I think one of the dangers of La Intarnets for the media junkie is that it gives you access to people who share similar embarrassing predilections. For example, this is the message that greeted me as I prepared to watch The Starter Wife, ep. 2, last night:
Subject: Well thank god I got the SlingPlayer working again
I just watched Debra Messing make out with a piece of driftwood someone has crudely fashioned to resemble Thomas Jane.
So… as you can see. Wallowing. Pain. The episode kicked off with an homage to From Here to Eternity. I wish, somewhere, there was an organization similar to the ASPCA that protected the viewing audience at large from crappy homages. Look, makers of Starter Wife, there are those awesome Looney Tunes cartoons wherein Bugs Bunny recounted his “career” and mocked Hollywood, there is On the Town, and then there is you. It doesn’t make something romantic, funny, or a combination thereof if you reference a well-known make out scene. I’ll tell you why: your leads have no chemistry and, 60% of the time, lack the ability to be naturally funny. Not to mention, as A-Ray pointed out, an homage to a well-crafted, classic movie in your terrible mininseries kind of draws attention to the fact that it’s a shell of a husk of a piece of entertainment.The series’ insistence that Molly is “falling for” or “really likes” Sam is ludicrous. “Wants to sex,” sure. “Wants to…sex,” you bet. But this vein of “Molly likes to listen to him spout Ethan Hawke-level vagaries about the future and makin’ love and believes he is a person with a personality” simultaneously made my ears hurt and my eyes weep. I would have transcribed said “if you like…I could make love to you” speech, but I thought it better to give you the option of substituting something far more entertaining. Therefore, Sam, in an attempt to woo Molly:
- Recited the lyrics of the moving Aaron Neville/Linda Ronstadt duet “I Don’t Know Much”
- Quoted Detective Malloy’s sexually graphic come-on to Frannie in the film In the Cut (“I can be whatever you want me to be. You want me to romance you, take you to a classy restaurant, no problem. You want me to be your best friend and fuck you…”)
- Performed an interpretive dance about his feelings, likening himself to a leaf on the wind.
There. Didn’t we all enjoy that much more than reliving the actual dialogue?
Making this whole “Molly loves Sam because he’s real and in your face and gets bizz-ay consistently and thoroughly” thing worse is Sam’s admission that he killed a dude. The way the actor, Thomas Jane Bot, delivered the line about committing manslaughter and the way he “joked” earlier in the scene were exactly the same. It makes him seem brain-damaged or like an android–and not even a cool android like Data.
I can’t even make great Tom Joad or “Folsom Prison Blues” jokes about it, though I’d sincerely like to show off my BA in literature and/or my love of Johnny Cash. It just makes me feel hopeless inside. A woman’s need for good lovin’ shouldn’t preclude the self-preservation that comes from asking the all-important question, “Mr. Drifter, before we get to the sexytime, exactly who did you kill, what were the circumstances, and do you have any communicable diseases of which I should be aware?”
The reveal of Sam’s sylvan glen hobo camp was unintentionally hilarious, mostly because of the stilted placement of Philip Roth novels. I would’ve vastly preferred another Ponds placement (which can I also say that Starter Wife? Your license to joke about blatant promotion in Hollywood was YOINKED the minute Debra Messing spent 40 seconds slathering PONDS MIRACLE CREAM on her face in the series opener; the joke about Kenny’s shameless plug of his movie is rejected, and please do not try again). The jump-cut to Molly’s fantasies about Doing It with Hot Hobo Sam were laughable, if only because no woman ever fantasizes about Doing It on a canopy bed after discovering that the guy she wants to jump sleeps on a pallet covered by a sleeping bag full of fleas, ticks, and mites.
In other subplots, Molly pretended/hideously overacted to be Joan’s sister Bambi in order to spring Joan from Promises. I could focus on a lot of the suspension-of-disbelief-don’t-go-that-far issues involved in this particular bit of farce. Instead, I will simply say that the wig they chose to plop down on ‘s head during that Three’s Company-rejected-for-crapocity bit would have made the girl who played Nellie Olsen on LHotP say, “Damn, baby, what’d you do to your hair?” It looked like she bought it at Ben Franklin the day after Halloween for $1.29.
In other agonizingly unfunny ’70s sitcom cliche news, the Jorge/Kenny/Russian nanny subplot was, as I told A-Ray, reminiscent of something Roscoe P. Coltrane and Ennis would cook up to try and catch The Duke Boys–the same uncomfortable stupidity, the same awkwardly hammy, unfunny “comedy” that I realized, even at the tender age of 8, was really, at its core, lazy and predictable and over-the-top. All that was missing was moonshine and a cool car, and I would have accepted both happily. Miranda Otto is a trooper, but even her lovely bit of acting couldn’t save that third-rate bit of shenanigans.
As if these sloppy bits of comedy weren’t enough, the writers are shoehorning in a socially forward-thinking plot about a sassy African-American security guard, her sassy grandma, and a dog who have been evicted and move into Joan’s beach house with the remaining cast of the show. My favorite part was when lovely Anika Noni Rose had to sincerely deliver the line, “This means more to me…than words can say.”
- As a white Midwesterner, even I am made awkward by the condescending implications of this story of racial relations.
- Who else busted into Xtreme’s “More Than Words?” Just me? CURSE YOU, 40 Most Softsational Soft Rock Songs!
There was some other stuff about Kenny finding out about How Desirable Molly Is Now, which was predictable and lame. Taking up about two minutes of screentime, and what would have been more welcome than all the other subplots, was the reveal that Gay Broke Rodney’s accountant has a crush on him and wants to sugar daddy him…in a totally nutritious way with fruit (heh). The episode wrapped up with an undistressing “DUN-DUN-DUHNNNNNNNN” reveal that Sam left behind his Curious George bandage at the scene of Lou’s “suicide.” Anti. Climactic. Lame. Also, who cares. And may I just REPEAT WHO CARES. We all saw the lazy-ass sequence of a faceless man coming back for a money clip and some other belongings. The very least the series could have done, if Mantegna’s presence was going to be bandied about, was show him sneaking in to Molly’s bedroom to spoon with her. It would have made her stupid black-and-white fantasy dream about Sam so much better if in the midst of rolling around with that driftwood she suddenly flashed to handsome, substantial Mantegna (can you believe he’s going to be 60 this fall? Ridiculous, those genes) and realized the macking is so much sweeter when the fella isn’t a lame wannabe philosopher David Carradine-roaming-the-earth-righting-wrongs suckbutt.
Next week: Joan pulls a Lohan and crashes her car; Kenny pulls a and marries too soon; and some other guy, who is STILL NOT MANTEGNA, puts the moves on Molly.Sigh. See you next week. *weeps for the futility of it all*