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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Season 1, Episode 23: Mr. Quiet

This episode is strange to review because it's essentially only half in the Huxtable universe. The story is used as the starting point for a spin-off that never became a series, so the writers faced the hurdle of shoehorning in a charming couple and the community center they run, striving to keep the regular cast involved while hopefully proving that the new characters deserve a weekly showcase of their own. What follows becomes kind of a jumble: nobody is around long enough to do much of anything, and the central plot, about a wounded young boy who won't speak, is maybe a little serious for the inception of what I think was supposed to be a comedy. I'll throw in a few plot observations here and there, but I won't break too far from tradition (unlike the creators of this episode): this is still a blog about clothes.

I'm going to kick things off with a look at the many guest stars, mostly because their screen time is equal to, if not more than, that allotted to the series regulars. 

"Knock Three Times" meets Tool Time.

I like that the producers wanted to create a show based around a Latino couple, which was no doubt still a tough sell at that time. (Go ahead, count how many Latino couples have headlines sitcoms since then.) I'm sure that getting a recognizable name seemed like the best way to get the green light, but I'm not sure that Tony Orlando was the optimal choice for the role of Tony Castillo. His screen presence is kind of flat. Some singers just shouldn't branch out into acting. Stick to what you're good at, Madonna... uh, I mean Tony. Anyhow, his wardrobe is every bit as bland as his performance. Cliff has thrown down better red plaids; the tightness of the pattern isn't great when compared to some of the bigger, bolder prints we've seen previously. The jeans are standard, but they're held back (no pun intended) by the braided belt. I know it was a different time and that's just how they dressed, but I hate braided belts a lot, and he sure is wearing one. Mainly, this look screams, "I do home repairs." He looks like Bob Vila, or maybe Richard Karn on Home Improvement, neither of whom is a particularly secure fashion reference.

I would be happier if she had literally tied a yellow ribbon around her waist.

Ada Maris appears as Tony's girlfriend, Selena Cruz. After this appearance, Ms. Cruz played recurring roles in several others shows ranging from Nurses to Star Trek: Enterprise. Here, she's portraying the center's therapist; the suit, I assume, is to give her an air of legitimacy in front of her clients, though most of her choices actively undermine that professional vibe. She's opted for olive suede with a contrasting peach cable knit sweater and a big belt made of... OK, your guess is as good as mine. The shades aren't bad empirically, I just think they read a little casual. I'd rather confess my childhood traumas to someone somber. I'm also not a fan of such a chunky wool number underneath a jacket, especially with the sleeves rolled like that. A thin merino, maybe, but not a piece with this heft. If you're cold, wear another layer. As I've said, the belt is mostly a question mark for me. I'm pretty sure I loathe it, but really I just can't comprehend it. Is it maybe silky and shimmery? Could it perhaps be translucent? Does it have stretch like lycra? Hey, we all want to project slimness through our midsections, especially under a shapeless coat, but there's got to be a better way. 

He's back. Hide your kids, hide your wife.

David Langston Smyrl is back after his brief appearance in episode 19. Though playing a different person, his character Chester remains vociferously attracted to Clair. And who could blame him? I hate to waste your time discussing the obvious failure of sporting a track suit, so I'll instead quickly recap the goodness of that electric blue t-shirt peeking out from behind the pale gray. The red stripe is also a good call. Way to nail the palette, even if you're wearing socially acceptable pajamas in public. Then again, there was a hot minute when women everywhere were dying to get into one of those Juicy velour track suits, so maybe Chester is just way ahead of the curve.

Hipster Mom lost her son before Home Alone made it cool.

As Mrs. Tarron, the mother of the mysterious young boy, Pearl Tama earns her only screen acting credit. Rather than speculating about the brevity of her career, I'll focus my scorn on this lifeless arrangement of colorless rags she's showing off. The wardrobe people must have been going for an angelic motif with all the white and gray and beige; I think she's supposed to seem more pure and maternal because of her light, flowy dress. Of course, the thick sweater looks more like armor than wings, so maybe that's not the intent after all. I'm most interested in the single long braid, because it reads as an indicator of heritage to me. I get the sense that her hair was styled this way not because it looked current or chic, but because it stressed her ethnic background. She speaks with only a trace of an accent, but I wonder whether this was another way of suggesting that Mrs. Tarron is an immigrant. Especially when she slings it over to the side like that, it reminds me of the way Mexican women traditionally pull their hair into two braids (sometimes with awesome colored ribbons in them).

You are looking at the new face of floral arrangements in Brooklyn.

The IMDb does not list this man's name, and he only has four or five lines, but I had to include him because I think this combination is just awesome. This is another one of those moments where everything comes together even though it probably shouldn't. The old man being portrayed here probably doesn't buy new clothes a lot and probably doesn't think too hard about the clothes he puts on: he knows that blue goes with blue and gray goes with gray, so he dresses in a tight chromatic range and ignores other factors. Thus, to make him look good, the costuming department has to use great care in the textures and patterns and placement of each color. I think they did a bang-up job of creating interest through the fabric of the shirt and the muddling of the color on the cardigan, and the way the stripes on his sweater match the stripes on his tie... it's all there and it's all fabulous, and yet he's still got an outfit that reads "old man" and not "trying to look young." Triumphant. I want to look this sharp 30 years from now.

"He's late again? Well tell him Tina fucking Turner is here!"

Cliff's health class for expectant mothers contained a number of women with one or two lines, and I wasn't going to mention any of them except that one of them was Angela Bassett. I don't even really want to explore what she's wearing: I want to explore why she hasn't aged in the past 25 years. I'm not trying to imply that she's had work done, because I don't think she has: this isn't a Demi Moore situation where I need to get her surgeon's number. It seems that a combination of lifestyle choices and genetics have left her exceptionally well preserved. Go ahead, Angela. (But really, periwinkle is not your color.)

I've missed the Huxtables, haven't you? Let's not ignore them any longer.

Lisa Bonet, the world's worst drag king.

Vanessa and Denise get the least attention this episode, so I'll start with them. Denise is really hurting me here. Nothing's going well for her today. The severe bun is, well, severe: a little bit of crazy hair does a lot to illustrate her funky, rebellious nature, and also gives her face a better frame. Her floral blazer is an affront in all ways, and while I'm not confident that any shirt in the world could match it, I'm certain that the neon pink one she's wearing definitely doesn't. The only reason one might roll the sleeves of such a garment is to make it smaller and less visible, but this choice has the added consequence of showing us that the undershirt is short-sleeved, which I also find inadvisable. It's an all-around fiasco, I'm afraid.

Vanessa does a little better. Maybe the comparison is making me more forgiving, but I'm seeing where she's going with this one. The oranges and yellows and rusts being thrown around here are glorious and eye-catching and loud in the best way. Her overshirt is big enough to look dynamic rather than sloppy. Since this is neither the purple belt from episode 9 nor the one from episode 10, we're left with the knowledge that this child (or whoever shops for her) has an addiction to purple belts. This is the third one that we know of. But when you know how to use them, it's not hoarding: it's being prepared.

I was tempted to question the tropical attire in relation to her espaƱol, but
there's maybe nothing there so I'm letting it slide.

It's rare that I mention Rudy, and in this case I'm bringing her up sort of to generate a discussion about the show more generally. I will say, regarding her clothes specifically, that it's weird for her to be in a Hawaiian shirt when the rest of the family is dressed for cold. It's a nonsensical decision. But really she's pictured here because during the episode, Clair speaks to her in Spanish, and she responds in Spanish. This is strange on a number of levels. First of all, this is the second and I believe last time that Mrs. Huxtable's Spanish fluency is displayed on the show, and certainly the only time that her daughter's competence is mentioned. But beyond the linguistic disappearance: when was this ever a bilingual household? Why does only their youngest child habla? Wouldn't all or at least some of the kids have been raised this way? The whole thing is baffling.

Speaking of Mrs. Huxtable...

In an unaired subplot, Clair joins the X-Men.

This is what I get for asking her to change it up. Her usual demure exterior is gone, and in its place she has erected a monument to shame. So much work has gone into this monstrosity. I'm assuming that the bathrobe-y top and stirrup pants (yes, you read that right) were sold as a unit. It's not clear if the scarf came as part of the package or if someone was "lucky" enough to have located something in the same shade. On its own, I might not mind a sky blue shawl with black and red print detailing, but I think it looks terrible when slung over the shoulder of a matching outfit. The yellow tee is too bright, and adds a preschool-y sort of vibe to the mix. Too many primary colors floating around. Her earrings match the scarf perfectly, but sort of clash with the necklace (which I like, just not here). Things are just wacky overall. I'm struggling to figure out where this is an appropriate selection of attire. It wouldn't work while relaxing around the house, yet also seems out of place at a party or in the office. It's neither highly fashionable nor mundane. It's just off in that way that a counterfeit dollar is off: it looks alright on the surface but feels wrong on a deeper level.

I didn't critique the silent child's clothes. He's had enough trouble today.

Theo does not get his own screencap today because he is flagrantly wearing his episode 11 sports jersey after I specifically forbade it. Thus, we move right on to Cliff. What surprises me most about this look is that, though we're branching once again into slightly dangerous territory with the color and texture, he still has not shown us an outright Cosby sweater. It's been nearly an entire season. The lasting legacy of this series has always been our love/hate relationship with Dr. Huxtable's knitwear. And sure, this is a pretty unwholesome pairing of purples, and the stripes are a little strange, and the chenille-like roughness isn't entirely attractive. These are all true statements. Still, when I think Cosby sweater, I think fiasco. Like, five colors minimum, two competing patterns, maybe even multiple fabrics. This is ugly by human standards, but funereal by Cosby standards. Otherwise, gray shirt, khaki slacks. Yawnsville.

And there we have it. Closing in on the season finale, kids. Who's excited? I know I am.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Originally Clair was also going to be Dominican, and have a mother and father speaking Spanish. Thus she and Rudys fluently speaking in the early episodes.