Sep 21, 2011

Series Premiere Thoughts, Part I - Up All Night, 2 Broke Girls, The Playboy Club, New Girl

Assortment of thoughts about a few new television shows. I'm trying to watch as many series pilots this week as I can manage. For you, dear readers. Not because I care about actually sharing with you, of course, but because I want you to think I'm on the cutting edge of television knowledge.

Rating indicates likelihood that I'll watch more of the show: 0 = no way, 1-4 = depending on my boredom level and/or popular and critical sentiment, 5 = definitely. Show title picture links to a promo for each show because I'm not rehashing the premise. I don't care about you THAT much.

Rating: 5
This pilot shows great potential. Will Arnett's and Christina Applegate's characters are unique but relatable. Maya Rudolph's is not so much, but has her moments. I would say the show provided the most genuine laughs of the new comedies I've watched so far. It wasn't supremely funny, but rare is the sitcom that reaches that level with one pilot episode (Community is the only one I can think of off-hand), and I have high hopes that it will come into its own soon enough.

One complaint I've heard about the show is that most of the humor is based on cliches about parenthood that have been played out over countless films/television programs, but I didn't personally find that to be the case. Will Arnett plays out the Mr. Mom trope, certainly, but the writing and acting take a unique enough perspective on it that it didn't feel tired. And when the inevitable diaper-changing scene happens, it doesn't focus on poop, thank goodness.

The one complaint I have have was the story didn't flow particularly well. The end of the episode felt a little forcibly tacked on for some sort of resolution after what was more a compilation of sketches about being new parents than a story.

The best thing about the show was I could definitely see bits myself in both of the new parents. They have their selfish moments and their idiotic moments; they're still kids themselves in some ways. But they love their child and want what's best for her, and in the end, you think it'll turn out all right. It's how I imagine I'd be as a parent. Minus the glamorous job as an assistant on a talk show and lawyer husband. Oh television, why must you always make the career part of the show look so much better than real life?


Rating: 0
First things first: why on earth do laugh tracks still exist? All they do is remind us how not laughable most of the moments they follow are.

Aaaaand we hit the ground running with a joke where the punchline is "boobs" followed a minute later by a joke whose punchline is "vagina". The charm of Kat Dennings can't save this. Whitney Cummings, why? I've seen her stand up act; I should have known the humor would be based on girl quasi-shock humor. At least now I know not to watch Whitney, the other show Ms. Cummings is involved in. The one that all the buzz says will be inferior to 2 Broke Girls.

Maybe the rest of the episode got better, but I'll likely never know. I turned it off about five minutes in when the other female lead showed up and it became clear that she was 100% rich girl stereotype. Nothing to see here. Move along.


Rating: 3
This show is lucky I'm a sucker for period pieces. Even if Mad Men weren't as fabulous as it is, there would be a decent shot that I'd watch it for love of the furniture and clothes and little references to news events of the day and such. Unfortunately, thus far there doesn't seem to be much going for the show other than sitting around and imagining what life would be like during the 60s (I'd look best in the emerald green bunny outfit).

The plot is a little ridiculous. Right off you have to suspend reality and believe that a kick from a tiny thing like Amber Heard would kill a grown man. Maybe it was a thing in the 60s to have razor blades glued to the heels of your pumps, and we're all supposed to know this so they didn't bother mentioning it?

Biggest problem of the show is they keep defining the playboy bunny in contradictory ways. It's the job you take to feel empowered. It's the job you take to get raped. "A girl can't be a bunny forever." "The bunnies were the only women in the world who could be anything they want to be." "More lipstick. More cleavage. Lose the wedding ring. Smile more." I understand that there is a dichotomy to these women, but it wasn't explored in any sort of smart way. Just everyone smiling and nodding that "Yep, that's what being a bunny is."

Also, I can't quite put my finger on what the deal is, but something about the show felt...not quite 60s. The men wear the suits and the women wear the dresses like they are costumes, not like clothes, somehow. Maybe I'm just comparing too much to Mad Men, which is hard not to do. I can't expect every period drama to have Matthew Weiner's completely obsessive attention to detail, but still. I think maybe it is the way people talk? There's no 60s slang, no referencing technology that we wouldn't reference today, hardly anything at all dialog-wise that puts the show firmly into it's setting. The one black bunny mentions discrimination, but do we see anything that looks like racism at all? No. We see the homosexual characters being careful to keep their sexuality a secret, but it's hard to feel any real conflict there when I don't recall anything derogatory said about gays or lesbians at all. Hopefully the dark side of the 60s will be explored a little better as the show goes on. The only thing dark at all about the pilot was the involvement of the mob, which so far isn't portrayed as a particularly intimidating group. And is kind of cliche for any film/television program set in Chicago.


Rating: 4
It's kind of impossible to dislike Zooey Deschanel because she's just that adorable, but I think her character might be the worst thing about this show. I don't blame Zooey, of course; her hair is so cute, after all, and hello, vintage-y summer dresses. But yeah, her character is all over the place in a completely unrealistic way. She's supposed to be an emotional wreck about a recent break-up and she is maybe 50% of the time. In other scenes, her problem is that she doesn't know how to get guys? How does this make any sense? If you want to work a story about a girl being helped along to love with her new roommates, wouldn't it make way more sense that her big problem is fear of repeating the bad break-up she just went through? And then they're asking her how she can be so happy all the time? After watching her cry and watch Dirty Dancing for a week? No sense.

The inconsistencies in personality I'm sure are all attributed to "quirkiness". But I'm sorry, you can't just make your character weird and assume it will be cute just because it's Zooey Deschanel. She randomly sings stuff she's saying, and talks in these funny forced-sounding voices from time to time, among other childish things. It's just kind of...well I don't know anybody like that and it's not funny so why is it happening? The episode ended on what would've been a sweet note if it didn't bug me so much that Deschanel's character was in 6-year-old-mode. "Hey, it the guys entertaining their easily-entertained new roommate" instead of "Hey, they're all sharing a moment."

There was exactly one laugh-out-loud moment for me (a Lord of the Rings reference, of all things), but that's not too terrible for a 22-minute program watched by myself (watching with others encourages laughter, there are studies on these things). Toss on a few other smile-to-myself moments, and I'll say they do okay in the humor department. Certainly not impressively funny, but there's potential there.

Overall, I'd still say I enjoyed the show. The three guy roommates have good chemistry and somewhat more realistic characters. One of my favorite bits was the "douchebag jar" where the guys have to put a dollar each time one of them says/does something particularly douchebaggy. It felt like something many guys I know would set up AND it was involved in some of the stronger humor points. And Zooey Deschanel is still so cute. I hate how much that matters, but it does. Hopefully her character will become stronger as the season goes on.

Sep 15, 2011

Sweet Employment

So after a month and a half of moping around, depleting my savings account, and contributing to the federal deficit, I finally decided to get serious about looking for new work last week. Yes, I should've done that back when my hours were cut at my job months ago, but I just needed to mope around, okay?

And low and behold, after only three days of finally being serious about finding work: an offer of employment! The base pay is slightly less than my old job, but commission opportunities should make up the difference. And even minimum wage would be better than what I was getting off unemployment, so I'm not being too picky.

I start on Monday, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Between starting work and new television seasons/series starting up next week, I'll never be bored again!

Sep 6, 2011

Memories of Grandma

My grandmother, Winona Wonnacott, passed away last week. I spent the weekend in St. George where the funeral was held. She was a beautiful, creative, witty, hard-working, loving woman and I (along with the rest of her impressive number of posterity) will treasure her memory for the rest of my life.

When I was a very young child, Grandma and Grandpa Wonnacott were a house more than they were people. When told we were going to visit Grandma and Grandpa, I'd ask, "the stairs ones?" My hometown of Ridgecrest, CA is a small town with very few 2+-story buildings, and as silly as it seems now, at the time the #1 best reason to go to St George, UT was Grandma and Grandpa had a house with stairs and the possibilities of games you could play on those things were endless.

As I got a little older, the house and yard were also endless. While it is a somewhat large house (5 bed, 3 bath) on a decent bit of land, the imagination of youth expanded this to something of near mythical characteristics (There are four different doors to the backyard! The stuff of legends!). These childhood impressions last; even at the age of 24, I still have dreams about going to that house and discovering rooms I'd never seen before or hidden gardens in the yards.

And all so tastefully decorated! As I grew old enough to notice such things, I definitely recognized Grandma was the kind of woman who really took pride in making things look good. Many of my memories of Grandma involve helping in the gardens or with various home improvement projects. She was a hard-working woman who could make a lot out of a little. At the funeral, a couple of my aunts shared memories of her always finding old furniture to reupholster and/or refinish. And rocks! She'd always take home big rocks she'd come across that were interesting colors or shapes and find some way to incorporate them into her yards.

A couple years ago, Trevor and I stayed at Grandma and Grandpa Wonnacott's house on our way back from Christmas with my family in California. While I've seen her at various family functions since, this was the last time I had any significant one-on-one time with her. She decided to skip church that morning and just sit and chat with us for a good long while. She told us the story of her courtship with Grandpa (met and got married during various home leaves as he was in the military during WWII). Her version had a lot to do with how she looked (what she was wearing, whether or not she had lipstick on), which I loved (I may have inherited this tendency to focus my stories on these important details). The best bit of their story is on the day of their first date, Grandpa asked her "Now you're going to do your hair before the dance tonight aren't you?" and Grandma responded "Of course! You don't think you'll be the only fella there, do you?"

Grandma and Grandpa had a sweet long-lasting relationship that gives me hope that there is such thing as lasting love. They were always supportive of each other and making each other laugh during their 66 years of marriage.

She was one of the kindest people I've ever known; her house was open to anyone who needed a meal or a place to stay, and she always took the time to let all of us know how much she loved us.

She wasn't just a ball of love all the time, though. She was also a fiery woman. The frustration she would exhibit trying to get her hair curled right or trying to keep her plants alive or watching BYU sports during a bad game was kind of adorable (old woman anger is hilarious). She had a great passion for the things that were important to her, something I'd really like to emulate in my too-often wishy-washy passive life.

She was a good woman, and I will miss seeing her, but the love I still feel from her will stay with me. I'm grateful to come from the good stock that I do and have her example in my life.

Also, note to my siblings: I call the name Winona for my firstborn daughter.