Monday, January 10, 2005

Uninterested - maybe

I'm not sure if I wasted an hour last night watching HBO's new show, "Unscripted." (I may have also wasted an hour watching "Carnivale," but I'm willing to watch another 2-3 episodes before I make that determination.) I'll admit I was sucked in by the names of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh attached to the show. (Their "Section Eight" productions could be renamed "Suction Eight" when it comes to me. Not to reflect the quality of its material, which is often very good, but how it pulls me in, regardless of how it looks on the surface.)

I arguably could've learned my lesson from their previous effort on HBO, "K Street," a fictional documentary-style show following Washington D.C. lobbyists (and "starring" James Carville and Mary Matalin). It was an interesting concept on paper, especially for a political junkie like me, but didn't quite work in its execution. In the three episodes I watched before giving up on it, "K Street" was often more baffling than interesting.

"Unscripted" appears to involve the same premise, only the setting is switched from D.C. to Hollywood. The show follows three aspiring actors (each of whom are "playing" themselves) who are trying to make it in show business; going to various auditions, plugging away in an actors' workshop, and suffering repeated humiliations. Some of the situations are funny, such as Krista Allen excitedly meeting with Garry Marshall, only to find out that he wants to hire her 6-year old son for a sitcom, rather than her. Others, such as Frank Langella's acting teacher relentlessly criticizing and verbally beating his students, aren't. (But maybe that just resembles my writing classes a little too closely.)

I guess I'm wondering why viewers should bother watching this show. Is it to see actors - "the beautiful people" - suffer to achieve a life most of us are supposed to think is glamorous? Is a story about struggling actors really that interesting? How many times have we seen that? (Hey, just wait until this becomes a blog by a struggling writer!) Will people want to watch people endure continual indignation, which is ostensibly why so many of us tune in to "reality TV"?

As Stephanie Zacharek says in her Salon column, "I Like to Watch" (I think a subscription is required to read it, unfortunately), why don't we get a show like this about plumbers, truck drivers, or accountants? It might be just as interesting