Friday, November 10, 2006

Slag Off the Green Guide Thursday (a Day Late)

It’s been a while since I slagged off the Age Green Guide. It hasn’t been necessary, over most of the past couple of months, because the free-to-air schedules have been crap anyway. Under the circumstances it would have been a little mean-spirited to pay out on Debi Enker, today’s slaggee, for writing crap reviews. If the programs are crap anyway, who cares about the reviewing?

Paying out on reviewers is best saved for when you read a crap review of one of the few good programs that’s getting commercial prime-time air at the moment. I’m talking about The Closer, on Channel Nine, more or less reliably, at 9.35pm on Tuesdays.

Taking up the theme of a review written by Kenneth Nguyen a couple of weeks ago, Debi begins her piece on next Tuesday’s episode with some bitching about the show’s protagonist:

The supposedly endearing scattiness is getting a bit annoying. From the start, the creators of The Close have tried to soften the image of deputy police chief Brenda Lee Johnson (Kyra Sedgewick). She’s intended to be seen as a peerless investigator, but just to keep her human, even womanly, they’ve given her a honey-coated southern drawl and what’s supposed to be a winsome scattiness.

It’s possible that next week’s episode is every bit as bad as Debi makes out. That, thanks to exceptionally bad scripting, acting and comic timing, all next Tuesday’s episode has on offer is the irritating spectacle of Kyra Sedgewick, as Brenda Lee, bumping into furniture and tossing down the comfort foods. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Be a bugger of a thing if Debi’s right and all the things I like about the show – including the strong ensemble acting and the witty moments of character-based comedy – have already been tossed, in favour of a much more by-the-numbers “scatty Southern belle solves murder by the numbers while bumping into furniture and binge-eating” formula. Because the major alternatives to The Closer on the commercial channels are:

  • Taciturn, resolute, scientifically object cool dude (dark sunglasses optional) who knows science leads team of geek investigators who solve crimes with impossible science and CGI animation.

  • Gung-ho military investigators and lawyers poke their noses into any criminal investigation with even the most remote connection to the US Navy or the US Marines, breezily ignoring any real-world problems of jurisdiction.

  • Staff of the worst-managed coroner’s department in the entire continental USA use their work hours to pursue personal crusades arising from traumatic incidents in their past personal lives, then use their personal time to put in a lot of unpaid overtime on the cases they’re actually supposed to work on. This wouldn’t be necessary if they weren’t all completely dysfunctional morons with lousy time-management skills.

So what if every episode of The Closer follows pretty much the same formula? So do all the alternatives on offer. Unlike the producers of the alternatives, the producers, writers and cast of The Closer don’t leave it up to the formula to do all the work.

Next time you’re looking for a Tuesday night television program to pay out on Debi, save it for Dancing with the Stars or 20 to 01. And that goes for your colleague Kenneth Nguyen too.