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In honor of tonight’s Mad Men finale, I’m reblogging my original Season 5 premiere post. Will my dream finally prove prophetic?

The Lower Crust

“In dreams begin responsibilities,” or so they say. In my case it’s more like, “My responsibilities begin in dreams.” Despite being a kinda-sorta creative person during my waking hours, my sleeping mind has the personality of an accountant. Or a to do list.

Other people, at least some of the time, get to spend their evening hours riding atop unicorns or evading vampires. I get this:

So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago I dreamed the season 5 premiere of Mad Men.

Let me clarify — I didn’t dream that the show was on, or that we were watching it. I dreamed the episode itself.

It opened with a slow, steady shot of 1980s (yes — 80s) New York City, closing in on a sign reading “Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.” Inside the building, young ad execs flitted around in snappy Reagan-era suits. The camera slowly moved towards…

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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?