Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Super Fun Night


About two weeks ago, I stumbled across Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night and found myself enjoying it. Which was a huge surprise. Because the promos were so shitty, I was sure it was going to be just one huge sitcom DOA.

Let's be clear though: the setup is pretty lame. Wilson is a lawyer named Kimmie. Why lawyer? Because Wilson has a law degree, according to IMDB. She's in love with a co-worker. It's not clear whether the likable guy is into Wilson's sweet, odd lawyer character. But they have a good rapport, so hey, at least that's something. That's the setup. Now let's get to the heart of the show, which is the tone: rather sweet. Plus, everyone is pretty fun to watch. Especially Kimmie's roommates Helen-Alice and Marika, played by Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash. Helen-Alice is mousey and nerdy, Marika freakily tough, physically and mentally. Together they're a nice Greek chorus for Wilson's Kimmie.

Liza Lapira is quite interesting. I mean, the woman is never without a job. Every season she's in a new series. To tell you the truth, I've never liked her work before. In Traffic Light she was a slightly bitchy wife. In Don't Trust the B--- in Apartment 23 a nerdy psycho stalker. Helen-Alice kinda combines the two and really showcases Lapira's talents. Let's hope Super Fun Night lasts longer than the other two series. Now that I'm no longer having much fun with New Girl and starting to lose interest in The Mindy Project, Super Fun Night fills my need for quirky comedies.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

God of Study


This is such a fun K-drama. The premise is, of course, completely zany: an idealistic lawyer decides to turnaround one of the worst high schools in the country. But the writing is sharp and the actors, including all the kids, totally adorable. It's best not to think about the plot too much and just enjoy the ride as one hysterically weird teacher after another is introduced.

God of Study is also known as Master of Study and Lord of Studying. Yeah, the English translation of the Korean title doesn't really work.

Update: The Economist has an interesting interview with Korea's Minister of Education Seo Nam Soo. It explains a lot of what's going on in God of Study. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Last Tango in Halifax

I really enjoyed Last Tango in Halifax, purely because of Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi. They absolutely sparkle as long-lost lovers. In fact, I wish the show had been an hour-long TV drama with just the two instead of a 6-part series focusing mostly on their dysfunctional families.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lunch ON!

I don't know why but I'm totally into NHK's Lunch ON! It's a half hour program that features nothing but interviews of ordinary Japanese people having their lunch. The narration is totally amateurish, but that only adds to the charm. Sadly, I couldn't find a video but check out the link!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rita, My New Fave Teacher

The fun thing about Netflix is that you can aimlessly browse. Who knows what you'll find? Like Rita, a Danish TV series about an outspoken, rebellious teacher with a lot of personal issues and family problems (would love to describe but then there will be spoilers). The show is fun, full of amiable people, witty and so incredibly likeable. I highly recommend it.

Sadly, I just found out that Bravo is doing an American version with Anna Gunn of Breaking Bad playing Rita. Skader. So before the launch of the Anna Gunn version, check out Mille Dinesen as Rita, the Iconoclast.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I Too Hate Skyler White

Sorry I've been away for so long, but the truth is, there hasn't been much on TV that's inspired me to write. Of course, one problem is that I don't have cable. Way too expensive for mostly nonsense. But now I have Netflix and TVKitty lives on.

Of course, one show that everybody's been talking about is Breaking Bad, which is due to end this season. With Netflix, I've been busy catching up. Needless to say, this post will have spoilers, especially if you've never seen Breaking Bad. :)

There's so much to say about Breaking Bad which has some of the best writing I've ever seen on TV (Friday Night Lights comes close). But I'm really here to talk about Skyler. Skyler White. Walt's wife. The very troubling wife of Walt. I guess I'm not the only viewer upset by Skyler. Recently, Anna Gunn wrote a NYT op-ed piece about the shocking amount of hostility she faces playing the long-suffering Skyler. For her, it's an issue of sex. People want wives on TV to be weak, kind, understanding. Skyler isn't weak, kind, understanding. This provokes violent responses. Not just at Skyler but at Anna herself: "I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?" (I guess Anna's never been an evil character in a soap opera.)

I'm sure she's right. Women with balls seem to automatically trigger male homicidal tendencies. Or at least terrific fright. I was watching a report on dating and a guy says with terror and bewilderment, "I don't like self-confident women!" Poor, poor sap. But the thing is, I'm a woman and I don't like Skyler. It has nothing to do with my idea of what a wife should be and everything to do with Skyler being a holier-than-thou Lady Macbeth. Actually, that's not fair to Lady Macbeth as Lady Macbeth didn't tart herself up and practically skip to work so she can see the man she really has the hots for while keeping up the charade of perfectly martyred wife.

That's the thing about Skyler. She's worse than Walt. Well, maybe as bad since Walt has a lot of self-denial stuff going on too. Personally, I think her real problem with Walt has been that he's stolen the alpha position away from her. Before the cancer and the drugs, Skyler was the one in full control of the marriage and family. Walter hardly existed. His life was pathetic and he meekly submitted to all its banal horrors (wonder if Walter is an homage to James Thurber's Walter Mitty). It was the money crisis that reawakened and reinvented Walter. Sure, now he's a monster, but he's alive, he's thinking. Lo and behold, he's making decisions on his own and Skyler begins to unravel because she's not in control. And really, control is the true monster being dissected by the writers. Hank and Marie, in and out of control, Jesse, Jesse's parents, Gus. Control is fleeting and addictive and illusory.

The one time I had any feelings of sympathy for Skyler was that moment when Walt says, "Which phone?" as he's waiting for surgery, the drugs relaxing his mind. Anna Gunn is a fantastic actor. The look on her face, the slight tremble as if she's going to fall apart. Her life as she knew it is finally over. She tries to regain control by demanding a divorce, sleeping with her boss and throwing it in Walt's face. She doesn't start feeling in control again until that triumphant moment when she tells Marie that Walt's a gambler. Walt sits back, amazed at how Skyler takes over, controls and owns his story. Why couldn't she have been there for him all along?

But, of course, this is the moment that Skyler's lost control. The money is now in control (the money [drug] is always in control). And it's been coming, the way her toes scrunched the luxury bath mat at her boss's house, the way she gawked at Walt's new luxury condo. But like Walt, she needs the "good cause" to fully embrace that money. It's to help pay for Hank's recovery. And she underscores the "good cause" with cause and guilt by viciously reminding Walt that Hank would never have been injured if it hadn't been for Walt's involvement with drugs.

Now flashback to the moment that Skyler realizes Marie shoplifted the baby's gift. The lies Marie told. How unforgiving Skyler is. The ramifications of Skyler's lies are far more serious. The writing flows back and forth like this in the most beatific way, with each and every character from Badger to Hank so brilliantly and fully realized. Which is why I hate Skyler. She's so real. She's so us.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food, That Glorious Metaphor

In Korean dramas, food is everywhere. Eating is just what Koreans do. Round-the-clock. Home after all-night clubbing, first thing a twentysomething does is make instant ramen and eat it right out of the pot, using the lid as a plate. Straight after school, kids hit the local dukkboki house. A guest makes a surprise visit and a plate of cut-up fruit instantly appears. In such a foodie culture, a heroine not being able to afford a roll of kimbap says everything. So what does it mean when someone eats with a fork and knife at every meal, preferring steak and pasta to kimchee and rice? This is a person who has lost their soul. This is a person who is no longer a real Korean.

I've seen food used symbolically like this over and over again. Food as a metaphor for cultural identity. In Korean dramas, real Korean families eat rice for breakfast, not bread. Real Korean families still eat sitting on the floor at low-lying tables, not at Western dining tables with chairs. If you're rich and a parasite, raping the economy with shady, underhanded deals, you go to fancy Western restaurants, drink French wines at home, have a designated dining room. All signs that you have lost your Korean identity. Which means you have lost your humanity.

In drama after drama, the first step in regaining your humanity is befriending someone poor (usually your future spouse). This poor person will eventually take you to a street market where they will make you eat fish cakes on a stick and dukkboki from a food stand. In Couple or Trouble, the Queen of Bitches loses her memory and regains her humanity by eating an insane amount of chajangmyon, the commoner's ultimate snack food.

Hollywood used to use food like this too. In movies from the 30s and 40s, the rich, depraved capitalists ate solemnly, silently, in exquisite dining rooms with chandeliers, napkins impeccably on their laps, hidden by French linen tablecloths, course after course of Frenchified food being served by a butler or maid. In contrast, true Americans ate noisily, at large tables surrounded by salt-of-the-earth kin, napkins tucked in their shirts, momma hollering, "Come and get it before it's all gone!" The food is stacked high on humongous platters: fried chicken and biscuits or roast beef and buttery rolls. No French wines—no alcohol at all. Just good, healthy American water and plenty of gravy. (Strangely, no vegetables either, except for tubfuls of mashed potatoes.) The message is clear: there's plenty of food—there's plenty of love—this is the life worth living.

Food isn't used like this anymore. Like in Korean dramas, U.S. dramas still share that fantasy of families eating together at a dining table. But the food is rarely the focus except on Thanksgiving shows. Even then you hardly see people eating at all. The dining table is just an excuse to sit and fight and show a family's inner demons. There's no joy in eating, no joy in food. I suppose it's the culture. These days, Americans are told food is evil—it makes you sick—it makes you fat. Not in Korea. Food is joy. Food is healing. At least if it's real Korean food.