DIRT created by Matthew Carnahan, with Courteney Cox, Ian Hart, Josh Stewart and Shannyn Sossamon. Premieres November 2 at 10 pm on Bravo! Rating: NN
The first episode of Dirt ends with Courteney Cox's trashy tabloid editor hugging a schizophrenic man who's carrying a dead cat in a gym bag. It begins with her unironically preaching journalistic ethics to her staff of Hollywood gossipmongers.
In between, she blackmails an on-the-outs actor for a juicy story and stun-guns a fame-seeking one-night stand in the nuts. If you've ever wondered what the frosty Friends star is doing married to a two-legged freak like David Arquette, well, Dirt goes a long way toward explaining it.
Set around the goings-on at a couple of rumour rags (can you say "celebulimia?"), Dirt wants too badly to be Entourage but with more edge. Red-carpet premieres, boozy after-parties, overdosing actors.
It even has the requisite name-dropping (George Clooney's comes up several times, as though his mere mention might increase viewership) and cameos, although I doubt if many people would recognize Seven director David Fincher, and even fewer would care. The only thing missing is Jeremy Piven and a hiphop soundtrack. Oh yeah, and a sense of humour.
Entourage understands that the world of the rich and famous is ridiculous and absurd and treats its characters like kids at a carnival, albeit one with Jessica Alba as an attraction. It's a show that rings gleefully true, full of showbiz lingo, inside jokes and smart dialogue. Sure, agents are assholes, publicists are pricks and studio executives are akin to lawyers on the evolutionary scale. But dammit if being a famous actor - or a hanger-on of a famous actor - doesn't look like fun.
Dirt has none of that. As self-reflexive as it tries to be - one storyline centres on an unemployed actor (Josh Stewart, who resembles Arquette) and his much more famous girlfriend (Laura Allen) - Dirt has a really narrow view of what it's like to be a celebrity, and it's not pretty. Makes me wonder what Cox does with her Friends millions to have a good time.
Cox is too brittle and her character too superficially conflicted. She practically gnashes her teeth at the thought of capturing a married NBA star taking it in the dark side from a hooker with a strap-on. Yet, again, she preaches integrity, although she's hardly sympathetic.
She never seems to have the kind of fun with the nasty stuff that would make her deliciously villainous. I wonder what someone like Heather Locklear could do with the role. At least then I wouldn't get a queasy feeling when she hops into bed at the end of the night and whips out her vibrator.
Even more out of place is the aforementioned schizophrenic, who also happens to be a seedy paparazzo (Ian Hart). Bizarrely, his scenes are mostly played for levity; off his meds, his hallucinations come to life and he carries on conversations Six Feet Under-style with the corpse of an actor (Shannyn Sossamon) who OD'd after the scandal sheet ran a story about her unwanted pregnancy.
I'm sure the whole thing is intended as commentary on our celebrity-obsessed culture, how we're vultures feeding on the famous. Or something like that. But I'm not buying it.
What to watch this week
Sunday, October 28
RENT-A-GOALIE (sports comedy) Former Maple Leafs Darryl Sittler and Tie Domi are among the NHLers making cameos during season two of this Slap Shot-like beer-league comedy. 9:30 pm on Showcase
DEXTER (psycho drama) When you're done yucking it up with the pucksters, chill out with the second bloody season of this cerebral serial killer series. Keith Carradine has joined the cast as a fed on the trail of Michael C. Hall's mysterious madman. 10 pm on TMN