The Wife:

I think its pretty well known by now that I’m the kind of girl who typically doesn’t enjoy the story of programming that’s marketed to women. There are, of course, a few exceptions, like my love of ANTM and my new-found appreciation for Gossip Girl. And yes, I like Sex and the City as much as any other girl and I’m starting to really get in to Lipstick Jungle in a serious way. But I don’t watch Desperate Housewives and I don’t watch anything written by Shonda Rhimes. Nothing personal, Shonda, I just like my hospital shows to be grittier than yours. I mean, you may have stabbed Sandra Oh with an icicle, but you certainly didn’t have one of your staff fuck Jesslyn Gilsig off a building. See what I’m saying here?

So, that brings me to The Ex List, an American adaptation of the Israeli show Mythological X, in which Bella (Elizabeth Reaser) learns from a fortune teller that she has only one year left to get married and that she has already dated the man of her dreams. Thus, Bella will ostensibly spend the rest of the series running through her exes to find the one that’s supposed to be Mr. Right. I already find the concept entirely unappealing. I think the thing that bothers me about it is that the reason Bella broke up with these men or they broke up with her is that their relationships didn’t work. While there is some merit in seeing whether or not people change over time (as it is true that sometimes people find each other at the wrong time in their lives), the fact that Bella seems to have no real filter about which of her old relationships would be worth revisiting is a little odd and makes her seem incredibly desperate. That’s totally not the right state of mind for a show that is a romantic comedy. I mean, it seems pretty obvious to me that the ex she shares custody of a dog with was a strong relationship that Bella might, in some months, consider revisiting as their issues can probably be solved. But the beach guitarist-cum-punk rocker she broke up with on his birthday back in 2001? Seriously, Bella, that guy is not marriage material. And she should know that simply by looking at the place he is in his rock career. That is to say, not the “settling down for a lady” place.

San Diego lends itself well to chilling in a kiddie pool all day.

The good news: San Diego lends itself well to chilling in a kiddie pool all day.

Concept aside, here are a few things I find odd about the show:

1. I so far know nothing about Bella other than that she’s a florist, is pretty, needs to get married this year and has a horrible mole – or “skin nugget” as Cyrus calls it – on her back that grosses everyone out. (I agree with Johnny on this one: she really should get that looked at. It sounds like melanoma to me. I should know. I had one removed from my arm this summer.) Oh, and she has a nice vintage Schwinn that she rides around Ocean Beach. I want to get a sense of who she really is, other than a girl desperate to get married.

2. All of Bella’s roommates seem cooler and funnier than her, but I don’t know anything about them either, except for Vivian, a high school history teacher who likes to groom her pubic hair in interesting ways, is funny and has a triskell tattooed on her shoulder. (Just like me and three of my friends! Triskell Club grows into the realm of TV!) As of right now, I’d rather watch a show about Auggie and Vivian and why they are together because he loves pubes and she doesn’t. That’s an odd couple if ever there was one.

I cant believe the Hitler is sexier to you than an Indian pacifist.

I can't believe the Hitler is sexier to you than an Indian pacifist.

3. I really hate that fortune teller. Bella needs to stop going back to her for guidance immediately. The prophecy has been given, so this character has already outlived her usefulness. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that she may have been on the Israeli version of the show and thus will be in every episode, just to irritate me.

What I do like about this show is the flashback introduction to the exes. I think these are great and rife with comic potential, especially seeing showkiller Eric Balfour cry into his guitar in the flashback and then show up later all leather-clad and guy-linered in the present. The guest stars will be the best parts of this show, and Balfour’s Johnny Diamant has set quite a precedent. When Bella sees him at the club, he’s singing his current hit single called “Bitch! You Left Me on My Birthday,” clearly citing the incident that turned him from John Mayer to Sid Vicious. (See? If he and Bella had stayed together, he would never have become a successful musician. They broke up for a reason.) He goes out with her just to use her for sex and tries to transform himself into the sweet dough-boy he was years ago, a tactic which Bella also uses (comically being the worst, most insane girlfriend ever) to try to drive this faux-rocker away from her when he gets to clingy. Bella’s strategy backfires as Johnny decides to stay with her instead of rehearsing with his band, which convinces her that their relationship might be worth a second try. (“Come on,” he says, “let’s go make raisin fingers,” to her whining and begging to stay in the bath with her.) Their ill-fated tryst, however, comes to an end when Bella takes all of her friends to Johnny’s next gig, trying to be the supportive rocker girlfriend, only to be publicly dumped, via song to the tune of:

“Revenge! You’ll be single forever! Revenge! Revenge! You’ll die alone!”

Some other lines I liked, mostly pertaining to Vivian’s pubic hair subplot, which includes the first mention of a merkin I’ve heard on television outside of The L Word:

  • “I’m sorry. You teach high school history. You should have pubic hair.” – Bella, to Vivian.
  • “Maybe it’s nature’s way of saying, ‘Hey, look over here, there’s something really cool over here but I just can’t show it to you yet.'” – Auggie, on why his girlfriend needs pubes. (That is, indeed, one reason why we have pubic hair.)
  • “I don’t know why I spend so much time on my abs when what really turns women on is indifference.” – Cyrus

The Husband:

Just as you are now aware that my wife is “the kind of girl who typically doesn’t enjoy the story of programming that’s marketed to women,” I am the kind of guy who atypically does like a good deal of programming that’s marketed to women. I definitely draw the line right after network soaps (and some cable soaps) and before the kind of reality television that my wife does indeed watch that I consider either simply out of my world knowledge (Top Design, Shear Genius) or stuff I find to be absolute junk (you’re never going to convince me that What Not To Wear is anything but an hour of two cruel psychos insulting women each week, woman. Never!). So The Ex List falls right into my predetermined boundaries of so-called “chick TV,” and its similarities (albeit fairly superficial) to an ABC show I loved a few years ago called What About Brian? make me want to stick around for the time being. It’s not the best new show of the year (you should be watching Privileged now, goddamit!), but as a fan of a good romantic comedy, this kind of show is right up my alley.

I agree, though, that the fortune teller is incredibly obnoxious so far, and I wish the show had decided against naming the character Bella Bloom. (Get it? She works at a flower shop and her last name is Bloom!) But as I mentioned in my most recent post on Brothers & Sisters, I like shows and movies where people are very, very aware of their own emotions and what they mean, and are capable of holding meaningful conversations about said feelings. This show is chock full of them, a series of late Gen-Xers who know their own neuroses but are still completely unable to get around them in order to be happy. That’s in essence what How I Met Your Mother is about, and while The Ex List doesn’t do it nearly as well as that show (nor did I expect it to), I appreciate the fact that the characters aren’t idiots.

I’m more accepting of the premise than my wife – seriously, it’s the conceit of the series, so we should all at least go along with it, much like Eli Stone and his prophecies – and that it’s not just about how people change from one year to the next, but the helpful yet terribly confusing concept of hindsight in each and every character. The show won’t be about compromising one’s ideals in order to find true love, because what kind of a message is that to send out in the guise of a romantic comedy, but about…

…Actually, I have no idea what it’s going to be about. But I can hope.

And showkiller or not (I can have my theories, commenters, and you can have yours), Eric Balfour showed off some acting chops I had not yet witnessed coming from that skinny bearded man, a man who spent some of his youth in a Northern California nudist colony (according to his interview on Conan a few years ago, at least).

The Wife:

I’d like to note now that I do watch Bravo’s cadre of reality shows like Shear Genius and Top Design along with Top Chef and Project Runway (which he will watch) because those are all things I am interested in: having sexy hair (I do), making my house pretty (it kind of is), being amazing in the kitchen (I’m getting there) and rocking some hardcore fierceness (if only I had the money). What Not to Wear is not as mean-spirited as my husband seems to think it is, although I agree that Stacy London is mean. I watch it because I really like clothing and I like the voyeuristic shopping experience. It’s exactly like spending an hour scrolling through shoes on Zappos.com, which I must admit I sometimes do while watching What Not to Wear in the mornings while my husband is still asleep.

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