I usually shy away from narcissistic media. Kismet (a play about a play), Tropic Thunder (a movie about a movie), Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy(a book about a book, ok, it’s a stretch). Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a great example of narcissistic media, feeding off a belief in the brilliance of one’s field often comes across as neither entertaining nor illuminating.
Episodes struck me as such a show and so I ignored it until a friend recommended it. I found it cheeky and self-deprecating, this show about a British writing couple trying to recreate success in LA has its moments of both humor and introspection.
It is the character of Beverly, the British wife/writer (Tamsin Greig) that has most intrigued me. Beverly is a chronically pessimistic, unhappy, nit-picking shrill compared to her just-go-along husband who is willing to take on all setbacks as an exciting challenge. Her one-liners are what we wish we were witty enough to think much less say, and her frank portrayal of reality in the face of so much Hollywood fakery helps us sympathize with her alienation. But I can never really get behind her in the face of her husband, who seeks only to please all parties enough to do what he loves. Their dynamic is the real heart of the show (and, one suspects, the show-within-the-show) and anyone who’s ever had to drag a loved one into something interesting can relate.
In an earlier post, I pointed out that many of the female leads today are the fun-blocking, nagging wife roles. These women hold back those lovable, goofy, well-meaning men from occasionally enjoying themselves. This isn’t new to the small screen, Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up was criticized for casting all the women as balls-and-chain to the likable guys and their pursuit of identity. Women are being portrayed as the grounded, realistic sex forcing the dreamers to accept their plight. I struggle to think of a single fun-but-not-flighty female lead currently on (though I’m hardly an expert on everything currently playing). Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, Claire Dumphy on Modern Family, Fionna Glenanne on Burn Notice, even Marge from the Simpsons are all downers (the ensemble cast of Community stands out).
Comedians have been playing up the stereotypes of the sexes for ages. But shows like Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer managed to succeed with female characters that aimed high and kept it light, though its hard to mention either show without reflexively saying “strong female role model,” that’s how unique of a situation it is. Come on TV-land, let’s see a different type of woman.
Media type: Television
Title: episode four
Watch it at: http://www.sho.com/site/order/preview.do#/Episodes_s01_e01 (sadly just episode one)