Sunday, July 04, 2010

TV: Persons Unknown, Plots Pretty Standard

One minute we were partying in DC, the next we were discovering that there apparently is a Podunk but where the hell it is on the map is anyone's guess.


At first we thought we were on the backlot where the too-good-for-ABC Eastwick was filmed. Then Katrina vanden Heuvel lookalike Moira Doherty (Tina Holmes) came running up in her robe acting delusional, excited and not-all-there. In other words, it was Katrina as usual. She was babbling away about something and we tuned her out because we had spotted what must be town's only hotel. Hoping a nice suite was still available, we hot-footed over leaving Katrina/Moria still yammering.

Tori Fairchild's old digs were available because she's left -- for where, no one seems to know. But Katrina/Moria, still tailing us, insists Tori was supposed to be "like Meghan McCain." Except Meghan's father's a senator (not an ambassador), her mother is still alive and nothing in the storyline suggests the McCains. Katrina/Moria insisted we're "too hung up on facts" and that statement, coming from an alleged journalist, may be scarier than being trapped in the middle of nowhere.

Checked in, we decide to go looking around. We're wondering through the more or less deserted town (Katrina trailing us in that awful bathrobe) when we come across a Chinese restaurant and decide to step inside. No sooner have we ordered sweet & sour shrimp from Asian and/or Asian-American wait staff than Sgt Graham McNair (Chadwick Boseman) arives. He tells us he served in Iraq and we're eager to talk the Iraq War but he just wants to talk about how long he's been stuck here, who else is here and how no one can ever get out. The whole perimeter of the town is controlled by some sort of electric force field or something.

"We try and we try," he tells us, "but we can't get out."

He offers this detailed description of their attempt to tunnel out and how that failed -- something about gas. We don't know, we don't care. We're stuffed. Not on Chinese, but on backstory. It sure takes a lot to catch the casual viewer up.

So a group of people are all stuck in Podunk. They don't know who trapped them or why. They're not sure who to trust.

The sergeant wondered if we too weren't raked with doubts and wondering who could have done this to us, who could hate us that much?

We agreed there was a long list but noted the toy poodle of the radical set Sharon Smith appeared to have moved to the top of the list. We explained to the sergeant that we really weren't worried because we had a number of friends in an upstate New York coven and they were, we were sure, already working on a protective spell to get us the hell out of here. (What? We can't have a backstory too?)

What we were worried about was billing. Janet Cooper, Janet Cooper -- that's all the sergeant talked about. Who is this Janet Cooper (Daisy Betts)? As we were about to break open our fortune cookies, she showed up. And quickly began pouring out her own recap. Will it ever end?

As she continues explaining something about a daughter back in San Francisco, we try to waive for the check, eye the exit and realize she's the Alice MacKenzie of this group. Translation, she's no threat to us.

Janet's insisting that she made it into a taxi once -- with Joe Tucker (Jason Wiles) -- and they made it out of town but, right after, they had a flat and while the cab driver -- who didn't speak English -- changed the tire, a black 18-wheeler ran over the cab and driver.

"It was awful," she insisted.

Like your acting, we wondered?

Unfortunately, we wondered that out loud.

Or fortunately since it caused Janet to leave in a huff.

Something was taking place outside. Were people . . . stripping?

Sgt Graham explained that was the rest of the group and that Katrina/Moria had the need to see everyone in their underwear from time to time. Some fetish she'd inherited from her father, no doubt. So every now and then, the entire group stripped down to keep her happy.

Well, when in Podunk . . .

"You have no ports!" Katrina/Moria gasped, a hand on each of our legs, a hand running up the inside of each of our legs. We swatted her hands away as she explained that all the others had ports, that medicine was administered via remote control through the ports.

"But you have no ports!"

She began screaming for Joe to strip and we might have stopped her but, hubba-hubba and Beefsteak Charlie, get us some A-1 sauce with that.


We just stood back and admired the show. We might have gotten closer but we noticed that Tom Hayden had already staked a claim to the rear view.

"Tom," we called out, waiving hello, and grasping that this obviously wasn't an exclusive resort and just about anyone could get in.

Walking over, he insisted we call him Charlie Morse (Alan Ruck) and explained he had a rich wife and he killed her -- that we can believe -- and that's his entire backstory, at least thus far.

Joe had his clothes back on, so we were bored. Janet was pointing out that there were cameras all over the place and, just then, footage of Tom/Charlie strangling his rich wife was flashed on monitors all over the town square.

Plot points, we realized, were a lot like Chinese food, an hour later, you forgot them and were hungry for more.

But that's how it was.

Start a day by, for the first time, noting that Joe was allergic to bees and, before the end of the day, bees would swarm all over Joe.

Some call it intrigue but everyone we knew would call it bad writing and point out that things like bee allergies should have been written in at the start or else it appeared like it was being made up as they went along.

"What are you doing!" hollered Tom/Charlie as we were online attempting to order a pizza.

He ripped our laptop away from us.

"It was delivery!" we insisted.

"It was DiGiorno," smiled Katrina/Moria , preening at the camera. Oh, good heavens, what a priss and what a product placement.

We might have weighed in on that but Tom/Charlie had tossed our laptop onto the ground.

"That laptop went with us everywhere! Rome, Berlin, Paris, London!" we hollered in unison.

Then laughed at our own little inside joke, enjoying it all the more because no one else got it.

See, we'd just cast ourselves in the Tallulah role. Bankhead, for those not familiar. Her one sole box office hit, Lifeboat. If you've seen the film, you've pretty much seen Persons Unknown. It was Lifeboat transferred to a small town.

We used a cell phone to call a cab, careful not to let Tom/Charlie see us making the call, lest he stomp on our phone as well. Then we made small talk and pretended to be all caught up in what might happen next and who was behind it all and . . .

Honk! Honk!

Hopping into our cab, we told the driver to hit the gas and get the hell out of here. Viewers might stick around for thirteen weeks (NBC Mondays -- here for the Hulu page) but the only thing that could have kept us for a moment more was the promise that Joe would strip down again. Since that didn't seem likely, we felt it was time to head out. In Lifeboat, Walter Slezak leads the survivors straight to the Germans, who knows where Tom Hayden would have led us? Translation, Stop This 'Homage,' We Want To Get Off.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }