Monday, September 26, 2011

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Charlie's Angels

Let's begin with two concepts that I hold dear: One is that the problem with trying too hard is that when you fail, you fail spectacularly. The other is a saying from the recovery community: an expectation is just a premeditated resentment. I think both of these observations apply to my experience with the first (and what will be, for me at least, the only) episode of the new Charlie's Angels.

I was a huge fan of the '70s show--of course, I was eight years old when the original show premiered so it's entirely possible that my standards weren't terribly high and, for that matter, that nostalgia has clouded my judgment about the "quality" of the origial show. Nevertheless, I admit up front that my fond memories of the original show may have influenced my impressions of the rebooted version.

I had a gigantic girl crush on Farrah Fawcett (yes, I even had the poster--the swimsuit from which, by the way, was donated to The Smithsonian), which expressed itself primarily in lingering fantasies that I was the long-lost daughter she had given up for adoption and she would be coming any day to rescue me from the dreary life she had doomed me to in a moment of impulsive selfishness*. When my friends and I played Charlie's Angels on the playground, though, I was always Sabrina, the smart, but comparatively "plain" Angel, played by Kate Jackson.

And we played Angels obsessively in fourth and fifth grade, solving complex mysteries in the time allotted for recess, and occasionally having to say, "To be continued." when Miss Lazorchak called us back to class.  I was always trying to up the realism of our play and I remember covering my fingertips in ink and then pressing them to a piece of Scotch tape, leaving fairly credible fingerprints on the sticky side of the tape. I would then place these strips of tape at the scenes of various imaginary crimes around the playground for the other Angels to find.

Watching the new Charlie's Angels was not significantly different from how I imagine watching a bunch of nine- and ten-year-old girls playing Angels on the playground would be: lots of action, not so much character development, juvenile dialogue**, and acting so self-conscious and overthought that you can practically see the thought bubbles above the actor's heads: hit this mark, now make this expression, pause... 

The issues for me began in the opening sequence when the middle Angel, "Gloria," was a woman not featured in any of the promos for the show. Conspicuously absent from that sequence was the actress Minka Kelly who was heavily featured in the promos. (Minka, by the way, is the only reason, aside from a warped nostalgic curiosity, that I decided to even try to watch the show. She is a passable actress and unspeakably gorgeous into the bargain. She has the kind of face it's actually almost painful to look at.) I don't think I will be spoiling anything for anyone who has not already seen the show (and who has an IQ above room temperature) when I say, "Disposable character alert!"

I thought killing off one of the "original" main characters was a cheap stunt--maybe an attempt to get us to bond with the remaining characters when we saw them suffering and pulling together to avenge their friend's death. Problem being, we never had time to get emotionally invested in Gloria or the other two Angels and the scene immediately following Gloria's predictably explosive death, does nothing to increase our investment. The Blonde One (I did not learn either the character's or the actor's name) makes all the right facial expressions and has tears dripping off her face, but when she says the ridiculously overwrought line "I never though my heart could hurt this much," it is in a tone so completely soulless and shallow, you can be forgiven for thinking you've accidentally wandered into a retelling of The Stepford Wives. Even the intake of breath mid-sentence seems a calculated attempt at imitating real human emotion.

I watched another ten minutes of the episode, long enough to see the introduction of Minka, before I gave up. The only real mystery about this show is how anyone made it to the end.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Ugh.

*Never mind the fact that I bore zero resemblance to Ms. Fawcett or the other fact that my parents were TEENAGERS when I was born and, therefore, unlikely to have been on the prospective parents list of any adoption agency.

**Sample conversation:
Angel: How's Charlie?
Bosley: Devastated. Losing an angel's his worst nightmare. It's mine, too.
Angel: We're going to find out who did this if it's the last thing we do.