1. The Braces Come Off There. I have spoiled the last episode of Ugly Betty's fourth and last season.
The show was cancelled some time ago, amidst tabloid murmurs of America Ferrara's imperious on-set antics - remember when Lindsay Lohan was a guest last year and allegedly scrawled Lindsay Hates America on her trailer? This may have been when the trouble started in the English telenovela; or maybe the award-winning show was murdered by TV executives who kept shuffling its time slot until no one could find it any more.
I fail to see why one of the best shows on TV needs to be cancelled, while every time I turn on my TV I see the sagging, desperate and yelling face of Patricia Heaton ( The Middle). Betty was a breakthrough for Latin-American actors of every stripe; and for lovers of fashion, infinitely more pleasing than the Sex and the City reruns. (The ingenious stylist Patricia Field works on both.) And it was high camp, if such a term really works today: Modern camp is still, as Susan Sontag decreed in her 1964 Notes on 'Camp', "a certain mode of aestheticism," "a way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon." And Ugly Betty's Mode magazine set reflected the profound artifice that signals camp, as "Nothing in nature can be campy," Sontag asserted. Yet Betty's home and love life were sweet and natural, and still replete with a dramatic gay tween, a variety of extravagant characters and an aesthetic that provided a homely-beautiful, or jolie-laide, counterpoint to the haute couture - the aesthetic, that is, of the heroine's Guadeloupe heritage; of the warm, bright, natural colours coded through her and her family's meals, decor and attire.
Such collisions I feel are modern camp: an aesthetic model that negotiates between the artificial and the natural; that troubles the very idea of what is natural. Consider the warm family dynamics of another great show, Modern Family; then consider its components. Such a family is novel beyond its inclusiveness (the gay couple; the Latin-American mother and son). It is novel in the way that it asserts, as other, the typical sitcom family we have been teething on for decades.
Ugly Betty also looked askance at normal, plain ... ugliness. It is a show about beauty; it is a show that equates natural and artificial beauty very well; that sees aberrance only in the commonplace (the stylish gossip-maven on the show is revealed, shockingly, in one episode to be a suburban Dad, and is instantly blackmailed).
Four years of reinventing camp and tele-aesthetics: No wonder they are tired. One hopes that, at the every least, the spectacular Wilhelmina, played with icy passion by a "devastated" (in her own words) Vanessa Williams, spins off to her own dynasty.
2. By Now, We All Know Who Dat Was Shortly before the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts lined up for the Super Bowl kickoff Sunday, I, like many YouTubers, was caught up in the commercials CBS pulled before the big game. The most talked about (but not pulled) ad was Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow's dramatic turn in a spot for the pro-life group Family in Focus.
Tebow's mother, we have since all heard, was urged to abort the fetal quarterback for medical reasons, but she had him anyway and well, give a cheer for the Orange and Blue! Since all pregnancy-test ads now feature happy, anticipatory women, where fingernail-chewing, haggard wrecks once stood; and since the Duggars are currently on the cover of People with their 19th child, pop culture's new baby love (consider Juno the poster for forward-thinking about choice) should come as no surprise. Nor should the pulling of ads for Go Daddy and Mancrunch.com, which feature, respectively, two male football fans making out and a retired, made-up and so pretty football player. The ads, CBS's executive decisions and the liberal furor: It is all so predictable: Who do you think watches the Super Bowl, a small group of angry graduate students? Oh, and me: I won 50 bucks!
3. I Felt Dirty shopping for magazines the other day and seizing Life Story magazine's Justin Bieber issue. I wanted to see why this 15-year-old Canadian boy from Stratford, Ont., is so famous, why my eight-year-old cousin calls herself "Mrs. Bieber." And now I know a lot about him. Like, he is blond and 5-foot-4 and has hazel eyes. He has a Papillon dog named "Sammy" and he loves Doritos, Sour Patch Kids and the colour blue. I did listen to his songs, and while I think he is shrewd and will go far, they reminded me of that mosquito ring tone only young people can hear. Because when I listen to Bieber - who performed Thursday in a Super Bowl weekend kickoff concert in Miami along with Timbaland and Rihanna - all I hear is a tiny chipmunk, squeaking about love and girls, and the sort of thing baby chipmunks say to each other, outside of the company of the elderly or people like me.
4. Katy Perry One-hit wonder? The new Chumbawamba? Discuss.
5. Gary Coleman We are praying for you! Get strong, and get back at Vanilla Ice for trying to fire you into a deep fryer on The Surreal Life!