Monthly Archives: May 2012

According to the wordpress stats panel, a whole bunch of people come to The Lower Crust by searching for “The Client List.” I posted a review of the movie way back in 2011, and (much to my amazement/glee) Lifetime has turned it into a regular series. Believe it or not, Jennifer Love Hewitt is even back as the lead — a sassy, single prostitute (SSP) doing it for her family.

The fancy video trailer. Favorite line: “90% of what we do here is legit.”

The Client List is on at the same time as Mad Men — a date I just can’t break — but thanks to OnDemand, I’ve been able to keep up with new episodes.

Oh, right. Mad Men. Now that we’re on the subject, I have to say it. I’ve really been enjoying season 5 (yes, even Megan), but this?

Is the low point of the series.

While it’s possible to enjoy both Lifetime Movies and Mad Men, mixing them is like chasing dinner at a five-star restaurant with county fair fried dough. And bringing Betty back as a binge-eating housewife is like, pretty Lifetime-y.

I find it especially surprising that a show that’s normally very critical of the establishment would parrot such a hegemonic, unexamined idea. A housewife stuffing her face because she has no self-control is something my racist old uncle would come up with after seeing a fat lady in the supermarket. I expect better. Rant over. Ahem. Back to reviewing an actual Lifetime show.

The Client List (the series) isn’t a continuation of the movie, which ended with JLH reuniting with her husband at a Chuck E. Cheese. Instead, the story starts at the beginning with a concept reboot: In the first few scenes, JLH’s husband suddenly abandons her and the kids.

Leading her here.

In the movie the husband was unemployed, and the resultant financial struggle led to JLH’s new “career.” They must have decided that a wife/mother brothel-ing out behind her husband’s back was too gross of an exposition for a regular series. Cybill Shepherd, fairly fresh from her campy turn as Martha Stewart, is also back as JLH’s nosy mother. She’s basically Lifetime’s answer to the Dowager Countess.

Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Southern Accent: A Brief Aside

One of the trashiest/most delicious aspects of the show is Jennifer Love Hewitt’s weird folksy dialogue and entertainingly bad southern accent. Take, for example, this exchange from a recent episode:

JLH’s friend: I can keep a secret.

JLH: Uh, in circulation! (half speed, pronounced as “serrcyoohLEYYYshuhn”)

While definitely amusing, I maintain that Hewitt’s droopy drawl is actually a mid-level bad accent. While it’s definitely worse than, say, Cate Blanchett in Benjamin Button….

which is, okay, pretty bad…

It doesn’t even come close to my personal favorite bad southern accent:

Miranda Otto in The Way We Live Now. This is a great miniseries but two words describe what this poor girl is doing: Foghorn Leghorn.

So JLH is in good company. But there’s more to the series than just the draw of the drawl — the whole double-life thing provides plenty of juicy plot. One minute JLH is at a parent-teacher conference, and the next she’s rubbing down some random dude at the “spa.” No one, of course, knows the truth — not even her husband’s brother… …who is clearly the love interest, based on looking like John Stamos. Lifetime ladies love their John Stamos.

It’s weird — for a series about a house of prostitution, it’s oddly chaste. There’s a lot of massaging and talking and wearing of outfits. And there’s definitely a lot of shirtless male model type dudes. This is a realistic depiction of brothel clientele. Yup. (Also, this guy is totally Joan’s lame husband from Mad Men.)

But they somehow manage to keep the whole thing feeling kind of PG. Even though it’s clear that JLH is offering “special services” that merit the giant wads of cash she uses to pay her mortgage, the plots don’t linger on anything gross or creepy for very long.

In a recent episode, a seemingly normal client (a power business dude) freaks out because JLH forgets an appointment. Power business dude starts yelling at JLH and for a moment, it gets kind of scary. Is it about to get  “real”? Oh, nope. A quick gee-shucks-turn-that-frown-upside-down from JLH and he turns back into a needy, nonthreatening milquetoast. All he really wants is to cuddle, right?

Still, it’s a pretty decent good-bad show. You heard me Mad Men — there’s something else I can watch at 10PM on Sundays. So maybe lay off the Betty storylines, eh?

Finally, after weeks of nothing but modern, Luigi-less pizza boxes, we have a return to oven fresh classicism:

Thank goodness. This really kicks the pants of that boring Kashi box, right?

Since he’s the clear focal point, I’ll start my analysis with the cowboy-booted Italian stereotype. What’s not to love? He’s jaunty AND well-dressed: flashy oversized bow tie/scarf, giant chef’s hat, striped apron, and a well-groomed mustache. Sartorial elegance.

Question: I’ve noticed these bow tie/neckerchief things on several other pizza box chefs, but I’m too ignorant of fashion in general to understand what they’re referencing. Is this an article of clothing an actual chef or Italian person would wear? Seriously, peanut gallery, chime in if you know the answer. It’s important for TAOPBGD (which is real).

Other Design Notes: The fonts? LOVE. I’m going to make a design confession: I know that minimalist sans-serif fonts are all the rage these days, but I have a soft spot for old-school crazy typefaces. While the vintage fonts on this box are kind of aggressively tacky, they’re also making a bold design statement — and I can get behind that. Double love to the “Pizza” font for the roller coaster inspired swirls and loops. It’s like an amusement park ride for your pupils!

Generic Product Claims: Oven Fresh, an old favorite. We also see the return of the mysterious ellipsis (…) between “Thank you” and “for your business.”

Overall Rating: Truly a vintage box. Makes me want to order a whole pie and play Sega Genesis games all night like it’s 1995.

Every so often, a ’70s rock or jazz icon comes to our area to play a show. I suggest we get tickets, to which Mr. Max invariably replies, “Sure, but what’s the sperm count?”

This is a reference to a phrase I coined —  Low Sperm Count Rock (LSCR) — to describe the late period decline/over-commercialism of popular musicians. Whether caused by fame-induced megalomania, born-again Scientology or even just too many years spent in and around Los Angeles, the end result is the same: Coca-Cola endorsements and a gig at the Superbowl Halftime Show. I’m not going to name names…

Okay, I am going to name some names.

They’re big boys; they can take it.

And then there are the musician’s musicians — the people who, even after enjoying a period of fame and/or fortune, remain focused on the capital-M Music.

Allan Holdsworth is just such a guy. Idolized by guitar nerds as a creative virtuoso, he’s known for his unique and lyrical guitar playing (reportedly influenced by jazz saxophonists like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker). He’s played with a number of different configurations over the years, the current being a trio with Jimmy Haslip on bass and Virgil Donati on drums. When I heard the tour was coming through Northampton, I got us tickets.

We got to the show a few minutes early and grabbed a booth. A look around revealed a sea of ponytails — many of them gray, all of them attached to men. As someone with two X chromosomes who likes both jazz and progressive rock, I’ve gotten kind of used to living outside the line graph. But it’s really something to think you might be the only girl in an entire club. After much searching I found a table of 3 women, but all were deeply focused on their phones: Girlfriends. I spied their menfolk a few tables over huddled around tall glasses of amber beer.

The opening band was Marbin, which consisted of a saxophonist, guitarist, bass player and drummer. The music was fun and interesting, and incorporated a few klezmer-esque key changes into jazzy grooves (the guitarist and horn player hailed from Israel). They told a funny anecdote about going on tour in the Deep South and playing for a bunch of neo-nazi jazz fusion fans. Really. It was funny.

Maybe you had to be there.

At this point, the guys with the cell phone girlfriends were deep in lustful head-bobbing and foot-tapping.

After a short break, the Holdsworth Band took the stage.

As one of the most modest professional musicians alive, Holdsworth skipped both the loudspeaker announcement thing and the humble-brag self-introduction (mumbling “we’re X band…and uh, we’re gonna play some songs…”) and launched right into the set, which included vibrant re-envisionings of personal faves like Tokyo Dream and Devil Take the Hindmost.

I immediately dug the bass player, Jimmy Haslip. He’s a musician who displays the kind of insane boundless creativity that makes other musicians consider becoming accountants. Even the girlfriends stopped fiddling with their phones and looked up.

Not taken from this concert, but a good demonstration of his playing. Right now you are thinking deeply about becoming a CPA.

I also really, really liked Virgil Donati’s powerful, aggressive percussion style. It added a nice edginess to Holdsworth’s fluid lines. Somewhere towards the end of the show he had a solo that featured so much superfast bass pedal that I suspected he must keep a secret third foot stored under the kit.

Props also have to go out to the audience, who for the most part really behaved themselves. I admit it; I am a serious curmudgeon when it comes to seeing live music. If it were up to me, bouncers would pitch out audience members at the first sign of awkward first date chit-chat, singing along with the band, or excessive “woo-ing.” Concerts are for listening, amiright?

Of course, not everyone agrees with this aesthetic and I’ve come to accept that plenty of people go out to a club to engage in an awkward mating ritual over the din of giant amps. But it’s definitely a special treat when the rest of the audience seems as interested in listening to the band as I am.

The tour’s now in Europe, so if you find yourself on the other side of the pond you should definitely catch a show. And if you can’t, check out this performance from the 2012 NAMM show (featuring keyboardist Dennis Hamm):