Benched for the season

Benched - Season 1

I could have mentioned this back when the season started: I’ve been covering Benched, a legal sitcom created by Michaela Watkins and Damon Jones and starring Eliza Coupe and Jay Harrington, for The A.V. Club. USA wraps up the first season with back-to-back episodes tonight, and you can catch up with my reviews for the full season here.

It started out as a whip-fast workplace comedy that leaned heavily on Coupe’s facility with physical comedy and open-ended rambling and a plausible but predictable will-they/won’t-they romantic angle between the leads to the detriment of the excellent supporting cast. As sitcoms went, it was entertaining and zippy, but nothing special.

But as the season went on, Benched evolved from a show I enjoyed into a show I loved. The characters developed and deepened (including great roles for Maria Bamford and Oscar Nuñez), the tentative flirtation broadened into a friendship, and the show set its sights audaciously on the legal system, portraying a world where there are no villains, no antagonists, no bad guys or good guys, just an overburdened institution and overworked, underpaid lawyers working within it. I began the season happy to review a new show; I’m ending it hoping — hoping — to see it return for season 2.

Stars Hollow

[MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD OH BOY PRETTY MASSIVE] Here’s the dark secret in Gilmore Girls that no one ever talks about: Stars Hollow lies in the grip of a shadowy fertility cabal that rules the lives of its denizens — and even their folk elsewhere — with terrible certainty.

Think about it: Christopher Hayden accidentally impregnated Lorelai, then a generation later he accidentally impregnates his new partner. Luke has a daughter with his high school girlfriend. Luke’s sister Liz has two unplanned pregnancies ~18 years apart. Lane gets pregnant with twins the very first time she has sex. Sookie is so overwhelmed by pregnancy and parenthood that she and Jackson decide he should have a vasectomy to avoid any further disruption to their lives, but something persuades him not only to skip the agreed-upon procedure but to keep his continued fertility secret from his wife so she can be surprised by yet another OOPS pregnancy.

The only reasonable conclusion: Gilmore Girls takes place in a dystopian alternative universe where all social and sexual mores are controlled by forces beyond the control of the individual, outside the scope of sex-ed classes, and unfettered from the many forms of reliable and widely available birth control. In the AU of Gilmore Girls, all heterosexual couplings serve the larger master of society’s need for babies, babies, more babies, always more babies. You have plans? Too bad. Stars Hollow needs babies. You have hopes and dreams? I hope and dream that they’re about babies, because that’s what you’ll be having.

Make Gilmore Girls a double-feature with The Handmaid’s Tale! Also, I am pretty worried about April Nardini.

[cross-posted to The VideoReport]

carousel

Pete Campbell carouselHow detailed is Mad Men‘s art direction? This detailed.

Take a closer look at the wrapping paper on the Barbie doll Pete brought “all the way from California” in “The Strategy” (S7, episode 6) — the Barbie chosen by the separated but still married man’s girlfriend, Bonnie*.

The pattern on that paper is a carousel, a reference to the first season finale in which Don Draper mourned the slow dissolution of his marriage, and turned that grief into a trademark pitch to Kodak.

This isn’t an isolated reference to Don’s carousel pitch. In “Field Trip” (S7 episode 3), during Don’s long, humiliating wait in the bull pen upon his return to SC&P, Ken Cosgrove detours from his meeting long enough to welcome him back, and to proudly show off snapshots of little Eddie Cosgrove on the Central Park carousel, a family outing that “always makes me think of you.”

The very next episode,”Monolith” (S7 episode 4), ends with a frustrated Don trying to clean up, buckle down, and — in the words of Freddie Rumsen — “do the work.” As he sits down and starts to type notes for Peggy’s Burger Chef campaign (on the typewriter he very nearly smashed through the window and down into the street in front of the Time-Life building), the strains of The Hollies’ “On A Carousel” begin to play: “Riding on a carousel, trying to catch up to you.”

Malibu Bonnie Malibu Barbie
*The outfit Bonnie’s chosen for their visit to the New York office is pure Malibu Barbie: pale blue chiffon, pale rounded sunglasses pushed up in her long blonde hair. The doll didn’t debut until the early ’70s, but if you didn’t know better, wouldn’t you bet a shiny nickel the doll inside that carousel wrapping paper is a Malibu Barbie?