Archive | July, 2014

TV Rewind: Felicity, “Revolutions” & “Docuventary II”

31 Jul

Felicity, Episodes 2.16 & 2.17
“Revolutions” & “Docuventary II”
Original Air Dates: Apr. 5 & 12, 2000

Felicity 2.16 FelicityEmma: The sexual health revolution continues on Felicity in yet another episode that feels incredibly progressive and depressingly timely considering it was shot in 2000 and it’s now 2014. Le sigh. First of all I’m going to talk about the positive aspects and that is how this show is interested in a variety of sexual health topics that have an impact on college age kids (not just college kids but as this is the setting of the show it’s good that they’re embracing these issues) like contraception and in this case the morning-after pill.

Felicity is still doing her community service at the health center and when she’s not mooning over creepy Greg or getting into fights with her father, Felicity gets to be pretty awesome. Okay the whole find an issue and then go to a protest about it is a big college TV trope – I did go to one protest at university about the increase in tuition fees so maybe I am a cliche, my university is pretty liberal so there were always protests for something – and of course the outcome is positive in that their demands are met. In reality Felicity would be getting called a slut a whole bunch and all I could think of was Sandra Fluke while watching this episode and how gross people were to her.

As the face of this protest, Felicity is perfect – middle class white woman and daughter of a doctor, she also happens to be pretty which is a bonus – but when Felicity gets on camera she falters and she can’t articulate why this is such an important cause. Ah yes the cause, I’ve neglected to mention this and what they are fighting for is to have the morning-after pill available in the health center for students. This makes all the sense to me. For bureaucracy’s sake, this is something that has been taken away from student health services, though, last year when Julie needed the morning-after pill the morning after Zach raped her, they still administered it. This is where the two stories merge in what I thought was a rather organic function; and after Julie’s recent encounter with skeezy A&R dude Eric, memories of Zach and that night have become all too fresh once again.

Julie is the one who speaks on camera about her experience and why it is vital for students to feel like their health center offers everything they need when dealing with the aftermath of a sexual encounter that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy, whether it is a split condom or rape. While I don’t want to see Julie tied to this story for forever, I’m glad they haven’t forgotten that it happened, as all too often a show will include a devastating story like this for it never to be mentioned ever again.

What did you think of the protest storyline? Did you ever go to a protest at college? Are you as impressed as I am at how Felicity deals with plots involving sexual health?

Felicity 2.16 JulieJulie: I never went to a protest. I feel like I’m missing out. Probably I should go back to college and right this wrong.

I’m also sad/not surprised that this was an issue in 2000 and it’s still an issue today. I’ve been watching a lot of Murphy Brown reruns and it’s almost (*almost*) humorous how little has changed in the interim. Women are still having to fight daily for (what I, and many others, consider to be) basic reproductive rights.

The whole protest itself was very Kumbaya. Everyone was happy and singing. No one got arrested. In the end, they wound up getting what they wanted. It was very sanitized and very perfect, right down to Felicity spearheading it, as you mentioned.

The one thing I loved most about this storyline was Felicity’s reaction to the girl needing the morning-after pill. The look on Felicity’s face was all, “This is so cool. I feel so cool that this girl is confiding in me about her sex life. I will do anything to help her because this is so cool and I am so grown up.” It was the perfect Felicity moment, combining her need to help/be a busy body with her need to feel more adult.

I was also proud of Julie for “standing in her truth.” (Can you tell I just got back from BlogHer?) And now that everyone knows about Julie and Zach, hopefully we’ll be able to move on and the writers will be able to give Julie a new storyline.

Happening at the same time as the protest, however, was the next stop on the Noel/Ben friendship train. What did you think of their bonding/fighting?

Felicity 2.16 BenEmma: I love how Ruby is all ‘bet you didn’t expect to see the pregnant chick get involved’ and they’re all shoulder shrug about it as if they hadn’t really considered that. Ruby somehow tries to make it all about her, even the morning-after pill.

This won’t be a surprise I’m sure, but I adore the Ben and Noel storyline that starts with philosophy studying and ends with an ultimate hangover – as someone with a philosophy degree I am very familiar with this course of events. Except I’ve never had a fist fight in the middle. So it all starts with a Ben complaining to Felicity about philosophy class (also been there) and Felicity suggests that Ben ask Noel for help. Ben is reluctant until he answers a question kinda incorrectly in class and then he’s all “lets go get sandwiches and talk about old white dudes.”

Studying leads to sharing of course; and Ben, without realizing it, gives Noel more reasons to dislike him as he mentions how easy he had it in high school with grades, sports, and girls (neglecting to mention the abortion story that led to this friendship). They start drinking beer and Ben does the most adorable smile that reminds me of Mark from Empire Records and I’m smitten.

They get super drunk on tiny cans of beer and when Ben throws a full one at Noel’s head (ouch), Ben says he can even the score with a punch. Noel doesn’t want to at first even though this is one of his dreams come true and it ends up in a full on trashing the front room fight. This drunken debauched night leads to a shameful morning after and neither of them wants to say they lost. By the looks of your faces and what I’m guessing your breath smells like boys, both of you did. In true bro style they seem ok with each other, and a gross hangover cure is Ben’s way of saying sorry. They switch from Jerry Springer to the news and get a shock when they see Felicity. I half expected them to turn up at the health center but I’m glad they didn’t, this confused and broken response is so much better. I love how confused they are.

What did you think of the boys studying together? And how do you feel about the emotional blackmail of getting Felicity’s dad to try and stop the protest?

Felicity 2.16 hungoverJulie: The look everyone gives Ruby reminds me of this. They’re all, “Just leave already, Ruby. We hate you.”

I think Noel and Ben need a morning-after pill for their relationship. There was a lot of sheepishness in that room post fight. I think this is exactly what they needed for their relationship to grow. They had to get all of the residual anger out of the way. Noel being jealous of Ben. Ben being…why is Ben so mad at Noel again? What right does Ben have to be mad at Noel? I don’t know. I guess Ben is just feeling inadequate (having answered that question wrong/having no idea what he wants to do with his life), so he takes it out on Noel, who has his ish together and is getting paid to basically play professor all semester.

That beer to the head looked painful, though, man. Ben deserved a punch to the face.

So, back to the protest. Of course Mr. Porter shows up, and of course he’s back to being a doctor and a now a teacher at the university. All of his problems are solved! Anxiety and depression are gone! It’s a TV miracle. Thanks, TV, for treating mental illness with such sensitivity and gravitas!

I’m pretty sure they did this just to give Felicity a reason to question her actions, just to add a little drama. Because all her dad does is serve to remind her that she was only at the clinic in the first place because she was in trouble, that being involved in this protest could get her into more trouble — possibly expelled and shipped back to Palo Alto oh noes.

It doesn’t work, and Felicity is, of course, all, “Shut up, dad, and go back to your empty apartment.”

This episode also pushes Greg and Felicity closer together, especially in the mouth area. What do you think about Greglicity as a couple and how bad do you feel for Meghan?

Felicity 2.16 TVEmma: The social chameleon qualities of Ben is something we have discussed a lot in the past and it’s something I’ve been thinking about with regards to his friendship with Noel as he tries to become a man that he thinks Felicity would want to be with. Ben mentioned recently that there’s nothing in his life that he gets too excited about (except swimming) and his new academic interest is all part of the Felicity ploy and while I command his self-improvement plan it comes across as inauthentic as he’s doing this to impress a girl. As Ben mentions to Noel he’s never had to work at anything prior to college and now he’s finding out that the world beyond high school isn’t so easy to coast through. By attaching himself to Noel in this manner he is tying himself to someone who Felicity has been involved with and I wonder if he is trying to become more attractive to Felicity by molding himself on a former boyfriend. The thing is that Felicity chose Ben over Noel and what he should be doing is thinking about why and also how he fucked it up in the first place.

I’m all for this awkward friendship and how they are united in their dislike for Greg, well Noel didn’t mind Greg until Ben tells Noel that he thinks Felicity is dating Greg and that he has been arrested in the past for coke. They really are a splendid brain trust.

Felicity kissing Greg was not a surprise at all as was Meghan’s “I’m going to kill her reaction.” I just wish Felicity wasn’t into dudes who are older in a super skeezy way. It might be because it feels tied to daddy issues (and I am so done with the Felicity father plots and his convenient depression and getting over said issue) or because these guys are kind of the worst. Yes, she needs way more than Ben or Noel, but I’d actually like to see more single time Felicity where she isn’t defined by the dudes in her life and just hang out with Elena and Julie. This season has had some of that and yet not nearly enough especially as Ruby has been present for some of this (that clip is so accurate).

I was surprised by how up-front with his skeeze Greg was when he told Felicity that she got the job because he thinks she is hot stuff and this sets off a moral quandary for Felicity. She goes to see Dr. Pavone who once again tells her to get over herself and while I get the sentiment that dudes get stuff all the time because of their gender, I also don’t think she is right when she tells Felicity to just take the job and shut up. Felicity is more than capable of doing this job so it isn’t like she is horribly unqualified and yet it still doesn’t sit right with me in the same way it doesn’t sit right with Felicity. Felicity comes up with her own solution and everyone wins – well except the dude who didn’t realize he wasn’t getting paid for a volunteer position – and she carries on dating her boss. There are some serious ethical issues with this place of employment and they definitely need to watch all of the sexual harassment training videos.

Before I move onto other questions of ethics with Ben and his snooping I want to see how you feel about the Felicity and Greg relationship now they are dating. And what did you think about the return of Sean’s documentary?

Felicity 2.17 BenJulie: You’ve got it all figured out there regarding Ben and his desire to impress Felicity. That is some Dr. Pavone stuff you’re spilling right there. Ben is totally molding himself into Noel, which, as you mentioned, is kind of dumb, considering that Felicity did choose Ben over Noel and Ben was the dude that dumped her on a whim (Sean’s whim).

I do love that, in theory, Ben is trying to improve himself. I just hope that one day he chooses to improve himself for his own self and not to win the affections of some girl. He can certainly learn a lot from Noel, if he chooses to, because Noel has always been very self-assured, even if he does get moony about girls and even if he was a big old dork in high school.

As far as Felicity goes, I think it was ballsy of Dr. Pavone (or the writers, really) to let someone take the stance of, yeah, life isn’t fair. Most of the time the chips won’t fall your way, so when they do, stop complaining about it and just be glad and ride it out. We generally hold our TV protagonists to a higher moral level, especially Felicity, so it’s kind of nice to see someone challenging her to lean in and take what’s hers, even if Alexis Arquette* might get caught in the crossfire. *Emma – That’s who that was!

And by taking what’s hers, I don’t mean Greg. Because Greg is dumb. Kind of hot, but dumb. And he’s even less hot now that he’s gotten his hair cut and looks like a low-rent Bill Rancic.

And then there’s Ben and his snooping, which, didn’t we have this storyline already?

Felicity 2.17 Meghan stareEmma: Likability is a big trend or rather being an unlikeable character is something that’s got a whole lot of blogging inches of late particularly when it comes to a woman with unlikeable traits. Felicity is of course an inherently likeable character and as you mention it’s good to see her being challenged in this way. I do love how she tries to get the volunteer to quit by coming up with a gruesome story only to admit her exaggeration as she can’t quite follow through with a deception, but hey she tried.

That haircut is the worst. Does this show ever learn (I still haven’t forgiven the Ben haircut from the end of last season).

Ben’s snooping is something we have seen him do very recently, but I figure this is meant to be more of a grand gesture as it’s exactly what she did to him at the start of S1 so when she calls him out on it he can point out how similar they are. Felicity is incredibly dumb in this scene as she mentions how she did it because she was in love with him and the dramatic long pause doesn’t clue her in to how he feels.

Felicity should go hang out with Richard as he too does not see to be able to read the very obvious signs as why Ben gets all silent and mad looking when Greg and Felicity is brought up. The inclusion of Richard with Sean’s project is fun and while I was worried this entire eepisode was going to be from a video camera perspective again they switched between the two formats this time (Blair Witch even gets a shout out). Richard is all comic relief and while Ben spends most of this episode pining the various community service positions were also really fun. Working at campus security in that uniform is hilarious as is the hairnet he has to wear after his attempts to not wear a hat at D&D.

This also provides a link to Noel’s missing tests and while I’m not sure what the overall point is of this it is fun to see Scott Foley in full meltdown mode.

Is the Docuventary going to be an annual episode I wonder and can they top the Dear Sally cut in this episode?

Felicity 2.17 RichardJulie: More on Felicity’s likability. I think she’s a ’90s likable female character, but would it be the same today? I mean, I think I would like her, but would “kids today” think she’s an overly-serious buzzkill/prude? That makes me sad. There are not a lot of serious, studious, driven young female characters on television today. The first one that comes to mind for me is Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. How sad is that?

Richard is another thing that’s completely working for me in this episode. For some reason he and Sean have teamed up. I’m not sure how or why that happened. Had they ever been in a room together before this? He was Noel’s buddy, but now he’s with Sean. And I like it. They’re two misguided entrepreneurial nerds, and they make a lot of sense together.

I think this might actually be the last Docuventary, but maybe not. I totally loved the Sally shoutout.

I guess the big questions going into the end of the season are these — Who is Ben Covington? And how can he win back Felicity?

Felicity 2.17 Julie hat

Emma: I honestly find Ben so fascinating as he’s such a big ball of contradictions – he was the guy with the best life at high school, but he also had a super shitty home life and then when he came to college he wasn’t the big hot shot he was and he’s pretty average at a whole lot. He’s a bro who on the surface is the usually stereotype and yet he’s so much more. And this is why I still have no idea who a Ben Covington is or what move he’s going to make to win the girl. He’s too insecure to go big gesture or honest confession and I kinda think Sean’s documentary might be the way Felicity finds out, but that feels like something they’ve done before. And how will this impact his new friendship with Noel when they eventually get together?

Your point about Felicity probably being seen as a prude today reminds me of something Keri Russell mentions during the THR roundtable when she’s asked about the controversial haircut and how social media would explode if it occurred today “You think a haircut’s going to beat out blow jobs? That’s so tame compared to what’s going on now.” And I think she’s right, as are you. It’s mighty depressing that that’s the only example you can think of (I’m struggling to think of one). The funny thing is that she’s not a prude and neither is this show tame when it comes to sex, it’s just not all extremes and feels way more relatable.

The Sally moment cracked me up and it made this whole sequel worth it as was Richard’s involvement a bonus. They instantly made Sean more likeable thanks to this pairing and I love how increasingly pissed off Ben gets when being film. He starts off mad and he gets progressively worse. Just think of the millions Sean and Richard might make.

I also can’t not mention the latest of Julie’s terrible fashion choices and that hat should be shredded and then burned. Bad hat.

Oh and I love Elena’s story about the ‘Elena’ doctor’s name badge she had made special to help during the times she doubts herself and yeah she only reveals this because Tracy made up a story, but it’s rather sweet.

Felicity 2.17 Tracy and ElenaJulie: First of all, we definitely need to write an academic paper on Ben Covington. He is the popular guy from high school, the guy who peaked, but he’s also not content with that. He’s lost his swimming. He’s lost his identity. He has this kind of awkward and dorky girl following him around, and he finds her intriguing, because she sees something in him beyond the cute smile. I think there’s hope for Ben Covington. He just has to keep working on himself.

This show does guys really well, which makes sense because it was created by two guys. The male characters all feel very whole to me. They’re developing, they have distinct personalities. I wish the female characters were a little more well-rounded. Elena is the driven one. Julie is the basket case. Ruby just sucks. Only when Meghan comes around does it seem like anyone has any fun. I want the girls to have fun. Real fun. The kind of fun that ends in a night of video games, beer, and bloodshed.

Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.

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New Season Artwork for The Mindy Project and New Girl

30 Jul

The Mindy Project and New Girl return on Tuesday, September 16 (for their third and fourth seasons) and both ended in very different places for the central couple; grand romantic gestures and a reconciliation that didn’t happen. The new season artwork reflects both of these things with The Mindy Project focusing on Mindy and Danny, with New Girl maintaining its focus on the entire group of friends.

The Mindy Project S3Photographer Emily Schur has been shooting Mindy Kaling for 10 years and yesterday she released this Mindy Project photo on Instagram/Tumblr. It’s a fun shot focusing on this new relationship and one they are going public with this time (the season premiere title has been slightly altered sadly to “We’re a Couple Now, Haters”). Danny’s super adorable red reading glasses make an appearance and Mindy’s Three J NYC polka dot pajamas are still on our wish list. The Mindy Project is often at its strongest when addressing Mindy and Danny’s complicated friendship and now romance so I am very excited about this forthcoming season.

New Girl S4New Girl had a messy season 3 and I don’t lay the blame solely at the feet of Nick and Jess as a couple; for me this was one of the stronger aspects aside from some of the contrived fights. It did have an impact on the structure of the other relationships and the group dynamic suffered as a result. Returning things to ‘just friends’ could be awkward as part of the tagline suggests; they’re both ‘Idiots’ when it comes to romance (ditto everyone else in the loft). New Girl tried one set up that for one reason or another just didn’t work and now they must rise to the challenge of hitting what was a season 2 sweet spot, but with everything else that has occurred in-between. Damon Wayans Jr. has been made a regular much to my delight and his addition last year was one factor that really worked. The first episode of season 4 is called “The Last Wedding” and will guest star Jessica Biel.

On this poster Zooey Deschanel is wearing a Ted Baker ‘Halina” dress with a blue Kate Spade ‘Pyramid Bow’ belt. Off to go hunt for some super cute electric blue flats.

Comic-Con Kickass and Badass Female Centric TV Panel Highlights

29 Jul

Watching women talking about their experiences in the entertainment industry and the shows they are on is something regular TV Ate My Wardrobe readers know is my happy place. This time of year is especially stacked when it comes to these types of panels with Emmy roundtables and Comic-Con. In Hall H on Saturday Entertainment Weekly’s Women Who Kick Ass Panel took place featuring Katey Sagal, Sarah Paulson, Tatiana Maslany, Nicole Beharie, Maisie Williams and Natalie Dormer. Like the recent TimesTalks session it features women from a variety of shows from network and cable with a range of complicated and fascinating characters.

Women who Kick ass SDCCWith two women from Game of Thrones on the panel the way women are portrayed on this show was addressed and what kind of power they wield in an environment that is so brutal with Maisie Williams emphasizing just how young her character is and that at 12-years old Arya has seen and done far more than any person of this age ever should. Natalie Dormer is asked about Margaery’s manipulation skills and whether her acts of charity are just a facade “When people ask me about Margaery, I say they’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be practical and politically savvy and not be a good person. You can be a good human being and just be shrewd. I think all these women play similar characters.”

It is a topic we covered in a recent extensive GoT chat and Dormer sums up the different types of power these female characters have “Whether it’s psychological, physical, sexual, dragons. I think we’d all go for the dragons if we were given the choice. But that’s the secret of the writing, that’s why it’s such a compelling show—because it shows how different people are given different weapons, physically and metaphorically, and how they use them.” I think I would go direwolf over dragon personally.

Nicole Beharie as one of the leads of Sleepy Hollow is in a relatively new position in terms of her acting career and she talks about how this has changed how she presents herself “Just owning that space and not being expected, as a woman, to shrink, or curtsy, or any of those sort of things.”

Rising to a challenge and finding pleasure in something that is scary is something Katey Sagal describes as “awesome” and because they work in TV they don’t have a whole lot of time to question what they are doing thanks to the quick turnaround time. Maisie Williams has given herself extra work as Arya is left-handed in the books and despite being right-handed she wanted to remain true to the character on the page, which can prove difficult with some of the choreography. Natalie Dormer is yet to wield a sword on GoT but she did take up fencing after drama school (where she studied with Sleepy Hollow’s Tom Mison).

Prior to Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany had never played an adult, always portraying someone 10 years her junior and now she is playing multiple roles with different insecurities and inner power. The most clones Maslany plays in one day is three and the dance party scene took two days to film. Sarah Paulson will be playing a two-headed woman on the next season of American Horror Story and she looks set to pick Maslany’s brain for multiple part acting tips.

You can currently watch the full panel here:

On the same day over at Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ another female centric discussion took place; “A Conversation with Badass Women” featuring Yvonne Strahovski, Retta, Missy Peregrym, Jennifer Morrison, Ming-Na Wen and Sophie Turner. It’s a slightly more raucous and chaotic panel that flows more organically than the usual moderator/audience Q&As and instead focuses solely on audience questions.

Nerd HQSome similar ground is covered as Jennifer Morrison also talks about female characters being more than just one thing in that they can be kickass and vulnerable in equal measures; television has the advantage over film in terms of how much time they can spend on character development so it would be disappointing if TV didn’t do this.

This panel covers far broader subjects than the shows they are all on with questions including role models (Sophie Turner has high praise for Lena Headey) and part of this sees Ming-Na and Retta going into detail about their family background and why they dropped their surnames (Ming-Na uses hers again, but didn’t when she was on E.R.). Seeing how people react on a very personal level to WOC getting roles on big shows is one reason why conversations like this are so rewarding as the panelists get to share their own experiences as well as seeing how it can profoundly impact an audience.

During the TimesTalks panel one of the subjects that came up was how to say no to things that make these actresses feel uncomfortable and this is covered in various ways during this discussion with Yvonne Strahovski mentioning unnecessary underwear scenes – I was beyond thrilled that her character in 24 not only had no scenes like this, but she also dressed in an appropriate and realistic way for job – and Retta talking about the “sassy” trope as well as cliche ghetto or nurse parts.

It’s a fun conversation that is hilarious as well as touching and you can watch it below. For more from Nerd HQ’s Comic-Con conversations (including Orphan Black, Walking Dead, Stephen Amell and Nathan Fillion) head here.

Best of the Entertainment Weekly Comic-Con Celebration Red Carpet

28 Jul

Comic-Con might be over and yet the style posts continue (and probably will for much of this week) with the best looks from the Entertainment Weekly party on Saturday.

Rose LeslieRose Leslie does simple chic attire with a hint of sparkle and after her other black sartorial choice I think we might have found a new TV Ate My Wardrobe favorite.

John Noble and Tom MisonThat noise you just heard was probably my heart going aflutter at the sight of Tom Mison wearing glasses and his beardy goodness. John Noble is looking rather dashing too in as part of this slightly different from Fringe father/son combo.

Nicole Beharie and Orlando JonesMore Sleepy Hollow goodness and posing like prom; not too keen on the sheer section of Nicole Beharie’s skirt, but this is a fun summer outfit. Totally digging Orlando Jones’ plum pants and glasses look.

DAWDeborah Ann Woll has lightened her locks (maybe for Daredevil or just to mark the end of True Blood) and she looks just as striking as ever in a strapless red frock with a bold lip color to complement the new ‘do.

Ashley MadekweAshley Madekwe brings the metallic goodness to this party in a Christian Dior strapless frock and the patch detail gives the impression of a fun uniform like embellishment.

Angela BassettNow this is a summer frock and Angela Bassett stands out in a Theia hot pink dress with a rainbow bodice.

Felicia DayRobots! Felicia Day’s top is delightfully on the nose for this weekend. Fantastic nail color too.

Masters of Sex 2.03 “Fight” Review: “Maybe it was Wednesday”

28 Jul

Searching for a meaning can sometimes prove elusive or at least a challenge if it is buried beneath multiple defensive layers; the box you keep your heart in might be reinforced and hard to crack. In this phenomenal episode of Masters of Sex we gain further insight into who both Bill and Virginia are and maybe who they would like to be through their role playing. The line between reality and fantasy are blurred and so at times it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins; watching them alternate between the two is incredible and this is an hour of TV to be cherished with powerhouse performances from both Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen.

Masters of Sex 2.03 FightThe Bill and Virginia dance is a classic one step forward two steps back embrace; one leans in as the other pulls away and this motion plays an integral part in their relationship overall, but especially in “Fight.” The backdrop for this evening of research is boxing and a fight between a seasoned pro and a relative newcomer with the advantage changing between rounds with experience winning out in the end. Like Virginia I wanted to see how it ends and playing the final moments over the end credits satisfied this urge and now we are left to wonder just who is winning between Virginia and Bill. Not that a relationship can by monitored in this point scoring way no matter how hard we try and it becomes even more apparent this week that Bill and Virginia are not prepared for the emotional ramifications of their new hotel room research setup.

Part of this relationship performance includes various states of undress with Bill’s undone bow tie and “I’m not angry, but I’ll throw you against the wall before saying hello” setting the scene and starting things off in this dominating manner. Bill is deflecting his feelings from the encounter he had at work with a man who resembles the bully his father was and who is unhappy with his son’s “ambiguous sex organs.” Bill’s compassion for his patients and especially those who don’t have their own agency is something we have seen repeatedly (including last week) and as it is a newborn baby who is at risk this week his response is amplified.

This baby has been reduced to terms of what can be defined as ‘normal’ and Bill points out that this is a wide spectrum. There are certain expectations with labels and so when Bill explains that “Erections aren’t the totality of manhood” he is met with sneers and name calling. The study they are performing is meant to challenge ideals and show there is not one set of standards to be met; for this child their study is not going to help when the father is so rigid and forthright with his opinions.

Masters of Sex 2.03 Virginia at homeConversations about defining gender characteristics also take place in Virginia’s kitchen with her daughter as they discuss the roles of the tooth fairies, princesses and princes. The prince is always handsome even if his face gets stomped on by a horse and as long as the princess has seen him before this accident then a kiss will heal his disfigurement. Virginia tries to challenge Tessa’s fairy tale gender stereotypes with little success as sadly the princess cannot go on adventures on her own. If Tessa were to look upon her mother in her red apron and work attire she would see that we can be more than one thing and our expectations differ from reality. Virginia realizes that Tessa likes these kinds of stories as she knows how they will end and this is something you can’t plan for in real life as challenges present themselves when we least expect. If the handsome prince got his face stomped on in real life his face would stay like that forever (well plastic surgery might help, I guess). Maybe that’s a little too bleak to tell a child.

What happens to us as at a young age plays an important role in the stories that are shared between Virginia and Bill as he reveals to Virginia the truth about his relationship with his father. Bill does so through the guise of Dr. Holden and so at first it is unclear to Virginia that he is talking about himself or the extent of the abuse he suffered. Bill likes boxing because it made him feel strong at a time when he had been repeatedly beaten by his father both emotionally and physically. The reasons behind the beatings were random and his rage could come at any time – “maybe it was Wednesday” – and not only did he subject him to this, but he also effectively abandoned him at the age of 14 when he dropped him off at boarding school to never come home again (in reality Bill went home that Christmas, but this was the last time). Libby mentioned last week how Bill has never gone into detail with what happened during his childhood emphasizing just how massive this unburdening of information is.

Masters of Sex 2.03 BillVirginia is also careful to protect herself and her reluctance to trust a man comes from the first time she was in love. Like Bill she shares this story through the part she is playing and so it’s not immediately apparent that it isn’t a work of fiction. Virginia had her heart broken by an army captain who wound up getting married to the fiance he mentioned once in a whole year of dating. This obviously had a profound effect on how much Virginia has since been willing to give herself over to another person and this story also serves as an analogy for what is happening with Bill as there is also a third person to consider with Libby; it is why Virginia keeps her heart out of it. The lines between reality and fantasy are repeatedly blurred as Virginia finishes this story telling a transfixed Bill that she wouldn’t marry a man (so him in this scenario) who she “didn’t both love and desire.”

Vulnerability and intimacy levels alternate throughout with both Bill and Virginia acting as the dominant and submissive one at various points. From the stories they tell to initiating the research with Bill’s bathroom domination going up against Virginia’s thigh seduction. When Bill tries to take charge once again Virginia flips the tables and refuses to beg after standing there naked at Bill’s command; instead she effectively drops her gloves and masturbates to prove that she can get all the pleasure she needs by herself. That round goes to Virginia and her protected heart.

Masters of Sex 2.03 undergarmentsThe real moments of intimacy go far beyond these physical acts and just watching how at ease they are with each other when they’re lounging in bathrobes and their undergarments is far more telling than the unspoken power games they are playing. This is why it is important that Virginia didn’t resort to begging when Bill told her to, however Bill also took away from this night the lesson of when it is okay to get down on your knees and plead. Bill never did this when his father beat him even though he knew if he did then the beating would end, this was his own personal show of power over his father even if he ended up worse off as a result of his stubbornness. It is Bill’s patient who is now at the mercy of a bully and so Bill pushes aside his pride resorting to the position of a begging man; it’s too late and the surgery has taken place. Surgery that has been done using a text book as a resource because there isn’t someone with the necessary experience. If you weren’t already feeling horrified at the attitude of this father he chose to make his child a girl because he was told a “hole is easier than a pole” and he’d rather have a “tomboy than a sissy.” A quick fix that will lead to a lifetime of anguish.

Masters of Sex 2.03 goodbyeThe red apron that represents Virginia’s home role is the only real flash of costuming color this week and “Fight” operates with mostly black and white clothing with Virginia’s grey dress straddling the two. Bill’s underwear is white contrasting with Virginia’s black and the white robes keep them on level ground – they tell their most intimate secrets when both in their matching robes – when Virginia is asked to drop hers and Bill keeps his on the power dynamic shifts first to Bill and then back to Virginia as she wrestles control with her hands. The blurry world of grey comes with Virginia’s dress complete with white collar and cuffs; her work attire is neutral and can be seen as sexy when she is undressing or homely when Virginia is saying goodbye to Bill barefoot – “This is where a married couple would kiss.” Yes, I wanted them to kiss. Prior to this scene when Virginia is on the phone to her daughter she plays with Bill’s wedding ring, trying it on and briefly allowing herself to imagine what this might be like before shutting it down once again. At different points Bill and Virginia stop themselves before they enter into what they would deem to be affair territory and it’s why they have never had breakfast together; breakfast equates to commitment.

Masters of Sex 2.03 white coatBlack attire tends to symbolize passion with black underwear taking on a more risque appearance, but I would argue that the white clothing worn in this episode drops the usual innocence tag and takes on what we would normally associate with black. This white coat is the first time we have seen Virginia wear something like this that wasn’t a medical coat and there is power in this image; it is mysterious and sexy so when she enters the crowded room of men watching the fight she instantly stands out. It’s not surprising that both the strong white pieces that Virginia wears this week are influenced by movie stars as costume designer Ane Crabtree explains on Twitter; Kim Novak’s Vertigo coat is a point of reference for this stunning look and Marilyn Monroe is the inspiration for the sexiness of the bathrobes.

Masters of Sex 2.03 braceletIt’s not all bathrobe seduction as a friendly boxing tutorial turns into a competitive battle followed by farce when Virginia’s bracelet gets caught in Bill’s hair. Virginia thinks that Bill was making fun of her and it becomes another discussion where neither one wants to back down from their point of view. It leads to another moment of intimacy, this time in the form of a haircut and more revelations from Bill about his father and the time he broke his nose (and he claims not his heart). It’s only after Bill wants Virginia to beg and she refuses that he reveals the why of his beatings from his father in that there really isn’t a specific reason he did it and Virginia counters why it would have been okay for Bill to say stop. For a brief moment Bill gets misty eyed and this subtle gesture from Michael Sheen is almost as powerful as his anguished sob last season.

Virginia is angry at Bill for how she thought he was making fun of her during their boxing tutorial as it was an unfair fight, quite the contrary according to Bill as it feels better to win when the odds are against you. Later what Virginia should say to Bill she instead tells their waiter Elliott as she explains that being taking seriously and listened to is much better than trinkets. This sentiment is also hilarious as the amount of times that both Bill and Virginia deflect the subject, when things look like they might be going down a romantic and honest road is particularly high this week. Virginia’s assessment of boxing is that “it almost looks like love” and from what we are witnessing the same could be said for what is going on in this hotel room and in the outside world there is plenty stacked against them.

Game of Thrones Comic-Con Style Watch, Bloopers and New Cast Members

26 Jul

The Game of Thrones Comic-Con panel delivered with treats aplenty including sartorial delights, a dance filled blooper reel and a new cast member showcase.

Natalie Dormer SDCCNatalie Dormer is one of several GoT panel participants to opt for bold print with a summery funky floral frock.

Natalie Dormer Comic ConFor the Hunger Games teaser trailer premiere (yes teaser trailers get premieres too) Dormer has gone for a more autumnal look – sweater season will soon be upon us and I cannot wait – and she is still rocking the super side parting as result of the Mockingjay half head shaving. As you will see the side sweep is the GoT long hair top trend.

Comic Con Album Cover #GoT #sandiegocomiccon @sophie_789 @maisie_williams

A post shared by Pedro Pascal (@pascalispunk) on

Natalie Dormer wears outfit number two in this Pedro Pascal Instagram shot with co-stars Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner and Pedro Pascal for their “Comic-Con Album Cover.’ This is one cool girl band (in my version Pascal is a backup dancer, as if that fight scene was anything to go by he definitely has the moves).

GoT Comic ConI think I liked Sophie Turner’s ensemble better when I thought it was a dress, but hey if you’re going to wear a jump suit one covered in huge colorful letters this one by Tata Naka is the way to go. Maisie Williams’ metallic shift is a good choice for her and Kit Harrington and Pedro Pascal have gone for standard and approved black tee/Henley hot guy uniform. As I mentioned yesterday Comic-Con attire varies greatly and the GoT women have all gone for a variety of pretty cool choices.

GoT SDCC

Or dark shirt will also do as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau demonstrates. Look how adorable these dudes are when they’re not doing all kinds of terrible things to each other.

Gwendoline ChristieGwendoline Christie works a printed and plunging neckline Giles Resort 2015 A-line dress and I expect she will be pulling double duty next year when Stars Wars no doubt takes over.

Rose LeslieTaking a very simple and super chic approach is the stunning Rose Leslie in black vest and pants; bold lip color and her incredible red hair make her stand out.

GoT cast SDCC

The whole cast in attendance (with George RR Martin and minus Natalie Dormer) and Pedro Pascal continues to be the most adorable. Sadness is a squished head.

Watch the blooper and new cast (Jonathan Pryce!) videos below.

TimesTalks Panel with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Taylor Schilling, Lucy Liu and Mira Sorvino

25 Jul

The New York Times hosted a discussion with four women who are on current or forthcoming shows as part of the TimesTalks series; from network, cable to streaming and all with varying levels of experience in television and film. Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman), Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black), Lucy Liu (Elementary) and Mira Sorvino (Intruders) sat down to talk about a variety of subjects including why television is so good for actresses at the moment and how they navigate some of the more challenging aspects of working in this industry.

Times TalkTelevision as a medium is constantly being championed as an outlet for complex female roles and this is something that is a staple discussion point during any panel like this.* This is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first foray into television and the character she plays in the Sundance/BBC co-production The Honourable Woman is not one you are likely to see in a mainstream movie; she is strong, intelligent and poised and like a lot of fascinating characters there is a flip side where this crumbles. Having seen the first four episodes I can attest that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Nessa Stein is complicated and her performance so far has been exceptional.

*Keri Russell talks about this during the recent THR roundtable and her role in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes vs. The Americans is a pretty accurate example of why TV is viewed in this way over the more reductive roles that are generally on offer for women in film.

It’s not hard to see why Gyllenhaal took on a role like this and the beauty of TV is that there is so much more time to explore and dissect a character benefiting both performer and viewer. The idea that so many people watch TV as opposed to some of the tiny indie passion projects they have made gets referenced on multiple occasions.

Netflix is given praise for putting out a project like Orange is the New Black as it’s a show that has such strength in its diversity and the lack of restrictions on the content gives further creative freedom. This is a career high for Taylor Schilling (and when they were talking about film all I could think about was her cut down role as the wife in Argo) and her enthusiasm for this opportunity is obvious, particularly when previous work/heartbreak is brought up.

The manner in which these different shows are filmed varies from Maggie Gyllenhaal receiving all eight scripts at the start and shooting scenes for multiple episodes on the same day (all written and directed by Hugo Blick) to Lucy Liu’s episode by episode traditional network model with a variety of directors (including herself). TV can be many things including auteur like projects, adaptations of popular novels with both long and short form storytelling coming into play.

One thing that comes across from this panel (and at just over an hour and a half a lot of ground is covered) is that all four of these women have experienced some things they haven’t necessarily been comfortable with and they have had to learn how to say no when it hasn’t felt right to them. Mira Sorvino is thrilled to find out that she is not alone in having felt like and there is a lot of common ground despite the differences in how they started out/where they are now. Self belief and belief from others are both driving forces and the ability to remain hopeful is a repeated notion. As one audience member points out it is kind of like having a free therapy session and getting to hear some of these candid thoughts in a free flowing long discussion makes this panel essential viewing.

Maggie Gyllenhaal brings up how ideas of perfection in this industry are something she wishes could fall away a bit. The double standard is another aspect of this and she mentions that the scrutiny is far greater on woman than it is for men (from her experience of living with an actor). Lucy Liu also points out how easy it is to share projects with the technology we have, but she also wishes that people weren’t so quick to tear something apart.

This is just a brief taster of the subjects that are covered and both Maggie Gyllenhaal and Taylor Schilling talk about the current cultural relevance of their shows among other aspects that concern the broader and more personal aspects of their careers. You can currently watch the whole panel here.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

25 Jul

The TCA Summer Tour is over and Comic Con is in full flow; this edition of “Out of the Box” features a lot of the former and a hint of the latter.

Diane Kruger TCADiane Kruger is stunning in at The Bridge panel wearing Roksanda; a designer that always brings a pop of color and intrigue (Lizzy Caplan was a highlight in Roksanda last week). The color-blocking of the dress using an array of shapes makes it feel like the dress version of a toddler learning game and it is pretty mesmerizing.  Bold strappy two-tone pink and black Dior sandals add to yet another Kruger standout.

Michelle DockeryMichelle Dockery always brings her A game when promoting Downton Abbey and this Victoria Beckham Fall 2014 ensemble is delightful. Dockery manages to work the classics without falling into cliche “English Rose” territory by keeping things contemporary; the gold chain adds something to the simple navy top while not detracting from the abstract print of the skirt. Cool dark denim heels complete this look.

Mindy Kaling TCAAt the Fox All-Star party Mindy Kaling stands out in a jade green Tadashi Shoji dress and you can always rely on Kaling to wear something that will add a dash of color to proceedings. That or at least some sparkles. The cut is great on her and the minimal accessories/striking lipstick sets it off.

Michaela ConlinAnother super colorful outfit at the Fox All-Star with Bones’ Michaela Conlin pairing an electric blue sleeveless shift dress with a pair of bubblegum pink pumps. Hey, it is a summer party after all.

Caroline DhavernasWhen doing the promotional thing Comic Con is a little different outfit wise as while there is a huge audience, it is a much more casual attire affair and so it can be a tricky one (particularly for woman as dudes turn up in jeans and tees for regular photo calls as opposed to the much more put together female attire, I’ve ranted about this in the past).

Caroline Dhavernas’ Hannibal panel ensemble is cute and the seersucker shirt/patterned skirt has the hint of Alana Bloom if Alana was on vacation and drinking a cocktail. I also have worn the reverse of this outfit recently. While some information was revealed about Hannibal’s third season, there was no word as to what role (if any) Dhavernas will play. I’m hoping her presence at SDCC is a hint that she will be back.   

10 New Yorker TV Posts: From The Hummingbird Theory to Reality TV

24 Jul

The New Yorker has dropped the paywall for all articles dating back to 2007 for the summer and now is the time to catch up on seven years of writing that you may have missed or only read select quotes from. The New Yorker is calling this “a summer-long free-for-all” as they launch their new site and introduce a similar system to The New York Times in the fall. Content wise they are also introducing a Daily Cultural Comment column “in which our critics and other writers confront everything from the latest debates over the impact of technology to the latest volume from Chicago, Oslo, or Lima and the ongoing sagas of Don Draper, Daenerys Targaryen, and Hannah Horvath.”

With this in mind I have selected 10 articles with a link to television including some of my favorite pieces from current TV critic Emily Nussbaum (who makes up just under half the entries and hates lists, sorry Emily), recollections from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, a range of genres and one profile that is about a current pop culture queen back in 2011 (this one is the exception to the TV focus of this list).

EnlightenedIn the same package as The Hour boxset and another show on my catch up list is Enlightened and Emily Nussbaum’s Hummingbird Theory draws on Laura Dern’s Amy Jellicoe from Enlightened among others like Leslie Knope and Carrie Mathison. It is something we touched upon during our Comeback discussions and these kinds of characters are “idealistic feminine dreamers whose personalities are irritants.”

Emily Nussbaum’s essay on Sex and the City in reaction to Brett Martin’s Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad is one of my favorite Nussbaum New Yorker pieces. Nussbaum looks for reasons beyond the terrible movies as to why Sex and the City has lost its place in TV legacy discussions. All while pointing out its groundbreaking position and reinforcing why it was one of the most talked about shows beyond its ties to fashion.

Continuing with Emily Nussbaum and female centric shows that spark a lot of debate/column inches with Nussbaum’s thoughts on the sex scene in one of the most discussed and beloved (and hated) episodes of Girls “One Man’s Trash.”

The final piece from current New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum is an examination of the variety – quality and genre – of work from one of the most controversial and prolific showrunners working in TV at the moment; Ryan Murphy.

Tina Fey wrote about her experiences on SNL and the lessons from working on late night in an essay from her book Bossypants (there are slight differences between the two).

Nailing those pre-college summer job feelings and slowly realizing what she wanted to do with her life is Amy Poehler in “Take Your Licks.”

Emily Greenhouse says goodbye to Gossip Girl and makes sure to mention Dan Humphrey’s fictitious New Yorker submission.

Last year Lauren Collins asked why so many (myself included) have become obsessed with Scandinavian television tracking the success of Forbrydelsen (The Killing), Broen (The Bridge) and Borgen.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything in Nancy Franklin’s reality TV analysis in “Frenemy Territory” it is fun to look back to 2008 when reality shows like The Hills were at peak popularity.

This last recommendation is a slight cheat as it isn’t strictly TV (SNLCSI and Teen Mom all get a mention), it is however a fascinating look at the Taylor Swift angst empire back in 2011. Lizzie Widdicombe talks about Swift’s “unjaded sincerity no matter how contrived the situation” in “You Belong with Me” and it’s just as relevant now three years later.

Summer Rewind: The Hour

23 Jul

The summer TV schedule isn’t as light as it once was and so it can be harder to squeeze in catch up projects of recent and not so long ago shows you missed. Last year I blasted through Scandal and took a slightly longer route with The Comeback, pairing a current show dominating discussion with one that is often featured on “Canceled Too Soon” lists (The Comeback is making its own comeback much to my delight in November). In a somewhat unplanned decision this has been repeated this year, first with Game of Thrones taking the Scandal position followed by the 2011 BBC 2 series The Hour.

Why I didn’t watch The Hour when it first aired is a bit of a mystery as it has all the elements that I find appealing – great cast, a writer I admire, a 1950s setting, fantastic looking costumes and a spy plot – and it’s even more curious as to why it has taken me so long to get to it. Yesterday I contemplated a Gossip Girl rewatch (I blame Preserve and this incredible Leighton Meester op-ed) and instead decided it was time to start The Hour as the boxset had been sitting on my desk untouched for a week. The length of the show (a total of 12 episodes) as it was pointed out to me on Twitter made the choice a no-brainer. And I’m so glad I did as less than 24 hours later I have finished season 1; it’s love.

Drooling over the costume design and giving out Diane Lockhart broach accessorizing points has occurred throughout these first six episodes and there will be a separate post dedicated to costuming. A more general approach to the first season is how I will be tackling The Hour today and there are some slight spoilers throughout.

The Hour cast shotIt’s 1956 and the world is feeling pretty unstable; the Cold War rages on and there is political unrest across the globe. These larger events are told through a new BBC news program which distills the events of the week into “The Hour.” The Suez Crisis frames much of the first season and just like a current HBO show it uses real events to infuse tension into the story as we see how the characters respond to the big story.

Unlike The Newsroom it doesn’t feel like it is preaching or attempting to teach in a condescending manner. This might have something to do with the time frame as there are only going to be a certain number of viewers who remember the Suez Crisis whereas you can all but guarantee that the BP oil spill or 9/11 are relatively fresh memories for The Newsroom’s audience. One other notable difference is The Hour is created and written by Abi Morgan, whereas Aaron Sorkin is at the helm of The Newsroom; a repeated criticism of Sorkin’s recent project is the treatment of the female characters and while The Hour is set in a time where sexism was far more inherent, it comes across as the more enlightened of the two. Bel still faces comments and assumptions based on her gender, but she’s allowed to make mistakes without looking like an idiot. No they don’t have email in The Hour, but I bet they wouldn’t pull the same stunt as MacKenzie’s “send all” error. Comparison time over.

The HourGetting accurate information when reporting the news is still not an easy task in 2014, even harder in 1956 without the technology that can hinder as much as help in the present day. The phone is one of the most reliable forms they have in The Hour and seeing reels of film getting cut together evokes nostalgic feelings for a form that was in no doubt way more of faff. And yet there is something glorious about seeing the individual frames.

Idealism, cynicism and pragmatism create a constant push/pull between the three leads; while the establishment they work for is dedicated to an impartial position there is still a rigid power system in place that threatens to censor and assert control. Freddie’s tenacity and drive to find the truth has the potential to destroy everything they have all worked towards and there are other sinister operatives at play with a mole in the BBC (*sidenote* thanks to a saturation of moles on 24 I often roll my eyes at this plot point, I did think it was well executed here and fits the cloak and dagger nature of the time period). What drives these characters varies and ambition is far more important to Dominic West’s Hector than the pursuit of truth, for Bel (the fantastic Romola Garai) she wants to keep the job she has worked so hard for and yet she is willing to risk it for the story.

the hour bel and freddieConflict comes in all forms including romantic entanglements such as the affair between the married Hector – Oona Chaplin plays his high society wife Marnie who knows of his affairs and uses the great tool of denial with a broad fake smile to maintain the facade – and Bel. Affairs can be dangerous and this one between producer and presenter has all the trappings of broken hearts and the potential for ruining careers. Enter Freddie as Bel’s best friend, he stands in the shadows pining for the woman he calls Moneypenny (the first James Bond novel Casino Royale was published in 1953 and a copy sits on Freddie’s desk) and he not so subtly infers his love for her on many occasion quoting E.E. Cummings and stirring up all my shipper feelings. There’s an intimacy between these two that can be summed up by unspoken cigarette sharing and how comfortable they are in each other’s company. Tumblr gif sets I will be coming for you later.

Balancing a variety of stories including wars raging on several continents with tensions on the homefront and tying them together through acts of espionage makes the big story personal; Freddie justified his reckless actions for this reason and his passion for the truth is both dangerous and honorable. There is of course the potential for a character like Freddie to become a “troubled genius who is always right” trope and yet he is grounded thanks to such a strong performance from Ben Whishaw, his relationship/chemistry with Bel and because the writing doesn’t quite go ‘there’ with Freddie. There is some sense of self-awareness even as he nears the edge of the precarious path he is on. How long it will stay like this is unclear at this point and the next six episodes are sitting on my desk just crying out to be watched.

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