Emily’s Reasons Why Not
And so the quest to make a replacement for Sex and the City goes on. Staring Heather Graham and based on the chick-lit book of the same name, its premise is sadly as unoriginal as 90 per cent of those predictable tomes. Emily is the editor of self-help books but has trouble finding and keeping a man herself, although she has her self-imposed rules (the titular ‘reasons why not’) and two best friends to rely on. I like Heather Graham and she can do sitcom, as she proved with her re-occurring character in Scrubs, but this is a turkey. It’s wholly unbelievable that a stone-cold babe like Heather Graham would have any trouble finding a man in the first place – at least Carrie in SATC was only average looking (and had those scary crows’ claw hands to hamper her man quest) thus adding a bit of credibility. We’re guided through Emily’s dating disasters via first-person voiceovers and with little wit or insight. Her friends spoil things further: the sarcastic but free-spirited Reilly and the black gay man Josh, who manages to give out overly camp advice and reinforce the worst gay stereotypes all at the same time. It’s a shame when really good people like Showtime and the Paramount Channel get saddled with below-par sitcoms due to some executive in America’s belief in flipchart demographics rather than concentrating on quality writing. They had six episodes of this series already in the can and all ready to run and then, after the pilot episode aired in America, the makers ABC canceled it on the spot. Ouch. Heather Graham deserves a better vehicle and for her presence of alone I’d like to say it’s worth tuning in but there are just too many reasons why not.
Television needs another murder-crimesolving show like America needs another branch of McDonalds. That said, television needs as many good new series as it can get right now, even if the premise is as original as an episode of Scooby Doo. Based on Kathy Reichs’ best-selling books, Emily Deschanel is Temperance Brennan, a brilliant but lonely anthropologist who is approached by FBI agent Seely Booth (David Boreanaz of Angel), to help solve a series of unsolved crimes by identifying the long-decomposed bodies of missing persons from their bone structure. So far, so seen it all before. There’s the sexual tension of two people who disagree but fancy each other, witty remarks, bit of a pop soundtrack and all the other bits the creators could take from CSI and The X-Files and whatever they fancied cribbing from in-between. In fact, at one point they turn up and he says, ‘We’re Scully and Mulder’. Cute, but if only they really were. Deschanel is pretty good but costar Boreanaz is in danger of being acted off the screen, not only by Deschanel but by the skeletons, filing cabinets and most inanimate objects in shot at any given time. But he’s pretty. He’s like a big puppy and is there essentially as a piece of dumb, lovable eye candy. If the brilliant Steve Buscemi had played the part we’d have a show with twice as much credibility that’s twice as enjoyable but with half as many viewers. Pretty sells. Familiar also sells. If it works, copy the formula until it’s so diluted and tepid it eventually gets axed and makers go off and copy something else. Bones isn’t the most original or brilliant series coming your way but like another branch of McDonalds it’s comfortingly familiar and you know exactly what you getting. If you like Prime Suspect, Cold Case, Touch of Frost, Diagnosis Murder, Without a Trace, CSI and all the rest then you’ll probably like this. It’s more of the same…but with added Boreanaz.
Beauty & The Geek
‘This is not just another dating show, this is a social experiment,’ says the advert for what is essentially another reality show. Produced and co-created by Ashton Kutcher – but don’t let that put you off – beautiful but dim girls are paired up with geeky guys in the hope they can both learn something about life from each other and the skills each possess in abundance, but their game-partner is clearly missing. The women are then tested on things like basic general knowledge, while the guys have to prove they’ve mastered elementary social skills and following rounds of elimination the winning couple split the prize money. Of course it just reinforces the high-school stereotype that all beautiful girls are ditzy and all geeks, nerds and dweebs have the social skills and sexual allure of an Excel spreadsheet. ‘I’m smart. I’ve got a really high I.Q. I think it’s probably about 500,’ says Lauren, one of the ‘beauties’, illustrating her failings rather neatly, while ‘geek’ Bill points out that ‘because I’m so busy with the Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club, I don’t have time to date anyone.’ Aw, bless his thick glasses. After a while, you can’t help but rather like them all and there are some rather touching, John-Hughes-would-be-proud moments in here with Breakfast Club style lessons to be learned . Compared to the appalling horror show that was The Swan, this is a rather heartwarming bit of TV. But for so-called geeks, they’re all fairly good-looking, except for one guy called Richard Rubin – he really would be on the lead float in the Nerd Pride Parade. And get this, there’s actually a hint of romance between some of the pairs, but for the most part it’s just good-natured fun. Despite the lessons learned, I suspect that in a decade or so the ‘geeks’ will still be rich guys running huge corporations and Dukes Of Hazzard fan clubs while the ‘beauties’ will be gold-digging trophy wives who think a lawsuit was something you wear to court. High-school stereotypes…what can you do?
Oh for Pete’s sake. Save is from the Sex and the City clones. Come up with something new. Anything new. The hapless Alan Partridge once suggested Inner City Sumo; Monkey Tennis; Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave; Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank and was laughed out of the restaurant by commissioning editor Tony Hayers. But as he lost the plot and ran off threatening people with cheese at least any of his ideas would have been different. Something nobody had seen before. Well, apart from possibly Eubank’s children that summer the big tax bill arrived. Love Inc. is about a group of matchmakers who work at a full-service dating agency. They help lovelorn single men and women present the best image possible to just the right prospects, all while trying to handle their own love lives and entanglements. And do they work as ninja assassins at night? Nope. Is it shot entirely live with unwitting members of the public used as co-stars? Nope. Does it have even the slightest bit of wit or originality somewhere in there? Of course not, it’s about four woman living in New York and their struggle to find men. Maybe if they were a bit funnier they might attract men because the jokes here are weak. And the canned laughter is poured on thick, especially considering the script is so unfunny – or perhaps to try and cover that very fact. Incidentally, most of the canned laughter you hear on sitcoms is actually from recordings of old ‘60 and ‘70s comedies, notably during the sight gags in The Lucy Show. This means that many of the people you hear laughing are now dead and all that remains are their hearty guffaws echoing out around the world through television sets in a vain attempt to convince people that a script is funny. That’s no way to treat the dead and this is no way to treat an audience. We loved Sex and The City – yes, even guys like me – but it’s gone now, we’ll survive fine without it, so please just leave it alone and go out and make something new. And while you’re at it, stop pestering the dead.
For Time Out magazine – click here for original PDF – 084 timein