Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 7/22/08

This week’s episode of THE MIDDLEMAN reminded me a lot of vintage DOCTOR WHO — say, anywhere from season 12 (1974) through 25. (Season 26 had taken a markedly darker and more serious turn by the time of the 1989 hiatus.) What I mean by that is, classic WHO subsisted more on imagination, a sense of fun and the dedication of the creators than lavish budgets. WHO was famous for sets that literally wobbled and actors messing up oncamera. But the entire production was so suffused with love for the material that it didn’t matter if the “monsters” were made from plastic trash bags or the “aliens” wore painted scuba masks. I get a similar vibe from MIDDLEMAN; although the episode budgets are larger than any show from the 1970s, it’s easy to see the cost-cutting in the sparse sets and tiny casts. But the show boasts big ideas, stars that really sell the material and a joie de vivre that would do the Fourth Doctor proud. 

It was the light-hearted zest that caught my attention this week, from the “duck-sucking” warp hole to Lacey and MM’s secret dedication to Varsity Fanclub (which, it turns out, is a real group; I looked ‘em up). Whether it was Lacey mimicking the boy band’s choreography or MM mouthing their lyrics, the show took advantage of is stunt casting to illuminate character. The plot suggested that VFC were alien exiles of some type — and actually skirted parody of that trendy, lawsuit-happy religion that, er, cruises through Hollywood power circles. (I said it skirted parody; don’t sue!) I was actually more interested in Pip’s gallery show of paintings he copied from Wendy, called, “Deus ex Pip.” (How funny is that for an art show name?). The grotesquely smarmy Pip is, of course, played by Drew Tyler Bell (ex-Thomas, THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL), and his envy of Wendy is hilarious. MM was aghast at Pip’s plagiarism. “Art is one of the things that makes the world worth saving,” he intoned. Speaking of art, Lacey earlier called martial arts “the most aggressive of the arts” — and I’m still laughing at that line. Brit Morgan is not only pretty, she can deliver laugh lines like “hellaciously byzantine revenge” with aplomb. 

Have I mentioned how much I love the black “censor bars” that cover a character’s mouth whenever he/she swears? Bleeping the sound is funny enough, but the black bars kill me. MM’s exclamations of the week: “I’m as serious as Mao Zedong’s heart attack!” and “Chocoholics Anonymous!” 

On SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL, Belle was distraught because a bad review of her “services” on a website resulted in a precipitous drop in bookings. “Who listens to the critics?” she asked the camera — and, by extension, this blog — and I can only hope the answer is “Lots of people,” or I’m wasting our time. The remedy for Belle’s problem was obvious, but it took a while to get there. Meanwhile, she had to deal with a creepy client cast off by another girl. He didn’t really do much, but his manner was very off-putting, especially the way he wouldn’t allow her to check in with her service. His blandness reminded me of the banality of evil. 

Anyway, since Hannah had some free time, Ben convinced her to spend some of it seeing how the other half lived, so she went to the park to observe citizens: rushing to work, wrestling with children — talk about banality! I laughed when Hannah gave her sister a call, because she’s named Jackie — which is the name of Billie Piper‘s character’s mother on DOCTOR WHO. Hannah met a regular guy and took him home — but didn’t charge him. She had virtually forgotten how to entertain a non-professional caller. (All she had in her kitchen was champagne and chips.) She couldn’t figure out how to get the guy to leave — until she summoned Ben, who sent him packing. After seeing how unhappy Hannah was, Ben went online and posted a glowing review of Hannah, putting her back to work. And that’s the power of the web.

Why don’t you use the power of the Web to surf back here for the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

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