Friday, September 30, 2011

Pilot Season: Ringer (Is This The Best You've Got, SMG? Really?)

Wait, is this show about mirrors?
Hey look, multiple posts in one day!  It’s just my little way of making up to the three of you who read this (hi Mom!) for missing Wednesday.  Also, I’m bored and this diner hasn’t kicked me out yet.

So, onward with the pilots.  I swear, we’re almost halfway there*.

RINGER (CW Tuesdays 9 EST)

Yeah, this show aired a while ago, and I watched it when it aired, so I really have no excuse to be posting this so late except…

I don’t get it.

And I want to.  I loved Buffy.  More than is probably emotionally sound.**  Sure, the character sometimes made me want to throttle her, and I am totally doing a piece later on about how much I question her choices in the later seasons, but she was first and foremost awesome.  Sarah Michelle Gellar rocked it out.

So why the hell is she coming back to television with this crap?

Totally a show about mirrors.
Ringer is (apparently) about two twins.  The crappy twin, Bridget, sees the rich twin, Siobhan, commit suicide, and decides to take over her life.  Because that’s what people do.  Not call for an ambulance, or her husband, or one of the fifty kajillion cops Bridget knows.  Nope.  This is the sane choice.

And so she tries to take over her twin’s life, except her twin had a complicated life, which Bridget knows nothing about, since they hadn’t spoken in six years, and Bridget is a terrible liar.  But somehow no one notices (HOW?!) and Bridget stays hidden.  Oh yeah, and Siobhan was pregnant.  And is apparently still alive.  WTF.

It’s not that I object to soapy, melodramatic CW shows in principle.  I watch Gossip Girl.  It’s horrible about that.  I love it.  It’s that Ringer doesn’t add anything new to the formula except some really awful CGI backgrounds and a premise that is about 10 episodes of plot from a soap opera.  And they know how to milk things.

Siobhan has giant pictures of her own face.  Yeah.
How the hell did Sarah Michelle Gellar, kicker and puncher of all that is evil, end up in such a washed out, dull as dishwater show?  And as such a lame character too?  Siobhan (probably) had some grit to her, as we see from her philandering, faked death, and plotting.  I would totally watch a show about her, even if she is a bit of a sociopath.  Gellar plays her like she’s been let out of her cage. 

But Bridget is boring.  Really, really boring.  She’s an addict, but she goes to meetings.  She’s a stripper, but reformed.  She used to be an interesting person, but aside from having some really weird ideas of what makes for a good decision in a crisis, she’s not anymore.  She’s just muddling through.  I do not like my soap characters to muddle.  I want them to scheme.

Feel something.  Please.
I don’t want to pigeon-hole Sarah Michelle Gellar as an actress, but I guess I came to expect more from her.  I don’t want her to play just another wilted woman, being shuffled around so much, she’s literally not even living her own life.  I want her to be awesome.  I want her character to be awesome.  She doesn’t have to be an action star, she just has to be active.  You know, as a person.  Inside.

But if all you’re looking for is some silly soapy fun, then watch Ringer.  You’ll at least enjoy the CGI backgrounds.

Definitely a show about mirrors.

*We still have Pan Am, Playboy Club, 2 Broke Girls, Unforgettable, Secret Circle, Once Upon A Time, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, and Apartment 23 to go.  At least.  Yay!

**Ask my high school boyfriend.  It was a strange aspect of our relationship.  Me making him watch Buffy, him wondering why he was dating me...

Man Stuff: Are TV Men Getting Shafted This Season? (Hint: Yes.)

Exactly none of this is attractive.
It has come to my attention, by which I mean that a friend posted a link to an article on my facebook wall and gently suggested* that I read it, that men might be getting the shaft this season on network television.

I’ll be honest, the thought, though it had occurred to me, didn’t really bother me all that much.  For starters, I’m a woman.  So the shoe’s on the other foot for once, so what?  Second, as far as I can tell, the shoes that are condemning men are all sitcoms and half-hour comedies, which have for years taken the same tack as wacky commercials.  Namely that men are useless lugs being fondly cleaned up after by their much smarter and more attractive wives**.  So I wasn’t that concerned.  A season or two of men being called idiots and women being on top would be good for the soul.  My soul, at least.  I never said I was nice.

And then I actually watched How To Be A Gentleman.

Holy crap.

These are not men. These are cartoons.
Casual misogyny in sitcoms is largely a thing of the past.  You seldom see a show these days outright have a woman tell another woman that she is being a woman wrong, a point made very well in the article here, but that happens very explicitly in Gentleman.  Multiple times.

Furthermore, the show seems to purport that there are two kinds of men: pussies and meatheads, and that, while they both could serve to learn from each other, one is clearly better than the other.  The meathead.

Um, no.  Just, no.

First of all, I know a lot of men.  Not in a Biblical sense, but in the sense that I have always had a lot of male friends.  And none of my friends (NONE) has ever been classifiable into one of those two categories.  Every man I have ever met existed somewhere in between.  I have met men I immediately judged as belonging to one group or the other, but upon closer inspection, they didn’t.  It’s always the presidents of fraternities who turn up in your Nietzsche seminar and debate the loudest, or harbor a strange love of Star Wars extended universe novels.  The guy you dated in high school who was obsessed with the Crow, but did amateur wrestling on the weekends.  No one is one thing or the other.  We’re all just shades of grey.

Even beyond the issues with creating only two categories for men, is the horrific idea that one is better than the other.  That how you are a man is not nearly as good as how he is a man.  You’re doing it wrong.

Again, no.

Just because I don't like it, doesn't mean you're doing it wrong.
You can’t be yourself wrong.  It’s just not a thing that can be done wrong.  And by no means should someone else be telling you that you’re doing it wrong.  By all means, when you find a friend wallowing over a breakup, pick them back up, lend a kind ear, tell them to snap out of it if that’s what they need, but don’t tell them they can’t be who they are if they want to get someone new.  That is the definition of not helpful.***

So, How To Be A Gentleman, and Man Up!, and Free Agents, and Last Man Standing, stop telling men to grow up.  I get it, the big bad feminism came and made you all scared, so the only way you can retort is by making shows about how men aren’t men anymore and they need to get better, be real men again, but grow up.  Learn from Up All Night.  You can be a man, a stay at home dad even, and still be manly, sexy, and awesome. 

Or should I say, women aren’t going anywhere, there’s more than two ways to be a man and none of them are wrong, so man up.

But not like this.

[Note: How To Be A Gentleman is actually just a pretty crappy show in generally regarding its characters.  The women are even worse.  They are all harping bitches who behave in sociopathic ways that make no sense to anyone who has even had the word empathy described to them.  The protagonist goes on a date, and his date takes him to her ex-boyfriend’s restaurant.  What?  That is some psycho-bitch territory there!  And while there he finds his sister having dinner with a co-worker, while her husband stalks them at the bar.  Um, yeah.  Good job show, this is crazyland.]

*Well, politely insisted.

**I believe I mentioned in my Whitney post how much I enjoyed seeing this trope reversed.

***Unless they are a serial killer.  Then go right ahead.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pilot Season: Suburgatory (Score One for the Teenage Cynics)

FYI, She's smiling sarcastically.
I might have a few things to update today, but first I’d like to extend the happy news that New Girl got the first full season pickup of the year, and will be gracing our screens until May.  This is after It won it’s timeslot for the first two episodes, and became a critical darling, so I guess I can see why FOX made the choice.  If you want to read the article, Entertainment Weekly has more details here.

Now back to the show (literally):

SUBURGATORY (ABC Wednesday 8:30 EST)

I have to get this out: I do not know what universe Suburgatory is supposed to take place in.  I have never been to a town or even housing development that was as white bread or terrifyingly clean as the one portrayed in this show*.  It’s just so…creepy.

You can tell how happy she is to be here.
And that is, of course, the point of the show.  Suburbia as hell, which, if this is suburbia, I can completely understand.  Tessa (Jane Levy, who I’d never seen before, but is surprisingly good) is moved from Manhattan out to the ‘burbs by her overprotective father George (Jeremy Sisto) when he finds an unopened box of condoms in her room.  She hates it.  He hates it.  But he’s determined to make sure that his daughter has as normal and wholesome an adolescence as is humanly possible, especially now that he’s seen the possibilities otherwise. 

Tessa’s grown up without a mother, and her biggest shock in suburbia is the moms.  How they’re all pink and plastic and drink sugar-free Red Bull.  Most notably, Cheryl Hines’ Dallas, mother to Tessa’s “buddy” Dinah, who insists on giving Tessa some unwanted motherly advice.  There's a pretty hilarious shopping trip for a “nice heterosexual dress shoe”**.  Alan Tudyk also turned up as a friend of George’s, encouraging George to take advantage of all of the bored, attractive housewives.  Suburbia was pretty thoroughly condemned, and I could see why (even if I still refuse to believe this place really exists).

Not gonna lie, it was awesome.
But there were moments of humanity.  George’s genuine pain at the realization that his daughter might be sexually active was compelling.  And his dawning understanding that the suburbs weren’t going to change that, was also a little sad.  There’s a hilarious, but also depressing, scene over dinner, where Tessa flaunts her mall-bought skank outfit in front of her father, who wants her to conform, and he realizes that perhaps his daughter shouldn’t change.  She’s fine the way she is.

There’s also the end, which, frankly, was my favorite part.  After demoralizing Tessa on the shopping trip, and pointing out that her sports bra is fugly (which it was, and I am in favor of comfortable undergarments), Dallas comes to Tessa with a present.  A really nice bra.  Because she knows that Tessa doesn’t have a mother around, that this is something they would have done together, and that sometimes even the unwilling need a little mothering.  I liked that.

Sweet.  In an invasive, mean way.
Analytically, I have to say the show works for me.  Tessa’s a real girl.  She’s funny and sarcastic, and not very interested in using her breasts to get what she wants, but she’s also not utterly convinced that she’s a hosebeast or anything.  She’s just…normal.  I miss that.  When did that leave our tv screens?  Because it’s nice to actually related to a character.  The suburban caricatures are funny (and at times hilarious, like the woman who is now stalking George), but the best humor comes from the fleshed out characters, like Tessa and George and Dallas.  The ones with hearts that can be broken, and minds for making quips.

Plot wise, I hope it improves a little, because “new girl comes to town, hates it, learns to like it just a little” is horrifically generic, but I approved of the lack of love interest.  Tessa’s a big girl.  She doesn’t need a boy to hold her hand, and this show doesn’t need romantic tension to get it through.  It’s doing just fine.

So, no, it didn’t blow my socks off.  But it was nice, and I liked it, and I think Tessa is genuinely cool.  I will totally watch this again.

Suburbia’s still not a real thing, though.

And I refuse to believe anyone ever bought that outfit.

*But I have often been told that my childhood experiences are not a good baseline, in the same way that a salad is not a good baseline comparison for cheeseburgers.  Oh well.

**I wore Birkenstocks and combat boots all through high school and college.  This resonated.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pilot Season: Prime Suspect (Perfection. Just Don't Screw It Up.)

You're awesome.
I could lie and say that I have some amazing, complicated metric that determines the order in which I review these pilots, but the honest truth is that I generally just review whatever pops up first on hulu.  And with that, here’s today’s foray into randomization algorithms!


Let me start out by saying that I am not unbiased about this show and I never was.  I went into it wanting to like it, and I do.  So sue me.

Prime Suspect is actually a remake of a British show by the same name (shocker), which starred Helen Mirren as a take-no-prisoners lady cop detective.  It kickstarted her career into the spectacular stratosphere in which it now reigns, and was a nifty show to boot.  I didn’t catch much of it myself, it having aired in the mid-90s, when I was well into my “ignore everything that’s not Lord of the Rings” phase*, but I saw a few episodes.  I like what I’ve seen.

This new version is about Maria Bello as lady cop detective Jane Timoney working in (where else) NYPD Homicide.  She gets no respect from the “Beef Trust” of her male colleagues.  They openly accuse her of sleeping with her boss for the transfer, and refuse to give her cases.  She does not appreciate this, and shows them her lack of appreciation in a reasonably professional manner.  But she also swears at them sometimes.  It’s nice. 

Just a friendly disagreement about procedure.
The actual plot of the episode revolves around a rape and murder on the Upper East Side.  Jane is convinced that it is part of a string of rapes in the area, while the detectives actually working the case dismiss her and insist it’s a family friend.  When the lead detective on the case has a heart attack and dies, Jane immediately asks for lead on the case, which comes off as insensitive, rude, and utterly realistic.  She reveals to her father that she wanted to catch them off guard before they closed ranks again, because she knows she can do this case.  I liked that a lot.  It was realistic, and sad at the same time.

Jane has a better view on the murder, and is able to actually interview the only eye-witness to the killing (the victim’s small son) and get a sketch of the murderer.  She uses this to clear the family friend, who she’d investigated and discovered to be gay.  After some police work and a spectacular stroke of luck and good forward thinking, she gets a tip and they close in.  On the wrong address.

It's like a stock photo for "uncomfortable workplace".
They have to chase the murderer down, and Jane ends up getting the shit beat out of her in an alleyway.  Again, I appreciated that she really did go down hard.  She isn’t superwoman, and she is understandably smaller than some of the men she chases.  That’s why she has guns.  Anyway, the perp is taken in, and Jane gets to close the case.  She talks it over with some of the Beef Trust who still dislike her, and her success rate has done nothing to ease their ire.  In fact, it’s probably just exacerbated it.  And that’s fine by me.

There’s also a subplot wherein Jane and her (boyfriend? spouse? fiance? significant other of some kind) Matt attempt to appease Matt’s ex-wife in order to get her to allow their six year old son over for sleepovers.  Jane is a source of conflict, with her long hours and multiple guns, but eventually she is able to shut down the ex-wife and ensure that the son will come stay with them.  One gets the sense that the child really is safer with Jane than anywhere else he could possibly be, anyways.  The show ends on her smirk, and the knowledge that she doesn't care about making friends, she's just going to protect what's hers if it kills her.

And I loved it.

I think Maria Bello is spectacular in this role, and while I am aware of the complaints that the show was “American-ized”, by making the lead younger and more attractive, I reject them.  Jane might not be Helen Mirren’s age, but she’s no spring chicken.  She’s pushing forty, at best.  And as for attractive, Mirren has her there by a mile.  Jane seems to put on an armor of brute force and rage when she goes into work, and that is not attractive (except when it totally is).

You rock that scarf. You've earned it.
But the reason I like it most, and why I have a sneaking suspicion it will be my favorite pilot this year, is that I get it.  Jane Timoney is a person.  She just quit smoking, and she has cravings, and she is hacking up grossness when she runs, so she can’t run fast enough to catch a murderer, and that’s awesome.  She loves her boyfriend** but they fight and she yells and sometimes cries.  She keeps crazy hours and says things she shouldn’t, but she’s an amazing cop and she loves kids even if she doesn’t get them sometimes.  She’s inappropriate and rude and crass, and sometimes she does say the wrong thing to her boss, or imply that the dead man whose case she took was a moron, but she just wants to do her job.

I'm not saying that every woman on television has to be a badass lady cop, with more guns than she knows what to do with and severe nicotine cravings, but I do believe that every woman on television could learn from this example.  I don't care if she's Suzy Homemaker or a prostitute or a teenager in a glee club, what matters is that the character is fleshed out.  That she's real.  And that she's her own person.  If she isn't her own person, there had better be a story reason for it.  Because I refuse to believe that it is better for a story to have characters whose entire personalities can be summed up as "hot brunette" and "dancer".  No, this is better, and now that we've seen what real character development and agency can do for a story, I expect more.

So thank you, television, for Jane Timoney.  For giving us a woman who will take the crap in a man’s world, and isn’t a bitch about it, but does her job and does it well.  She loves her boyfriend, she loves her guns, and she cries sometimes when no one’s looking.  Thank you, just this once, for getting it right.

Don’t screw it up.

Or Jane will find you.

*Lasted until age 15.  Ask my parents, I’m sure they have fond memories.

**We’re going with boyfriend, even if it sounds juvenile, because I don’t think they’re married, and significant other is longer to type.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pilot Season: Whitney (Points for Realism, Points Off for Boring Me)

Continuing in my series of writing about television pilots after they’ve aired but in no particular order or reasonable pattern, here’s the next one!

WHITNEY (NBC Thursdays 9:30 EST)

is NBC’s new multi-cam sitcom from standup comedian Whitney Cummings*, and as you can tell from the super creative title, it’s about her.  More exactly, it’s about her standup, told through skits.  I have watched her standup, being the proud owner of a Netflix account and too much free time, and I can tell you that almost every joke in the show is directly ripped from that standup routine.  But I get ahead of myself.

In the pilot, Whitney and her boyfriend of five years (whose name I have already forgotten—Tim? Dan? something generic) go to a wedding for some friends.  Whitney is funny, but altogether awful to nearly everyone there.  We learn that this is because she hates weddings, and not because she is a sociopath just released from solitary confinement, which seems the more likely answer.  Back at home, Whitney and TimDanPerson talk about how they probably don’t have enough sex anymore, even though their five-year anniversary is coming up.**  She decides they have to have more sex, and calls on her two best friends, Married and Divorced, for help.

That looks medically sound.
They come up with the brilliant idea of role-play.  And then is the fabulous scene where they do the roleplay.  It’s pretty funny, actually, as Whitney plays a naughty nurse, and SteveDaveWhoever is forced to fill in forms and get his insurance card.  But given that nearly every part of the scene has already been in a promo for the show, it’s wasn’t hilarious.  Anyway, BobbyJoeFace falls over and gets a concussion in the excitement and has to go to the hospital.  While there, Whitney discovers that because she’s not his wife, she can’t go in to see him, and this bothers her.  When she gets in, she proposes.  He says no, because she’s just scared, and he’ll wait for her to be ready for marriage.  And then it ends with them fooling around in the hospital bed and him getting another concussion.

As far as the plot and format go, Whitney is the standard of multi-cam sitcoms.  It’s back to classics format, simple plot about relationships and gender dynamics, and really obvious laugh track are all the hallmarks of a mid-90s sitcom.  Blah blah blah hand me a cosmo blah.

What I liked about this show, in difference from most of the others I’ve seen recently is the characters (of course).  Whitney might be loud, obnoxious, and slightly sociopathic, but she’s interesting.  I get her.  I’ve been her.  And I didn’t like her even when I was her, but she makes sense to me in a way that’s visceral and real.  That is very appealing. 

Sure, her boyfriend is bland and clearly just the straightman and I can’t even remember his name, but their relationship does seem to work.  And more important, he has a fantastic view on it.  Too often I see couples getting married because it seems like time to get married.  They’ve been together for a while, and it’s too much work not to.  At least this show is taking the stance that, no, you should really want to get married if you’re going to get married.  It needs to mean something.  If it doesn’t then it won’t stick.

While I find her decision to dress up in a slutty nurse outfit a little too “quirky” and “charming”, I think that the character of Whitney is interesting.  She is a woman who owns her agency in all aspects of her life.  She has a real partnership with her boyfriend, in all aspects of their relationship.  She can be loud, but she cares.  For once, at least it’s the woman screwing it up so that the understanding man can pick up the pieces.  It's a new dynamic (to television) and I approve.  Whatever the reason, these two work, and I like them.

So, no, the show isn’t spectacular, or original, or very new.  It’s funny, but in a light, easy way that won’t mess up your hair, and I don’t feel a need to tune in every week.  But if I happen to catch it when it’s on, I won’t mind.  And I’m happy that it’s on at all, because there should be more Whitneys on television.  Messy, realistic women, who are owning their own lives, even when they make bad choices.

If only it were a little funnier.

Ahh, dysfunction.

*Who also created and executive-produced 2 Broke Girls, which we will get to later.

**Or because of it, am I right ladies?! (This is what Whitney’s actual standup sounds like.  I propose a ban on all comics who use that phrase, “Am I right ladies”.  It’s one step above laughing at your own joke when sober.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pilot Season: Charlie's Angels (Am I Laughing With You Or At You?)

Yes. You do look like a tampon ad.
Sorry I’ve missed a few days here.  I’ve been engaging in a screenwriting marathon for the past few days*, and have thus been unable to update.

So, with almost no ado, have the latest installment in my series on self-torture:


Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was not a good show.  Pretty much at all.  It was a show that more raised the question, “Do they know it’s bad?  Is this on purpose?  Are you really saying that or are you being sarcastic?”  If our generation can be defined as the one in which we forgot whether or not we were being sarcastic**, then this show is our poster child.  Is it supposed to be funny?  Because it was.

The Pilot’s plot (insofar as I can remember/understood it at the time): The three Angels (Angry Blonde, Smart Latina, and Sassy Black Girl) finish a job.  Charlie thanks them.  They decide to split up for the night.  Walking back to her car, Smart Latina is blown up by a car bomb.  Angry Blonde and Sassy Black Girl mourn her and start to investigate her death, only to find Minka Kelly (I could be witty, but she’s not remarkable in any way in this) was at the crime scene.  Minka Kelly was a friend of Smart Latina’s.  Smart Latina and Minka Kelly were going to take down a sex trafficker, but he killed Smart Latina, so it’s Minka Kelly’s job to see it through.  The Angels decide that they have to help her, and Charlie’s disembodied voice agrees, so they do.  A mission happens.  It works.  The sex trafficker is brought to justice and Minka Kelly becomes the next Angel.

I straight up have no idea what happened in this scene.
It’s a pilot, so I can’t be too hard on the plot, but I rather want to, because the plot was terrible.  Sex trafficking is a genuinely horrific thing, but to have it glossed over in the course of an hour long episode, where the real focus was on the legs and tans of the stars, was demeaning.  But that was far from my biggest peeve with Charlie’s Angels.  Oh no, it bothered me in many ways, not all of which were related to the fact that it was so horrifically hard to watch that I had to keep turning the sound back on, as I was absent-mindedly putting my television on mute.  I feel the need to emphasize this: I did not happen on this show by accident.  I planned to watch it.  I sat down with my dinner and watched it.  And I had to keep turning the volume back up because every five minutes my attention would slip and I would mute the show because anything else was more interesting than watching it.

Folks, we have hit rock bottom.

And as strange as it seems, I don’t have many problems with the show as a feminist.  Aside from the usual questions—“How is a woman that skinny punching a man that large?  Does she have superpowers in her perfectly coiffed hair?” and “Why must you always fight crime in a skin-tight mini-dress?  Isn’t it uncomfortable?  Can’t everyone see your ladybits when you kick?” or even “Are all pretty women this boring?”—aside from these important queries, the show’s vague fetishization of its leads didn’t really bother me.  It’s Charlie’s Angels.  I could be more surprised.  And while that doesn’t make it okay, it makes it bearable.

No, the main problems I had with this show had to do with the actual show.  Simply put, it sucked. 

Point the first: What on earth is an Angel?  Is it like an FBI Agent?  If so, who does Charlie work for?  What government organization is sponsoring this?  Several times, when asked who they are, the Angels say that they are not “Agents” they’re “Angels”.  What does this mean?  Are they private contractors, guns for hire?  I feel I would be much more inclined to watch that show, to be perfectly honest.  Yet they still claim some support from the government, which raises the question of which government and how?  Baffling.

Point the second: If your plot is dull and generic, the solution is not to add a party scene.  Really.  I feel this needs little explanation, but I can simply say that if I am having difficulty watching the show to begin with, adding a large party full of vaguely attractive people, chaos and some loud music, where our characters blend in entirely, is the best possible way to make me lose all shred of caring I had for the plot. 

I can actually feel myself getting stupider.
Point the third: When remaking a franchise, it is important to add something new to the original.  Unfortunately what seems to have happened here is a loss of something in translation.  The original television show had a, and I feel rather silly saying this but it remains true, depth that the recent films and this remake lack.  Without this emotional depth, the stories ring hollow and the characters are no more interesting than the pithy-ish monikers I gave them above.

Point the fourth and most important: I haven’t the foggiest idea if any of the prior points are important.  And this bothers me.  You see, I cannot tell if Charlie’s Angels was simply an intentionally campy remake that was a bit underdone, or took itself seriously and landed in the realm of camp and unrealistic wardrobe decisions on purpose.  It's like a textbook case of everything that is wrong with network American television, and yet I can't shake the feeling that there's a joke I'm missing.  It’s just that I have no idea if this is the joke or not.  I don’t even know if there is a joke.  I can’t tell if we’re being sarcastic or not.

I’m not sure which would be better.

Are we being ironic? Because I can do that.

*Semi-successfully.  I got some good pages written, more than I would have otherwise, but not nearly as many as I wanted to write, and my brain feels like it’s made of soup.

**A friend’s theory, and one in which I’m rather starting to believe.  We’ve come so far into the realm of intentional irony and sarcasm that we can no longer tell when we’re being earnest.  It’s unnerving.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pilot Season: Revenge (Women Are Apparently Awful)

Plotting.  No, really.
We’re into day two of my plan to watch every single female driven pilot that came out this year, and I am already annoyed.  Verging on pissed, actually.  And it’s not just because I actually sat down and counted how many shows starring women came out this year (but there are a lot and I am going to be doing this series until I die), but because I am now caught in a dilemma.
Art vs. creed.

I love television.  It makes me happy in a warm special way reserved for spectacular storytelling, unexpected rainfall and hot cocoa.  The stories you can tell are endless and occasionally beautiful.  I got a Master’s Degree based on my love of television (and movies, but mostly television).  So as a storyteller, I really appreciated some of the stuff from tonight's pilot. 

As a feminist, it pissed me the hell off.

REVENGE (ABC, Wednesdays at 10 EST)

As I said above, I was very divided in my feelings about this show.  As a writer, I like complex multi-character narratives about bad people doing worse things.  Conflict makes the world go round, especially in television.  But as a woman and as a feminist, I had a big problem with this show, and it can be summed up thusly: Every single woman on the show is a bitch.

Blah blah blah rich people.
Quick recap: Emily (Emily Vancamp) is a pretty, incredibly rich young woman renting a house in the Hamptons for the summer.  She just happens to move in right next door to the Hampton’s most influential family, the Graysons, and meets all of them.  From “Queen” Victoria, to her philandering husband, to their obviously-a-ripoff-of-Ted-Kennedy son Danny.  She charms them all.  But it turns out that Emily isn’t Emily at all.  She’s really Amanda, a former child of the Hamptons, whose father was (probably) having an affair with Victoria and who was framed (?) for murder (?) for it.  I’ll be honest, they lost me a little in there.  Oh, and her old childhood friend Jack is still around.  He has a boat.

It was pulpy and fun and a little silly if you tried to think about it for more than a second (which I wouldn’t advise), but a relatively interesting hour of television.  Better than the hour I spent watching CSPAN with the sound off at least.*  The issue was that I kind of hated everyone on the show.  Like, everyone.  I didn’t even really like the dog.

Understandably for a show that is based on revenge, called Revenge, and entirely concerned with the story of one woman trying to get revenge on another woman, there are some unpleasant characters.  Whatever, that’s fine.  I’m comfortable with anti-heroes.  If I weren’t, I wouldn’t watch Sons of Anarchy.**  I find it distasteful when all of the unpleasant characters are unpleasant in precisely the same way: namely, again, they’re all such bitches.

The pretty dresses hide their talons.
I don’t mean that in the slightly empowered sense that people have tried to push for the last few years.  Oh, you’re such a bitch!  And so on, said with giggles, and a vague effort to reclaim the word.  No.  I mean that they are bitches.  I would not want them near me, for fear that their bile would infect the water supply.

Everyone on the show is like that.  It makes for great television, and I rather enjoy it.  But I hate how it makes me feel about my own gender.  It implies that women, even women who break the law, are not interesting unless they’re being catty.  That women alone cannot hold up a show without the requisite witty bon mots and careless takedowns of their rivals.  In short, if every woman on this show is a bitch, then that somehow seems to imply that every woman is a bitch.

And they aren’t.

So I’m going to keep watching, because it was halfway decent television, but I really am less than happy about the bitch effect.  Is it wholly impossible to consider a world where a woman doesn’t have to be a right bitch to get her own show?  Or has Desperate Housewives tainted us so thoroughly?

Don’t answer that.


*If you are going to watch CSPAN, try to watch the British Parliamentary Debates.  British Parliament is hilarious, and they come up with some surprisingly funny insults.  Also swears.  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Senior Labour MP call the Tories “Rotting bastards who want to cannibalize the health system and eat the brains of the NHS.”  I’m paraphrasing, but it’s awesome.

**There will be an article forthcoming about the inherent issues of the gender politics in that show, however.  Gemma rules, but she has some weird issues.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pilot Season: The New Girl (Or How Cute is Too Cute?)

It’s a good year to be a woman on television.  This year the women stole the show and the pilots that are coming out are overwhelmingly tipped in our favor, at least when it comes to gender ratios.  Prime Suspect, 2 Broke Girls, Unforgettable, Charlie’s Angels, Secret Circle, Pan Am, Hart of Dixie…I could go on.

But the lingering question, of course, is whether or not these shows actually are any good.  Yes, a lot of them feature women leads and hooray for that!  (Seriously, HOORAY!).  But are they good?

Well I’m watching them so you don’t have to.  We’ll see.

THE NEW GIRL (FOX, Tuesdays at 9 EST)


The New Girl follows Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) as she is, moments in, dumped by her boyfriend, and forced to move in with a group of lovable lunks and salvage her self esteem.  Originally only agreeing to live with her because Jess is a girl, and thus has hot girl friends, the lovable lunks (there is no point at this juncture trying to learn their names) become distressed when Jess cries over her lost relationship and seek to fix her.  Wacky hijinks ensue, a touching ending is reached.

Yup. That's what my Saturday nights look like.
So, it’s not particularly original, and at times the forced cuteness of Deschanel’s Jess became cloying and I wanted to smack some sense into her, but overall, the show was inoffensive.  It had a few valid points: that the display of emotion is not a form of weakness, and can actually be a great emotional strength, and that choosing to live in a way contrary to social norms is frequently rewarding even if it is challenging for those around you.  But it also had some clunkers.  Jess is a woman and thus sobs and watches Dirty Dancing when she’s sad*.  When trying to teach one of the lunks how to talk to women in a non-judgmental way, Jess talks about shopping for jeggings.  He yells, “Who cares?” at her after a few moments of feigned interest.  Sadly, I felt the same.  If jeggings are the height of conversational depth for this gender, I want out.

But the real knot at the heart of New Girl is Jess herself and the age-old** question: Can feminism be feminine?  How cute is too cute?  As a personal proponent of hygiene and pretty dresses, I find myself occasionally contemplating this.  While I disapprove of bras insofar as they perpetuate the male gaze, I like them.  They’re comfortable.  I think heels do make my legs look slimmer, and I’m excellent at walking in them, thank you very much.  But I have my moments of rage as well.  I have owned that Che t-shirt, in the obnoxious green that looks good on no one and certainly didn’t help me.  I spent much of college in overalls, tie-dye and offensively ugly sweaters.  I flirt with shop attendants when my computer breaks because I can’t be bothered to fix it, but I get angry when someone implies I can’t put up a shelf.  How cute is too cute. 

Deschanel’s Jess is precisely the kind of woman who irritates me because I suppose I see a little too much of myself in her.  I wish we could all be fantastic paragons of feminist virtue, but we’re not.  Jess has to be rescued from a blind date gone awry by her three male roommates, and then sits on the couch with them eating ice cream and watching the aforementioned Dirty Dancing.  She can help solve their problems, but she sometimes needs to be saved.  I’m not sure I like that, but I have to admit that it’s true.

Need a hair tie?
As for the show itself, it’s funny, for certain values of funny.  I’ve little doubt it will get better over the course of the season, as the characters settle into their roles and some real stories are allowed to develop.***  Pilots tend to be the worst episodes of a show, what with all of the producer and network interference, and the issues involved in setting up a story.  But I only hope that they will be able to develop Jess in such a way that she answers once and for all the question of how to be feminist and feminine.  This may not be it, but it’s a start.

*I have never seen this movie and never intend to.  It is so far from my thing as to be unfunny.  Baby can stay in the corner as long as she likes.

**Well, since the 70s.

***And maybe, just maybe, they’ll give the lunkheads personality enough for me to bother learning their names.  For now, I know them as Beardy, Took-Off-His-Shirt-One, and Wayans-Brother.  Frankly, I think men should be offended by their portrayal in this show as a bunch of mindless drones willing to put up with almost anything in the hopes of getting to meet some models, but that’s a complaint for another article.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DADT: Repeal Day Thoughts of a Geeky Nature

This is a bit more informal than usual, but in honor of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell today, I’ve been pondering a little what our cultural landscape would have looked like without it.  Since December 21, 1993 it has been illegal for servicemen and women in our Armed Forces to reveal their sexual orientation (should it be aught else than hetero-normative) and whether we acknowledge it or not, that’s had a big impact on popular culture.

There are the stories that have been told.  NCIS, for one, told some very touching and occasionally pointed stories about the deaths of gay and lesbian Naval Officers and Marines.  In one episode, they investigated the death of a Navy Seal who had fallen to his death during a routine exercise.  It was only upon investigating, interviewing his wife and discovering his lover, that they realized he had let the rope go, so as to kill himself in as subtle and shameless a way as possible.  That story, and the true stories that inspired it, might not have happened.

There are also the stories that could have been told.  In a world without DADT, would Sheppard and McKay on Stargate: Atlantis finally have realized that simmering sexual tension and done something about it?  For four seasons we were asked to buy that they had an epic “bromance”.  I put it to you that the average bromance has much less touching, hugging, self-sacrifice and fewer declarations of love.  No, what they had was a romance.  Would they have gotten the chance to actually act on it?

Would Graham Miller from Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been gay?  It’s hinted at in his (admittedly few) appearances in Season Four.  He was a soldier in the Initiative, and a good friend of Buffy’s boyfriend Riley.  While not a popular fan theory (he’s not a popular character), suspicions arose about Graham when Riley commented on how strange Buffy was and Graham came back with the seemingly nonsensical rejoinder, “Maybe she’s Canadian.”  It’s unclear whether he meant it this way or not, but in some (gay) circles, Canadian is slang for gay.*  Whatever Joss Whedon’s intentions, in an alternate universe, we would have had the chance to find out.

I am, however, thankful for the steps that have been taken.  While Diana Barrigan on White Collar is not in the military, nor is her partner, Christy, she is an FBI Agent, and ten years ago it would have been virtually unthinkable to have a minor lesbian character on a relatively straight-edged show on as unadventurous a network as USA.  That’s progress, strange as it may seem.  The right of the gay community to become ordinary.  Isn’t that what we all want?

But, in some cases, even the repeal of DADT wouldn’t have solved everything.  If Jim had really married Blair on The Sentinel, as it so very very often seemed he might (really, they were not just roommates, watch it again), Blair would still not have access to Jim’s military benefits.  Nor would he have access to most spousal support groups or to Jim’s healthcare.  Civil unions and gay marriages are not yet recognized as legal by the US Military.  Unless specially allowed for, same-sex partners are often denied a military ID, which can keep them from access to the base where their partners serve.  (Source: BBC News Magazine here).  We hope, of course, that all of this will change in the months and years to come, and certainly the repeal of DADT has been a major step.  A massive step.

Because here’s the thing: I want it to matter.  Prior to the advent of Don't Ask Don't Tell, gays and lesbians (and bisexuals, one supposes) were banned from serving in the US Military.  Don't Ask Don't Tell was a step forward, but all it did was make the ban implicit instead of explicit.  Now the ban is gone.  While the homophobia is free to remain, at least it is no longer codified as law.  And that means something.

In all the years that Star Trek has been gracing us with its presence, there has never been a gay character.  Never.  Gene Rodenberry’s futuristic utopia, where all races, religions and creeds live together as one has not a single gay person.  Well, to be specific, there are, I believe two instances of lesbianism, but both are “solved” by the end of the episode.  Rodenberry himself wanted to include gay characters, and had he not passed away, he would have made sure to do so.  But the more recent show-runners have shied away from gay characters, perhaps because Starfleet is meant to be a meld of the Air Force and NASA.  I want an openly gay character on Star Trek.  It’s the future.  I’d like to think that we all get to go.

Obviously, these are just fictional examples, and I by no means want them to cheapen the experiences of the real men and women whose lives have been affected by this bill, or indeed the bills that are hopefully to come.  But I like to think that popular culture, insofar as it is a reflection of ourselves and indeed the selves we often wish we were**, should occasionally take a minute to recognize the societal forces that act upon it, and consider the ways it’s been shaped over the years. 

So here’s to you, Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy.  You’ve changed popular culture—now all of us have the chance, at last, to be ordinary.

Or to enter Starfleet.

*Ten percent of the population of North America is gay.  Ten percent of the population of North America is also Canadian.  You do the math.

**Superheroes.  Doctor Who.  Indiana Jones.  I could go on.

[Final Note: I realize that all of my examples are from television.  Sorry.  You can also imagine that Steve Rogers finally admitted his love for Bucky in the Captain America comics, or that Scarlet in the abominable G.I. Joe movie was a lesbian.  Though, let’s be honest, that never would have happened.  Not when there are still men she could date.  At most she’d be a bisexual.  And while I wholeheartedly confess to the existence of bisexuality, I tend to disbelieve it in cases of fetishization.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gwen Cooper: Action Chick Done Right (Eventually)

I sense you feel strongly and will back away now.
I adore Torchwood’s Gwen Cooper, but I didn’t always.  I started out the series hating her guts.  From her irritating laugh to her self-righteousness to the show’s insistence that she be the moral conscience when anyone could see that that job was really Jack’s…She was not my favorite.

It’s a problem I’ve had with a lot of action heroines.  Despite their toned bodies, pithy quips and attractive love interests, they leave me cold.  Because they are not real women.  Real women have mortgages and families and at the very least menstrual cycles.  I want a little consistency, some weight, something that matters.  Gwen Cooper started out with the rest of them for me.  Just another action chick with a gun and a pair of tight pants.

And then a funny thing happened.  Gwen grew up.  Right before my eyes.*

(A tiny bit of background before I start: Torchwood is a spinoff of the highly popular BBC show Doctor Who.  It stars Captain Jack Harkness, a time-traveler from Doctor Who who was given immortality by accident, and is now searching for the Doctor to find out why.  He runs Torchwood, a group of alien-hunters working for the British government, scavenging the detritust that comes through a rift in time and space that runs through Cardiff, Wales.  Gwen, a Welsh policewoman recruited into Torchwood, was added as the protagonist when producers realized that Jack might not be terribly relatable.)

Season One:  Gwen was an annoying, self-righteous bitch who was more than a little hypocritical.  While she was off criticizing everyone for their jaded reactions to (for them) typical work situations, like a young girl possessed by a sex alien or child-snatching faeries, she was cheating on her long-term boyfriend with a variety of people.  Most notably, she cheated on Rhys, the fiance, with Owen, her sleazy date-raping co-worker, while knowing that another co-worker, Tosh, was in love with Owen.  Yikes.  And all of this is without even mentioning the weird relationship between Gwen and Jack, her immortal time-traveling boss.  They shared secrets, talked about their lives, and were closer to each other than they are to their respective significant others.  (Jack is in a casual relationship during the first season with Ianto, his secretary).  All of that is normal for best friends, but perhaps not for coworkers who occasionally send searing looks at each other, and sit at each others bedsides.  Needless to say, Gwen bothered me a little.
You also seem to care deeply about this call.

But she had fire.  I liked that.  Sure she was annoying as all get out, but she cared.  I like that.  I just wanted it without all off the baggage.

Season Two:  Gwen got better.  A little.  She became cooler.  She was still a self-righteous bitch sometimes, but really only when the situation called for it.  When she discovered that her boss was keeping an entire subset of missing people on an island to keep them from upsetting their families, she was outraged.  Upon discovering that he had very good reasons for this, she was still outraged.  That was a little annoying.  Like I said, she only got really angry about the things that mattered, but Gwen’s rage was still a little much.  However, she was pretty awesome too.  This was the season that Gwen finally told Rhys what she does for a living: hunt aliens.  He’s shocked (but admits it does explain a lot about their relationship).  Why it made me like her more is that suddenly, Gwen had to face up to her past decisions.  She had a real relationship, one in which she shared fully.

There are not nearly enough shows where women have that kind of relationship, I’ve found, and especially not in genre television.  Gwen had started down the bad path in season one by mistreating the one character point that actually made her interesting, and it was incredibly heartening to see her get it back.  Gwen and Rhys matter.  She’s dominant, alpha, incredibly kickass and far too attached to her guns, while Rhys runs a lorry-driving company.  He’s sweet.  He loves Gwen and cares for her.  I’m sorry, but we need a lot more of that.

Season two was the season where Gwen and Rhys got married, reaffirmed their love, and where Gwen learned precisely how badass she could be.  Very.

Children of Earth and Miracle Day:  Children of Earth isn’t exactly Season Three, but actually a miniseries.  And it is amazing.**  In this, for the first time, I loved Gwen.  She was still flawed, still judgmental, but she was brilliant.  Incredibly badass (I mean breaking into secure facilities with a van and a pistol badass), vulnerable (finding out that she’s pregnant when the whole world’s children are suddenly threatened), and finally blissfully real (having to have the conversation with Rhys: do we want to have a baby in a world like this?).  For the first time, I looked up and saw a real woman on the screen, and I liked her.  Even when she wasn’t perhaps being good, or nice, or even agreeable, she was so very very real.

And about your baby.  I'm gonna go now.
The same goes for Miracle Day, which was sadly quite a bit crapper than Children of Earth.  Gwen was amazing.  Her daughter now several months old, she was a lioness with a cub and nothing, NOTHING was going to keep her baby from her.  But more than that, she continued to be a fully realized character, faults and all.  Her daughter was in danger.  Her husband kept trying to help, but their relationship was strained as she had to fly all over the world to help Jack, who Rhys had never liked to begin with.  Her father was terribly ill.  It all mattered.  There is a moment when she and Jack finally really talk, and Gwen reveals something personal and also a little horrific.  Referring to Torchwood’s overwhelming death-rate: “They died,” she says, “and I didn’t, and it only made me feel more special, because I survived.”  It’s awful, what’s she’s saying.  But it’s so fucking honest.

It made me love her.

So, yes, Gwen Cooper isn’t perfect.  She’s self-righteous, judgmental, a horrible planner (my friends and I have started calling terrible plans “Torchwood Plans”), and a right bitch sometimes.  But she’s real.  She’s loyal, she’s fierce, and she’s brilliant.  And it only took them two seasons to get there.

This is a face that cares.  Clearly.
Gwen Cooper is played by Eve Myles.  Torchwood was created by Russell T. Davies, and the show ran on BBC 3 and Starz.  Do check it out.

*Point of note: If you haven’t seen Torchwood, and want something more sturdy than my vague summary to go on, please see the wikipedia article here or the official site here for more information.  Or just watch the show.  You could do worse.

**WATCH. IT.  It will be the best thing you have ever seen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wonder Woman Wore Booty Shorts

This is what awesome looks like.
Someday, I want to be able to introduce my hypothetical daughter to comics.  My first choice of feminist icon should be Wonder Woman.  She is Wonder Woman, after all.  Actually created to be a feminist icon by the creative team of William and Elizabeth Marston in 1941, their stated goal was to give young girls strong female archetype.  Marston was quoted in The American Scholar, 1943 as saying, “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power.”  All well and good.  Wonder Woman was to fight the Nazis, represent patriotic America, and always remain a good woman.

This goal, however, was not generally followed through with in the comics.  Certainly Wonder Woman is powerful, but perhaps a little too powerful.  She’s not only an Amazonian Princess from a mystical island of warrior women, she also runs a Fortune 500 company under the name Diana Prince, and is one of the spearheads of the Justice League.  She was a goddess for a while.  She has the strength of 100 men, can run 80 mph, and she does all of this in a patriotic bathing-suit that only barely manages to cover her rippling abs.  Talk about hard to live up to.  In addition, she has a set of unbreakable gauntlets that can deflect bullets, a lasso of truth, and an invisible jet.  Oh and a crown.

Nice heels.
If you dig a little deeper, though, you’ll see that Wonder Woman’s problems are even more than just being wicked intimidating.  A foundational member of the Justice League written to equal Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman was originally the League’s secretary.  And far from being the superpowered action hero that the Marston’s intended, Wonder Woman’s early years were spent mostly being tied up.  It was such a common trope that there is now an entire online archive of old comics demarcating the bondage in old issues of Wonder Woman ( Suffering Sappho!). 

Aside from the problematic sexualization inherent in having a female character who is continually scantily clad and tied up, there is the fact of her powers to consider.  According to Aphrodite’s Law, an obscure piece of her comics backstory, when Wonder Woman is tied up by a man, which happened rather frequently, she loses her powers.  Consider this.  Wonder Woman’s powers, which are only an extension of herself like a hand or foot for us, are continually being taken away from her.  Imagine having a hand regularly amputated and reattached.  But these are comics, and removal of powers is not unusual.  What is unusual is the remarkably high level of fetishization attached to it.

Unfortunately, there’s a good reason for that.  As I said before, Wonder Woman first appeared in 1941.  In 2007, the first woman was employed as an ongoing-writer for the comic (Gail Simone, also, incidentally, creator of the Women In Refrigerators list) .  From 1941 to 2007, the primary comic about a feminist character was creatively controlled by men, and written almost exclusively by them.  While I do not doubt that William and Elizabeth Marston had good intentions upon creating her, one can only assume that Wonder Woman would have turned out differently if Elizabeth had stayed a bit more involved.  How we expect Wonder Woman to speak for women, if she’s not speaking with a woman’s voice? 

No, seriously?  I don’t have any answers here, and it’s a big problem.  Comics is and has always been a boys club.  Every once in a while they raise the point that they need more girls to read in order to get their numbers up, but that’s just jaw-wagging when there’s stuff like this to consider.  Think about it this way.  In the new Wonder Woman tv series (the one that got canceled, which was to star Adrianne Palicki), did you notice how her costume got more fetishized in each revision?  It started off with pants. Then they were latex pants.  Then they were back to being normal pants, but with a higher heel and a firmer bustier.  When the final reports came in, she was in booty shorts. 

Sorry, you can't make them cool.
Wonder Woman.  In booty shorts.  Shudder.

But it’s part of the problem.  We can’t imagine a Wonder Woman that wears pants.  We can’t imagine a Wonder Woman who actually is as feminist as she’s supposed to be.

So we need more women writing comics, and we need more women reading comics.  But we also need more men giving a fuck about this problem.  Because there are two halves of the population here, and one of them has a bit more power in the situation at the moment.  Perhaps that side could deign to make some changes.

For more about Wonder Woman, check out the links above or Wonder Woman on wikipedia and Wonder Woman Online!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Have Words for Olivia Munn

The Munn in her natural habitat.
Olivia Munn.  You may or may not have heard of her, but here’s the rundown if you haven’t (or if you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to access your Farley file on her—oh yeah, you’ve been Heinlein’d!).  Olivia Munn came to prominence in 2006 as the co-host of G4’s Attack of the Show! with Kevin Pereira.  She didn’t originate the hosting role, but she did make it pretty memorable. 

How?  Well, there are two things that probably played into Munn’s success on the show.  1) She was raised primarily in Japan, as her step-father was stationed there with the military.  2) She was a model.

Granted, Munn is also a huge geek, but still: Japan-interested model.  She was pretty much perfect.  On the show, Munn hosted several segments, including one called “In Your Pants”, where she dispensed sex and relationship advice in response to viewer questions.  She was really notable for the way she blended her sex appeal with the nerdery of the show, managing to always keep the topic sexy, but geeky.  Which is pretty impressive.

So what’s the problem?  The issue came, really, when it went a little too far.  Munn’s sexy nerd persona, always over-the-top and a little funny for the show, shifted very far in the direction of outright pandering.  I refer here to the pie incident.

Go ahead and watch.  I’ll wait.

You done?

Right, so I like pie.  Perhaps even more than the average person.  It’s not the pie that bothers me.  That part is funny and whimsical in the best of ways.  It’s the French Maid Costume.  It’s the fact that Olivia Munn bribed their viewers with her sexuality in order to get the outcome she wanted.


For the first, I think it’s a little demeaning for the viewers to be told that Olivia Munn believes that they can be bought.  Why not just implore them to do it because pie is wonderful, and a National Pie Week is a fun idea?  But if we must bribe, then have her jump into the pie in her usual clothes.  The fetishization is a real problem. 

That is a leg.
Munn is a woman.  A very attractive woman.  And she seems to have got it into her head that she must be that attractive in order to have anything to say to the geek community.  Olivia, listen to me for a minute.  Yes, down here, in the blogosphere.  You don’t.  They’ll love you for your brain.  You’re an incredibly visible she-geek.  Yes, you’re beautiful, but that’s the icing on it.  Just keep being geeky, and you’ll get the love. 

And maybe if you tone down the Slave Leia costumes, you’ll get a little more love from the other half of your demographic.  Because women can be geeks too.  Not sexy nerds or anime girls, but plain old girls who like to geek.  We’ll be your audience.  Put on a sweater and we’ll talk.

[Olivia Munn is currently a correspondent for The Daily Show with John Stewart and is appearing in I Don’t Know How She Does It, which opens this weekend.]

Read more about her on wikipedia: