I watched the premiere episode of the Paramount Network’s American Woman because my wife told me that I wouldn’t like it.
Now, this particular American woman who is my wife knows me pretty well. But, no one likes to believe he is so predictable. So, I challenged her. What is there about this show, which my wife had recorded on our DVR and had already watched, that I wouldn’t like? She said it was more like a chick-flick, something I wouldn’t get into.
There’s a real possibility that my wife was using reverse psychology on me to get me to watch it. She’s good at that sort of thing, as most mothers and wives are.
I, however, am a completely enlightened modern male. Sure, I like my car chases, violent shootouts and massive pyrotechnics. But, I’ve also been watching the entire run of Gilmore Girls. Right? And I liked the movie Dirty Dancing. I watched Sex in the City for a little while as well, until I completely lost interest in it. And—well, I guess that’s all I got.
But, I can’t just sit back and let someone, even someone I love with all of my heart, tell me what I will or won’t enjoy watching.
She was correct, by the way. Not only was this show not for me, but I also actively hated every minute I watched it. I was thankful that it was only a thirty-minute show. If I’d had to watch it any longer, I may have been forced to chew off my leg in order to escape the room, even though my leg wasn’t, in fact, caught in a bear trap.
Sure, I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but I can’t underscore this enough:
I. HATED. THIS.
Now that this bit of unpleasantness is out of the way, let’s talk about what specifically I hated about American Woman.
Right off the bat—and this has nothing to do with the show and everything to do with me—I hate the fact that Alicia Silverstone is 41 years old and looks approximately her age. I’m not saying she looks bad, because she doesn’t; she’s still a good-looking woman. And, no, I’m not one of those guys who is only attracted to women under 20 years old, the way Ms. Silverstone was when she broke through with Clueless, or even worse, 16-years-old the way she was in the Aerosmith videos. I’m just saying that in order to accept the fact that Alicia Silverstone is 41 years old, I have to accept the fact that I’m getting old. I don’t know that I’m prepared to do that yet.
After I got past that, I was immediately struck by the fact that, in the intervening years, she’s apparently learned nothing about acting. When she was playing Cher, she could get away with a crooked grin and mediocre line readings because it didn’t detract from her character. I think we’re supposed to take Bonnie Nolan, the character she’s playing in this series, a bit more seriously. And, I just can’t. We can blame part of it on the directing, sure. Even the writing. But, Alicia must shoulder some of that blame as well.
I’ll leave Miss Silverstone alone now. The majority of what’s wrong with this show has nothing to do with her.
This episode is set in early ’70s Hollywood, so that determines the color palette and artistic design of the show. People still smoked in those days. And we have to be reminded of things like the Women’s Movement. It doesn’t look bad on the show, but, in the wake of series such as Mad Men, it’s a case of been-there-done-that. Of course, Mad Men did it better, but that’s to be expected. That show was more New York than California, though. ’70s Hollywood just makes me instantly think of Boogie Nights and bad pornos.
The story we’re presented with is maybe a step above what you’d find in a bad porno, but just barely. Hollywood housewife and mother Bonnie discovers that her husband is having an affair. Therefore, she’s going to divorce him. How she makes it through this ordeal with two children seems to be the premise of the series. In an unrelated aside, I understand Netflix recently rebooted One Day at a Time.
We are introduced early on to Bonnie’s two best friends. One works at a bank. The other, as far as I can tell, is a rich naïve Texan. She didn’t appear in this episode, but I’m almost certain there’s a third best friend who is an unapologetic slut. It just seems to be required.
The Texan’s boyfriend-du-jour works in casting at one of the studios. It’s telegraphed so clumsily that he’s secretly gay that it was absolutely no surprise when he ends up making out with the pool boy in the pool house. By the end of the episode, the Texan is about to provide her gay boyfriend with the capital to start his own casting agency.
There are potential story threads being woven about the banker friend as well. She tells all of us that there’s not a day that passes that she doesn’t end up crying in the restroom at work.
After stalking her husband to confirm that he’s cheating on her, with her children in the car, no less, Bonnie has a confrontation with a pair of men in a sketchy neighborhood that just doesn’t ring true. I think it was supposed to show that Bonnie is a tough, independent woman. Instead, it makes her look foolhardy and reckless, especially with her children there. This was the only time we get to hear The Guess Who’s “American Woman” playing, though, so there’s that.
I’m not sure there was much of a point to this first episode except to set up the premise (that’s what pilots are supposed to do, dummy), but it was the longest 23 or so minutes I’ve had to spend lately. If by chick-flick my wife meant it was female-centric, that is certainly true. Men don’t come across very favorably in this episode, certainly. But, that’s not my issue with it. A powerful feminist message—if this is indeed that—is no replacement for things such as cohesive story-telling and decent acting. This doesn’t even to manage to rise to the level of prime-time soap opera.
My wife tells me that this may or may not be based on the life of one of those Hilton relatives, a Real Housewives reality star, or both. Even if this could make me watch this series (and it can’t), it wouldn’t make this any better. I didn’t realize until after I watched it that it was listed as a comedy. While I did laugh out loud several times while watching it, it wasn’t because it was humorous.
I’ll repeat myself here. My wife was right: This is not for me.
Frankly, it’s not for anyone and I’d bet you dollars to donuts that it won’t be around for a second season. However, I think you should watch it. This isn’t reverse psychology. It’s good to watch bad television every once in a while. It’s like a palate cleanser for your brain. You’ll be able to appreciate better television even more after watching this one.
American Woman earns a whopping 0 out of 5 stars from me. Only because I don’t deal in negative numbers.
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