Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall 2007 TV: Big Shots

Big Shots (ABC)

Big Shots is ABC's stab at a new comedic soap, like their successes with Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. The premise here is actually spoken by one of the characters: "Men are the new women." Or, more accurately, Michael Vartan, Joshua Malina, Christopher Titus, and Dylan McDermott are the new Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte.

At least, that's the intent. But it fails, at the comedy aspects and the soapy intrigue aspects. It's just a big, stupid, distasteful mess.

Most everybody here seems to be playing against their strengths. McDermott is usually cast as the dreamboat, but here he's a repugnant, charm-free lech. He's trying to mend a broken relationship with his teenage daughter, but he's so unseemly, it's almost frightening to see her speaking to him. Run away! He will molest you! I found it hilarious (through no intention of the writers, I'm sure) that the big father-daughter bonding moment comes when she discovers he's involved in a sex scandal with a transgendered hooker (what's with all the trannie hookers this season?). This is what they connect over? She's just as gross as he is!

Christopher Titus is known for his edgy, brutally honest, painfully real stand-up material. But in Big Shots, he's saddled with nothing but the lamest of henpecked husband humor. And Joshua Malina, who generally plays the sensitive nebbish, is cheating on his loving wife -- complete with text messages reading, "I miss your penis." How can you even begin to like these people, let alone want to spend an hour a week with them? Vartan is the only one with any semblance of dignity, or a real character, but his agonizing realization that his wife has been cheating on him feels jarringly out of place, surrounded by all the other trivial, supposedly humorous jackanapery.

Malina, by the way, is so terribly bad in this role, blatantly channeling all the quirks and stammers of Woody Allen from one of his lesser films, it's made me want to reevaluate his past work. Has he always been this bad, and I've just ignored it because the writing was so good (as on Sports Night, for example)?

Speaking of the writing: awful. Just rotten. Filled with bits like the "Men are the new women" line, or the "penis" text message, or Malina, after telling his wife on the phone to trust him, practically turning to the camera to exposit -- out loud, with people around -- "This is the first and last time I'm ever having an affair!!"

The show looks nice; obviously, money was no object, and it's all onscreen. And the actors all have the potential to do good work, but not when anchored by these characters and this writing. This is a total misfire. If men are the new women, women are in trouble.

Rating: 2 out of 10

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