackey spouse Cathy Cahlin Ryan) and arranging a buy out with Tonin (can we please get Adam Arkin to come back assuming he isn’t killed by the Sons first?). Quarles owes half a million and we know exactly how he’s going to get it. Boyd meanwhile, ends his business with Limehouse, who reminds Boyd that he knows about Devil’s final resting place and soon finds out who leaked this information. After pointing the finger at Johnny, Arlo confesses, though he’s not sure he did it (but it would make sense, given the dementia). Raylan meanwhile, is called by Quarles and told to meet him in the middle of nowhere and if he didn’t follow instructions, the kid will be killed. He complies and they go to Noble’s Holler in order to collect the Bennett money.
All season, there has been wild speculation as to where the money was and the answer to that question was that it was in front of us all along. Quarles has Limehouse at gunpoint and he reveals that the money was hidden inside the pigs in the slaughter house (“A piggy bank”, squeals Quarles). A fight breaks out and Quarles goes for his wrist gun and he loses said arm at the hands of Limehouse and his cleaver. Raylan saves the day for the time being and Limehouse gets what he wants and with he and Noble’s Holler are left alone. He also gets rid of Errol by allowing him to leave. Boyd, meanwhile is arrested (and in a phone call we find out that Johnny did actually betray Boyd) and in the police station, Raylan and Boyd have an encounter. Boyd tells Raylan that Arlo was more of a father to him then his real father and then we see that Arlo confesses to not only the murder of Devil but to the murder of the sheriff. Raylan is told that Arlo didn’t know he was shooting at a sheriff but just saw a man in a hat pointing a gun at Boyd. This is devastating as it shows just how deep is Arlo’s hatred of Raylan. Raylan now realizes how alone he really is. His cohorts at the office don’t really like him, Art sees him as a nuisance, Winona won’t be at his side because he always brings trouble, and Boyd can never be his friend because they exist on opposite ends of the law.
This was an awesome close to what has been a terrific season and while it was a slight step down from a brilliant second season this is still a thrilling and well written show. Thank you all for being with me and I hope we can continue this excursion into Harlan next year.
“Mad Men: A Little Kiss/Tea Leaves/Mystery Date/Signal 30”
I’ve talked about this show many times over the years and I am thrilled to be finally writing about it. There have already been four episodes (or five if you count the two hour premiere) and I’ve missed a lot so instead of just going through the episodes one by one I’ll just review each character and where they are at this point (trust me this will save time because stories will overlap).
Don: Don is once again in a place of reinvention. After proposing to Megan in season four’s “Tomorrowland” the two are still married and Don is more or less checked out from work. He isn’t the shark he once was and while he is seemingly in love with Megan, he’s also trying to navigate the age and generation gap that exists. In “A Little Kiss” he is embarrassed when Megan (in French) performs the now famous “Zoo bee zoo” number and when he acts like a stick in the mud about it the next day, she seduces him by cleaning their swank new apartment in her underwear and sure enough, it works. He helps Betty through a cancer scare and during a fever dream murders a girl that he was once with (the dream sequence while a little clunky in my opinion was very Soprano-esque and did a great job symbolizing Don’s desire to remain true to Megan). He also is now trying to be a cautionary to Campbell and reveals that if he had met Megan before Betty, the infidelity and divorce wouldn’t have happened. He proves this during a visit to a high class whorehouse where he, Roger, and Campbell are trying to lure a man from Jaguar and he is the only one who doesn’t seek out company for the night (I loved how the madam discreetly refers him to the male version because, why else would he not indulge?) Thus far, Don appears in a state of joy and also middle age misanthropy but, as always with “Mad Men,” nothing is set in stone.
Peggy: At the end of season four, she was upset at having saved the agency more or less but they only cared about Don’s engagement. At this point, she is still trying to break through the glass ceiling and faces some competition in budding copywriter Megan and new hire Michael Ginsberg. She also befriends Don’s newly-hired African American secretary Dawn, but reveals that while she is more enlightened towards racial matters there is still a latent part of her that worries that Dawn will steal her purse. While being constricted in terms of her role at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, she has gotten savvier, for instance she gets Roger to pay her $400 to do weekend work on the down low for him (the scenes between Elizabeth Moss and John Slattery have been wonderfully hilarious all year).
Joan: After finding out that she is having Roger’s baby last season (though she makes sure her husband thinks it’s his) she is taking care of baby Kevin. Greg is still in Vietnam and she is contending with her meddling mother and wanting to get back into the office. Upon returning she is reminded that she is missed by Lane who holds her administrative skills in the highest regard and she is reaffirmed in her relevance at the firm. Greg returns to meet his infant son and reveals to Joan that he reenlisted to her dismay. Vietnam is the only place where his surgical skills are appreciated and Joan reminds him that he is more then a surgeon but a husband and father. He selfishly chooses to feel like a man rather then be a doctor stateside so Joan drops him like third period French (if you’re reading Armando, you’re welcome). Now that she is back at work and her mom stays with her full time, Joan is once again the super administrator she’s always been.
Roger: Roger Sterling is finding out that it’s no country for old men at SCDP. At the end of season four, he had lost the only account he was responsible for in Lucky Strike and now, like Bert Cooper, is a powerless figurehead. Campbell consistently undermines Roger’s attempts to steal clients (the fake 6 a.m. meeting in Staten Island was genius) and he has to bribe people to get small victories (i.e. getting Harry to give Campbell his office or Peggy to do some secret copy work for him, and he and his wife trade insults). Roger asks Don “When is everything going to go back to normal” and the answer is it never will. The ’60s were obviously a generational shift and Roger is on the wayside of all of that. He is not the man he wrote about in his memoir “Sterling’s Gold” a book that, like Krusty the Klown’s autobiography, was self-serving with many glaring omissions. His only comfort is that he is now the go-to guy in schmoozing a client and reveals his trade secrets to Lane. The great thing about Roger that even in the face of losing his power, he can still deliver the best quips on TV.
Pete Campbell: Pete has a lot to be happy about these days. He and Trudy have a beautiful daughter and house in the suburbs, he’s moving up in the company and gets an office with a window (at the bribery of Roger), and is finally becoming the new Don Draper. Despite all of this, Pete is morose. He has so much wanted to be Don (ever since the pilot, in fact) and now that he is (and the similarities are a little eerie), he still feels empty. Even though he overcame the old money ideas of his family and got a job, rose through the ranks and has all of the above rewards, he still has a void that will never be filled and that eats at him. This comes to a head in “Signal 30” when he tries to hit on the teenage girl in his driver’s ed class and loses her to a more masculine guy her age. He is further emasculated when Don fixes Pete’s sink during a dinner party and does it all before Pete can find the right screwdriver. At the aforementioned whorehouse, he isn’t turned on by his companion until she clues in on the fact that his engines will be revved by declaring him a king. All Pete wants is the same level of respect that Don has but, like Kobe wanting to be Jordan, it can never happen because Pete is never the coolest guy in the room and isn’t well liked. After Jaguar turns them down (because their client was caught by his wife after she discovered chewing gum caught in his pubis, which is never not funny) he tells Lane that he’s a useless figure in the office and a fight ensues. Pete gets in a few hits but Lane lays a “beat ’em down” much to the delight of the rest of the firm. He’s ultimately left alone, stewing in his defeat and like his sink can never really be fixed.
Lane: Lane Pryce is unlike the other partners in his firm in that he is a man of virtue and while he’s not an ad man or an accounts man, he keeps the agency running like a well-oiled machine. He’s also the most lonely person in the firm (moreso then Pete) because he has a wife that is homesick for London and is about as much fun as Cinco de Mayo party without Mexican food or booze. He has a brief flight of fancy with the girlfriend of a guy whose wallet he found (albeit over the phone) and he meets the Jaguar rep at a pub celebrating England’s World Cup (we are in 1966 at this point), and loses this new friend when Roger and company take him to the whorehouse.
Even though he decks Pete, he still feels humiliated because he feels that Joan serves the same function as him and is actually better then him. Joan tries to comfort him and out of the blue he kisses her (and also because she’s the first woman since his chocolate bunny in Season four who cared about him). She turns him down, but because of her respect for him, she does it with care. Lane and Pete are in the same position and only Lane probably recognizes this fact because, unlike Pete, he’s not petty.
Ken: Ken Cosgrove is quickly becoming my favorite character because he’s the only one who actually has a life outside of the firm. He is an aspiring writer and is good at it (where Roger and Pete weren’t) and focuses on SciFi and is supported by his wife (who I just realized is Larissa Olyenic who was Alex Mack on “The Secret World of Alex Mack” on Nick, a childhood favorite of mine). After Roger tells him not to write on company time, he does so anyway under a different pen name and pretends to still be an account guy. He also is the most normal guy and still maintains his pact with Peggy that they agree to work together no matter what. Ken sees Peggy as an equal and a friend (and nothing more, surprisingly). This is obviously in stark contrast to everyone else and I’m hoping he never unravels.
I realized I glossed over many micro and macro points both in the historical context of the show and the time they occupy that will start next week when I’m actually reviewing individual episodes. Trust me there will be many discussions of symbols and ethos, and the like but for now I just needed to cover things in a broad sense.
Moving on to our last item of business (there will be a very, very brief overview of “The Hunger Games” and “American Reunion” before we sign off), I give you my take on the excellent HBO comedy “Girls”.
Outside of “Curb your Enthusiasm” HBO hasn’t figured out how to do comedy (which is sad, since they gave us “The Larry Sanders Show”) but their new show “Girls” (and from what I hear, “Veep”) look to reverse this trend. The show is the brainchild of writer/director/star Lena Dunham, whose debut film “Tiny Furniture” made waves at various festivals. Judd Apatow (who worked on “Larry Sanders”) serves as executive producer of this series about Hanna Horvath and her friends who must navigate their early 20s in a post-“Sex and the City” world. I never saw an episode of SATC, but its influence is all over this show (we’ll get to that).
The pilot starts with Hanna (Dunham) having dinner with her parents who tell her that after graduating college and landing an internship, will no longer have her life subsidized by them because she’s an adult now. Hannah is very upset, telling her parents that they are lucky she’s not a drug addict or something and she needs money and time to live her life and finish her memoirs. This falls on deaf ears and she loses her internship by asking for a full time job and her boss won’t read her book because since she doesn’t work there, no one will read it (ouch).
The other inhabitants in Hannah’s universe are her friends. Marnie (played by Allison Williams, daughter of NBC News’ Brian Williams) who is in a relationship with a nice guy but she isn’t into him because he’s too nice, Jessa (played by Jemimsa Kirke) a French girl who is always traveling around the world (and apparently getting pregnant all the time), and Shoshanna (played by Zosia Mamet, daughter of David Mamet and is also on “Mad Men” as Peggy’s lesbian friend) who is just a weirdo obsessed with SATC and always over-compliments people. These are Hannah’s friends and they are extremely close (for instance, they use the bathroom in front of each other) because they are seemingly the only people they can hang out with.
Getting back to Hannah, she has low self-esteem given the awkward hookups she has with her douchey love interest Adam who she sees as a boyfriend but he just sees as an “F” buddy. She makes it back to a dinner party celebrating the return of Jess and after drinking an opium tea, is convinced to try and get more money from her parents and that leads to a great scene where she tries and fails to not only get the money but fake being not high. She declares to her parents that “I’m could be the voice of my generation or a voice of a generation”. Her parents leave and she takes 40 dollars and now must find her place in the universe. While the pilot (and from what I gather, the show) isn’t plot heavy, it is the first show I’ve seen that has somewhat described where I’m at in my life.
I graduate college on July first and the real world is a scary place (given that I have a blog, you can probably infer that I still live at home), and I have no clue how I’m going to get where I want to be, but I’m still trying to get there. Lena Dunham has been praised for having a confident and distinct voice and I whole-heartedly agree because she isn’t afraid to bare all (both physically and emotionally) and like Louis CK on “Louie,” has a specific worldview of both life and life in New York. She sees life through the eyes of Brooklyn hipsters who have this sense of entitlement and when Hannah doesn’t want to get a McJob, it speaks to where this generation is at the moment. For the record, I have had a steady stream of retail jobs my whole working life (even now) but I have friends who are in this mindset and I can totally relate. Getting back to the SATC aspect of the show, it clearly depicts a more recessionary New York than the aforementioned show did but Lena Dunham also addresses the fact that in some way, her and her friends want this lifestyle.
It should be noted that there has been an unfortunate amount of backlash because somehow Lena Dunham is supposed to create a show that encapsulates all women, not just affluent white women. I find this to be a farcical argument because to me not every show has to be told through every cultural and racial point of view, ala “The Wire.” Kurt Sutter or Vince Gilligan are telling specific stories and are not responsible for carrying the weight of men everywhere, and neither should Dunham. Kristen Wiig took flack for “Bridesmaids” last year for the same thing and I think that’s ridiculous because comedy and entertainment can come from anywhere and shouldn’t have to carry the burden of being anything more then a solid piece of entertainment. To get back on topic I loved “Girls” and highly recommend it to everyone.
Okay, before I sign off let me just run through “Hunger Games” and “American Reunion” really quick.
“Hunger Games”: As an uninitiated party, I felt the movie did a horrendous job accessing the story to others like me (my friend Katie served as my interpreter), and I still don’t really get why I’m supposed to care about all of the characters and they did a lousy job explaining the world of Panem. The action was poorly staged, the camera work atrocious, and outside of Jennifer Lawrence (big fan of hers) and Woody Harrelson (ditto), the acting was meh. This doesn’t matter considering the movie is a juggernaut and can possibly be salvaged with a new director (depending on who they choose, of course).
“American Reunion”: As a lifelong fan of the trilogy, the first one especially was a milestone movie for me. I felt that this last installment served the fans and characters well and while some of the cameos were a little forced (like Nadia, for instance) I was very much satisfied. I highly recommend it.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as my column undergoes the Beyonce diet and becomes ready for bikini season. I’ll cover “Mad Men”, the pilot of “Veep” and possibly a movie. Also, I started this column in order to trade entertainment with you guys (why else would I keep doing this three years after my internship ended), and while I’ve developed a reputation as an enigma and embraced it, I’ve decided to get back to reverse that.
If you’ve got questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org