Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Not dirty enough

This morning's column reviews FX's "Dirt," which I did not like:

We have such a dysfunctional relationship with our celebrities and the coverage of them. We mock Britney and K-Fed, but we know more details about their relationship than we do about some of our closest friends. We complain that our society is too focused on the superficial, yet we make a hot seller out of the latest Nicole Richie anorexia story. In this age of obsessing about celebrities -- and wondering when our turn in the spotlight is going to come -- a great TV show could be made about our national addiction to the rich and famous.

"Dirt" is not that show.

Produced by and starring a badly miscast Courteney Cox as a tabloid magazine editor, it's the first outright catastrophe of FX's post-"The Shield" era. The cable channel has specialized in building absorbing series around characters who, on paper, should be despicable. So either a tabloid editor is too far down the evolutionary ladder, or the execution is a failure. While presiding over "Stars... They're Just Like Us" isn't a ticket to spiritual fulfillment, I don't know that it's any worse than being a dirty, homicidal cop or a womanizing plastic surgeon, so I'm going with bad execution.


To read the full thing, click here.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

How many episodes did you see, Alan? I've heard the first couple are bad, but then it gets much better. I really hope that's the case since I like Courteney Cox and think the premise is good.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've seen three, and the quality level remains consistent: good when it's focusing on the schizo photog, terrible the rest of the time.

David J. Loehr said...

It's not surprising that the photographer is the only thing that really works. Apparently, he was the original focus of the show. Cox's character was a peripheral character. But FX already had several shows about middle-aged white guys having crises and hallucinations.

I wonder if the idea--and thus the series--would have worked if they had just changed the gender and stuck with the original outline instead of retrofitting and refocusing.

jim treacher said...

Naming a tabloid editor "Lucy Spiller" is about as subtle as naming a secretary "Sally Filesandtypes." But Ian Hart is a good actor and it's nice to see him in something this high-profile, even if it's just for a few weeks.

Anonymous said...

Naming a tabloid editor "Lucy Spiller" is about as subtle as naming a secretary "Sally Filesandtypes."

Or someone named only Knapp who searches for kidnapped people.

Anonymous said...

Just watched it. While it wasn't anything great, I really didn't think it was as bad as all the terrible reviews made it out to be. The biggest problem with it was that it was kind of dull. None of the characters were likeable, so I didn't really care what happened to them. I understand why Courteney Cox doesn't like the tabloids, but it wouldn't have hurt if she'd made her character a little more sympathetic. Plus, a little humor would have gone a long way.

Anonymous said...

Btw...

Ironically, the subplot with the schizo photographer was actually my least favorite. Granted, he was the most sypathetic character, but his scenes felt completely out of place and whenever he was onscreen it felt like the story ground to a halt.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The biggest problem with it was that it was kind of dull.

That, to me, is a huge problem in a show set in this world. A show about celebrity tabloids shouldn't be boring.

Anonymous said...

The "Friends" curse strikes again... Had high hopes for this one since it was on F/X.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think this whole notion of former stars of hit sitcoms being cursed is pretty stupid. It's not like the "Seinfeld" cast or the "Friends" people sold Babe Ruth to finance a Broadway show or kicked a man and his goat out of Wrigley Field. All they did was star in a popular show and try to keep working after it ended. Almost no one in the TV business is lucky enough to have more than one hit. That's just the way it goes.

Anonymous said...

And then there's Heather Locklear.

I agree there's no such thing as a curse. There is, however, a huge expectation that someone who starred in a hit show should easily be able to leap into another hit. That's usually not the case. I have to give the Friends cast credit, though. They've at least picked projects with some merit to them (even the Joey pilot was pretty good) and avoided outright stinkers like Watching Ellie or The Michael Richards Show. And while I know Jerry Seinfeld has vowed never to do TV again, I'm surprised some enterprising producer (say Bill Lawrence or Mitch Hurwitz) hasn't been able to lure him back for at least a guest spot. I think he'd be a perfect sweeps guest.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, Jerry's guest spot on NewsRadio (a favor to a struggling show he admired, and to director Tom Cherones) didn't really move the ratings needle. And Ally McBeal was canceled the day after Matthew Perry's guest appearance -- which was expected to help save the show -- also failed to move the needle.

With very rare exceptions, I think people tune in for shows, not stars. People want to see Matthew Perry as Chandler, telling jokes to Joey and Rachel. They want to see Jerry making fun of George, etc. That isn't to say that a star can't win people over with a new character in a new show, but it has to be the right one.

dez said...

I think this whole notion of former stars of hit sitcoms being cursed is pretty stupid.

So is the notion of "show-killers," but it's still fun to talk about :-)

And though no one asked, I like "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

ooda said...

"Show-killers" I still believe in, even though it's a rather trite idea. That said, Eric Balfour is still keeping the flame burning.

While I found the show watchable, more so for the scenes with the Schizophrenic guy, there was one thing that just left me confused at the end of the episode. We're to believe that Lucy is this cold hard bitch that everyone in Hollywood hates, so much so that there was a supposed price on her head. The thing is, as the episode went on, I couldn't tell what kind of persona they were trying to put forward. What would have been the wise choice is to make her extremely cold and vindictive, in a way that would put Vic Mackey to shame. There were hints of that, but when we see the her trying to get the guy, and crying, it diluted the "evil" veneer surrounding her. Scrap the boyfriend, and save the crying for the tenth episode or so, so that when she does start cracking, it shocks us all the more.

What pains me the most is that it's a good premise, with good production values, and yet it's still mediocre. The story needs work, and yeah, like was said before, Courtney Cox is not exactly setting the screen alight. I don't know if it's more the generic writing or what, but it's just not working as it should.

DonBoy said...

What was that, "Reefer Madness" with gossip instead drugs? And the nice actress girl dies! And the guilt-ridden weakling crashes his car! I'm amazed the two of them got out the car. And the cat dies! But y'know, if it wasn't for Lucy, that guy probably wouldn't have any health insurance. So, six of one...

Also, I had no idea there was such a person as "Bonnie Fuller", which makes the name "Lucy Spiller" so very cheap.

And Lucy's "lecture on journalistic ethics", if you're referring to the staff-meeting scene in the first episode, was more of a legal strategy note, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

I watched three episodes but I didn't like anyone of them.I won't watch anymore. I watched because of Courtney Cox but I was dissapointed. The show is terrible.The characters are not likeble. They all look like zombies. All the episodes that I watched were revolting.