While NBC is emphasizing geek-friendly action-adventure this season, ABC has apparently decided to follow the lead of their hits Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, by whipping up frothy melodramas set among the rich and beautiful. The network's already scored once in the genre this fall with Dirty Sexy Money, which in its pilot episode kept the quirkiness, soapiness, luxuriousness and human insight in satisfying balance.
Big Shots, on the other hand, is like the anti-DSM. Both shows even feature a subplot about an inconvenient transsexual, although on Dirty Sexy Money the situation leads to Peter Krause snapping "I'm not going to go into a hotel and give a tranny hooker a check!" to Billy Baldwin, getting humor out of the timing and delivery of the line, rather than its quippiness (which is pretty much non-existent). Big Shots though is all about the quippiness, generally delivered by Christopher Titus, who says of the tranny, "Let's just say that when it comes to sex? She's the man."
Titus also responds to Dylan McDermott's insistence that the tranny "looked like a model" by saying, "Unfortunately, she was modeling penises." This is one of about a half-dozen jokes in the Big Shots pilot that use the word "penis"–or one of its iterations–as an instant laugh-getter. While he's in couples' therapy with his wife, Joshua Molina gets a text message from his mistress that reads, simply, "I miss your penis." Molina, playing the CEO of a pharmaceuticals company, also complains about a shipment of children's vitamins that gets mixed up with a shipment of Viagra, griping, "Children across the Midwest are having spontaneous erections."
Okay, that last line is semi-funny; but that's about it for big yucks–at least of the comedic kind–in Big Shots. The show plays like a cut-rate sitcom, given a glossy drama's production values. (Even the cast of McDermott, Molina, Titus and Michael Vartan is like an all-star team of TV washouts.) The premise is that our four leading characters are all high-powered businessmen who are "great in the boardroom and troubled in the bedroom," but unlike Desperate Housewives, which in its entertaining first season used over-the-top plot twists to explore relatable suburban anxieties, Big Shots just brings the wacky, fully divorced from the real. Accidental murder, sexy misunderstandings, unexpected revelations of marital impropriety…it's all there in the pilot, and not-at-all-enhanced by the rictus grin of Titus, delivering stale puns and put-downs from the side of the screen.
Hmmm…If I had to think of one bodily organ that this show sucks, I wonder which one it would be?
-There's been a real paucity of memorable female characters in the new dramas so far. Bionic women aside, nearly every actress on TV this fall looks generically coiffed and buffed and sexually rapacious, inclined to lounge around in lingerie while waiting for their man to hit the sack. I know TV is all about fantasy, and I've got nothing against semi-nudity, but since I'm sure nearly all of these women got the same stack of scripts during pilot season, I wonder if they all just gritted their teeth and doffed their outer layers without balking, figuring that if they didn't do it for one show, they'd have to do it for another?
-Another cliché of the fall season so far: The overhead insert shot, showing characters sprawled out on the ground, tussling among neatly arranged artifacts. Apparently a memos been going around TV production offices to make use of the widescreen capabilities of HD by stretching the action across the frame.
-You know what song I don't ever want to hear on a TV show again? Fuckin' "Young Folks."