Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hank-y panky

You saw the movie Memento, right? Fantastic film: I highly recommend it. For those who haven't seen it, the premise is that the main character is trying to solve the mystery of his wife's murder but he suffers from short-term memory loss.

Now, did you see the new Kelsey Grammer sitcom Hank on Wednesday? It is horrible. How bad? This afternoon I watched the pilot before my screenwriting class. In class today we watched Deliverance. There were more genuine laughs during that movie than during the 23 minutes I suffered through Hank.

What does Memento have to do with this?

Well, from what I could gather from the bad acting and clunky story (it is a pilot episode after all), Kelsey Grammer's character is perpetually a fish out of water. But not in the sense that the Beverly Hillbillies were fish out water -- they eventually adapted to their environment in certain ways. I mean that each scene revolved around Hank being discombobulated by the conditions of the scene. I think that could be an interesting concept, but that is not the premise of the show.

The premise is that Hank was ousted from the board of directors of some downsized New York company. For whatever reason he did not get a golden parachute, did not liquidate any of his assets, and for some reason is not able to get another job in the city. As a result he has to move his family down to Virginia near his brother. Sure, why not?

The thing is, Hank is only able to function in a corporate board room setting. For example, he instructs his wife to keep minutes at a family meeting. You know, The Simpsons stopped doing family meetings because none of the writers' families ever did family meetings and it seemed contrived. The family on this show felt the meeting was contrived and the (insane) laugh track makes the entire scene feel contrived.

The problems don't stop there. Due to their king size bed not fitting in the stairwell, Hank and his wife are stuck in a fire engine bed for the time being (yeah, I know). There were so many things that were just unsettling in this scene. First, there is zero chemistry between Hank and his wife. His complaint in the close quarters: "You're breathing on me." Unless halitosis or fire is involved, I don't think that is generally considered a bad thing, particularly if it is your spouse. Hank's wife (sorry, I don't remember her name and I am not watching it again) is also wearing earrings and what looks like a day-to-evening ensemble from Project Runway. As I tried to puzzle my way through the weird wardrobe selection, the couple spontaneously engages in a fit of passion. No organic catalyst whatsoever.

One of my friends in my program is doing a TV research project related to laugh tracks. I mentioned this show and he asked me how many episodes I think it will last. My answer: already at least half an episode longer than it should have. If only this could be erased from my short term memory.

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