Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pilot Inspektor Tim: Ringer

(Rather than grouping multiple pilots into each update as I did when I discussed last year's new shows, I've decided to do this season a little more like my movie reviews, with one show per post. Some of the write-ups might be on the short side if I don't have much to say, but still, I figure this way streamlines things a bit.)

The show: Ringer, Tuesdays on The CW

The premise in ten words or less? Woman on the run assumes her wealthy identical twin's life.

Any good? I've said before that the way I differentiate a soap opera from its broader umbrella genre of serialized drama is that a soap opera has no thematic ambitions beyond simply following the lives of its characters. Ergo, The Wire is not a soap opera because it explores the downfall of the American city; Friday Night Lights is not a soap opera because it's about the culture of small town America; Breaking Bad is not a soap opera because it examines the drug trade; or even, to use a less haughty example, 24 is not a soap opera because it's about fighting terrorism. (Lost, however, is a soap opera. Sorry Lost fans.)

I say this so that when I call Ringer a soap opera no one mistakes me for using the the term as a lazy epithet. The show truly is a soap opera through and through, unless you believe that being a poor stripper chased down by a mob boss because you witnessed a crime and taking over your rich identical twin sister's life as a means of hiding in plain sight after she mysteriously disappears on a boat is a thematic mission statement that will make many viewers nod and go "Mm, yes, I've read much on this topic."

So, operating under the assumption that the character of Bridget (the poor twin and protagonist) is the only real thing we're supposed to care about here, does the show work? Not really. The notion of how dizzying and how difficult it would be to navigate another person's life if everyone thought you were that person is a potentially fascinating one, but the show skates right over it, with Bridget falling into the groove of hanging out with her estranged sister Siobhan (I shit you not: Siobhan)'s husband and best friend and living her posh lifestyle instantaneously. It never goes into the literally hundreds of blind spots Bridget would have, from not knowing the names of mutual friends to the addresses of Siobhan's regular destinations or familial stories or anything. The conflict continues to stem mostly from Bridget's laughable run from the mob and the cops, and it's just not very interesting at all.

I know a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans were looking forward to this series solely for the magic of having Sarah Michelle Gellar back on TV after eight long years, but make no mistake: this is not a Joss Whedon show. Ringer and Buffy have nothing in common. Gellar gets very little chance to show the pep or personality she did as Buffy Summers, instead being forced into playing blandly polite as Bridget and blandly snooty as Siobhan. It's still hard not to like her – she's one of the more charismatic TV stars there is – but the script offers her little to chew on. Nestor Carbonell plays the FBI agent searching for Bridget, and as many problems as I had with Lost by the end of its run, Carbonell's performance as Richard Alpert was never one of them, so that's cool. The rest of the cast is serviceable and forgettable.

I understand if you want a little more Sarah Michelle Gellar in your life, but you'd be better off just busting out the Buffy DVDs and rewatching those. Or hell, even Cruel Intentions. Honestly, if forced to watch a poor-girl-on-the-run-masquerades-as-her-rich-identical-twin show I think I'd rather watch ABC Family's The Lying Game, and The Lying Game is pretty damn bad, so that's saying something.

Will I watch again? I may give the second episode a look on the off chance that it shakes off the freshman jitters and stops feeling like a slightly better-lit soap opera, but the soapiness is built into Ringer's DNA, so I'm willing to bet that will be the end of my journey with the program. So much of the premise revolves around who is going to find out Bridget's secret, when, and how they'll respond, and I can't even fathom how such a story could sustain itself into a second, let alone a sixth or seventh season. The pilot's audience of 2.84 million makes me strongly suspect that question will never be answered, either.

Premise: C+

Execution: C

Performances: C+

Potential: D+


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