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Viacom Girl Checks Out Two New HBO Shows!

Published at: May 6, 2001, 11:59 p.m. CST

El Cosmico here, with a quick look at some upcoming shows from HBO. Me, I love the HBO. Think they're wonderful, and have a great lot of good programming. Also, they're not repressed puritanical prudes, which is a plus.

Can't say I know much about either of these shows, except that I'm already looking forward to Six Feet Under because one of the cast members is notably under-used talent and cutie-pie Lauren Ambrose, of PSYCHO BEACH PARTY fame. Hopefully this will be a good outlet for Ms. Ambrose. We'll see. Viacom Girl doesn't seem to think so, but maybe it will improve. Maybe she just didn't dig the subject matter. Same reason I don't watch Oz, The Sopranos, or any lawyer or doctor shows. I think they're well done, but I really just don't care about the subject matter. Not a bit.

So, here's Viacom Girl, not terribly enthusiastic about these two new shows she's seen. I'll watch them both, though, since I always try to catch the new fare from HBO, no matter what it is...and no matter what Viacom Girl says, a series with Lauren Ambrose that's created by Alan Ball is something that i'm going to watch. Ah well, here's our lady in the trenches:

Six Feet Under

I'm a big fan of HBO shows. After all, who isn't? I was really looking forward to watching the pilot episodes of two upcoming series on Home Box Office. They've already started promoting the first one up called "Six Feet Under", especially since it comes from an illustrious pedigree. It's been created by Alan Ball, who won an Oscar for writing "American Beauty" and is already being hyped as "the new Sopranos" by HBO's publicity machine. I'm sad to report this isn't the case. Many people have been viewing this pilot cassette and maybe it's just because the expectations are way, way too high but they're feeling highly underwhelmed. It fact, they're just "whelmed."

"Six Feet Under" deals with the funeral industry, obviously from the title, and tells the story of the Fisher family who run a mortuary business in Los Angeles. The whole clan is the total definition of "dysfunctional," and that's part of the problem. "American Beauty" dealt with a seemingly normal family and the dysfunction that was hidden underneath the facade. You expect a family of undertakers to be screwed up. Even the Sopranos clan, who rob and kill and steal, are more human and relatable than this Fisher clan. In fact, "The Simpsons" are too.

Either Ball has tried too hard or just wasn't as passionate about this creation. Too many of the characters feel over the top and unlike the acting in "American Beauty," there's no understatement. Ball has directed his own pilot, and it makes you appreciate Sam Mendes work on "Beauty" all the more. It wasn't showy direction, but in "Six Feet Under" it appears that Ball is trying to outdo "Rushmore" behind the camera with showy tricks. There are quick push ins and crazy angles. It's ironic, since HBO tends to be more about solid storytelling.

It's not to say the show isn't without merit. The acting is fine, especially Peter Krause from "Sports Night" and Rachel Griffiths is interesting ... but the biggest problem is that you just don't care about anyone. One of the more sympathetic characters dies early on, but in the one stroke of originality in the entire piece, seemingly could still be a regular throughout the series. That's all I'll say without revealing anything. "Six Feet Under" is a disappointment by HBO standards, meaning it's better than network shows, but from the home of "Oz" and "The Sopranos" it will most likely not get the same sort of acclaim unless subsequent episodes improve drastically.

The Mind Of A Married Man

Believe it or not, I'm a woman who doesn't think "Sex & The City" is the greatest thing since the morning after pill. It can be very funny and truthful some of the time, but more often than not it's a cartoon and an excuse to show great looking women prancing around nude. I was very interested to view HBO's "male version" of "Sex" called "The Mind Of A Married Man" which is supposed to depict the truth about the male psyche -- which is something I've yet to figure out. (The guy I've just started dating is driving me crazy. Over a recent dinner he claims to want to marry me only to act like he barely knows me the next morning. I want answers, damn it!)

"Mind" takes place in Chicago and revolves around the lives of three newspaper reporters who all have very different relationships with the females in their lives, with monogamy in their marriages a constant issue. (It's also made utterly ridiculous by the sort of women that are always around in every scene. You'd think Austin Powers was the editor of this publication.) The lead character is named Mickey Barnes and is played by someone named Mike Binder. He's not a very good actor and certainly not charismatic, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that he's also the writer and director of this piece who gave himself the part. It feels like an ego trip as well as some sort of wish fulfillment because he's married to a woman in the show who looks like she should be dancing in the credits to a James Bond flick, not playing anyone's spouse. She's the typical fantasy female who appears to have been born airbrushed and without body fat. When she first came on screen I was convinced I was watching science fiction.

This show has occasional decent lines and a sliver of insight here and there, but feels phony just like "Arliss" does. They should have never let Binder star in this piece because he indulges himself as an actor as opposed to focusing on sharing the universal truths of how men really feel, and he really tends to hog the spotlight at least in this first episode. Imagine watching the flick "What Women Want" with Carrot Top in the lead instead of Mel Gibson and you'll get an idea of how "The Mind Of A Married Man" feels.

It kept reminding me of a canceled HBO show called "Dream On" that had a guy in the lead who managed to be both funny and sexy at the same time, and they could have used him here. As TV shows go, "The Mind Of A Married Man" is just okay. The trouble is "this isn't TV, it's HBO."

VIACOM GIRL

Well, there you have it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Viacom Girl.

-El Cosmico

elcosmico@aintitcool.com

Readers Talkback

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  • May 7, 2001, 12:18 a.m. CST

    shave my poodle

    by fishmael

    you got it

  • May 7, 2001, 2:22 a.m. CST

    "All your shaved poodles are belong to us."

    by Uncapie

    They do.

  • May 7, 2001, 4:08 a.m. CST

    True

    by CrapHole

    True True..all your shaved poodles are belong to us.

  • May 7, 2001, 7:15 a.m. CST

    yeah right (re: 6 ft Under)

    by QuizKidDonnie

    yeah, undertakers are all very normal people. no there's nothing unusual about a career path that has you fondling dead people forty hours a week, plus overtime. all perfectly normal. hey our customers are just like everybody else, except they're dead! (ever notice that not too many gay guys work at tittie bars? that's because people tend to work with what they're most interested in.) No offense to all the non-weird funeral directors out there, but I would find that line of work to be creepy, and I expect the show to be funny and cool, even at the expense of funeral peoples' dignity. (P.S. let me guess, the dad dies, but he's always there in flashbacks, or maybe as a ghost?)

  • May 7, 2001, 9:01 a.m. CST

    You want answers about that guy?

    by Cervaise

    It's very simple. He acts like he wants to marry you during dinner so you'll have sex with him afterward. You do so. Then, in the morning, he's gotten what he wants, so he doesn't need to act like that any more. And he won't, either, until the next time he wants to have sex with you, which is his cue to turn on the charm again, and your cue, apparently, to fall for it. Really, men aren't that complicated. I'm surprised you haven't figured it out by now.

  • May 7, 2001, 11:33 a.m. CST

    a little help here? Please explain All Your Base Are Belong To U

    by Mister_Pink

    It's one of those things you just know you should know, but alas, I don't. Any help would be appreciated.

  • May 7, 2001, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Uh huh.

    by Cervaise

    And as sure as the sun rises in the east, someone who greets a sardonic aside with even dryer sarcasm will be labeled a moron by someone drenched in misplaced smugness regarding their own ironically substandard perspicacity. The only thing that surprises me, of course, is how long it took for someone to do it.

  • May 7, 2001, 12:29 p.m. CST

    re: Redlonghorn

    by Mister_Pink

    Thanks for the info. It's always better to get an "inside" joke if possible.

  • May 7, 2001, 1:07 p.m. CST

    The commercial Six Feet Under is intensely obnoxious

    by doctorcreep

    A bunch of people railing against being labled? Are you kidding me? That shit is old. A show about a bunch of people who feel they're misunderstood will be on my must avoid list.

  • May 7, 2001, 1:40 p.m. CST

    ...Rushmore?

    by Di

    Huh? Trying to outdo Rushmore's overdone, zany direction? Does anybody know what the fuck this chick is talking about? Yeah Viacom Girl...that Wes Anderson is as bad as Michael Bay...he ought to learn to show some restraint...

  • May 7, 2001, 2:33 p.m. CST

    Re: Rushmore & All your base

    by Planet Zac

    She's probably just watched the Rushmore Criterion DVD and decided that since Anderson used a couple tricks and POINTED THEM OUT in the commentary or the Rose interview, he's suddenly a "tricky" director, and she's name dropping the film to sound hip. ..... as for all your base, check this: http://www.stileproject.com/base.html the source material itself is still funny, just not the geeks name dropping it all the time. I hate name dropping!!

  • May 7, 2001, 3:47 p.m. CST

    HA!

    by The Riot

    "All that 'base' shit is by Johnny come latelys who tries to prove their hipness by dropping this shit on message boards." Yeah, what could be hipper than quoting video games!!!!

  • May 7, 2001, 4:19 p.m. CST

    Cervaise & Quill

    by Anton_Sirius

    Sarcasm is a bottomless cesspool from which you can never escape, only awaken. So who's laughing now, sunshine?

  • May 7, 2001, 4:31 p.m. CST

    redlonghorn, you so funny...

    by Uncapie

    ...I guess nobody can be cooler than you, you amazing hipster of jargon, you omnipotent, know-it-all of the universe. You can stop patting yourself on the back when you get a chance, but please remove your head from your ass before you do. While you're at it, could you stop eating the urnal cakes in the men's room? Despite what other people have told you, they are not rock candy, Segaboy.

  • May 7, 2001, 6:46 p.m. CST

    Mike Binder is too much of an egomaniac to hire real actors so h

    by Regis Travolta

    Shame on you Binder, give a struggling actor a job already you putz! This is why Fox is remaking the Sex Monster with a real actor, what's up with that? The video was fun and you've now been on-screen more than Hitchcock ever was. More even than Sydney Pollack. Time to help out those soon to be striking SAG actors, let them work for a living instead of watching you do their jobs for them.

  • May 8, 2001, 1:01 a.m. CST

    The Sins

    by vertigo93

    Sounds like a UK series called The Sins staring Pete Postlethwaite, who stars as an ex-con who wants to go straight and begins work for the family funeral firm. Each episode dealt with one of the 7 deadly sins that taunted Postlethwaite's character to go back to crime. Damn good stuff.

  • May 9, 2001, 2:17 a.m. CST

    You got it ALL wrong...

    by paddington

    it's "All your shaved poodle belong to us." Poodle can't be a plural when used in that form! That is all...