Tuesday, March 10, 2009

episodes: united states of tara, secret diary of a call girl

United States of Tara: I haven't really watched this show beyond the first two episodes, and with only four episodes to go, I doubt I'll go back and watch the ones I missed. But this last Sunday's episode was really fantastic, and it almost made me forget how oversimplified and stereotypical the alters are. I don't know much about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), but I doubt it's as simple as "Alice deals with the maternal stuff, T comes out when there's too much adult stuff to deal with," etc. And although I LOVE the addition of Gimme -- a primitive, animal-like alter, complete with poncho and grunting sounds -- I don't know how realistic that is. I can understand an alter reverting back to a child-like state of mind, but an animal? My ignorance on this disorder allows me a double-function as a viewer: I can enjoy the projected images and situations, but I also have to question them. And one of the more interesting parts of this episode was Alice's announcement that she controls the other alters -- including, it seems, Tara. That makes sense, as Alice is the maternal 50s housewife, but it's interesting to think of "normal Tara" in the same realm as "hillbilly Buck."

But back to Sunday's episode. I thought it was well-written, as in, it had a really great flow throughout the singular narratives. The transition from Tara to Alice over vomiting was especially inspired; a moment that triggers a repulsive reflex turns into a revelatory moment, "I'm pregnant!" I enjoyed Max and the other children humoring Alice's fake pregnancy because this dismissive attitude really turned full circle at the end of the episode (when Tara gets her period and Alice thinks she's miscarried) and Max comes to comfort her on the bathroom floor. The episode also allowed some bonding between Alice, daughter Kate, and sister Charmaine. I think Charmaine has some underlying sexual chemistry with Max, and I don't know if the show is going to explore that, but her rejection of Tara's identity disorder has always been interesting to me. Tara's "chosen" family loves and accepts it, but her blood relation doesn't? I feel like there might actually be some truth to Tara faking it (which I don't think Showtime will do because they would get so many complaints from the medical community). Last week Charmaine bonded with Buck, and now she's bonded with Alice. These have been interesting situations to put Charmaine in. I also have to comment on Marshall's church show -- which, as anti-organized religion as it was, I know people like this, people who would put the Village People in hell and demonstrate a demonized version of getting an abortion. It honored this mindset (people at the show were disgusted, which was the point), but it also made fun of their oversimplification of morality. Also, as a last note, Nate Corddry plays creepy really well. His postmodern video sonnet was ten shades of disturbing.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Here is my biggest problem with this show. Nothing substantial ever happens, and when it does, it's as though it didn't. Case in point: I missed the last two episodes, and in one of those, Belle broke up with Alex (the very scrumptious Calum Blue) and then rebounded with Ben, her best friend. I watch Sunday's episode -- the second season finale -- and it's as though Belle never slept with Ben. They're still friends? There's no fall out? There are no lingering feelings? And according to the recap at the beginning, Ben broke up with Vanessa. So where does this leave his feelings for Belle? Not only that, but because this show only has ten episodes per season,* something like the Ben-Belle hookup should have been a monumental forward-driving plot point. It should NOT have been contained to one or two episodes. It's very frustrating the way this show absolutely refuses to develop its characters. Belle isn't likable, and there's not much to recommend her. Ben is fine, but he's only given three-to-five minutes of screen time each episode. The story arc of Belle falling in love and giving up her career as an escort should have been monumental, but instead it was just "something that happened." And the reveal that Alex was testing her, seeing if she had really given up her career for him, should have been shocking but it was predictable and not sad. I should've felt bad for Belle. I should've felt bad for Alex. But I just. didn't. care. I've finally decided -- I'm not going to watch this show anymore. It has such potential to be really good, and instead, it insists on being crap television. And why -- why -- is the makeup department so hell-bent on making Piper look as ridiculous as possible? The bright pink and purple lipstick wasn't enough? They had to give her clown hair? Does that somehow hide her pregnancy...?

* I don't know if future seasons will also have ten episodes. The first season had ten, I imagine, because it was a new show and Britain was testing out its watchability factor. The season season, though, should have had more episodes, right? But perhaps Billie Piper's -- very obvious! -- real-life pregnancy kept the episodes at a minimum? Either way, ten-episode seasons are not nearly long enough to develop any character arc.


Mattson Tomlin said...

I've been hearing a lot about both of these shows- pretty much all good things- but haven't taken the time yet. I'm afraid of taking on too many tv series at once. Hence, I've only this month discovered Mad Men. Hopefully I'll get around to it, looks like pretty great stuff.

keyser soze said...

Mad Men is -- honest to God -- one of the greatest television shows ever. In fact, it's my second favorite show, and believe me, I've watched a lot of television. Season 2 of MM is one of the smartest, most insightful, most brilliantly shot seasons of any show, but it doesn't come to DVD until June...

There aren't too many shows on TV I would actually recommend. Chuck might be the only one (and BSG, of course!), but there are plenty of shows on DVD I would recommend: seasons 1 and 2 of 30 Rock, Firefly, and Arrested Development.

Mattson Tomlin said...

Love Firefly (Nathan Fillion and I have the same... Face?) and Arrested Development is king.

If you have a chance, you should check out a much older, but different show that might tickle your fancy- It's form 1967 and it's called The Prisoner, starring Patrick Magoohan. It's a slightly hidden relic that is probably the greatest television show on this earth. Just a quick suggestion.