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S01.E01: The Spark

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The picture-perfect lives of the Richardson family are upended by the mysterious arrival of artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl in Shaker Heights, OH – an idyllic town founded on the utopian principals of harmony and order. Egged on by her guilty conscious, do-gooder Elena Richardson rents to the mother-daughter duo, irrevocably intertwining the fates of the two families.

Original air date: 3/18/20

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Anyone else watching? I haven't read the books, but I enjoyed the first episode. Loved the scene showing the two women separated from their daughters (Elena/Izzy by the door, Mia/Pearl by the wall).

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Ha, I loved how perfectly they portrayed 1997: "I'm over my minutes," the Spice Girls on the cover of YM, The Vagina Monologues, Ricki Lake, The Real World: Boston, and OMG the clothes! I wish they had used original songs from the 90s instead of covers though.

The one thing that I found to be an anachronism was when Elena described Pearl as "a rising sophomore." I know it's very common now but back in ye olden days, no one I knew said that about high school or college.

I initially was going to nitpick about Elena telling the hair stylist that she wanted Izzy's hair to be layered like Rachel on Friends because this show takes place in August 1997 and by the end of S3 of Friends, Rachel's hair wasn't really layered (there were a few layers in the front by her face, but it was mostly straight). But then I figured that Elena was not watching Friends regularly so she probably just remembered the famous Rachel cut which Jennifer Aniston had grown out by then.

Although it's easy to dislike Elena for being such a rigid, uptight control freak, I REALLY disliked Mia for most of this episode because it was obvious from the second that they looked at the rental unit that Pearl really wants a home and instead she's had Mia uprooting her every few months. I know you don't have to give up all your goals and dreams when you have kids, but it seems a bit cruel to move your kid to a new school every few months. Making new friends can be really difficult, as can dealing with different curriculums at other schools. I know military brats have to put up with it too but I feel for them too!

I also really hated when Mia decided to punish Pearl by threatening to move again immediately. That's shitty parenting.

Poor Izzy. Her mother's disappointment in her is so clear. I can't imagine what it's like to live under that kind of endless scrutiny. I can't wait to find out what happened with her ex-friend (although with girls that age, sometimes it's something as simple as one sentence that ends a friendship).

I read the book when it first came out so I have forgotten a lot of the details. I remember the major stuff like the house on fire at the beginning of this episode, but apparently I've forgotten just about everything else, so watching this show will almost be like going in blind (which I actually don't mind at all - this way I won't be distracted if there are differences from the book!).

Edited by ElectricBoogaloo
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4 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

Ha, I loved how perfectly they portrayed 1997: "I'm over my minutes," the Spice Girls on the cover of YM, The Vagina Monologues, Ricki Lake, The Real World: Boston, and OMG the clothes! I wish they had used original songs from the 90s instead of covers though.

The one thing that I found to be an anachronism was when Elena described Pearl as "a rising sophomore." I know it's very common now but back in ye olden days, no one I knew said that about high school or college.

 

If I remember correctly, the Rachel fad lasted longer than Rachel had the hairstyle, so seeing it in 1997 would not be out of place.  As for the "rising sophomore" thing, I think that's regional.  We never said it when I was in High School on the West Coast, but when I went to college on the East Coast (a few years before this show takes place), it was said there.

As for liking or disliking the characters, I'll have more to say in the books thread, but just based on the show...

I think they hit the jackpot with the kids.  They are all strong actors, the Richardsons actually look like siblings, and they seem to be the right ages.  I especially like Izzy...I've never seen that actress before, but she is quite good playing a pretty difficult role.  The actress playing Pearl is also pretty impressive.

I actually liked Reese Witherspoon more than I thought I would.  She's kind of a strange actress for me--she's can no longer play the ingenue types, but she still seems too young to play characters her actual age (I had real issues with her in Wild).  Yet, somehow she makes Elena work for her.  I think Kerry Washington also is quite good, but the character of Mia is less likable than I expected.

More thoughts, but those will be in the book thread.

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8 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

Ha, I loved how perfectly they portrayed 1997: "I'm over my minutes," the Spice Girls on the cover of YM, The Vagina Monologues, Ricki Lake, The Real World: Boston, and OMG the clothes! I wish they had used original songs from the 90s instead of covers though.

Just one song was a cover.  The rest seemed to be originals.

https://www.tunefind.com/show/little-fires-everywhere/season-1/96387

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8 hours ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

The one thing that I found to be an anachronism was when Elena described Pearl as "a rising sophomore." I know it's very common now but back in ye olden days, no one I knew said that about high school or college.

I totally get loving Drew Barrymore at that age -- didn't we all?  And I still do -- but what I found anachronistic was Izzy listing off everything Drew did and at what age.  "Blah blah at 12.  Blah blah at 14.  Flashing David Letterman at 20."  That was really weird.  What kind of teenager talks like that?  And before Wikipedia?  And the flashing only happened 2 years before the show is supposed to take place.  So I thought that was really weird.

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I find Reese's character insufferable and the dad in that family, bland and lazy. Not sure I will stick with this show.

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I find myself trying not to be that annoying person who keeps nit-picking between the book and TV.  I will say that Reese is good in the role of Elena but almost a bit type-cast.  She's like Tracy Flick all grown up.  I think Mia is played a bit too abrasively, which sort of changes the tone from the book.  

Also, I know there are other things that are being hinted at, but the police fears seem to be more modern (maybe I was just clueless in 1997).

Rising sophomore... I tend to say "in-coming" during the summer or "going into"

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This was really interesting, and I had no idea this show would be set in the 90s, so I was super excited to get my 90s nostalgia on! The clothes! The Real World! The hair! And less fun but true, the complicated and awkward dealings with social issues like race and class! 

There is an interesting kind of grass is always greener thing going on with Pearl and Izzy and Mia and Elena. Izzy feels stifled by her upper middle class suburban life and her type A mom, and sees the funky artist life of Mia as freeing and "real", while Pearl is tired of the constant moving and instability of her life, and craves the stability she sees in Elena's life, and in a more "typical" family life with sack lunches and college plans and school plays and such. 

In that way, I see a lot of flaws in the parenting of both Elena and Mia. Elena is super controlling and obsessed with appearances, while Mia constantly moving her and Pearl around, forcing her to have to start again and make new friends and get used to new towns over and over again, seems rather selfish, especially as it seems to be just on her whims. 

Edited by tennisgurl
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6 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

Mia constantly moving her and Pearl around, forcing her to have to start again and make new friends and get used to new towns over and over again, seems rather selfish, especially as it seems to be just on her whims. 

Mia's dreams and her response to the security guard catching Moody and Pearl gave me the impression that she was running from someone, but Pearl doesn't know about it.

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I haven't read the book, but since the guy in her dreams is on Grey's Anatomy, he's probably going to show up and be important. 

I felt bad for both Izzy and Pearl. Izzy is obviously crying out for her mom to treat her as a person instead of a mini-me extension of herself, and they should definitely do therapy both together and separately. Pearl needs some stability and I don't have a lot of sympathy for her mom's attitude about it, though maybe something will be revealed in her backstory to justify it. So far, Pearl's mom (Mia?) reminds me of the mom in the book White Oleander. 

Why is Reese (what was her character's name?) so against the name Izzy, which is perfectly normal nickname for Isabel, but she's ok with calling her son Moody? What's his real name? That's a weird nickname for a parent to be ok with for a teenager. 

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I really enjoyed this.  Reese Witherspoon plays the type A middle class Controlling woman really well.   Her relationship with Izzy could be a series all in itself but then add Mia and Pearl and you have some interesting relationships.   RW’s character Elena controls everyone around her.   She even decides what nights to have sex with her husband.   So she has no idea how to deal with a rebellious Izzy who just wont fall in line and get with the program.   

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On 3/20/2020 at 8:52 PM, Chaos Theory said:

Reese Witherspoon plays the type A middle class Controlling woman really well.

I think RW is a very good actress and I'd love to see her expand beyond this typecast.  

I find her character really interesting- this was before pintrest! Sex is scheduled, the kids each have their own color coded calendar stickies AND lunch bags.  

Was Reese calling out "Elle" as a good nickname a call out to Legally Blonde? What the heck name is Tripp? That has to be a nickname too, right? Seems very Mitt Romney.  

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On 3/20/2020 at 7:17 PM, LeGrandElephant said:

Why is Reese (what was her character's name?) so against the name Izzy, which is perfectly normal nickname for Isabel, but she's ok with calling her son Moody? What's his real name? That's a weird nickname for a parent to be ok with for a teenager. 

Elaine?

I wonder if Elaine (?)'s motivations can be explained by her ideals of what is feminine versus masculine.  It's feminine to use your full name.  It's masculine to have a nickname.  (I am just guessing).

Also, Moody doesn't even seem moody at all.

2 hours ago, CurlyATX said:

Was Reese calling out "Elle" as a good nickname a call out to Legally Blonde? What the heck name is Tripp? That has to be a nickname too, right? Seems very Mitt Romney.  

I feel like Trip is a common WASPy name.

There's this book I like where the main character is constantly moving in high school I think because her father keeps having lovers in each city then every time they break up they have to move.  However, it is a very pretentious book with a metaphor in every sentence.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3483.Special_Topics_in_Calamity_Physics

Edited by Ms Blue Jay

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5 hours ago, CurlyATX said:

I think RW is a very good actress and I'd love to see her expand beyond this typecast.  

I find her character really interesting- this was before pintrest! Sex is scheduled, the kids each have their own color coded calendar stickies AND lunch bags.  

Was Reese calling out "Elle" as a good nickname a call out to Legally Blonde? What the heck name is Tripp? That has to be a nickname too, right? Seems very Mitt Romney.  

Is it something like Trey, for a kid who's named after both father and grandfather? Third=triple=Tripp?

I didn't like Mia very much, but her character is more interesting than Elena. Elena as played by Reese might as well be Madeline from Big Little Lies.

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14 hours ago, peggy06 said:

Is it something like Trey, for a kid who's named after both father and grandfather? Third=triple=Tripp?

I didn't like Mia very much, but her character is more interesting than Elena. Elena as played by Reese might as well be Madeline from Big Little Lies.

Exactly -- Tripp is a nickname for someone who is a the third generation with the same name. I had a Tripp in my class growing up. He actually had a very fancy name, but he was always just Tripp.

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23 minutes ago, jackjill89 said:

Tripp is a nickname for someone who is a the third generation with the same name. I had a Tripp in my class growing up. He actually had a very fancy name, but he was always just Tripp.

I learned this thanks to Tripp van der Bilt on Gossip Girl!

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1 hour ago, ElectricBoogaloo said:

I learned this thanks to Tripp van der Bilt on Gossip Girl!

That is hilarious.  So I guess instead of "Thurston Howell III", he'd be known as Trip or Trey?

Do they have something for 4? I find this all so incredibly fascinating. My husband was a Junior and HATED it (always being called "little" Curly).  For my kids we just looked at the rolling credits of movies and found ones we liked and argued between us. 

The legacy prep school in SF went coed the year after I started, so I was shielded from all of this. I'm sure there would have been a few Trips and Trey's who lived in SF and Marin County. 

 

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I believe Tripp's actual name is William which would make sense if he's the third with the name since Joshua Jackson's character is Bill which is also short for William so we can assume his dad is also a William. Not sure what Moody's actual name is.

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This discussion of nicknames is something I haven't thought about.  I'm sure you are all right about Tripp being William III and Moody being a nickname for...something.  And I doubt Lexi's given name is Lexi--it's probably Alexis or Alexandra or whatever.  These are the names Elena uses for her children.

The exception, of course, is Izzy.  Elena refers to her as "Isabelle" or Isabelle Rose Richardson.

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I went to a lower- to middle-class public school in NC and there was a "Trey" in my class. He was a William whoever the III, and not a rich kid.

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On 3/20/2020 at 7:17 PM, LeGrandElephant said:

So far, Pearl's mom (Mia?) reminds me of the mom in the book White Oleander. 

I agree, although there was more financial stability at home with the White Oleander mother Ingrid - I think she had a day job at a gallery or something. Not wealthy, but enough, no sleeping in the car (although Mia and Pearl appear to be poorer here than in the book).

Spoiler

And Mia's transience is due to her being in hiding.

 And Pearl doesn't seem to idolize Mia as much as Astrid idolized Ingrid. But both mothers are fairly selfish, thinking little of what their daughters actually need, instead focusing wholly on the art and committed to the artist's life, and I think the line "I made you" is in both this show and White Oleander the movie.

On 3/24/2020 at 10:23 AM, jackjill89 said:

Exactly -- Tripp is a nickname for someone who is a the third generation with the same name. I had a Tripp in my class growing up. He actually had a very fancy name, but he was always just Tripp.

There was a Tripp a few years behind me in high school (affluent urban private school). He had four names. "James Henry Augustus Davidson the third," Tripp for short. (I made that up, that's not his name.) Will Smith's eldest son goes by Trey; he's Willard Carroll Smith III.

On 3/24/2020 at 1:44 PM, MaggieG said:

I believe Tripp's actual name is William which would make sense if he's the third with the name since Joshua Jackson's character is Bill which is also short for William so we can assume his dad is also a William. Not sure what Moody's actual name is.

I used to work with a Bill and there were at least five generations of Williams in his family. His grandfather, father, son, and grandson (who was born when I worked with him) were all William. William can be shortened in lots of different ways so they all went by different shortened versions.

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On 3/20/2020 at 6:17 PM, LeGrandElephant said:

Why is Reese (what was her character's name?) so against the name Izzy, which is perfectly normal nickname for Isabel, but she's ok with calling her son Moody?

(I think) because she embodies the double standard of what's okay for boys and girls.  As someone else said it'a all about appearances and "Izzy" is messy, cluttered, chaotic.  Isabelle would have been calm, neat and controlled.  Just my opinion.  The disappointment Elena has for Izzy is so apparent.

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30 minutes ago, trudysmom said:

(I think) because she embodies the double standard of what's okay for boys and girls.  As someone else said it'a all about appearances and "Izzy" is messy, cluttered, chaotic.  Isabelle would have been calm, neat and controlled.  Just my opinion.  The disappointment Elena has for Izzy is so apparent.

She also mentions that there are nicknames she would have been okay with, such as Bella or Belle.  My guess is that Elena "chose" the nicknames Lexi, Tripp, and Moody, but Izzy chose her own nickname.

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On 3/25/2020 at 11:15 AM, Empress1 said:

I agree, although there was more financial stability at home with the White Oleander mother Ingrid - I think she had a day job at a gallery or something. Not wealthy, but enough, no sleeping in the car (although Mia and Pearl appear to be poorer here than in the book).

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And Mia's transience is due to her being in hiding.

 And Pearl doesn't seem to idolize Mia as much as Astrid idolized Ingrid. But both mothers are fairly selfish, thinking little of what their daughters actually need, instead focusing wholly on the art and committed to the artist's life, and I think the line "I made you" is in both this show and White Oleander the movie.

There was a Tripp a few years behind me in high school (affluent urban private school). He had four names. "James Henry Augustus Davidson the third," Tripp for short. (I made that up, that's not his name.) Will Smith's eldest son goes by Trey; he's Willard Carroll Smith III.

I used to work with a Bill and there were at least five generations of Williams in his family. His grandfather, father, son, and grandson (who was born when I worked with him) were all William. William can be shortened in lots of different ways so they all went by different shortened versions.

Well, I think they were only sleeping in the car temporarily and most of the time they live in apartments. While Oleander(the books I don’t remember the movie as well) has her sleeping on a porch with only a curtain separating her from her mom having sex, so it’s an apartment but she doens’t have a real room. And it describes past times when they lived in even more transient places when she was younger. Also yes she does idolize her mom more because she’s young at the beginning of the book but by the time she’s 15 she’s no longer speaking to her mom (who’s in prison at that point). To me it’s a strong parallel. Though hopefully Mia wouldn’t go so far as to murder someone. 

Edited by LeGrandElephant

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On 3/24/2020 at 10:23 AM, jackjill89 said:

Exactly -- Tripp is a nickname for someone who is a the third generation with the same name. I had a Tripp in my class growing up. He actually had a very fancy name, but he was always just Tripp.

Huh, I’d never heard of this naming tradition (maybe because neither my city nor my high school were remotely like Shaker Heights. I did date a guy from the very affluent town next door whose school was probably lousy with Trips and Treys). The things I learn around here!

ITA that RW is good at this kind of role—maybe too good? I mean, I get the impression that she has enough power in her career not to be typecast; maybe she just likes playing upper-crusty Type A’s and is typecasting herself.

Edited by spaceghostess · Reason: And another thing . . .
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Re "rising sophomore" — I live in northeast Ohio, pretty close to Shaker Heights, and I first heard that expression about three years ago. I was startled when I heard it on the show. It is definitely not a regional thing. They got it wrong.

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On 3/29/2020 at 1:49 AM, spaceghostess said:

ITA that RW is good at this kind of role—maybe too good? I mean, I get the impression that she has enough power in her career not to be typecast; maybe she just likes playing upper-crusty Type A’s and is typecasting herself.

I went down a rabbit hole on youtube last week and found this one video all about the "dumb blonde" trope and by extension the blonde vs brunette - beauty vs brains dichotomy.  Reese was featured heavily and even she said how even how studios/audiences are not comfortable seeing Reese do certain things.  I know she added the infidelity element to her character in Big Little Lies. 

I do wish that she had a different role in this- maybe Mia? It would be nice to see her be something other than "perfectly perfect". 

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On 3/30/2020 at 9:15 AM, CurlyATX said:

I do wish that she had a different role in this- maybe Mia? It would be nice to see her be something other than "perfectly perfect". 

It was a long time ago, but I thought she was fantastic as June Carter Cash in Walk The Line (she won an Oscar for that performance).

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Please remember to keep all book talk in the Book Talk thread.  I've kept posts that have book information under spoiler tags, but from now on any posts with book information in the episode threads will be removed (even if it is under spoiler threads).

For the sake of the episode threads, please assume that the book does not exist.

Thanks!

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For those who wish to see RW in a different role, absolutely see "Freeway" in (the real) 1997. She's amazing in it. I think it's my fave or her movies.

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On 4/13/2020 at 1:56 PM, Chelz said:

For those who wish to see RW in a different role, absolutely see "Freeway" in (the real) 1997. She's amazing in it. I think it's my fave or her movies.

Yaaaassss! Freeway is one of my all-time favs! 

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I dated an IV in grad school, as in __________ ____________ the fourth. I thought his name was Ivey. I didn't know about Trey, Tripp, etc.

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On 3/23/2020 at 7:58 PM, peggy06 said:

Elena as played by Reese might as well be Madeline from Big Little Lies.

She is like Madeline's richer more uptight busy body twin sister. It's kind of annoying but it is one of those things where she does the character type so well you kind of don't care. On the plus side at least so far none of Elena's kids are anywhere close to being as annoying as Madeline's kids.

Also did they actually show when Mia took the photo of Elena that she was developing at the end of the episode?

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On 5/22/2020 at 9:06 PM, Kel Varnsen said:

She is like Madeline's richer more uptight busy body twin sister. It's kind of annoying but it is one of those things where she does the character type so well you kind of don't care. On the plus side at least so far none of Elena's kids are anywhere close to being as annoying as Madeline's kids.

Also did they actually show when Mia took the photo of Elena that she was developing at the end of the episode?

She took the picture when Elena dropped Mia off after she stayed there for dinner. 

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