If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from the first episode and working your way forward. Of course, that's entirely your call.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Season 1, Episode 10: Bonjour Sondra

I knew this dreaded day would come. Can I first apologize to Sabrina Le Beauf and anyone that knows her personally? I'm sure she's lovely and has gone on to do fabulous work elsewhere, but I just hate Sondra. She's hands-down the most obnoxious part of this show in my eyes. I can't stand to look at her. It's been a nice nine episodes, but now she has reared her bothersome head, and I am forced to deal with her.

Let the wrong one in.

Do you see that? Lurking on the front porch like a creeper? From her first moment: sheer awfulness.

The other sister.

I happened to pause right at this moment. I thought about going for a kinder screencap, but then I realized that I'd probably end up looking for an even derpier one, so I stuck with the option provided by chance. Anyway, there's lots to talk about here, but that collar is the clear front-runner in terms of sheer Baroque heinousness. It's like she's being eaten by the swiveling maw of a terrifying sweater monster. It looks like a pink poly-blend garbage disposal. She could wear it in a community theater production of Shakespeare in Love. I could go on all day. Seeing my least favorite character in my least favorite garment thus far, I feel almost personally betrayed by the creators of this show. How could they?

Remember in the pilot when Denise was firstborn?

There's not much that could be done to save this outfit. Nothing in this world is perfectly, 100-percent wrong: I can see how black and pink could work for her, and that's a really nice scarf. The rest is just carnage. I'll pry my eyes from the cupcake wrapper around her neck long enough to voice my disgust with that grisly sweater. I understand where she thought she was going when she went for the pink leggings under that skirt, but the skirt itself is the wrong length and cut for this purpose. You're not at ballet rehearsal. No joke, when she walks in the door and asks her father how she looks, he responds, "Like trash." Go ahead, load it up on Netflix and check for yourself. She's so out of bounds that they had to reference it in the script.

That hair clip is practically a hate crime it's so ugly.

For just one second, let's stop abusing Sondra and point out that Clair rewears her episode five sweatsuit. OK, back to our regularly scheduled scorn. What you're seeing here is basically a drab fat suit. There are parts about this that I would see as reasonable if we took off the top layer: the dusty purple goes nicely with the greenish pants, and the white shirt underneath gives off the right clean-cut, Princetonian air. But then she goes and throws on an oversweater, which isn't even a thing, and it's the baggiest, draggiest, gaggiest thing since yesterday's collar. (Seriously, I'll never get over that collar.) So, straight back to Failsville here. Sorry, girl, strike two.

"This is my adorable face."

OK, this time I tried to find an unflattering shot. Sorry, Sabrina. Nothing personal. Anyhow, the rest of the family is dressed formally for Thanksgiving dinner, and she's rocking a glorified sweatshirt. Do you see the wasteland of fabric between her shoulder and the shirt's seam? Sloppy. The pink brooches would look classy if matched with dressier attire, but here they just read cutesy. We never see Sondra stand up from the table during this scene, but I'm sure whatever's down there is just begging to be hated. She has three strikes, but is unfortunately not out: we have to watch her on and off for the rest of the series. Sorry, guys.

You know from her shirt that her judgment is impaired.
I bet that mug is full of hooch.

Since we already saw a bit of Clair, let's follow up with her. Besides, Phylicia Rashad's presence will soothe me, even if she's wearing a tartan pillow case. I'd love to say that she looks good, but there's no point in lying. The pattern and cut combine to make her appear completely flat and shapeless. The red is terrific, and it's one in only a handful of times that she hasn't worn blue or purple, but hue alone can't save her. Skipping over the sweatsuit, let's see what she gives us on Thanksgiving.

This is not the face of a woman who spent all day cooking.

The shots of her formalwear are insufficient for judging: she's seated at the table and furthest from the camera in group shots, and then on top of that given only a single close-up. What I can tell from the limited screen time, however, is that she's back in her comfort zone with this royal blue. The neckline is a little casual; even in shiny fabric, a banded crew neck screams t-shirt. But she saves it with the pleating and the pearls and her killer smile. We've had better from Clair, but this isn't bad.

It's fashion o'clock.

Now this is a gift. For what may well be the first time in the series, Cliff opts for flat-front slacks. No pleats here, friends. Sure, khakis are a basic, but he gets full marks for those pants. I don't love the darker teal on him, and as a rule the long-sleeved polo should probably be avoided at all costs, so he's not winning me over completely. In fact, he's breaking one of my cardinal rules:

This expression is a result of Sondra knocking on the door. I feel you, Cliff.

The purples almost match. Why would you even bother to do that? If you were making this shirt, wouldn't it be a lot more work to introduce another shade? Just stick with what you've got! Wrongness. While we're obsessing over that stripe, let's mention that it sits too low on his body, exacerbating his paunch to make him look old rather than broadening his chest to make him look virile.

90 percent of the above screencap is in the red/orange family.

This shirt was better in episode three when he wore it under that bangin' sweater. These pants would be better without pleats. That is all.

The painting behind him sucks.

This is a C+ or B- suit. Positives include the color, which is dressy without being overly rigid. The tie shows some personality and takes this out of the board room. The wide, peaked lapel is a miss, though, and the buttons distract. I don't mind the white shirt; not every party should be an excuse to wear your loudest color combinations. His look doesn't do much for me, but it doesn't cause deep offense, so that's something.


Really, Denise? You're going to do this to me today of all days? This sweatshirt has been flocked within an inch of its life, primarily with remnants from one of Rudy's old quilts, by the look of it. In my dreams, the red shirt underneath is really cute, but I have no evidence to back that up. My belief in her fashion sense is simply a triumph of the human spirit. The earrings that I liked so much in episode six just seem costumey and overdone when juxtaposed with her circus shirt, and the gray sweatpants remind me of those other pants of hers that I despise so desperately. This is getting depressing.

She has a wistful, far-off look in her bangs.

Day two involves a gray sweatsuit. It was hard to get a decent shot of it, and I don't really want to talk about it anyway. Please, Denise, for the love of all that is good in the world, save me with something delightful at tomorrow's family dinner.

Going with a more literal version of gangsta.

This is another instance where I see her verging into parody, but in a positive sense. She's going beyond simply wearing men's clothing by giving us some key details to evoke a more specific reference. The thin vest and elbow garters push this over the edge. She looks like an off-duty blackjack dealer or a 1920s bank teller, but fashionably. Like her episode seven schoolgirl realness, she's playing this totally straight-faced. I'm a little iffy on the earrings, but everything else sings. I'm especially fond of the tie, which takes the line between teenager and octogenarian and shaves it as thin as it can go.

I'm sorry you had to see this.

Vanessa honey, I know I said I liked your purple double belt last time, but that wasn't a request for you to raise the stakes. You've veered into uncharted territory, and you need to turn back. Oddly, I really want this outfit to work. When you describe a lavender shirt paired with a high-waisted light gray skirt and a funky, grommeted belt, they sound like a series of well-made choices. Then she wears this and I wonder what went wrong. I think the belt is what throws it. Removing it, the other items might be OK on their own.

Two seasons later, they are still teaching Rudy to play checkers. Either she
needs a special school, or she's the most patient shark ever.

If it's the day before Thanksgiving, then we're just barely getting into the season where a heavy knit like this is appropriate. Her real triumph here is the coordination of her socks with the sweater. The more I look at this shot, the more I think that Vanessa is kind of onto something here. These boxy, Christmasy wool numbers are pretty popular right now, so the cool kids in Williamsburg are partially expressing ironic love of, and homage to, this outfit.

Proof that confidence cannot save any outfit.

What kills me about this dress isn't that it's ugly (though it sure is that): it's that it's poorly made. That collar is just everywhere and the sleeves are bunching like they were home sewn. Also, in my book, red and green can be worn together only within a three-day radius of December 25th. This is an inappropriate palette for Thanksgiving. You're dismissed, Vanessa.

Note the gold chain. It will be referenced later.

Another child? Seriously, this entry is sprawling. Did we really have to see the whole family for three days? Anyhow, Theo's shirt basically exists to illustrate points I've made earlier about other shirts. For starters, you can compare his stripe to Cliff's: it's a little higher, and it shifts focus to a different place on his body. Granted, he's less paunchy to begin with, but there's a benefit regardless. Second, the maroon/gray pairing is far superior to the black/blue he's always carting out. This is essentially the same sweater he's worn twice before but in a new tonal range, and the improvement is staggering.

Giving the illusion of chunk.

The cut of the shirt is too baggy, the sleeves are too short, the neon detailing is wildly unattractive, the vertical paneling is on the verge of being interesting but falls short, and the fact that he is always, always wearing a gold chain around his neck is disappointing. I can't believe you're still reading this.

I'm dubious about this painting, too.

Does Theo get to carve the turkey this year? He sure does. Did he choose a shirt and tie that I love individually but dislike together? Yep, that too. In the wide shot, he looks like he's pulling it off, but in the close-up, the colors all feel a little too similar and things get muddy. A little more contrast would have sealed the deal: darker darks, brighter brights, more vivid midtones. I sound like I'm selling you a television. The pants have a lot going on: thick waistband, aggressive pleats, some sort of adjustable strap up top. Everyone calm down. Just tailor the dress pants nicely and leave them alone. They don't need bells and whistles. (You hear me, Denise? Because you are a step away from putting literal bells and whistles on your clothes, and I won't have it.)

Fun fact: per Rudy's contract, her glass is full of Bacardi 151.

I can't ignore Rudy, though it would almost be merciful to do so given how she's dressed. That sweater would be really cute if it weren't for the Easter bonnet it's shackled under. I like the idea of a pale yellow accent piece, but a collared shirt would have sufficed. This is clownish.

Well, that was a marathon, huh? Let's all calm ourselves with some General Foods International Coffees.

"I love this coffee." "I loved that waiter."

See you next week with episode 11.


  1. Incredible. I never laughed at The Cosby Show until now. By the way, the Snark Store called and they ran out of you

  2. I came across your blog a couple days ago off The Huffington Post comedy section-- and I LOOOOVE it, and I love you because of it.

    I've worked as a costumer and your analysis is dead on. The comparison between Theo and Cliff's shirt stripes? Beautiful. Perfect.

    But what put this episode's analysis over the top for me is that my degree's in Art History and I've hated that painting of the running shoes and trumpet FOREVER. Oh my god. So bad, so so bad.

    Thank you for doing this-- you're doing a fantastic job.

    1. Thank you! Always glad to get positive feedback. I'll do my best to keep churning out enjoyable reviews for you.