Wednesday, July 21, 2010
WHERE WERE WE? So, while we were talking about other things, it's been decided by all the leading lights that a black person who thinks, "Let his own people take care of him" and then decides at last to do the right thing is someone owed an apology and a government job. Aren't we glad that's settled? Me too. But the cacophony of all those conservatives falling on their swords belt-buckle first is giving me a case of tinnitus. The buzzing is so bad I can't hear myself think about how generous liberals would be with a racially conflicted white man who did the right thing while openly admitting his own lifelong prejudice against black people. I could hear them standing up and cheering such an inspiring moral parable if it weren't for the ringing, ringing, ringing in my disgusted ears.
Which is why, I suppose, I'm suddenly back to the task of promoting the best of summer TV during this long, hot, incredibly inane summer. Speaking of inane...
Drop Dead Diva.***
Don't laugh. It's a delightful dessert souffle with a kick of Cognac inside. It's ridiculously easy to criticize -- the liberties it takes with due process alone are sufficient to render it star free -- but there's something, well, ineffably sweet about it. I shouldn't say this, or admit it in public at any rate, but I really like this show. The premise is absurd. A shallow Beverly Hills model has an accident in her BMW because she's chatting on her cellphone and dies. Kewl. But when she gets past the pearly gates, her lifelong sense of entitlement causes her to trespass on heaven's keyboard, thus returning her to earth in the body of a fat woman ten years her elder. Worse, she's an attorney at a law firm where her erstwhile fiance is a junior associate. With me so far? None of this would work without a wonder of an actress in the fat girl role. But lo and behold, that's exactly what we get. Her name is Brooke Elliott and she's absolutely out of nowhere, but wonder she is, with a fine comedic touch, a beauty that bursts through her avoirdupois, and an amazing ability to navigate lightweight scripts -- somehow tacking between farce and heartbreak in a way that forces you to watch, like, and believe her. The girlfriend (April Bowlby) who knows the secret of her reincarnation is another comedic jewel, playing the wisest dumb blonde since Judy Holiday. Even the two Lesbians in the regular cast (I cannot bring myself to name them) are more winning here than they've ever been before. Guys, get over yourselves. If this is the worst chickstuff your wife ever forces on you, count yourself among the lucky ones.
The rating is a compromise. Mrs. CP gives it three stars, and I give it two. How to describe it? It's the modern day incarnation of the Rockford Files. Michael is a career spy suddenly and mysteriously blacklisted and more or less confined to Miami. He has friends, but with friends like his, who needs enemies? In a clear tip to Rockford, Michael's mom is Sharon Gless ( a Rockford regular), a role in which she's every bit as annoying and endearing as Noah Beery was as Rockford's dad. There's also Bruce Campbell, a much improved incarnation of Angel, and in a nicely new touch, Gabrielle Anwar as a homicidal IRA-ish assassin (retired) who loves Michael when she isn't having a full-blown psychotic episode. The writing is excellent in the voiceovers that describe high-tech espionage tricks, though less credible when it comes to character and plot development. But the payoffs can be delicious. A long-running female villain of the show came into Gabrielle's rifle sight at the end of one season, and when she died from a single shot to the head, Bruce Campbell told a very satisfied Gabrielle, "I know you want to savor the moment, but we gotta go." The show is not nearly as consistent as Rockford, and sometimes it's too cute for its own good, but it is fun.
Yes, it's a Stephen King thing. And, yes, it's continuously amazing that Stephen King's incompetent dialogue somehow infects scripts adapted, rewritten, whatever, by professional scriptwriters. However. There's this conflicted female FBI agent. And this weird but quaint town in Maine. Where everybody might have some weird secret. Dumb? Sure. But I've seen two episodes and I may watch a third. There's a certain charming eccentricity about it... On the other hand, the biggest problem with most Stephen King conceptions isn't that his characters are ludicrously overdone; it's that his third act never lives up to his first. He doesn't deliver the goods. I'm thinking that'll be the case here, too, but as I said, I'm going to watch one more time at least.
All right. I told you I'd let you know if the CP-Mrs. CP average was out of whack. That's the case here. She gives it three stars and I give it one and a half. The premise is that a gifted Chicago homicide cop gets exiled to Florida because his boss shot him for sleeping with said boss's wife (which our hero cop denies). He hates Florida (kewl) and is so over the top in his investigative style that mostly everyone else hates him too. Except for the mouthy emergency room nurse who's raising a son whose dad is in prison while she's struggling through medical school. Okay? To me, he's House reconfigured as a cop, egotistical, obnoxious, and overdone. But Mrs. CP likes him. Why? Maybe I should keep my mouth shut at this point.
Two stars because it's half a great TV show. Here's what I love: the imaginative use of old high technology. Computers with manual typewriter keys. Cell phones with fifties caliber TV screens. The colossal warehouse ripped off from the final scenes of Citizen Kane and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here's what I hate: The male protagonist, half of the federal team which constitutes the operative arm of a secret organization charged with protecting the warehouse and its paranormal relics from bad guys and such. He's a dolt and a cartoon. Here's what I love: The museum curator, the new girl with the smart mouth and the purple streak in her hair, the consistently literary plots involving Poe, H. G. Wells, Dante, and even Sylvia Plath. Here's what I hate: The male protagonist. He's like the butt of every dumb male joke in every commercial on television. Mrs. CP doesn't even agree with the two stars. Just so you know. But there's such a good idea hiding inside this mess of a show that I can't let it go. Not yet. And the female agent isn't half bad. Kind of a secondthird string Olivia from Fringe.
Rizzoli & Isles.**
This one gave me two surprises. First, Angie Harmon is a lot better at playing a no-nonsense cop than I'd ever have expected. She's not as pretty as she used to be, but she's more attractive. Can't say the same for her partner, who turns out to be Kate from NCIS, the one got shot in the head while Special Agent Gibbs was standing helplessly at her side. Then she was a slick, slim former Secret Service agent. Now she's a mousy, shy, vaguely dowdy and possibly plump medical examiner. Oh well. Mrs. CP fell asleep, so there's no way to know if my sort of liking this unoriginal cop show is due to my infallible quality antennae or to my old guy admiration for a mature woman with a provocatively husky voice. I'm sure you'll tell me which of these is the case within moments of posting.
Meaning, about now. Happy viewing, campers.