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.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Season 2, Episode 22: Theo's Holiday

This is one of those episodes that a few of my friends have mentioned specifically remembering. I think part of its lasting impact stems from the fact that the story resonated equally well with both children and parents, whereas often the balance was skewed toward only one of those audiences. When Theo's borrowing and spending habits become noticeably problematic, his parents warn him about the drawbacks his tendencies will have when he leaves home. He assures them that he will make it in the real world because he intends to become a model when he turns 18, and thus have plenty of money. While he spends the night at Cockroach's place, Cliff transforms their house into the Real World apartment building and enlists the family in enacting scenarios designed to illustrate the holes in Theo's plan. It's zany enough to avoid being mean, while tough enough to make the point stick. Plus, everyone wears crazy outfits. We all win.

"Didn't you and I already cover money management in the first episode?"

We begin in the kitchen, where dinner is being prepared and no one is wearing anything of note. The weekends are pretty low-key at the Huxtable household. Cliff is in sweats that look sort of like vinyl siding.

This knowing glance happens often. Because Mrs. Huxtable knows.

Clair is rocking what I assume is a full pink sweatsuit, though the show's habit of blocking people from the waist down continues to thwart my attempts at a thorough fashion review. Throw me a bone, people. The lavender shirt complements her outfit well. Bonus points for matching her top to her potholder: that's forethought right there.

What in the world is that a jar of?

Denise also exists only in torso form for the first segment. We've seen this top way back in the day: she wore it in episode #1.5 with the sleeves rolled higher to accentuate the pink inside. The hair is new, however, and it's 100% wonderful.

This glance assures us that Theo does not know.

Theo's wearing a green shirt from episode #2.9 and jeans from always.

Vanessa may never know.

Vanessa's the only one in the kitchen with anything different on display. Sticking with her new-found love of all things coral, she's rocking a big weird hoodie that serves as much of her favorite hue as her teenage frame can support. I must be getting a fever, because I sort of love it. Especially with the weird Tic Tac earrings. Her bangs are a frowzy mess, but the top is working.

Rudy's there too, but let's not mention her.

*sniff*

Just kidding! Rudy is my favorite. Look how cute.

Anyhow, I'm going to do the rest of the episode in chronological order so we can see how people's costumes evolve over the course of the day. Since most of the Huxtables portray more than one character during Theo's journey into the real world, they end up making clever adjustments to their base look to indicate a new personality. It's highly theatrical and way smarter than I realized when I first watched it. Let's begin.

The only thing worse than being an underdog is not knowing you're an underdog.

Theo arrives home in a decent if unambitious outfit. He's ready for a day of relaxation, and everything he's wearing was packed in an overnight bag, so it's not surprising that he didn't bring the high fashion. In fact, I'm surprised he bothered to change pants, given the infrequency with which he does so anyway. I like the yellow and gray on him, and the white detailing on the shirt gives this a bit of a tennis club vibe that amuses me. This feels like something a preppy rich kid would put on, you know? Good thing he's wearing twill slacks and not sweatpants, though; he's trying to convince the world that he's a grown-up, after all.

"Hey, neighbor!"

The first person he encounters on his journey is Margo Farnsworth, another resident of the Real World apartment complex. She's been placed to give Theo subtle hints about the social experiment he's about to wander into. I can understand why he didn't immediately recognize her as a denizen from beyond reality, though: these are Vanessa's regular clothes. She wore this exact outfit in episode #2.11.

A cigar is the universal shorthand for slumlord.

Inside, Theo is greeted by Harley Weewax, the landlord. His sweater is an episode #2.2 repeat, but everything else is new to us, I believe. I'm sure I'd remember those shocking red trousers. This is one of those situations where everyone in the family dug into the way backs of their closets to find the stuff that they should have sold at a garage sale long ago. I think the pants, t-shirt, cap, cigar, and belt all work to convey a solid image. Maybe even the suspenders. The cardigan doesn't really make sense for me in this context; it takes him out of working-class mode and back into rich-dad territory. But it is present, I'm sure, to give the audience a recognizable piece of Cliff's actual clothing to latch onto. By including it, the costume department has reassured viewers that the character owns all of these clothes and isn't just pulling things from nowhere, even though the rest was probably purchased new. Good thinking, team.

Also: that's a Magnum, P.I. cap he's wearing, which is a nod to the fact that the series aired during the same time slot as The Cosby Show on CBS.


A wooden spoon is the universal shorthand for home cookin'.

Next, Millie Farquar enters. She's the proprietress of the Chuck Wagon Restaurant. Handy that Clair happened to have an apron with the initials CW embroidered into it, huh? Maybe she bought it or did it herself at the last minute, but it seems a touch too perfect. The shirt is also new, as is the barely seen neon skirt. (It was tough to capture a clear full-length shot of her, but I wanted to make sure you caught that flash of green; it'll be important later.) I'm not sure I'm believing that any of this stuff actually belonged to Mrs. Huxtable before they decided to open a fake apartment building. It's OK, I live to watch Phylicia Rashad play different characters. Clearly, if Clair hadn't been a lawyer, she would have been a Broadway actress, because she sells her roles brilliantly.

"Bitch, I am flawless."

Rudy appears as Mrs. Griswold, who owns the building as well as several banks in the fictitious neighborhood. This outfit is also completely new, and given Rudy's age, it's even less plausible that she would have a backlog of extra clothes to go through. Maybe some of these pieces were Denise's or Vanessa's when they were kids, though the audience should not be asked to accept that they had the hat and glasses lying around. It's a terrific outfit, though, and it serves old lady realness brilliantly.

When Theo gets upstairs, he is informed that his unfurnished studio apartment will cost him $600 a month. To secure the space, he is asked to put down three months' worth of rent: first, last, and security. With inflation, the price would come out to around $1180 a month today, which is actually decent for a studio in Brooklyn Heights. Demanding the last month's rent and a security deposit is maybe a little severe, but I've seen it done before, so his family isn't being totally unfair or unrealistic in their recreation of the real world.

I wish she expressed her mood through her hair in more episodes.

Theo is also told that to get the apartment, he needs to have a job. This is also accurate: filling out a rental application can require anything from a letter of employment to a full credit check. Since he, in this reality, does not yet have a modeling gig, he's sent to the Firestone Modeling Agency, where he runs into Kitty LaRue, the receptionist. Her accent is a marvel: she might be aiming for Texan, but it varies so wildly from word to word that it's fruitless to even venture a guess, really. Vanessa's serving the same shirt, but untucked and without the sweater, allowing us to see for the first time that this garment has buttons down the front and in the back. In other words: this is two entirely separate halves that merge into a single top. Mind: blown. Also, we need to address the belt. This is Sondra's from the opening credits; Denise has also worn it. What I previously missed, however, is that Vanessa sported the same belt in episode #2.15, meaning that all three Huxtable sisters have inflicted this blight on us. When will it end? Who can save us?

More convincing than Janet Jackson in For Colored Girls.

Mrs. Firestone, the head of the modeling agency, is of course portrayed by Denise. Oddly, this is another instance in which we're never offered a full-length shot of the character. Of all the looks, this is the one I'd be most eager to see in total, because I'm dying to know what Denise thinks a professional in the fashion world would wear. Does this purple top go down to the floor, or stop at the knee? Would she go with black leggings, or something crazier? What sort of shoes does she have on? Whose glasses are those? I'm totally willing to believe that she had those giant accessories lying around, but less convinced that the tiger print pieces are hers. Mostly because they clearly come from Mrs. Westlake's episode #2.12 scarf. Thieves and vandals, these kids are. Despite her crimes, Denise delivers a strong visual presentation, not to mention a strong performance. She's one of the only actors on the show who conveys the sense that she's struggling to stay in character: when Theo does something ridiculous, she stifles a laugh and then continues with her lines. It's a subtle, perfect little touch.

Also, she tells Theo that it would cost him between $800 and $1200 to get a modeling portfolio. We'll work with the median there: $1000 in 1986 would almost double in value by today's standards. That sounds to me like an awful lot for pictures and prints, but things might have been different in the '80s. Present-day digital photography has made it much easier to take, retouch, and print images. It's conceivable that the whole process was more difficult, and thus more expensive, 25 years ago.

Like a lawyer, except... well, OK, nothing like a lawyer.

When he's unable to secure a job through Firestone, Theo calls in a favor and enlists Cockroach to play Horton W. Dansbury, owner of Cockroach Oil. Theo is the company's spokesman. This episode maybe pokes a hole in my belief that Cockroach is there to represent the less wealthy segment of the NYC population, because only the rich would buy their 16-year-old son a well-tailored three-piece suit. This isn't some bargain basement getup bought on the quick for a relative's funeral. This is the real deal. If he owns this, he's got bank. As in, he might literally own a bank. In what world is any teenager equipped with that kind of gear? Maybe he inherited it from his short, slim grandfather? I just don't know. I like that his tie is completely at odds with his shirt. Having nice clothes doesn't mean knowing how to dress.

Is it Mardi Gras?

With his employer in tow, Theo sets out to establish his new home with some purchases from Amanda's Furniture City. Clair delivers another Tony-worthy performance as Amanda, the fast-talking, no-nonsense store owner. Remember how I asked you to keep an eye on the neon green? This is why. Turns out it's a whole dress, and by switching shirts and adding all of Rudy's (I sincerely hope, anyway) play jewelry, she becomes a new woman with a new occupation. Glasses have also played a key part in many of the transformations we've witnessed. Where is everyone getting all these empty frames? Again, I'm not inclined to accept any of this as stuff that already existed in the household. Who would own that top and why?

This moment also interests me because it marks the first time that the show acknowledges Theo's double bed situation. Amanda tells him that it will be $200 to buy both beds, so he asks to buy just one. His request is denied, but it raises the question: why has he ever had more than one? When's the last time he shared a room with someone? They should've gotten rid of one a long time ago, or at the very least pressed the two twin mattresses together to make a king for him, right?

She works hard for the money.

Denise pulls a sly trick on Theo, appearing as Denise Farquar, daughter of the restaurant's owner and member of the waitstaff. Her transformation from the fashion mogul is complete, as the black base of her outfit is almost totally obscured by the apron, fringed gloves, and episode #2.20 jacket. I'm gonna go ahead and express my extreme aversion to the yellow gloves. No need for those to ever see the light of day again. Let's save them for costume pieces, huh? Her demeanor is again what sells it, though: she gives off the weary, forthright edge of a woman who has been on her feet serving customers all day. It wouldn't matter where she was standing in real life: you knew that in her mind, she was in a god damned restaurant.

She's going to feel the burn when Occupy Wall Street happens.

Vanessa comes back as yet another character, this time Mrs. Covington, Vice President of Mrs. Griswold's bank. I question whether she would have had time to get that hair right, but I'll allow it. The blazer is, I'm pretty sure, making its first appearance on the show, which surprises me because it would have been easy to pull something from Clair's wardrobe. At least she didn't have to resort to glasses like some other lazy actors I could name. I'll also point out that the article she's wearing around her neck is properly referred to as a "pussy bow." The term makes me supremely uncomfortable. It looks wonderful, though, and I wholeheartedly promote its use, even if I believe just as firmly that it should be renamed.

Ah, young love.

Cliff and Clair appear as a fresh-faced couple applying for their first loan so they can start a family. They both take the same approach: remove all accessories, wear a new top layer. This is particularly interesting in Cliff's case, because he's wearing David's blazer from episode #1.9. I guess Denise stole more than his scarf.

The episode ends with Theo getting a visit from his real parents.

Remember us? The people who have been tormenting you for the past 12 hours?

Since he hasn't paid the electric bill, they force him to keep the lights off. It's an honor system thing, really; I'm surprised he kept up with it. Once that door was shut, there was nothing stopping him. Anyhow, Cliff is wearing a yellow sweatshirt. Ho hum. Clair, on the other hand, is changing my life.

Wearing her best and brightest just to flaunt her opulence in his face.

That image on the right tells you everything you need to know. Can't you imagine her walking into a disco or house party and having the best time ever? The big belt, the pink, the tailoring? Come on. Perfection. She's tried some other one-piece looks that I haven't been as fond of, but this is undeniably great. I can't believe she's wearing it on an evening in; it should be flaunted for the whole city to see.

Glad we ended on a high note there. Unfortunately, this site is not kept afloat by coveralls alone. (But seriously, I can't stop looking at them, can you? Genius. Flawless. Wonderful.) If you have money to spare and want to donate a dollar to assist me, then I'd certainly appreciate it. All it takes is a quick click of the button below. If you'd like to offer non-monetary support, then the best thing you could possibly do for me is to spread the word. Tell your friends about this site. Post a link on Twitter or Facebook. Mention my work in your own blog. Refer to Huxtable Hotness in your next work presentation, loan application, or eulogy. Whatever you can do to direct traffic my way will be enormously appreciated.



My main goal, however, is to get you (yes, you) to return to the site. Come back next Monday, when another juicy new fashion review will be posted. See you then!

8 comments:

  1. Clair, in those pink overalls, are everything I ever wanted to be when I grew up.

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  2. Clair, in that pink jumpsuit, is Jodie from "Today's Special". http://todays-special.schuminweb.com/todays-special/cast/jodie.php

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    1. I grew up LOVING that show, which may or may not explain my fierce commitment to Clair's pink onesie.

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  3. This blog is awesome! Totally shared it on Facebook (and emailed it to my mom.)

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    1. Thank you! It makes me smile when the Hotness is spread. I do it all for you, dear reader.

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  4. If I'm right about the timing, this is probably around the time that Phylicia Rashad became pregnant- thus the raised countertops in the kitchen that make it hard to see the family from the waist down. They were pretty smart about doing that before she started to show. A bit later they become less clever & start dressing her in tents (sorry you're going to have to witness this) & doing other crazy things like having her mend a redonkulously oversized teddy bear to hide her pregnancy...

    Couldn't it be possible that Cockroach is wearing an old suit of Theo's? I wouldn't be surprised @ him owning a 3 piece suit (though it's surprising it would fit his friend so well)- the kid does own his own tux, after all.

    I would kill to own Rudy's old lady suit & I would rock the sh*t out of that pantsuit @ the end, though that pink may not be my color.

    Great blog as always! I'm behind, but I love having many to read while catching up!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback and theorizing. And as for Phylicia's pregnancy, wait until you get to my season 3 reviews...

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