Sunday, September 10, 2006

TV: Bo provides the B.O. stinking up Fashion House

MyTV launched last week. It's a Fox offshoot. Unlike Fox (entertainment) proper, Roger Ailes is in charge. Which may mean MyTV is off to a long and rocky start (the way Fox "News" floundered in the ratings for years). The new netlette is building it's schedule around two shows. You read that right. Fashion House and Desire. For thirteen weeks, a story will unfold on each, five nights a week of new episodes and Saturday featuring a 'best of' compilation. At the end of the thirteen weeks, a new storyline will begin.

A lot of hopes are pinned on (and money poured into) these shows. The result? Fashion House stinks. It actually features a cast that's trying to find their roles and floundering for the most part. (The sole stand out is Mike Begovich as the deceitful Lance Miller.) They aren't giving bad performances so much as they're still finding their way. It's a lot of work to produce five new hours of the same show each week.

But the reason the show, whose milieu is the world of high fashion, stinks so is that it revolves around a matriarch, Maria Gianni (and no, we didn't make that name up). Maria's meant to be a major bitch. She's not. And that's because she's portrayed by Bo Derek who puts the deadly B.O. into Fashion House.

Bo's Maria is stealing from her painter son's trust fund, sleeping with a blackmailer and supposedly chewing up everyone and everything around her. On her shoulders hang the entire series and that's why it's headed for the racks of an outlet mall near you immediately -- where you'll still avoid it.

Bo? To clear up a few misunderstandings . . .

There are those who call her a "porn star." Not true. Porn stars usually have to give the appearance that they're having a good time.

There are those who say she's Linda Evans if Evans had remained married to John Derek. Wrong. Evans could have marched straight from The Big Valley over to Casa de Moda and held your attention. Back then, she wouldn't have given a brava performance that scaled new heights, but even as a young woman Linda Evans could act.

There are those who say Bo Derek is an actress. This may be the most laughable claim of all.

Bo is a thing. She has always been a thing. She's apparently satisfied with always being a thing. When John Derek was alive, she was his play thing so possibly it's best, after all, that he's no longer around to see her revert to mere "thing."

On Fashion House, Bo Derek has a really bad habit of darting her eyes all over the place while saying her lines. Some suggest this is due to the fact that, being unable to memorize her lines, she's resorting to cue cards. We considered that possibility but, for it to be true, it would mean Bo could read. We find that as laughable as the book she recently "wrote."

Back in the early 80s, when workouts were all the rage, a women's magazine sought workout tips from Bo.

Bo's advice? Sit ups.

Lay on your back (so far it does sound like Bo), raise your legs in the air (uh-huh), cross them at the ankles then . . . . Bo crossing her legs? We'd sooner believe she could read.

She can't even cross her legs, fully clothed, on Fashion House which is why she's always reclining (she's supposed to be sitting) with one leg tossed here and one tossed there.

When we think of Bo, we think of Hershey bars, nudie scenes and someone suffering from, if not Epstein-Barr virus, then the sort of rolling blackouts that plauged California (thanks to Enron). The woman makes Kim Novak look like Anthony Quinn and Ricky Martin combined. Roger Ailes apparently okayed her in the lead because he's trying to demonstrate that Republicans can act. As Bo's film nadir or zenith (it's difficult to tell with what passes for her career) proclaimed Ghosts Can't Do It. No, and neither can Republican Bo.

In 1979 she was the thing with nipples. (Don't kid yourself, that -- more than the cornrows -- is what made her and what drew eyes to the film's movie poster.) She parlayed that into extreme nudity and, somewhere around the time of Tarzan or Bolero, America saw all she had to offer and then some. If, in watching Fashion House, you feel as though you're watching a made for USA Network movie, you're not remembering wrong. But, we'll note, USA Network has moved beyond those tired movies and we should all wonder why MyTV felt Bo Derek was the thing to jump start their network?

John Derek worked very hard at giving her a passable speaking voice. It just can't register emotion. (For laughs, watch her try to snap and use the word "pompous." She gives it about half the emotions most would give to, "Is it going to rain today?") Nor can her face which, surprisingly considering her relative young age for someone famous in the seventies, is pretty scary. Her appearance isn't aided by the bulky blazers she favors or the granny glasses perched on the end of her nose. Her hairstyle will only remind you of how wonderfully Barbara Eden's aged by comparison. But Bo? The years have not been kind.

When you can't act and the looks are gone, where do you go? Roger Ailes apparently. MyTV will no doubt soon treat us to the acting of others who also faded for good reason. Possibly fellow GOP poster pal Wayne Newton can do a laughable variety show for the netlette?

It's a real shame that Derek was cast in the lead because the other actors have had moments that showed promise. Mike Begovich should actually be able to go on to better things but that probably depends upon whether or not he can evade the stench that surrounds this show. Begovich hasn't hit a wrong note. (The scripts are translations and we'll just note that somethings don't merit translations.) While Bo seems to think the sight of her splayed against a chair or a sofa (legs akimbo) should be more than enough to satisfy TV watchers (didn't do the trick for movie goers), Begovich actually fills the screen and leaves you wanting more (in what's written as a one-note role).

Bo just makes you wonder if the name (not her birth name) was a nickname for "boring." It's not just that Donna Mills, Joan Collins and Ana-Alicia don't have to worry (they don't, their performances remain unchallenged), it's that even Virginia Hawkins need not worry that her place in the primetime soap universe is being challenged. (Hawkins played the Carrington's maid Jeanette on Dynasty and she made more of an impression in a bit part than Derek does as the lead.) On the fourth episode, at the very end, you saw all that was wrong with the show besides lousy writing. In a tight shot, showing only her mouth, Morgan Fairchild brought more life to the show in three minutes than the languid Derek (supposedly playing a bitch) had all week.

If Fairchild's role was more prominent (she's not going to be featured in every episode, in fact, she's in about a sixth of the episodes), we could tell you the show was trash but watch for the life Fairchild and Begovich bring to the proceedings. What we can tell you is that the cast is probably doing about as well as any will (outside of Bo). Every thirteen weeks, each cast will have to leap onto the treadmill and run as fast as they can with no workout coach to advise them. (Direction on this show is sorely lacking.) You might find an actor like Begovich who somehow manages to create an entire character despite all the odds. More likely, you'll find a group like you've got now, actors who are trying their hardest with limited time and no guidance as they try to bring the characters (from scripts that are old and tired) to life.

If you want to see the worst the show can offer (supposedly MyTV plans to stick with this format no matter how low the ratings go -- and the word of mouth on Fashion House may explain why so many commercials for Fox shows and TV Guide -- which Murdoch owns -- fill up the ad space), check out this thirteen week cycle because there will never be a 'performance' like Bo's again. That's because, good or bad, all others will be trying to act.

This is the worst you will see all season. It's so bad, the Golden Raspberries should create a TV award for the woman they've so frequently, and so rightly, 'honored' in the past. We think it's fitting that this netlette is run by Roger Ailes. It's Fox "entertainment" the way Fox "News" is "news."

And it's fitting that their crown jewel should star a woman who has never grasped that polite conversation isn't discussing how vexing it was for her late husband to attempt to film erect penises. We think she's more than a perfect fit for her hero who enjoys farting on underlings because Bo Derek is to acting what George W. Bush is to leadership.

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