As always, the guest to The Lunch Hour shake things up. But, this time around, it isn’t just the people on the dais who cause trouble and drama for Maxine and company.
TV Dad, Real Life Nightmare: Kibby[note]Fun Fact: Kibby is 24[/note]
As noted by Maddie Finn, in episode 4, there was something going on behind the scenes at Kibby’s show which was not appropriate. However, what got hinted at then gets expanded to us being able to piece together that her TV dad Vance is involved. Someone who Kibby is able to feign happiness to see, but seems so triggered by in private. To the point, she musters the strength to call him and ask of him to cancel his appearance on The Lunch Hour.
It quite tickles me that for the majority of the episode we can watch Kibby and Heather go back and forth, in a rather comical way, and then Bridges can switch it up and get dramatic on us. For, and this isn’t a dig at Bridges, you just don’t expect it from her. Which I only say since she, before Daytime Divas, would just be an actress who popped up on shows I was already watching – usually as a villain. So with that sort of type-casting, naturally she gets written off.
However, Kibby for her is sort of like Bianca Lawson’s Darla, from Queen Sugar [note]Not the best comparison, but you get what I mean right?[/note]. In that we are seeing an actress who has been around, often in a supporting or guest role, really get to shine and surprise you. To the point, you have to wonder why it took this long for someone to cast them and let them show their full range?
A Delicate Family: Nina, Shawn, William, Gloria (Patti LaBelle), Maxine, Detective Stagliano
Maxine and her family, blood relation or not, are going through quite a lot of drama. For between Shawn and Nina prepping for a custody battle, despite her not even showing yet, Nina learning one fan is obsessed to the point of being threatening [note]Quick note: With Ramona, are we just going to forget she was stealing things? Also, is she going to get any props for holding things down while Shawn was freaking out over Nina being trapped in an elevator with Gary? [/note], and then Gloria and the detective? Needless to say, someone get the hair dye for Maxine definitely has a few grey hairs stemming from all this madness.
Though, with her revealing, on The Lunch Hour, her relationship with William, at least one secret is off her back. However, with Detective Stagliano now really interested in the night Ted died, this reveal may have only made things worse[note]We learn the reason why Maxine’s neighbor hates her is because William steals his paper and gives it to her, per Gloria.[/note]. [note]It should be noted that Ted might have stole from Shawn and that he and Shawn had a tumultuous relationship it seems.[/note] [note]The night Ted died was also Shawn’s graduation and Maxine’s alibi is that she was with Shawn having a nightcap. Truth is though, she was having an affair with William. So, Shawn remains the likely killer. [/note]
Nina, as a character, continues to flounder to me. While Kibby is richly complicated and Heather is reconciling her faith with the failure of her marriage and her daughter being trans, what does Nina have? A soap opera storyline of obsessed men, a baby daddy who she is hot and cold with, cause he got issues, and that’s it. I mean, it almost seems like a cruel joke that the serious ones of the dais, Maxine, and Nina, are the ones with the silliest storylines.
Much less, that, at this point of 7 episodes, you know it won’t get better. For no matter what Shawn did or didn’t do, never mind Maxine, it is really hard to care. For what layers are there to these people? Vanessa Williams plays Maxine in such a way it is like if Wilhelmina Slater got into journalism instead of fashion. But what perhaps makes things worse is that while, often through Kibby, we see there might be more to this character, it remains very locked up.
Which, if I wanted to be an optimist, I could say is a character trait. However, let’s be real here, Williams is giving us not much more than the sass she has become known for since A Diva’s Christmas and living off that. Something I’m not dinging her for, but you can see how that is negatively affecting Shawn, and now Nina’s, storyline.
For, in my mind, between Shawn and William, you’d expect one of them to help peel the layers back. Turn what is an almost campy-styled character into a human being. Yet, neither do. Then with Nina, you’d think between mentorship or admiration, maybe there would be something there to help both women equally. Yet, what interest does Maxine take in Nina, outside of her future grandchild? She seems to have consistently cared more about Kibby than Nina. And while, granted, Kibby is a 24-year-old recovering addict, notice how Nina hasn’t talked about doing or getting any real journalistic segments anymore. Much less, Maxine isn’t asking for one.
Basically, Nina is just another piece of the drama. Consumed by nonsense and probably has evolved as far as she may go. Making me think that whole “She doesn’t deserve her Pulitzer” storyline wasn’t the best way to go. It probably would have been better if her secret was she was trans, the 53% who voted for Trump or something.
“It’s okay to be trans-ignorant. It’s never okay to be transphobic.”: Heather
There is a world of difference between tolerance, acceptance, and advocating for an oppressed group. For Heather, it seemed, she accepts Ella for she is her child, but advocating for her, outside of the home, wasn’t something she did. Hell, outside of Mo, it is hard to say if anyone else knew Brad Jr identified as Ella.
However, with meeting Janet Mock, and of course tripping over a few landmines with her questions, she comes out to her peers that Ella exists. Alongside that, she decides to advocate for Ella. For, at this point, Ella wants to go to the girl’s room but her principal doesn’t allow that. So, Heather is now going to look for a school which accepts her and also allow Ella to be herself outside of when she is home. [note]I should also note that, through this confession of who Ella is, Kibby and Heather make up. [/note]
I’m glad for Heather and Ella, as well as their storyline, but can we talk about Janet Mock? I don’t know about you, but something was kind of cringey with the way Maxine introduced her to everyone. It’s like, you have to question when it comes to Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and others, no matter how big they get, will being trans always be a prefix or part of the introduction? Is it wrong to be part of it?
With reading Redefining Realness, and working on getting through Surpassing Certainty, Mock talks a lot about owning her story, adjectives, and stuff like that. But I do wonder how it must feel, as an actor, writer, and media personality, to sort of be seen as that go to because you’re from such and such group vs. because of merit. For it isn’t like being trans is a gimmick. It isn’t like a singer who uses fashion or their sexuality to be seen and noteworthy.
So while I loved what she said about asking questions, and showed how hurtful it is to not be considered a “real girl,” there remains this odd discomfort that I originally had for Ella. Well, perhaps still do. If only because, while this no longer feels like a, as noted in the pilot review, “stunt storyline” it still gives off this weird token diversity vibe. As in, they want to attract a certain audience so they tap into their culture and give them just enough to be interested, but not dive in deep enough to possibly alienate other viewers.