The Wife:

It’s a total delight to be given the final three episodes of Pushing Daisies when there is nearly nothing else on television right now (except for So You Think You Can Dance and, soon, SLOTAT). Having a plethora of farmer’s market strawberries because my mother won’t stop buying them, I spent my Sunday morning baking, like Ned, with live fruit and watching “Window Dressed to Kill.” And while I certainly enjoyed the episode and the pie-baking, there were certainly some bittersweet moments to both experiences. First, the minute this show opened with the narrative about little Olive Snook being ignored at a costume party, I remembered how much I missed seeing this blissfully designed show, but realized I had also forgotten the central decisions made by the characters in “The Norwegians.” Because that was back in December. Before Christmas and holiday baking and drinking and before cooking my noodle on five months of Lost. I had forgotten about the very literal cliffhanger. I had forgotten that Ned had sworn off detective work, and several other things. Secondly, I had a hell of a time getting my crust to come together, at one point spilling little pie crust crumblies all over my freezer. And finally, once I remembered plot points and got my pie crust together, I realized the most bittersweet thing of all: no matter how much of a lovely time I would have watching Pushing Daisies on Sunday mornings over the next three weeks, these would be the last three airings of the show, airings that many people who were only casual viewers might not see because they’re on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. and there was no ABC-sponsored advertisement to remind us about these airings. Seeing Daisies only for a few minutes made me remember everything I love about it, like the smell of a pie cooling on a windowsill. But both pies and Pushing Daisies are finite things, and that makes enjoying them so much just the slightest bit sad. I can always bake another pie, but there’s never going to be another show quite like Pushing Daisies.

After the last episode’s cliffhanger in which Ned told Olive that he didn’t not love her, she spends her time learning about the intricate grammar of the double negative, trying to discern exactly what he meant by that while Ned chooses to retire from detective work, miring himself in his bakeshop to cook with alive-alive fruit for the first time in his life. As Olive asks Ned delicately constructed questions with obscured meaning, he muses on the fact that he can finally eat his own pies and relishes the possibility of getting fat. So when Emerson enters with the case of a dead window dresser for Dicker’s Department Store, Ned politely refuses to help. In his stead, Chuck offers her services suggesting that they, for once, do traditional detective work through which she can become the Alive-Again Avenger.

Relishing the return of that smile.

Relishing the return of that smile.

While Emerson and Chuck head off to investigate the death of window dresser Erin Embry, Olive’s former kidnappers turn up at the Pie Hole, inconveniently ruining Randy Mann’s attempt to court her. But Olive’s former kidnappers turn out to not be as horrible as we thought they were. In fact, they weren’t actually kidnappers at all. They were petty thieves who just happened to steal the car young Olive was hiding from her parents in, hoping that they’d give her the attention she desired if only they missed her for long enough. This was a pretty magical, ingenious twist that I adored, even more so when it lead to the bittersweet realization that Olive’s parents didn’t even want her back and that Jerry and Buster were jailed simply for returning a lost child to the parents that didn’t want her. Over their time in the pen, Olive wrote to them, considering them in some ways to be surrogate dads, and they returned to find her post-jailbreak to solicit her help in getting them safely across the border to Canada.

Olive has told her surrogate kidnapping dads a lot of things, actually – including that Ned loves her and wants to marry her. This comes as a shock to both Ned and Randy, but Ned decides to play along when he realizes that Jerry and Buster’s only happiness is knowing that Olive is happy. So they load the men into Randy’s taxidermy van, and share a very uncomfortable ride with a stuffed rhinoceros up to the border where they find the police waiting for them. Rather than risk Jerry and Buster returning to jail, they turn the van around and head to Lily and Vivian’s house, where Olive hopes they might be able to root through the aunts’ old Darling Mermaid Darlings costumes and find some way to disguise the escapees. While there, Olive’s dads accidentally spill the not-real news about Ned and Olive’s engagement and while Vivian looks for disguises for their houseguests, she digs up the veil she was to wear to her wedding to Charles Charles and presents it to Olive, the very presence of which freaks out Ned so much that Olive finally realizes he definitely doesn’t love her in that way and comes clean about her fake relationship, which her kidnapping dads recognize as yet another one of Olive’s desperately sad pleas for attention.

But there’s barely any time to mope over the dissolution of a fake relationship as the cops have surrounded the aunts’ house, as a suspicious neighbor saw Jerry and Buster smoking on the porch and called them in. Ned, who’s spent the episode “trying on” a normal relationship and a “normal” life in which he can eat pies and not wake the dead and hold the hand of a girl he loves (in some way) realizes, after a long talk with Randy and the events with Olive, that he should be happy being somewhat-super instead of trying to hard to fit in to normalcy, and so he rushes out to Randy’s van and makes the rhinoceros alive-again long enough to disperse the police. This very much embarrasses Randy, who just can’t believe he taxidermied a live animal. But Olive quiets his fears with talk of the convent and he, in turn, quiets hers by suggesting she turn to whomever Mother Superior would turn to in times when one runs out of their own cunning.

Olive talks to the police about letting Buster and Jerry off the hook since they didn’t really commit a crime in the first place, but they seem unmoved. Luckily, as if by some divine plan, Mother Superior and her sisters enter the Pie Hole looking for a pee break, and Olive kindly breaks her “customers only” policy to allow the sisters in, which also allows her to spirit her jailbird dads out in nun’s garb, along with some complimentary pies. You know, in the name of charity. This was a very clever take on deus ex machina, especially because I saw Diana Scarwid’s name in the credits and kept wondering how Mother Superior was going to figure into this episode. In general, I really liked this whole insight into Olive’s desperation for love and attention, especially the flashback to what her childhood kidnapping experience was actually like (better than her life at home) and the moment where she breaks away from her fake-engagement party to sing a few bars of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Swear to God, Bryan Fuller is almost as good as Ryan Murphy at choosing appropriate music for a scene. I was also very fond of Ned’s Superman/Clark Kent-ish struggle with being ordinary or extraordinary, which also reminded me of how good the first season of Heroes (when Fuller worked on it) compared to subsequent seasons.

The Emerson-and-Chuck mystery was mostly just fluff compared to the emotionally-driven Olive-and-Ned narrative, but it was pretty fluff, which is the best kind of fluff Daises has to offer. Sans their magic finger, they investigate Erin Embry’s murder and realize that the current window at Dicker’s mirrors the crime scene. She’s wearing the same dress as the mannequin and died in the same frozen, wintry fountain. As the police have ruled Erin’s death an accident, Emerson has no one to pay him to investigate. Cleverly, Chuck drums up some funding by whispering into the ears of Erin’s many devotees that she may have been murdered, so after about three minutes of rumor-mongering, Chuck and Emerson are on the case. The suspects are many, particularly Coco Juniper, Erin’s window dressing partner, whom they suspect may have offed Erin to show which of the two had real talent. Only, that theory gets shot to hell when Coco Juniper turns up dead after the unveiling of the Erin Embry Memorial Window, showing a goddess-like woman ascending retail escalators to heaven . . . which means Coco’s corpse is also lodged in an escalator. By poking around the store at night, Chuck and Emerson uncover the fact that neither Erin nor Coco were the creative geniuses behind the Dicker’s windows – it was their biggest fan, Chic-as-Hell Denny. When they suspect he might be murdering everyone at Dicker’s to get credit, they inform store owner Dick (Sex and the City‘s Willie “Stanford Blatch” Garson), who immediately starts to make suspicious inquiries about Denny. Ned returns just in time to help put everything together by waking the two dead designers (so distractingly funny to see Coco wonder where the hell her legs are) who inform them that it was in fact Dick who offed them, meaning Chic-as-Hell Denny would be his next target. You see, Dick hated his family business and wanted out without having to lose his family, so he set about to lose the one thing that brought Dicker’s Department Store so much revenue: its famous windows. Case closed, thanks to Ned’s magic fingers, and Chic-as-Hell Denny went on to get Erin and Coco’s old job all to himself with a new member of the Dicker family running the store.

Favorite outfit of the episode belongs to the black lace cocktail dress worn by Olive’s inattentive mother at the party from which her daughter gets “kidnapped,” which I think was nicely reflected in Coco Juniper’s black lace sheath – two women who could not have cared less about the loss of people they “loved.” I just taught you costume design, bitches.

The Husband:

It may be entirely because of the five-plus-change months between the last episode of Pushing Daisies and this one, but this entry may log as one of my favorites. It could just be because of the sudden rush of nostalgic awe-inspiring goodness of this show (yes, something five months old can be nostalgic), but I was so into this episode and its clever way of working around Ned’s insistence that he would no longer revive dead things, at least for the time being. It somehow ironically livened up the procedural aspect considerably, especially since Emerson and Chuck figured out pretty much everything even before Ned broke his pact with himself and went to the morgue with the two of them.

Instead of ignoring the Darlings, we got just the right amount of screen time from them without resorting to another flashback into their pasts. Instead rehashing old guests stars just for the sake of it, David Arquette and Diana Scarwid were essential plot items used 100% correctly. Instead of pushing Olive to the side as pretty much the entire first season did, she was front-and-center when she needed to be and elsewhere when she wasn’t.

Am I actually praising this show for simply using its ensemble well, something that would seem to be pretty much was you’re supposed to do with an ensemble show? Yes. Because it doesn’t happen enough on television. It should, but it doesn’t.

I’m so glad to get these aired in some form or another, followed by the leftover episodes of Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money, even if it is at 10 p.m. It’s always a shame to have to wait for the DVDs, usually released midway through the fall, so this is a nice present from the networks who saw the poor ratings for these three good shows and just had to cut them. Stay tuned for the leftover eps of Samantha Who, In The Motherhood and the not-canceled but cut-down first season of Better Off Ted during the rest of the summer. It’s actually quite a lovely idea, even if it is bittersweet.

The Husband:

And lo, Holly re-entered Michael Scott’s life, and the world of The Office was complete again. For this season finale, several stories came crashing in on each other, and what better place for that than the company-wide picnic, full of food, games and seeeeeecrets

Aside from learning, for instance, that all Human Resources leads talk with the same joylessness and boring tact as Toby, the biggest event of the day is not the competitive volleyball game (more on that later), but Michael and Holly finally reuniting after her relocation to New Hampshire after it was discovered that she and Michael were fraternizing (boss + employee + sex = no good). Still with boyfriend and coworker Rob Huebel, she and Michael nevertheless still have major chemistry, but they must put that aside in order to do a comedy sketch for the picnic. After going through several bad ideas (a Jaws parody that would have them muttering “Dun-der, dun-der, dun-der”), they settle on a deliriously weird take-off of Slumdog Millionaire, complete with the torture scenes. The questions are based around the origins and history of Dunder-Mifflin (it seems Dunder and Mifflin met on a campus tour of Dartmouth, and one of them shot himself in the head), the sketch finally makes waves when one of the Millionaire questions reveals that the Buffalo branch is about to be closed, a piece of info David shared secretly with Michael.

Why David told Michael I’ll never understand (what were you expecting from someone who recently defected and battled your company), but I think the revelation might have done a very good job in revealing some of Corporate’s misdoings, and that Michael has become the kind of person to not go down without a fight.

Having a moment.

Having a moment.

Post-sketch, Michael and Holly have another moment, but alas, it cannot be, as she and Rob Huebel exit, leaving Michael to understand, in a stunning bit of maturity, that he is willing to wait for her and not force his hand too much.

“I think that today was just about having today.” – Michael

Meanwhile, on the field, Dunder-Mifflin is rising up in the ranks of the intramural volleyball tournament, thanks mostly to Pam rocking the ball hardcore. (She never revealed to anybody that she played in middle school, high school and some college, as well as attended volleyball summer camp frequently.) But when they go up against the Corporate team, led by Charles Minor, the game gets nasty.

On the sidelines, one of Dwight’s newest friends, Rolph, is relentlessly haranguing Angela for breaking his friend’s heart.

“What does one fiancée plus one lover equal? Answer: a whore!” – Rolph

Finally, Rolph goes too far, Dwight forcibly tells him to back off, and Angela realizes that she and Dwight may not be a lost cause after all.

(I don’t know if this was intentional, but I find it extra funny that Dwight says he met Rolph at a shoe store. The actor playing Rolph, James Urbaniak, is a wonder at playing terrible creeps, from being R. Crumb in American Splendor to voicing Dr. Venture on The Venture Brothers, but he will always be the foot fetishist shoe salesman on Sex and the City.)

But back to the volleyball game. During a particularly aggressive defense, Pam trips and busts her ankle, prompting Jim to take her to a nearby hospital (ever the paranoid naturalist, Dwight knows exactly how many miles away it is) and Dwight to stall the game as much as possible. But at the hospital, a busted ankle becomes something else, and in a scene respectable not just for its emotion but for the fact that it’s done in silence, Jim and Pam find out that they are having a baby, prompting Jim to call Dwight back and uttering the best line of the week:

“Hey Dwight, send in the subs.” – Jim

I realize I’m in the minority, but as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I think this is the best season of The Office yet. No longer insistent on simply telling a bunch of goofy office stories, the world has opened up even bigger than before, willing more than ever to turn up the drama when it’s necessary. Jim and Pam may seem irrelevant to some, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as we see this beautiful flower emerge from the cracks within the concrete that is Dunder-Mifflin. Michael and Holly’s relationship was top-notch, helping turn Michael, finally, into an actual human being and not just a caricature who would sometimes change personalities just to service each week’s plot. Ryan’s return was handled well. Pam’s failed attempt at art school was realistic and understandable. The entire Michael Scott Paper Company arc worked better than I would have expected. How is this not a great season?

I leave this season with two more good quotes from the episode, the first just goofy, the second a cheap, easy joke for Dwight, but a funny one nonetheless.

“Yeah, you don’t grab these for balance.” – Pam

“I have an appointment with a horse doctor. How that horse became a doctor, I’ll never know. I’m just kidding. He’s just a regular doctor who shoots your horse in the head when his leg is broken.” – Dwight

The Husband:

Ding dong, Edie is finally fucking dead. Thank whatever lord you have, because her constant story repetitions that serve no purpose other than to act as a cheap plot device for other, better plots have finally come to a close. No longer do we have to put her in all the promos as if she were one of the “housewives” despite contributing nothing to the series other than a plastic shell. Hell, she didn’t even feel like a housewife when she was, in all actuality, a wife this season to Creepy Dave.

Clearly, no one is all that moved by Edies death.

Clearly, no one is all that moved by Edie's death.

But the show isn’t done with her yet, at least not in this week’s episode, because for the first (and hopefully last) time, she takes over the Mary Alice role and became the narrator. As long as her mannish voice is gone next week, then I accept that this, an episode based solely on the housewives (plus Mrs. McClusky) reminiscing about Edie Britt. But if she sticks around in the ether, then I’ll be fucking pissed.

As the rest of the stories have been put completely on hold for the long van ride to Edie’s son’s boarding school, there isn’t really a whole lot to talk about. (Nope, no mention of Creepy Dave’s story, which directly caused Edie’s death.) Basically, Gaby and Edie had a very special night on the town that turned into a tender moment fueled by jealousy that Gaby got more free drinks at a bar than Edie did, Susan called out the new-to-the-neighborhood Edie for sleeping with a married man until Edie turned around and informed Susan of the terrible truth of Susan’s husband’s infidelity with another woman, Lynnette learned to battle cancer when Edie takes her to a biker bar (huh?), and Mrs. McClusky had a drink-fueled heart-to-heart with Edie about what it means to lose a child as opposed to giving one up.

The only memory I really and truly appreciated was Bree’s, which dealt with the years between last season and this season as it pertained to Orson’s incarceration. After being basically forced out of Wisteria Lane, Edie had taken to visiting Orson every so often in prison, not for sex but just because the prison was nearby and she needed a friend, and Bree was certainly not coming as often as she should…being Orson’s wife and all. The story filled in a couple emotional holes that seemed to positively gape when this flash-forward season started, so I’m glad that the writers took the time to at least address some Van De Kamp/Hodge drama.

There only five episodes left, so they’d better be nice and juicy.

…I can’t believe I just wrote “nice and juicy.” This is not good.

Over on Brothers & Sisters, everybody has sex on the brain (look at the episode’s title if you need help with that one), save for most of the children (thankfully offscreen) and the on-the-lam Tommy. (Although, technically, he is stranded in Mexico, so who’s to say Balthazar Getty is not getting some south-of-the-border va-hi-na or participating in a Double Indemnity-inspired murder plot concocted by Patricia Arquette twins.)

Let’s split this up into two sections.

Getting Laid

  • The newly reappointed-to-Ojai-Foods Sarah, who shares a quick office tryst with Cal the accountant/volunteer firefighter (Christián de la Fuente from Dancing with the Stars and…other stuff I don’t watch), only to find out the next day that he was a temp and she bought and wore that too-tight red dress for nothing.
  • …actually, she was the only one getting laid.

Not Getting Laid But Certainly Thinking About It

  • Kevin and Scotty, who are propositioned by Kevin’s closeted former lover Chad (Jason Lewis) to have a threesome with him, only to reject his very forward suggestion but still be hot-and-bothered enough to have a shirtless make-out session, only to be interrupted by the just-banged-by-a-temp Sarah. (Jason Lewis, after playing a model/actor on Sex and the City and a soap opera actor on House, stretches his performance abilities to play…an actor.)
  • Ryan The Missing Walker continuing to lust after Rebecca, despite making it so obvious in mixed company that Rebecca’s estranged father warns her of this creepy boy’s total creep factor.
  • Nora, who is suddenly revisited by architect Roger Grant, who has informed her that his open relationship with his London-based wife (a set-up that turned Nora off) has turned into no marriage at all, so now he only has eyes for her.
  • Kitty, who is watching her marriage completely fall apart (despite Robert’s affidavit, signed by his doctor, that his heart is finally okay enough to survive a bout of passionate lurrrrrvin’), is starting to really feel fondness for Alec the single father, who brings her treats at the playground their children use every day. Watch out, Kitty – his brother is a lawyer who can see the future via musical numbers (or however one is to describe Eli Stone’s “powers”).
  • Justin, who is trying to either find a way to restart his relationship with Rebecca or at least find closure, neither or which really happens.

Other than the knowledge that Tommy, despite having all charges dropped against him, still doesn’t want to come back to his family and relatives in the United States, not a whole lot of story progress was made this week, but it was definitely an entertaining way to come back to the Walker clan after several weeks off the air.

The Wife:

Hey, people who watch Desperate Housewives and stuff! Question! Is “Look Into Their Eyes and You’ll See What They Know” the first DH episode that draws it’s title from Sondheim lyrics rather than song titles? Because that song is “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company. Here! Watch the brilliant Anna Kendrick perform it in Camp!

The Wife:

Parks and Recreation 1.2 “Canvassing”

After the supremely awkward denouement that was Leslie’s first town hall meeting at the end of this episode, I am definitely warming up to Parks & Recreation. To facilitate that meeting, Leslie et al spent the day canvassing, which my husband can tell you is basically the worst job in the world, during which time idealistic Leslie found out that not everyone likes parks. Sure, pedophiles do, especially if the park is more than the required 1000 feet from their home and extra-especially if there’s going to be a pool in which the kids can swim, but sometimes mothers of children don’t like them because they’re too noisy. And those park haters are exactly the kind of people who show up to voice their opinions at town hall meetings.

Yeah, Im pretty sure I took this internship so I wouldnt have to canvass for Peta and shit.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I took this internship so I wouldn't have to canvass for Peta and shit.

Seeing how poorly that meeting is going, Leslie starts filibustering to run down the clock and avoid a potential park-killing vote. Tactics used? Reciting the history of Pawnee, which involves a good slaughtering of white settlers by the local Native American population, planting Intern April in the audience as the voice of the local pro-park youth and, eventually, reading aloud from The Phantom Tollbooth. Let me just say this: if every episode contains a joke involving the brutal and deadly culture clashes between Native Americans and white settlers, I will be a happy camper. So far, we’ve gotten one in each episode (the score is Natives 1, Settlers 1), and I for some reason think these jokes have been the funniest out of everything. It’s really hard not to find the phrase “until he was twisted to death” funny when you’re me.

Also funny:

  • Leslie and Ann returning to Ann’s home to find her injured boyfriend Andy playing Rock Band with Mike and Intern April . . . who should have been out canvassing.
  • Intern April hiding under a tee-shirt while playing Rock Band, as if it were an invisibility cloak.
  • “I want my daughter to succeed passionately. That’s why I always encourage her to be a wife and mother.” – Leslie’s mom, who is also in local government and is way better at it than her daughter will ever be.
  • “Nikolai, do you want to swim in the dirt?” –Leslie
  • “Fillibuster! Boom!” – Leslie
  • “You know, normally I don’t agree with Leslie about anything, but this book is awesome.” – Tom, holding up The Phantom Tollbooth

30 Rock 3.18 “Jackie Jormp-Jomp”

And so Liz begins her suspension from work, and she cannot wait to get back. In fact, all she does is spend her days annoying the hell out of her building’s various Polish doorpersons by yammering on and on about TGS and the crazy times she has there . . . until she meets an out-of-work Wall Street exec who teaches her how to let go of the work-defined identity she has cultivated and fill her days with booze, facials, shopping and lunch, brunch and dinner dates. It’s basically like living in Sex and the City, and despite her attempts to resist, Liz somehow finds herself completely in love with their culture, per a brilliant sequence where she insists she’s only going to have one drink with them, and suddenly finds that she’s spent the whole day eating, drinking, relaxing and shopping, all before she’s finished telling them she won’t stay. When she completes her sensitivity training and is reinstated at work, she suddenly feels overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to a job-defined existence and quickly sexually harasses Mr. Weinerslav (“It’s pronounced weiner slave.”) in order to return to the safe comfort of her new divorcee friends.

Jack: There is no solace in their luxury, only deep despair.
Liz: How do you know so many Indigo Girls songs?

And, of course, Jack is right, because Liz’s new friends turn out to be a fight club, where one night a week they beat the shit out of each other just to feel alive. They even make Liz fight her way out:

“This is very disappointing!” – Liz

Oh my god . . . Im actually alive, right? RIGHT????

Oh my god . . . I'm actually alive, right? RIGHT????

Meanwhile, with Liz gone from TGS, Pete and Jack are trying to hold things together, especially in light of the new sexual harassment policy and Sheinhart Wig Company’s refusal to release Jenna’s Janis Joplin/Janie Jimplin/Janet Jopler biopic, now known as Sing ‘Dem Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jormp-Jomp Story. In order to have any hope of reviving Jenna’s career, Jack makes her attend the Kids’ Choice Awards (where she must begrudgingly set aside her feud with Raven-Symoné for one day) and they learn during a hilarious In Memoriam montage that, somehow, the entertainment world thinks Jenna is dead. Jack sees this as an opportunity to revive her career and market the movie, because every studio in the country would clamor to release someone’s final film. He asks Jenna to help him fake her death by staying out of the public eye.

“Oh, I can play dead. I watched my entire church group get eaten by a bear.” – Jenna

The new sexual harassment policy insists that employees declare relationships with other employees to their superiors, so Kenneth announces to Jack his intentions to marry Daphne, one of the Tracy Jordan dancers. Only Kenneth has never talked to Daphne and he is shocked/heartbroken/terrified to see DotCom turn up at the office, hand-in-hand with Daphne to declare their relationship to Jack. (At least Kenneth got to declare that he was sexually harassed by Meredith Viera, who made him eat an unripened banana in front of her and told him that pretty boys like him don’t need to read things. Man, I love the imagined life of Meredith Viera on this show.) Taking power into his own hands, Tracy puts an end to the feud between DotCom and Kenneth (for no one shall be denied extra mustard on his watch!), he fires Daphne, and the other dancers refuse to come to work in solidarity, leading Tracy to hire a bunch of female impersonators to dance on the show that week, which will be dedicated entirely to the memory of recently deceased Jenna Moroney.

Jenna is thrilled at the prospect of a show dedicated entirely to her, and watched gleefully from the sidelines. That is, until she notices that her real birth year, not the actress year, is listed on her memorial head shot. Unable to bear the thought that people would know she’s actually forty, Jenna sneaks onstage to cover up the year with her hand while singing live, in an Easter-like resurrection miracle. “Sorry, Jack! Totally worth it!” she calls out between soulful notes from her undead vocal chords.

I was very fond of the Jenna and Liz storylines in this episode, but the Tracy-DotCom-Kenneth piece didn’t really add up to anything. But I guess that’s what happens when you put Tracy in charge of something – the pieces just don’t add up. Firing Daphne didn’t really solve anything, and led us to a sight gag that never came to fruition. We should have seen those dancers again, in full force, preferably in a highly choreographed dance number in memoriam of Jenna, but we didn’t. Alas.

“Heavy is the head that eats the crayons.” – Tracy

The Wife:

Continuing my day of posts spent writing about shows that are canceled and shouldn’t be, here it is, folks, the last episode of Lipstick Jungle for this year. Unlike the ABC shows, however, NBC promised us at the end of this episode that LJ would return “in the new year” with “new episodes,” which I can only assume to mean the final two episodes of the series. There’s been a lot of talk around the interwebs about whether or not LJ is technically canceled (it isn’t), but the show’s fate lies in how the final three episodes do (so sayeth the New York Post). Given that the final two episodes will air next year on unspecified dates and times, I don’t expect that the show will survive its turn at the sophomore show guillotine. But it should. We know it should. And we know that Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money and Pushing Daises (over on ABC) should all have been spared the blade. But before I begin my final defense of Lipstick Jungle, let me recap this episode:

Shane and Wendy continue to see their marriage in crisis, with Shane upset that Wendy wants to go back to work, feeling, perhaps, a never-expressed belief that one parent should be home to raise the children, as well as feeling like Wendy doesn’t care for his opinions or desires after she shot down his proposal to have another child based on her need to get back into the work force. Their rift grows further when Josie, Shane’s manager, baits him with the prospect of a job touring as a keyboardist for Natasha Bedingfield. The job would take Shane away from his family for four months, a prospect which Wendy finds preposterous, despite Maddie’s urgings that her father should take the job so she can meet Natasha Bedingfield.

Shane and Wendy have a very real fight about the subject, which their son Taylor overhears. Shane accuses Wendy of not respecting his needs and desires by asking him not to go on tour, when she would be perfectly allowed to pack up to go to a movie shoot the first chance she got. Wendy counters that her shoots would never take as much as four months and that she was only ever gone from her family for two weeks at a time. They further discuss their roles and responsibilities in the relationship, leading Shane to turn down the tour at Wendy’s urging.

Feeling this is a mistake for his career, Josie comes to talk to Wendy, trying to shed some light on what it’s like to date a touring musician. Josie tells Wendy that you just have to make the best of it. You spend a lot of time on the phone, and you relish the times when that person comes home. But Wendy refuses to hear Josie’s side of the story, shutting her down and telling her that while she may have Shane’s best interests as an artist at heart, Wendy has Shane’s total best interest at heart.

Witnessing his parents fighting causes Taylor to act out at school, starting a fight with his best friend whose parents are also divorcing. (You know, the kid whose dad tried to hit on Wendy.) At the parent-teacher conference, Wendy and Shane resume their fight again, which prompts Wendy to ask if the two of them can see a marriage counselor. Instead of taking Wendy’s offer to work on the relationship, Shane decides to take the Natasha Bedingfield tour behind her back.

Meanwhile, Victory continues to work on her Baron Brothers campaign. She and her friends all approve an ad where a woman is lying naked on a bed in Victory Ford linens, and Victory is excited by the choice, until she finds out that the Baron Brothers intended her to be featured in the ad. (Frankly, I thought that was pretty clear since the drawing of the girl in the picture looked exactly like Victory.) Another rattling part of her meeting with Baron Brothers was spotting Joe Bennett across the room. While her Baron Brothers rep heads off to take a phone call, Victory excuses herself to talk to Joe, but she finds she can’t say her peace there because Joe only wants to talk business with her.

Victory tells her friends about appearing nude in the Baron Brothers ad, and they both assure her that doing the ad herself is the best move for her career. Nico assures Victory that the nude ad links her image with the brand. It shows people that if they buy her sheets, they can be like Victory Ford because she uses them herself. (Why Nico isn’t in marketing, I don’t know. She’s clearly good at it.) Wendy and Nico call Victory out on her fear of nudity and convince her to do the ad, hoping it will help her get over her fear of being seen as vulnerable. Nico even recommends Kirby for the job, hoping that a photographer Victory knows will be more comfortable for her to work with.

Victory takes it all off and comes out of her shell.

Victory takes it all off and comes out of her shell.

After losing Charlie, Nico decides to freeze some of her eggs, just in case she should want a child in the future. Wendy helps her prepare her hormone treatments and assures her that she’s doing the right thing, even though the excess of hormones make Nico have hot flashes at inopportune times. Kirby drops by her office to thank her for the recommendation to shoot Victory’s Baron Brothers ads, and also to ask her permission to show them the nudes he took of her as part of his portfolio. Nico assures Kirby that she’s fine having people see those pictures, just as her alarm goes off to tell her to take more hormones. She tells Kirby that she’s decided to freeze some of her eggs, just in case. Kirby doesn’t know quite how to take the news, surprised that Nico is rushing into the idea of parenthood so quickly after having Charlie for only a few days. He tells her she’d be a great mom, after seeing how good she was with Charlie. Awkwardly, she reminds him that he was great with the baby, too.

After taking her next hormone shot, Nico passes out in her office and Griffin rushes to take care of her. He accompanies her to the hospital, and to her home, where he refuses to let her lift a finger, instructing her to lie down while he prepares some tea for her. Ever since their Halloween meeting with Hang Time, Nico and Griffin have been growing friendlier, and the show has certainly been humanizing him more. During their afternoon together at Nico’s house, Griffin tells her that he overheard her at the hospital talking about her fertility treatments. He is barely fazed by the news, telling her that he had friends who went through the treatments a couple of years ago and now have a darling baby girl. Griffin goes on to encourage Nico’s desire to have a child and orders dinner for her, during which they discuss their failed marriages, their commitment to their jobs and the eerily similar fact that their former spouses both left them to start families with other people. Realizing that they’re more similar than she thought, Nico starts to rethink her relationship with Griffin, wondering if perhaps the two of them have a chance to have something together, as they both understand what its like to love a job more than a family.

After freaking out a bit at the Baron Brothers shoot, Victory finally becomes comfortable in her own skin, ready to keep shooting even after Kirby announces that he’s gotten more than enough great material from her already. Newly confident, Victory heads over to Joe’s house to surprise him and say her peace about their breakup. She tells him that she finally understands why she thanked Rodrigo instead of Joe at the fashion show, feeling that if she had thanked Joe, she would have felt too exposed. She then thanks Joe for all that he’s done for her and, most importantly, she tells him that she would have said yes to his marriage proposal. Joe immediately takes her in his arms and they spend the night together, reemerging the next morning as that same happily confused couple we know them to be, only this time, with a Victory that’s got just a little more spunk and fire in her, a Victory that knows exactly what she wants. After telling her friends about spending the night with Joe, she announces to them that this time, she’s going to ask Joe to marry her.

Victory, finally living up to her name.

Victory, finally living up to her name.

I’m so happy to see Victory finally come out of her nervous, self-conscious, self-doubting shell. Those things were preventing me from liking her. She’s still got those qualities, of course, because those things make her human, but I’m proud of her for learning to put those things on the back burner when it really matters. Finally, she’s learned to take control of her life, and that’s totally commendable, especially because I think she’s finally become the right partner for Joe Bennett, the kind of girl who can stand up to him, who can put a ring on his finger and who can command his respect. Before she really found herself, it was too easy for Victory to lose her footing with Joe, too easy to be treated just as arm candy, but now, I see her as a much more formidable partner. All I can say is that I hope Joe Bennett says yes to her proposal and that this season/series finale features a quickly put together but fabulous Ford-Bennett wedding.

Now, as to why this show is actually great, I point you towards Shane and Wendy’s fight. I’m told that a lot of people (women specifically) don’t like this show because the ladies of Lipstick Jungle don’t talk like real people. Really? Because I’m pretty sure that Shane and Wendy’s fight was one of the most real things I’ve heard on television in a long time. It is absolutely like the kind of fight you have about balancing your work life and your home life, which is a really important balance to find when you’re married with children. And the best part about this argument is that both parties are right, but neither seems to be willing to find a compromise that will make them both happy. It’s dramatic, without being melodramatic, which is more than I can say for most relationship fights I see in movies and on television.

Shane deserves to value his career just as much as Wendy does, but Wendy also deserves to be able to continue the career she loves. I don’t know where Shane got the idea that Wendy would want to stay home for good, considering he married her knowing that she was a career-minded lady, but it seems like he’s decided that now that she’s given up the office, it makes up for the first fifteen years of their marriage where he stayed home, working freelance, while she was the breadwinner. That said, Wendy also deserves to have a partner in the relationship that can help them care for their children together, which Shane can’t quite do from the road. But then again, its only four months. Four months that he’d be gone in their fifteen years together. For all the two week stints that Wendy was gone, I think its safe to assume that, over the years, they’ve added up to more than four months.

Personally, I can see that being on tour for four months would be hard on their marriage at this time. They know they’re not doing well. And Shane should know that, with Wendy starting a new project, this is not the best time for him to leave her with full responsibility for the children. I don’t think it was ever said that he couldn’t take a touring gig in the future, simply that it isn’t a great idea right now. Especially since their son thinks they’re getting a divorce. But at the same time, Maddie is fifteen and is certainly old enough to babysit her brother and see that he gets home safely from school. Should Shane head out on the road, surely someone could convince Maddie to help out more around the house for a little while, especially if she were rewarded for it with a private meet-and-greet with Natasha Bedingfield.

I like that fight because it’s very real, very nuanced and very delicately crafted. It’s more real than anything I’ve ever seen on Sex & the City, which, compared to this show, is extremely melodramatic. I also find Nico, Wendy and Victory to be better role models. Know why? Because we actually see them working. Sure, we saw Carrie write, but I think we all know she’s a not a great writer who probably shouldn’t have even had that column in the first place. We’ve never seen Miranda lobby for anything or talk about her cases. Once Charlotte gave up the gallery, there was no need for her to work anymore because she achieved her WASPy dream of finding a rich man that she could have a perfect home with. And then there’s Samantha, who did PR, but never seemed to have any clients other than Smith Jarrod, whom she was also fucking. Their world on SATC was fun, certainly, but unrealistic and unattainable. The ladies on LJ make much more sense for a world in which women do have to balance their work lives and their home lives. These ladies have worked hard to get where they’re at, and they deserve to be recognized in their fields. The truth is, everyone has a job and your job impacts your social life. And yes, the ladies of LJ lunch together as often as the ladies of SATC do, but you know that these girls are returning to the office when they finish their lunch.

I also find their problems to be all that much more real than those of SATC. Granted, SATC is a comedy and the situations are usually quite exaggerated, but SATC had its dramas, too. I was crushed when Joe left Victory on the roadside in “Sisterhood of the Traveling Prada.” I was never that crushed from anything on SATC. This show takes the time to fully craft the relationships between its characters, and they explore real issues that people face in relationships when they strive to balance their work lives and their personal lives. SATC never gave us a working life for the girls to contend with. And because their problems with their relationships were seated in their own neuroses, I cared less. (Except about Miranda and Steve. I love Steve and I still believe that he would have never cheated on Miranda, no matter how little sex she had with him. He would just watch porn and masturbate, like everyone else does.)

Lipstick Jungle is one of the only shows on television with female leads, and it’s good. It’s really good. Wendy, Nico and Victory think and act like real women do. Their problems are real. And they deal with those problems the way actual women would. I relate to these women, and it’s so refreshing to have something so relatable on television. But I guess not enough television viewers know actual women who act like this, who think through situations rationally before responding with histrionics, women who got somewhere by using their brains and pride themselves on that fact. Or not enough viewers actually want to see women-driven programming that’s smart, stylish and actually good. And that’s really sad. Really, really sad. I thought we were at an age where women like Wendy, Nico and Victory would have as much power on the television as they do in their Manhattan, but I guess I was wrong.

I’ll be sad to see this show go. Truly. It’s much smarter than SATC ever was, and much more honest. And I’d rather see that than see Carrie overspend on shoes anyday.

The Wife:

“Chapter 14: Let the Games Begin”

After witnessing the Victory/Rodrigo kiss at the fashion show, Joe has all but withdrawn from Victory’s life. When Nico and Wendy find out that she’s no longer with Rodrigo, they start trying to repair her relationship with Joe, hoping to convince him to contact her again, but he won’t have any of it. Nico eventually convinces him to help Victory broker a deal to design tennis outfits for an up-and-coming tennis darling (as Victory knows nothing at all about sports) and to at least remain in contact with her for business purposes. Once the deal is settled, Joe storms away and calls Victory out for kissing Rodrigo at the fashion show, raving against her fickle ways as the elevator doors close shut on him. Later, his assistant comes to reveal to Victory that Joe had planned to propose to her.

Will you just listen to Roan Inish, for the love of God?

Will you just listen to Roan Inish, for the love of God?

Meanwhile, Wendy, still feeling a little guilty about what happened between her and Dennis, starts to get a little jealous of all the time Shane is spending with his gorgeous, young agent who just helped him book a job composing a film about a 1960s Irish Catholic/Protestant Romeo & Juliet story. Wendy joins Shane at dinner with his agent and the film’s producer, and the producer immediately tries to convince Wendy to sign on to the film for an executive producing credit. She accepts, which seems to really bug the hell out of Shane. Wendy immediately gets her producer’s cap on and starts to steer Shane in directions that don’t jive with his work style. Things get further complicated when Dennis shows up with a bottle of wine to apologize for his behavior, which Wendy tells Shane was a thank you for making the boy’s Halloween costumes. Shane reminds Wendy that she is his producer first and his wife second when it comes to the film, so she should stop worrying about how attractive his agent is because he doesn’t want to sleep with her. Realizing that producing a film that Shane is also working on is putting a strain on their relationship, Wendy quits the film and apologizes to Shane for being so jealous. She admits what happened between her and Dennis and Shane is angry and disappointed that she felt the need to keep something from him.

As for Nico, she has been preparing to meet Mother Atwood, who shows up at her door as Rosanna Arquette, who is smoking hot and looks like she and Kim Raver could be sexy blonde twins. (Although, I must note that Rosanna, whose character is supposed to be from Michigan, seems to have a much better hair colorist than Nico does. Fancy that.) Now, every time I see Rosanna Arquette, I think of a scene from David Cronenberg’s Crash (the good Crash about sex and car crashes, not that shitty one about racism that somehow won Best Picture in 2005), in which she tries to get into a sports car despite her broken spine and damaged legs. She has scars that run the full length of her legs, making it look like she has a permanent seam down the back of her fishnet stockings. This is one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen on film, and it is the only thing I can think of when I see Rosanna.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures I could find of her sexy leg fissures. So this one will have to do. Its her sexy back brace.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures I could find of her sexy leg fissures. So this one will have to do. It's her sexy back brace.

That aside, Mother Atwood (aka Tina) starts a war with Nico over her son, baiting Nico by insinuating that she’s too old for Kirby and that she won’t want the same things he wants. The final straw for Nico, though, is when Tina tells Kirby that he’s out of place at the Hang Time launch party and that he will never be part of Nico’s high-powered world. As a challenge to Tina, Nico asks Kirby to move in with her. Tina warns her son against this, fearing that he will be “a passenger in [his] own life” if he stays with Nico, which I think is a really interesting metaphor coming from the star of Crash. Ultimately, after Tina has headed home to Michigan, Kirby tells Nico that he doesn’t want to move in with her as a challenge to his mother. He wants it to be Nico’s choice to form a life with him, not just the open option at the moment.

“Chapter 15: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prada”

Fresh from their latest personal dramas, the ladies also pile on some work pressures. After finding out about the proposal, Victory can’t get her mind off of Joe. She keeps trying to apologize for the Rodrigo misunderstanding, but he won’t take her calls. A new studio woos Wendy, and Griffin tries to push Nico into the new media sphere. Worse, Wendy catches Nico actually enjoying Griffin’s company.

“It’s not high school. I can’t quit cheerleading because you don’t like the captain.” – Nico

Hoping that they can get Victory’s mind of Joe, and also struggling with whether or not to tell her about the proposal, Nico suggests that the three of them head up to a spa upstate for the weekend. At the spa, they finally come clean when Victory starts freaking about apologizing to Joe. She then gets extremely angry with Nico and Wendy and goes off to sulk with Byron, the massage therapist.

“Who are you to protect me from my own life?” – Victory

As Victory talks to Byron, she points out that her friends infantilize her, which makes me wonder: have I always thought of her as immature because she actually is or because I identify with Wendy and Nico more and they perceive her as childlike? Bryon books her for some massage treatments and later invites her to watch the stars with him, which he says always helps him clear his mind. As they lay in the field, she finally realizes that the answer to the proposal that never happened would have been a resounding, earthshaking “yes” that she calls out across the countryside.

Nico spends time with her friend, Christine Ebersole, who owns the spa. Ebersole’s character used to be Nico’s boss at Simon & Schuster, but gave it all up to move out to the country. Talking to her forces Nico to think about her own life and her relationship with Kirby. Bristled from her earlier encounter with Mother Atwood, she starts to think that perhaps she could buy the spa and retire to the country on weekends, residing in the B&B with Kirby. When he comes to visit her over the weekend (and bring beer for heartsick Victory, who was disappointed to find no liquor at all in the spa), she suggests that they buy the place and build him a studio out in the fields so that he could spend the rest of his days photographing the Hudson. Kirby appreciates the idea, but asks Nico if that’s what she really wants. He tells her something that confirms the fears Mother Atwood planted in her head: he doesn’t want to leave the city. He likes the noise and the rush of life there. The country is great every now and again, but Kirby is not at a space in his life where he’d want to be there every weekend. Perhaps Nico’s worst fears for her relationship are coming true: they just want different things, because they’re of such different ages.

Wendy doesn’t tell her friends about the potential job until they make an early car ride back home at Victory’s request (she just can’t wait for a phone call any longer; Joe Bennett is the one and she needs to find him) and break down on the side of the road after Nico hits something. (Or doesn’t. No body or carcass was ever found.) Nico interrogates Wendy about why she didn’t talk about the job, which Wendy says is because she needed to hear her voice first. She tells Nico that she feels like Nico doesn’t respect her anymore now that she’s not at Parador, which Nico counters with stories they told when they first started working together at Merick-Verner, about how they were going to run the company together some day. Wendy tells Nico that it simply isn’t her dream anymore, and that she’s not sure she wants to be high-powered lady Nico has always fought to be. (Even in considering buying the spa, Nico can’t give up the idea of leaving behind her social circle, as Christine Ebersole admits to her that when she left the publishing world, some of her contacts did indeed stop calling her.) Wendy refuses the job, and not just because Nico was the one who recommended her for it.

Meanwhile, Victory calls Joe to arrange a meeting. He offers to send a car to pick up the three damsels in distress. When two cars arrive, Wendy and Nico think all is forgiven and ask Joe which car they should be in. He directs them to the one he’s not in, and Victory stays behind to talk to him. She wants to tell him that she loves him and that she would say yes to his proposal, but Joe is so badly hurt by Victory’s unknowing rejection that all he can think to say to her is that he doesn’t feel like they work as friends, or business partners. So he hands over the papers to her company, clears her of her debt and walks out of her life, leaving Victory broken down on the side of the road, stunned.

Back home, the three women comfort each other at Victory’s house, putting off calls from work until another day, drinking the Scotch they stole from Joe’s towncar.

Ill miss you ladies. You could so take the SATC girls in a fight.

I'll miss you ladies. You could so take the SATC girls in a fight.

I loved this episode. The storytelling was so slow and meticulous that it felt honest. In fact, I think this episode achieved an honesty that Sex and the City was never quite able to achieve. The women on Lipstick Jungle live and breathe and come alive before you. Moreover, they hurt before you. Never before on this show have Brooke Shields, Kim Raver and Lindsay Price been able to tell you so much about themselves as Wendy, Nico and Victory simply through their quiet reactions. When Nico realize that she may be too old for Kirby, its all in Raver’s eyes. And when Joe leaves Victory behind on the roadside, Victory doesn’t break into hysterics. Her face flushes and she cries without making a sound more than breathing. Beautiful work by all three actresses. It’s just too bad that the brilliant work in this episode couldn’t have come sooner, as the series has been cancelled.

I’m sorry that a show as good as Lipstick Jungle has become has fallen victim to low post-strike ratings. Wendy, Nico and Victory are some of the best, most real and most relatable female characters on TV, and I will actually be quite sad when LJ runs its last episode. I’m sorry television just didn’t have room for you strong, glamorous ladies. With your cancellation, and the fall of The Ex List, we’re now down to Samantha Who?, Desperate Housewives, Cold Case, Kath & Kim, Privileged and The New Adventures of Old Christine as the only female-lead shows on TV*. This comment is not a reflection of the quality of those shows at all, but that’s a pretty sad list, isn’t it?

*This is not counting ensemble shows, which have plenty of kick-ass chicks in powerful roles, like the ladies on Criminal Minds, Bones or even Gossip Girl.

The Husband:

Technically, Lipstick Jungle is not officially cancelled, but there will be no back-nine for this season. The 13 episodes shot for s2 will air, leaving us with “Chapter 20” as the final episode. It is unlikely that it will return, but I just wanted to point out there is ever so slightly the tiniest bit of hope that it might get a third season.

Unlikely, though. It’s a shame, really. And s2 has only elevated everything I loved about the first season, and if that doesn’t interest the American viewing public, then it’s definitely a loss for everyone.

The Wife:

Friday’s installment of The Ex List contained probably the show’s first fully-realized Ex of the Week: Shane Gallagher. Bella dated Shane back in 1995 when she was paying her own way through art school. Being a San Diego gal, Bella still enjoyed running away for surf trips and Shane was her companion for one of those. An aimless surf rat, all Shane wanted to do was ride waves, have sex in his tent and occasionally steal limes from farmers and participate in impromptu drum circles. Bella left him on that fateful trip when he went off to surf the big one. She broke up with him via taped message left on his video camera, full of helpful suggestions like, “You might want to try wearing shoes.” Bella reconnects with him when she runs into him at her local beach and he gives her one of his promo surf boards to replace her recently crushed board. Shane, it seems, has actually managed to make a life for himself as a professional surfer.

Bella Bloom blithely boards. Say that shit ten times fast.

Bella Bloom blithely boards. Say that shit ten times fast.

Bella initially admires the way that Shane took the thing he was passionate about and made it his life, skyrocketing to fame by catching a super monster wave and being caught on film doing it. However, as she goes out partying with him, she begins to notice a disconnect between the man Shane has grown to be and the persona he has to put on around his fans, a persona that is exactly the same as the man Bella left on that beach in Mexico. It turns out that Shane’s surf persona “The Animal” is carefully manufactured by his publicists in order to make him the kind of bro that young surfer dudes look up to. In other words, they have to make him as much like Matthew McCounaghey as possible. As The Animal, Shane has to swill pitcher after pitcher of Brandy Alexanders (the signature drink of a brandy company that sponsors him, and one that I never thought anyone would ever order in pitcher form) and tailor his life decisions about who he dates and what boards he rides based on corporate sponsorship. This revelation comes just before Bella is about to break up with him again, but she then realizes that the person she met at the beach is the real Shane, not the party animal she knew over a decade ago.

When Shane’s press handlers get ahold of a photo of him and Bella together with his nieces and nephews, they decide to redesign his image as a sort of older, family-man surfer and pitch him to a family surf company in San Diego called Home Front Clothing to be their spokesperson, which would mean that Shane would be hanging around Ocean Beach – and Bella – for at least a little while longer. Not wanting to be controlled by sponsors anymore, even if the image is a positive one, Shane decides to reject the offer and head off to El Salvador for a little while. There is a possibility that he will return, though, as Bella leaves a big question mark next to his name on her list.

Children! Adore your new surf god!

Children! Adore your new surf god!

I really liked Shane’s story as it felt like it contained the kind of emotional core you’d see on How I Met Your Mother. We’d all like to live a life where we can do something we love every day, but sometimes business takes over for pleasure, and that’s exactly what happened to Shane. Bella, as a small business owner, seems to have the kind of balance Shane would have liked for his life. I still wonder how Bella, who is far overqualified to be a florist, chose this profession, but she seems to like it enough and, as Cyrus observed, she seems to enjoy the freedom of owning your own business: “Why own your own business if you can’t take off in the middle of the day?”

This Shane story did make me realize one thing about The Ex List, however, that kind of bothers me. This show is supposed to be about Bella. She’s our protagonist. And yet unlike every other show with a single female heroine, this show is not about Bella at all. It’s about her exes. The exes are the characters that change, develop and emote. Bella’s just there as a springboard for their transformations. On something like Sex & the City where the female characters were searching for their soulmates (or whatever you want to call their various love affairs), those stories were about how the women responded to their partners. It was very much about them, not the men. I can say the same thing about Lipstick Jungle, which is not a romance-driven narrative, but is a female-centric narrative that is, at the very least, actually about the women. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about The Ex List in light of the fact that its one of the only female-centric narratives on TV that somehow isn’t about its heroine at all. Ugly Betty? That’s about Betty. Desperate Housewives? That’s about Lynette, Bree, Gaby and Susan. The New Adventures of Old Christine? Why, that’s about exactly what the title says.

I just had to rack my brain to think of female-centric scripted shows on television right now and that’s as far as I could get. That’s already a sad state of affairs that there aren’t more television shows with female leads, so to create a new one where the Random Man of the Week overshadows any development that its female protagonist has seems really, really odd to me. I like you, The Ex List, but you’re making me uncomfortable. Please, please, please break away from your formula and give Bella a good story arc of her own (and maybe another one for Vivian or Daphne, while we’re at it) so that I stop feeling bad about the state of female-centered television shows.

The Husband:

This is the first great episode of The Ex List, an opinion I’m finding out online that it almost entirely my own. People have felt that the show has quickly dropped in quality after the pilot (confirmed by the show’s plummeting ratings), has already worn out its welcome and hasn’t really found a place for its main character. I agree only with that final point, although not nearly as much as my wife does. Bella is in the straight man role – or is that the straight woman role – and is meant to be a catalyst to everything around her. I mean, that’s going to happen to your show if you hire the actress best known from Grey’s Anatomy as the amnesiac burn victim who Sloan gave a whole new face, done as she emotionally romanced Karev and started up a relationship with him, only to freak out and slit her wrists. Elizabeth Reaser is literally the faceless wonder, a shell on which to project a personality. I fear this will be her trademark for years to come, too.

But, Im a pretty shell, right?

But, I'm a pretty shell, right?

(I haven’t checked out Sweet Land, which is apparently Reaser’s best performance by far, but it’s on my Netflix queue somewhere. Ever since I saw Bernard & the Genie when I was young, I will watch anything with Alan Cumming in it.)

What I’ve greatly appreciated about this show is that in only four episodes it has established such a unique personality, thanks especially to its bizarre ensemble and so-hip-it-makes-you-feel-uncool setting, that even when the plots don’t work out very well – episode three’s cop-centered story as an example – you feel like you’ve experienced a good slice of life.

I also love that its characters have such a healthy sex life, which is especially surprising since this is CBS, the old person’s network. (Well, I guess ABC’s Disney ownership makes it the most unhip/square major network now.) It’s refreshing to have its characters allow to speak so freely about intercourse and masturbation, defending their right to promiscuity (how many goddamn exes does Bella have?) and allowing a modern sensibility to poke through into the Tiffany Network (and not done for stupid male-driven laughs like the revolving door of women on Two And A Half Men). For instance, Vivian’s story this week about her “experiences” with the showerhead wasn’t treated as a dumb running gag but an interesting topic/obstacle to her relationship with Auggie, an appropriate bit of story to the young world of this show. (Well, it was kinda silly, but in a good way. Point is, it was treated like something people just do.)

The Wife:

In “Let It Be,” Wendy is forced to face the repercussions of forging the insurance documents for her John Lennon biopic when her star suddenly dies in the middle of filming. Despite Nico’s urgings that her next move should be in her own best interest, Wendy fesses up to her new boss, Griffin, and admits that she forged the insurance documents in order to grant her friend his dying wish in order to prevent her company from suing Noah Mason’s estate to recoup their losses. Griffin, having demonstrated how no nonsense he is earlier in this episode when he questioned Wendy about the film being over budget, fires Wendy for her multi-million dollar mistake.

On the bright side, no press is bad press.

On the bright side, no press is bad press.

Nico also has to deal with Griffin’s presence in this episode. Griffin insists that Nico as Editor-in-Chief of Bonfire respond in the upcoming issue to a controversy caused by the magazine’s “Demented Chic” fashion spread that featured models posing in a mental institution. Nico refuses to write the letter, and instead writes a letter that includes some negative sentiment towards her new boss. Her arch nemesis Mike Harding gets ahold of the draft and sends it to Griffin, who leaks it to the press in the hopes of boosting Bonfire sales. Griffin doesn’t seem to mind Nico’s brashness at all, which is beneficial for Nico. Also beneficial for Nico? The fact that she convinced Mike Harding to leave Bonfire for good by goading him with false offers of how much she’d be making if she left the magazine due to the change in management.

As for Victory, she and Rodrigo almost take their romance to the next level, but Rodrigo is hesitant to spend the night because he has to take care of his ten-year-old daughter. Victory is committed to making an impression on Rodrigo and his daughter and starts inviting them out with her, much to her publicist Dahlia’s chagrin, who demands that Victory be dating high-end men, not contractors, who are bad for the Victory Ford brand image. Rodrigo breaks up with Victory because he feels like she’s too hung up on Joe, which Victory realizes she absolutely isn’t when she runs into Joe at a restaurant opening Dahlia had forced her to attend with another date. She and Rodrigo then have super-hot make-up sex in her unfinished store.

I think we should do it on these boxes, right here. Thoughts?

I think we should do it on these boxes, right here. Thoughts?

In “The F-Word,” we learn an awful lot about Nico’s family when her father shows up to tell her that her brother George was arrested for insider trading. George, a limo driver, used information he overheard in the car driving rich clients. Nico’s father asks his daughter to help “fix” the situation, whether it be bail money or a good lawyer, as it is Nico’s responsibility to help her family.

Lets all laugh at our new boss expense!

Let's all laugh at our new boss' expense!

Nico journeys out to Queens to visit her father’s restaurant, where she learns that he no longer owns Pappedemos’ Restaurant because he’s had to spend so much money bailing George out over the years. Nico evidently changed her name for reasons that are not entirely clear to me. Professionally, we live in a world where having a very ethnic name like Nico Pappedemos would not hinder someone from establishing themselves in the publishing industry. In fact, it might help. As such, I have to take Nico’s decision to abandon her Greek roots as a direct refusal of the family she came from and, specifically, a direct admonishment of any associations with someone like her brother.

Nico helps George get bail, but has to deal with the pressure from the scandal at work when Griffin pushes and pushes for the story about the limo driver to be covered by Bonfire. Ultimately, Nico tells Griffin that she knows the man in the story and is uncomfortable running it because of her connections, which is the appropriate thing to do in that situation.

Victory gets to meet Rodrigo’s daughter, who automatically hates Victory for not serving her a vegetarian meal (“E.B. White changed my life.”) and for accidentally ruining the ending to Charlotte’s Web. Despite Dahlia’s insistence otherwise, Victory tries to make it up to Rodrigo and Celia by inviting them to a fancy gala that she is required to attend, an event which will also mark Nico’s public debut with Kirby at her side and Wendy’s return to society after holing herself up in her apartment for weeks, pretending that she’s enjoying her time at home when it’s actually driving her insane.

And down came the rain . . .

And down came the rain . . .

At the party, Celia gets pushed over by paparazzi and Rodrigo is upset that he doesn’t get to spend any time with Victory, so he and his daughter return home to Brooklyn and leave behind a world that isn’t designed to include them. Wendy and her family attend, but Wendy can’t make it past the red carpet when she sees Griffin, whom she is not yet ready to face. At home, she admits to Shane and the kids that she didn’t quit her job, but was fired because she did a bad thing for the right reasons. Finally, with her admission of weakness, Wendy’s bratty daughter Maddie relates to her mother and shows a softer side we’ve never seen before.

Victory apologizes to Rodrigo the next day for dragging them to the party and she admits that she has just as hard a time reconciling her public face and her private face as he does:

“I’m two people. There’s the one on the label, and then there’s just me.”

The Husband:

I haven’t talked enough about Lipstick Jungle this season – in fact, I haven’t said anything on this blog – so I’d just like to say that even though it’s one of the only “girly shows” my wife actually watches (her words, not mine), I am actually kind of obsessed with this show on my own terms. Some bloggers, such as Zap2It’s TVGal, don’t consider it that great of a show and thinks the women act in very unusual and unwomanly ways, but I feel the opposite, that as opposed to the other Candace Bushnell TV adaptation Sex And The City (it’s true, the women really do act like gay men there), the woman of LJ tend to deal with their problems in very realistic (yet questionable), neurotic (yet not overbearing) and professional (yet decidedly unsure) ways. Don’t get me wrong: SATC was a wonderful and groundbreaking show, but it had a very heightened reality, while on LJ the drama isn’t over-the-top but relatable, which is a coup for the show since the three main characters are the head of a Miramax-like movie studio, a magazine editor-in-chief and a fashion designer (that is, not entirely relatable to much of the country or the people within). I especially love Nico, who while getting shit from viewers for pursuing such a loins-driven affair with Kirby, never acted as if she was doing the right thing, leading the show to deal in some grey areas that only made me like the show more. I’m also quite impressed by the issues raised through her backstory, being a Queens girl who puts on a good front as being anything but, and bringing in Dan Hedaya as her struggling father only made me like her more. (It helps that the only story of hers I wasn’t completely into, that of her strained relationship with her husband, has gone away now that the man is dead and buried.)

I’m also oddly attached to Victory – a character my wife and I have disagreed on for the entirety of the show’s run – because I find her complete lack of responsibility and adult temperament to be very refreshing for television, a confident woman who is yet still lost in the lipstick jungle that is upper-class New York City. I feel for her, more than my wife, her struggle to achieve greatness and popularity with her line, and yet be unwilling to accept handouts from Andrew McCarthy’s billionaire character. (Curse you, Blane! First you steal Andi Walsh from the deserving Ducky, now you try to control women with money and power!) Her relationship with Rodrigo, though, has given her stories a more kinky and controlled edge, and yet I miss some of the first-season bits, such as her battle with Kerry Butler as her former assistant who plagiarized some of her designs.

I do like Wendy a lot, too, but I had a great deal of trouble relating to her plight regarding the dying actor and the Beatles biopic. In short, I have no sympathy for her being fired as a result of her actions. Despite having worked in Los Angeles, and “the industry,” for a handful of years, I don’t purport to be an expert on everything Hollywood, but I do know that you never, never ever ever, hire an actor who you know is going to die in less than two years. It’s a horrible move no matter what your intentions were – as the press would jump on the belief that you were just trying to pull a PR stunt – and is irresponsible to the filmmakers involved with said film. I was behind all of her decisions previous to that, but hung my head in shame at such a blunder.

Kicking SATCs ass in realism and relatability.

LJ: Kicking SATC's ass in realism and relatability. And classy dressing.

Quick question if anyone wants to respond: if I read the source material book Lipstick Jungle, would I ruin any future plots that could appear on the show, or is it so different from the program that I might as well give it a shot? (I have the same question about Gossip Girl, but I’m far more likely to check out the one LJ novel than an entire series of YA novels.)