Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Exposed Life of Caroline Stanbury, 'Lady' of London S1E1

A bit of background. I have a new obsession, Dearest Reader, and it is the Bravo scripted series reality show known as 'Ladies of London'. The first season was such an absolute tragic train wreck that I will not mention it here and instead chose to begin my evisceration with Season 2. It's like skipping a grade in school, I'm special. Deal with it. Full Disclosure, London is my absolute dream, if only because I am deeply confused about whether Jane Austen novels are actually happening concurrently with episodes of Borat. It's like, how can one little place have so much going on? Let's get started!

Episode 1: London Calling

More Meaningful Title: Caroline secretly wants to be an American

Why are we even pretending that any other character of this show even matters? This person, a person so fascinatingly complex and watchable, is the undisputed central character to the show and the lynch pin that ties all the other women to London society.

We begin Caroline's second season journey in the offices of her doomed business "Gift Library". Unfortunately she seems to be the only one who doesn't know she will soon be in receivership, but her employee Valentina ignoring her repeated yelps may give her some clue as to where she stands. She makes noises that the place is busy but every person is sitting at a computer immobile, so not sure what she means. She keeps referring to some sort of gnome people somewhere in the backroom working hard, like Santa's workshop, but they are never revealed. Caroline does, however, drop a small detail that she has also 'acquired' a second business known as 'The Wedding Shoppe of Caroline Stanbury' but a quick Google search reveals nothing more than a few puff pieces about it and besides, it's part of a larger store called Brown – which may be a family relative. More to come on this. Then she condescendingly asks the room at large if she "can eat lunch now?" although there does not appear to be a soul who gives a shit if she catches on fire; so lunch it is, Caroline. Enjoy!

This blog finds Caroline's eating habits out of joint with her physical appearance and will be carefully monitoring her calories. It's easy because for a woman with a well-maintained eating disorder, she talks about food a lot. This blog finds her allusions to the USA also of particular interest and will be taking stock of it as well. In this episode, she mentions the US four times.

The main conflict in this episode is where Thanksgiving dinner will be held. Marisa is hosting a large elegant party at her private dining room Bumpkin (WTF? did they name it that on purpose?) as she has done for years and Juliet wants a homespun mess of a party because it's her birthday and little tiny babies should get what they want on their birthday. But Juliet does not want to host it, or cook for it, or even fucking shop for it. She just wants an American-style Thanksgiving to happen somewhere or she will burst into tears. On the flip side, Marisa's whole deal is the doe-eyed earth mother from puritanical America who arrives naked and afraid on the beaches of London only to win the heart of a handsome prince lord and take her rightful place among the British aristocracy. She sees herself as having something to offer in this space and maybe she is correct. Frankly, she strikes me as a bit sociopathic and this may all be completely engineered.

Best line of the Episode
"I give good guest." – Marisa, on being invited to parties

Cut to Caroline's kitchen, early morning, where she is being briefed by her staff on the schedules of her children. Most of the things the children have planned in upcoming weeks comes as a surprise to her. She stares at her staff with vacant blue eyes and takes noisy bites of buttered toast served in a basket. She has less depth than Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Hilary was funny. In the talking head segment Caroline gives a long list of negative words people have used to describe her: cold, hard, heartless, cold-hearted. What is really telling is that Caroline does not disagree with any of it.

Enter Juliet.

One of the things Caroline does to intimidate other women is to comment on their outfit immediately upon laying eyes on them. They either get a "what are you wearing?" or a grudging "you look nice". Juliet arrives dressed like a character from Dynasty and gets a "you look nice". Juliet responds with "you look like shit". Classic Juliet.

Caroline does know, however, the right things to say in all situations but Juliet refuses to be 'relaxed' and allows a single tear to drop in front of Caroline, running the orange blush applied in perfect circles to Juliet's extremely white cheeks.
Caroline reacts like Juliet has shit nuclear waste on her Persian rug.
Same, Caroline. I can't fault Caroline on this. Juliet's emotions are scary.

Then – in an act so kind and soft  I literally cannot believe it’s the same person - Caroline volunteers to have a small party in her own home to appease Juliet. While Caroline is clear that it comes at no personal cost to herself, it still requires a reorganization of her staff and home and it's a lovely and generous offer one makes to a friend who has fake cried in front of you. Then Caroline smiles and becomes the single most beautiful woman I have ever seen on reality TV with a hangover. She honestly looks like an angel. I paused the TV to bask in the beatific glow of her splendor.

Caroline hosts a cocktail party in her big empty house. Her house accurately reflects the desert wasteland of her own emotional landscape. Everything is taupe and voices echo. It also reminds me of those people who take on mortgages that are too high and then have no money left over to furnish the place, but keep explaining it away by saying they have just finished a 'reno'.

I remain unsure where this party stands chronological using the Arrow of Time. Is it before or after the ill-fated double turkey dinners?

Marisa – a woman with a title, a fully furnished home and a business that makes things that people actually want to buy – is described by Caroline as 'a social climber' and that it 'reeks of desperation'. Bravo thought so much of this statement, they used it in their promotional ads for Ladies of London. Classy, Bravo. As a pretty aggressive social climber herself, Caroline may live to eat those words, and I will be here to gleefully record it. 

Caroline reminds me of a really poor girl who grew up with rich bitches in the '8os and is still trying to emulate them. Remember this, Dear Reader, as this theory will be supported in later episodes.

Marisa has a very clear view of what is going on and while she is correct, she arrives at the party wearing the frumpiest outfit. Every other woman is 6 feet tall, black-clad and suicide blonde. And then there is Marisa bearing a hat in the shape of roasted turkey with Caroline's name embroidered on it. Caroline remarks that she 'has never hated a gift more'. 
Same, Caroline.

Marisa proceeds to be awkward with Juliet, provoking an argument. Caroline watches from the second floor over a – wait for it – clear plastic banister treatment circa 1983, like a gorgeous praying mantis cocking its head slowly and rubbing it's fore claws together. For a moment, the scenario is shot like a Hitchcock movie complete with a Disney villainess and I fall down on the floor in ecstasy.

Caroline walks down and of course does the right thing; tries to stop the argument, but not without reminding the room at large that she is skinnier and blonder than Marisa in an aborted effort to give a back-handed compliment. It’s like something the drunk wife of a Texas cattleman would do at a rodeo, it's amazing. There has never been a woman more desirous of being an actual American then our own Caroline Stansbury.

The Episode ends there. Next Week: The Barefoot Baroness

Food Caroline talked about in this episode:
1.     Can I eat lunch now? Ambiguous. Well played, Caroline.
2.       She pretended not to know what Goldfish were
3.       She pretended to know nothing about Thanksgiving but laughed at the thought of putting her 'hand up a turkey's rear end'. Pretty good guess, Dearest.
Total Calories: only those from alcohol.

Things Caroline actually ate in this episode
1.     A piece of toast. Loudly

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