Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Want To Love 'Ringer' But It's Not Making It Easy...

If you have been following my writing, or even my Tweeting, for any amount of time you know the kinds of stories I gravitate towards are the ones that are deeply nuanced character tales. I don't care what medium; I don't care what genre; I don't even care what demographic-- for the most part. As long as the characters are developed enough to feel like they could exist in the real world-- in my world-- I'm invested. And what makes them feel just that real? It's the little anecdotes and details, things that make them tick-- things that are unique to them and only them-- and the things around them in their world that just seem to fit. In Hollywood there are half a dozen shows at any given time that all have the same theme or premise ("different stages of relationships" comedies, for example), but what makes each one interesting enough to live and breathe all on its own, even when up against all of the others, are those nuances.


I want to love Ringer; I really do. I love the cast and want to see them succeed, but I also love the idea of the show. I love that there is a woman so damaged and broken she thinks the only way out is to run, quite literally, from her problems and hide in someone else's life. I love that the show deals with recovery from addiction and paints a picture of a flawed woman who is just trying to get better and do better, even when crazy external circumstances and situations pull her apart. But what I don't love is that so many of the little details that could make or break this show are unfortunately being glossed over, rushed, or just otherwise considered an afterthought. And that means the show is unfortunately falling apart before its foundation can even really be built.

Let's skip over the pilot because those are notoriously tough, especially when dealing with such complicated characters and relationships as the ones that come from a character pretending to be another character and hoping no one around her notices. But the second episode, "She's Ruining Everything," should have launched the show into intense, intriguing, and most importantly insane thriller we have been promised. Instead here are the seemingly small, some might say nit-picky details that went overlooked and worked against it, completely taking me out of the story.

  • Bridget wore white to clean up a bloody mess. White. Was that a commentary on how dumb the character is? Or an oversight by the production team who just through Sarah Michelle Gellar looked extra good in white?
  • I understand that Bridget is new to this kind of deceit, and we are new to this story in general, but the amount of times she looks dumbfounded enough that another character has to give her a piece of exposition through dialogue, or the amount of time she flat-out asks what someone is talking about, is enough to make everyone around her suspicious. And yet they are all over-looking the complete 180 in behavior.
  • When Bridget confronts her step-daughter in the hall, she asks her to think of her father and what her behavior is doing to him. But any recovering addict knows you're not going to truly change your behavior or get help if you're doing it for someone else.
  • Bridget stuck an ATM card into a machine without knowing the pin. Why bother? Why not just march up to the bank and pull the "I'm so rich I can't be bothered to withdraw my own money" card that Siobhan clearly would have?
  • The bacon truck wasn't going to be downstairs forever, and yet she still seemed to take her sweet time moving that body. Again.
  • The dead body was dripping blood out of the trunk, like, a day after he died. That's not how that works. Watch CSI.
  • In the flashback, Siobhan went to pick up her drunk sister from a bar. So at one time she was a lot nicer than she is today. That's fine. But a jean jacket? I don't buy that she'd ever be caught dead in a jean jacket.

Perhaps the Powers That Be just need some guidance from an experienced showrunner who can step in when they are too close to the material to point out its shortcomings. Perhaps they are too caught up with other show elements, like dealing with the network notes, the production notes, etc etc, to focus on minutia. Perhaps they aren't used to the pace of churning out a new script every week, having come from the world of staff writing where they often work one on, two off. Perhaps they just bit off more than they can actually chew with the premise. But in the end no one stops to think of the millions of things that pull at their attention from behind-the-scenes; all they see is sloppy writing playing itself out on-screen.

Now, where the show did redeem itself still in the same episode was in the last scene with Bridget and her step-daughter. This scene seemed to be handled with more care than any other that preceded it across the first two installments of the new show. We got to see Bridget actually think about how Siobhan would have handled the situation-- we got to see how she actually did handle a nearly identical situation years earlier-- and when we sat with Bridget for a second while she weighed her options and ultimately decided to do the opposite, blowing her cover be damned. It is thoughtful moments like that which will make this show something truly special and spectacular, not simply a campy soap opera, if they become the norm and not the exception. Hopefully that last scene will be the jumping off point for the true start to the show. So I will be eagerly holding my breath, awaiting that crucial third episode.

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