The thing is that Amy Sherman-Palladino left right when Roseanne was fucking it up. She was the parakeet. She saw firsthand what happens when a person lets their selfishness get in the way of basic storytelling -- when the language you speak, which is what you have to trade just like Joss and anybody else that came through that machine, overwhelms the actual human truth you're trying to portray -- and got out right on time. Her last episode on that show, "Busted," is one of the finest half-hour scripts I've ever seen, in a show-length career of the best work you've ever seen. And then comes Gilmore, which had its problems, but certainly none of what we're seeing here. What we're seeing here is Roseanne-losing-it crazytown nonsense. This was a script that could have been written in ten minutes. Ten years ago.
What happens in it? Boo manages to make friends with the hottie boombalatty son of the odious Rico at the Oyster Shack where she works, in a fairly competent sequence of events that put the other girls -- especially, of course, Sasha -- right up on their toe-shoes. But beyond the meet-cute (in which he rescues her from the OCD of their college-focused teen manager, a type ASP has already done a million times, and better), it all just seems like plot movements. We're told next week will "change everything," and I have to say, as a fan of these ladies over the last month, I can't wait. Anything beyond the lazy binary of "skinny bitch with skinny bitch mother" and "chubby sweetheart with chubby sweetheart mother" -- plus the two basically interchangeable other ones we still don't really know -- that we've been asked to care about so far.
These are some damned capable people we're watching go through this nonsense. It should not be halfway through the season that we still don't know what the hell the point is. It should not be halfway through the season that we're still bumping into gross characters like tonight's ass-centric goomba and wondering what part he's going to play. This isn't an era-spanning, geographical survey; it's a story about girls, women, who have shit to do. And instead of doing it, we're just meeting more and more people we may never meet again, and wouldn't miss if we didn't.
What happens in it? I'll try again: Michelle wakes up with a possum in her bed, which somehow causes her to get super intense about Fanny's flighty financials, which have to do with a set of four hatboxes, that were already a competent joke on the previously mentioned sitcom, but now make no sense because we're not doing blue-collar anymore, we're doing bohemian dance partners. Fine. So then -- fifty minutes into the airing -- we finally get to the meat of the conflict:
Fanny recognizes Michelle's potential as a leader of women, as a teacher, and Michelle demurs, because she doesn't want to identify herself with Fanny. She doesn't want to be a teacher, because that's settling, which is what Fanny did. Which is what I thought the show was about, a month ago, and I'm still pretty sure is the point: These bitches need money, and somehow Michelle is the key to making it. If this show has a point, that would be it, right? They provide something for the four barely sketched young ladies, they become an approximate family, and the show actually, finally, desperately, starts. Sounds like a good show, right?
(Did I mention Tedious Rico's barely literate son is literally fucking named Godot?)
But in the interim fifty actual minutes between this point being made and anything being done about it, what we get is a bunch of bull about how Michelle takes it upon herself -- after a radically awkward, poorly directed crosstalk conversation or two, in which Sutton Foster literally stops herself at the end of each scripted sentence fragment and waits for the other poorly directed actor to say his or her scripted sentence fragment, approximating zero arguments or conversations that have ever happened on Earth -- to scream and yell at everyone who goes to Fanny's dance studio, threatening her business only to repair it (mostly offscreen) with some similarly stilted and rude phone conversations. We're treated to an intensely quirky dance number about nature and plastic grocery bags, Truly acts like a person who should be institutionalized some more, and we're out.
You know what would be fun? Actually watching these seven talented and beautiful women take part in a scripted dramedy television show with a fully-funded feminist mandate that has literally no restrictions and could tell any story it wanted. Any story, whatsoever, as long as it approximated a story: 44 minutes, five acts, people with consistent personalities, doing things that matter, in a world where things like physics and gravity and causation have a relationship to what happens.
You know what's a good deal less fun than that? Watching a middle-aged kook talk to herself.
This is the kind of shit that got Michael Jackson killed: Nobody to say no. Nobody to say, "Hey, Roseanne? Um, in this episode you took down a railway train full of terrorists and you were dressed up like Xena, and then you had a half-episode conversation about Janis Ian and your half-baked second-wave feminist discoveries with Jenna Elfman talking about riot grrls and mixtapes and whatever crap because your daughter hates you. That is not a TV show, that is a pill addiction. You have a responsibility to the people you employ."
Next week: Presumably, things go back to being relatively awesome. Or Michelle goes to Iraq with a duckling in her dufflebag, and I quit, just like I quit shows that go the Milch, Sorkin, Gilligan, Moffatt route of being random, self-centered babbles by industry résumés with nothing inside. But probably -- very hopefully -- the former. I love this show, I really do. I love the characters and the actresses so much. What is always becoming, never being: I love it. Adore it. But seriously? If this show were written by a man, this would be the week I'd delete my Season Pass.
Michelle married a random and then he died. Now she lives in a small apartment on his land in his small town, where his crazy mother runs a dance studio. Everything else is up for grabs, I guess.
Michelle wakes up with a possum at the foot of her bed. People always think possums are so cute, and they are always, always wrong. For a while it looks dead.
Michelle: "There's something in my bed..."
Fanny: "Well, just give him some cab fare and change the locks."
Michelle: "No, it's like a thing. Like a nature thing."
Fanny: "Like a tsunami? Like a rat? Just get out of bed with it."
Michelle: "I cannot do that."
Michelle sends Fanny a picture of the nature thing, and she rolls her eyes and drops some truth bombs.
Fanny: "It's not a rat. It's a possum. Which is basically like a rat. They only attack when they're in heat, I think. Just grab a skillet, bang him on the head."
Michelle: "Are you going to come save me?"
Fanny: "Sure, idiot."
The possum attacks! Best open so far of the season! What does it mean? Nothing. Just a funny idea about a possum, you're welcome, on with the show.
BOOKKEEPING WITH TRULY
Michelle: "Oh, are you guys busy? I'm just going to keep babbling about the possum."
Truly: "I don't give a shit about your possum problem."
Fanny: "We hate Michelle. What we love, though, is Generation X paranoia bullshit! No Logo! Spam email! Product placement! La Revolucion!"
Truly: "I am very competent except for when it's personal to me. That's my main thing I've got going on."
Michelle: "That is double what I've got going on. I'm bad both at things that are related to me, and things that are not."
Fanny: "I have four hatboxes. I keep my bills in them, and then some of them get paid and some other ones don't get paid. And yet I continue to survive."
Michelle: "That checks out, sure."
Fanny: "Paradise. Very quirksome."
Michelle: "Cool, let's talk about it for a really, really long time."
Child-Boss: "[Talks faster than anybody has ever talked. Has OCD.]"
Boo: "I like to pull my Mom Jeans up to my nipples."
Child-Boss: "You can serve teens sharing fries, other people that don't tip. Your other job is to jump up and down on the garbage in the dumpster."