Media and Pop Culture


I have seen through two and a half episodes of Jane by Design. I have all four episodes in my external hard drive and am tempted to delete them. I just find the premise and the acting so terribly off.

Don’t get me wrong – I have my own guilty pleasures when it comes to TV shows. FRIENDS and HIMYM are mainstream favorites but then Pretty Little Liars is my deep-dark-double-dutch-tub  guilty pleasure. The deceit, the scheming, the surveillance can be too much but I love the whole secrets-and-danger element.

But Jane By Desing’s high school girl-fashion executive assistant is just too much of a stretch. I wanted to like the show because of the title and the fashion appears unique and wearable. But the plot just demands too much of a suspension of my disbelief I just find the show so belch.

First, Jane annoys me. She’s supposed to be more mature for her age (with her mom leaving them, her dad’s death, the impending eviction) yet she seems so naive. And this makes me hate India, Gray’s second-in-command, because how could she allow that doe-eyed cluelessness outwit her? One proof of Jane’s naiveté is that all India has to do to create chaos is invite everyone to an exclusive only party. When villains are weak, it’s an indicator of just how limited the protagonist is.

Same goes for the company Jane keeps – like her best guy friend, Billy. How he allows himself to hold up one stall in the girls’ washroom with all Jane’s clothes is beyond… human. No girl would do that, no dog would do that. If Jane had been sharper and smarter, with a dash of attitude and none of the saccharine sweetness, it just might work. Like if Jane had something on Billy.

Finally, Andie MacDowell as Gray is one lousy Anna Wintour-wannabe. She poses and struts but I just cannot find the viciousness and the perfectionism. For one she seems so out of touch from her workplace – and any leader will tell you to hold the fortress as a matter of national security. The whole globe-trotting part seems so fake on Andie MacDowell – like she’s not sophisticated enough to even portray a jet-setter. She does look like a Botox ad.

That time she had Jane break up her romance with Brad was just too much, too silly. Handing over a personal matter to your subordinate just might be asking for it.

Overall, this Jane by Design has sunk on the runway and in my review. What a waste of time and imagination. And what does “Jane by Design” even mean here? Why waste a perfectly promising title on an inane character, whose puppy attitude matches only that of her best guy Billy?

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I’ve been watching and re-watching FRIENDS and Golden Girls for the past month because, quite frankly, their story lines are far more engaging.

 

 

 

 

 

I was in fifth grade when FRIENDS started and a incoming college senior when it ended. I couldn’t understand some of the allusions then and their concerns were alien to my own circumstances. However, as I turn 28 today, I realize that I should have watched all ten seasons after college graduation.

As for the Golden Girls, I was two when it came out and about nine when it ended. Still, their plot lines crack me up… I only wish I understood their references.

Meanwhile the current TV shows I’ve been watching have left me indifferent at most:

 

 

HIMYM should just have lasted for only five seasons. The seventh is such a bore with the most forced plot lines. At this point only Robin and Barney are interesting and apart from Lily’s growing belly, there is no character development left for Marshall, Lily and Ted. Blah. The TV show is now only a waste of space in my external hard drive (the first three seasons were so witty and engaging, though).

 

Modern Family has its share of quirky characters I love – Jay, Cam and Mitchell topping my list. But the episodes have been hot or miss at most – misses mostly. The first season was gold, the second had its moments and the third is just, so-s0.

 

 

 

 

 

As for my guilty pleasure, Pretty Little Liars, thank goodness there are four girls to dress up and accessorize. The plot has expanded to include so many people and so many twists, it’s insane. It’s hard to believe that these teenage girls have more on their plate than the quartets from Sex and the City and Golden Girls.

 

Last April, when it was announced that History Channel was planning to feature an eight-hour miniseries on the most famous American family in 2011, I mentally plotted the show as a “must-see.” I am a Kennedy watcher and I love checking out vintage images (of JFK, Jackie, etc.) and the modern pictures (of Rose Schlossberg). I’ve seen “A Woman Named Jackie”, “Jackie, Ethel, Joan,” and regret not having seen “Kennedy”, starring Martin Sheen and Blair Brown.

I liked the idea of Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper playing the brothers Jack and Bobby and even welcomed Brit Tom Wilkinson to play the indomitable Irishman, Joe Kennedy, Sr. But Katie Holmes as Jackie is quite the shocker.

Sure, they are both brunettes and they both have round eyes and square faces but the presence and the aura is just not there. Blair Brown, Roma Downey and Jill Hennessy are also doe-eyed brunettes but they certainly projected a semblance of Jackie’s aura.


Throughout the rest of 2010, pictures of the principal photography were posted online. The most easily recognizable re-enactments were that of the 1958 Hyannis Port beach scene with John, Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy and the assassination and funeral of JFK. Readers caught a glimpse of Katie playing dress up (yes, with real-life daughter TomKitten, I mean, Suri) on tow with Isabella Cruise. The hair was properly amplified into the bouffant and the clothes were cheaply made. The pink suit worn in Dallas was poorly made for the min-series – it had very little to nothing of the texture of the original suit. Worst of all was a shot of Katie’s pigeon-toed stance – one never saw Mrs. Kennedy stand in that manner.

So limping towards 2011 was a much scrutinized, much-awaited mini series – then History Channel dumped it by saying the material was more drama than history. Well, we are talking about the Kennedys – it is drama enlarged by history. How can you not when you have womanizing politicians, sex goddesses, fashion icons and orphaned children coupled with conspiracies of the highest levels? Anyway, the producers have shopped the mini-series to Showtime, who has reportedly junked it as well.

I saw the trailer just two hours ago and Katie Holmes is every bit as terrible as I thought she would be. The voice is Joey Potter and the look is one of the millions of Jackie Look-alikes from the ’60’s. Barry Pepper, who I most vividly recall as Sniper Jackson from “Saving Private Ryan”, came across as intense as RFK and Greg Kinnear had JFK’s presidential eyebags down pat.

Here’s the trailer and judge for yourself

Am still hooked into this Desperate Housewives-meets-Gossip Girl TV show, thirteen episodes aplenty. The following are my observations

I’ve always found Aria as the most interesting dresser (and Spencer as more my type) but this animal-print/ short denim shorts ensemble left me cold. I found it downright trampy looking; it’s a good thing Aria does not have the slut aura (Sasha Pieterse as Ali has that vibe nailed down).

I did adore Spencer’s ’20’s inspired look (with the cloche hat). It was such a classic yet it came off as so contemporary.

And Alex and Spencer are my favorite love team 🙂 They look so good together one forgets that in real life, the girl is five years older than the guy.

 

So the big surprise that left PLL fans dangling on a cliffhanger for three months is that Noel Kahn was the one who wrote “I SEE YOU” on Mr. Fitz’s rear window and so Hanna mistakenly thought he was A. Don’t get me wrong – Noel does turn out to be something nasty yet I still have an incredible crush on him (right after Andrew Garfield). But his character is not as sharp as A; I never thought for one minute that he was A.

Am not a huge fan of Ezra-Aria since I always thought Ezra was a geek who gives English teachers a bad name. But… I did warm up to that “last night” Aria and Ezra had in his apartment and I appreciated that touch when A saved the relationship by slipping in midterm answer keys in Noel’s locker. However, it might be some curse in disguise.

Hanna as an invalid is not a good look for her plus I could totally relate to Ashley Marin when mother and daughter uncovered that the (stolen) stash of cash was missing. Really, a lasagna box was the safest place? I did feel sorry for her when she was eating Hefty Hanna’s cupcake order (but who creates cupcakes topped with frosted piglets, anyway?) The paper towel dispenser was an excellent touch – A. expecting Hanna to throw up the food but then she failed. The girls really should be less predictable; Hanna threw the first challenge her way.

 

So far, the show has also explored the saga of Emily and Maya. Frankly, as a girl, seeing their make-out scenes and footsie sessions and candle-light moments makes me squeamish. I find Emily the most conventionally attractive and Maya just has this unlikeable vibe.I totally side with Mrs. Fields: “The whole thing makes me sick… sick to my stomach!”

Another shocker was the sudden marriage and subsequent family planning of Ian and Melissa. Of course, that Hilton Head resort tag coupled with the video of Alison with Ian, ending with Alison’s still arm puts him right at the center of all the mystery and intrigue. I applaud that porch scene with Jenna and Toby Cavanaugh – when he stood up to her and she slapped him. At least that relationship has been cleared up.

Can’t wait for the next episodes – what else would Hanna do for the cash, the Ian element and the continuing Ezra-Aria saga.

 

I’ve come to anticipate Modern Family the way I wait for my birthday- I love the witty repartee and (subtle) life lessons, not to mention character development. The following are my impressions of each family:

I love this family most -Jay’s no-nonsense, down-to-earth, frank approach to fatherhood (at least the second time around) commands my respect. Sofia is just hilarious in her approach to motherhood and to Claire (especially in that first dance episode in season 2). Usually one dislikes the gold-digger stereotype: young, pretty and poor. Gloria embodies all that (though I find Sofia Vergara sexier than she is pretty) but she is just so warm-hearted and genuinely lovable that she transcends the concept. As for Manny – he may come across as full of it to some but I would like to have a big-hearted, quirky kid like him.

I love the Cam-and-Mitchell duo – for the simple reason that I can relate to their temperaments (and since they are essentially feminine…). I can be pretty anal, like Mitchell – all cautious, bossy and paranoid but I can definitely see a bit of myself in Cam’s antics. I’m also the sort who would fight for a loved one… which is why I limit myself to a few loved ones, tee hee. The repartee is at its best with these two because they are of equal intellect (unlike Claire and Phil and sometimes, Gloria and Jay) and there are so many pop culture allusions in their conversations. The one weak link for me is Lily, who always seems so sedated. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen had more character on Full House two and a half decades ago!

 

So we move on to the Dunphys – the family with majority of the drama (i.e. the Minnie Driver episode) and all the negativity. I used to find Phil endearing but as they started to establish that Luke is his mini-me, I started finding him equally annoying. Luke grates on my nerves for some reason – as the special child, he has all these quirks that rubs me the wrong way. Claire has her good moments but I cannot understand her insecurities around Gloria and “her thing” – how Halloween, and then the school dance, are all under the category “her thing”. I do appreciate the “thunder” convo she had with Gloria in the school wash room. Some people dislike Hayley and I did at first but, she’s really just your regular, popular (oxymoronic, much?) firstborn. Alex I can relate to for her squeaky sense of evil… and the element of poetic justice. She’s mean but then nature exerts its retribution by making her inept around social situations.

Lately, however the show seems to be losing steam; the first season was crammed with snappy exchanges and hilarious moments. Now, it seems to be trying too hard… hope this is just a temporary slump. How I Met Your Mother has been on a slump since the fourth season.

I cannot wait for January 3!

Okay, so it’s the first day of work but it’s also the premier of the second half of the first season of Pretty Little Liars. I spent about two days watching my favorite episodes – namely, all except the one when Ali’s brother returns and the memorial gets trashed anyway.

I also caught some interviews of actresses Troian Bellisario (Spencer), Lucy Hale (Aria), Ashley Benson (Hanna) and Shay Mitchell (Emily) and these are my observations:

I have a hard time imagining Ashley as the “it” girl of the group because she seemed terribly ill at ease and totally unspontaneous.

Lucy was very perky and friendly while Shay came off as warm and upbeat. Troian is my favorite because she was very self-assured yet spontaneous. All in all, only Ashley was the disappointment.

So, I hope the next episodes are as promising as the show’s first ten 🙂

This is my new TV obsession since How I Met Your Mother has began to falter with its round-and-round story lines that even I am finding tedious (this from a fan since 2007!)

I thought I would be a Gossip Girl fan but their story lines were just too inane, the script too silly (except for Blair’s anyway), the setting was cheap (I only got as far as the First Season, where Queen Bee Blair seems to be limited to five square corner meters of space) and the clothes were walking parodies (except on Blake Lively).

But Pretty Little Liars – while it has its share of “WTF?” moments – is a gem for me. I love the end-credits cliffhanger feel, the relatively realistic situations (teenage girls do vanish and die, there are lesbians around, sisters can cheat on each other’s guys, families can fall apart and students do hook-up with teachers), the settings complement the Rosewood suburban atmosphere and the clothes complement the character without outshining them.

To be fair, it is rather smart that PLL re-invented a whole town complete with a mall, a park, and restaurants whereas GG is restricted by real-life locations (even if they are New York and Paris).Frankly, I read one Gossip Girl novel and it was horrible – silly storyline littered with all these luxury brands.

ANYWAY, back to PLL. Am seriously planning on buying the PLL book series.

I think it’s fab that one of the stars – and the prettiest of them all – is a Filipina (a dead giveaway to my nationality) even if she is cast as a lesbian. She has the stereotype that lesbians are pretty down pat. Emily is also the one Toby reaches out to and she’s the first to sport a soft heart among them all. To be fair, Emily is not out-loud homosexual and she represents the unease society has over it. She also has that martyr complex that Mischa Barton’s Marissa Cooper had in abundance. I do not like Maya because she comes across as in-your-face-fake but I always thought Toby is not as bad as people say he is. The Jenna thing better play a major role here for all the hype its been given. The actress, for some reason, annoys me (because I side with the Pretty Little Liars, so there).

I initially disliked Spencer because she kissed her sister’s fiance AND stole Melissa’s paper. I majored in English literature and intellectual property rights were hammered into our heads since the first research paper. This is flagrant act of plagiarism annoyed me… but then Melissa annoyed me more with her Jolie-like hair and lips (as in when Angelina was up for a Best Actress award for “The Changeling”). And I like how Spencer is smart (the quintessential smart-in-school-but-dumb-in-love) and how she’s organized but what I like best is her getting together with Alex. They would be an interesting couple to watch.

I found Hanna boring and predictable and frankly, she lacks the “It” girl pizzazz that even Mona has. In fact, even her mom has more appeal, being the auburn-haired couger that she is. I found Sean boring, too, and I thought at first that he’s some repressed suburban homosexual; but as I watched through the ten episodes, I found him to be the most stable thing Hanna has. Hanna does have spunk, which enables her to ride through financial difficulty and her father’s impending remarriage.

Aria‘s troubles are far more complex – her dad’s affair and the pressure he puts her on to keep mum about it. The pattern I see here is that the older men here (yes including Mr. Fitz and that bully/manwhore Darren) are all messed up whereas their younger counterparts – Sean, Alex – are more in control. I suppose the lesson here is, mid-life crisis is far worse than teen angst. Aria is the vulnerable one, falling for her English teacher (is it always the English teacher?) with her family collapsing around her ears. Of all the four, she does have the dumbest arguments around about love and truth.

Alison, meanwhile, has the IT girl aura, even in flashbacks. The actress does pull it off and not in the lame, try-hard sort of way that Mona does it. I’d hand it to Hanna that she’s not such a try-hard.

A – assuming it’s not Alison (or Aria, even) – does have a way with words and is, in fact, quite well read. A plus for her in my book. And she just might be in the running for TV’s greatest villains.

Pretty Little Liars intrigues me with its snappy dialogue and quick action. I love how these girls have individual secrets and hopefully they build up (the secrets) to the A case. Their secrets represent everything society frowns upon – for Hanna, it’s the eating disorder, family and financial instability, for Aria, it’s the infidelity of her father and sordidness of her affair with Mr. Fitz, for Emily, it’s the homosexuality issue and with Spencer, it’s her attraction (and casual “moments”) with her sister’s boyfriend. Quite a tantalizing array of secrets – it’s amazing these girls have time to squeeze in SAT’s and socials.

On a personal note, I could relate to these girls when I was in high school (sans the murder, of course.) I had two or three close friends and we had family secrets and personal secrets. There was always the fear of such secrets being leaked out, especially when we’d get into fights. This TV show is a throwback to my high school days and as Emily Blunt, playing Prudie in The Jane Austen Book Club tells her husband, “High school’s never over.”

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