Tuesday, October 04, 2005

TV: Sex, Love & Secrets

For about the first fifteen minutes of Sex, Love & Secrets, I hated it with a passion. It made me angry, genuinely angry that something so mind-blowingly, punishingly, insultingly awful could be allowed on television.

But as it went on, I found myself strangely mellowing toward it. I still hated it, I still recognized its unparalleled rancidness, but I began to derive some small amusement from it, rather than anger. Not a "so-bad-it's-good" amusement, like, say, Showgirls -- I still didn't enjoy it, and it didn't for a second come anywhere close to making me actually laugh, or even smile. But still, there was a certain perverse pleasure I got out of being witness to a show so brainless, so determinedly false-footed, so completely, utterly wrong in its every move and instinct.

The badness begins with an omniscient narrator whose rap is so blatantly stolen from Desperate Housewives that Brenda Strong should sue for identity theft. The narrator's patter is an idiotic mishmash of clunky exposition and dimestore philosophy, centered on the theme of "secrets." Her script -- the entire script, actually -- sounds as though it was written by a committee of frat boys who failed out of their Philosophy 101 classes due to chronic absenteeism caused by alcohol poisoning.

The characters are unanimously reprehensible and repellent, from the hairdressing Warren Beatty-wannabe whom every woman in Los Angeles County wants to sleep with, despite his resemblance to a homeless junkie, to the jittery, bug-eyed, virginal wallflower who secretly loves him, to the skanky blonde who picks him up for sex while her doormat musician boyfriend is playing onstage no more than ten feet away, to the almost-engaged couple, who are the blandest blahs ever to blandly blah across the TV screen, to the randomly bitchy Denise Richards, whose character is completely superfluous.

The show is all style, and the style is shit. It's all machine gun cuts and whip-pans and unnecessary morphing. The director obviously spent all his time thinking of obnoxious camera trickery and none of it coaxing performances out of the actors. Not that Scorsese could have helped this group bring their roles to life.

There are times when the awfulness seems intentional, as though those involved were attempting an ironic statement on badness, instead of simply being bad. I could almost sense a wink at the audience once or twice -- such as when the female Bland McBlanderson prepares to throw her (allegedly) dead ex-boyfriend's (alleged) ashes into the ocean... from a rocky cliff a football field away... with a strong headwind in her face. For a second, I thought, "Have these people actually seen The Big Lebowski? Is that where we're going with this?" But no, instead, when the wind dies, she tosses handfuls of ash off the cliff, where it drifts to ground a hundred feet from the water. No winking; merely (and sincerely) stupid.

If humorous meta-commentary on the soap genre is what the show was going for, it fails miserably. If it was intended as straight drama, its failure is hundredfold.

But all this would appear to be moot. According to this article (found via Teevee), UPN has already halted production on the show. So why spend all this virtual ink on a show already dead in the water? Well, #1, I promised I'd review all these damn shows, and I meant it. And #2, I can't let something this uniquely horrendous die a quiet death. Sex, Love & Secrets deserves a good, steel-toed kicking while it's down. Followed by a quick, merciful bullet to the back of its diseased, misshapen head.

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