'Privileged' f/ Pete Wentz
So a few months back, the bosses here at Zap2it issued a royal decree that, as an effort to boost traffic to the site, any time a show brings in a special celebrity guest star, we should try to mention that guest star in the title of the post. Now, ordinarily such a thing might be annoying. The type of "special celebrity guest" who pops up on shows tends to be the most shameless of attention-seekers, and shows that employ such celebrities are generally debasing themselves in the process. Ah, but you see, when I first heard this directive, I loved it. And I loved it for a specific reason, in that it has the side effect of creating a hilarious parlor game: Is This Person Famous Enough?
I highly encourage you all to play along at home. Any time that you know a show is featuring a celebrity guest star, you get to speculate: is this person really famous enough to deserve headline treatment? It's your chance to assign the relative stock of people who are pimping themselves out for camera time, and again, given the C-list caliber of celebrities who typically make such appearances on shows as themselves - for starters, any "celebrity" who would appear on any TV show with the word "Celebrity" in the title - it can be delicious to mock them.
Given that I knew in advance that Pete Wentz would be showing up on this week's Privileged, I was rarin' to go. Is This Person Famous Enough? My initial thought? Ha ha ha, of course not. Is Pete Wentz really famous? No, not really. For starters, a highly scientific survey of asking my parents reveals that neither has any idea who Pete Wentz is. As of this writing, the CW's own episode guide lists Wentz's band as "Fallout Boy," not the correct "Fall Out Boy." Let's call this Rule #1: If people can't spell your band's name right, you are not famous. Even if you think that Pete Wentz is famous, he's not actually famous for his band's music, but rather for the fact that he knocked up Ashlee Simpson. That's not famous; that's famous-by-association. Rule #2: Famous-by-Association does not equal famous.
Of course, here's the thing: if I were to completely disregard Pete Wentz, that would be missing the point. The whole point here is that executives of networks and series are going through the very same calculus when they're making a decision on whether or not to stunt-cast a celebrity. They know that it makes them look a little cheap and shameless; they just have to gamble whether it's worth it. In short, Is This Person Famous Enough? You can just imagine the conversation at CW headquarters ...
CW Exec 1: We need to promote Privileged better. Can we get a big celebrity to pop by that we can market?
CW Exec 2: We can get Pete Wentz.
CW Exec 1: Uh ... OK. Is that it? ... OK. He's the singer of a rock band, right, Fall Out Boy?
CW Exec 2: He's not actually the singer.
CW Exec 1: We can't even get the frontman of the band?
CW Exec 2: Well, you could make the argument that he's like a co-frontman, even though he's not the singer. He's more so the public face of the band, and he does most of the talking to the audience when the band is in concert. So maybe he is the frontman. Or co-frontman. It's complicated.
CW Exec 1: I work at the CW. I don't do complicated.
CW Exec 2: Sorry, forgot.
CW Exec 1: But Wentz just married Ashlee Simpson, right? So can we get them both, like a package deal?
CW Exec 2: I doubt it.
CW Exec 1: Or better yet, their new kid. People always love to see celebrity babies.
CW Exec 2: Why is that, exactly?
CW Exec 1: No idea. Can we get the kid?
CW Exec 2: I'm pretty sure we're stuck with just Pete Wentz.
CW Exec 1: So if I were to ask if we could actually get Ashlee's sister instead ...
CW Exec 2: I don't think the entire network has enough money for that.
CW Exec 1: Well, all right. Pete Wentz it is. Privileged needs all the help it can get, even if that's not a whole lot.
Andy: Yeah, tell me about it. I almost cried when I saw the ratings last week.
CW Exec 1: Who are you? Get out of my office.
With Luis out of town at a culinary seminar ("He named a quiche after me," Sage coos), Sage gets to refocus on her main priority before Luis showed up, which was trying to become famous with the help of the girls' publicist. It basically entails showing up at all the A-list parties, and Rose and Sage head out to a record release party. There, they bump into Rose's ex Max and Pete Wentz, who ultimately turns out to be onscreen for, like, thirty seconds tops. Max corrals them all into a photo, and proceeds to wrap his arm around Rose just as the picture is being snapped.
The photo of Sage, Rose, Max and Pete Wentz ends up making it onto Perez Hilton's website, and Rose's current boyfriend Zach is disheartened when it's shown to him. Zach shares his frustration with Rose, who tries to downplay the whole thing as not a big deal. It's not actually Max's arm around Rose that troubles Zach, but rather the big picture here - going to this type of social event is the kind of thing that Rose used to do with Max, and Rose will continue to do with Sage, but Rose will be unable to do with Zach because this just isn't Zach's scene. Zach is just a unflashy, somewhat nerdy but very nice kid who will never fit into that social scene, the same scene where Rose thrives. Zach knows that Rose isn't going to give up that lifestyle, and Zach isn't going to ask her to do it anyway. It might just be the issue that breaks them up.
Later on, as Rose and Sage are prepping for yet another event, neither one is at all into it. Both girls realize how stressed out these events are making them, as they're clogging their schedule and keeping them from spending time with their boyfriends. Megan makes the unheard-of suggestion that maybe the girls could just skip an event or two, but Sage makes a legitimately convincing argument that they just can't. This is their "career" path, and they can't mess around with it, as Patricia the publicist has convinced them that continuing to go to these parties and get noticed is the way to achieve their goals. By that definition, these events are each a more important homework assignment than anything the girls do with Megan.
Meanwhile, Marco is sitting at a career crossroads of a slightly more mature nature. Marco has been doing everything possible to try to keep his mind off Keith, including rearranging the kitchen and blitzing through a series of Friends DVDs (because, of course, there were never any relationship troubles on that show that would possibly remind Marco of his love life), and it's not working. He finally decides that the only way he'll be able to successfully get Keith off his mind is to attack a much bigger goal. He's going to kickstart the restaurant dream, all on his own.
Well, not really all on his own. Laurel made a promise to him, way back when Marco was apparently first hired, that she would help him chase his restaurant dream, so Marco has now come to collect on that promise. Laurel has Marco draw up a proposal, and after checking it out, Laurel offers her full support. Marco has a location in mind, an existing restaurant whose owner is closing the business, and Marco decides to sample the location for himself. Unfortunately, he ends up spotting Keith in the process.
Later, Laurel checks back in with Marco, and writes a check to cover Marco's first payment on the location. But Marco has now realized that he doesn't want to go through with it. He realizes now that the restaurant was his and Keith's dream, together, and chasing that dream on his own no longer feels so fulfilling. Laurel completely understands, and simply tells Marco to hold onto the check, so that he can use it whenever he feels ready. But first, Marco has a new priority. He tells Megan later that it's time to proceed with a mission, Operation Get Keith Back.
This talk of covert missions is a nice bookend, because as we head back to the very beginning of the episode, Will jokes about spy missions in the episode's first scene. Megan has come to see Will to explain that Shelby, and the $25,000 Will gave her, are gone. Megan wonders if Will gave her a check or a briefcase full of cash, and Will notes that only people in Mission: Impossible actually traffic in briefcases full of cash. Hee! I actually did a whole treatise on my old website about briefcases full of cash, specifically shiny silver briefcases. Moral of the story: if you ever see a shiny silver briefcase, steal that briefcase immediately, because it is guaranteed to be full of cash. Nobody has ever, ever used a shiny silver briefcase for anything other than making shady underhanded cash deals.
While Megan is at Will's house, she bumps into Will's dad, unfortunately first mistaking him for the butler. Mr. Davis kindly shrugs that one off and invites Megan to a family dinner.
If Megan is upset at her mother, then Lily may actually have even more reason to be upset. Shelby didn't even once bother to see her while she was in town. And whatever abandonment issues Megan may have regarding her mother, those issues are actually compounded with Lily, because Lily has the added experience of Megan abandoning her too years ago. All in all, Lily just feels like nobody in the family takes her seriously.
Arthur, meanwhile, is unwilling to believe that Shelby really would have taken the money and left as she did. He thinks there must be some mixup that Shelby will be able to explain when she returns. Megan knows that this is the exact same way he reacted when Shelby left the first time, being completely in denial. Megan worries that it could set her father off on a slippery slope, back into alcohol abuse and the further disintegration of the family. So once again, Megan is forced to assume the parent role over everyone in the family. It is precisely the trap she didn't want to fall into when she returned to Palm Beach.
Will reminds her of just that, that when Megan first got here she was adamant about keeping her distance from her family drama, because she didn't want to fall back into her old habits of having to take care of everyone. Will suggests that she just take some time away from them and let her family try to take care of themselves for a little while.
Megan tries to follow through with that, but trying and doing are two very different things. The night of her scheduled dinner with Will's parents, Megan is summoned by a panicked phone call from Lily that their father is having an emergency. The "emergency," it turns out, is that Arthur wants to sell his boat in order to pay back the $25,000 he believes they owe Will. Part of the reason Arthur is so insistent on paying is that he still believes that Shelby may have taken the money for legitimate reasons, that maybe she needed money for something serious that she couldn't tell anyone about but will be able to in time. Megan tries to correct him about his denial one more time, but gets frustrated and just tells her father and her sister that they'll deal with this all later. Megan leaves for Will's, over Lily's pouting that Megan is just turning her back on them once again.
When Megan finally makes it to Will's house, it's no more comfortable there. The day before, Lily had also swung by Will's house. Lily never believed Megan's story about what happened with their mom, so she needed Will to confirm it in order to believe it. When Will noted how bad he felt about Lily being in jail and how he just wanted to help her, Lily was touched, and decided to plant a thank-you kiss on him. So now, a day later, Will tries to awkwardly explain to Megan what happened. Megan says they'll talk about it later.
The Davis family, it turns out, is completely normal. Shockingly normal, in fact. They're kind to each other, supportive of one another, and altogether very sweet - and all of this freaks Megan out, because seeing families loving one another always makes her feel bad about her own. Megan proceeds to lock herself in the bathroom. When Will finds her, Megan has a breakdown about how Will's family is so perfect, and her family is so not perfect. Megan declares that she needs to fix her family, despite Will's suggestion to just stay out of it for a while. Will continues to be nothing but perfect and supportive, offering to help in any way he can, but Megan refuses any help, arguing that it's unfair to him.
The next morning, Megan begins her family fixer-upper, heading to the salon to see Lily. Megan apologizes for her own example of ditching Lily years ago, noting that they both know from their mother how awful that is. But while Megan and Lily are at least making an effort of patching things up, they could be in for another big jolt to the family coming soon. We see Arthur, the recovering alcoholic, having purchased a bottle of booze, which for now is locked in a cupboard.
Megan heads back to Will's place with a check for $200, which she says is the first of monthly installments to pay Will back the $25,000. Will tears up the check, arguing that the $25,000 was his fault, his responsibility. It was just like making a bad investment, Will rationalizes. He's made several of those before, and he won't take this one personally. Megan finally decides to accept that reasoning. Will also apologizes about trying to discourage Megan from spending more time with her family. Will notes that Megan's commitment to her family is one of the reasons he loves her. And with that, the L word has been dropped for the first time in the relationship. Megan swoons, and they share a big kiss. I think half the episodes of this series have concluded with Megan and Will having a big kiss in the final scene. As for the kiss between Lily and Will, it will be swept under the rug for now.
Sage and Rose, meanwhile, realize that they want more of that, the kissing people they care about, and less of the shameless attention-seeking they've been doing. Sage calls Patricia to let her know that her services will no longer be needed, freeing Sage to spend more time with Luis and Rose with Zach. But there's an underlying issue here. The whole Patricia thing was a career path that Sage was comfortable following. But if that's gone, then Sage no longer has any idea what she's going to do with her life. Megan tries to assure her that, at 16, Sage has no reason to stress out over that just yet.
See that, right there? That tiny little moment of Megan counseling Sage about preparing for the future? That's good stuff. Unfortunately, it is just a tiny little moment where many bigger, louder things are going on in this episode. I feel like the premise of the show is being totally lost right now. This makes several episodes in a row now where it seems like Megan has at most one or two scenes an episode with the girls, whose future she's really supposed to be helping to mold. Right now, Privileged is demonstrating how easy it is for the whole to be less than the sum of its parts. Each individual episode can be quite charming - I don't really think there's been a bad episode in the bunch of late - but added up, the show seems hollow, because it has really lost touch with the original premise of Megan working with Rose and Sage. Right now, this is just The Megan Smith Show, a show about Megan dealing with her family and her love life. Megan's a charming enough character that such a show works out OK, but it's not really what I want. What I want is the show where Megan is trying to make a difference in these girls' lives. As we head into the final few episodes of the season, I really hope Privileged can get back there.
"I Think That Being Famous Should Be a Result of Doing Something in Your Life." - Megan Smith
Privileged is currently filming its season finale. Scheduled to appear in the finale: Kathy Griffin. I wish that were a joke.
There is no velvet rope to the commenting section; please come one, come all. Pete Wentz: famous or not really famous? Will's family: perfect or too perfect? What do you think goes into Quiche Sage? Does it bother you that Megan seems to spend almost no time with the girls anymore?