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07 July 2008 @ 12:42 pm
Review: Pretty Handsome (FX)  
While I get all of the stuff sorted out with Fringe, I thought I would go ahead and review Pretty Handsome, the newest show from the guys behind Nip/Tuck, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

Unfortunately, Pretty Handsome (Or Pretty/Handsome as I have seen it listed elsewhere) suffers from a common problem. You can have the best cast in the world, bring together Oscar and Emmy nominees and winners but if you don’t have the right writing and direction, the show just falls apart. However, that isn’t to say that the show doesn’t have great potential.

Ryan Murphy has created two of my all time favorite shows, Popular and Nip/Tuck. While Murphy has written some of my favorite episodes, Brad Falchuk’s episodes of Nip/Tuck are right up there in terms of character development and emotional resonance. With Pretty Handsome, it seems as if they tried very hard to live up to those great shows but allowed too much of their usual “tricks” to interfere with the basic plot and character development.

Bob Fitzpayne (Joseph Fiennes) is a small Connecticut OB-GYN. He shares a practice with his father, Scotch (Robert Wagner) who would rather be out golfing than delivering babies. Of course, nobody can blame Scotch for wanting to spend time on the course because it keeps him out of contact with his wife, Bunny. (Blythe Danner). Blythe Danner is type-cast yet again as the uptight WASP housewife, similar to Will’s mom in Will and Grace. Her character isn’t developed much more than spending time with society ladies and going on about how she needs the best limes for her gin. I wasn’t shocked at all to find that Scotch was having an affair with his secretary, Regina (Niecy Nash). With a cardboard cutout stereotype of a wife, who could blame the guy?

Bob’s wife, Elizabeth (Carrie Ann Moss), seems to be another stereotype. She is an interior designer, I think, from a brief conversation she has about a couch for a client. But that is about all we get to see in terms of her career. She has enough time to show up for their youngest son, Oliver’s (Jake Cherry) tennis lesson though Bob seems to be the one more interested in it. Her friend, Corky (Sarah Paulson) and her are the typical suburban housewives of rich and powerful men. Corky complains that her husband, Chip (Mike O’Malley in a decidedly unfunny role) never satisfies her in bed and Elizabeth reveals that Bob might be having an affair because gasp horror of all horrors, he would rather go down on her, make sure that she orgasms, without wanting intercourse in return.

Bob and Elizabeth’s sons also seem very one dimension. Their eldest son, Patrick (Jonathan Groff) appears to be your run of the mill Golden Boy popular jock type. He is very popular at school, he has a beautiful girlfriend (Jessica Lowndes), a pussy hound best friend (Christopher Egen), and a bright future ahead of him. That is, if he, his friend, and his girlfriend can keep her pregnancy a secret from the rest of the school and the small town. It just seems like such a cliché to throw these characters into and they react as you would expect. The baby comes on the night of the big dance but it is okay because they have been prepping for it for the past three months. They are all agreed to give the baby up for their futures but one look at that slimy blood covered twitching baby and well, that goes all out the window.

Since Bob and Elizabeth have the popular jock son, it is only natural that their youngest son is the socially inept genius. Rather than playing tennis, Oliver prefers to spend his time cruising websites that offer the hottest sixteen and seventeen year olds for chat. I know that most people, without even seeing the show can tell where this is going. When Oliver goes to meet one of these girls, lo and behold, it is a man!

The main issue with this show is that Ryan Murphy’s writing usually is about perception, who we really are, and how we interact with the world based on whatever way we chose to present ourselves. Which brings us to Bob himself. The only character that is NOT a cardboard cutout of an established character type is Bob. Sure, he is rich, successful, powerful, handsome…but he also likes to wear women’s underwear. It is hard to tell from the pilot if Bob is a transsexual or transgender. There are several clues in the pilot that kept me guessing if it was one way or the other. I am not sure how much experience Ryan Murphy has in the trans community but as someone who was close to a pre-op MTF (Male to Female), I can tell you that she didn’t like to dress in women’s clothing, she NEEDED to. It was the only way that she felt like a real person. I get the impression this might be the way for Bob.

While Bob is a dynamic character and most of his scenes where he is shopping for and wearing women’s clothing isn’t played for laughs, it is played for symbolism and an overreaching message. We get it. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are insistent to hit the viewer over the head over and over again that being trans is okay, that we should accept it, that nature is complicated. The issue is that the type of person that is going to want to watch this show isn’t your average Survivor Sucker. They are going to be intelligent and you don’t need to insult them by having every single scene relate back to the overall “moral”.

That isn’t to say that it is all bad. I know this is a long review but I do feel fairly passionate about this show because as I said, it is Ryan Murphy, someone that I respect and admire. There are some amazing parts. The idea itself is fantastic and the “patient of the week” storyline is really too good and well developed to be ignored. I am not sure if the show plans to continue in this way, similar to Nip/Tuck or not. But Mario Wallace is not a stereotypical character and is very well developed. (To those with the Pong/Direct TV issue, it is clear that Mario was lying to make his life seem better than it really was.)

There is also a brilliant scene that I feel needs to be pointed out that shows what an amazing director and writer Ryan Murphy is. At the exact moment that Bob truly becomes a woman, becomes comfortable in his/her role, his son is becoming a man. The scenes are cut together in such a beautiful way, the way the dialogue overlaps, it is a thing of beauty. And that is what the entire show needs. It needs those moments of brilliance, to escape from those stereotypes, and become just as great as Ryan Murphy’s other shows. Also, Ryan Murphy has this fantastic ability to pair just the right song to a scene, which is no more prevelant then when Bob and Chip are squaring off on the tennis court to AC/DC's Big Balls. Expected? Maybe. Hilarious and apt? Completely.

I realize this is the pilot so I am hoping in future episodes, we get to see more character development, even if it means trimming the auxiliary cast. I would say check it out but don't expect the well rounded character development or to get much outside of the message in this first episode.

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Tomorrow, Leverage, a new show with Angel alum, Christian Kane.

Review of True Blood : Review of The Middleman : Review of Book of Daniel
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Khyri: Life journeykhyri on August 12th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for making these episodes available. I watched them last night, and once again since and I agree with you that the whole premise holds a lot of promise. I still hope someone picks this up.

It's a shame this wasn't made more widely available - almost every single transwoman I know who has had the chance to watch it has given it a great review, and seen aspects of themselves in Bob.
Kelly: Review Timexlivvielockex on November 11th, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
It sucks because I got slammed with copyright violations by YouTube and I had to take it down. So many people were enjoying it.

I don't think it got picked up, which is really sad. There aren't a whole lot of positive role models out there for transpeople in mainstream entertainment. It would have been nice to have at least on FX.

Did you ever watch Nip/Tuck? They had a great storyline with a character named Sofia Lopez that really just tugged at my heartstrings and reminded me of the battles of so many of my friends who were going through or went through transition.
Khyri: Life journeykhyri on November 11th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I noticed a couple of weeks ago that it had gone from your channel. :(

I haven't caught Nip/Tuck, but I'll make a note to do so. I've written reviews for many of the transgender-themed documentaries, but haven't yet done so for any of the drama/comedy shows where they're featured. My friend loriannetucson wrote about abillings's role on Grey's Anatomy but as you point out, there are so few.
Kelly: Fangs and Shadesxlivvielockex on November 11th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Here is the IMDB link and it shows what episodes the character was in. You don't really need to have watched the rest of the episodes to understand what is going on. Two plastic surgeons, one is a family man, one is a pussyhound. LOL