By Jessica Allen - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
Talking points on Girls, Season 2, Episode 2
He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find the conversation on episode 1 here.)
Marnie continues to struggle on the job front. Elijah and Marnie decide not to tell Hannah about their brief–only two or three “pumps”–sexual encounter. Shoshanah and Ray are in love. And so too are Jessa and Thomas John, post-honeymoon. Hannah calls 911 on Adam and breaks it off with her Republican lover.
- At least he’s speaking to you: George won’t even return my texts or Facebook messages. (Elijah to Marnie)
- I can’t take your criticism because I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer, ever since cutting off my camp shirt into a halter top. (Hannah to Elijah)
- You were with George for a very long time and he’s on Hotmail. (Hannah to Elijah)
- I think the world has like three curators it actually needs. (Ray to Marnie)
- It’s really terrible. You know what I realize? It’s because I’m painting something I love. I’m used to painting something that I hate, like my mom, or scenery. (Jessa to Thomas John)
- What’s wrong with a Republican? They’re just the same as Democrats. They’re all dirt bags. (Jessa to Hannah)
- I didn’t feel like it either [having sex] but I didn’t want you to have blue balls because it’s another thing I don’t believe in. (Hannah to Sandy, her Republican lover)
He said, she said, after the episode:
She said: I liked this episode more than last week’s. Did you read that article last weekend in the New York Times profiling the three boys in Girls–Adam, Ray and the good-looking guy who we don’t see at all in this episode? The article mentioned that the three actors had been non-stop referencing John Cassavetes. It just reminded me of one of the reasons I think I’m drawn to the show because in your twenties you’re not self-conscious about talking about John Cassavetes as an influence. And there’s a certain innocence that’s really easy to mock, I guess. They’re not ashamed, and maybe they’re making fun of it themselves.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
A new batch of reality shows is facing up to the fact we live in difficult times
Network executives think we want escapism in scripted TV: “Strategically,” ABC president Paul Lee told critics, “these are times when fairy tales play strongly.” But don’t tell that to the creators of reality shows.
The cheapest, quickest profit-making shows on television are facing up to the fact that we live in depressing times. In addition to the usual shows about weddings and failed relationships, cable networks have spent the last two years developing programs like Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn, the stories of pawnshops and the people who have to sell their stuff there. If you’d prefer to watch people buy things instead of selling them, Extreme Couponing has become a hit by featuring shoppers who try to get all the discounts they can, even if it means they have to stockpile detergent and toilet paper. Viewers may not be interested in escaping into a world of wealth and beauty; Simon Lloyd, CEO of reality-show producer Cineflix, told Maclean’s that today’s audiences “want to get value for money.”
The reality shows of the ’00s were often as escapist as today’s scripted shows, especially when it came to housing: Flip This House and its cousins told us there was a fortune to be made, while makeover shows emphasized the dream of living well. But today, because many people have less outsized ambitions, reality producers have moved to taking on more realistic dreams. The most popular reality sub-genre at the moment is the hoarder show, where the best anyone can do is move out of squalor.
Other recent shows acknowledge that we’ve given up hoping the future will be better than the past. In the Cineflix show American Pickers, and its spinoff Canadian Pickers, two men come into people’s homes and try to find valuable antiques among the old junk. Lloyd says that part of the appeal is that “a lot of things that are being bought and sold are from an era when times were good. There’s very much an element of nostalgia there. People aren’t buying things from the 1930s.”
Shows about getting rich quick have either died out or been forced to adapt to the new world. Flipping Out, finishing up its fifth season with solid ratings, began in 2007 as part of the house-flipping genre, with the star, Jeff Lewis, trying to make a fortune. After the housing market collapsed, we saw Lewis cut back his business and take on extra duties to stay afloat. Another recession-era take on house flipping, Flip Men, has its stars buying problematic homes at today’s rock-bottom prices; Lloyd’s company has one called The Unsellables about houses that can’t sell. “That was very much developed in relation to the credit crunch.”
All these shows taken together could seem depressing, but they certainly can’t be accused of being out of step with the times, and timeliness equals profitability. When Hayley Taylor created a North American version of her show The Fairy Jobmother, where she helps unemployed people find jobs, she chirped to Reuters that the timing was “absolutely perfect.” And unlike most modern scripted shows, viewers can go to these reality shows to get some direct engagement with current issues. Most scriptwriters haven’t noticed that, as CNN’s Paul R. La Monica wrote, “demand for storage and apartments is increasing even as rental rates go up.” But reality shows have noticed: Storage Wars, about what happens to people’s storage units after they don’t pay the rent, is on its way to becoming one of the defining shows of the new era.
There are a few scripted producers who have taken the hint and started to incorporate some of this material into their work. Michael Patrick King, who produced the boom-times show Sex and the City, has returned with 2 Broke Girls, which announces its intention in the title, though it’s been mocked for its inaccurate understanding of what it means to be poor. Two other recent comedies, The Middle and Raising Hope, focus on lower middle-class families that sometimes have to think carefully about their expenses. It may take a while, but the rest of the industry may start following reality TV’s lead in dealing with the bad financial situation. If economic forecasts are right, they’ll have plenty of time to catch up.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, June 11, 2010 at 10:06 AM - 3 Comments
Remakes and sequels don’t always suck
If you’ve seen a Hollywood movie this spring, chances are it was made from recycled material—a sequel, a prequel or a remake. The tally so far: Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, Robin Hood, A Nightmare on Elm St., Iron Man 2, Sex and the City 2, Shrek Forever After. Next up are The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Toy Story 3 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It’s hard not to get cynical about this glut of born-again blockbusters.
But what’s most irritating is not the slavish cloning of brands; it’s the contortions filmmakers go through to give them a novel twist. Do we really need to see a pre-Sherwood Forest Robin Hood defend Britain from an armada of medieval landing craft in a war movie that plays like Saving Private Ryan unplugged? And do Sex and the City fans really want to see their post-feminist icons recast as Barbie-doll drag queens, mocking Islamic dress codes while being pampered by Arabic slaves on a sheik’s junket?
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 4 Comments
I will use my columnist powers now to enlighten you
To make it as a columnist in the 21st century, you need to be willing to tackle the tough questions that confront modern society. Or you can be a white, middle-aged male.
I am all two of those things. Let’s do this.
By Heidi Staseson - Friday, November 20, 2009 at 11:27 AM - 6 Comments
The shower scene guy from ‘Sex and the City’ is boosting the ratings on ‘Brothers & Sisters’
ABC’s Brothers & Sisters’ lacklustre ratings just got a boost. Producers have injected some sizzle into the snooze-worthy story plots in the form of French eye candy Gilles Marini. According to Nielsen Media Research, in the last week of October, the show had the series’ highest ratings since March in the adult 18-49 category, with a total of 9.5 million American viewers, beating out its CBS competition. Marini, who plays Luc Laurent, the European love interest for no-nonsense food executive Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), has so far signed on for nine episodes. It’s the first major role for the 33-year-old L.A.-based actor since his breakout performance in last summer’s Sex and the City movie—his sideways “close-up” in that film became celluloid’s most infamous shower scene since Psycho.
Still revelling in his runner-up spot on last season’s Dancing With the Stars—his moves had even the judges swooning—Marini says he’s humbled by his sudden stardom. On a recent trip to Alberta for an appearance, he thought at first he was being “punked” after obliging a star-struck local woman and agreeing to join her and a throng of equally ebullient friends for dinner at Edmonton’s Japanese Village restaurant. Marini told Maclean’s he was astonished by the fan fervour, even tweeting about the event on his way to Toronto the next day. “Canadians are the nicest people I’ve ever met!” he exclaimed.
So what is it about this man that’s got women mesmerized? For starters, he’s one of the few Eurogods to crack Hollywood since Jean-Claude Van Damme kick-boxed his way into theatres back in the early 1990s, joining French thespians Jean Reno (La Femme Nikita) and Gérard Depardieu (Green Card), who got popular around the same time. Sure there are Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem, but let’s face it, they didn’t doff it all in their breakout big-screen appearances.
These days, it seems, Marini is everywhere. At the 36th Daytime Entertainment Emmys, he and Vanessa Williams wowed the audience with a bang-up sultry dance number. And in mid-October, he wooed The View talk show ladies with accounts of his on-the-home-front chivalry. In the same vein, he described for Maclean’s his recent surprise house-buying birthday excursion for his wife of 11 years, Carole. “I gave her a letter and in it was a little poem with the picture of a house and an inscription saying, ‘It’s yours.’ ”
Marini worked in his father’s bakery in Cannes from the time he was seven until he did his military service as a 20-year-old firefighter. The following year he moved to Miami where he worked as a waiter. One of his customers was lawyer Philip Glatzer. Marini says he presented Glatzer with a piece of paper that read: “Hi. My name is Gilles Marini. I’m from France. I’m sorry I do not speak English. Can you please put your finger to the menu?” Recalls Marini: “He said, ‘Where are you from in France?’ And he spoke French! He thought it was the most beautiful story and he’s helped me since.”
Marini soon started a successful modelling career. For a while, he felt guilty raking in the catwalk dough for such scanty hours of work. His late father, who died when Marini was 19, had instilled in him a strict work ethic—“I was always thinking, ‘Oh my God, if my father saw me in that lifestyle he would kick my ass!’ ” The industry kept him flush for eight years until he was cast in the role of the aptly named Dante in the Sex and the City movie.
As for the Brothers & Sisters role, he says executive producer Ken Olin (Thirtysomething) took a big risk hiring him. “He had never really seen me act; he saw me perform on Dancing With the Stars and he took a chance. Some people like that in Hollywood still exist; they will look you in the eyes and say, ‘I’m going to give [you] a shot.’ ”
In his second episode on the show, Marini reprised his Dancing role and performed a heartwarming poolside waltz with a blushing Sally Field, the matriarch of Brothers & Sisters. “We had this very emotional scene where she explained to me she was very scared about her daughter’s health, about losing her. She’s a mom and I’m a father—how utterly natural the emotion would come to us.”
Currently donning suits in the November issue of Playboy and doing a two-spot guest appearance beginning Nov. 18 on Nip/Tuck, Marini also has a CD coming out. He eschews the notion that he’s maybe taking the Renaissance man shtick too far: “I never leave anything to the unknown and when I do something with my heart, with passion, trust me, it’s going to be unbelievable.”
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 10:37 AM - 5 Comments
When it comes to pop culture and abortion, Bea Arthur’s liberal 1970s character is still the one to watch
Bea Arthur, who died on Saturday at age 86, became famous for portraying women who were brave, ballsy breakers of TV taboos. As the caustic divorcee Dorothy Zbornak on Golden Girls which aired between 1985 and 1992, she was part of an all-female ensemble in which older women were portrayed as socially engaged, sexual and supportive of one another. On Maude, which ran between 1972 and 1978, she played Maude Findlay a middle-aged liberal feminist who confronted menopause, plastic surgery, and, most famously, abortion. In all of the richly-deserved tributes pouring in, reference is inevitably made to Maude’s most groundbreaking legacy in presenting the first major character to have an abortion on prime-time television. The two-part episode titled “Maude’s Dilemma” aired in the show’s first season [in 1972], two months before the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the U.S. Predictably, it proved incendiary: CBS was flooded with angry mail and dozens of stations refused to air the program.
The bold story line—one you’d never see on network TV today—was significant not only for presenting a taboo topic, but also in depicting abortion as a difficult decision faced not only by young, unmarried women. More remarkably, given the broad-brushed comedy of the program, was the sensitive and nuanced depiction of a complex and polarizing topic. The decision to have an abortion was presented as a dilemma, even for an entrenched feminist like Maude. The middle-aged character was hesitant and afraid to go through with it—in part because she had been raised during an era in which abortion was considered shameful and was often fatal. Even after she made her choice, she remained conflicted and sad, though not remorseful. The episode managed to make an impossibly subtle point: that upholding women’s “right to choose” doesn’t make one “pro-abortion.” It’s a semantic distinction, to be sure; yet it also reveals the field of gray that punctuates the more readily depicted black-and-white of the topic.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, February 13, 2009 at 2:11 PM - 3 Comments
…”At first I hated it.And then I liked it. Then I hated it again. Then I got horny. And then I fell asleep. ” (Frank, 30 Rock)
The latest of the Shout Factory licenses (along with the even more welcome announcements of Peyton Place and The Dana Carvey Show, about which more later) is the first season of Designing Women, which has been kept off DVD until now, except for best-of collections, because Sony didn’t want to pay the music licensing fees.
I would expect this one to sell well, since the show still has a substantial fan base and is still sometimes seen in reruns (as 30 Rock already pointed out). I’m not as excited for it as I am for some other, lesser-known shows; I personally couldn’t get into it. I think one of the things that turned me off was the Meshach Taylor character, who was such a eunuch. The Golden Girls and Sex and the City were smart enough not to try to bring a male character into the core group — Golden Girls actually had a gay male character in the pilot, who was dropped by the second episode — because it’s the equivalent of bringing in a token female character who has no reason to be with an all-male group.
The creator of Designing Women and writer of most of the episodes, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, was one of a number of female writer-creators who became famous for using their TV shows to address whatever was on their minds. Amy Palladino is another writer in the same mold, and Gilmore Girls was like a one-hour, less abrasive take on the Designing Women format. And of course, though he’s not a woman, David E. Kelley is the ultimate writer in this mold, someone who uses episodic television to work out his own obsessions. I think that a lot of what we now think of as “personal” television, TV shows where episodes are a reflection of the creator’s own neuroses and moods, owes something to the work of Bloodworth, Susan Harris, Diane English etc.; they helped raise the bar for the amount of his or her own personal self a showrunner could put into a show with continuing characters.
This clip is from David Mirkin’s short-lived Fox comedy series The Edge (after it was canceled, he took over as showrunner of The Simpsons). And yes, that is Jennifer Aniston in the cast.
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, December 8, 2008 at 3:57 PM - 1 Comment
I don’t just mean that they’re both Emmy-winning, critically-acclaimed, somewhat heartless cable shows with attractive casts and great clothes. I mean that Mad Men is on its way to becoming to men what Sex and the City was to women in the late ’90s and early ’00s (also Ally McBeal, for a little while): something that gets dragged into every cultural analysis of what women want, or what men want, or what women want in men or vice-versa and back again. Remember when you kept reading about Sex and the City and the question of what it meant for feminism? Well, the same thing is happening with Mad Men; it’s a convenient symbol of cultural longing for a time when men were men:
The popularity of the likes of Mad Men comes from a wave of nostalgia, says Kimmel, for a time when men were less confused about what it meant to be a man: “It’s the vicarious thing of ‘Look at how entitled Don Draper is! I wish it was like that in the workplace now, but now the women aren’t just the secretaries, they’re my goddamn boss!’
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, November 24, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 9 Comments
In the sequel, Sex and a Very Small Town in Arkansas, they’re all pregnant, all the time
It’s time for a new instalment of this column’s most popular (i.e. only) recurring feature. That’s right—it’s time for What the Hell is Wrong with You Stupid Idiots, and Other Reasoned Observations.
So now they’re making a Sex and the City sequel, are they? Idiots.
Don’t get me wrong: I understand that the Sex and the City movie—which followed the thong-based exploits of, uhh, Veronica, Betty, the Professor and Mary Ann (I’m paraphrasing)—was a big success this summer. But (spoiler alert) Carrie got married in the film. And (nobody cares alert) various things happened to the other various characters. Bottom line: the show’s big question has been answered, its fans’ curiosity has been sated, which means that a sequel is going to stink . . . unless they somehow completely rejuvenate the plot lines.
To do that, they need to take the girls out of their natural habitat of New York City and make it a fish-out-of-water story. Ladies and gentlemen (okay, just ladies), I ask you to consider the creative possibilities inherent in Sex and a Very Small Town in Arkansas: Continue…
By Rebecca Eckler - Thursday, November 6, 2008 at 1:00 AM - 6 Comments
Two upcoming books on the ‘Sex and the City’ character as a teen have women speculating
Before Mr. Big, was there only a big nose, big fashion mistakes, bad boys and bad perms? It was recently announced that Candace Bushnell, whose New York Observer column inspired the hit television show Sex and the City, was working on a couple of young adult novels featuring a high-school-age Carrie Bradshaw. HarperCollins, the publisher of Bushnell’s teen books (working title, “The Carrie Diaries”), to be released in 2010, says they will show “an inside look at Carrie’s friendships, romances, and how she realized her dream of becoming a writer.”
The show itself never went into detail about what Carrie was like before moving to New York. We know only that her father left—and that she lost her virginity, in Grade 11, in a “smelly rec room” after smoking a joint.
Bushnell, whose latest book, the novel One Fifth Avenue, was published this fall, obviously doesn’t need help writing. But that hasn’t stopped her many female fans from weighing in with their own opinions on what Carrie Bradshaw would have been like as a teenager. Every woman, it seems, could write their own Carrie Diaries. Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
How is Sarah Jessica Parker different from the other three actresses attending the premiere of the Sex and the City movie?
a) Only one to bring her own salad.
b) Her forced smile is slightly less forced than the forced smiles of the others, but only because theirs are so comically forced.
c) She insists on being the only one permitted to do narrative voiceovers even in real life: “We arrived on the red carpet for the big premiere! Me looking great and stylish and other ladies also there.”
d) Unlike the other three actresses, she does not want to kill Sarah Jessica Parker.
Click through for the correct answer…
By Jeff Harris - Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
Jeff Harris goes behind the scenes
Maclean’s celebrates it’s 100th birthday — and relaunch — with pinache. Canadian celebrities and literatti came out for a night on the town, and to offer their opinion on the magazine’s redesign. Our 15 videos include clips from Kim Catrall, Conrad Black, former premier Brian Tobin, and more.