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February 08, 2012 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-08

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8A - Wednesday, February 8,.2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

MTVWears 'Pants' well

Hilarious cast
pleasantly surprises
in raunchy comedy
Daily Arts Writer
Nobody wants to admit ,they
like MTV. Quote "Teen Mom 2"
in your best Evans family imi-
tation ("I SEE
JENELLE!")? I Just Want
Sure. Laugh at
Snooki's drunk- My Patts
en stumbles? Back
You bet. But
acknowledge Pilot
that MTV's lat- Thurdays
est sexually at11 p.m.
charged series
may be engag- MTV
ing and (gulp!)
funny? Seek shelter and sharpen
the cries for long-lost music vid-
eos! But it's true - MTV gives
viewers exactly what they need
and revisits the neglected realm
of scripted television with Thurs-
day night's fist-pump-free "I Just
Want My Pants Back."
Based on the novel by David
J. Rosen, "I Just Wants My
Pants Back" follows Jason Strid-
er (Peter Vack, "As the World
Turns"), stuck in a less-than-
satisfactory entry-level position
at a New York casting agency and
plagued by a painful six-week
dry spell - so painful that poor
Jason can barely "remember
what sex smells like." Climbing
his way from rock bottom, Jason
meets Jane, the soon-to-be-elu-
sive "Fridge Girl." After a quick
exchange of witty banter and

"That's some good looking no-no juice."
Look past the title"
o ougar own


"We should try it in the blender next."
drinks, the two, hunched in the
comfort of Jason's refrigerator,
exchange something else - bodi-
ly fluids. Broccoli is an aphrodi-
siac, right? One sunrise later, the
one-night stand steals off with
Jason's jeans, leaving him with-
out alife plan or a pair of pants.
Each joke whizzes by as
"Pants" churns out humor of all
kinds: subtle remarks, witty (and
some not-so-wyitty) puns, pop-
culture-conscious comments,
snide retorts and delightfully
raunchy allusions. Despite the
risk of falling into the stereotypi-
cal "teen-y" ranks of "Skins" or
"My Life as Liz," "Pants" dodges
over-the-top attempts at relat-
ability and edge. Shockingly, the
show succeeds in evoking laughs.
That's right - not a slight snort
or throaty chuckle, but a literal

"LOL." After a sloppy enter-
tainment lawyer urges Jason to
stick his thumb in a previously
uncharted orifice, he heads to the
local store for a splint, complain-
ing that "her sphincter had the
grip of a merchant marine."
Yet at times, "Pants" may be
trying a little too hard, as illus-
trated by buxom friend Tina
Bradley (Kim Shaw, "She's Out of
My League"). An overwhelming,
overdone portrait of the hot-girl-
with-a-male-brain, Tina is quick
to spit obviously over-thought
lines, such as "take the deal, oth-
erwise a handjob is a man's job
and you can get out at the light
and mind my vagina." Mother
Goose must have excluded that,
one from her collection.
Instead, Jason holds the real
charm, like a cuter Andy Sam-

berg itt desperate need of a hair-
cut (and maybe a dose of reality).
Despite his lazy ways, Jason is
an incredibly likeable character,
playful and optimistic despite his
pants-less circumstances. Vack is
endearingly genuine, portraying
the protagonist with a subtle vul-
nerability and casual demeanor.
His character seems far more
"real" than the manicured "reali-
ty" casts MTV has manufactured
for years.
Strider may have described his
fridge-humping hook-up as "cute,
funny, and surprisingly filthy,"
but such compliments apply more
so to the new Thursday night
favorite, "I Just Want My Pants
Back." After the spray tans of the
"Shore" and the solemn-faced
squabbles of "The Hills," MTV
has finally done something right.

'Revenge' still bringing depth
and deftness to soap format

Senior ArtsEditor
If you've ever wished that the
opportunistic, corrupt social-
ites who remained financially
unharmed by
the economic.
crisis finally
had their assets Revenge
served to them
on a silver Midseason
platter, your Wednesdays
modern-day at10 p.m.
Robin Hood A
has arrived in ABC
a cocktail dress
and heels. ABC's new thriller-
drama '"Revenge" shatters the
idyllic picture of carefree Hamp-
tons living by weaving a complex
but controlled web packed with
dark twists and surprises.
To the gossipy Hamptons
inhabitants of "Revenge," Emily
Thorne (Emily VanCamp, "Ever-
wood") is just the pretty, wealthy
new girl who has decided to
spend hersummer on the beach.
In actuality, Emily is an antihero
on a mission to avenge her father
David Clarke (James Tupper,
"Grey's Anatomy") by taking out
the players who framed him for
a crime he didn't commit. Her
friendly, warm facade allows her
to smoothly ease her way into the
lives of the people who haven't
seen her since Child Protec-
tive Services took her away and
placed her father in jail for trea-
son and laundering money for
terrorists. Her father dies in pris-
on but leaves behind a collection
of documents, video tapes and
photos that prove his innocence
and implicate the Hamptons'
residing royal family: Victoria
(Madeleine Stowe, "Raines") and
Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny,
"The Tudors").
Emily, whose real naime is

Amanda Clarke, uses her father's
evidence to draw a roadmap of.
revenge. She concocts a won-
derfully complex plan to deal
out personalized forms of retri-
bution to everyone responsible
for her father's demise, target-
ing whatever or whomever they
value most. Almost every epi-
sode follows a similar formula:
Emily zeroes in on her victim
of the week, and after a series
of obstacles, destroys their life.
This could easily become tir-
ing, and most soapy dramas suf-
fer from their formulaic arcs,
but the writers of "Revenge"
know exactly when to throw in
a game-changing twist to pro-
pel the story forward or focus in
on a specific character to spend
time on development and depth.
This balanced movement makes
for strong storytelling and char-
acter development, which is why
it's hard to classify "kIevenge" as
a primetime soap - these char-
acters are fully realized, the sto-
ries are carefully plotted, and
the twists are shocking but still
grounded in a sense of plausibil-
ity and connectedness.
While the acting of the sup-
porting cast can sometimes be
melodramatic and vapid, the
leading ladies of "Revenge" are
a main reason that the show is
so addicting and exciting. Van-
Camp plays both sides of Emily
so expertly that the character's.
moments of earnestness seem
completely honest, yet her sud-
denbut fluid transformations into
a cold, calculating schemer are
just as convincing. Emily starts
dating Daniel (Joshua Bowman,
"Make It Or Break It"), son of
the all-powerful Graysons, and
it's still unclear if he's only a part
of her plan or if she really has
fallen in love with him. With the
elegant way VanCamp captures

SeniorArts Editor
You know that old saying,
"don't judge a television show by
its title?" No? OK, so maybe it's
not as popular as the real saying
about book covers, but it's a valid
point. With the multitude of
fantastic series floating around
the TV world these days, it can
be difficult to pick and choose
what we want to tune into every
week, and it's tempting to sort,
select and reject based on the
surface-level details: the cast,
the promos, the premise and the
title. This tendency has made it
difficult for me to recommend
the show "Cougar Town" with-
out being met with doubtful gri-
maces and judgmental badger
Yes, I agree, "Cougar Town"
is probably the stupidest title
of any show currently on air,
rivaled only by "The Vam-
pire Diaries." But just like the
supernatural CW drama, the
title isn't only dumb, it's entire-
ly misleading (I promise you,
the vampires stop writing in
their diaries circa the 5th epi-
sode of the series). Though the
first few episodes of "Cougar
Town" center around recently
divorced Jules Cobb (Courteney
Cox, "Friends") and her various
attempts at dating younger men,
the show has since morphed into
something entirely different,
making a lot of viewers wonder
why the title made itnto the page.
The cast even put forth sugges-
tions for alternative names.
"Cougar Town" isn't about
Courteney Cox vying for stud-
ly 20-somethings. It's about a
close-knit group of adult friends
- dubbed the "Cul-de-Sac
Crew" - who have a lot of fun
and drink a lot of wine.
It sounds simple, because it
is. Most of the comedy comes
directly from the interactions
among different combinations
of the Cul-de-Sac Crew. Put-
ting any two of these characters
in even the simplest of situa-
tions leads to hilarity. Jules's
two best friends - the feisty,
speed-talking Laurie (Busy
Philipps, "Freaks- and Geeks")
and the ever-crabby and judg-
mental Ellie (Christa Miller,
"Scrubs") - hate each other
and engage in daily insult bat-
i ties. Ele's husband Andy (Ian
Gomez, "Royal Pains") has an
over-the-top friend-crush on
Jules's ex-husband Bobby (Brian
Van Holt, "Entourage"), who
lives on a boat and has a golf
cart in lieu of a car. The cyni-
cal bartender Grayson (Josh
Hopkins, "Private Practice")
often acts like he wants nothing
.to do with Jules and her crazy
friends, but he quickly converts
into a full-fledged member of
the gang - watching "American
Idol," chugging wine and writ-
ing songs, (his top hits include
"Confident in My Sexuality"
and "It's Part of Being a Couple
- Remix").. Jules's pragmatic
teenage son Travis (Dan Byrd,
"Heroes") serves as the straight
man most of the time, calmly
explaining to the adults in his

life that "morning drinking"
probably isn't the best idea.
An ensemble show like "Cou-
gar Town" is nothing without a
well-meshed cast, and comedy
veteran Courteney Cox hardly
outshines her co-stars. Philipps
brings vibrant energy to her
delivery of all of Laurie's wild
stories, ramblings and words of
wisdom ("I have a rule that every
kiss should last three seconds -
it's what the Obamas do").
Speaking of "Scrubs," even
though this show has a different
premise and formula from Bill
Lawrence's past work, the dia-
logue, tone and jokes of "Cougar
Town" are distinctly Lawrence-
esque, reminiscent of this com-
edy master's beloved medical
sitcom. The Cul-de-Sac Crew
isn't all that different from the
Sacred Heart bunch in the ways
they interact and develop recur-
ring inside jokes. The characters
of "Cougar Town" make up the
game "Penny Can" - literally
consisting of throwing pennies
into cans - which reminds me
of all the absurd games J.D. and
Turk used to play, such as "Find
the Saltine" and "Toe or Finger."
On Valentine's Day, Ellie and
Grayson engage in a Janitor vs.
J.D.-like prank battle, ending
with Grayson littering Ellie's
whole house and front yard with
obnoxious Christmas decora-
tions. If you liked the pacing
and character arcs of "Scrubs,"
you're sure to find a familiar
home in "Cougar Town."
A game of
Penny Can,

"Whose life should I ruin next?"
Emily's emotional complexities, idealistic, free-spirited David
it's nearly impossible to figure out Clarke, the very man she and her
the character's internalizations. husband framed. Small but pow-
In this case, empty expressions erful character moments reveal
are the product of bold acting that Victoria suffers from numb-
choices, not the dead-behind-the- ing guilt and regret, but she
eyes disease that plagues many never lets her weaknesses show,
dramatic television actors. especially around Emily, who
has drawn her suspicion since
the pilot. And just like VanCamp,
Stowe plays her character's dual
genature with deftness and care,
a rsometimes making it easy to
s sympathize with the character
far revenge, and sometimes making empathy
or* almost impossible.
"Revenge" takes everything
that makes a soap opera gripping
VanCamp's talents are -the cliffhangers, the complicat-
matched only by the finesse of ed relationships, the snappy dia-
Stowe, who has made Victo- logue - and injects less common
ria Grayson the most dynamic attributes of the genre: careful
and intriguing character on storytelling and subtle character
"Revenge." Victoria - scornful- work. There are about 10-too-
ly called Queen Victoria by those many aerial shots of the exqui-
below her on the Hamptons site Grayson manor per episode,
social ladder -is controlling and and most of Emily's "insightful"
fierce, a domineering ruler who voiceover's are trite, but the show
is poised and confident on the was never trying to be acritically-
surface.'But there's much more acclaimed masterpiece - its mis-
to Victoria than supreme bitchi- sion is to entertain and enthrall,
ness - she used to be involved in and it succeeds in doing so week
a passionate love affair with the after week.

When Bill Lawrence alluded
to the possibility of "Cougar
Town" changing its name, I was
torn. On the one hand, the show
has been in constant danger of
cancellation and returns next
week after a long hiatus filled
with uncertainty for fans. Law-
rence noted on his Twitter that
the title is certainly a contribut-
ing factor to the show's low rat-
ings. The term "cougar" is also
offensive and problematic, and
have I mentioned it has noth-
ingto do with the show? But I've
become attached to the ridicu-
lous name. I no longer whisper
"I love 'Cougar Town' "out of
shame, because you know what?
It's a downright hilarious and
heartwarmingshow about fami-
ly and friendship that frequently
outshines "Modern Family" in
its ability to take simple stories
and charge them with smart,
feel-good comedy.
Yes, the titles "Friends With
Beverages" and "Wine Town"
are far more accurate, and if a
name change means the show
gets to stick around a little lon-
ger, I'm all for it. I guess I just
wish people could look past
the name and see the show
for what it is - a cougar-free,
wine-infused (penny) can full of


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