Monday, October 5, 2009

Gossip Girl: A Case Study in Why Stunt Casting Is A Bad Idea

Before I get to GG, and the overacting mess that is Tyra Banks, I want to share something from my latest issue of Entertainment Weekly that really got me thinking. EW asserted an old adage: Stars don't make TV - TV makes stars. I wish I could find a link to the article to share with you, but it appears that it is only in the print version of the magazine and not their Web site. So, I will give you the highlights. Recently, Christian Slater, Heather Graham and Hugh Jackman were all cast in shows that were off the air as quickly as they appeared. Before Friends, all the members of the cast were struggling actors who might have looked vaguely familiar (e.g. Courtney Cox from her stint on Family Ties). Friends made them HUGE. And Friends provides a good segue to talk about stunt casting.

When done well, there is nothing wrong with an occasional big name dropping by a show for February sweeps. In fact, when done well, it usually results in an Emmy for said big name (see: William Shatner on The Practice). But an endless parade of guest stars gets you no where, and it just shows your writers are running out of ideas (see: J-Lo, Janet Jackson and a million other randoms on Will & Grace).

But stunt casting is the worst when you don't even swing for the fences with your guest stars. And that brings me to tonight's episode of Gossip Girl. Tonight, viewers were treated to both Hilary Duff and Tyra Banks. I really wish there were a better way to convey sarcasm, but let me spell if out for you. By "treated," I actually mean tortured to two terrible performances. And, I have to be honest, I didn't even make it through the entire episode. When Tyra had her first scene, I had to turn off the TV and immediately shower - because I felt so dirty for tuning in.

Hilary Duff is wooden and her teeth are still distracting. Honestly, the girl should stick to singing (sue me, I kinda found Wake Up sort of catchy) and Disney fare - where they honestly don't care if you can act. I mean, she is playing an actress and she is unconvincing! You know something - all those "big actresses" who got their start with Disney all kind of suck in real roles. The Duffster, Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens...the list goes on, but I digress.

And then there is Tyrant. She fancies herself an actress, but bitch, please. She habitually overacts - and those poor girls on ANTM when she offers them an acting "teach" - they are just screwed. She is supposed to play this impossible diva on GG, but the funny part is they didn't just cast her as Tyra. Now, had she been cast to play herself, we might have had something here. But, as a character actress, she is just unwatchable.

Yet, there is a bigger problem with stunt casting than casting sub-par stars to drive ratings. It often signals the beginning of the end - the jumping of the shark that Elle referenced recently. It's like a harbinger of a show death - sometimes the death is slow (again, see: Will & Grace) and sometimes it is rather sudden (see:Betty White on My Name is Earl - yeah, that's canceled).

I used to really enjoy GG. I put it in the guilty pleasure category. It was frothy and silly. I clearly have a soft spot for shows about pretty people and their epic problems. But, this latest episode - combined with that awkward transition to college that almost no show does well - has got me wondering if I have one less thing to Tivo.

1 comment:

  1. One guest spot I totally support, since you mentioned Friends: the one with Brad Pitt.