The Wife:

While I don’t recall ever watching the original run of Rob Thomas’ Cupid back in 1998 with Paula Marshall and Jeremy Piven, I admit that I am the kind of person who would be drawn to such a premise. I love Greco-Roman mythology and I enjoy seeing modern adaptations and spins on it, and offering my “I’m friends with a Classics professor so I totally know what I’m talking about” judgments on whether or not those adaptations succeed. (Although the CW’s Valentine, about Greek gods living in L.A., just didn’t seem to pique any level of interest in me at all. Nor in anyone else, apparently.) So being that I don’t recall ever watching Cupid in the 90s – which I realize now was probably because it was airing on Saturday nights, which just means ABC wanted it dead from the beginning and that I was also probably too busy going to sleepovers, being dared to call boys I liked and read them bedtime stories, to tune in – I figured I would give the reboot a chance.

And you know what? That show totally doesn’t suck.

The generosity accorded to Rob Thomas to reboot his formerly failed series by ABC, however, was not as generous in its feelings toward this show as I am. The original run of the series produced 15 episodes, and aired 14. This run was only 7 episodes, intended as a try-out for fall, because that’s how television producers work these days. ABC killed a few great things this year, one of which might rhyme with “Smushing Lazies,” and I think that left viewers a little mistrustful of anything new ABC had planned to debut in the spring. In the Motherhood, while admittedly not great, was interesting simply for the fact that it was a female-led show about an issue that nearly every woman on the planet can relate to (if she isn’t currently a mommy, she certainly had one once), and had a lot of potential to grow and further explore the current parenting climate (which in the last ten years has switched to the kind of stay-at-home-and-do-everything-right-and-organic-and-be-totally-involved-and-honest-with-your-kids idea embraced by Jessica St. Claire’s character) in relationship to other models (the working mom, the cool mom who raised her kids counter to any advice and everything turned out just fine). But it never quite found its footing and so failed its try-out. Better Off Ted is lucky its quirky mcquirkfest survived. Cupid should have.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Bobby Cannavale: Right on the mark as Cupid.

Why am I so gung-ho about this show? For one, I think Thomas found the right lead in Bobby Cannavale and was smart to move the show from Chicago to New York. Cannavale is good-looking in an Italian Mama’s Boy sort of way, and incredibly affable. It makes perfect sense that he would be the kind of person strangers would invite into their lives if he offered to help them, and it makes perfect sense that he’s the kind of person clever enough to manipulate social situations to facilitate his matchmaking. In short, if Bobby Cannavale asked me to fly to NYC from New Orleans to cater a party as his Trevor Pierce (renamed from the original Trevor Hale) did in one episode where he reunited a Cajun caterer with her high school Iraqi war vet sweetheart, I probably would. As for the move from Chicago to NYC, NYC is often a space that invites fantasy in many popular stories. I’ll name only one example here that should serve as the paramount one: Miracle on 54th Street. It’s a city with its own mythology and a long history of being a dreammaking place: for immigrants, for actors, dancers and musicians, for artists and also for writers. It’s also a city in which people move and mingle with others numerous times a day, but promotes the isolation of modernity in that while its denizens inhabit mutual spaces, they don’t often connect with each other. I buy it as a place a god would try to turn into matchmaking central, especially because his therapist’s single’s groups prove to be an integral part of how the show’s main and peripheral characters, and how they are all trying to break away from the isolation of modernity and connect with others. There was talk in the production process that Cupid would relocate to Los Angeles, and while Francesca Lia Block has convinced me that L.A. can be a space of magical realism, I don’t think it would have worked nearly as well as New York did.

Furthermore, I like the idea of a show that believes in the concept of true love. We live in an age where the CW exploits people’s relationship issues on national television with Hitched or Ditched, where we look at the tabloids every day to see if John & Kate are going to fall the fuck apart (uh . . . yeah, that’s probably going to happen since the couple has a very special “announcement” pending; and I hate that I don’t watch that show and know about this), and where hookups have somehow replaced dating.  We all know that the divorce rate is high, and we all know that my home state has leveraged a terrible and oppressive measure against its non-heterosexual residents that bar them from even daring to challenge that statistic with their same-sex relationships. When I look at the divorce rate and the disappearance of date culture, it seems like a good number of us have given up even trying to sustain a partnership; that we prefer to be alone, save for a brief interaction every now and again that we don’t have to put any further energy into. While I wouldn’t say that having a life partner is right for everyone, I certainly like having someone to watch TV with every day. It makes me feel like this big, giant world is less lonely. That isolation of modernity thing I was talking about? Having someone to go through life with certainly makes me feel less isolated.

So when I see so much negativity toward relationships in the reality television world and in the real actual human world, I can’t help but be smitten by a scripted show that tries to remind us of the good parts of being in a relationship with someone, and how fun it can be to take that plunge. Cupid may only be a string of meet-cutes, but it’s also about love overcoming obstacles. None of the matches Cannavale’s Cupid makes in the 7-episode run are easily procured, and, somehow, through his crazy/divine providence, he is able to unite these couples in the promise of everlasting love. I’ve already mentioned the Cajun caterer and the Iraq veteran, which came to a bittersweet ending as the vet announces that he’s getting stop-lossed and sent back for a third tour of duty, something he planned to avoid by running away to Canada and never coming back – only to change his mind and do his tour of duty, knowing that if he lived, his Cajun caterer would be worth coming home to in order to live out their days under the willow trees in their hometown in Louisiana.

But perhaps my favorite of these divine matches came in the final episode, featuring adorable Broadway ingénue Kerry Butler as a working-class masseuse from South Boston in love with a man above her station (whom she broke up with because he never let her meet his family because of her wicked pissah of an accent). Cupid’s therapist, Claire, tries to find out his origin by hiring a linguist (one of her patients, as well) to listen to him speak and determine his origins. The “using linguistics to discover Trevor’s origins” plot was recycled from the show’s first incarnation, but the My Fair Lady angle was entirely new to this version of the series. But Cupid performs a bait-and-switch, setting up Kerry Butler with illocution lessons in exchange for massages, during which she forms a friendship with the linguist over several delightful My Fair Lady-esque diction lessons. Butler’s character is almost ready to give up, and declares that it doesn’t feel right to her to hide herself just to impress a guy, at which point her linguistics tutor reveals that he, himself, has been lying for most of his life. He, too, is from South Boston, but wasn’t taken seriously on his first day at Princeton because of his accent and worked very hard to eliminate all traces of his working-class roots from his speech. After sending Kerry off to meet with her ex at a fancy, uptown party, Trevor realizes in talking to the linguist that, perhaps, he’s been guiding Miss Butler toward the wrong beau and disguises the linguist as a waiter to crash the party and tell Kerry how he feels. After making a scene in which Butler’s intended’s parents reprimand “the help” for being so clumsy, Kerry throws off the upper-class accent she’s worked so hard for and embraces who she really is, as well as the Henry Higgins who reminded her of that.

If I had one complaint about Cupid, it would be that Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Claire McCrae never quite felt real enough – and not for Paulson’s lack of trying. She’s a great actress, with a lot of range, and if you want to see how great she can be, please watch her arc as a Pinkerton on Deadwood and her completely stunning comic performance in Peyton Reed’s 1960s screwball romance send up, Down with Love, in which you will also be treated to Ewan McGregor’s delightfully Ewan McGregor-y Southern accent. Paulson never got to break through her material here, and always seemed too stiff to fit into this world, which is only justifiable in the fact that her awkwardness in the role highlighted the irony that she, single and totally uncomfortable with people, should be in charge of teaching people how to find love through commonality. I think, if the show had gotten more of a chance, Claire would have eventually felt more real as her own walls started to break down and we learned as much about her as she does about Trevor Pierce.

I’ll miss this show, and I’m sad that we live in a world that’s unaccepting of its existence. But I’ll cherish that “My Fair Massuese” episode, if only because linguists are awesome and the following line is one of the best things I’ve heard on television recently:

“Nothing says ‘Thank You’ like the phonetic alphabet on cupcakes!” – Kerry Butler


The Husband:

A few points of interest:

1.) I adore Sarah Paulson, but between this and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, she’s gaining quite a few detractors. She’s not to the point of being an absolute show-killer just yet, but her dedication to her craft, which allows her to make very interesting decisions with very intense and sometimes unlikable characters, tends to give her a bad wrap, at least on television. But I can assure you that she’s one of the most versatile actresses of her generation, including her deeply strange performance that I saw in 2005’ Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, also starring Jessica Lange, Christian Slater and Josh Lucas.

2.) I started noticing this right around the time that Kidnapped, Six Degrees, The Black Donnellys and 3 lbs. were all canceled in the same television season, in that unless a show was a Law & Order or a CSI, any show that filmed in New York was about 90% guaranteed to be canceled. And this year, that trend came back in a big way. With no exception this year, no show that premiered in the 2008-2009 television season and was shot (not just set) in New York was renewed for another season. (And Castle doesn’t count, because it’s shot in L.A.) This would include Life on Mars, The Unusuals and now Cupid. (And last year’s Lipstick Jungle, which moved on into this year, couldn’t survive either. But hell, at least it got a second season unlike the majorly similar Cashmere Mafia.) A part of me wants to say it’s the distancing location that seems to turn many non-New York viewers off, as if these shows take place in a world far too unlike the viewers’ that it simply doesn’t pique their interest. But, more than anything, it’s the fact that it’s so goddamned expensive to shoot in NYC, so even when ratings are doing okay, the networks use the expenses as an excuse to shut down production. I’m amazed Gossip Girl got renewed for a third season, since the ratings are so abysmal, but it’s definitely a pop cultural flagship for the network, so canceling it would just make the CW lose more viewers.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the Left of the Dial episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffields Love Is a Mix Tape.

A book recommendation for ANYONE who liked the "Left of the Dial" episode of Cupid: Rob Sheffield's Love Is a Mix Tape.

3.) While I loved almost every episode of this show, my favorite, simply from a dramatic perspective, was “Left of the Dial,” in which a down-on-his-luck radio deejay tracks down his favorite caller and starts a relationship with her and her two children. It was the sweetest, least negative and most realistic episode of Cupid’s altogether too short season, and it’s a shame that not enough people stuck around to even watch the episode.

The Wife:

I think I’ve found the one episode of Gossip Girl I really don’t like. And believe me, I desperately wanted to like the “backdoor pilot” of the Untitled Gossip Girl Spin-Off About Young Lily Rhodes, but I didn’t. I liked what they tried to do with it, but the execution just fell utterly short. For instance, it made sense that, as Lily leaves her daughter in jail to think about her actions, she reflects on her own relationship with her mother and the night she spent in jail as a teenager. Premise = solid. In fact, the cast = totally solid, too. I like Brittany Snow. I like Andrew McCarthy. I like Cynthia Watros. I like Ryan Hansen. I love Krysten Ritter. But there was something about the writing of these characters that just didn’t work. Part of the point is that Lily as a teenager was very different than the Lily we know now, the one who ultimately fulfilled her mother’s wishes for her by marrying up, marrying someone grand (or several someones, as the case may be), but it was hard to see a connecting point between teenage Lily and adult Lily, other than that their both blonde and like men who wear leather jackets more than men in Don Johnson suits.

So as Serena sits in jail (by choice, in fact, to prove to her mother that she can make adult decisions such as serving her time, which means she’ll miss prom), Lily reminisces on her past. About how she got kicked out of boarding school (Santa Barbara’s Thacher School, which is real and thus I must give unlimited props to the attention to detail there) because she wanted to live with her dad, a music producer. But Daddy Andrew McCarthy doesn’t have time for his daughter, other than to tell the good folks at the Thacher School that she was acting out because her parents divorce was adversely affecting her, effectively getting her back in after a brief suspension. (Sidenote: I miss Lipstick Jungle.) Her mother is callous and inattentive, and her sister had the wherewithal to remove herself from that life altogether years ago, which Lily feels was a worse form of abandonment. So Lily, sensing her life kind of sucks, disobeys her parents and goes to find her sister in L.A.

No Doubt, I have a date with you July 21. Be ready. I will be.

No Doubt, I have a date with you July 21. Be ready. I will be.

Lily finds one of Carol’s coworkers and he agrees to let her borrow her sister’s clothing from her locker (she changes at work a lot because she’s constantly going on auditions) and escorts her to a Snowed Out show where Carol and her boyfriend/not boyfriend Shep would be in attendance. First of all, Krysten Ritter was amazing. Adorable. Funny. Perfect casting choice for the artsy, free-spirited older sister. But an even better choice was casting Veronica Mars‘ Ryan Hansen as Carol’s sort-of boyfriend. Hansen is amazing at playing self-absorbed jerkmeats, and here he was a self-absorbed jerkmeat with a bad Billy Idol pompadour. Genius. Carol wants to help Lily and be a good big sister and everything, but she can’t at the moment because she and her friends are on their way to crash a music video director’s party so they can get back the tape he took from them, which they paid him a good $500 to shoot. That music video director, by the way, is a Van Der Woodsen, channeling James Spader as Stef in Pretty in Pink. And he really likes to do coke. And he fucked Lily’s sister, which I think, if that turns out to be the Van Der Woodsen that Lily eventually marries, IS SUPER FUCKING AWKWARD. Owen and Shep pick a fight with Van Der Woodsen and his cronies, which Lily gets into to defend her sister. Van Der Woodsen calls the cops, and Carol has to bail her little sister out of jail when their mother won’t, opening up the possibilities for a string of Rhodes sisters adventures in LaLaLand.

Other than Ryan Hansen being a dick and dancing around to “The Safety Dance,” not very exciting. And even less exciting was the modern-day prom storyline. Someone might be sabotaging Blair? Well, no, not really, because it’s just Chuck making her prom dream scrapbook come true by forcing her choices to lead her to the dress she’s always dreamed about (which is fab), the date she wanted to have (Nate), the mode of transport and the glittery princess Prom Queen tiara that Nelly Yuki almost stole from her had Chuck not taken the stuffed ballots. He even gives her the key to his suite at the Plaza, because that’s how she wanted her perfect prom night to end. But instead, she ends it by breaking up with Nate. (Hooray! Because we all know she should be with Chuck, the man who made her 12-year-old prom dream come true!) Serena even makes it out of jail in time to attend the dance because her former lover/almost step brother bails her out. I mean, why? Why even bother with the prom in this episode? It was so insignificant, and wholly, completely understated. While I liked the thru-line of the big band at the prom playing “Stand and Deliver,” I have a very difficult time believing that a prom for Constance and St. Jude’s would have looked like that prom looked. We know their winter formal looks a lot more stunning than this did. This was so cheeseball in its attempt to be elegant, adult and understated that I just didn’t know what to do with it. I hate to say it, but I think the 90210 prom is going to be a lot more believable.

If Blair designed that dress when she was 12, shes a better designed than Little J ever was.

If Blair designed that dress when she was 12, she's a better designed than Little J ever was.

There’s nothing technically wrong with the L.A. Lily storyline. And nothing wrong with the grainy film wipes they applied to her memory (which works for me because she’s a photographer). It just fell really flat. And even though there was a lovely resolution in which Serena, sitting with Blair outside prom, acknowledges that she knows her mother had her arrested out of love and concern while Lily apologizes for her entire tenuous relationship with her own mother, there were no real risks in telling either story, nothing to lose or gain, which means . . . no drama. And that means boring. I’d like to see the spin-off succeed, though, because I’m very curious about the timeline of Lily’s life, which was something my sister-in-law brought up last night. The music they chose last night put us pretty solidly in 1986, and we’re assuming that Lily was 16 or 17 then. And Serena was born in 1991 if she just turned 18 this year, so Lily was bearing Van Der Woodsen children by the time she was 20/21. Now, that’s perfectly plausible and all . . . but does that really give her enough time in L.A. to cultivate a career as a rock photographer and follow Lincoln Hawk and Nine Inch Nails around? I had assumed her wild years lasted much longer than this, at least until her mid-20s. If anything, I need to spin-off to help me flesh that out.

The Husband:

I do feel a definite disconnect between the present Lily and the 1980s Lily, and I definitely have a hard time believing that whatever Cynthia Watros was doing would ever lead to some of the horrific displays of behavior and evil that modern-day Celia is capable of (I point you toward the Debutante Ball episode from s1), but I also think I liked the backdoor pilot far more than my wife did. It shows a good deal of promise, and while they might be getting their years a little iffy as far as much is concerned, I think it could be a pretty wildly fun program. They just need to bridge the years a little bit better, because otherwise it’s barely even a spin-off so much as an entirely new show. (Like how Mork & Mindy is technically a spin-off of Happy Days. Say what?)

Or maybe it’s just because I really like 80s Los Angeles movies, like Less Than Zero and, as the title would suggest is an influence, Valley Girl. The city still feels dangerous and open in these narratives, not like the plastic, cultureless meh I lived in for five years.

And yes, I love Krysten Ritter too, but I’ve loved her for a few years now. And she is definitely one of the main reasons I thought Confessions of a Shopaholic was such a blindingly underrated film. (Yeah yeah, I am in fact male – don’t let my endorsement of that movie fool you.)

But other than Blair and Nate breaking up, nothing really vital happened to anybody in modern day GG land. Save that for next week.

The Husband:

I wrote that the premiere this NBC action/adventure remake/reimagining was “cheesy, poorly planned, strangely acted and built almost entirely around showing off KITT’s many features,” and that didn’t really change as the season progressed. The quality lessened almost immediately, to the point where the show kind of stopped being a guilty pleasure and started becoming pointless background noise, something to have on Hulu in the corner of your computer screen while you did virtually anything else at the same time.

Michael Knight and his best friend in the whole wide world!

Michael Knight and his best friend in the whole wide world!

Only a few episodes in, the show became somewhat painful to watch, not so much that it was bad or boring, but that it had lost a great deal of its potential in merely a handful of episodes. The worst was when Michael Knight 2.0 and KITT visited Mexico for no real reason other than to get the admittedly hot Deanna Russo into a bikini. The problem wasn’t that the show was base-level, sexist and brainless. Really, that’s its charm and also that of the original. It was simply the question that probably went through everybody’s mind:

How do you screw this idea up?

Come on. It’s a ridiculous hour-long actioner about the relationship between a headstrong man and his virtually invincible, transforming car that can pretty much do anything required by the plot. Give us at least two great car chases an episode, say some techie mumbo jumbo that doesn’t make any logical sense (both shows clearly lacked a technical adviser), have Michael punch a bitch out every now and then, and make some HAL-related jokes in re: KITT’s Val Kilmer-on-downers voice and his inability to grasp human behavior.

I could write this fucking thing in my sleep. In fact, I think I should try that someday. I need to put up or shut up, no?

After the ratings began sinking, Show creator Gary Scott Thompson (an NYU MFA graduate and playwright who also created Las Vegas and the Fast and the Furious franchise) took a good look at the series and then made some major changes. And they were good changes. What bogged down the first several episodes was all the slogging through government tasks and tactics, having Michael track down bombs and take down terrorists Jack Bauer-style in ways incomparable to better shows like 24 and The Unit, all while being yelled at by Bruce Davidson and Yancey Arias. Everything revolved in and around this little station, and way too much time was wasted on serious bullshit instead of the silly that gave the original Hasselhoff vehicle its charm.

So after a short hiatus, KR came back with a not-bad two-parter that not only killed off Davidson and (later) Arias, but also gave Sydney Tamiia Poitier (it’s good to have a unisex name to give to your daughter) career-ending injuries. The cast now down to four (Michael, Sarah and the two tech nerds), the show could finally become what it was always meant to be – a story about a roaming vigilante and his nutbag awesome car going from town-to-town solving people’s problems. That’s it. No government conspiracy hooey, just dumb, quick action.

And so the show improved immensely, so much that I was enjoying myself again. So what if Michael ended up taking down a fight club underneath a rural bar, or helped solve the mystery of a downed plane and a little boy’s knowledge of where a large stash of Bolivian cocaine had been placed (answer: buried quite hastily underneath a very convenient pile of dirt amidst a grassy field), or helped his favorite bar defend itself from millionaires who wanted the valuable minerals in the earth right underneath? It was fun, it was zippy, and it worked.

And it finally regained its sense of humor. Simply behold the final battle between KITT and the villainous KARR, voiced for no real reason by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen. If this doesn’t make you giggle, we can’t be friends. (TURBO BOOST!)

Awesome, right? And compare that to these original series bits about the very same thing, just with much less of a budget.

This one benefits gloriously from its German dub and bizarre editing choices.

Seems like a good time to spend an hour, no? Well, despite it getting better episode-by-episode – shit, I was even starting to like the incredibly wooden Justin Bruening – it was still forced into another hiatus, and if the show gets renewed, the first five eps will be made out of leftover scripts from this season, which never had anything remotely resembling a season/series finale.

Should NBC renew this show? No. Now that douchebag NBC and douchebag Leno are taking away five full hours of primetime away from other shows, this is not something I would put at the top of the list to save. Not even close. Too bad Lipstick Jungle was officially canceled last week, otherwise I’d put that on the top of the hypothetical list and really get started on a save-the-show campaign. But now that the cast has already dispersed to such other projects as the Witches Of Eastwick series as well as the Gossip Girl spin-off.

But would I like this on another network, like USA or Sci-Fi? (Excuse me, SyFy, the network dedicated to syphilis narratives.) Absolutely. I don’t know how much Ford pays the show to sponsor their brand – and let’s be honest, the show is basically one giant commercial, with honking clown horns and streamers ablaze whenever KITT is in any of its many forms, which inexplicably includes a four-wheel drive truck – but it must cover at least half the goddamn budget. If not, NBC fucked up on that contract.

But if this is the end, I bid you adieu, Knight Rider. You just got cool a little too late. But hey, the Bionic Woman remake didn’t even make it that far. It was a dud for its entire run. And it didn’t have Val Kilmer literally phoning in his role. That was worth many a good laugh.

The Wife:

Oh, Lipstick Jungle, NBC did you no justice in making this episode your exit from television. That awkward “friends forever” montage, at the end of what would have been a very good episode if the series had continued, just highlighted how mishandled this show has been by the network, forcing the writers to prematurely wrap up a gem of a series about strong women with a most trite images of femininity they could possibly pull out of context from the series. When each of those “aww, friends!” moments happened in context, they were reminders of who these women were and why their friendship was important, but culled together to some awkward violin strings as a coda to an episode that should by no means have been the finale? That just reduces something truly great into a cliché of what women-centric television is alleged to be. And that’s just wrong. Truly, I wouldn’t have been happy with any way this episode ended, because any ending at all would mean that the show was officially over, but I would have been slightly more pleased if they’d just stopped with Wendy stroking her daughter’s hair, Victory and Joe kissing at the rubble of their engagement party and Nico and Kirby smiling at one another with possibility as Griffin’s call goes ignored. At least stopping with those images would have felt true to the intent of the series.

So that’s the end and what I thought of it, but let’s discuss what got us there.

Wendy and Nico decide to throw an engagement party for Victory and Joe, and Joe, despite his financial situation, decides to keep up his illusion of grandeur by sending a private jet out to Ohio to pick up Victory’s parents. While the Fords are perfectly happy to live off the dinner rolls they stole from Joe’s plane and sleep on Victory’s couch for the duration of their stay, Joe wants his future in-laws to see the kind of life he can give their daughter, flaunting reservations at expensive hotels and dinner reservations at Per Se. Worried about Joe’s financial strain, she tries to get him to calm down the luxuries for her parents, considering that they’re simple folk in the first place and fearful that Joe doesn’t have the cash to pull all of this off. She accidentally lets these worries slip when talking to Wendy, who assures her that Joe will get back on his feet eventually, knowing herself what it’s like to fall into bad business.

I’ve got to say that I really loved seeing Ann Harada as Victory’s mom. I’ve seen Ann Harada as Christmas Eve in Avenue Q and she’s one funny lady. She was really adorable in this episode, being the well-intentioned but slightly overbearing Asian mother, steeped in Midwestern wholesomeness. I kept expecting her to gently pat Victory on the head and say, “It’s okay, dear. You should have a big wedding just so you can return all the gifts for cash” as a nod to her character in Avenue Q. It was also great for the show to actually acknowledge that Lindsay Price (and therefore Victory Ford) is biracial. I mean, the woman’s name is Victory Ford. I seriously thought they were just going to make her be white from Ohio. The actress herself has spent a good portion of her career playing white, so I’m glad they let her be truer to herself by casting Ann Harada as her mom.

terrified by the Big City.

The Fords: terrified by the Big City.

Nico, meanwhile, gets a call from Kirby in Aspen, expressing that he wished she had decided to join him. Griffin hands her a letter to sign for the legal department acknowledging that they have an extra-office relationship. While she agrees that the protective qualities of the letter are well-intentioned, she is wary of including so many details. Griffin sees her hesitancy as hesitancy about their relationship, but Nico assures him that she’ll edit the letter and turn it back to him ASAP. But Nico’s work woes go deeper than her relationship with Griffin: suddenly, she finds herself not getting the invites she used to get, discovering that her new blogger hire has jetted off to Skywalker Ranch for a new media conference Nico knows nothing about. Fearing people have forgotten about her, she talks to Dahlia about getting her name back on the PR rosters. Dahlia’s solution? Get Nico a spot on the fourth hour of The Today Show to plug an upcoming Bonfire article.

And about that Bonfire article – the cover story, about a med student who cheated her way into school and had an affair with one of her professors, is a hot commodity that Griffin wants to keep within the family by optioning the film rights to Parador. While Sal does make a bid, he tells Wendy that she should make a play for it as well, telling her that her sensibilities would make for a better movie of that story than he could ever hope to make. This causes a bigger rift between Nico and Griffin when he hears that Wendy has offered to buy the rights, assuming that his girlfriend was the one who tipped off her bestie, but Nico assures him that she knew nothing about it. To add insult to injury, Kathie Lee and Hoda turn the Today Show interview in an unexpected direction when they start grilling Nico about relationships between older women and younger men. Trying to act graceful in the hot seat, Nico assures Kathie Lee and Hoda that her relationship with Kirby (though she never says his name) was not tawdry at all, but actually a loving, caring relationship that just didn’t turn out quite right in the end. Griffin takes this as a personal affront. She won’t sign a letter acknowledging their relationship, but she’s perfectly happy to gush about her ex on national television.

Youre asking me what, exactly?

You're asking me what, exactly?

In an effort to do some serious damage control, Nico asks Wendy to invite Griffin to the party, feeling that it will help solve both of their problems. Wendy can put to rest Griffin’s fears about stealing the picture and confirm Nico’s innocence, and Nico can show Griffin that he’s wanted and even accepted in her inner circle. At the party, Wendy finds out that she has been officially outbid for the film. Overhearing this (and trying to avoid the brush-off from Victory’s dad), Joe steps in and offers to bankroll Wendy’s movie. She politely declines, citing Joe’s financial situation, which he is stunned to hear that she knows about. Victory, meanwhile, runs interference with her dad, trying to figure out why he just can’t be happy for her. He tells her that he doesn’t think Joe is right for her, that he’s the kind of man who will neglect her for his work, the kind of man who doesn’t want children. Victory assures her father that Joe is what she wants, and that he will give her the kind of life she wants.

At home, Wendy has been noticing her daughter acting up, coming home late, telling her mom that she’s been hanging out with some dude named Paul (the delivery boy?) in his dorm room. Then Maddie shows up drunk to Victory’s party, just in time to catch the end of her mom’s toast, and Wendy has to cut the evening short and tend to her daughter, who rails at her mother in the street for not being honest about the situation with Shane. Maddie, mistakenly, thinks that her parents are divorcing and that Shane will never come home from the tour. She suggests her mother throw her in therapy like she forced Shane to do, not realizing that the situation had been ameliorated before her father left for his tour. (Maybe if she had decided to come home and say goodbye to him, she wouldn’t have been such and ungrateful little bitch, off to be a “special victim” over on Law & Order: SVU. I think we all know what that means . . .) After throwing up in a trashcan, Wendy takes Maddie home and lets her calm down. When Shane calls that night, Wendy doesn’t tell him about Maddie acting up, letting her daughter speak to her father and apologize for not saying goodbye before he left. Shane suspects something else may be going on, but Wendy assures him that Maddie is just really tired and that they’ll talk again in the morning. Repentant, Maddie curls up to her mother and asks to sleep in her bed, leading us to that Madonna-like image that should have ended this episode.

The Happy Couple.

The Happy Couple.

After having it out with her father at the engagement party, Victory tells Joe that she no longer wants a big wedding, just the two of them and her family, Wendy and Nico. Joe asks her if Wendy and Nico will always know everything about the two of them, citing that Wendy mentioned his financial situation to him earlier in the evening. Victory apologizes, saying she didn’t mean to mention it. Joe tells her that he just wants to trust that there are some things that will stay between the two of them. When Victory agrees, he picks up her ringing phone and talks to her mother, asking her to check with her local church when she gets back home to Ohio and find out if there are any openings available to hold the ceremony there in the springtime, leading them to the kiss they share by the piano that, as before, should have ended this episode.

The Wife:

Unless a New Year’s Miracle occurs, this is the penultimate episode of Lipstick Jungle. Ever. Next week’s installment of the show will be the last it will ever see the light of day, unless, of course I get that New Year’s Miracle and Lipstick Jungle shows up on NBC’s fall schedule. (I am very doubtful that this will happen as virtually every strike-affected show returning for its sophomore season has been given the axe by its parent network – save for shows helmed by Josh Schwartz.)

Luckily, the season/series seems to be prepared to end in a satisfying manner, providing closure for Victory and Joe, compromise for Wendy and Shane and a new era of possibilities for Nico. I was very glad this week to see Wendy and Shane work out their shit after a much-prolonged and unnecessary imbroglio. When setting up her new home office, Wendy loses her shit when she and Maddie discover that Shane has been researching flights to San Francisco, the next stop on Natasha Bedingfield’s tour. The tour he allegedly turned down. (Why she would go from NY to SF with no Midwest stops in between is baffling. I know how rock and roll works. I’m watching Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels). She forces Shane to talk to a marriage counselor about his burning desire to abandon his family and after much seething resentment and seeing Shane play the NY club date on Natasha’s tour, Wendy beings to soften a bit to the idea of him going on tour, but only if she and the kids pack up and go with him. Clearly, this is a ludicrous idea and Shane won’t hear it. Even if he doesn’t want to be the lonely old guy in the bar who could have played keyboards on a 30-city rock tour, he also won’t disrupt his family’s life and force them all to live out of hotels for four months. Nico and Victory also remind Wendy that going on tour with the kids would be a ridiculous notion, and convince her to let her husband go on the road. She buys him a new road bag and a hot leather jacket as a symbol of apology for the tour fight and promises Shane that she’ll come visit and be a good rock and roll wife – but that she won’t visit too often, allowing him to have his time in the limelight.

Thanks, Brooke Sheilds, for letting Paul Blackstone come on tour with me!

Thanks, Brooke Shields, for letting Paul Blackstone come on tour with me!

I am glad this fight is over and that it has resolved itself in a way that benefits both parties. I wrote a lot in my last post about the nuances of the fight and who is right or wrong (no one, really), but I think this was the best resolution that satisfies the needs of both parties. It just took Wendy a while to realize that if she’s working at home, Shane being on tour doesn’t really affect her much except that she’ll be unable to wake up next to his glorious chest hair every morning.

As for Nico, because of last episode’s hormone-induced freak out/pass out session, she has decided to concede the website managing editor position to a new hire. She and Griffin fill her schedule with interviews, allowing for her to take a few days off after the new hire starts so she can have this off her plate while she recovers from her egg extraction procedure. Nico and Griffin hire a spunky young redhead who has never worked in print journalism but is one of the top ten bloggers of the year. When Nico returns to work after a loopy day in the hospital where the anesthetics made her believe Charles was still alive and that she was simultaneously still dating Kirby while romancing Griffin (in her fever dream AND in the Bonfire elevator), she finds that the new hire has scooped her next cover story in the interest of getting better web traffic for Bonfire. Griffin steps in to reprimand the new girl, protecting both the magazine and Nico’s best interests. Nico tells Griffin that she can fight her own battles, and he admits that he overstepped, feeling the need to protect the women he’s interested in. Their future for dating in the workplace seems pretty open – as long as they remember when business is business and when, as the Flight of the Conchords would say, “it’s business time.”

Victory, meanwhile, struggles with finding the right way to propose to Joe. After agonizing over going for the grand gesture, Wendy suggests that she look more for something small and meaningful, citing that even though Joe’s the kind of guy who picked Victory up from Tokyo in a private plane, the thing Victory remembers about that trip is the cupcake he sent along with it. She finally decides to make him a suit, handstitching The Question to be popped on the inside jacket pocket.

Probably one of the most creative proposals ever.

Probably one of the most creative proposals ever.

With the suit ready, the only thing missing is Joe, who has suddenly gone MIA. Even Ellen doesn’t know where he is or why he missed Victory’s small proposal dinner without so much as a phone call. After grilling Ellen, Victory finds Joe feeding the birds at the Coney Island boardwalk, gazing up at the disused Wonder Wheel. He tells her that he’s been evasive because he just fell into some bad business, and lost a significant sum of money. He’s spent so much of his life working to be on top, but knows full well that the only way to go from there is down. He admits that he’d been afraid to talk to her because he thought she would find him less attractive without his money. Victory says she doesn’t care and gives him his suit, a gift that Joe seems completely amazed by, that someone would take the time to make him something without him asking and paying for it. As he looks on the inside jacket pocket at Victory’s request, she says my absolutely favorite thing she’s ever said on the whole series, a line which I feel encapsulates the much stronger woman Victory Ford has become over this season:

“I may not be able to bankroll you, Mr. Bennett, yet, but I can keep you looking sharp.”

Amazed that someone would love him without the thing he feels defines himself, Joe and Victory kiss under the Wonder Wheel, fully accepting the answer to Victory’s question as a “yes.” I’m so thrilled to see Victory take charge like this – it’s just too bad that we’ll probably never get to see their wedding.

Stupid NBC.

The Wife:

It is well known around these parts that I love clothing. Here’s a list of my favorite pieces of clothing from television this year:

1. Blair Waldorf’s green backless Alexandra Avidal Thanksgiving dress from Gossip Girl 2.10 “The Magnificent Archibalds.”

Blairs Alexandra Avidal dress.

Blair's Alexandra Avidal dress.

2. Robin Scherbatsky’s grey, white and yellow Black Halo cut-out cocktail dress from How I Met Your Mother 4.1 “Do I Know You?” It comes in all sorts of color combinations. Serena Van Der Woodsen had a black and grey version on Gossip Girl’s “New Haven Can Wait.” It also comes in white, teal and black, as well as this “geranium” number.

3. Betty Draper’s polka dot party dress from Mad Men 2.8 “A Night to Remember.”

Betty Drapers amazing cocktail dress.

Betty Draper's amazing cocktail dress.

4. Blair Waldorf’s yellow Phillip Lim from Gossip Girl 2.3 “The Dark Night.”

5. Chuck Charles’ gold and black scalloped evening gown from Pushing Daisies 2.6 “Oh Oh Oh . . . It’s Magic.”

6. Peggy Olson’s black and white buffalo plaid sheath from Mad Men 2.10 “The Inheritance.”

7. Chuck Charles’ pink and silver A-line dress from Pushing Daisies 2.1 “Bzzzzzz!”

8. Nico Reilly’s purple Roksanda Ilincic dress from Lipstick Jungle 2.2 “Chapter 9: Help!”

Trust me, the dress is better on the body than on the hanger.

Trust me, the dress is better on the body than on the hanger.

9. Chuck Charles’ yellow linen coat with Peter Pan collar from Pushing Daisies 2.5 “Dim Sum, Lose Some”

10. Anything at all worn by Mad Men‘s Joan Holloway. It doesn’t matter what it is, because it’s all awesome.

The Wife:

Happy Holidays, ya’ll! As I sit at home enjoying my well-preserved end-of-year vacation (watching A Muppet Christmas Carol), I started to look back on the year in TV. Even though the writer’s strike stalled a lot of shows, I think we still got a pretty good year of television in. Sure, there weren’t many pilots appearing this fall and, certainly, a number of good shows fell victim to low-post strike ratings and will soon be leaving us for good, but I’d like to take this time to praise some of my favorite moments of scripted television from 2008.

1. Mad Men 2.7: “The Gold Violin”

The other best of ’08 lists I’ve been reading have been heaping their praise on “Flight 1” and “Meditations on an Emergency,” season two’s opening and closing episodes, respectively, but “The Gold Violin” is definitely my favorite episode from season two. This episode was the most magical, literary hour of television all year, utilizing the surprisingly talented Ken Cosgrove’s unpublished short story “The Gold Violin” as a framing device for all of the characters. The violin itself is “perfect in every way, except it can’t make music,” and I think that’s an apt metaphor for many of the things that happen in this episode. Kitty and Sal’s marriage is perfect in every way. They’re best friends. They get along grand, but Sal doesn’t love her romantically and he never will. (Because he is a gay man with a beard, in case you were confused.) Don Draper’s marriage appears perfect in every way, only it is absolutely not working. And every symbol of power and status he achieves somehow becomes imperfect, like the brand new Caddy Betty Draper throws up in when she finds out that Don had been cheating on her with Bobby Barrett. There’s Joan, who is beautiful, curvy, smart and powerful – the perfect woman for a rapidly changing world, except she doesn’t have love and sees the new model of the secretary as a threat to her power and status, especially when that girl endears herself to Joan’s ex.

This is one of Dyna Moes Mad Men illustrations, spawned from a Christmas card she created for cast member Rich Somner. Click through this to visit her Flicker page where you can buy this and other nifty Mad Men prints.

This is one of Dyna Moe's Mad Men illustrations, spawned from a Christmas card she created for cast member Rich Somner. Click through this to visit her Flicker page where you can buy this and other nifty Mad Men prints.

Ken Cosgrove, to me, seems to be the opposite of this. He’s so imperfect. So unthinking, and yet, he’s the only person at Sterling Cooper who’s actually accepted for his artistic endeavors outside of S-C. (Sal’s not making any money as an artist. Paul Kinsey can’t get published and he’s actually a real writer, constantly being shown up by the office sales buffoon whose main job seems to be to get women for clients.) Ken gets what he wants by not actually wanting anything or being powerful at all. I love this episode; it’s about shattering the image of the American dream, and it shows us those shattered dreams beautifully. The writing here reminds me a bit of O. Henry and Fitzgerald, and I could watch it for its subtlety and intellect more than any other Mad Men episode. Watch it again and I think you’ll start to appreciate the perfection that is this episode.

2. Lost 4.5: “The Constant”

Best episode of Lost. Ever. Further playing off the show’s intense mythology built upon pre-existing literary and philosophical texts, this episode takes Desmond David Hume and turns him into Billy Pilgrim, making him unstuck in time. And what’s the only thing we have to hold onto when we come unstuck in time? Love. There is no greater Lost moment than when Des makes his call to Penny at the end of this episode, realizing that it is she who is his constant, the one thing that kept him alive on his Odyssean journey to find her that got him trapped on Lost island with the other castaways. That moment is revelatory, breathtaking and heartbreaking all at once.

3. How I Met Your Mother 4.7: “Not a Father’s Day”

Drunk Baby Lily. That’s all I have to say. This is Alyson Hannigan’s finest comedic work on this show to date in an episode that proves the almighty power of a tiny baby sock.

4. Gossip Girl 2.3: “The Dark Night”

I had to pick this one, because it’s the episode that turned me into a Gossip Girl fan. It’s rare to see a teen soap have such beautiful production design and so many well composed shots, but I have to give complete artistic props to the Gossip Girl team for creating the gorgeous lighting in Blair’s bedroom for the scene in which Chuck seduces her in the dark. The image of him kissing her neck in her yellow Phillip Lim dress reminds me of early 19th century portraiture, but I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than the way it’s achieved on GG. Blair and Chuck forevah.

To quote Paris Hilton, thats hot.

To quote Paris Hilton, that's hot.

5. Pushing Daisies 2.3: “Bad Habits”

This episode certainly doesn’t have the whimsy and color and fun that so many episodes have. And Chuck was in a nun’s outfit the whole time, so there weren’t any fun costumes. But, this was the first episode where Olive got to be a part of the mystery and the location of the mystery forced alive again Chuck to have a small existential crisis about her post-existence. When she sits in the church next to Ned and quietly utters, “I am a person with no past and no future because of what I am,” my heart broke a little bit. Sometimes, Pushing Daisies makes me cry for sweetness, like how I can’t get through the popcorn tossing scene in Tim Burton’s Big Fish (or even think about it) without welling up in tears, but this episode, Pushing Daises made me cry because I realized how sad life must be to be alive again just at the moment Chuck did. This was a beautiful, thematic episode that belongs right next to the better episodes of Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me in the Bryan Fuller canon.

6. Lipstick Jungle 2.8: “Chapter 15: Sisterhood of the Traveling Prada”

Unlike Sex & the City, the ladies of LJ are best when they’re taken out of their element. At Christine Ebersole’s health spa in upstate New York, Wendy takes time to contemplate her recent devastating firing from Parador Pictures and figure out just how to get back in the movie-making saddle, Victory finds out the hard way about Joe’s almost-proposal and finally stands up to her friends about their overprotective nature before deciding that she needs to make amends with Joe and Nico wonders what it would be like to buy the spa and retire from big city publishing altogether. Being outside the city allows each of the ladies to realize something about themselves: Wendy finds her drive again; Victory realizes that she loves Joe, exclaiming to the stars the rallying cry that she would have said yes; and Nico realizes that she and Kirby really are at different places in their lives. For all the joy and self-discovery and female friendship, there is no better moment on this episode or the series as a whole as when Victory, hoping to make amends with Joe and ride home with him to Manhattan, gets handed an envelope with the papers to return her business to her and is left on the side of the road to watch Joe’s limo pull away without her. Thank God, Nico and Wendy stole Joe’s scotch. Free, expensive scotch is necessary after a moment like that.

7. Fringe 1.8: “The Equation”

This was the first in a string of truly great episodes leading up to the winter break, and I chose it for this list because I found it to be not only important story-wise, but also very atmospheric in its storytelling. I loved everything with Joanne Ostler and her underground music lair full of VR equipment, all of which lent a very X-Filesish atmosphere to the episode. But the best part of this episode, hands down, is Walter’s voluntary trip back to the loony bin to get information out of Dashell Kim. Walter risks his life and his mental health to help the cause, and you can see him die a little bit inside, radiating fear, when he enters the doors of St. Claire’s. John Noble’s best performance to date is this episode, showing that the odd root-beer loving mad scientist is all too human inside.

8. House 4.14/4.15: “House’s Head/Wilson’s Heart”

Not only were these episode’s cool from an aesthetic point of view, they were also a great two-part arc in which an amnesia-stricken House must try to figure out the missing person he was riding the bus with when it crashed. When that person turns out to be Amber, Wilson’s girlfriend, the new team races to save her, only to find that she had been taking too many painkillers and cold medications prior to the crash which weakened her to the point where she couldn’t be saved. For a minor character, Amber a.k.a. Cutthroat Bitch was a major force on house. Anne Dudek imbued this role with so much power that the loss of her from the House universe was devastating. I cried, and House is not a show that demands any emotional attention from me. (Damn your puppy dog face, Bobby Sean, for forcing tears out of me!)

9. 30 Rock 2.14: “Sandwich Day”

This episode set up Jack Donaghey’s downfall, establishing a great character arc of him in the coming episodes, as well as lots of Will Arnett. Also, nobody cheats Liz Lemon out of a teamster sandwich. Nobody.

10. Chuck 2.7: “Chuck vs. the Fat Lady”

Lots of fun puzzles, lots of fun bonding between Chuck and Jill and lots of disappointment at the episode’s end when we realize that Jill has been playing Chuck all along and that the poor dude will never get to be happy. Chuck’s such a likable guy, and it’s a shame that he will seemingly never be able to have a normal life again. Also, Casey can hit a high C. That’s just a good fact to know.