Lady Dynamite: Bisexual Because of Meth

I watched three more episodes of Lady Dynamite last night, and it keeps getting better. In episode 2 “Bisexual Because of Meth”, Maria is trying to figure out if she should trust her gut. It has led her astray in the past, such as the time she believed she was cured because of music therapy, and put together a band: The Bamdford Family Bamd (with Susan!) Turns out, her gut was wrong, oh so wrong, and she has a breakdown at their first show (props to whoever wrote Minnesota Rockin’, btw) She’s not cured, but she doesn’t want her illness to define her, either.

Against her better judgement but owing to her people pleasing temperament, Maria agrees to go on a date with Larissa’s friend, Shane, who is bisexual and a recovering meth addict. (My favorite part of this scene is Larissa – aka Lala – threatens to end her day by eating a peanut to pressure Maria to going on the date, and asks “isn’t that what everyone wants, for me to stop breathing!” and Dagmar says, with barely restrained wrath “YES”. Me too, Dagmar, me too.) Shane and Maria connect over their recovery and their desire to be seen as something other than their illness. Maria says decisively that she will not go home with Shane that night, but as she reconsiders how her gut has led her astray, she decides to trust her gut after all. After all, her gut told her to not go on this date, but she had such a great time!

Maria gets to Shane’s house and he’s getting blown by the waiter from the restaurant (Asceriascene). Maria throws the waiter out she’s about to take over for the waiter when Shane’s boyfriend, Gabriel, comes in. Shane explains that he’s BIsexual and that Maria is his woman relationship, but that’s not how any of this works, of course.

Maria realizes that while her gut steers her wrong sometimes, she can’t trust other people to make decisions for her, either. Of course, this is after she miffs a job by taking Bruce Ben Bacharach’s advice to ad lib, and he even negotiates for her to keep working for the rest of the day after she’s fired (what a gem); and after she agrees to do a strangely violent commercial for a Japanese product, Pussy Noodles.


Latrisse DuVois Hair Care (By Gary)

I watched the pilot episode of Maria Bamford’s new show, Lady Dynamite, which opens with a sassafrass lady having a sassafrass feeling, which involves stealing a bicycle and generally being manic while smiling at the camera, because she is *so* happy and excited about Latrisse DuVois Hair Care (By Gary).  At the end of the commercial, Maria is told she should be shooting her sitcom and almost gets into the wrong white van. The episode jumps around between the past and the present, with the past being represented (about halfway through the episode) by a greyish filtered light. The present is more normally lit, and then there is something else – the inside of Maria’s mind, perhaps – which is vivid and bright with not quite reality.

Maria Bamford, the real person and comedian, has spoken and performed comedy about her mental illness, and here, she is trying to cope after being in a mental health care facility in Duluth. This is the part of the story that’s in the past. She is living with her parents and going to the facility as a day patient. We meet her “friend” Susan who undermines Maria at every moment. At the facility, Maria is crafting vision boards, gonzo style, while her counselor encourages her to express her anger, something Maria  is loathe to do because she worries that he will be rejected. And when she does express her anger, she goes overboard!

In the present, she is being rejected by her neighbors. She created a vision board about community that included a park bench, so she installs a park bench, which almost immediately becomes a place for people to put trash, graffitti and birds to crap on. She walks around introducing herself to her neighbors (with her friends Dagmar and Larissa, played by Bridget Everett and Lennon Parham), and doors are slammed in her face. So it’s not going well. Maria’s manager, Bruce Ben Bacharach (played by he of dulcet tone, Fred Melamed) seems incompetent. She is courted by a shark of an agent, Karen Gresham (Ana Gastayer, amazing as always), but reluctant to hurt Bruce.

While all of this is happening, Maria is also supposed to be filming her sitcom, and she is getting warned by Officer Patton Oswalt to keep her edge, to not do stand-up. But she somehow gets caught up in a pro-gun rally with Mark McGrath, and in the end, her vision board about community around a park bench comes true, as the community comes together to destroy the park bench.

I’ve been reading a lot of folks who are comparing this to Arrested Development and Strangers With Candy – I can kind of see why, because these are all edgy comedies. But both Arrested Development and Strangers With Candy were grounded in a specific reality – in Arrested Development we had the terrible Bluth family who can’t help but do the wrong thing, in fact, the wrong thing may be the only thing they are competent at doing; in Strangers With Candy, the after-school special format with poor Jerri Blank who can’t help but learn the wrong lesson) but Lady Dynamite seems untethered to any reality. There are no round corners so far or safe spots, only edges.

I laughed out loud at the call back to Latrisse DuVois products (by Gary); Mary Kay Place and Ed Begley, Jr. are both terrific. I am now convinced that Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn should make a cop buddy show. It’s a weird show, though. I’m not terribly familiar with Maria Bamford’s comedy (although I know she did a stand-up show just for her parents which seems so horrifyingly scary I am impressed with her bravery even without having seen it yet), but I can’t help but empathize with her character here. She does want to do the right thing, but she so mistrusts herself that she can’t even begin to fathom what that might be.

Things I Watched That No One I Know Remembers

I had a memory today of watching David Letterman in the mid-80s, and he had given a shoestring budget to a bunch of actors to make a movie. One of the beneficiaries of his not-quite-largess was (I think) Bette Midler, who made a movie called Laurie Has A Story, starring Laurie Metcalf – she was at a dinner party and had a story to tell. I remember it being great, and I immediately wanted to see more of Laurie Metcalf. Thankfully, Roseanne was looming in the wings. Did anyone else see that?

ETA: Sometimes I try to find some of these things on the internet and I am rebuffed, but I found it on YouTube, although it says it was on SNL, not David Letterman (strange how clearly I remember it being David Letterman!)  And perhaps it was Katherine O’Hara was the director, not Bette Midler. Perhaps I’m mixing up two different memories?

Watching: L.A. Complex

When I was a teenager, everyone I knew watched soap operas. I was resistant. I was pretty high brow and pretentious as a teenager, so I liked to *not* do/watch/read/listen to what everyone else was doing/watching/reading/listening to.

When my first daughter was born, I often had stretches of time where she was nursing or sleeping and I had nothing to do…well, that’s not true, I had plenty to do, it was just all boring and unpleasant tasks, like laundry and vacuuming and dusting and washing dishes. So I would turn the TV and got trapped in the world of soap operas, specifically, Another World and Santa Barbara. Cass and Frankie! Julia and Mason! I got sucked in.

Obviously, I am no longer high brow or pretentious (most of the time – I do love a challenging piece of literary fiction every now and then), and so I decided that after watching all of Dawson’s Creek (I’m sure I’ll write about that sometime #teamPacey), my next soapy show would be L.A. Complex.

L.A. Complex is about young hopefuls trying to make it in show business, sometimes by whatever means necessary (I’m talking to you, Alicia Lowe!) It is set in L.A. but it could not be more Canadian, and I am a lover of all things Canadian (anyone else watch every episode of Superstar? Radio Free Roscoe? The Grand Duchess of Canadian soap operas, Degrassi (in all its forms)?

Sidebar: Several episodes of L.A. Complex were co-executive produced by Stefan Brogran, (aka my favorite character from Degrassi High, aka Snake).

We meet our main cast: Abby is a singer/actress (or maybe actress/singer) who is young, in L.A. illegally, and having a rough time of it. Played by Cassie Steele of Degrassi: The Next Generation fame. Raquel is an actress who has had some success and is frequently recognized, but is struggling to keep building on a career that has slowed down. Nick is a wannabe stand-up comedian who is extremely terrible at stand-up comedy, but a sweet guy and he’s funny, he just hasn’t figured out how to do it on stage yet. Tariq is a musician/wannabe producer who is working as an intern with a powerful musical figure, Dynasty, and having a sexy affair with the extremely closeted and very angry/violent rapper, Kaldrick King. Conor is not Canadian, and has been cast as the lead on a medical drama, but clearly has some serious demons lurking under the surface since he seems determined to sabotage himself at every step. Alicia is a dancer, and a really good one, who is tired of working so hard and not getting booked, so she does what so many before her have done: porn.

Some great soap opera fodder here! And no one is ever sorry for hurting someone else, they can only be sorey. The show only lasted 2 short seasons, so I hope they wrap up some of the storylines by the end!

ETA: World’s collide! Was watching the first episode of season 2 of L.A. Complex and up pops Brett Dier, aka, Michael Cordero from Jane the Virgin! I love finding earlier roles of actors I like.

Jane the Virgin

This is a post I did not plan to write, but I am right now watching the last episode of season 2 of Jane the Virgin. The wedding! Michael saying his vows in Spanish! So sweet! I don’t care so much about Bruno Mars, I was hoping for Charo. I’m still waiting for something terrible to happen to Michael, although I’m guessing they won’t kill him so they can keep the love triangle going.

ETA: Damn. Damn! Maybe I was wrong. That looked like a kill shot, for sure! I didn’t like Michael at first, but I grew to care about him. Maybe Rogelio’s love for Michael made me see him in a different light. Don’t kill Michael, show!

I was not planning to watch this show, ever, but I’m so glad I did. Gina Rodriguez is a firecracker, wonderful actress. I love the relationship between the Villanueva women. And Rogelio is my favorite character on TV right now (except possibly Rebecca and Paula on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).

Episode 4: Favorite Episodes (part 1)

What are your favorite episodes of any TV show? I was inspired to write about this because Sarah Silverman tweeted that Seinfeld’s Chinese Restaurant show was a perfect half-hour. I do think Chinese Restaurant was a seminal Seinfeld episode, and was the start of the show becoming a “water cooler” show. My personal favorite episode of Seinfeld, though, is The Contest in season 4, which is the one where they bet on who can refrain from being master of their domain the longest.

For some series, it’s hard to choose a favorite. One of my top 10 shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I waffle on which episode is my favorite. Once More, With Feeling is an easy choice, because I adore it and will re-watch it a million more times before I die, but it was such a special episode that I almost consider it as a separate entity. I have an ever-changing list of favorite episodes of Buffy, which includes Welcome to the Hellmouth, School Hard, Hush, What’s My Line (parts 1 and 2), Surprise, Innocence,  Band Candy, Earshot, Doppelgangland….you see what I mean. It’s like I have 30 babies that I adore and cannot possibly pick a favorite.

But some shows, be they mediocre or outstanding shows, have an episode that stands above the rest. Here are some of those, in no particular order (all my own opinion, which of course you are welcome to disagree with):

Better Off Ted: Racial Sensitivity
This episode played off of a real incident, where facial recognition software did not recognize people of color in photographs. Veridian Dynamics has installed facial recognition software, and Lem cannot get into or out of the lab. The software is used not just for access to rooms, but also to detect when someone wants to drink from a water fountain. Ted notifies Veronica of the problem and she takes it upstairs, and their attempts to fix the problem make everything worse. It is hilarious and satirical and has lots of Phil and Lem.
Favorite quote:
Lem (with gusto): Yes, I might!

The IT Crowd: The Work Outing
A co-worker asks Jen to see a play with him, but she isn’t sure whether he wanted to go on a date with her or he was gay and wanted to just be friends, so Roy and Moss go with her. The musical does not help clear things up (it’s called Gay! A Gay Musical), but Philip, the co-worker, keeps sending mixed signals to Jen. Hilarity ensues and the closing button just seals the deal for me.
Favorite quote:
Jen: Why else would he ask me out?
Moss: Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but could he have thought you were a man?

Second favorite quote:
Roy: I’m disabled!

Just Shoot Me: Slow Donnie
The greatness of this episode is due to the perfect casting of David Cross as Eliot’s younger brother Donnie, who fell out of a tree in high school and has been “slow” ever since. Donnie is not what he appears to  be, though, which makes this episode great.
Favorite quote:
Donnie: (singing) chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot pie!

Second favorite quote:
Donnie: (sing-song voice) Donnie has secret. Promise not to tell anybody?
Maya: I promise.
Donnie: You swear? Cross your heart?
Maya: Cross my heart.
Donnie: On a stalk of bible books?
Maya: I swear.
Donnie: (normal voice) Okay, here’s the thing. I’m not really slow. I just faked falling off that tree, and now they wait on me hand and foot. It is the sweetest scam in the world.





Episode 3: Canceled

Yesterday, several shows got the bad news that they were axed. I watched Agent Carter but never made it to the second season, so that kind of sucks. I watched Castle because of lingering adoration of Nathan Fillion from Firefly, but stopped after a few years. The show that really kills me this time around is The Grinder.

I had no intention of watching The Grinder, but I was on Twitter one day and saw Mike Schur (under his Twitter name Ken Tremendous) make a comment about Grinder reaching the level of performance art, and with his credentials on The Office and Parks & Rec, I felt I owed it to myself to check it out. What I found was a comedy that is unlike any other I’ve seen so far – it had a level of meta that was beyond Community, even.

It is available on Hulu, and I recommend it tremendously. I wouldn’t have thought that Rob Lowe and Fred Savage would work as brothers, but they did. The show didn’t have a long enough run to make best use of Mary Elizabeth Ellis, but she was fantastic in what she did on the show. The kids were great, even. It also had one of my favorite actresses, Natalie Morales, who I first encountered on the ABC Family show The Middleman. BTW, if you have never watched The Middleman, you should. It was a show that I resisted because ABC Family advertising was so overbearing, but I was home one summer evening all by myself and decided to try it out, and it was awesome.

Adieu, canceled shows. May those of you with the appropriate number of episodes enjoy syndication payments; may those of you who haven’t hit that number find the vehicle that will get you there in the near future.