Flesh and Bone: Bulling Through

Young girl tries to make it as a ballet dancer. Does an audition. Does another one. Does that sound like drama series material? Before you answer that, be aware that television is the perfect medium to show you worlds you’ve never seen. Ultimately, there’s drama in everything, because true drama’s about people, not location or circumstance.

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Coming of Age
Flesh and Bone, it’s called and indeed, it’s about ballet. But it’s not about ballet. Sure, there are dancing scenes. They’re beautiful – even if you’ve never witnessed a dying swan in your life – but that’s not what the story is. They’re supporting the bigger picture, dressing it up. Think of them as action sequences, but more graceful. And without bullets. This is a show about an artist, struggling to not only get to the top, but first and foremost to just survive. A creative coming-of-age tale, if you will. This is about trauma. Confliction. Danger. Mentality. Relapse. And one particular creative expression that may or may not save the lead character.

The Real Thing
That leading lady is Sarah Hay. You’d better cast someone who’s able to believably pull off ballet moves for the role of ballet dancer. You don’t want to edit scenes together, with a lot of cuts, to create the illusion that she’s actually a pretty good dancer; you want the real thing – or something close to it. Hay is the real thing – being a professional ballet dancer turned actress, and a delight to watch. She’s like a young Evangeline Lilly. Reminds me a little of Julianne Moore and Shailene Woodley, too. Fact is, Hay is such a fresh face, she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet. Can someone please work on that?

Justice
I can only assume Starz has taken a bit of a risk, with Flesh and Bone. Just because it’s far removed from what we normally get to see. A show about some kind of hostage situation would’ve probably been a safer bet. But judging by the pilot – not called ‘Pilot’ – they seem to have gone all in. Committed themselves to what can only be described as a true piece of drama. Not action, thriller, comedy, dramedy, medical or legal show. ‘Bulling Through’ is all about doing the world of ballet – and the emotional struggles of a young woman – justice.

Run Away
Whether it’s because Hay doesn’t have much acting experience or not, she doesn’t have many lines in the show – yet. Her dancing and looks tell most of what’s she’s going through – and that’s a lot. She’s got the eyes to silence a room full of people. However, we don’t get to know a whole lot about her. Run away from home, but why? What’s she escaping from? It would’ve been nice to get a bit more information about her family and boyfriend, but Flesh and Bone keeps its cards close to the chest. That could either be good news or bad news. Good, because there might be a big mystery brewing behind the scenes. Bad, because the mystery might not be that big at all and they’re trying to unravel it as slowly as they can, before we figure out it doesn’t justify the big buildup.

Prologue
In the pilot, Claire Robbins (Hay) flees to New York, goes into the audition process of a prestigious ballet class, makes a friend (well, a roommate), charms the director with her dancing, gets the part in a new play, stumbles across a few naked breasts (and a tampon) and that’s where we are now. This could’ve easily been the storyline for the whole season, but it’s just the first episode. That is promising, because the show knows exactly where it wants to go, wastes no time in putting Claire precisely where she needs to be so the show can really start. ‘Bulling Through’ is basically a prologue. Now it’s time for serious business.

Blunt Talk, Blunt Humor

Starz has such high confidence in its newest half hour comedy Blunt Talk, they’ve already ordered a second season. Let’s judge the first episode of the first season first, shall we?

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Authority Figure
In an earlier post, back in April, we were looking ahead (not forward) after the trailer appeared. A trailer of a show that didn’t involve Patrick Stewart as a captain on an interplanetary spaceship, leader with extreme psychic abilities or doctor in a psychiatric hospital. (I assume you’re familiar with the first two, so I suggest you get acquainted with the third one.)
No, Stewart is by no means an authority figure this time around, although he does have his own television show. Apparently it’s a news program like Will McAvoy’s, but we don’t get to see exactly what it is (there is such a thing as not enough exposition).

Intact Penis
It’s a cheap looking set, that’s what it is. But let’s rewind to the beginning. Stewart’s doing a fine job as Walter Blunt, an anchor who’s doing a little too much goofy stuff to be believable, but nevertheless, Stewart’s doing the best he can with the lines he’s given. Unfortunately, the writing on this show cannot compare to the acting chops of its leading man.
It must’ve been hilarious, when they came up with him picking up a transvestite. Or when he gets caught by the police and there’s a moment when the cops start chasing Blunt around the car. Or when the transvestite says he/she’s got an ‘intact penis’, but Blunt had better think of it as a ‘9 inch clit’. When she asks if he’s got a problem with that, he says: ‘No, I’m English.’
Now, that’s clearly a punchline and it’s clearly unpredictable (which a punchline should be), but does it make any sense? I don’t think so. You might laugh out of custom, but a second later you’re thinking wait a minute, what am I laughing about? Blunt Talk is full of these kind of moments.

Cliché-Ridden
If we ignore the fact that a lot of the ‘jokes’ are either sex or drugs related, the story’s pretty much about a guy who’s going from one crazy thing to the next. It’s not just politically incorrect, it’s incomprehensible behavior. Walter Blunt’s fit to be hospitalized. If they’d indeed done that, there would actually be some foundation in reality, but they end the episode with the most cliché-ridden solution they could think of: Blunt is going to interview himself.

Transcendence
It’s neither original nor funny. Still, Stewart takes his role very seriously and it shows. He’s never decimated into one of the shallowest television characters that the script obviously asked for; he’s bringing depth to the part like a true professional. Only a truly great actor can transcend the awful series he’s found himself in. He could’ve easily been a mockery, but it takes a lot worse to dethrone Sir Patrick Stewart.

Wile E. Coyote
For me, it’s not enough, though. As amusing as it is to see Stewart do comedy – awful comedy and getting away with it – Blunt Talk is nothing more than a somewhat entertaining disaster. It’s like watching Wile E. Coyote, with everything around him falling apart, then realizing he’s walking on nothing but air and plummets. But he doesn’t die. The next scene, he’s back, energetic as ever, and fully commits to his next order of business.
There’s no stopping Coyote nor Stewart, but the latter doesn’t belong in a show that’s so far removed from hilarious Looney Tunes cartoons, that this could get real painful real fast.

Captain Blunt

Starz will delight us with a new comedy series this summer, called Blunt Talk. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek, X-Men) plays a loose canon, something I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him do. Sounds promising, although there’s a number of red flags to dodge.

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Red Flag number 1
The concept. Stewart plays a talkshow host who completely fulfils the image of the stereotype of the ‘rich, famous egomaniac’. Divorced multiple times, an alcoholic, with a love for drugs and prostitutes, moody, cynical and dismissive. We’re getting an inside look, behind the scenes of the talkshow he hates doing. This all could be funny for one episode, but we might be bored and annoyed when the second episode turns out to be just more of the same.

Red Flag number 2
The title. Blunt Talk. Presented by Walter Blunt. Okay, we get it. Stewart’s character’s blunt. Blunt blunt blunt. Ha. Ha. Too much on the nose, don’t you think? If the title’s already rammed halfway down your throat, what does that imply for the rest of the show?

Red Flag number 3
The writing team. Jonathan Ames is the creator, whose credentials include Bored To Death. And not much else. But even worse: it’s executive produced by Seth MacFarlane. He’s a funny guy. I like him as a guest on talkshows and on The Roast, however his shows (and movies) are very corny. It’s just one tired setup and empty punchline after another.

Red Flag number 4
It’s on Starz. The network would probably consider Ames and MacFarlane ‘top shelf’ and therefor grant them as much freedom as they desire. The comedic geniuses should know best; they’re top shelfers. This means their material could either turn into ‘just as platitudinous’ or ‘sillier than Tom Green’.

Red Flag number 5
The teaser trailer. Granted, it’s short and it’s only teasing, but apart from one sigh from Stewart, it’s not funny. It’s refreshing to see Professor X walk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard in very un-Trekkie situations, but that’s it. Where are the actual jokes?

I hope I’m wrong, of course. I wish these flags to be figments of my imagination. But let’s hold off any excitement till the first episode rolls around.