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