Dirt Debut D.O.A. on FX

Courteney Cox Not So Friendly

By: - Jan 04, 2007

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FX Tuesday nights at 10 and 11 PM

Created by Matthew Carnahan, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Joel Fields,

Executive producers; Chris Long and David Flebotte, co-executive producers; Sally Robinson, consulting producer; Thea Mann, producer, Joe DeOliveira, associate producer, produced by Sascha Schneider. Cast: Courteney Cox (Lucy Spiller), Ian Hart (Don Konkey), Josh Stewart (Holt McLaren), Jeffrey Nordling (Brent Barrow), Laura Allen (Linda Mallory), Timothy Bottoms (Gibson Horne), Will McCormack (Leo Spiller) and Rick Fox (Prince Tyreese).

    As a fringe network FX has been notable for producing programming that regularly eclipses the networks and even gives HBO a run for the money. Two of its dramatic series "Rescue Me" and "The Shield" are second to none. Its provocative show "Nip Tuck" was edgy and galvanic during its first season and devolved into self parody last season with an absolutely stupid resolution to its slasher plot. This season I just didn't bother to reup on the adventures of the duo of plastic surgeons and their dysfunctional families, lovers and clients. I found better things to do on Tuesday evenings. But I can't wait for the resumption of the next episodes of its cops and fire fighters. Last year I even hung tough through "The Thief" a promising show that didn't make the cut. There was a weak clone "Smith" on the networks which was canned after three episodes. The FX version of "The Thief" was far more involving and credible. And it is unfortunate that FX pulled the plug on a superb series that focused on the courage and complexities of US troops fighting a thankless war for Bush and his Hawks. I grew to really care about the characters but a drama based on Iraq was a hard sell for an audience weary of an unpopular war. But give FX points for trying to put a human face on a disaster.

   What were the often acute FX executives and program directors thinking when they allowed Courteney Cox and her husband David Arquette to cast her as the lead Lucy Spiller, the editor in chief of the upscale Now, and the smarmy, gossip tabloid Drrt. The fact that Cox can't act is beside the point. Emulating the stars she covers Spiller embodies celebrity, sex and greed. The fame game is all about coverage and not the quality of performances. A case in point was the media feeding frenzy when Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were an item. Remember Bennifer? The rags couldn't get enough of them but that didn't prop up their film "Gigli" which bombed at the box office. The Walmart set may lap up the dish but they draw the line when it comes to forking over hard cash for stinkers at the megaplex.

    In the Tinseltown game, however, when a film bombs that's a moot point. It's all about the contract and front money which represents millions for the top stars as well as points on the success of the film. During a press conference for the "Blues Brothers" I asked the late John Belushi if he had to pay back the studio when his 1979 film "1941" crashed and burned. He went into a Samurai stance and threatened to decapitate me. But I kept my head.

    No it's all about fame and contracts. This off season we watched as Scott Boras squeezed $52 million out of the Red Sox in a six year deal for Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka over and above the $50 million the team paid for negotiating rights to the Japanese club that had the player under contract. That's a lot of cabbage for a player yet to hurl a single strike in the major leagues. There is always the possibility a player may throw an arm out and get cooked during spring training. In professional sports rolling the dice on the next six years is a huge move.

    The world of celebrity feeds on the here and now of current market value and a voracious public appetite for vicarious thrills. Nothing new about that. It's as old as Hollywood. In sports perhaps it goes back to the gladiators of ancient Rome. The vulgate loved their brawny, ruthless killers as long as they were winners. Not for nothing to begin a day of sport they saluted the Emperor with "Nos moratamur te salutamus."

    "As much as you all hate to admit it, you need me," Spiller, who is allegedly modeled on editor Bonnie Fuller, formerly of US Weekly and now Star Magazine, says to a taunting simulacrum of studio chief Harvey Weinstein during an exchange at a party. In the celebrity/ gossip game the all powerful editors like Fuller (Spiller), Anna Wintour as spoofed by Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada," or the feisty Tina Brown who turned The New Yorker upside down before founding Vanity Fair, are as famous as the stars they make and break.

    While Streep was brilliantly cool, coy, and calculating in "Prada," as Spiller, Cox is just horny, avaricious and bitchy. During an editorial meeting, taking a riff from Trump in "The Apprentice," she turns to an underling gossiping about her on a cell phone and says "You're fired. You have five minutes to clear out your desk." Without missing a beat she calmly resumed the meeting. At best it's an "Ugly Betty" moment.

    What attempts to rescue "Dirt" from utter worthless trash is the caring relationship between the editor and her gonzo/ schizo chief photographer. Ian Hart plays the nut case Don Konkey who hears voices and sees snakes when hunkered down in the bushes spying on real life celebrity/ athlete/ actor Rick Fox, former Boston Celtic and LA Laker, cavorting extra martially in an outdoor pool with a fan/ prosty. His real life marriage to former Miss America bad girl, Vanessa Williams, was trashed when the tabloids published out of wedlock tryst pictures. So, in this sense, the athlete being blackmailed by Drrt is playing himself which is not really acting and involves no heavy lifting. Fox is eye candy on and off the court for an easy layup. The dish in this sequence is that the prosty used a strap on. Oh my. What does that do for a professional athlete's reputation? Guess he turns his back to the wall next time he picks up the soap.

    Right now the only character to care about in "Dirt" is the scruffy and demented photographer. It is an odd notion that although Konkey will stop at nothing to get that compromising, home wrecking, career ending, tasteless shot we are conned into rooting for him. Hey, even geeks have to earn a living and Spiller looks good by supporting the handicapped. This show is going to have to hire some, like, you know, writers and stuff, if it hopes to limp through the season.

    Let us pause for a moment and reflect on what this idiotic pap says about us? Every night during prime time, just after local and national news, networks feed us the gossip hour. The very latest Paris Hilton this or Mel Gibson that. Do we really care that Tom Cruise is a whacko Scientologist? Or that Michael Jackson enjoyed sleepovers with tots. That so and so is pregnant, cheating, drunk and stoned, racist, or not wearing knickers?

    In the real world we have just passed the 3,000 level in loss of American life in Iraq. Meanwhile, the gossip media is turning the hanging of Saddam Hussein into a celebrity event. Just for a moment Saddam was a real star until his ratings fell through the floor.