Monday, February 25, 2013

Sneaky Ass White People

Oh, Dallas. Or as my friend Corey likes to call the show, "Sneaky Ass White People."

And that pretty much sums it up, right? Because these people aren't happy unless they are scheming and plotting and...what's another word for scheming? Whatever, that's what they do. Oh, and they're all white. Even the "hispanic" girl is like, barely tan.

Season 2, which began about a month ago, is roaring right along; one of the things I love about Dallas is that the plot moves. Anne Ewing decides to shoot her ex-husband (who kidnapped her daughter 20 years ago and raised her in another country and has tried to bring down the entire Ewing family) and the next episode she's on trial and convicted of murder. Most dramas would drag that storyline out for all it's worth. But not Dallas. After all, we've got John Ross cozying up to Rebecca, who was almost on the hook for the murder of her partner in crime, and is now starting to have feelings again for Christopher, who agreed to mediation to divorce Rebecca and have custody of the twins she is carrying, but now will have to deal with Elena owing Sue Ellen millions of dollars since her brother violated a loan contract when he transported stolen goods in a truck.

Got all that?

And we haven't even gotten to the plots that JR has in the works. 

So there are no complaints with the plot. Things are just as deliciously soapy and implausible as they were last season. And the acting isn't even horrible--I still think the older generation is schooling the kids on how to be crafty, but the younger folks are holding their own.

But there's a cloud over the proceedings. And that cloud is the recent passing of Larry Hagman, aka JR Ewing, aka the guy who got shot and caused all America to lose their shit trying to figure out who did it. In case you hadn't heard, Hagman died back in November from complications associated with leukemia. He's still going strong on the current episodes of Dallas though (which were filmed before his death, obviously).

I've avoided spoilers as to how the show will handle his death, and this has actually caused me some anxiety. JR is such a central part of the show and Larry Hagman has been the best part of the show's return, he's so delightfully evil and sleazy. I only hope that they do him justice with a send-off since he's basically the founding father of Dallas.

Oh, and another reason I love watching Dallas is because I can talk about it with my (previously mentioned) friend Corey. He has a way with words that is quite entertaining. For example, here is a sample of a discussion we had regarding an earlier episode where a new character, Becky, joined the proceedings, as a witness in Christopher and Rebecca's divorce trial.

Corey: But that damn John Ross really wants it all sooooooooooo bad…..but you already knew that something was going to happen to the star witness….she came forward a bit too cool.

Me: Her “little southern girl” act was a bit too much. “Gee, I’ve never been in a nice hotel before, mister!”

Corey: Yeah you are like….yeah this is 2013…you don’t have to talk like emma stone in “the help”

"Emma Stone?? I was going more for Bryce Dallas know, more ignorant and racist."

Dallas airs Monday nights at 9:00pm on TNT. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thinning the Herd

Lady Gillian recaps the final episode of Downton Abbey's third season for us. What twists await? Read on to see!

Let me preface this recap by saying I didn't really want to watch this episode because I accidentally read a spoiler a few weeks ago, so I've been aware that a highly foreshadowed death of a major character would be taking place during the season finale. What's that you say? You didn't see that coming? Well, I bet someone I won't mention wishes he'd seen a certain truck coming as well, so there you are. Finally, I just sat down and watched the damn thing, owing to my ability to live-text Clovis whilst I watched it. There's also the one-cent-per-word contribution I am making in [REDACTED]’s memory to the Isobel Crawley Home for Whores, Tarts and PROSTITUTES.

A year has passed since last week's episode. It is now 1921 and everyone’s going on a trip. Unfortunately for CNN, no one's booked a Carnival cruise; they're just heading up to visit the Flintshires at Duneagle in Scotland. Lil Sybbie is growing and is now big enough to point at things. Yes, Sibbie. Those are poor people. Yes, they are. Things remain (sexually?) tense between Jimmy and Thomas, although Thomas is acquitting himself admirably in his new role as under-butler.

Guess who's coming to dinner, Scottish cousins?

Mary is expecting a baby at last! Finally, the royal succession will no longer be in doubt. No one wants her to go to Duneagle so close to her time, considering the complete fucking mess that resulted from Sybil's pregnancy and all of her gallivanting about. Gregson telephones roving reporter Edith to let her know that he will be going to Scotland at the same time they will be at Duneagle. What a kowinkidink. Mary and Robert obviously suspect shenanigans. Cora wants to meet him, but Robert really does not, because really. I think we have quite enough low-born people in this family already. That's not even the best part about Gregson, Robert. Just. You. Wait.

The Flintshires are based in Scotland and we will hereafter refer to Lord Flintshire as "Shrimpie" not due in any part to his failings as a husband and father, but because of a childhood game in which Shrimpie and his siblings pretended to be various sea creatures. Seriously. Branson isn't coming with since he wasn't included in the invite since he's a Muggle so he's charged with dogsitting Isis. The Crawleys are taking basic bare-bones staff: Bates, Anna, O'Brien and Moseley.  

Much more after the jump.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sodomy Laws and Modernization, Tonight on Masterpiece Classic!

This week's episode is two hours. Because CURSE YOU, JULIAN FELLOWES!!!

Bates is being released from prison! No one shanks him on the way out the door, and he and Anna reunite in a long-awaited embrace. Once they arrive at Downton, Bates interrupts breakfast! Mrs. Hughes, Carson, Daisy and Mrs. Patmore are happy to see him, but Thomas is not, obvs. At breakfast with the swells, Edith has a letter from her editor and her hair looks stellar! He's asked to meet her in London. Matthew encourages her to visit Lady Rosamund and buy some new clothes, but Robert does not want Edith being a lady reporter or updating her frumptastic wardrobe. He is Bitter McBitterpants, and gets up to leave, mentioning that Matthew has summoned Jarvis to a meeting. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Robert runs into Bates in the hallway and is super happy to see him. He offers Bates a cottage, and promises to sort out the valet situation with Thomas.

At Crawley House, Lady Violet is laying down the law to Isobel about having a PROSTITUTE work as her maid/cook. Violet says Ethel is notorious in the village, and she knows so. How does she know this? Because she's EVERYWHERE! 

Maybe because she's secretly an Animagus?

Violet informs Isobel that she's surrounded the family with a MIASMA of scandal and she should rid herself of Ethel straightaway. Ethel enters and Isobel praises her improvement in cooking. Ethel is grateful to have a skill. Violet says, "But you seem to have so many."

Cora and Robert are on speaking terms again. They discuss what Robert will do with two valets (the post-war era really is trying) and Cora spies the nursemaid taking Lil Sibbie out in her pram. Robert wants to know when Branson is moving out and Cora reminds him that Tom and the baby are their responsibility now.

Downstairs, Moseley asks what Thomas is going to do now that Bates is back. *Facepalm* Ivy enters, and Alfred announces  he's planning to see a moving picture! With Lillian Gish! Jimmy thinks the plot sounds a bit soppy (it does), and Ivy won't be seen in public alone with Alfred. Mrs. Hughes gives permission if other maids accompany them so as not to invite scandal.

Much more after the jump!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Kind of Love Story

In honor of Valentine's Day this week, I'd like to introduce you all to my favorite new television power couple. Before you go too hearts-and-flowers over them though, know this: these two routinely cheat on each other, scheme, plot to overthrow the government and take cold-hearted revenge on anyone and everyone. So why is this a love story, then? Because irrespective of all the rest of it, the one thing they never do is lie to each other. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Frank and Claire Underwood, the main characters of House of Cards.

"What say we blow this charity event and bathe in the blood of our enemies tonight?"

House of Cards is a political thriller set in Washington, DC (yay local locations!) and directed by David Fincher, who brings the same murky, moody color palate he gave to the films The Social Network and Fight Club. The story centers on Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey), the Democratic House Majority Whip from South Carolina. Frank has been promised by the newly-elected President that he will be made Secretary of State, however when the President reneges on his promise at the last minute, Frank bitterly begins to plan an elaborate plot to get even with the other Washington players who have stolen his chance for glory. Swept up in the intrigue is a Congressman from Pennsylvania with a secret substance abuse problem, a young political reporter eager for a Deep Throat to call her own and more high end prostitutes than you can shake a stick at.

While the intrigue is definitely the driving factor behind the show, the emotional core is Frank’s relationship with his wife, played ice-cool by Robin Wright. Wright’s Claire is the head of an environmental non-profit that stands to gain significantly if Frank gains more power and Claire is more than willing to stand with him in his machinations to get the job done.

I love how Spacey and Wright play their relationship. They’re vicious and ambitious and brilliantly power hungry. They manipulate everyone around them, from their own staff to a man dying of cancer (really) to the security guards hired to protect them. The only people they don’t manipulate is each other, because they understand each other and genuinely love each other so much. Franks says of Claire that he loves her “more than sharks love blood” and we understand exactly the nature of their relationship. Even when Frank begins an “illicit” affair with a reporter, the first thing he does is rush home to tell Claire what he’s done, not out of contrition or guilt but for what it could do for their plans. Claire, for her part, instantly recognizes the potential and encourages it. Ozzie and Harriet, they aren't.

There's also a drunk, naked Congressman. But who doesn't have one of those in their bathtub, really?

The fact that they are so much in each other’s camp makes the few times when their relationship is truly tested all the more fascinating to watch. In the first episode, as Frank is blindsided by the news that he’s been betrayed and won’t be nominated for the Secretary of State, he sullenly checks out for a day and doesn't talk to Claire until later that night. Claire, no intellectual slouch, has already figured out what has happened and demands to know why he didn't call her. When Frank says he’s sorry, she walks out of the room, calmly disgusted at him. “My husband doesn't apologize,” she says. “Not even to me.”

It’s tempting then to see Claire as the instigator for what happens next, but she’s no Lady MacBeth spurring her husband on to murder. They’re absolutely equal partners in their machinations. If anything, they’re far more like a more successful and angrier version of Les Miserables’ Thenardiers, paying false deference to people who have more power than them (for the moment), but knowing that it will all soon change.That said, the influence of Shakespeare is all over the show. Reductively, it’s a modern retelling of MacBeth with a bit of Richard III thrown in. Even Spacey’s many asides where he speaks directly through the camera to the audience to illustrate his internal monologue or bring the viewer into his confidence about how other characters will act echo Shakespearean characters’ long soliloquies. Fans of Shakespeare will also recognize the epic plotting and gigantic emotions that are also hallmarks of his work.

False piety, for example.

Given the pedigree, it's surprising that one of the only shortcomings is in the writing. The series is written by Beau Willimon who most recently wrote the play Farragut North which was turned into the movie Ides of March. Willimon really believes that his “Washington insider” status lends a kind of verisimilitude to his work, which frankly is not large and his only real successes have focused on behind the scenes Washingtonia. The problem? He’s not that accurate. Willimon writes a Washington that behaves the way Hollywood imagines it is, not like the way it actually does. He knows just enough to be inaccurate. He understands some of the more technical aspects of American politics correctly but misses by a mile when it comes to writing the way politicos, reporters, staffers and informants actually speak and act. For a series that is trying so hard to seem gritty and accurate to life, to have characters say things that actual insiders would never say feels particularly jarring. Still, the pacing of the show is excellent and when Willimon can tear himself away from congratulating himself in writing for his four month long internship on the Hill that he did five years ago, he can put together a bunch of really compelling characters and really solid drama.

The entire first season of House of Cards is available only on Netflix instant. Well worth losing your weekend over this one, folks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

BAMF Girls Club

Today I present you with a web series that answers the age-old question - if all the bad-ass heroines from our favorite shows/movies lived in a reality-show style house, how long would it take for everyone to gang up and smother Bella in her sleep? Well, they've gotten to eight episodes so far. Fingers crossed!

Left to Right: Hermione, Katniss, Michonne, Buffy, Lisbeth and Bella

This series is brought to us by Comedivas, and so far it does not disappoint. Hermione is an insufferable know-it-all, Katniss and Michonne are battling PTSD, Buffy is a slightly ditsy 90's throw-back, Lisbeth is a complete misanthrope, and Bella is utterly useless. And there are plenty of homoerotic overtones... if you're into that kind of thing. *shifty eyes*

Buffy tries to set up Hermione with Willow... hijinks ensue!

It's difficult to integrate characters from such disparate fandoms while retaining each character's distinctive voice. Comedivas does this pretty flawlessly, though Twi-hards will be disappointed that Bella is such an overblown caricature. The rest of us will just find this hilarious. Check out the first 5-minute episode on the Comedivas YouTube channel: BAMF Girls Club Episode One.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Secret Boyfriend of the Week: He Sings! He Dances!

With barely no media fanfare whatsoever, Smash returned last week!

Remember, Smash? The show that everyone fawned over when it first aired and then grew to love to hate as the season devolved into kind of a mess? It became the poster child for hate-watching, though I have to admit that I still liked it even when other people had given up. 

As far as I can determine there were four reasons why people hated the show (and they are all valid complaints):

1) Debra Messing's character wore really ugly scarves;

2) Debra Messing's affair was written as creepily as possible (as he undressed her, she was crying. It was gross);

3) the character of Ellis was incredibly annoying;

4) nobody in their RIGHT MIND would EVER think that Katherine McPhee is a better actress, singer, or Marilyn Monroe than Megan Hilty. 

Most of these things appear to have been corrected in season 2, and based on the season premiere last week, we're off to a good start! The scripts were tighter, the world of the show has been opened to incorporate new plots (and possibly new musicals in development) and I like all the new characters. Unfortunately, the ratings kind of sucked which makes me think Smash is not long for this world...but I intend to enjoy the show for as long as it lasts. 

Which brings me to this week's Secret Boyfriend. May I present: Jeremy Jordan. 


He's adorable. And he sings.....oh, god, can he sing. On the show he plays a singer/songwriter who is working on a musical with his gay best friend (though he's straight and the love interest for Katherine McPhee). Oh, and he's also kind of a dick. But that's because he's damaged and just needs someone to love! Or, because he's a dick.

Point is, he's really good on the show. But to me, he will always be Jack Kelly in Newsies. I was lucky enough to catch it on Broadway last summer and he blew me away.

Look at him with his cute hat and newspaper bag!

Jeremy Jordan hits the Maggie Cats trifecta: cute, sings, dances. And for that, he's the Secret Boyfriend of the Week!

Smash returns Tuesday, February 19 at 10pm on NBC. If you missed the season premiere, it's available on the NBC website.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

White Collar Three-Cap

Here's quick recap of the three episodes of White Collar's winter season.

We open just after the shocking (not really shocking) reveal that Sam is ACTUALLY Neal's father, James. He explains that he got caught skimming money from a drug bust, and his corrupt CO blackmailed him into working for the Flynn crime family. Anyway, he finally got sick of lying to his partner, Ellen, and decided to come clean. Before he could do that, however, higher-up corrupt cops threatened his family and forced him to confess to a cop killing that he didn't commit.

But he did it for his family!

What's a poor con-artist to do? Revenge, obviously. The Flynn scion, Dennis Jr. (hahahaha, really?!?), is trying to revive the family by getting back into bootlegging. And since alcohol is not illegal anymore, he has to make it illegal by counterfeiting top shelf whiskey. Enter Neal, posing as a whiskey counterfeiter - he infiltrates the gang and finds the gun that the elder Flynn used to frame his father. Which they kept for... nostalgia? Right... Anyway, Neal tells James/Sam to take a hike while he and Peter sort this whole thing out.

There's only room for one father figure in this series...

AND THEN Dennis Jr. (pfft) gets shivved during a prisoner transfer arranged by one Senator Terrance Pratt (okay, are you KIDDING me with these names?). Looks like old Terry was one of the corrupt cops that framed James, and now he's trying to tie up loose ends. The team finds out that he's invovled in some quid pro quo with a building contractor - the builder donates to his campaign and he helps him get lucrative contracts. Neal goes in as an architect and they get enough evidence to try to flip the builder Pratt... without success. And the team's chief, Hughes, gets canned for trying to go after the Senator. Meanwhile, the builder decides to take out Peter by cutting the brakes on his car! Peter's wife Elizabeth tells Neal to leave Peter and his career out of this James/Sam/revenge business. Finally, a "good" reason for Neal to lie to Peter.

Hm, I think I'll guilt trip my FBI-agent husband's
best frenemy into lying to him. This'll go well.

When Neal gets the key from Ellen's personal effects, he discovers the key to the evidence box she spoke of in her If You're Watching This I'm Dead video (classic). Peter assigns Jones to help Mozzie with the key - yeah, that's gonna work out well. Mozzie gives Jones the slip, but not before he gets a copy of the key. So it's Mozzie and Neal versus Jones and Peter in the race to the evidence box! First step - the key isn't a key, it's a guide - the teeth of the key form a city scape.

This show is whimsical as shit

I think this one's mostly filler... last week's episode had Neal and Diana infiltrating the Cotton Club, a retro jazz joint run by a pair of brothers, one of whom is dealing in fake taxi cab registrations. The team relied heavily on Elizabeth and Neal's landlady June in this scheme. Which... isn't that, I don't know, against every protocol in the FBI handbook? Neal and Mozzie find the cityscape that matches the key - the vantage point is a place Neal used to visit while on the run from Peter - and the teeth of the key cover everything EXCEPT the Empire State Building. Of course Peter and Jones are right behind them using the tracking software in Neal's anklet.

C'mon, Neal, how did you not see this coming?

Who will find the evidence box first? And will Peter forgive Neal for lying to him (yet again)? How about Elizabeth, for asking him to lie? Also, whatever happened to Diana's girlfriend, Christie - why can't she be endangered inappropriately, like the rest of the civilians?

She's a even doctor, that could totally be useful.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Anyone Who Has Use of Their Limbs Can Make a Salmon Mousse

Proudly serving up another piece of Downton Abbey recap (and fancy Russian-Franco dessert) is Lady Gillian! Enjoy!

Hello, Anglophiliacs! Observant folks will notice Jessica Brown-Findlay's name is now gone from the opening credits. Maybe she'll make a joint appearance with Lavinia's ghost in some future Ouija board session, but for now, we mourn.

We open with Robert bidding farewell to the funeral guests. Tom Branson, unsurprisingly, is completely lost. Matthew offers his and Mary's help, but Tom responds that he's beyond help. True dat.  He's going to have to contend with a disapproving father-in-law who doesn't want his granddaughter baptized Catholic or named after her mother. Godspeed. Things are still pretty poisonous between Cora and Robert, and agreeing (for once) that they'd like to get away from the awkwardness, Isobel and Violet leave Downton together.

The new maids downstairs are very silly pieces of work, and Anna nicely explains to them that they're all very sad about Lady Sybil's death, so stop giggling and find something to do. Carson wears his usual disapproving glare and walks out. What do they care, harumphs Carson to himself. I'm sure they'd all rather be out smoking and listening to that new jazz music! He complains to Mrs. Hughes who tells him that perhaps their mothers don't want them going into service anymore.


Thomas has been quite affected by Sybil's death, but he's still hot for Jimmy and gives his leg an affectionate squeeze. Jimmy squirms. Does Thomas's attention make Jimmy more uncomfortable than educating the working classes or votes for women? Or is it that he doesn't want to be found out?  Hmmm.

More intrigue, after the jump!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Following

The Following is FOX's latest attempt to recapture the magic of 24.  In case you are thinking, "what the hell is The Following"....see below (adapted from wiki):
The series follows an FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) who finds himself tracking a network of serial killers--masterminded from prison by the serial killer he caught years ago. James Purefoy plays Joe Carroll, a former college professor who taught the works of Edgar Allen Poe and killed young women in the gothic hero's honor—until he got caught. Since then he's been spending hours on a computer in the prison library, building a social network of copycat killers who hang on his every command. When the series begins, he's just escaped from death row with help from those followers, and the FBI calls in former agent Ryan Hardy—who brought down Joe the first time—to consult on the case.
The show has a lot going it:

1) James Purefoy. You probably recognize him from Rome (he played Mark Antony) or A Knight's Tale (he played the Prince guy), and he's one of my favorite actors. He's handsome, charming, and can exude crazy almost too easily. When he and Kevin Bacon face off, you can really believe that he is a serial killer brilliant and charismatic enough to convince people to follow in his footsteps.

 Tall, dark, handsome, and FUCKING CRAZY AS A LOON. Still, what's a little sociopathy among friends?

2) Production Costs: the show looks great and it's clear the network spared no expense. The pilot felt completely cinematic and boasted a full cast and cool locations.

3) The dark tone. It's a show about serial killers after all, and I've got a soft spot when it comes to the "true crime" genre. Call me crazy, but I've kind of got a sick fascination with reading and watching stories with serial killers. Please do not attempt to explain what this says about me--I think I'm better off not knowing. The point is, The Following does not shy away the darkness and violence. Does it bother me that the violence is (once again) aimed solely at women? Of course. But I think that's a larger problem with network television these days. Point is, The Following is creepy and kind of scary and I dig that.

As with most things in life, The Following is not without its flaws. So far I have problems with:

1) The Edgar Allen Poe angle. As you can see from the show's description, the main baddie's inspiration for murdering people is an obsession with all things Poe. I'm sorry, but this just makes me roll my eyes. For one, it seems played out and a cliche. Also, perhaps my memory isn't that great--but I don't seem to remember that Poe actually advocated killing people. Sure he wrote scary stories and was super depressed, but it's not like he was the president and member of Serial Killers Club for Men. The Poe stuff just seems forced.

Did I mention the followers wear these Edgar Allen Poe masks? No? Well, it's some of the creepiest shit my tv has seen for a while. And I watch American Horror Story.

2) Kevin Bacon. I love Kevin Bacon, I really do. He was in Footloose for god's sake! But his former FBI agent didn't make much of an impression so far. Sure, he's an alcoholic and has a heart problem, but other than that he kind of comes off as blank to me. Perhaps that will change in the future, but for right now he's too vanilla.

3) The lack of a strong female. The only things women have done on this show so far are get murdered, run around screaming and wringing their hands, or get manipulated by a serial killer. I'm not saying we need to have Buffy the Vampire Slayer or anything, but COME ON. Would it kill you to throw the female viewership a bone?

So we've got three points in favor and three against. I wouldn't say that I'm hooked, but I'm still enjoying watching The Following--mostly due to James Purefoy's performance. But if they keep him locked away in prison through the entire season things are going to get old fast. Basically, if they can sustain the energy and promise of the pilot, I'm going to stick with it. But if it's just young girls getting butchered with a hastily scrawled "Nevermore" on the wall every week, I might have to bid it a fond adieu.

The Following airs Mondays at 9 on FOX.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Night the Lights Went Out in New Orleans: Super Bowl XLVII Reviewed

Okay, seriously, so was that a Super Bowl or was that a Super Bowl? Amirite?! Fresh off the news, confirmed this morning by CBS, that Super Bowl XLVII was the most watch Super Bowl in history (which, frankly, owes part of its distinction to the fact that the power outage which I’ll talk more about in a second pushed the airing into Prime Time on the west coast) this was honestly several hours of good television.

For those not inclined to read about football, you can jump ahead four paragraphs where I talk about the commercials. See you there.

It didn’t look like it was always going to be thus. The Baltimore Ravens dominated the game for the entire first half, going into the halftime show up 21-6 over the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco’s only points came from kicks, not even making it into the end zone until more than midway through the third quarter. The second half began with Baltimore receiving the opening kick and then instantly running the return down the field for 109 yards into the end zone and bringing the score to 28-6. For a game that was not supposed to be a route, it was shaping up to be one.

And then! AND THEN! Even folk who don’t watch football know what happened next – a power outage caused the field to go “dark” for more than 30 minutes. While TV stations vamped, players tried to throw the ball around just to stay loose and Twitter utterly exploded, someone somewhere was likely having a major coronary just trying to figure out how to get the power back on. All the progress that the city of New Orleans was hoping to show they had made since the last time the entire country stared breathlessly at the Superdome under much different circumstances suddenly was in danger of being brought out for another round of collective cultural hand-wringing.

The Good Times, they did not roll.

Nonetheless, come back on it did, but it may as well have illuminated an entirely different game. “Momentum”, that frankly mythical yet somehow strangely present fuel that every game seems to run on had completely shifted. Baltimore was no longer running literal rings around San Francisco and the 49ers delivered 17 un-answered points to bring the game to 28-23 at the end of the third quarter. With only 15 minutes of play left, we suddenly had a real game.

I’ve written before that the point of the Super Bowl is to be flashy – it’s not about grinding away on the gears of good ball, it’s about dazzling all the corporate sponsors and creating some pizzazz. In that way, the final quarter lived up to its hype. The score was tight, the plays energetic. Each drive literally could change the outcome of the game and with the clock dwindling, it seemed like anything could happen. In the final minute and a half of play, Baltimore managed to stop San Francisco from getting into the end zone and retained their lead only barely, 34-29 despite a block that many 49ers fans saw as an illegal hold. With few tactical options, Baltimore allowed San Francisco to score an additional three points (complication reason – for the uninitiated, let’s just say it was because the move ate up valuable time) in the hopes of punting a final return with only 8 seconds left, believing that their defense would be able to stop San Francisco from accomplishing what Baltimore themselves did only two quarters earlier. It was a gamble that paid off and Baltimore won the Super Bowl for only the second time, defeating a team that had yet to lose a Super Bowl game it played in.


So yes, the game was exciting, but we all know that the commercials are a vital component. (Oh yeah, BeyoncĂ© was there for something, too.) It was the usual mixed bag, of course, with a surprisingly touching Clydesdale commercial forming among the best of the offering and unfortunately having to mix it up with the insulting, juvenile worst. (I’m speaking of pretty much anything put together by the team.) 

However, the most effective advertisement for a product wasn’t any of the glossy, high concept live action clips that interrupted the game every few minutes – it was this pitch-perfect, utterly timely Oreo ad that you would have only seen if you happened to be on Twitter or Facebook while the game was playing. Or you are now like the rest of the world and have seen retweeted and liked a million times over.

Simple in design, epic in scope. Also, damn. Now I'm hungry.

Whole marketing graduate theses are going to be written about how Oreo got their ad up and into the public consciousness without even paying money for it and in such a way as to make everyone remember the product. And don’t laugh – that’s pretty hard to do. Think about all the commercials you saw last night – how many of them do you remember what they were schilling for?

The blackout alone will ensure that this Super Bowl gets mentioned in highlight reels for the next fifty years, but even if you weren't the type of person to enjoy watching the game, you still likely found something that was entertaining beyond talking with fellow party-goers over the crab dip. Until next year, then! Only 212 days until the start of football season!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Recapping AHS: Whys and Wherefores

Last one, everybody. (Well, until October, that is.) We begin at the beginning with Johnny breaking into the ruins of Briarcliff in the modern day. He wanders about while listening to a recording of Lana’s book read by Lana herself. He sees visions of the inmates, including Lana telling him he never should have been born and Thredson saying how much he loved Johnny and how Lana stole that love from both of them. Who should arrive but Leo and Teresa, the randy newlyweds from the first part of the season. We see the opening scene, this time from Johnny’s perspective as he hides in the cell that Leo eventually sticks his arm into. We all remember what happens next – arm in, Johnny decides what the hell and hacks it off with a machete before heading after Teresa.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Act I! In the modern day, an aged Lana sits in her extremely well-apportioned home preparing for a Barbara Walters-style interview on her life. Lana’s partnered openly to a professional classical musician and seems to be doing splendidly. The interviewer wants to talk about Bloody Face for the Kennedy Center honor she’s being given, but Lana’s not too keen on talking about that subject, understandably. But she does agree to talk about how she finally took down Briarcliff. Flashback to 1970 and Lana leads a camera crew through the death chute into the asylum. We see an extremely dank, overcrowded and filthy Briarcliff with inmates wandering freely. Patients are naked, covered in sores and generally utterly gross and the filming is all very Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace and, honestly, really cool to watch. Finally finding an orderly, Lana demands he take her to Sister Jude. Lana recounts wishing she could have found Jude in the depth of the asylum and freed her from it, but she never got the chance. Jude was long gone by the time she got there. Meanwhile, she needs a break before going on and asks for some water. A production assistant hands her a bottle. Lana thanks him and we see the assistant is Johnny.

Proof that the reality of deteriorating mental health care is far scarier than aliens, ghosts, demons and the Catholic Church.

Act II! Sometime in the early 1970s, Lana visits Kit in his house shortly after airing her exposĂ© on Briarcliff. Lana demands Kit tell her who Betty Drake is, confessing that while going through the mess in Braircliff she discovered the files that showed Monsignor faked Jude’s death and gave her the new identity. The files also show that Kit checked Jude out in 1971. Kit confesses that he used to visit her while she was drugged and unresponsive, eventually reasoning that getting Jude out was the one thing he could do for her. He brought her home to detox from the drugs they put her on and she slowly began to recover some of who she was. Jude would occasionally relapse, however, believing she was back at Briarcliff and becoming violent until one day, during a particularly bad fit, the children calmly took Jude’s hand and led her into the woods, after which Kit said she was never the same again, becoming calmer and happier. Kit concludes that Grace was right, the kids are special. Jude spent six months becoming a surrogate grandmother to Kit’s children before becoming sick. In her final moments, we see Jude lying in bed with the kids. She tells Julia never to let a man tell her that she can’t be anything that she wants and that Thomas should find something that he loves and do something important with his life. Kit sends the kids outside to play, telling Jude that he’s here and he’s not going to leave her alone. Jude smiles and tells him, “I’m not alone – she’s here for me.” We see that the Angel has been in the back of the room this whole time. The Angel gently tells Jude they’ve been doing this dance for many years, is she sure she’s ready? Jude asks for a kiss. The Angel moves closer to the bed, wings unfurled and leans in and the entire scene is just ridiculously touching and beautiful. And that’s the end of Sister Jude.

And a flight of creepy anachronistic angels sing thee to thy rest.

Act III! The interviewer asks Lana about her next success after Briarcliff – taking down Cardinal Howard. Lana recalls hunting down the former Monsingor in New York in a parking structure and asking him about his role in hiring Arden, detailing the human remains of the zombie inmates that they’ve since discovered. Monsignor drives off, but apparently couldn’t escape the guilt and he is found later in his bathtub, wrists slit wide open. “Lies are like scars on your soul, they destroy you,” Lana ponders. Then she tells the interviewer about her lie that she’s propagated for years – that her baby died in childbirth. She admits that she gave him up to the state, although in the mid 1970s she suffered remorse and managed to hunt the baby Johnny down to a schoolyard, where he was being picked on by some bullies. Lana intervened and helped young Johnny, touching his face tenderly before Johnny ran away. Lana says she thought about him often, wondering where he is now. Of course, Johnny is sitting in just the other room listening. Lana says she found some comfort in becoming Godmother to Kit’s kids who have done well for themselves becoming a law professor and a neurosurgeon. Unfortunately, Kit developed pancreatic cancer when he was 40. His decline was apparently slow and painful, but strangely, he disappeared one day without a note or any evidence. Three guesses as to which extraterrestrial force was responsible. Finally, the interview is over and the film crew clears out leaving Lana alone in her home. Lana pours two stiff drinks and says to no one in particular, “Why don’t you come out now?” Turning around, Johnny emerges from the other room. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?” says Lana.

Act IV! Turns out Johnny got onto the crew by getting stabby with one of the early delivery staff. Johnny says this isn’t how he pictured this happening, but Lana says she always knew it would come. Lana was warned about him recently when two cops sought her out after a series of murders occurred in what was Thredson’s old home, now Johnny’s. Johnny says he suspected who Lana was that day on the playground, dreaming most of his life that she would come back for him. Then one day, on eBay, he found the recording of Thredson confessing while Lana threatens to abort the baby growing in her. Hearing Lana speak so coldly about getting rid of the life inside her while Thredson begs for her to keep it alive, Johnny began to hate Lana because at least his father always wanted him. Johnny pulls a gun and points it at Lana’s head, saying that this will make his father proud of him. Lana gently touches Johnny’s hand and says that his father was a monster, but she knows that he isn’t because even if Thredson is a part of him, there has to be a part of her in Johnny too. Lana cradles Johnny, moving the gun away from her. “It’s not your fault, baby,” she tells him. “It’s mine.” And that’s when Lana uses the gun to shoot Johnny in the head, just like she did his father, stone cold killer style. 

Cue obligatory hand-wringing about who is the real monster, etc. etc. 

Flashback to 1964, the first meeting between Sister Jude and Lanat. Lana would also like to interview Jude, but Jude says no, she’s certain they’re not destined to meet again. “You don’t know what I’m capable of,” Lana says. “Just remember,” Jude advises her, “If you look in the face of evil, evil’s gonna look right back at you.” And with that Sister Jude leads Lana out of the building before heading back into its depths as Dominique begins to play.