On… Riverdale

I realized something recently.

I love soaps.

I don’t mean corny stupid rubbish. I mean sex and fighting, basically. And shouting and laughing and crying, and more sex. That’s the core of all the best shows, right?

You know those dramas where they put in a “high concept” murder/horror/medical edge, to supposedly add stakes? I usually don’t care much about that part of the show. I care about the people. If they feel real, and the way they talk and relate to each other feels real, I’ll watch that show forever. (Especially if they’re surprising and original and brash and feminist.) If not, I just seriously don’t give a fuh who the murderer is. And you know those wacky sitcoms that are just a bunch of punchlines strung together and could basically be cartoons and you wouldn’t notice the difference? They also leave me cold, I can’t even remember a single plot line. But give me a sitcom with real people and sex and emotion and I’m a devotee for life. I watch GLOW for the characters and the writing. Not the lady wrestling. You’re The Worst, Friends From College, Crashing, Catastrophe… all of them have an element of soap. That’s why I watch them. Punchlines are cheap. Emotion is hard.

I don’t mean that I only like relationship drama. I still watch The Americans for the spy stories. I watch Billions for the financial intrigue. I loved the legal plot lines in The Good Wife and The Good Fight. But did I watch Scandal for the political stuff? Hell, no. I watched it for the insanely passionate speeches. (Try this.) And I wasn’t watching This Is Us last year to find out how Jack died, I was watching it to see what Sterling K Brown would do this week, and how it would make me cry. (Seriously you guys, I am starting a company that will send out support animals to help people watch This Is Us.)  I sometimes turn on This Is Us thinking to myself ‘right then, chaps, who’s making the grand gesture or big speech this time?’ – but I still get incredibly emotionally involved in it EVERY WEEK. Because the characters and the writing is so damn great. That’s good soap.

I think everyone likes soap, and they’re just in denial, because they don’t think it’s cool.

I shopped a soapy spec pilot last year. It’s a character-driven family drama, called Relativity. And when I was meeting with people about it, everyone said ‘we LOVE but can we add some kind of procedural element/murder/court case to it?’ And I – being the newbie, and also being a people-pleaser – said, ‘um, sure, I can try that, I can try anything, whatever you like!’ But eventually, I sold it to Universal, and they – because they are brilliant – decided not to add anymore layers to it. They liked the relationships, they liked that it was a smart soap, and thought it was stronger as a show about complicated grown-up families. (They asked me to add more ‘gut-wrenching’ moments to it, so I did, and now even I find the pilot hard to read without crying. Laaaaaaame.) Maybe someone will make it, maybe someone won’t… Cross your fingers for me. I also sold a pitch to ABC Network, and just sent in the final pilot script. It’s called Mavericks, and it’s a – yes – soapy drama about start-ups, set in a We Work type communal workspace. It has a darker edge – it’s about what people will do in order to succeed. Again, cross your fingers… Anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about the reason for this post:


I LOVE Riverdale. Season One was brilliant, Season Two is better. Are you watching it? It’s basically an Archie comic, updated to modern day, with a tedious-but-okay-fine-whatever murder-mystery element, filmed with a really heavy grey-blue Instagram filter.

In other words: teen-soap-noir.

And it WORKS! Sometimes the story goes off on crazy tangents, and it irritates me that the town is progressive enough to accept gay teen boys yet the shocking shame of a pregnant teenage girl is enough to break a family apart, but apart from that, I love it.

Watch. Enjoy.

PS At the end of an episode in S1, they played nouvelle vague cover of Wang Chung’s Dance Hall Days. That alone deserves a watch, no?

PPS Obviously, I am partial to a hot ginger – I married one – but seriously for real Archie is pretty damn hot.



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On… the other thing

Okay, so I’m just going to close my eyes and hold my nose and jump into the water: yes, last year was a challenge in a few key ways. I didn’t talk about it here or anywhere else, I just threw myself into writing and my tiny sons and happy things like movies and TV shows and books and music. (And beauty products, natch.) I didn’t want to focus on sadness, or burden other people with it. I would always – pathetically – much rather laugh and feel good and make other people laugh and feel good, too. I even remember trying to comfort near-strangers at my own father’s funeral. (“Oh, it’s okay, thank you, it’s fine, no no, it’s fine, don’t worry, how are YOU?” etc. Who does that? I mean, seriously.) And having a job where I have to make up shit for a living – where I have to think like another person in another life – is the best for avoiding bad feelings. Who’s sad? Not me! I’m pretending to not be me. All good here.

Writers: totally delusional, in the best possible way.

Anyway. Then my friend asked me if I’d write something for her post about what 2017 taught people, and we deliberated a bit because I’m boringly private and tend to keep social media stuff to personality not personal… and then I thought, well, fuck it. This has sucked, if someone else is going through something similar, I want her to know she’s not alone. So, person out there who is having a hard time: you are not alone.

I’m glad I did. I’ve received so many emails from lovely women offering support and empathy. Thank you, lovely women.

2018 will be better.

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On… Alone Together

Watched the pilot of this show on Hulu the other night and laughed an inordinate amount. Highly recommend.

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On… Diane by Cam

‘Diane’ by Cam.

Catchy as fuck, non?

I kind of like songs with names in them. But let’s not revisit My Sharona and Billie Jean (YAWN). Let’s just pick some good ones you haven’t heard in a while. Like…

‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town’ by Cake.

‘Sweet Jane’ by the Cowboy Junkies.

‘Hey, Paula’ by Paul and Paula.

‘Stacy’s Mom’ by Fountains Of Wayne.

‘Diana’ by Paul Anka.

‘Fernando’ by Abba.



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On… Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is even better in Season Three.

You know that feeling when you make friends with someone and feel immediately, impossibly, overwhelmingly delighted by her company?

That’s what it’s like with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s SO intelligent and funny and creative and original and warm and sharp and good. Everything about this show makes me happy. If you haven’t checked it out yet… do.


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On… hangover makeup

On Saturday, we had planned a quiet, early evening grown-up Burgess family dinner.

Fox and I are taking the boys to Ireland for Christmas, so the plan was to have an ersatz-Christmas dinner, with my mother and sister and her husband. That morphed into a long late Burgess family lunch, with all of us PLUS our children and their baby and toy cars and colored pencils and iPads and prosecco and beer and wurst and pretzels and schnitzel at this lovely place. Then Fox and I still had an evening sitter booked, so we decided to go out just the two of us for martinis and burgers. Because THAT’S what you need after an afternoon of wurst and beer. And then our friends Joanna and Alex texted and said, hey come to a party in Brooklyn, and next thing you know we were drinking mystery punch and doing a nose competition at the funnest house party ever.

Then Ned and Errol woke at 630am.

Why do they only wake this early on weekends? I mean seriously.

And the hangover commenced.

I once had a hangover so bad that I had to call this service. It wasn’t like that this time, maybe because I was uncharacteristically conscious of drinking water all evening. (Is that a sign that I am finally, truly, a grown-up?) On the hangover scale, it was maybe a 3 out of 10. And yet, I was still a bit blurggg. My skin felt like old newspaper: dry and crinkly and a little grubby. My eyes were bloodshot and watery. Short of going back to bed for ten hours, which was never going to happen because CHILDREN, I needed to fix myself.

First: rehydration and sustenance.

I always carried Diorlyte in my wallet in my 20s in London. So classy, I know. Some girls have a lot of sex and carry around condoms. Me, I had a lot of fun in bars, so I carried rehydration salts. Children’s Pedialyte is even better. It’s pre-mixed (because WHO has the TIME to MIX STUFF) and tastes quite lovely. So I sipped Pedialyte and a double espresso, and made breakfast: a fried egg on this seedy bread with lots of salty Irish butter and kim chi sauce on the side.


I bought this CosRx Overnight Honey Mask on a whim (oh, how many times can I start a sentence that way) a few months ago, and have tried it eight or nine times now so can confidently recommend it. It’s hydrating and calming and cooling, all at the same time. Just what you need on a slight hangover. Also important for a hangover: it doesn’t smell of anything, and it’s not too sticky or slimy or thick. So I threw that on, put this in my eyes and these magical things under them. While waiting for all these products to earn their keep, I ate breakfast.

Then I was exhausted. So I lay on the rug with my small boys for a while, playing Lego with one eye open. I’m very good at playing Lego with one eye open.

NOW. There is no point applying eye make-up when you’re hungover. It won’t stick, it’ll make puffy eyes even puffier, it’ll just look sad and old and nasty. The best that you can hope for is to even out your skin tone and look fresh and healthy.


First, apply that crazysexycool squalene unguent. A couple of drops on the cheeks, one on your forehead, smear it around a bit.

51LdiMFFNvL._SX522_Then put a pea-size amount of Becca Skin Perfector in Pearl on the back of your hand, and rub it into the tops of your cheekbones and forehead. It’s very very subtle, which means you can slap it around. You’ll wonder if it’s worth the effort at this point. Trust me, it is. Becca Skin Perfector makes you look like you drank green juice and swam in an icy-cold sea every day for the last decade.


Next: foundation. I have an old Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick that my mother gave me because it was too pale for her. I only use it when I’m tres tired and need extra help. (Normal foundation is too watery for hangovers, and concealer is too thick to apply everywhere.) Paint yourself a teeny-tiny  little goatee in broad stripes. I know, you feel like one of those ridiculous make-up things on Pinterest, but trust me, when it comes to hangover skin, this is necessary. Paint that goatee. Call yourself Freud. You’ll like it. (When you’re buying your foundation stick, by the way, err on the side of yellow. It counteracts the ruddiness in your hangover skin.)

Take a squared-off buffing brush – I like this one – and buff in the foundation stick. Make sure you get it down under your chin and along your jaw. You may want to use your fingertips to really press the foundation in around your nose. Foundation stick seems to like the human touch. (Don’t we all?)


Now take a pale pink, slightly glowy blush – I have an ancient one from Tarte called Flush that I trot out for hangovers. Splodge it on to the centre of your cheeks. Less is more, especially if you’re prone to hangover flush.

And lip balm. That’s it. You’re done.

NB: This make-up won’t last all day. Hangovers eat make-up. A weird but true phenomenon. But it’ll see you through brunch, or Christmas shopping, or, as in my case, two hours of Super Soccer Stars in the West Village. Sunglasses, perfume, air of ennui, and you’re good to go.





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On… scatterbalms

I have many crosses to bear. Patchy eyebrows. Poor numerical skills. Inability to pronounce ‘chagrin’*.

And most of all, my lips, which are always on the verge of chapping. Naturally, I have developed many very strong opinions about which lip balms are best. But I often forget to put them on – especially when I’m writing intensely. (In fact, if I’m really into something, I forget to eat or pee or even breathe.) So I tend to scatter them around the house and in every coat pocket and bag and next to the sink and next to my keyboard and in that crevice in the sofa where the fucking Apple remote always hides. The idea is that I’ll stumble across them throughout the day, think ‘ooh, yeah, lip balm’, and voila, lovely lips. This is incredibly annoying for people who need to go through my pockets, for say, dry-cleaning purposes (Fox: “WHY are there focking LIPBALMS and PENS and TAMPONS in EVERY POCKET YOU OWN, WOMAN?” He is Irish and famously loud and says ‘fock’ with an ‘o’, but enough about him, let’s talk about meeeeeee).

Here are my top three scatterbalms:


Dermophil Indien

Fox and I lived in Zurich for just over one year, though it felt like muuuuuuuch longer. I spent most of the year vomiting (I was pregnant with Errol), writing (my third book, my first spec screenplay), missing London (so much I ached), and determinedly planning to move to beautiful New York (so intensely I got lockjaw). It takes a special kind of numbskull to resent a place for not being another place. I am that numbskull. Zurich and I never made friends.

But I did make friends with the beauty products. (Obviously.) Most Swiss beauty products are overrated and overpriced (I’m looking at you, La Prairie), but Karin Herzog is great, I liked this cleanser, and if you happen to find yourself in Switzerland, stock up on the giant cotton pads at Coop for make-up removal and the Weleda oil for stretch marks and most of all, Dermophil Indien lip balm. Dermophil Indien is French (you can tell, because when you say the name, you automatically pout) and was originally developed to treat First World War soldiers with frost bite. (This story MAY not be true but let’s pretend it is.) Dermophil Indien is my perfect lip balm: not too hard, not too soft, not too shiny, not too sticky, doesn’t smell, doesn’t taste, doesn’t tingle, just moisturizes the shit out of your lips. You can slick it on at night and it’s still there in the morning. It’s. Awesome. Its small, fits into the tiniest clutch or wallet, and comes in a three-pack, so you can start your scattering right away.


DHC Lip Cream.

I’m not a huge fan of the oil cleanser by DHC, though people swear by it, I far prefer Nude or the classic Shu Uemura – but this lip cream is EXCELLENT. It’s rather elegant to take out in public, too. Slightly shinier than the Dermophil, if that’s your bag.



Lanisoh Nipple Cream.

So here’s the thing about nipple cream: it doesn’t like the cold, so you can’t take it outside. If it spends more than 20 minutes in anything below blood temperature, it gets very very thick and nasty and cement-like, and never quite recovers. But in the middle of winter, when your lips are about to fall off and walk out the door from dryness, and you keep accidentally peeling skin off your lips with your teeth while you’re thinking about something else and then whoops realize you’ve made yourself actually BLEED, fucks sake Gemma, then Lanisoh is the only answer. Keep this in your bathroom, near the heater, and slap a big glob on your mouth every night after you brush your teeth. It’ll still be on when you wake up. Sometimes I put it on my eyes, around my nose if I have a cold – anywhere that gets dry. It’s the best. If you happen to be breastfeeding an infant with a faulty latch and find that your nipples are a war zone, it’s good for that too. So is this stuff. But we’re not talking about breastfeeding, we’re talking about lips.

Okay. Back to writing. Oy.

*Did I put this in a book once? I CAN NEVER REMEMBER. Especially my first two books, which are full of silly asides and chatter straight from my brain. Anyway, it’s true.




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On… a make-up stocking

It’s the most wonderful time of the okay never mind let’s get on with it.

Guys, I have written about Christmas stockings before, so you know how much I love them. This year, my sister and I decided to give each other beauty-focused Christmas stockings. Each of us is confident (in a slightly competitive way) that she will nail it. We capped it at $125, which is a totally arbitrary number, but also the kind of number that is important because it buys a perfectly nice sweater from J Crew or a TRUCK LOAD OF AWESOME MAKE-UPPY THINGS FROM EVERYWHERE.

This is what I’m getting her. (If she is reading this, SPOILER ALERT.) (No seriously Anika stop reading this.)


1. NYC Professional Make-Up Illuminator Lid Lingerie Eye Tint $7

When it comes to improbably cheap eye make-up, I tend to test it on the back of my hand, stare at it and make a little ‘mph!’ sound, wander around the store, examine my hand again ten minutes later, try to smudge it, and if I’m sufficiently intrigued I go back, try it on my eyes, and then carry on with my day. THEN, at about 9pm that night, I make my judgement. Yes. It is a nine-step process.


I had glowy, almost-but-not metallic, almost-but-not glittery eyelids, ALL DAY. They didn’t crease. They didn’t smear. They didn’t wear unevenly. They didn’t make me look crusted with paint, like one of those sweet-but-oh-so-sad make-up obsessives on the Anastasia Instagram feed. They just did what they said they would do. They were like a really good boyfriend.

I went right back to buy them, and many many days of wearing them later, I still love them. So will you.

The secret is to choose two colors and combine them on the back of your hand – I like the silvery Fame & Fortune combined with the dark taupe-ish Night Glow - then tap them on your eyelid with your ring finger. All over your eyelid, out to make a little wing, underneath to add drama, everywhere, you can’t mess it up.

This stuff is so great that you could apply it drunk, standing at a dirty mirror above a bathroom sink in a crappy bar, with one eye closed, wobbling slightly, while you simultaneously listened to your best friend, who is taking a slash at the same time, shout under the stall about her ex – and you would still nail it. If I was in my 20s, i.e., with the kind of life where getting drunk might happen anytime, anywhere, at any point in December, then I’d stash this in my bag for the entire month. They are instant party.

(BTW if you’re in the UK or elsewhere, try ASOS for all your NYX needs.)


2. Benefit Dandelion Blush $15 

The perfect everyday blush: Benefit Dandelion Blush in its adorable mini size for $15 or splurge on the full-size for $29.  This will give you a sort of a flushed glow – a bit of contour, a bit of highlighter, a bit of color, all at once. Don’t use the dinky little square blush brush it comes with, though, because it’s simply ridiculous. Instead, use:


3. Morphe #E51 Deluxe Angle Blush $17

This is the blush brush you have been looking for. It never complains. It never shreds. It never collects make-up and looks all defeated and cracked-out, like my Sephora brushes. It’s just a good little workhorse that delivers a perfect cheek time after time, and it will never let you down.


4. MAC Ruby Woo Mini $10

Whenever I can, these days, I buy a mini lipstick rather than a full-size. Why? Because [lights cigarette, looks you right in the eye] full-size lipsticks are [points cigarette at you to emphasize her point] bullshit.

No one is ever going to use up an entire lipstick. It’s never going to happen. Ever. If you use up an entire mini lipstick, then buy the full-size one with my blessing. But you will almost certainly not use it up. Because favorite lipsticks, like favorite songs, have a shelf-life. And one day, you will be sick of them. Trust me. I used to wear MAC Syrup lipstick while drinking Godfather cocktails, eating chocolate-covered brazil nuts and listening to The Ting Tings and all those things make me want to fall asleep now. Everything changes. (Apart from perfumes, those are forever. Except the ones that remind you of your exs. Obviouslah.)

Even better? Mini lipsticks negate the need for a separate lipliner. They do the job for you.


Here’s the thing about Ruby Woo. It is a wondrous red. It truly is. It makes your teeth whiter and your skin smoother and your eyes whatever-they-may-be-er. It works on every single person in the entire world.

It is also drying as fuh. It looks cracked and patchy after three hours. And it takes your lips down with it: they take a day to recover. So in order to even consider wearing Ruby Woo, you need to get:


5. MAC Prep + Prime Lips $17.50

This prevents your lips from chapping, while keeping bold matte lipstick in place, all day. Guaranteed.

Yes. A lip primer is an odd choice for a Christmas stocking, because it’s not particularly interesting. But just wait until you use it. Then you’ll understand. I discovered it a couple of years ago, when a very gorgeous young woman walked into an elevator I was in, and I said ‘LOVE THE LIPSTICK! Ruby Woo?!’ and she said ‘Yes!’ in a kind of scared way, and I said something like ‘I love Ruby Woo, but it dries my lips out, woe is me’ and she fished the MAC Prep + Prime out of her purse and said ‘This is the secret! This is the only lip primer that does what it promises to do! It’s the only way to wear Ruby Woo!’ Then we left the elevator and Fox was like ‘oh man, she was so scared of you’. Ha. I think she liked me. Whatever. Side bar: I wonder how many lip primers she tried to get to MAC Prep + Prime. More than ten?


6. Mothermade Snail Masks $17

On a hangover, the concept of a snail mask is enough to make me retch. But when I’m just feeling a bit dry and ordinary – and frankly, when aren’t I? – then the snail mask is my favorite pick-me-up. It’s also unusual enough to make up for the boringness of the MAC Prep + Prime, too. A good Christmas stocking addition.


7. Grace and Stella DePuffing Collagen Eye Masks $17

I bought these on a whim and I ADORE THEM. They really do make the entire under-eye area look brighter, smoother, more moisturized. And smarter. Yeah. I think they make me look smarter. (Funny how we only use positive words in beauty copywriting, huh? What I really want to say is ‘less haggard and wrinkly, less puffy and bloated, less dumb’. But then by the time I get to ‘dumb’ we all want to crawl into a hole in the ground and wail. We should not wail. I just finished this wonderful book and honestly I’m just so glad I’m not living through the Terror in France after the Revolution, with thousands and thousands of innocent people being guillotined left right and center and the streets running thick with blood, that I will never wail again.)

How much does that come to? $125? More or less, depending on how many NYX lingerie tints? I’m not a numbers guy. Right. That should do it. 514S7e4b8WLWhatever I have left, I’ll fill with a British chocolate she loves, called Revels. Revels all look more or less the same from the outside, right? Little chocolate ball things of various sizes. But inside might be raisins, an orange-y thing, a coffee crumble thing, a malteser-type thing, plain milk chocolate or toffee. YOU CAN NEVER TELL UNTIL YOU EAT IT WHICH ONE IT’S GOING TO BE. What kind of a MONSTER invented this?!?! This chocolate STRESSES me OUT. (Yes, I am too much of a control freak to handle the uncertainty of surprise chocolate. In every other way I am perfectly normal I swear.)

Happy nearly-Christmas! I will post more in December. I promise.







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