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October 01, 2002 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-01

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Tuesday
October 1, 2002
michigandaily.com/arts
mae@michigandaily.com

ARTS

5

'In-Laws' coming to visit
your television set on NBC

NEAL
PAIS

By Douglas Wernert
For the Daily
In the television world, the one story that always
seems to generate a laugh is the outrageous behavior
of the main characters' parents. From George Costan-
za's parents on "Seinfeld" to Homer Simpson's dad on
"The Simpsons," the antics of the old folks are pure
gold. However, too much of one thing can be harmful
as well, and that's what happens with "In-Laws," a
new NBC comedy. To sum up this new
show; if you've seen the movie "Meet
the Parents," you've pretty much seen
"In-Laws" already. *
The cast isn't the problem. Matt (Elon
Gold) does an acceptable job as the son- IN-]
in-law who tries to stand up for himself,
overcome his nervousness and get the Tuesday
dad to like him. It's not easy when his N
overbearing yet subtly humorous father-
in-law (Dennis Farina, "Get Shorty") is coughing up
30 grand so Matt can go to cooking school. In addi-
tion, Matt and wife Alex (Bonnie Sommerville) are
now living in their house. To make matters worse,
S "Mom" (Jean Smart) is getting involved in the real

estate business and is abandoning her household
duties and also her first-person references (she calls
herself Marlene).
The problem is in the writing itself. "In-Laws"
is the type of show that would be one episode on
any other typical American sitcom, but when you
try to make a series out of it, recycled ideas
aren't too far behind. "Private convo time" where
the father (whose name in never revealed, by the
way) reprimands Matt for his actions feels like a
scene from countless previous tele-
vision shows. Also, the scene where
the father walks in on the newly
- married couple "consummating
their vows" is too cliche and played
AWS out. In addition, Alex's character has
no choice but to be the supporting,
at 8 p.m. mediating wife who tries to keep
C Matt and Dad from hating each
other. The plot has no depth and the
conflict is not blatantly expressed, so when the
anti-climatic final scene commences, the viewer
is left to think to themselves "OK ... that's it?
What happened?"
The father's soft spot for his daughter and his

Welsh is a modemn master

LE
s
[B

The enemy.

expressions of emotion about this are the only
humanistic elements present in this half-hour of
half-laughs. Watching "In-Laws" is like watching
home movies: Not bad the first time, but nothing
you really want to see again and again, because
eventually, it begins to repeat itself.

Comic look at suburbia in 'Hidden Hills'

ile perusing the shelves of
Princeton University's Barnes
& Noble this summer, I stum-
bled upon the Continuum International
Publishing Group's critical analysis of
Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting." Delight-
ed that I had discovered the store's last
copy of the book, I made a frenzied rush
to the purchase counter, my cultish
obsession with one of Generation X's
greatest stories overwhelming me. I sped
home to consume Robert A. Morace's
brief, but penetrating critique along with
a large Scotch and water. But when'I was
finished, I was disappointed.
I was disappointed because Morace.
did not say anything I did not know
about the phenomenon that is
"Trainspotting." I already knew that
Irvine Welsh is the greatest writer the
last decade has produced. I already knew
that he is the spokesman for an entire
generation born from acid house, post-
modernism and heroin chic. I already
knew that he somehow touched the lives
of the alienated and the apathetic with
strong Scottish burrs and excessive
usage of the word "cunt." Perhaps, the
only thing that I had not realized, howev-
er, was why. But my ownership of the
"Continuum Contemporaries" guide to
"Trainspotting" didn't help me one bit.
For the answer to the question, I had to
look at the language of text.
The harshness of Welsh's Edinburgh
vernacular and the candidness of his char-
acters make his stories - "Trainspot-
ting," "Filth, "Glue" et al - more real
than a shooter's needle breaking a vein.
No pussyfooting, no bullshit - just the
reality of life in the projects of Leith. That
is how Irvine Welsh manages to recycle
characters, to deal with the same issues of
football hooliganism, drugs, sex and more
drugs again and again. Euphemisms do
not exist in Welsh's world, nor do empty
promises about the grandeur of life.
Pornographic it is not. Gritty? Hell yes it
is, and you had better be able to accept the
realities of life if you want to touch one of
Welsh's books.

Every time I read and re-read one of
the Scotsman's novels, a wave of arro-
gance inexplicably washes over me.
Welsh's stories are not esoteric, preten-
tious or even arrogant themselves; it's just
that every time I crack the cover, I know
what awaits me, but more importantly, I
know how to negotiate the profane Scot-
tish dialect. I know to whisper the words
aloud because sadly, my central New Jer-
sey upbringing did not adequately prepare
me to read blue collar Scottish grammar.
But when I finally become acclimated to
the language, I can see the stark beauty of
an Edinburgh slum. I relate to the pain of
addiction well and I can sense the loneli-
ness lurking underneath street-smart exte-
riors; all because I have become fluent in
Welsh-speak. Welsh's tales are beautiful
because I can see bits of my life juxta-
posed with his Rentons and Spuds. Irvine
Welsh knows my secrets because he
understands reality better than any con-
temporary writer.
Not long after my discovery of the dis-
appointing reader's guide, I learned of his
latest endeavor, which had, at that time,
not yet hit the American bookstores. The
release "Porno," the quasi-sequel to
"Trainspotting," has given me yet another
opportunity to grow even more acquaint-
ed with Welsh's world of the very real.
The ignorant condemn Irvine Welsh as a
cynic, a purveyor of trashy literature, even
as a misanthrope. These claims are so
untrue it makes my head spin. His detrac-
tors are so obviously illiterate in realism.
Welsh's writing, as vitriolic as it is, always
bears hope. Once again, this is due to his
excellent command of the everyman's
language and his refusal to sell out. This, I
believe, is what Mr. Morace missed in his
analysis. Scottish history, socioeconomic
theories, drug culture - they all mean
shite to Irvine Welsh. The only things that
count in his postmodern scheme are life
and hope, pure and simple.

By Katie Marie Gates
Daily Arts Writer

"It's like your life, only funnier." The
tagline seemed unlikely for "Hidden
Hills," the new and highly promoted
comedy airing on NBC this fall. After
all, as we know, television sitcoms

rarely capture anything
resembling real life.
However, NBC's com-
mercialized prophecy is
surprisingly fulfilled by
a twisted and laugh-wor-
thy glimpse into the land
of American suburbia.
Doug (Justin Louis,
"Trinity") is the narrator

HID]
HIL
Tuesdays at
NB

"Snoops"). The couple have three
children to rear, shown so briefly it is
hard to remember if they were all
girls or not. Evidently, the kids are
unimportant; Doug is a construction
worker, or possibly an architect, seen
in a half-built house one time during
the pilot, leaving his exact profession
yet to be determined.
Janine is a doctor,
explaining the incessant
phone calls interrupting
DEN their already busy lives.
BLS It is not a surprise that
IS the two have lost the
9:30 p.m. honeymoon spark.
3C Meanwhile the sup-
porting couple, Zack
(Dondr6 T. Whitfield, "All My Chil-
dren") and Sarah (Tamara Taylor,
"Party of Five") has a sexual life most
married couples envy, Doug and
Janine certainly do. Zack and Sarah
have some kids, but the audience
doesn't really notice them.

houses with well-manicured lawns,
timed sprinklers and the hustle and
bustle of a so much to do in so little
time way of life. But it is, in fact, fun-
nier. In reality, we rarely find a neigh-
borhood with a resident softball
mom/porn star. In Hidden Hills,
Belinda (Kristin Bauer, "That's
Life"), soon attracts the attention of
all the dads with her sexy figure and
Internet porn site. "Porn Mom," they
call her. It seems everyone has some
secrets to hide. Another couple,
friends of the main characters, recent-
ly divorced because the man cheated
on his wife with a younger woman.
This serves as a reminder of the reali-
ty of divorced life in suburbia.
Who knows what other secrets are
hidden in these suburban hills, but
this fall viewers are bound to find out.
Following "Frasier," "Hidden Hills"
offers more down-to-earth comedy for
those of us who live in suburbia and
still manage to survive.

Courtesy of NBC

Contented dysfunction?

of this wacky, but entertaining come-
dy. "Life isn't the same as when I was
a kid," he claims while he endures day
after day of carpool, baseball practice,
cleaning up after his dog and his less-
than-perfect intimate relationship
with wife, Janine (Paula Marshall,

The pilot revolves mainly around
Doug and Janine's frustration with
their five-week-and-two-day drought
of sexual activity while revealing their
quirky lives in Hidden Hills, a suburb
of 12,000 people. Anyone who has
lived in the 'burbs knows what this
life is like and will find the show's
sets showing a familiarity: the simple

Neal Pais can be reached at
npais@umich.edu.

I

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