Monday, October 10, 2011

Movie Sunday: The Player

The Player is Robert Altman's satirical gem that confirms everything we never wanted to believe about Hollywood, and by extension ourselves, since we are all fascinated with Hollywood, and if you love movies you should consider it your responsibility to see it, like Elephant Man, or Schindler's List. Personally, I haven't seen it in years, but I'm sure it's still excellent, and I couldn't exactly write a "Movie Sunday" about a short-lived television series, could I? Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

You may have noticed a paucity of posts from me lately. If I'm not blogging regularly, it usually means that I'm either writing a paper or writing software, which are my other creative outlets, and enjoy the advantage that I get paid (though not particularly well) to do them. You can usually tell when it's a paper because the silence will be preceded by a frenzy of posts signifying my desire to do anything but get to the task at hand. Procrastination is not required for software writing, as it's one of my very favorite activities.

Oh dear, it seems we've gotten badly off track. The point is that I haven't had a lot of time to watch movies lately. What television time I have had has been split between HBO (DVD) and BBC (streaming) television series. A few weeks ago we watched The Comeback, a 2005 HBO series co-created and starred in by Lisa Kudrow.  While The Comeback isn't exactly a movie, it only lasted one season, and the thirteen half-hour episodes hang together nicely as a story. Taken together, they are probably not any longer than the last two Harry Potter movies, and almost as intense.

I would submit that The Comeback is the rightful heir to The Player for at least two reasons. First, it will make you slightly ashamed for being a consumer of 90% of the shallow, derivative, intentionally non-creative crap that our entertainment industry churns out every year. Second, the satire is so biting and unblinking that it's initially hard to watch.

The concept of the show is that Lisa Kudrow's character was the star of a moderately successful sitcom twenty years ago, and The Comeback is a reality show about her trying to build a new career. She seems like such a waste of skin that you initially just want her to go away. I suspect this is why the series only lasted a single season. By the end of the second episode, I was not sure we would even want to watch the second DVD.  Everyone on the show except the housekeeper was whiny, self-absorbed, hypocritical, uninteresting, and unlikable.

Somewhere around Episode Five I started to get it. I think part of it is that the show got better. People found their characters, the writers found their story, and it all flowed a little better. But more importantly, we started to see the humanity in these people, and we begin to care about them in spite of themselves. By the end of the series we find ourselves pulling hard for Kudrow's character to succeed.

If you watch reality television, I charge you to watch The Comeback. Like most learning experiences, it  may not be easy at first, but it might be worth it.


  1. Have you seen the single series "Freaks and Geeks"? suspect you'd like it.... same deal. less than 20 episodes. but it had me from the beginning...

  2. The Comeback (and Boardwalk Empire) are the kind of shows that make me regret not taking HBO and Showtime. I will have to wait eons for Netflix to catch up. I liked the movie The Player and it has aged well - but then, I love all of Altman's films, even the less poorly executed. Like Woody Allen, a bad Altman is worth 10 of what usually passes for entertainment in the film world.

  3. I hope you'll be posting here again soon Chris. I've enjoyed reading your stuff.