Stuff Moms Like: The Killing

My mom and I both watch “The Killing”—and last night we made a point of watching the finale together—but I think that, at this juncture, we both have very different feelings about it. It’s the kind of show that started out great: it had a compelling marketing campaign, and it began airing just when other shows were wrapping up for the season. But at this point, if one of my friends told me she was going to start watching “The Killing,” I’d tell her to just watch “Twin Peaks”—or, hell, “Pretty Little Liars”—instead.

It’s not that I think this show is bad, necessarily, but rather that I don’t think it ever knew what it wanted to be. My mom is optimistic—she’s in it for the long haul—but I, like many others, can’t get over the fact that a show boasting a complete mystery over the course of 13 episodes didn’t deliver on that crucial detail. You see, last night’s episode ended on a cliffhanger, which, though in some ways satisfying, essentially undercut the appeal of the show. What was touted, more or less, as a miniseries, has instead been stretched out indefinitely. The lack of focus, already painfully obvious, has at this point become almost laughable. “Who Killed Rosie Larsen?” has instead become “Who Cares?” and “Who Stole 13 Hours of My Life?” …Which is not to say that “The Killing” has actually been a total waste, or that all is lost. But, seriously, how much should we viewers be expected to invest in this show before we finally get some payoff?

What “The Killing” is and what it professes to be may be two very different things, but this much is certain: The show details the investigation into the murder of high schooler Rosie Larsen, whose body is found in the trunk of a car used for the campaign of an upcoming mayoral candidate. As can be expected, all is not as it seems, and everyone–from Rosie’s parents to her teacher to, of course, the politicians—has a secret. Yet, “The Killing” also has a softer side, one that shows, unflinchingly, the various ways that grief can manifest. Viewers spend equal time with the police and Rosie’s mourning parents, and observe the shockwaves that a single death can send through a community. After a knockout first episode, the show began to falter, until eventually the pacing was simply confounding, and the twists haphazard. Still, it had on its side some exceptional performances, great atmosphere, and, of course, the promise that at the end of 13 weeks we would know who had killed Rosie Larsen.

Despite some genuinely shocking developments, and some truly heart-rending moments, “The Killing” has yet to live up to the promise of its marketing. It has been misrepresented as the antidote to the typical police procedural—too often it falls into the same gimmicky traps—and claims of its sensitivity to the grieving process are undercut by the fact that the Larsen family can come off as rather one-note. Furthermore, its similarities to “Twin Peaks” have only further clarified the ways in which this show is inferior to the David Lynch classic. Yet, I would still consider myself a fan, as there are continually scenes that shock me from my apathy. Moments like the one in which Rosie’s mother, alone in the bathtub, imagines what it’s like to drown (as Rosie did) are chilling; it is the show’s ability to channel the most desperate spaces of the human mind that makes it stand out.

There are still many unanswered questions, not only about Rosie, but also about the detectives, Linden and Holder, who have recently begun to develop into interesting characters in their own right. I am hoping that a second season will mean that all of these questions can be approached with careful consideration, and answered in a satisfying manner. Still, I, like Rosie’s mother, have learned that you can only hold your breath for so long. It seems that even on TV you can’t always find the answers you crave, or the closure you need. Does this signify the beginning of a new kind of show, one that delays gratification until the point that it is no longer desired? Or have the writers simply been so greedy (or misguided) that they refused to end the case before they had wrung every last drop from it? I hesitate to call the move brilliant, but it does require a certain amount of gall. We are now on the line just as much as Rosie’s parents, wondering if our questions will ever be answered.

I am glad that both my mom and I watch “The Killing,” because I need some perspective. I need someone to remind me of what I like about it, and to help me focus my own complaints. My mom agrees with me on many things—for example, that the mood takes precedence over the story, and that the writing can be weak—but she’s also able to find the thrill in it, to accept it for what it is. As I read the angry reviews that draw me further away from my initial reactions, I am grateful for someone who can remind me of how I found the finale not only frustrating but exciting. Of how I found the show, for all its faults, a unique experience, a welcome diversion. For those who have yet to watch “The Killing,” I would recommend holding off until season 2 is about to start. But, with the chance to watch it in one seamless run, I see no reason why somebody should reject this series. I only hope that a second season will allow the writers to focus their efforts, tighten their storytelling, and of course…tell us who friggin’ killed Rosie Larsen!

Stuff Moms Like: The New Adventures of Old Christine

 

So, when I started to brainstorm for the next septuagenarian to write about, I realized that the Future Golden Girl thing had already gotten a little gimmicky. Sure you know there’s a “Hot in Cleveland” post in me somewhere, and yes it’s likely that I will eventually want to sing out, sing out my love for Harold and Maude, but I don’t want to write about any old, well, old person, just because he or she is there. (I’m looking at you, Regis Philbin.) I’ve got broader interests—I like middle-aged lady things as well! Thus, the inaugural post of “Stuff Moms Like,” a (hopefully) regular feature dedicated to things that young girls (like me) don’t always appreciate, but older women (like yo’ mama) probably live for. First up, “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”

Why do I consider “The New Adventures of Old Christine” to be something moms like? Probably because my mom likes it. In fact, she really likes it, maybe loves it, and has definitely been going steady with it for sometime. I, sadly, have to admit that I never got into the show while it was still on the air. My mom used to watch it on demand, the second she got a free moment, and laugh her head off; I couldn’t be bothered until it started airing eight times a day on Lifetime. This doesn’t reflect poorly on the show, but rather on me (both for my stubborn unwillingness to give it a try and my slavish obedience to the Lifetime network). As it turns out, “Old Christine” is hilarious.

The show centers around not only “Old Christine,” played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but also a strong ensemble cast. In the earliest episodes, Christine is recently divorced from Richard, but hasn’t yet transitioned into legitimate single-hood. She’s enjoying a very amicable split that, in fact, looks a lot like marriage. She and Richard, who have an 8-year-old son, Ritchie, remain best friends, and even act affectionately toward one another. They have not yet confronted the awkwardness that ensues when one partner begins dating someone else…that is, until Christine learns that Richard has been seeing a cute twenty-something blonde, also named Christine. From there, the show becomes a study in the interesting dynamics involved in a series of complicated relationships. Introduced into the mix are Christine’s younger brother Matthew, who is as dorky as he is witty, and her best friend Barb, who is as witty as she is mean. Matthew and Barb are grounding forces in Christine’s life, although they, of course, have their own issues to work out.

The actors who portray these characters—Clark Gregg as Richard, Emily Rutherfurd as “New Christine,” Hamish Linklater as Matthew, and Wanda Sykes as Barb—help make these characters especially memorable. Each has notable comedic talent; although this is no surprise for established comedians like Wanda Sykes and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, it is an exciting discovery in lesser-known actors like Hamish Linklater. Indeed, maybe because I have an awkward crush on him, I would argue that Linklater is the biggest find on this gem of a show. He is funny, endearing, and weirdly attractive at times. His Matthew serves as a great foil to perceived alpha male, Richard, and his creepy relationship with his mother (and at one point an Old Christine look-a-like) can always be milked for laughs.

Of course, Old Christine is the heart of the show, and in fact “The New Adventures of Old Christine” is probably best known as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s return to a successful sitcom. One of the great things about Louis-Dreyfus is that she plays Old Christine without a shred of vanity: she is more than willing to make a complete ass of herself. She can look like a total mess, a total idiot, or a total jerk, and yet still be endearing because she commits to it. This is not the kind of show that plays it safe with likable characters—everyone has a tendency to succumb to their insecurities and baser instincts, and that’s why it works. Perhaps this is what makes it more appealing to a slightly older audience: these viewers couldn’t care less what people think of them, and they can relate to that utter disregard for pretense found in these characters. Of course, the show can be appreciated by anyone who’s looking for something that’s just plain funny.

“The New Adventures of Old Christine” is a solid sitcom that offers thirty minutes of quality diversion. It can be picked up at any episode, and watched multiple times; it’s not to be appreciated so much for its continuity and story arcs as it is for its well-drawn characters and unexpected jokes. Currently airing on Lifetime about thirty times a day, it is both super available and super funny. And, at the very least, it’s not another rerun of “Reba.”

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