Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"The odds are good, but the goods are odd": Further Tuesday gleanings

David here, chipping in on Todd's Tuesday analysis:

First off, I caught the second episode of Nip/Tuck's fourth season despite myself. I figured that maybe things might wind down a bit after the bombastic premiere, and I was mostly right. We were spared the tsunami of kitschy guest stars: only the talented Sanaa Lathan remained from the premiere, although already we've discovered she's a double-crossing gold-digger who's being blackmailed by the lesbian mafia (I'm guessing there, but if the real storyline is any less ridiculous I'll eat Christian's surgical scrubs).

Instead, the episode ploughed straight into three of the big season themes: Christian's possible bi/homosexuality, the health of Sean and Julia's approaching child and Ryan Murphy's swiping at Scientology. Yes, after casting the Paxil-promoting, Cruise-baiting Brooke Shields as a psychiatrist (in a performance about as wooden as the mahogany desk Christian quickly mounted her on), now troubled Matt is quickly being sucked into the world of Thetans and credit card details. It's not the worst plotline in the world, but after the maelstrom inspired by South Park last year, it just feels like Nip/Tuck is late to the party. Methinks Murphy's hopes of raising further ire from Tom Cruise and his bonkers entourage may be misplaced.

All this considered, I have a feeling I'll be tuning in again next week, even though nothing about this week's episode grabbed me at all. Todd often complains that Six Feet Under's major flaw was its lack of subtlety, but SFU has nothing on Nip/Tuck. The use of patients-of-the-week to illustrate the main characters' turmoil is often painfully clumsy, every story twist is practically spelt out for the viewer, and any emotion is multiplied to the extreme. But, Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh are great! And it's shot real pretty. And I want to see if they're going to dispatch Joely Richardson anytime soon.

I also took in the pilot of ABC's new Men In Trees, which Todd handily slated just below. It's almost too easy to dislike this show: the show's influences (aka the shows creator Jenny Bicks shamelessly ripped off) are blankly obvious. There's no need for me to mention that this has all been done before with Northern Exposure, but I'm going to anyway. All that Men In Trees does is take Northern Exposure, but swop the protagonist's gender and add a dash of the men from Mars, women from Venus posturing of Sex and the City, a show Bicks worked on.

However, I still found myself vaguely won over by Men In Trees. Mostly it's the excellent cast: Abraham Benrubi (the adorable giant Jerry from ER), Derek Richardson (who somehow struck a very sympathetic figure in the decidedly nasty film Hostel) and the esteemable John Amos are among a strong ensemble who anchor star Anne Heche. Heche, happily, does not resort to the histrionics she can sometimes be guilty of, instead underplaying the fish-out-of-water antics of her character Marin Frist, who is literally Bridget Jones meets Carrie Bradshaw. The proposed plots for the series are hardly exciting: there's a possibly troubled marriage, a budding geeky romance and, of course, the obligatory will-they-won't-they nonsense between Marin and the aloof Jack, played with lazy charm by James Tupper. Still, there's a charming comfort factor to it all, and the writing and performances manage to keep it just afloat. Plus, Northern Exposure has been off the air for 11 years! So, until the blessed day Custer reaches our sets, I'm willing to make do with this.


Todd VanDerWerff said...

Say what you will about Custer, but it's no Men in Trees.

Good point about N/T being much less subtle than SFU. If SFU frequently took a ball-peen hammer and whacked you across the forehead with it to get its point across, N/T just drops a damn car on you and is done with it.

And I think the reason so many just let MiT get away with being NoEx with a girl is precisely BECAUSE NoEx was 11 years ago (AND you can't see it in cable reruns -- though I'm sure it's soon to land on TV Land). It doesn't feel fresh, per se, but it feels like a formula you haven't seen in a while.

David Sims said...

You can buy Northern Exposure on DVDs, though! In cute little puffy jackets!

Off-topic, I know, but I felt it should be stated.