ABC’s much-hyped premiere week had a whole lot more highs than lows — perhaps due in part to the fact that someone wisely — and not-so-inconspicuously — opted to keep the premiere of CAVEMEN out of the much-hyped period. Sunday night capped the week of debuts with the return of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES as well as BROTHERS & SISTERS, both of which did pretty much what they do best. (Yes, I’m aware that EXTREME MAKEOVER was back as well, but even a reality-whore such as myself has limits, and that’s a show I’ve just never gotten the appeal of.) HOUSEWIVES avoided what might be called Alfre syndrome by immediately connecting the new kids on the block to our main characters. And how cute is Lyndsy Fonseca (ex-Colleen, THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS) as the girl around whom the new mystery revolves? It seems a little soon to be having Susan be pregnant, and I was a little uncomfortable with how casually the gals reacted to Edie’s attempted suicide. Yes, we know it was fake, but they don’t. Then again, Edie’s always been something of an outsider for the ladies. As for B&S, by the time the Walkers were throwing back shots of tequila, it hit me that if there’s one thing this show isn’t, it’s subtle. Everything is played big… whether its the laughs or the drama. I wanted to feel the families pain as they worried about off-in-Iraq Justin, but Nora’s “I-can’t-leave-the-house-in-case-someone-calls” just felt a little forced to me. Then again, not having a loved one fighting overseas, I could be completely wrong on that one. I do kinda wish the show would be a little less schitzophrenic. By playing every emotion so big, the smaller moments filled with genuine emotion wind up having less impact. In the end, however, I still believe there’s no better way to end the week than by hanging with the Housewives before downing a few with the Walkers.
I’ll admit I was a little worried about my beloved UGLY BETTY. I can’t even say exactly why… perhaps because the freshman season was so brilliant that I feared there was nowhere to go but down. But the premiere put all my fears to rest. Yes, there were a few awkward leaps in logic (were we really to believe that Betty, whose modus operandi is to look out for everyone, wouldn’t warn Henry that he might not be Charlie’s babydaddy?), and it was hard to believe that Justin was so cavalierly bounding about while his mom was upstairs endlessly mourning his dad’s death. But by the time Wilhelmina pulled a switch on Claire and Alexis woke up thinking she was still a he, all was forgiven. My one request is that Tony Plana’s papa Suarez be brought home ASAP, as his balancing presence in the household over which he rules is much missed.
Finally caught the second episode of GOSSIP GIRL last night, and I’m happy to report that the pilot wasn’t a fluke. For those thinking this is simply THE OC transplanted to New York’s Upper East Side, think again. Penn Badgley’s Dan is no Ryan Atwood, and while Blake Lively’s Serena van der Woodsen (God, I love that name!) could probably be mistaken for poor-little-rich-girl Marissa Cooper, where THE OC occasionally tried pretending it was more than it was by infusing itself with a social conscience (albeit a really, really shallow one), GG doesn’t bother. This show is as superficial as it comes, and that’s exactly why it works. Who wouldn’t want to be these rich, pampered little snots? Yes, they’re obnoxious and self-absorbed, but heck, they can afford to be! DIRTY SEXY MONEY wants to be an adult version of this, and just misses the mark by playing every character and situation as larger than life. Where DIRTY asks us to look at the core characters with a sense of superiority as if to say, “there but for millions of dollars go I”, GG knows that the key to a true guilty pleasure is wanting to step into the lives unfolding on screen. We want to protect Jenny, beat up Chuck and push Serena right into the arms of Dan… all while getting invited to those fantastic parties. In other words, GG is the kind of TV that the word “escapism” was invented to describe. It won’t make you smarter, it won’t enrich your life… but man, are you gonna have fun.
Last week, reader Michael Hinman took me to task for praising THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL. It is, in his estimation “absolute garbage.” The word I’d prefer to use is “trash.” What makes B&B better than Y&R in my eyes is the fact that it’s entertaining… something Y&R just isn’t these days. Yes, as you said, everyone has slept with everyone. But these characters also have very specific throughlines: Stephanie will always hate Brooke, who will always love Ridge (despite her many dalliances with others), who will always love her (and yet get involved with other women whenever she’s not available). As ridiculous as their motivations may be, I understand them. Y&R, on the other hand, has become a show taken over by people I don’t care about. Ji Min and Cane and Adrian, oh my! Carmen was killed and replaced by Karen, who is pretty much the same character. Jana is a cold-blooded killer treated like a heroine and why… because of a soap opera cliche, the behavior-changing brain tumor. This isn’t the Y&R of yore, which focused on the relatively relatable lives of characters we knew and loved. Even the business stories — which Michael correctly pointed out as traditionally being the best on daytime — are now convulted and rather lame. Victor has been reduced to a secondary player in his own revenge plot against longtime nemesis Jack. And I could go on. My point is this: B&B has always been a somewhat glitzy, glossy fluffy bit of escapism, and it continues to be exactly that. Y&R was once the grandest of soaps, and under new headwriter Lynn Marie Latham has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. But again, that’s only my opinion…