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Entries in criticism (1)

Tuesday
Oct112016

Reviewing the Subtext, Episode 1

An irregular (and likely infrequent) series where I review stuff based solely on its poster and my prejudices.


Alternate titles:

 

  1. Quirk: Because 500 Fucking Days of Goddamn Summer and Juno and All the Rest of That Type of Shit Were Not Enough, Apparently
  2. The Irreverance of the Conventionally Attractive
  3. Hazel My Eyes and Groomed My Beard
  4. Supposedly Endearing
  5. Friendship Bracelet: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, Written by Committee
  6. These Two Just Torched a Homeless Guy
  7. The Tyranny of Gluten
  8. I Know, Right?
  9. Ring Pops - Lives and Loves of the Sweetly Insubstantial
  10. Vitamin Water: A Vapid Love Story
  11. The Life Advice Bots Shat This One Out, So I Guess We Better Watch It

I have seen this poster smirking at me from bus shelters all over town. And, to be clear - it is a show I will never see. Or I might. If I am nailed to a plank and a nearby TV is tuned to it. But short of that, I cannot see any Stockholm Syndrome-type circumstance that might lead to it earning my viewership. And I further understand that it is not aimed at me. I am a 50-year-old man who's seen too fucking much for this transparently calculated kind of horse shit to reach me. But then, my 13-year-old is also too sophisticated to fall for this sort of shit. As are our dogs. We also have an elm out back that has not time for this.

Based on this imaga, and this image alone, here's what I know:

He, we'll call him Zack, because hat-bear-eyelashes, has some kind of terminal illness, hence the hat. He'll be unconvincingly (but ADORABLY!!!) losing that lustrous hair to chemo any episode now.

She, we'll call her, I don't know, Penelope or Beatrix, because look at those vacant eyes twinkling in what is meant to be a rascally way, is "too smart for her own good" (which is Hollywood for "at most passably smart, to the detriment of her romantic prospects - pairing off and breeding being the One True Destiny And Source Of Contentment For The Ladies") and is unable (or unwilling?????? What is she AFRAID of?????) to allow herself to be vulnerable enough to Land a Man. I can tell all this because she is smirking at us. 

They are surrounded by what I take to be a series of Bucket List Activities (in the upper left corner, partly concealed by her head, I'm pretty sure is "Fuck a cow" - and "Change a Tire" is a dead giveaway that you're what sociologists call an Authenticity Striver*), which they will dutifully work their way through, learning tidy little lessons in the wake of each. The entire first season, at least, will be shot through with a "will-they-or-won't-they" vibe that attempts to replicate the Sam-and-Diane magic, but it will be written in a ham-handed way, and the principles, being devoid of inner lives, are not equal to the task.

Season 1 will end with a "cliffhanger" (Hollywood for "artless stab at emotional manipulation") where Zack IS NOT DOING WELL AND MAY NOT MAKE IT. Will Penelope or Beatrix summon to courage to reveal her TRUE FEELINGS?!?!?! 

We'll never know. Because it will be cancelled before a second season ever happens. At the behest of the show runner, marketing interns at the studio will try to seed a "viral" campaign in the manner of "Mindy Project" or "Arrested Devlopment" urging fans to petition heartless studio execs to reinstate the beloved show. This falls flat. Due to the inelegant prose of the interns, and perhaps more pressingly, the wider world not giving anything like a rat's ass.

The heartless execs move on to other middling fare and grow still richer.

These two actors took this to be their big break - he bought a boat; she pushed a roommate down the stairs. In this, as in most things, they were mistaken. He will drift away from acting, about which he's always been ambivalent, eventually becoming a stuntman. Due to a back injury, he will get hooked on Oxycontin and die of an overdose. She will keep striving, landing a few regional commercials over the next couple years - earning just enough to delude herself that she can make a go of the dream. She will return to Ohio, unnoticed, to act as caretaker to her mom, who has dementia. She becomes an art therapist. Which is what she should have been doing all along.

Footnote. Six years after its cancellation, the show's title turns up as an answer in the first round of Jeopardy! in the Potpourri category. None of the contesttants rings in. This is the last time this program attempts publicly to enter the consciousness of the culture. In this it is thwarted.

* This is not an actual thing. But it oughtta be.