Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Crazy Nastyass Congressman and Other Musings

Random thoughts occur to me as I sort and fold countless piles of impossibly tiny clothes… What’s worse than this thankless, never-ending task? Folding impossibly tiny clothes that have one sleeve turned the wrong side out…

Why haven’t any TV critics brought up the glaring fact that the smash hit chronicling the lives of the English gentry and their many servants was done already with a higher degree of subtlety and fewer predictable and maudlin plot lines? It’s called Upstairs, Downstairs, people. Google it, then watch it on Netflix. One can only imagine the conversation that went down between Downton’s creator Julian Fellowes and his alter ego:
FELLOWES: I have a brilliant idea for a new TV show.
EGO: Titanic 2? So You Think You Can Flatulate?
FELLOWES: No, no, no, but file those away for later—we’ll pitch them to the BBC! No, I’m thinking more along the lines of a completely novel idea that’s never been done before: I want to expose how the lives of the wealthy and the serving class intersect! The drama! The heartbreak! I guess I want to show the world how the problems of the wealthy and the poor are strikingly similar to our own. The wealthy people will of course live “upstairs” in the lavish main manse, and the people who wait on them will reside “downstairs” in the servants’ quarters.
EGO: Yeah—you mean Upstairs, Downstairs. That show from the 1970s? Won a lot of acclaim.
FELLOWES: What? No, this is totally different!
EGO: Um, it sounds like the same show to me.
FELLOWES: (sticking his fingers in his ears and closing his eyes) La la la la la la la—
EGO: You could get sued.
EGO: Correction—I hope you do get sued, you pratt.

Naturally I don’t really think Fellowes is a pratt. The show is highly entertaining, in spite of the predictable storylines, primarily because the scripts are top notch and the actors deliver nuanced performances. But all possible problems are tied neatly up (the head footman turns out to be gay? That’s cool; “I’m married only in name; my wife is in an insane asylum”; “It’s a miracle! I can walk again AND my penis works!” ) Unbelievably,  21st century values are imposed on the traditionalist mindsets of such unyielding Downton characters like Lord Grantham. He has a major bug up his butt over a reformed prostitute waiting on his family during an afternoon tea, but a gay footman working in his own household is totally OK? Fellowes seems to have recycled a better idea when he came up with Downton.

When I’m not watching Downton or following the petty arguments of the Real Housewives, I’m watching House of Cards. Francis Underwood, the wily, ruthless and relentless congressman of Netflix’s new political thriller, is undoubtedly the honey badger (a member of the weasel family, get it?) of Washington politics. Remember Randall and his irrepressible meme? If you haven’t discovered House of Cards yet, you should check this excellent series out. All 13 episodes of season one are available now, streaming on Netflix.
They don't eat venomous snakes, mind you.
 It’s the kind of addicting show that will make you break out the aged bourbon (or at least a glass of full bodied red wine) and neglect your children—for a societally appropriate period of time, naturally. When they start to resort to fisticuffs to resolve their toddler-sized disputes, it’s time to push pause (“Mommy, I need more milk!” “Ok, just give me five more minutes, sweetie…”). There’s nothing like the guilt of denying your children their basic needs to bring you back to reality…or until you reach the end of the series. Whichever comes first.
As for House of Cards, it’s pretty badass. Oh! Frank Underwood is chasing an ambitious young reporter half his age…Ew, he’s screwing her…Now he’s building up a junior senator just to tear him down for his own political gains. How disgusting is that? Francis Underwood don’t care. He takes what he wants. Francis Underwood doesn’t give a shit. And neither, for that matter, does his wife Claire. She runs a seemingly benign non-profit the way a non-profit should be run: with an iron fist, in which she clutches a radiant white iPhone. Her impeccable grooming and Tinkerbelle hairdo belie her Machiavellian tendencies, which neatly keep pace with those of her husband. Aide Doug Stamper will do anything for Underwood, unquestioningly, at any time of the day or night. His ever-loyal driver Meacham keeps him safe and keeps his secrets. Frank, in sum, has assembled a dream team! Everybody’s using everybody in Underwood’s world. Hey, maybe everyone’s a honey badger in Washington.

I can’t believe that my 4-year-old daughter is already asking me about where babies come from. When she first asked me the other night as we lay in her bed together during our before bedtime snuggle, it seemed slightly absurd to use the stork analogy or other animal delivery service explanation. So, I told her an abridged version of the truth: the daddy puts a seed into the mommy’s egg inside her tummy and a baby grows. For all she knows, the seed comes from a Burpee packet and the egg is from a chicken, which is just fine with me. Thankfully, my biological explanations had to go no further to satisfy her curiosity; a big smile spread across her face as she informed me that she would like to have five babies, including one set of fraternal twins.