22 September 2006

Thunder, Lightning, Television

I think it snowed (or maybe just slushed) at my house last night. There's plenty of the white stuff on the mountains. And the mother of all thunderstorms plowed through the Salt Lake valley at about 4am. Serious stuff. Lightning that lit up our bedroom (with the blinds closed) and immediate thunder that shook the foundation. Good times all around. Did I mention that it's September 22 and we've had the heat on in our house for 6 days now?

Anyway. Aside from Monday night's premiere of Studio 60 (which was pretty fantastic in a West-Wing-vs.-Hollywood sort of way), last night finally delivered some television worth getting excited about.

The Office
Probably one of the more uncomfortable episodes of the American version. Those of you who haven't seen the BBC original should be advised that it is far more brutal than the NBC take. Far more brutal. And last night's premiere was just about as close as Steve Carell has come to David Brent. And that's OK. I've come to enjoy the funnier, more lighthearted direction of The Office. And that's what made (for me, anyway) the episode even better. I'm not sold on the Jim/Pam melodrama. And it's an obvious mistake for anyone involved with the show to let that relationship overwhelm everything else that's going on. Immediate spinning the show into a painful and bruising episode-long tailspin was the right move. The Pam/Jim longing was reasonable and Steve Carell was just about as obliviously ruthless as can be. Not the greatest 22 minutes of The Office. But solid. And promising. Seriously... the "gaydar" clip at the end paired with Michael Scott's "Do you think his roommate knows?" comment were pure brilliance. Looks like a good year.

My Name is Earl
In October of 2003, the New Yorker ran a piece on Jaime Pressley (by Rebeccas Mead... I had no luck tracking down the article online) titled "The Almost It Girl". I read it. Of course I did. Contrary to the opinion my current slacking would seem to give, I was once a faithful cover-to-cover reader of the New Yorker. At any rate, the story detailed the struggle of a fringe "IT" actress like Pressley. She always seemed on the edge of a big break but rarely landed any substantial roles and was often relegated to sleazy side parts in epic films like "Joe Dirt".

As I watched last night's season premiere, I couldn't help but think about the article. Whether or not Pressley has finally "made" it is certainly debatable. But there seemed to be a larger lesson at work here. Jaime Pressley steals the show in nearly every episode. Last night she was simply fantastic. Even alongside the tremendously hilarious Jason Lee, Pressley knocks every white-trash line out of the park. She's absolutely beautiful — in that Pabst-Blue-Ribbon sort of way. The truth is, she probably looks exactly like I dream that some of the hottest girls from my high school look now (although they've all probably put on 75 pounds and now walk through the supermarket barefoot). In some weird way, Jaime Pressley is the perfect, unrealistic, Hollywood take on trailer-park beauty. And I applaud it.

But back to the New Yorker article... I started to think that maybe Jaime Pressley simply figured out what casting directors and audiences had known all along: The only way for her to become an "IT" girl was to embrace the very thing she'd been fighting. The New Yorker profiles her struggle to eliminate her Southern accent and land some serious roles. The truth is, that would have been a mistake. By exaggerating the accent and essentially playing a caricature of herself, Pressley has achieved the "IT" status that surely would have eluded her had she continued to swim upstream.

The real lesson: Stop fighting who you are. Now you know. And well... you know the rest.

"Jason Lee" - All Girl Summer Fun Band - mp3

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