As I’ve disclosed to you before, I’m immediately suspicious of anyone who says they don’t own a TV.
I’m also a little wary of someone who vehemently dislikes dark chocolate, actually prefers white chocolate or says things like, "I never sleep in. I love getting up early every morning." It’s just a little tip off that perhaps these people, however nice they may be, aren’t exactly going to become my best friends.
I’ve found I have the same tells with a new TV series. For example, I’ve made peace with the fact that I really loathe a montage. They always just seem like mindless filler to me and never really serve to advance plot. Life doesn’t unfold that way. You don’t get to go through your work day is a five minute montage (although that is so not a bad idea). The occasional montage can work on any series but when it is how a TV show rolls, I’m immediately on guard.
Likewise, the breaking down of the fourth wall and having a character speak directly to the camera is a device that works selectively. It’s a brilliant set-up on The Office, which is in the middle of filming the longest documentary ever. And I really liked it on a show like Malcolm in the Middle where Malcolm could comment on his wacky family. But more often than not, it feels awkward and a crushing blow to the willing suspension of disbelief I’m trying to engage in.
So needless to say, Secret Diary of a Call Girl (premiering Monday at 10:30 p.m. on Showtime) was already on probabtion with me within the first five minutes. Because the title character Hannah by day, Belle by night (Billie Piper) talks about her escapades directly to the camera. Hannah lets viewers know that she likes money and sex and no, she doesn’t do drugs. And for a show that clocks in at less than 30 minutes, there were a surprising amounts of montages (many based on how Belle puts herself together for a client).
The series, which is already a hit in Britain, is based on the book The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle De Jour, a real person who blogged anonymously about her escapades.
Despite the provocative subject matter, I found the show is a little dull. Hannah must keep her true profession a secret from her best friend Ben (Iddo Goldberg), who thinks she is a night-time legal secretary and her parents (Toyah Willcox and Stuart Organ), who like many TV parents appear disapproving and clueless. She fulfills her client’s fantasies and some times her own. We meet her regulars, see how she finds a new customer while another one sleeps, and see how she conveniently ditches a client who quickly bores her.
Just like her clients and even her best friends don’t really know her, Belle/Hannah remains a mystery to the viewer as well, despite all her talking. And even though the series is being billed as a comedy, I don’t think I cracked a smile in the three episodes I watched. Two and a half (out of five) stars.
After you watch Secret Diary of a Call Girl, let me know what you think.
Weeds returns for a fourth season Monday at 10 p.m. on Showtime. And, pardon the pun but I couldn’t resist, you might feel like you’ve been smoking something when you watch the opening half hour.
Because, as last season’s finale indicated, the show has skedaddled much of its original premise and you’ll hear the show’s opening credit song "Little Boxes" for the last time in the premiere. Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) burned down her house and left Agrestic in her rear view mirror. She’s heading for the coastal and fictional town of Ren Mar, California where her deceased first husband’s grandmother lives. Along for the ride are her two sons Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Shane (Alexander Gould) and her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk). When they get to Ren Mar, the family reunites with Nancy’s cranky, track-loving father-in-law Lenny (Albert Brooks, in perfect, disheveled form).
This change of scenery means that Conrad (Romany Malco) and Heylia (Tonye Patano) are off the show. And I really miss them – alot. Wouldn’t it be great if they could show up in a Weeds spin-off sometime soon.
Back at home, Doug (Kevin Nealon), Dean (Andy Milder), Isabelle (Allie Grant) and Sanjay (Maulik Pancholy) have all framed Ceila (Elizabeth Perkins)as the town’s drug dealing suburban mom. Ceila’s is on a downward spiral that probably should bring the show more humor than it is. As much as I’ve enjoyed Perkin’s performance in the past, this particular storyline is tough to take.
But I think my biggest problem with the series is that as much as I’m for TV characters growing and changing (we all know I just complained about this last Friday), I don’t really like the direction Nancy is going in. Her behavior is infuriating. The careless way she goes through life and her increasingly dangerous choice of career is incredibly frustrating. The numbness Parker has always brought to the role — that Nancy has numbed herself to the choices she’s made and circumstances she’s stuck with — is now bordering on too difficult to watch. Three stars.
After you’ve watched the season premiere, let me know what you think.
Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for June 16-22
ABC Family’s new series The Middleman premieres Monday at 8 p.m. Matt Keeslar stars a the title character, a superhero of sorts who recruits struggling artist Wendy (Natalie Morales) to join his agency in the premiere. The series, based on the graphic novels of Javier Grillo-Marxuach (who also created the show), is rooted in clever dialogue and character interaction that plays out like a comic book come to life. It’s a really challenging tone to hit just right and the series misses its target in the premiere. I’ll keep checking in on the series, but so far it’s an admirable effort with some strong performances (particularly from Keeslar) that doesn’t quite work. Two and a half stars. I also want to let you know that I watched The Secret Life of an American Teenager (premiering on July 1) which is from 7th Heaven creator Brenda Hampton. And I can’t wait to tell you more about the series because I was positively mesmerized by how the spirit of the Camden Clan is alive and well on this show (right down to some bad child acting and stilted awkward dialogue). I’ll have more on this series as we get closer to the premiere
Ugh, Piers Morgan is back. The obnoxious winner of The Celebrity Apprentice returns as a judge on America’s Got Talent Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.
I like to check in on new series from time to time to see how they’ve progressed since the pilot. So I spent some quality time with In Plain Sight this weekend. And I have to admit the show is starting to kind of grow on me. My main complaint remains that Mary often acts as only a TV character would act and a little too clichéd. But I’m finding the cases compelling and I really enjoyed this Sunday’s episode (10 p.m. on USA) which features Dave Foley as the guest star. The series probably needs to lose Mary’s mother and sister or at least shift them to another series. Tonally their scenes don’t really fit with the rest of the series. I’m also a little worried that Cristián de la Fuente only makes sporadic appearance on the series. I know he was busy on Dancing with the Stars but I would like an explanation about where he’s been. So I still think the series is a little too familiar but I’m enjoying it more. How about you?
That’s all for today. Don’t forget you have until Tuesday June 17 at 5 p.m. to email me your nominations for the 2008 Amy Awards. I’ll be back on Wednesday to talk about Army Wives, the new SOAPnet series MVP and this week’s familiar faces. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at email@example.com.