By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
It‘s a hard question to answer, if only because the glaring weakness of Small Town Ecstasy is that it provides no context for Scott’s story. Of Calaveras County, where all this takes place, we see little and learn less. Although we‘re told that Scott is a preacher’s son who led a model life until he started taking Ecstasy, it‘s hard to tell whether he was ever deeply religious himself. Yet, watching him, one feels that Scott is a guy for whom society has more or less ceased to exist except in a purely technical sense -- paying taxes, staying out of jail, being friendly to people. In terms of a larger vision of how life might be lived, it has no meaning for him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have much meaning for the filmmakers either, or they would have looked into it. Nonetheless, on a micro-level, this is gruesomely riveting TV.
Although it‘s rarely as amusing as you’d like, Dinner for Five (Independent Film Channel, Mondays), the new series created by Jon Favreau of Swingers fame, is at least halfway interesting. The idea, which is to film a bunch of film and television stars (a different group each week) talking shop over dinner, is a good one -- provided, of course, that the conversation is up to snuff. In the first episode, Favreau‘s guests were Peter Falk, Gary Shandling, Vince Vaughn and Cheri Oteri, and the 25 minutes (edited down from the three-hour dinner) went by pleasantly enough. Falk and Shandling were both genial, oddly fascinating presences -- they looked like raconteurs, even if they didn’t act like them -- and there was a memorable moment where Shandling recited a New Age suicide note: ”I‘m not mad at anyone, this is just something I want to do for myself.“
As the host of the show, Favreau is obviously intent on putting his guests at ease. He laughs reliably at their jokes and agrees in advance to edit out anything they find embarrassing. No doubt this is a necessary proviso, since the last thing a celebrity wants to do is go on an unscripted television show and make an ass of himself. But the effect is to make the show seem tentative and overly self-conscious. Until the fourth episode, anyway. That’s the one in which guest Michael Rapaport cancels at the last minute, leaving Favreau and lovely, soft-spoken Daryl Hannah to field the uncensored charms of Marilyn Manson and Andy Dick. Self-conscious it isn‘t -- self-incriminating is more like it, especially when Manson regales us with descriptions of a raucous party with a teen- or possibly under-age girl. A beauty among beasts, Hannah smiles gamely through discussions of masturbation and pornography, and waits for the bill.
Speaking of bills, there was some real comedy on TV last seek when Steve Harvey, dressed like a dapper gentleman-gangster, appeared on a Dennis Miller Live repeat. He was talking about debt collectors back in the day when they would phone his house. The first question they’d always ask, he explained, was ”Mr. Harvey, when can we expect payment?“
”Hell, you can always expect it,“ Harvey would tell them. ”You can start lookin‘ for that payment as of right now. Gettin’ it is gonna be your damn problem.“
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