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A Series that Doesn't Quite Dig Deep Enough...
on 30 March 2009
`Dirt' was originally advertised as a message from Courtney Cox, to break away from her clean cut image and her portrayal of Monica in Friends by saying: "no more miss nice girl". On top of that it was highly advertised during season 4 of `Nip/tuck' in America - leading many fans of the show to compare this new series with the critically acclaimed programme. So, does it break the mould for Courtney, does it top Nip/tuck, or does it fall flat on its face?
Well no, it doesn't fall flat on its face; it holds its own but it has a long way to go if it's to make a major impact in the TV drama world.
The series follows the editor-in-chief of `DirtNow' magazine: Lucy Spiller, whose sole mission is to get the dirt on every major celebrity and hot events, and Lucy's the type of woman who always gets what she wants...
Surrounding her is Don Konkey, (played by the talented Ian Hart) a freelance schizophrenic photographer and Lucy's only true friend. Celebrity couple Julia Mallory and Holt McLaren have their share of problems throughout the series and Willa McPherson, a reporter under Lucy always tries to get the scoop. It's these people's lives, plus the hectic problems surrounding them and the magazine, that `Dirt' thrives off to keep itself above water.
`Nip/Tuck' and `Dirt', in my eyes, only have 3 things in common: they are both sexually charged (some explicit scenes, although `Dirt' shows less skin than `Nip/tuck' does), they are both from the FOX network and they try to exploit various parts of the world that are usually kept hush. Such as Nip/tuck explores the world of cosmetic surgery while Dirt stretches the boundaries of gossip magazine publishing. In some respects they do this well, the stories that Lucy Spiller picks up and makes her front cover are quite interesting enough to keep the audience on their toes. Ranging from exploiting an action star's sexual interests to solving murders - though some are a little far-fetched, they are all purely for entertainment purposes and it succeeds.
There were some nice elements that make this series quite different to most programmes; they make good use of special effects for the first part of the series that fades for the second half of the 1st season until the finale. Most of the SFX are used for the scenes surrounding the schizophrenic Don Konkey, such as faces from boxes coming out at him, words spoken shown as eerie text on screen and talking corpses. The SFX work well to bring out what Don sees to life and although it may seem a bit odd at first, they work well in the long run.
Though the characters themselves may seem interesting at first glance, they prove to be too flat to be taken seriously. Courtney Cox plays Lucy well however, unlike Julian in Nip/tuck (known as being a heartless womaniser) who had more substance and heart as the series progressed, Lucy had her moments of additional background story (such as the death of her father, her mother re-marrying, etc) but the series doesn't go deep enough to give Mrs. Cox the chance to put forth the emotion - and instead just comes off as the wooden stereotypical magazine editor.
Willa seems to change from a naïve co-worker to sex kitten in a few short episodes - like as if the creators decided to change her character halfway through the series.
The only character to stand strong against the rest is Ian Hart's portrayal of Don; he does a supreme job and really is the main focus in every scene he is in. Unintentionally (in a good way) he brings forth humour in his "schizophrenic" scenes and brings heart and humanity into the show. Don may have the least plotlines and air time compared to the rest of the cast but he is easily the most likeable and interesting character in the show.
What really makes this show fall short of all guidelines of a great TV show is the pacing of the plot lines. There were easy enough plot lines in this entire 13 episode series to spread across 2, many even 3, seasons! How they got away with cramming so much into such a short space of time, is briefly bring up a twist in the story, hard hitting enough to make the audience watch the new episode - but don't stick around long enough to cause a major affect on the story, the characters or it's audience.
Take the character Julia for instance (hopefully this won't contain too many spoilers); she starts off as American's sweetheart, then she's in an accident, then suffers the aftermath injuries, then is fired from her show, then loses popularity, then becomes a druggie, then goes into rehab, then out of rehab, then fails to re-launch her career, then cuts herself, then tries to revive her career again, then *delete major spoiler*...in just one season...
The time in rehab barely lasts 2 episodes, in one she's losing her mind and suffering the withdrawal symptoms, then next she's ready to be released - its not believable.
The same goes for the rest of the cast and the entire series. Holt throws up worms, this happens twice in 3 episodes, the next episode he's told to take tablets and then we don't hear anymore!
I think the major problem is that there have been so many brilliant and critically acclaimed programmes in the past 3 years that have raised the bar in TV quality for all types of shows. If you want comedy you have the hilarious `Ugly Betty' or `Desperate Housewives' to choose from many, if you want drama with tension and an edge then you've got `Heroes', `Lost' and `Prison Break' to consider for example, if you want controversial drama you already have `Nip/tuck' which already does what it does so well. `Dirt' has the potential, but it isn't clear or strong enough to convince me from what I've seen so far.
Don't get me wrong, this show isn't all bad, `Dirt' gave Five US the highest ratings for the channel so far, plus due to the very strong season finale I'm looking forward to the second season in hopes that more substance and depth is added to the show (and hopefully will be longer to allow such elements). This series was good to watch during the summer holidays since it wasn't taxing and didn't need much thought power to process it. I would recommend this show to those who like Nip/tuck, who are fans of Courtney Cox and like sexually charged dramas. But if you're looking for something ground breaking that sends your mind racing with its incredible writing - look elsewhere.
The show contains swearing, sex scenes, drug use and a few violent scenes, but if you've seen `Nip/tuck' it won't shock you.
The box set comes with all 13 episodes on 4 discs. The DVD extras include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and character profiles.