Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Suburban Mom's Pop Culture Week: HawthoRNe, Two CBS Pilots, Mad Men, Time Traveler's Wife


The dominant news story of the week -- Michael Jackson's memorial service -- was also dominant in my house as I had it playing on TV and am not ashamed to admit that I was moved by several aspects of it, from the displays of genuine emotion from usually polished performers, to the raw, heart-rending pain exhibited by Jackson's 11-year-old daughter. I downloaded some of Jackson's biggest hits to my three kids' iPods this week and have periodically found myself unconsciously humming either "Billie Jean" or "Wanna Be Startin' Something" as I feel as though I've been marinating in Jackson music.

Of course there was also the Sarah Palin bombshell dropped late Friday -- that not only was she not running for re-election, but that she was quitting the Alaska governor's post by the end of this month. I'll have more on that in my next Pop Culture & Politics column. Stay tuned.

In other pop culture/news for the week . . .


-- I caught up on TNT's HawthoRNe, starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Michael Vartan (Alias). I'm willing to give it a little latitude because I like both Vartan and Pinkett Smith. But other than laudably portraying a strong working mom role model, Nurse Christina Hawthorne seems too good to be a modern leading TV character.

I've grown way too accustomed to seeing leading characters who engage in anti-heroic behavior. Like Gregory House who's an excellent doctor -- someone you'd want to take care of you or someone you love in a medical crisis -- but he's got the social skills of a wasp, is horrifically inappropriate and is hooked on pain meds. (Plus he was sent to a mental institution at the end of the season.) Then there's Showtime's Nurse Jackie who's a dedicated nurse who'll do whatever it takes for a patient even if it means risking her job, but she's got a nasty Percocet habit and she's cheating on her husband. Her flaws make her seem more down-to-earth.

I'm not saying Pinkett Smith's Hawthorne has to start drinking (a la Rescue Me's Tommy Gavin), taking drugs or behaving in wildly inappropriate ways, but I tend to gravitate toward more realistic, flawed character. Let Hawthorne get a little more messy, and I'll be on board. Plus I like Vartan, did I say that already?

-- I watched screeners for two new CBS shows premiering in late September. Loved one of the pilots and need to see more before rendering a judgment on the second.

The Good Wife, starring the always-compelling Julianna Margulies (ER), Chris Noth (Sex and the City) and Josh Charles (Sports Night), is gonna be a regularly DVRed show in my house. I was really disappointed last year when Margulies' gritty Canterbury's Law was canceled after only a few episodes. That show -- set in Rhode Island about a troubled lawyer who was in the midst of divorcing her husband after the pain of their young son's disappearance became too much for them to bear -- was fantastic but the ratings, eh, not so much.

I'm hopeful that The Good Wife has better staying power. It seems to have a timely hook: Margulies plays a lawyer who gave up her practice as a defense attorney in order to raise her two children and to support her husband's -- Noth's -- political career . . . until his career as a state's prosecutor went down in flames following his affairs with prostitutes and criminal charges that he abused his office. After selling the family house to pay his legal fees, moving to an apartment and with her husband incarcerated, Margulies has to re-enter the workforce after having been out of a courtroom for more than a dozen years. She doesn't appear to be planning to divorce her lying and cheating spouse, but the sordid taint of his actions sticks to her professionally and personally. I have my fingers crossed for this one.

Accidentally on Purpose is a sitcom with an on-paper interesting premise: Jenna Elfman's Billie Chase is a thirtysomething newspaper movie critic who, after dating her newspaper's owner (Grant Show from Melrose Place) for three years, broke up with him when he said he wouldn't get married. In short order, she picked up a twentysomething boy toy at a bar and "accidentally" got pregnant. He moved into her tastefully decorated apartment because she didn't think she could, in good conscience, allow the father of her unborn kid to live in his beat-up van. Elfman's character is winningly fast-talking -- a la Lorelai Gilmore -- but the pilot seemed like was trying too hard and larded itself up with forced jokes about cougars and "young candy." The premise reminded me of the Uma Thurman movie Prime, only with too many bad puns. I'm going to wait to see more episodes to see if the forced artifice gets dialed back before I deciding whether this one will earn my regular viewing.

-- In preparation for the beginning of the third season of the exquisite Mad Men, I've been again watching season one episodes on DVD. I realized that I miss Rachel Menken and Midge Daniels. They had a lot more going for them than Bobbie Barrett, a character who I despised and who I think was an overt indication of the swirling despair into which Don Draper was sinking last season.


I'm almost to the end of my second reading of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and am kind of putting off finishing it. If you've read it, you know why I'm procrastinating. (I'm at the part in the cave, with the green liquid.) Once I've finished with the sixth Potter installment and feel prepared to compare and contrast the book with the film being released next week, I've pulled The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger from my bookshelf to re-read because the film's coming out next month. I haven't read it in years, so I'm wondering how much I'll remember.

What's been on your pop culture/news agenda this week?

Image credit: TNT.

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