Reviews

Footballers' Wive$ / Serious and Organised

Jessica Hodges

Events at Earl's Park tend to be broadly soap operatic.


Footballers' Wive$

Airtime: Wednesdays 9pm GMT
Cast: Susie Amy, Gary Lucy, Katharine Monaghan, Nathan Constance, Zöe Lucker, Cristian Solimeno, Gillian Taylforth
Network: ITV
Amazon

SERIOUS AND ORGANISED
Regular airtime: Thursdays 9pm GMT (ITV)
Cast: Martin Kemp, Joe Duttine, Esther Hall

by Jessica Hodges
:. e-mail this article
:. print this article
:. comment on this article

Gambles

The holidays are well and truly over, and we face a long gray winter. To ease this burden, UK audiences will be treated to new episodes of Friends, ER, and (give or take a pregnancy or two) Sex and the City. In addition to these US imports, this year brings a few homegrown dramas, Footballers' Wive$ and Serious and Organised.

Wive$ looks at the sensational lives of professional soccer players and their partners, based at a fictional London football club, Earl's Park. Just like real pro footballers, they drive flashy cars, suffer stalkers, wear designer suits, live in grand houses, and make oodles of cash for scoring goals. They also tend to be a bit rough around the edges, giving the glamour a slightly trashy, nouveau rich slant.

Events at Earl's Park tend to be broadly soap operatic. Last season ended with a kidnapping, an attempted murder, some blackmail, and a ridiculous unwanted pregnancy plot. Jackie Pascoe (Gillian Taylforth), mother of Earl's Park star striker Kyle Pascoe (Gary Lucey), finds herself pregnant after an afternoon romp on her son's pool table with his team captain, Jason Turner (Cristian Solimeno). Married Jason tells Jackie to "get rid of it." Instead, she convinces Kyle and his barren young wife, a model-turned-TV presenter named Chardonnay (Susie Amy), to raise the child as their own.

Is Jackie secretly breast-feeding baby Paddy? Will Jason put two and two together and realize Paddy is his son? Will Jackie have to admit to Kyle that she abused his professional pool table, and with whom? The more interesting question raised by Footballers' Wive$ has to do with its tabloid-inspired storylines. The characters, clothes, sex, and money issues mirror real life celebrities' lives so closely that it is sometimes hard to remember what is fact and what is fiction, as if there's a clear difference.

Unlike American soaps, where one would be hard pressed to find any recognizable characters, Wive$ portrays a "lifestyle" we see illustrated in the papers almost every day. U.K. audiences are used to seeing footballers in the gossip pages, where stories detail their expensive habits, shocking affairs, and bad behaviors.

Footballer's Wive$ takes the gossip pages one step further. The show's writers and designers achieve a perfect balance between the absurdly sensational and the more nearly "realistic," a balance underlined by a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Last season had Chardonnay and Kyle role-playing "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" for their wedding ceremony, an obvious piss-take of Posh and David Beckham's elaborate "fairytale" wedding. Little Paddy's room features a crib shaped like a football, which swings gently in and out of a goal. The comedy is exacerbated when viewed with the knowledge that the Beckhams reportedly custom-designed their son's room -- with murals of Posh and Becks on the walls.

In addition to providing storylines, the glossy gossip mags make appearances on the show. At least once an episode, some character holds up a paper to complain about the headlines. And all run to the press to comment on their life sagas. When Jason Turner dumps his wife Tanya (Zöe Lucker), she tells her side of the story on Chardonnay's cable talk show. When she has to redeem herself after a dodgy drug bust, her agent arranges for her to be snapped leaving an NA meeting, "just trying to get on with her life."

And when Kyle and Chardonnay hold an elaborate christening ceremony, with a Middle Eastern theme, live animals, and a Pure Spring Water sponsorship, they sell the rights to OK! magazine. Here the lines between the real and the unreal get especially fuzzy. The week before this episode aired, one could find the real OK! magazine, featuring Kyle and Chardonnay at this same christening. Television ads running during prime time that week had Chardonnay inviting viewers to share in their joy by picking up a copy of OK!.

Thus extending tabloid culture, Footballers' Wive$ also has enough sense to make fun of itself. This allows for different types of pleasure. Those viewers who love juicy headlines (like the recent ones accusing England Striker Michael Owen of gambling too much) can love this program, because it is more of the same, only faster. And those who scoff at the tabloids, but secretly sneak peeks at celebrity shots in Heat Magazine, can love the show because they don't feel they're intruding on real lives to get their voyeuristic kick. Footballers' Wive$ is a cleverly calculated, nice bit of rough.

ITV's second most promising offering stars Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet and, more recently, Eastenders fame. Serious and Organised is a sloppy attempt to create a cop show with an edge, like The Shield. Kemp plays DC Jack Finn, of East London's Serious and Organised crime division. Together with his younger brother Tony (Joe Duttine), he zips around town in his (oddly conspicuous) department-issued convertible Audi TT, bringing down bank robbers, drug dealers, and human organ smugglers. At least once an episode, Kemp introduces himself and his brother, usually to a baddie whose plan they have just foiled, by saying, "I'm DC Finn and so is he."

In addition to the weekly crime bust -- usually jeopardized by the brothers' controversial tactics, but eventually successful due to the DCs Finn -- the series includes the melodramatic saga of Tony cheating on his wife Rachel (Esther Hall), with whom Jack Finn is secretly in love. Jack's attention to Rachel displays his softer side, so Kemp gets to play the tough, sexy cop and the caring family man. He is a modern male hero who kicks ass and kisses babies.

But, it is hard to take him seriously, mostly because the show's comedy seems so inadvertent. The opening sequence features slightly speeded up clips from the first and second episodes, showing the Brothers Finn in their toughest cop poses. They jump into their TT, slide over the hood, and try to look hard when pointing their guns. Along with a badly executed aged-film effect, this sequence is more reminiscent of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" than, say, a gritty NYPD Blue episode.

Still, this amateurish and farcical execution, if read as intentional cheese, also makes Serious and Organised somewhat loveable. The plots are slow enough that nothing is missed if one gets carried away making fun of dialogue, plots, or overacting. But this is a gamble: if the weekly crime fighting does not continue to amuse, the show will be relying on the love triangle alone. While Hall is by far the superior actor of the three leads, and seeing more of her would be fine, the show needs a more original approach to keep afloat.

To their credit, both shows deliver self-conscious parody of US series. Footballers' Wive$ allows us to gape at fictional soapy sleaze, while Serious and Organised ridicules cop show clichés. Though the latter is erratic, the embrace of the absurd by Footballers' Wive$ is very good telly indeed.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image