Ringer: Season 1, Episode 1
The most important thing to remember about Ringer is that it isn't Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This will be obvious to any of you who have already seen it, but based on the CW's advertisements for the series, it really, really wants you to think it is. And I have to admit, my initial reaction to the announcement that the show would star Sarah Michelle Gellar was almost certainly, "Oh my god, Buffy is back!" I had to continuously remind myself that the simple presence of Gellar did not signify that Joss Whedon was writing the show. Having seen it, there is no way I will ever confuse Ringer with a Whedon project again.
The premise of the show is pretty straightforward, though it seems to want you to think its much more complicated. Bridget Kelly (Gellar) is a recovering addict, former stripper, and possibly a former prostitute who witnessed a murder in the strip club she worked at and is now under the protection of FBI Agent Victor Machado (Nestor Carbonell) while she awaits the trial, where she will be the star witness. Yet, for some reason, ostensibly because she's afraid, but actually because the plot hinges on it, she flees to New York to track down her, wait for it, long lost twin sister, Siobhan (also Gellar). They haven't seen each other in six years, and are so estranged that Siobhan's husband Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) doesn't even know Bridget exists. The two immediately go on a boat ride (accompanied by the worst green screen-ing I've seen on television in years), and Bridget falls asleep. When she wakes up Siobhan has disappeared.
Assuming Siobhan is dead (which seems like quite a leap), Bridget assumes her identity, and the rest of the pilot plays out exactly as you'd imagine. Siobhan's life isn't as simple as it looks, and Bridget spends the whole night playing catch-up. It seems Siobhan was having an affair with her best friend's husband Henry (Kristoffer Polaha), has a bratty step daughter with a drug problem that resembles Bridget's, and, oh yeah, she's pregnant. Also, there are masked men with crowbars after her. All in all, its not good.
There is probably a good show buried deep, deep within Ringer, or at least a fun one. I'm as big a fan of camp as anyone, and I can imagine truly enjoying this show if it was even vaguely aware of how completely ridiculous is it, but there's a dourness to the whole affair that saps the campy fun out of the premise and leaves the whole affair feeling, well, bland. I love Sarah Michelle Gellar, at least on Buffy, but she has never been a particularly versatile actress. Whedon used her very well by keeping Buffy well within the actress' wheelhouse, but Gellar has never been particularly suited to dramatic acting outside of that show (I do think she has occasionally shown a pretty crackerjack sense of comedic timing, but again, that was mostly with Whedon's help), and Ringer doesn't have the levity necessary to utilize Gellar properly. If the show wants to succeed, it needs to let Gellar off the dour, depressing chain and let her throw out some quips every once in a while, preferably about how ridiculous her situation is.
As for the rest of the cast, Ioan Gruffudd is the only one who seems like he's really acting. Gruffudd is quite good in parts, especially when he's given anything to do, but the rest of the cast seems like they're coasting. This is especially problematic as this show could really use some colorful background characters. With Gellar's flat, even boring performance(s), there needs to be something for the show to hang itself on, and if the few scenes we get of Gellar's dual roles are any indication, her performances as the twins are going to be laughably written and poorly acted, which just won't be sustainable in the long term.
Whenever I write about pilots, I like to mention that they are often the worst episodes of their shows, and that there is every chance the show will get better in future installments. If that is going to happen, Ringer needs to learn to have some fun. Its a completely ridiculous premise, which is only a bad thing so long as the show takes itself seriously, but without any jokes or any real depth to the drama, the show isn't just bad, its boring. At the beginning of the episode, Bridget tells her attacker, "you've got the wrong girl." I imagine, by the end of this pilot, most Sarah Michelle Gellar fans will be thinking they've got the wrong show.
-As this is the first official review of pilot season, let me just say welcome to the new season!
-Also, in case you're desperate for more coverage of Ringer, here's how I'll be handling pilots this season (this policy is my own, each writer will also be setting their own): Unless I'm already signed up for recurring coverage of the show, I will only be covering the pilot. If you want me to cover this show further, let me know, and if there is enough interest, I'll stick with it, at least for a few weeks. So, if you want more Ringer reviews, drop me an email at Reviewtobenamed@gmail.com.
-You can tell Bridget and Siobhan apart because of how tightly Siobhan wears her hair!
-"I was wondering how you'd look after six years." "Not nearly as good as you." This is both clunky exposition and patently ridiculous, since they look exactly the same, even make-up wise.
-A lot of looking into the mirror in this episode, which is just groaningly obvious symbolism (and makes for some of the most clearly apparent split-screen editing in the episode).
-"I saw a way out and I took it." This whole monologue is just horrible, lazy exposition. It sounds like a bad theme song intro.
-The only thing worse than the show itself was the grating CW advertising. The worst of the bunch was a Marshall's commercial where a lady said, "real art is so dull." It was just a commercial, but it felt like a thesis statement for the evening (if I'm writing about the commercials aired during a show, you know something isn't right).
-The Secret Circle preview looked like campy fun, though. It looked like what I wish Ringer could have been. Look out for Gaila's review of that on Thursday.
-"I feel like every time I clean up a mess, I end up dirty."
-Dear Ringer, if you show a shot of the Eiffel Tower, you don't need to put a subscript reading "Paris" up. We get it. We get it all.