Sunday, January 07, 2007

TV: Dirt; In Case of Emergency

I just watched husband and wife David Arquette and Courteney Cox's two new shows back-to-back. Because I hate myself.

Cox is starring in the new FX drama, Dirt, and Arquette is in the new ABC sitcom, In Case of Emergency. Remember when husband and wife Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen starred together in the sitcom Ink? Wasn't that awful? But at least they had the decency to limit the awfulness to one single program. Arquette and Cox have to spread their shame across two different shows, taking up a full hour and a half of airtime every week. That's just mean.

On Dirt, Cox (who has been going by "Courteney Cox Arquette" for years now, but who is here billed once again as just "Courteney Cox," oddly enough) plays Lucy Spiller, the unscrupulous editor of the National Enquirer-style tabloid Drrt. She wants all the celebrity sleaze she can print, and she'll stop at nothing to get it. FX has a great track record with dramas, and I was hoping for something juicy and trashily entertaining with this show. But it's so bland and toothless. It's got nothing to say about either the vapidity of celebrity culture or the tabloid vultures who feed on it. It tries to be sexy and shocking, but thoroughly fails. This is a show where a famous basketball player gets sodomized by a hooker wearing a strap-on, and it's still boring.

One of the main problems with the show is Cox. For us to invest in the show, we have to invest in her character. If she's going to ruin people's lives with her pictures and stories, then there's got to be something about her that makes us want to stick around. She's got to be a dynamic, electric, over-the-top queen bitch, or she's got to have some kind of heart and soul that peeks out from behind the facade. Instead, she's just eh. It would be generous to say she's sleepwalking through her role. She's got no spark, and consequently, neither does the show.

The only person in the cast who's even mildly interesting is her main photographer, the schizophrenic Don Konkey, played by Ian Hart. His delusions manifest themselves visually; we can see the snakes and worms and blood that he sees. They're clever effects, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying, though Hart does his best to make his torment, and his character, seem real. The rest of the cast are primarily the famous people screwed over by Lucy and her magazine. Apparently, the washed-up actor, his cheating wife, and the above-mentioned basketball player are all going to be recurring characters. I don't think I need to see any more of them. Or any more of this show, for that matter.

In Case of Emergency was less disappointing to me, but only because I was expecting far, far less out of it. I assumed it was going to be terrible, and it was. And strangely, that made me respect it a little, at least in comparison to Dirt. No illusions of FX-level greatness here; just 30 minutes of semi-recognizable faces acting out a rotten script. How refreshing!

The cast is made up of Arquette, Ally McBeal's Greg Germann, Martial Law's and X2's Kelly Hu (Kelly Who?? HA HA HA GET IT oh never mind), and The Single Guy himself, Mr. Weekend at Bernie's, Jonathan Silverman. They play four graduates of the same high school class who meet again twenty years later. So, it's sort of like The Class, only it doesn't suck. Oh, no, wait, yes it does. So it's exactly like The Class. (Also, remember how I picked on The Class for having actors whose ages don't match their characters, who were all supposed to have been in the same grade? Same thing here. If these four were all in the Class of '87, they should all be about 38 now. Hu and Silverman are just about right, but Arquette is 35, and Germann is 44. Dude, that's a decade separating these supposed classmates. And sorry, Germann, but it really shows.)

Here's an example of what we're dealing with here: Silverman and Hu are apparently being set up as potential romantic interests. And here's how they re-meet each other: she gives him a handjob at a Korean Massage Parlor. Classy. Isn't that how Prince Rainier met Grace Kelly?

It's really quite awful. None of the cast come out looking good here (and that's including Full House's Lori Loughlin, who's apparently being set up as Arquette's love interest). Check that: Kelly Hu looks pretty good in that tight T-shirt:

You had me at SHALOM

But you know what I mean. This is typical ABC shitcom trash, which should be embarrassing to everyone involved in it. Sadly, Emergency is being paired up on the schedule with the great new show The Knights of Prosperity. Hopefully, the former's stink won't rub off on the latter.

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