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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Tuesday (7/7/09) 4:25pm - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

[A day late because I was a bit narcoleptic last night.]

Movies:  <none>
TV:  Grosse Pointe [1x01-1x06]
Books:  <none>



Grosse Pointe [1x01-1x06]
First off:  yes, I admit it, I only decided to watch this because it has Irene Molloy in it.  There.  Are you happy?

Grosse Pointe, in addition to being the only TV show Ms. Molloy did apart from Andy Richter Controls the Universe, was a single-camera comedy from Darren Star about the backstage shenanigans on the set of a teenage soap opera.  It was made in 2000, and was styled after contemporary teen soaps like Dawson's Creek and Popular -- but really it's a roman á clef[1] about Starr's time in the trenches at Beverly Hills 90210.  The wikipedia page even includes a helpful chart that shows which character on Grosse Pointe represents which actor from 90210.

It's a promising scenario, but this show is pretty much doomed from the start.  Why? because it's a satire on a major broadcast network.  That just tends to be a bad match from the start.  Networks want shows that are like Golden Retrievers:  huggable, eager to please, dumb as a bag of especially dumb hammers.  Satires, on the other hand, are meant to be like Rottweilers:  clever, fast, and mean as, well, Rottweilers.

Put a satire on a network, and you have a form that's diametrically at odds with its environment.

Here's a tiny little example of what's wrong here:  the crew shoots a scene where two of the teen-soap hunks are playing basketball.  We see hunk #1 throw a ball towards the hoop.  The ball disappears up out of frame.  Then, fwoop, it falls back into frame and goes through the basket.  After several more perfect shots, we notice that, after the ball goes up out of the shot, it falls back down at an odd angle that can't be explained by Newtonian physics.

It's a great little moment.  You realize that of course there's some sort of camera chicanery going on, and of course these two talking hairdos couldn't shoot hoops to save their lives.  You feel clever for spotting the joke.

Then they pull back to show the stagehand.  They linger on him for several seconds:  "SEE?  THERE IS A GUY WHO IS ACTUALLY DROPPING THE BASKETBALLS.  THE ACTORS ARE NOT REALLY MAKING EVERY SHOT.  IT IS A TRICK.  HA.  IT IS A FUNNY."

Um, yeah.  Thanks.  We got that.

This is just a tiny example of how slow, obvious, harmless, and broadly-telegraphed this show is.

Hey, did you know that some actresses are mean? and some actresses are insecure? and -- get this -- some actors are not very smart?  I know!  It's like they've pulled back the curtain on a wonderment of unknown showbiz lore!

Every episode, the actors lie to each other about something silly, they put themselves through the usual innocuous sitcom antics, and wind up mostly hitting the reset button at the end of act three.  It has so little to say about putting on a TV show that you marvel that Grosse Pointe and Action were contemporary shows in the same exact genre.

The characters are broad caricatures that the scripts never endow with any nuance or depth.  One actor is literally a one-joke character:  a closeted gay man lusting after the show's male lead.  That's all that we ever learn about him all season.  The satirical portrayal of the show-within-a-show is toothless -- it's a chance for the writers to indulge themselves in bad dialog, but again, it has nothing to say about the genre or the medium.

It's basically the simplest, dumbest show they could make with this particular premise.

I kind of wish it had been on F/X, and that it had been written by the bitter, bitter men who wrote Action.

At any rate, I guess I'll wind up watching the second disc of the show, too.

"Instead of watching something good?"

Yeah.

"Just because it has Irene Molloy in it?"

*sigh*  And Lindsay Sloane, yeah.  (*grumble grumble stupid hormones grumble*)

Side note:  I was surprised to learn that this TV show was scored by Mark Mothersbaugh[2], the main songwriter behind DEVO and the composer for films like The Royal Tenenbaums.  I say 'surprised' because he turns in some bland, anonymous work here.  It's like he picked up a mid-range Casio keyboard, found the setting for "zany salsa music", and just let it run for the duration of the season.

And also, if there's one thing I can't abide, it's a comedy where the soundtrack feels compelled to tell me when things are funny.  I should already *know* when things are funny.  Otherwise, they're not funny, and no musical sting will help.  Even in a show like Arrested Development -- where the uke-heavy score is front and center -- David Schwartz doesn't do the melodic equivalent of a rim shot.  And... yeah, the zany salsa music does that all over the place on this show.

On the other hand, I was pleased and shocked to see a pop song I particularly like -- "Afterschool Special" by the Nines -- show up in one of the scenes.  The Nines are one of those zillions of power-pop bands that are pretty much too melodic to be of any use to the biz, and live exclusively in the muscial ghetto of Not Lame Records and the like.

How'd they end up in a WB show?


Nothing new, podcast-wise.  I listen to a lot fewer podcasts now that I'm using my iPhone for reading most of the time.

Music-wise, I'm taking a break from classical music and catching up with Noel Murray's "Popless" column on the Onion A. V. Club.

For next time:  Idiocracy and (*sigh*) more Grosse Pointe.

________
[1] ... or "series á clef", "show á clef"... whatever, it's got á clef.
[2] I was also a little thrown, for entirely different reasons, to see that every episode was directed by "Andrew Fleming."

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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[User Picture]
From:la_directora
Date:Tuesday (7/7/09) 3:35pm
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Networks want shows that are like Golden Retrievers: huggable, eager to please, dumb as a bag of especially dumb hammers.

This made me laugh so loud I had to read it to my coworker to explain. :)

I'm curious what you end up thinking of Idiocracy. I thought it was a horrible movie.
(Reply to this) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:hujhax
Date:Tuesday (7/7/09) 7:51pm
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This made me laugh so loud I had to read it to my coworker to explain. :)

w00t!

I'm curious what you end up thinking of Idiocracy. I thought it was a horrible movie.

I'm putting together my review now.  Executive summary:  I didn't like it, but I probably didn't hate it as much as you did. *shrug*
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[User Picture]
From:la_directora
Date:Tuesday (7/7/09) 7:59pm
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I don't know that my feelings on the movie run as passionately as hate. :) I just thought it was really dumb, and that with the concept it could have been REALLY clever.

Very apropos given your analysis of satire on network television. Kind of like that. :)
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From:shadyglenn
Date:Tuesday (7/7/09) 10:40pm
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It's not exactly a model of subtlety, is it?
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From:puppybane
Date:Tuesday (7/7/09) 3:38pm
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[2] I was also a little thrown, for entirely different reasons, to see that every episode was directed by "Andrew Fleming."

Ah, yes, the director of "Threesome", "The Craft," and "Dick". And my mortal enemy. I *will* be the most popular Andy Fleming on Google if I have to ...do ...something. Maybe post more Linux patches?
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[User Picture]
From:hujhax
Date:Tuesday (7/7/09) 7:48pm
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THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!
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