Sunday, January 07, 2018

TV: 9-1-1, please hold

Operator: 9-1-1, what's the nature of your emergency?

Caller: Yeah, I can't find anything to watch.  I work nights and THE CHEW, THE VIEW, 12 hours of TODAY, it's all chatter, chatter, chatter.  All my shows have been taken off the air: AS THE WORLD TURNS, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, ALL MY CHILDREN, GUIDING LIGHT, PASSIONS --

Operator: Sir - sir -- I need to interrupt you.  This line is for emergencies and the absence of soap operas is not an emergency --

Caller: I work a 12 hour night shift, you don't understand --

Operator: Sir -- sir -- I'm trying to explain to you that soap operas are still on the air.  As Ava and C.I. explained at THE THIRD ESTATE SUNDAY REVIEW for years now -- in 2010 and 2015, for example -- MTM's HILL STREET BLUES turned night dramas into soap operas by introducing the soap opera element of continuing stories. THE ROOKIES?  Self-contained episodes.  Sometimes a later episode would directly contradict an earlier one -- a character having a sister, for example in one episode and then forgotten the next.  CRAPAPEDIA has, of course, stolen from Ava and C.I. without attribution so here's a little element Ava and C.I. haven't tossed out yet -- MTM is directly responsible for soap operas in prime time.  Not only did HILL STREET BLUES turn cop dramas into soap operas, but MTM's CHEERS did the same with sitcoms.  Will Diane and Sam or won't they?  Suddenly, continuing storylines on sitcoms!  MTM's ST. ELSEWHERE?  Bye-bye MARCUS WELBY and laid the groundwork for ER and GREY'S ANATOMY.  MTM's REMINGTON STEELE . . .  Go down the list.  MTM revolutionized prime time TV by introducing the continuing storyline to every genre.  

Caller: That I did not know.

Operator: And you can Tivo or stream prime time programs during the day before you go to sleep or after you wake up.  Everyone of them is a soap opera -- all those NBC Chicago shows?  Soaps.  THE BLACKLIST, THE BLIND SPOT, MARVEL AGENTS OF SHIELD, 10 DAYS IN THE VALLEY,  THE DETOUR, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, THE MINDY PROJECT, SCORPIONS, THE BIG BANG THEORY, CLAWS, GOOD BEHAVIOR, ANIMAL KINGDOM -- Even the streaming services like HULU and NETFLIX have programs like SHUT EYE, FUTURE MAN, THE PATH, CHANCE, HEMLOCK GROVE, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, HOUSE OF CARDS, SENSE8, THE OA, STRANGER THINGS, OZARK, JESSICA JONES, IRON FIST, LUKE CAGE, DAREDEVIL, ONE DAY AT A TIME --

Caller: Wow.

Operator: Yeah and don't forget THE X-FILES that FOX just brought back for another mini-season or their new high profile series called, wait for it, 9-1-1.

a new illst

9-1-1 debuted last week -- and to good ratings.

So good for Angela Bassett, Connie Britton, Peter Kraus and Kenneth Choi.

But good for viewers?

That's largely going to depend on the writing.

Ryan Murphy's created another program.  It's his first attempt at some sort of a police-rescue procedural after success with AMERICAN HORROR STORY, GLEE, NIP/TUCK, AMERICAN CRIME STORY and FEUD.

Connie Britton's starred in two of Murphy's previous programs and the thing to note here is that she's no Ellen Pompeo.

Pompeo is one of the highest paid actors in TV -- or the most overpaid one.

For fourteen seasons, the actress has played Meredith Grey on GREY'S ANATOMY.  The actress, who turns 49 this year, has never been nominated for an Emmy for her one-note 'performance' which consists mainly of snarling.  You never believe a word out of her mouth.

Connie's the anti-Ellen Pompeo.

She was nominated twice for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, once for AMERICAN HORROR STORY and once for NASHVILLE.

If that confuses you, watch 9-1-1 and notice that her 911 operator Abby is yet another new creation from Connie.  She doesn't play the same role over and over with a different character name.  She creates a different character for each project.  It's why she continues working while Ellen Pompeo has announced she plans to leave acting when GREY'S is over -- prompting wags to shoot back, "Leave it?  When did she ever try it?"

Connie stands out and that would be the case even without her backstory -- which includes Mariette Hartley as Connie's mother.

Being the 911 operator isn't a glamor job or an easy one.  The other actors get to do the rescues and attempted rescues, she's got to be seated and on the phone.  Take away the emergencies and Abby's basically a tele-marketer.

It's a role that requires a real actress and Connie demonstrates how talent can pull you in -- even on stationary, talking head scenes.

Angela Bassett has plenty of talent as well -- she's an Academy Award nominated actress and has six Emmy nominations.  On 9-1-1, she's police Sgt. Athena Grant.  She's explosive at work and at home with a strong sense of right and wrong -- both qualities may result from her husband Michael's recent revelation that he's gay.  Michael (Rockmond Dunbar) argues that she should have known he was gay even though he didn't tell her.  Athena's not having it.  She's also not having a divorce and tells her two kids that they are staying together.

Feeling wronged, Athena's not going to be wronged again and she damn sure isn't going to be quiet when someone else is in the wrong -- like Buck (Oliver Stark) who goes all judgmental on a teen mother whom Athena yells is "a child" herself.

Kenneth Choi plays firefighter Chimney and this is his best role so far.  He appears to know it and stretches out in in it, luxuriates in it, in ways he wasn't able to on SONS OF ANARCHY or AMERICAN CRIME.  Thus far, his character has no drama on the backburner which makes him a lot more interesting than the others and also allows him to reflect on what's going on around him -- such as with a rescue he witnesses more than participates in yet plans to use the story of the rescue -- and put himself front and center of the story -- to score dates.

Firefighter Bobby is played by fourth series lead Peter Krause.  Krause has been nominated three times for an Emmy.  The good news here though has little to do with acting and more to do with the fact that he's not physically revolting the way he was on THE CATCH.  Krause looked bad and had no chemistry with his co-star on that show -- a major problem for the series since it was supposed to be a romantic caper show.

Shorter hair, not greased back, and a less heavy foundation make for more a more attractive Peter.

The role's not much.  He's basically Nurse in ROMEO AND JULIET.  In recent decades, the Nurse showed up in multiple films starring Tom Cruise.  Robert Duvall (DAYS OF THUNDER), Paul Newman (THE COLOR OF MONEY),   Bryan Brown (COCKTAIL), etc all had to wet nurse and burp Tom as they eased him into manhood.

The self-described "punk" latching onto Krause's nipples in 9-1-1 is Buck played by Oliver Stark.  He's a youngster 'hot shot' American played by a Brit who turns 27 later this year apparently revealing Ryan Murphy's decision to take up the Aaron Spelling 90210 casting method.

Oliver Stark may be an actor, he may not be.  No one can tell in this ridiculous stereotype that has to be the most insulting millennial caricature thus far this season.  (And, yes, we're not overlooking Ben Platt's performance as Blake on WILL & GRACE -- but that was meant to be comedic -- and was.)  He's sex-focused (using the handle "Fire hose" for his hook ups), ignorant of the world around him including pop culture -- references to films with Rambo and Conan both leave him stumped and -- shades of Mike Seaver in GROWING PAINS, he thinks the world revolves around him.

In the infamous GROWING PAINS episode, Mike skips school and is shocked to discover the world goes on whether he's present or not.  In 9-1-1, Buck says that the world began the day he was born -- which doesn't really explain his ignorance of 2011's CONAN THE BARBARIAN.

Buck is one of the lead roles and it's an embarrassment.  The best that could be done with Buck is to have everyone mock him.  Like with Conan, they could reply back, "You never heard of Sherlock Holmes?  Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?"

Buck's a joke and the audience gets that, the only ones who don't get it are the characters who interact with him.  Well, they don't get it and neither did Ryan Murphy.  Buck's supposed to be hot and he's not.  It has nothing to do with the birthmarks on his face by his eye.  Though it does have to do with some weird thing going on with the lower half of his face on both the right and the left side (whenever possible, the crew 'shadows' the left side of his lower face, so they're aware of the problem).  It absolutely has to do with his chest.

The 'hot shot,' self-described "Fire hose" has a shaved chest?


It could go to vanity.

But vanity would dictate that if Buck shaves his chest, he keeps it smooth.

Instead, we're forced to witness Buck's nasty, red bumped chest, with ingrown hairs and razor burn as well as tiny whiskers popping out.

If you're going to shave or wax your chest, do it.  But don't shave your chest a week or two before and then show up for a shirtless scene having not done any maintenance.  Can you imagine the flack Kerry Washington would get for showing up on TV with bristles growing out on her legs?

Everything about the 'hot shot' disappoints and maybe the real answer is not to try to create a character for Buck but just killing him off.

That would certainly allow more to be done with the woefully (and criminally) under-utilized Aisha Hinds?  As firefighter Hen, she enriches every scene she's in but gets so little to do.

And are we the only ones bothered by the fact that she's the one who has to help 'hot shot' Buck save his job?

He's not even acknowledged her the entire episode -- while she's getting mac and cheese, he sticks in his hand in the bowl -- but it's up to the underwritten African-American character to save his ass?

Buck needs to go.

The show walks a tight rope already with the storylines -- a baby -- newborn -- is in the wall having gone down the toilet into a pipe, a woman's being strangled by her own python, etc.  Ryan Murphy has insisted the show isn't "outlandish" but some of the storylines beg to differ.  Strong acting can navigate this hazard but that's made more difficult with nonsense like Oliver Stark's Buck.

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