Mix “Grey’s Anatomy” with “Rescue Me” and you get TNT’s lastest summer drama, “Saved.” There is the requisite flawed hero who can only save others but can never save himself. There are also the obligatory dysfunctional family relationships and the usual romance with a co-worker. But in spite of the familiar terrority, “Saved” is still an entertaining look at one man’s rocky road to redemption.
In “Saved”, the man with the savior complex is Wyatt Cole (Tom Everett Scott), a roguish paramedic who returns to Portland after dropping out of medical school to bum around Hawaii for a couple of years. Not the worst mistake you could make, except in Wyatt’s case, because his dad is a doctor, the girl he was –and still is– in love with is a doctor, and they both think he is a big, fat failure for not becoming one as well. Too bad he has to run into them all the time when he delivers patients to the hospital they both work at.
Last night’s pilot episode was certainly filled with numerous of examples of Wyatt as savior and of Wyatt as the one in need of salvation. Even though Wyatt helped a woman give birth and dashed into a burning building to save a family, he still found time to get beaten to a pulp by his loan shark. (Did I forget to mention that Wyatt has a gambling addiction?) And that was just the first half of the show.
“Saved” is neither as gritty as “Rescue Me,” nor as funny or quirky as “Grey’s Anatomy,” but Everett Scott is charming and endearing as Wyatt, and the show makes a smart bookend to that other great TNT drama, “The Closer,” which airs right before it. So if your T.V. schedule filled with re-runs is in need of a little salvation, it’s worth your time to check this show out.
To evangelicals bent on conquering Hollywood, it was this month’s sign of the apocalypse. Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America—invented by Hollywood executives in the 1930s at the behest of Christians to monitor morals in the movies—warned parents that kids might need guidance when viewing “Facing the Giants,” a football movie made by two Baptist clergymen from Georgia. In assigning the movie a PG rating, the MPAA said the movie was guilty of proselytizing, especially a scene in which a coach tells a kid, “Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you’re going to have to make for yourself.”
The filmmakers, whose titles are actually “associate ministers for media” at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, were sorely put out. Christian commentators pointed to the PG rating as evidence that black is white and up is down in today’s America. But ironies aside, a risky rating may be the best thing that could happen to a preachy movie about redemption on the gridiron—or to a fledgling Christian media industry. Evangelicals in film need to emulate their Christian-rock colleagues and depend less on their bully pulpit as the majority religion than on their hard-won status as an upstart minority voice.
An executive at the film’s distributor, the Sony subsidiary Provident, who knows the value of a racy rating, said it best: “It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about.” Much more interesting. Vive l’apocalypse.
She was the Simon Cowell of “America’s Next Top Model“–the judge who everyone hated but whose acerbic, insensitive responses were a central reason for high ratings. Then on “The Surreal Life,” she clashed with “The Apprentice’s” Omarosa, to the glee of the celebrity-meltdown-watching audience. Now, Janice Dickinson has her own modeling agency, and a reality series about having her own modeling agency.
The show premiered June 6, with new episodes airing Tuesdays at 10. And per the manner of most “reality” shows, it’s hard to know which idea came first, the show or the agency.
Having herself overcome obstacles that threatened to prevent her own modeling career from developing–and then becoming “the world’s first supermodel”–Janice feels qualified to take the “raw material” of these wannabe models and breathe life into them. “I can see a model that the model doesn’t even know that they’re a model,” she says in the second episode. The result is that her agency/show isn’t just a conduit for modeling jobs: It’s part Janice as Creator/Deity Filling the Earth With Models, and part The Janice Dickinson College for Pretty People.
But why would we want to watch? We value beauty and fashion, which models professionally (and literally) embody, but, on some visceral level, we also want to see them bleed. Because they make a living promoting unattainable standards of beauty, we need to see them destroyed. So when Janice yells at one of the models for not having buffed her fingers (“your cuticles look like Martha Stewart on crack”), and tells another that she is too fat (“you need to do some shrinkage or go for a plus-size look”), we feel a mix of revulsion and revelry. “I will destroy their self-esteem and then rebuild it,” she promises. Poor models, under verbal attack from a cosmetically-overhauled diva. But then again, maybe they deserve it, for trying to be–and promote–perfection.
But the biggest irony might just be that the show airs on Oxygen, the women’s television network that claims to offer empowerment and entertainment for women. Perhaps this is Oxygen’s attempt at balance, creating a contrast with more empowering shows like Mo’Nique’s F.A.T Chance and reruns of Oprah and Ellen.
We gawk at people who represent the parts of ourselves that we filter out of everyday discourse—the vain, the image-obsessed, the unobstructed brutality of honest criticism without worrying about whether the object of criticism will burst into tears as his or her dreams are destroyed. Janice sells her show on her brutality, and her drive to succeed. We would hate her in real life, but on television, we love to watch.
Oscar winner and director Robert Altman has long been known for making movies filled with unusual characters and rambling, improvisational dialogue which viscerally dissect a certain segment of society–country singers in “Nashville,” Hollywood execs in “The Player,” hired help in “Gosford Park”–which is what makes him the perfect choice to tell a story about the lovable cast of a folksy radio show on the evening of its last broadcast. “Prairie Home Companion,” the movie, is based loosely on humorist Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio show of the same name, which broadcasts from mythical Lake Wobegan. The movie drifts back and forth between the dressing rooms and the stage as a variety of characters reflect on their hopes and dreams, their loves and losses, while waiting to take their final bow.
If you are not a fan of Keillor’s aw-shucks storytelling–and I never have been–don’t worry. The movie is much more than commercials for products like “Powder Milk Biscuits,” or bawdy but lame jokes followed by sweet renditions of your favorite hymns. Keillor himself is only on the stage for a small portion of the movie, and Lake Wobegan is not mentioned at all. The movie is actually much darker in tone than the studio advertising would lead you to believe. The movie is about nothing less than life and death–literally and metaphorically. There is the death of one of the characters, and also the death of tradition, with the show being taken off the air by a greedy corporate businessman. At the same time, there is the promise that the values and traditions these folks hold dear will actually be carried on after all, through Lola (Lindsay Lohan in a surprisingly good performance), the rebellious daughter of cast member Yolanda Johnson (Meryl Streep), who reluctantly begins jotting down the stories of the cast members in her diary.
“Prairie” is, in spite of the many mesmerizing performances by an Oscar-studded cast, a slightly uneven tale. The pace of the film lags at times, and the storyline involving an angel and the show’s company manager puzzled me for most of the movie. While Altman might be saying, with a touch of his trademark cynicism, that the old cliche “You can’t go home again” is, in fact, true, in the end, “Prairie” is still a celebration of the value of community, the value of faith, and the importance of bearing witness to both.