Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I don't. Really, I don't.

This morning's column will likely be the only time I ever write about "The Wedding Bells," either in the paper or the blog:

A decade ago, at a press conference for "Ally McBeal," a reporter, quoting "As Good As It Gets," asked David E. Kelley how he wrote women so well. This was early in that show's lifespan -- and midway through Kelley's transformation from primetime savior to carnival barker -- so it wasn't obvious yet that Kelley doesn't write women well, and that human beings in general are a stretch.

These days, whether in his ABC hit "Boston Legal" or his brand-new Fox show "The Wedding Bells," Kelley doesn't write people. He writes cartoons. They're often amusing, sometimes eloquent cartoons, but cartoons nonetheless, with self-conscious catch phrases and wacky tics and behavior that only makes sense if you know an eccentric, powerful producer is writing it for them.

"Boston Legal" at least has James Spader and William Shatner, two actors who embrace the caricature, and the occasional flowery monologue about the genius of our judicial system. Within the strange limitations Kelley's placed on his own talent, it mostly works.

"The Wedding Bells" doesn't. It abandons all of Kelley's strengths, like the legal setting and male bonding, and drowns itself in his weaknesses: women discussing their feelings, women flirting with men, women acting body-conscious... basically, anything involving the female gender.

To read the full thing, click here. Also, the column about tacky Jersey reality show contestants ran yesterday.


Anonymous said...

Great review, Alan.

It actually pains me when I think about how great shows like Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, and The Practice were driven into the ground by Kelley's obsession with quirk. But at least those shows started off good. Almost everything else he's done has been so middling that I doubt the shows would have gotten on the air without his name attached.

And you're totally right about him writing cartoons. Which I blame for the revolving door cast on his last two shows, Boston Public and Boston Legal. He only writes people who have one or two personality traits. And once he's done exploring them he just casts them aside and hires somebody else. Which is a shame when it means that talented actors like Craig Bierko and Nicky Katt are being wasted.

Anonymous said...

Ah, it's a David E. Kelley show. That explains why I can barely sit through one of the ads, let alone the actual show.

Poor Missy Pyle! She was great on Heroes last month, and of course Galaxy Quest. She deserves good things.

Anonymous said...

I thought Craig Bierko was only cast for a short stint, not a full season. I wasn't at all surprised to see him leave (and was hoping it would have been sooner since his character was annoying--unless he was fighting with Mark Valley's Brad, which was hilarious).

Anyway, why do you expect Jerseyans to be treated any differently than, say, Californians, who are generally depicted as brainless fruitcakes? Every region of the US gets stereotyped on these shows :-)

Heather K said...

In defense of Idaho, though we may not be represented in the reality contestant department--we are pretty much the go to state for anyone trying to make an allusion someplace so far out of the loop/off the map it may not actually exist.

On the other hand, we are kind of way out there in nowhere which is why we still have mountains, rivers, and pretty open spaces.

Zodin2008 said...

I'm sorry, Alan, I was unaware that david E. Kelley HAD strengths? His shows, one after the other, are all poorly written, poorly conceived and ridiculously over acted.

So while the best mind ever to grace Television, Joss Whedon stays home, an untalented hack like David E. Kelley continues to pour his shows on air.

I live in a part of the country with one of the worst, most dishonest and bigoted members of the United States Congress, asnd yet somehow this man keeps getting re-elected every 2 years like electro shock treatment for those of us who would like to see him go.

I kinda feel the same way about Kelley.

Anonymous said...

I hope Pyle's Pug is a regular.

Anonymous said...

When I saw this today on a work-related blog:

"Sepinwall reviews Heuer, The Family and the Nation: Gender and Citizenship in Revolutionary France"

I thought--wow, and here I thought he only reviewed television!

(Clearly, reading on, I find there is more than one Sepinwall in the world)

Anonymous said...

The only entertaining item in the pilot was Pamela Adlon.

I watched this because I enjoy "Boston Legal". However I didn't make it into the second half-hour.

I'm not sure what there target demo is, but I'm certainly not it.

Matt said...

I actually kind of liked this one. It's completely throwaway and disposable, but cotton candy-ish, and Missi Pyle (who's a regular) is great. Then again, I kinda liked "girls club" and watched McBeal to the bitter end.

The biggest problem I had is that it was not a good PILOT. It didn't establish the characters or give them background. That's somewhat understandable, since this is apparently a rewrite/combo of two failed pilots ("Wedding Album" and "DeMarco Affairs"), but a pilot has to establish character, and this one didn't.