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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Season 1, Episode 17: Theo and the Joint

Look out, everyone. It's time for the show to start tackling the big issues with a very special episode. Where to begin? Teenage drug use, of course. That's right: Clair accidentally bumped Theo's geography textbook, and this fell out:

I never thought I'd one day have to pick my favorite image of
Phylicia Rashad holding a joint.

No, not that top; she already had that. What fell out of Theo's book was a joint. But back to the blouse: she wore it better in episode 8, when this strange outer husk hadn't yet formed over it. Really, though, help me out with this top garment. It seems to defy classification, somehow merging the worst features of the house dress, the trench coat, and the artist's smock. Look at it.

Come on, Clair. You've smoked pot. Like when you bought this dress thing.

Let's start by acknowledging that it doesn't match the shirt beneath it. Those two colors are truly, deeply offensive together. Of course, that heapin' helpin' of puce is kind of offensive all by itself. Mostly, it just seems like she's inexplicably wearing a bathrobe made of ultrasuede synthetic upholstery. This is, without question, Clair's wrongest look yet, and that includes last week's yellow number. Since I hate to hate on her, however, I have to offer tentative praise for those boots. We barely see them, but they seem pretty hot. The proportions here are a little off: I don't like that the boot ends right where the skirt does, and I think both sides of that equation end up at an awkward length. And not to sound like a broken record, but come on, you really came into the house in the dead of winter wearing high-heeled boots with black soles and didn't even consider leaving your footwear by the front door? Your hardwood floor will be covered with dents, scuffs, and puddles. I know you're wealthy, but are you planning to just run this house into the ground and then buy a fresh one later? Speaking of later, what else did Clair wear this week?

Her face is the stankiest.

Her love for this shade is absolutely unending. No one's disputing how wonderful she looks in deep purples. I'm just saying that she's had plenty of success with pinks and reds, and I'm tired of not having a richer palette on which to comment. The tailoring of these sleeves is kind of fun and weird. The bunchiness and extra fabric around the biceps combine with the form-fitting torso to give the vaguest hint of Elizabethan inspiration. It's almost enough to make the shoulder pads work, though it doesn't help that we can see their outlines through the thin material. While I would be ready to accept the top on its own, we have the pants to consider.

Rich people have the best cookware. I want those pots.

If you can't believe your eyes, well neither can I. Matching slacks. It is, for all intents and purposes, a business casual sweatsuit. Clair, consider this your indigo intervention. Enough is enough.

Since Cliff is standing right there, let's talk about him next. I have trouble with transitions sometimes, so it's nice when one is readily available. This is his last outfit, but you're comfortable working backwards with me, I'm sure. We've done it before. Anyhow, back to the magic: I'm disappointed that he's covered with that apron the whole time, because it looks as though there's some fun detailing happening across this sweater. As you might remember from episode 10, this isn't my favorite shade on him. But I think there's something to be said for the contrasting argyle-ish midsection. It would be nice to have a full view to critique, but I am denied such an option. I can, however, look more closely at his collar.

Yertle the Turtle.

Yeah, I like this less closer up. I'm trying to figure out if the sweater itself is pilly, or if those are just compression artifacts from the video stream. Either way, this is the wrong choice for him. I'm especially put off by the yellow and pink stripes around his neck. And I see that hint of maroon popping out from underneath. That doesn't go. Poor choice. Let's step back and take a look at just the red shirt, though.

Their living room is so cream-colored.

On its own, I don't hate the shirt. A long-sleeved polo isn't hugely fashionable, but the bricky hue is killer, and I'm impressed by how the rolled sleeves manage to freshen this look. I wish he'd unbutton that top button to look a little less like a Puritan, but this one could have gone so much worse. As for the pants, they're passable with the exception of what appears to be a purse-sized cargo pocket across the front. When Rudy was a baby, she probably fit in that pouch. But it wasn't a good idea then, and it's not a good idea now. Still, the bluish-gray trouser is a fun pairing with the top, so I'm satisfied with this.

Caption-proof. Well played, Dr. Huxtable.

It looks like someone in the costume department forgot that this Hawaiian shirt was used in episode 12 as a joke, because it's worn here for real. Unfortunately, it reads like a punchline even when it's not supposed to. Maybe it's an ironic comment on the wintery weather, or an on-set prank referencing their competition with Magnum P. I. for ratings. Whatever the purported reason, it's still a big, loud, ugly shirt, and my conscience won't let me say a word of good about it. The long-sleeved tee beneath the short sleeves is very 90s; while I want to commend him for being a decade ahead of his time, I can't help but cringe at a style that now feels 15 years old. These are the same pants as in the earlier shot. That's fair: I wear pants two days in a row all the time. (Don't you judge me.) Oh, right, I almost overlooked that hat. It's like his head is having a different kind of day than the rest of his body. It's not that I disagree with the accessory, it's that I can't imagine why he would pair it with the rest of these items. After all the awesomeness he's worn this season, it's implausible to me that right now was when he decided that the hat would work.

Now, we saw Theo earlier too, so let's spend a little time with him.

He's layered in confidence. (And cotton.)

I know that these are two different outfits, but for the purposes of this blog, they're essentially the same: sweatsuits. In fact, if you look closely, you can see that two of the three layers from the left side are repeated on the right: the hoodie is moved under the gray sweatshirt, but they're both still there. The point of these two configurations isn't fashion, though, so I can't really snipe. He's going to play some "Freeze Football" with his friends. The costume department didn't dress him to please me: they dressed him for winter sports. That said, I can't be forced to talk about sweatsuits, even if this show continues to throw them at me. I'm a grown man, I can pick and choose which sitcom fashions to critique on the internet! ohgodmylifeisempty.

"My shirt has a built-in vest! It's apparently a good thing!"

I was looking forward to saying something meaningful about Theo this episode, but he already wore this shirt in episode 12, and you know he's wearing those same jeans again, so there's really not much work for me to do here. The clearer image of the top in question does give me, well, more questions. I'm not sure if I like it more or less. It's pretty odd. Also, there are at least two gold chains with dangly medallions around his neck. Why might that be? How can we prevent this from happening in the future? Why, by shaming him! Don't do this, people. Don't be like Theo Huxtable. Together, we can stop this madness. Of course, if you're reading this, then I have to assume that you're not a man with three necklaces, and that you would already openly mock such a person. Good job, readers.

See, Tempestt Bledsoe, I told you I started liking you later.

Before we get to Vanessa's styling, I want to pause and point out that this is one of those episodes in which the writers understand how to shape her character. There's a difference between being annoying and being humorously annoying, and her lines throughout really highlight that tightrope act. As she pushes harder and harder to figure out just what's going on in the house, and as everyone tries harder and harder not to let her know, the script takes every opportunity to milk the comedy out of that frustration. I wish there were more times when I enjoyed her this much. As for the sweater: seen it, episode 10. It even had the same pink turtleneck underneath. These pants are neither better nor worse than the jeans she wore it with last time. Next.

Enormous winter boots in the house? Now you're just mocking me openly.

And the hits just keep coming! Sure, black pants, white collared shirt, yeah yeah yeah. This sweater, by contrast, is secret genius. First off, it's a great color and a fun pattern. Plus, there's the small irony of the wool having been made back into sheep. But the clincher, which I had a hard time capturing in frame, is visible at the bottom of the right-hand close-up: a black sheep. This is just terrific in general, because I love the playful little visual pun. But it's especially good, if slightly mean, to put this sweater on Vanessa, and especially in this episode. It's so layered. On the one hand, the family is dealing with the drama of a teenager bringing drugs into the house. On the other hand, Vanessa ends up being the child most likely to break the rules, and if we have to pick a black sheep of the family, it's probably her. So this outfit doesn't just earn praise because it's fun, but because it's meaningful. This is exemplary costume design.

I love how Theo has two wardrobes: one to be worn, and one specifically
for throwing on the floor as props. There is no overlap.

Oh, Denise. She gets only one scene, but she wears this, so it's all worth it. It's funny: I can tell on a logical level that I should probably hate everything that's going on here, but somehow she's crossed so far into wrong territory that she becomes right. I wasn't sold until I double-checked the shot of her standing up; there's something about the length and breadth of the sweater in comparison to the relative slimness of those plaid pants that kind of gets me. The color scheme she's rocking is fantastic vintage punk, and the boots and trousers are slightly nodding toward that ethos as well, but then she goes all-out suburban dad with the rest, matching the same colors with a completely different set of fashion cues to create this unique thing that suits her impeccably. I have to say, if I saw someone wearing this at a party, I'd be really confused, and then really impressed. The white triangles along the middle are the best part: on such a dark outfit, they may as well be Christmas lights. Not to mention that hair:

Denise invented big hair being full of secrets.

Again, I'm not sure where she got the idea to pull a classic Little Richard bouffant, but I'm not going to question it. You know how they say that the best way to steal something is to just walk right up and take it like you're supposed to? Same principle here. If you're sure, no one else will question it. Denise is so sure she could raise her hand.

Hey Rudy, did you wear a hundred layers of sweaters in this episode just to troll me?


Well, joke's on you, kid: now you don't get mentioned at all. (Just kidding. This isn't retribution. We all know you wouldn't have gotten mentioned anyway.)

Before we close up shop on this one, I've got a couple guest stars to get through. First, there's the kid who slipped the joint into Theo's book. You didn't really think it was Theo's pot, did you? Come on. Like he didn't have enough money for coke.

"You make my temperature riiiiise...ooh boy
You're making me HIGH! Baby, baby, baby, baby"

This is Stephen Thompson, playing Anthony Braxton. No, really. As in Tony. Braxton. He's named that. You're looking at his only acting role ever. It's a tough business. Anyhow, Anthony is supposed to be tough, and tough people don't think about outfits. His clothes read like a bad lesbian stereotype pretty much across the board: the dumpy jeans, the denim vest, the red plaid flannel. He should be walking into his office at a non-profit with a soy chai in one hand and his dog in the other. The tucked-in shirt is really what murders this one; I feel like a bad kid should at least be comfortable, you know? The obsessive-compulsive side of me (the same side that forces me to do this blog) is itching to write a whole new set of lyrics to "Un-Break My Heart" called "Untuck My Shirt." I know you're hearing it in your head now, don't lie.

And now, from one female icon to another.

She's smiling because she knows she's better than this.

Ladies and gentlemen, Iman. On the off chance that you're unfamiliar (and I find it unacceptable that you would be, but whatever), she is a supermodel and entrepreneur originally from Somalia. Since moving away from runway and print work, she has started a cosmetics line tailored to darker skin tones and hosted Project Runway: Canada. She is married to David Bowie.

As a woman who is comfortable in Yves Saint Laurent couture, I'm surprised she didn't combust at the mere thought of wearing this acrylic nightmare. I realize that they were trying to make her look less like a serpent goddess and more like a regular lady, but this is sick. I can barely pull my eyes away from that gory hairdo long enough to even comment on the rest of this, and truthfully I'm unwilling to put up a screencap that contains the whole outfit for fear that it will violate Blogspot's terms of service agreement for obscene imagery. Suffice it to say that this is a thousand percent uglier than it should be, and the baby bump they give her is so big that I have to assume she's giving birth to the world's most glamorous hippopotamus.

I advise you to go check out some of Iman's modeling work on YouTube, allowing you to relive the glorious excess of the era in which the Huxtables live. I'll be here, humming "Untuck My Shirt" to myself and poring over an online thesaurus to come up with new ways to say the same thing week after week so as not to lose readers. Don't leave me. See you at episode 18.


  1. I freaked out when I realized that the Cosbys used Le Creuset. And matching colors, no less! So much money...


  2. HAHA my sister had that same Black Sheep sweater Vanessa wears when she was in Kindergarten!

  3. In Theo's defense, i.e. in reference to the big watch and chains, his family is is well off! And it was the 80's, probably didn't realize he shouldn't flaunt those items. On the other hand, The Jem, Star Wars, and John Goodman jokes were laugh out loud funny!