The 1990-93 British television production of Jeeves and Wooster has a special kind of historical and formal unity. The show starred Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, was compiled and adapted from P.G. Wodehouse’s stories about the 1930s London socialite, Bertie Wooster, and his all-knowing valet, Jeeves. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves stories”, much like the serialized novels of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have a narrative zing seemingly tailor-made for the television format. While they may not have actually inspired how radio and television took shape, they certainly seem like they did, with their episodic form, their light-hearted comedy, their circumstantial conflicts that right themselves with only minimal effort.
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Last week, Dr. Phil welcomed Kelly Cutrone, the habitually black-clad leader of People’s Revolution, the Manhattan-based public relations firm. Cutrone first entered the pop culture universe through appearances on MTV’s The Hills and as a mentor to Whitney Port on The City. Her own show on Bravo, Kell on Earth, featured Cutrone working with her People’s Revolution partners and clients and dealing with favor-seekers and clumsy interns. Through the brutally frank demeanor she displayed on these shows, Cutrone built a fiercely loyal following of young fans hoping to break into the fashion and public relations industries.
On his show, Dr. Phil invited Cutrone to confront two severely mollycoddled young women whose lavish lifestyles were bankrolled by their doting parents. The women’s delusions of impending stardom (one wears a golden tiara as an everyday accessory) were the most extreme examples of young people hoping to be lifted into the next wave of reality TV fame. After the showed aired, Cutrone notified her 92,000 Twitter followers that she had signed on to become a correspondent for Dr. Phil’s show, thereby infusing daytime television with her own brand of “truth-telling”, as an admiring Dr. Phil described her candor.
The fourth season of The Millionaire Matchmaker, takes Patti Stanger and her matchmaking assistants from Los Angeles to New York City. While the location has changed, not much else has. There are still millionaires looking for love and awkward on-camera attempts at romance. Patti continues her firing squad approach to the line-up of potential dates for her millionaires, verbally shooting down men and women who don’t meet her grooming standards. They’re too tall, too short, too hairy, too bald, too fat, too frumpy. Patti is the dating dictator which makes the show less about unraveling the mysteries of finding your perfect match and more about Patti herself. In every episode Patti yells, scolds, grumbles or whines. For a woman who is supposed to be all about love, Patti is one stressed cupid.
Gird your loins once more, ladies and gents – after a glut of vampires and werewolves, for something to really get the blood pumping as the winter nights draw in. Or not.
Instead, we’ve a soapy drama with an empty, meaningless title using a well-known idiom - the BBC drama department convention which refuses to die. Lately, Lip Service, which follows a group of gay Glaswegians, the city depicted as a stylish neon metropolis, rather than the usual grimy urban hell. Despite the vaguely sexy word-association, Lip Service is that surprisingly ubiquitous creature; a series obsessed with sex that is hopelessly devoid of the erotic.
Gok Wan knows good body shapers and isn’t afraid to share. As the host of the UK version of How to Look Good Naked, Wan uses both fashion consultations and mini therapy sessions to teach women how to love what nature gave them. The series, which recently finished its sixth season on Channel 4, is a makeover show but wants to be a life-changing therapy session. This identity crisis reflects reality television’s love affair with therapeutic discourse, but does a disservice to why this show really works. It’s not Wan’s body image counseling that makes his guest feel great at the end of the hour. Rather, it’s his role as best friend.