Followup: "Living In TV Land"
Last week, I raved about the debut episode of "Living In TV Land," this one featuring William Shatner:
I had no idea what to expect, but imagined the show would be rather cheesy and gimmick-y like other shows focusing on these types of stars (The Surreal Life, My Fair Brady, etc). What can I say...I was dead wrong. Instead, what I found was a documentary that was interesting, well crafted and well edited, and, most importantly, honest...I can't imagine that all the other episodes will be as good, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
Tonight I watched episode 2, featuring Barry Williams:
STEER CLEAR OF THIS EPISODE.
To my dismay, it was the polar opposite of what I saw last week: it was scripted, it was full of phony moments, and just disengenous all around. Thankfully, it only lasted 30 minutes (as opposed to Shatner's 60).
The show focuses on the following, as the press release states: TV Land cameras capture Williams when the devoted baseball fan is offered the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodgers Stadium.
The only problem: there's this whole facade of TV Land just happening to catch Williams when he receives this news. TV Land is there, they tell us. Only problem is, they've got a camera on Williams when he receives the call, and (gasp!) they just so happen to have a camera on famed Dodgers player Don Drysdale as he makes the call to Williams. And it's only downhill from there. Because Williams is not an especially gifted actor, he doesn't sound surprised when he gets the call, he fakes determination as he searches his garage for his old mitt (and magically finds the old Brady tiki idol from the Hawaii episode), and pushes the whole overly stressed bit when he's preparing for his big moment. All in all, the moments are meant, I suppose, to be charming or cute, and they're neither.
There are some guest stars in this episode as well: Shatner's episode featured Candace Bergen, Leonard Nimoy and Brad Paisley, among others. These don't make as much sense. Yeah, there's Christopher Knight, with whom he practices his pitching, but that makes sense; he was a Brady, and plus, I kinda like Christopher Knight after watching the VH1 reality shows I referenced above. But here's where it gets weird: for no reason whatsoever, Williams goes out to a pool hall (Hollywood Billiards, I believe?) and plays pool with the following former TV stars:
Mackenzie Phillips (One Day At A Time)
Jeff Conaway (Taxi)
Julie McCullough (Growing Pains)
This infuriated me, for a number of reasons, but the greatest reason being: Julie McCullough got OLD, man! She's weathered! And it kills me to say this, because when she played Kirk Cameron's girlfriend on Growing Pains, I developed the biggest crush ever. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And when I found out she was not only a Playboy Playmate but also got nekkid in the brilliant, brilliant Big Bad Mama II, my head damn near exploded. Julie McCullough has always had a special place in my heart. And yes, she still looks pretty good...but I guess I haven't seen her in a while. Yes, a small piece of my heart broke tonight watching Living In TV Land.
Where was I?
So the episode finally ends with Williams throwing out the first pitch. Only we never actually see the pitch. Instead, we see shots of Williams kicking his feet in the mound, wiping his brow, winding his arm up...then we see a horribly animated image of a ball flying in the air, and a shot of it landing squarely in the catcher's mitt. That's right: we never actually see the moment that the entire show has led up to. What a fucking gyp.
There are two moments in the show that are, at least, interesting, but I'll share them here so you don't have to waste your time. The first shows Williams doing a personal appearance at the American Payroll Association. It provides the only real moment in the show: him signing autographs for middle-aged women who had crushes on him long ago. He does seem like he truly appreciates his fans, and is comfortable with the fact that he'll always be, and only be, Greg Brady.
The second moment happens at the gym when Williams is training (inexplicably) for his first pitch. He's on the treadmill. A guy comes up and exclaims, "oh man! Greg Brady! I am such a big fan! You guys traveled around in that bus, singing songs!" Williams responds, "...that was The Partridge Family." The guy responds with, "oh, alright...well, good meeting you, man!" and leaves. The point is that the guy who approaches him is clearly a paid actor, and not a very good one. TV Land felt compelled to manufacture even this, the very smallest of moments, in the hopes of getting a cheap laugh. They don't get it, and they don't deserve your 22 minutes of viewing time.
Next week is Adam West. I'll still watch. I feel obligated to at least report back, now that some of you wrote me and said you were going to watch the series. But if Julie McCullough is in it again, I'm jumping out the window.