Fug File: Fug the Fromage

Fug the Fromage: The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story

First of all, there is an academic paper just waiting to be written about how Lifetime has made a cottage industry out of making TV movies about TV shows. It’s like Inception of guilty pleasure TV. And this HAS to be the final time they do this sort of movie; ratings were bad and also NOTHING HAPPENED IN IT. Because here is the thing: Just because a show itself was soapy and dramatic, it doesn’t follow that the making of said show is likewise soapy and dramatic. In fact, the plot of this whole movie is basically: Melrose Place was boring the first season, then they hired Heather Locklear and realized it was actually a soap opera, and then it was great! Everyone was nice and professional! The end! And there is a LOT of back and forth between Aaron Spelling and Darren Star about Star’s creative desires etc etc/how he’s going to take a job on Central Park West, instead of running Models, Inc, and the dude playing Star is totally competent in the part but WHO. CARES. ABOUT DARREN STAR AND AARON SPELLING’S EXTREMELY LOW-LEVEL INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT?

I’d argue, in fact, that the only REAL plot point here is that Doug Savant shot a gay kiss and the network cut it, without giving him a heads-up, and he was PISSED, both that they didn’t have the guts to do a gay romance, and because he had to find that out by watching the episode. Per this movie, Doug Savant is apparently a stand-up dude, refusing to clarify his own sexuality (until the network forced him to, I think) because he thought it was a douche move to be like, “well, my character is gay, but I AM STRAIGHT! NOT GAY HERE.” I am happy to believe that Doug Savant is cool. Other than that:  I HAVE NOTES.  Please put on your wig and prepare to rip it off with me.

PS: Tori Spelling allegedly also cast Andrew Shue. The entire subplot of all these movies seems to be that Tori Spelling is an unsung hero with razor-sharp televisual instincts.

Fuggery: 2. We saw an insufficient number of clogs. Basically, whoever costumed this movie had a very realistic grasp of the time period, which is actually admirable and a salute to them as a professional, but boring for ME. I will give GIANT extra credit to the silent man who plays Tommy Lee, though. HE WAS GLORIOUS. Just you wait.

Fromage: 4. INSUFFICIENTLY CHEESY. Do we really REALLY care that Aaron Spelling was mad at Darren Starr for going off to do Central Park West? NO.  Do we need ENDLESS SCENES with the writing staff standing in front of corkboards breaking story? I have stood in front of a corkboard breaking a story and it is boring to watch if you’re not the person in the middle of it, and I suspect the writers breaking the story about the story breaking were also like, “ugh, there is no plot in this movie, you guys. Can we go to Chipotle now?” I will note that Dan Castellaneta has several moments where he veers out of “Aaron Spelling” and into full-on Mr Burns, which is weird given that he doesn’t voice that part on The Simpsons.

F*ckwittery: 7. They never should have made this movie, because there is no story to tell.  It was a successful show that had a rocky first season, and was apparently peopled largely by professional actors who behaved professionally, even when two of them broke up. There is slight professional jealousy over Daphne Zuniga and Courtney Thorne-Smith being cut off the front cover of Rolling Stone –  in the course of which neither of the two of them do anything destructive nor dramatic other than being like, “oh, that’s a real bummer for me,” and which Laura Leighton handles by telling the person in charge that it’s not cool to treat them as anything other than equals. There is no reason for this to be Unauthorized, because I feel like everyone would authorize a film in which they behave largely like professionals who work hard and basically get along. That said, the filmmakers also changed actual facts; here, they claim that they were originally going to have Kimberly crash a plane into Melrose Place as the finale of season three, and then had to switch gears when a plan to crash a plane into the White House was thwarted. But in actuality, the apartment was ALWAYS going to blow up in the end of season three, but they had to recut the finale in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the actual explosion didn’t happen until the premiere of season four.  There’s also a throwaway line in a writing session mentioning Kimberly giving Peter a lobotomy, but that doesn’t happen until the next season, either (Jack Wagner isn’t even in this movie). The word “unauthorized” implies a project contains soapy intel people don’t want you to know, but it also implies some truth, and not a needless fictionalization of facts that anyone who cared enough about the show to watch THIS VERY MOVIE will realize are wrong, and which they can easily fact-check on Wikipedia in one minute.  I don’t understand some of the choices the writers made here; if you want to get into the super insane soapy stuff this show did, and I understand why you would, then you need to come up with a better place to end this movie than before all that stuff happened. And, look, I get that it’s easy to be like, “who fact checks a Lifetime movie?” and it’s not like this is the #1 thing I’m most peevish about in the history of the world, but Us Weekly ran a story this morning that listed “all the things we learned from The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story.”  Just…like…why?


Fug the Fromage: The Unauthorized ‘Beverly Hills, 90210′ Story on Lifetime

Dollars to donuts this “unauthorized” movie was done with input from Tori Spelling. She comes off in this like a very pleasant genius who was the engine behind this show existing and having the cast that it did, and also, this aired in conjunction with an hour wherein Tori got hooked up to a lie detector — it was called Tori Spelling: Celebrity Lie Detector, punctuated as if she herself is the human polygraph of other famous people, which is a show I actually MIGHT watch — and answered questions about 90210. (She claims she slept with Jason Priestley and Brian Austin Green, and there is a story about the dress in which she lost her virginity that I will make you Google to find out because ew.) And since Tori was once a Lifetime staple and that True Tori abomination about her marriage woes aired on this network, I’m feeling confident that she at least provided a few insider details — but sadly, not enough to make this juicy.

Fuggery: 6. Points added for the Steve wig, but most of the rest of it felt both period appropriate and kind of tame. Where were Brenda’s neckties?!?

Fromage: 6. The Sharknado joke? Oy. And the music cues were horrible. They actually used a “wah-waaaaaah” noise when the cast was imagining a luxe studio setup only to be met with the disgusting Van Nuys junkyard. But I would’ve loved a cheesier plunge into the meatier issues.

F*ckwittery: 4. With a project this shallow, that avoided doing much research or trying that hard to present anything unusual, it’s hard for people to have a CHANCE to act like total f*ckwits. My big complaint is the lack of new information or deep treatment of any of it, and zero stuff about how ANY of them were coping with fame or their place on the call sheet (except for Shannen, and thrice with Luke and Jason being mobbed by a twenty-person group of fans). How was Ian Ziering handling it? Was BAG having to finish school on-set, thus underscoring that he was the youngest of the crew? Were there mini-cliques? Etc. So most of the f*ckwittery is production-related, and the fact that when you try and rush something out, it’s never going to be as satisfying. Darren Star comes off as pretty dedicated and well-intentioned and competent. Aaron Spelling comes off as supportive, if slightly clownish. The most awkward part is trying to make Tori the hero of the piece when it’s only tangentially to do with her. Oh, I DID think it was intriguing that in the scene where it’s announced that Mattel would only initially be making dolls of Brenda, Kelly, Dylan, and Brandon, the only actors present to be disappointed were Gabrielle, Ian, and Brian. WHITHER TORI? Mysteriously not there, methinks so that the movie couldn’t draw attention to the fact that Donna was not considered marquee.


Fug the Fromage: Lifetime’s A Deadly Adoption

I haven’t read any reviews of A Deadly Adoption, the supposed parody of Lifetime movies starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig, and yet I know I’m not the first person to note this: What was the point, exactly? It’s an honest question. There’s little merit in or purpose to a parody unless you have a larger statement to make about something, but I don’t get the impression Ferrell and Wiig have anything to say at all here except, “Tee hee. Lifetime!” So why do it? It can’t be nostalgia-driven, because Lifetime movies still happen (Bella Thorne is in one this week, in fact, that appears to involve dancing and DRUGS and TEARS). It isn’t any kind of larger statement about the Women In Peril trope. There are a couple moments that appear to be poking fun, if you look hard enough, but otherwise it plays straight. And there’s the rub: The problem with aping a Lifetime joint is that you can’t do it with subtlety, or else it just plays… like a Lifetime joint.

Having said all that, let’s examine just how Lifetimey this sucker is.

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Will Ferrell plays Robert Benson, which I kept shortening in my head to Bob Benson, as in the target of Pete Campbell’s snippy “NOT GREAT, BOB,” from Mad Men, and now I keep picturing this movie with James Wolk in it and mmm. Ferrell’s Bob Robert Benson is cloaked in the kind of hair and beard that bespeak the aging frontman of a Bee Gees tribute band who still plays at the local watering hole on the second Wednesday of every month. Our opening scene is shot in a bucolic family yard by the lake in a small town, where several friends gather as Will juggles a baby and flatly delivers information about his life: He’s an author and budding financial guru; he loves his daughter and his wife (“Nothing’s gonna pull me away from my family!”); there’s a baby on the way. Trope 1: Milquetoast, Smug Exposition About Personal Happiness That We All Know Is About To Implode.

Also, when someone asks where his wife Sarah is, he says cheerfully that she’s “always running around” and probably “digging in her garden,” in a way that suggests he thinks she is extremely simple. Trope 2: Old-School Sexist Dismissiveness About One’s Life Partner and Her Hobbies. Or old-school Lifetime, at least. Presumably Bella Thorne isn’t suffering this kind of malarkey in her Dance, Drugs & Tears: The Edna May Millerville Story. Which reminds me that this really IS lazy if it doesn’t have a triple-barrel name, and/or a rotating cast of Lifetime staples like Meredith Baxter (Birney) and JoBeth Williams and whatnot.

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Meanwhile, Kristen “Sarah Benson” Wiig is dancing around on the boat dock calling for her husband, at which point Will tells everyone that the dock is rotting and they really need to get it fixed, and that he’d clearly better go get the little woman and throw her over his shoulder and save her from her own stupid stupidness. Trope 3: Using An Overly Jovial Tone While Being A Condescending Douchecanoe.

Speaking of boats, and things being bathed in water:

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Fug the Fromage: Peter Pan Live on NBC

With the popularization of the term “hate-watch” has come a misconception that if you watch something, and don’t like it, you therefore are a hate-watching hater who hates. That is reductive; most of the time, people are just watching, period, and came away with a negative opinion. In fact, as with The Sound of Music Live, I went into this really wanting it to be great, because I LOVE that NBC is building an event around earnest musical theater on this national scale, and I would love for it to survive as an annual tradition. But I just didn’t think this was a very good production, and it’s not because I’m a Hater or anything so trendily tossed-around as that. It’s partly the performances, and partly a huge realization that I had just recently: Peter Pan itself isn’t very good. In fact, like Peter itself, once you grow up you simply can’t look at it the same way.

But first, I need to point out something from the poster, which is that Allison Williams as a boy is basically actor Armie Hammer. Exhibit A:

Peter Pan Live

“I don’t NAB, I don’t NAB, I don’t NAAAAAB.”[/caption]

And Exhibit B:

[caption id="attachment_1057048" align="alignnone" width="419"]armie hammer “Hey girl, will YOU be my mother?”

Within the last year, I got excited to show my kids the Disney Peter Pan because I remember — in that vague, gauzy way — that I adored it in my own youth. I also couldn’t have told you the last time I actually SAW it, though, and as we sat down to watch, I was reminded of a few unpleasant things. One, that it’s so slow. Glacially slow. It makes global warming feel like a 100-yard dash. There is SO MUCH blah-blah, and then suddenly you’re in Neverland and then the second thing rears its head: HOLY GOD THE RACISM. NBC hired a Native American consultant who helped them reshape the songs for Tiger Lily and her friends, who are still tribal (though with a Polynesian flair, whether or not that was intentional) but are no longer treated as stereotypes. Smart of them to deal with that head-on instead of taking a Dan Snyder/Washington Football Team approach.

So through adult eyes, it struck me how basically this is a story about a weird old dude who’s hot for murdering children, and a woman who has a terrible adventure with a manchild and then willingly pimps out her own daughter (and, in her professed fantasy, generations of her female progeny) to the same manchild. It’s… not great, Bob. As an adult it’s hard to — as Allison Williams asked — put in your childhood eyeballs and see it that way, and even if we tried, we’d have been bored by the half-hour-plus it took to even GET to the damn flying.

I’ve not seen the musical itself (or if I have, it was a long time ago), so I don’t know if the stage show suffers the same way this did. Peter Pan Live never gets any momentum, even from the few performances that have zip, which I blame in part on the decision to spread it across three hours – granted, it IS long — and pepper it with all those commercial breaks (a business necessity, but still). Worse, this means the plot stops making sense. What you can track doesn’t really hit you, and what you can’t is usually because lines were delivered in a throwaway manner or trims made it suffer. They heavily edited down Tinkerbell, in a way that gave her character little point and no endearing nor enduring value. She’s just a twinkly device who sounded like an iPhone. Tiger Lily doesn’t connect, either, and in the end the only emotional moment that hits is when Wendy and her mother wistfully sing an unwitting duet about missing each other.  And although Allison Williams has a lovely voice and does fine in a REALLY technically challenging role for which I applaud her moxie, she lacks the boyish charisma and charm to play a kid who could win the hearts of all and sundry and have them literally follow him to the ends of the earth (and into battle, and nearly down the plank). When her Peter sings “I Gotta Crow” about how awesome he is, all you think is, “Oh, pipe down, Pan, you inflated blouse.”

In fact, the completely spaced-out stylings of Christopher Walken are what saved it. He HIMSELF sleepwalks through half his scenes, but the result is the only part of the production that has any compelling entertainment value. It’s the only part that moves. I had to watch this entire sucker three times – once live, once to get screen grabs, and then because the beans caught me grabbing a photo and made me start at the beginning – and by the end of the final pass, I was actually grateful to Walken for bringing such a completely random, fluctuating, and indiscriminate amount of cowbell to his scenes. Sometimes it’s tons, sometimes it’s none, sometimes it’s in the middle, but the mystery as to what you’ll get certainly keeps your attention. Fug Husband Kevin told me that he read once about how Christopher Walken takes every script he gets and re-punctuates it to infuse it with maximum Essence of Walken, and I COMPLETELY believe that here in this particularly batshit clip from the end (no ads, I promise):

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Fug the Fromage: The Sound of Music Live recap

There’s not much point in recapping the plot of The Sound of Music, but we can DEFINITELY take a gander at the NBC costumes, which ended in some divinely cracked-out headgear that had Jessica and I dropping more unsavory language over Instant Messenger than we have in a long, long time.

They look like background players for an as-yet-nonexistent Katy Perry tour called Oktoberfest. We live-tweeted it, and I’m embedding a couple of those tweets, especially where I think we pretty much said it better the first time.

As for the show: It’s clear that Carrie Underwood took it extremely seriously. She did not shirk anything, she sang her heart out, and she tried really hard to carry the show even though in the end it was beyond her capabilities at this point in her career. NBC probably chose its Sunday Night Football cover girl for ratings reasons, rather than, say, trying to work it out so that in-house Broadway vet Megan Hilty could do it on a break from Sean Saves The World (which is probably not as good a use of her time and talents). But again, Carrie Underwood obviously worked crazy-hard on this, and when you’re not used to a live show that demands singing AND so much choreography AND acting between it all, choosing to put yourself on a live network broadcast — in the company of performers like Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti — is a brave, bold move, and just because I didn’t applaud the overall end result doesn’t mean I don’t applaud her for doing it. I absolutely do.

My overriding issue is that Fraulein Maria is all spirit. She’s charm and sass and a little insanity, all rolled into one. Either nobody bothered to help Carrie Underwood find that in the material, or it was too big a job for her in her first major role. Carrie’s Maria does not climb a tree and scrape her knee; her dress does not have a tear. She does not waltz on her way to Mass, nor whistle on the stair. (And underneath her wimple, she doesn’t have curlers in her hair, because she’s got a big ol’ braid jammed up in there.) These qualities are essential to believing in her frenzied charisma, and it wasn’t there. Julie Andrews did it immaculately, and beyond her vocals, that made her a tough act to follow. (Also, somebody went INSANE making Carrie enunciate. A little is fine, but we don’t need to hear EVERY SINGLE “T” in EVERY SINGLE WORD.)

Watching this version of the stage show, I was struck with how much livelier the movie dialogue is, and it lent Maria some of the spunk she lacked here, which would’ve helped. The comparisons have all been to Julie Andrews anyway, because her Maria is more iconic than any that appeared on stage; ergo, might as well just accept that and then do the better version of the material, or a hybrid.

Basically, it was not a very enjoyable telecast. However, I loved the ambition of what it was trying to do, and I hope NBC keeps trying to do it. It’s also why, as much as I do not enjoy Glee and haven’t for a long time (and on some levels, possibly ever), I am so glad it’s out there because, much like JK Rowling reminded kids that it’s cool to read and Tina Fey that it’s cool to be smart, this stuff emphasizes the benefits of actual god-given talent.

Okay, let’s get silly:

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Fug the Fromage: Sharknado

A note before I begin: It’s a shark movie, so yeah, some of these shots do have blood in them, but I chose mild ones — nothing I think is overtly disgusting or that isn’t also being painfully, comically fake; also, the budget was so low that they couldn’t linger on any of the chompy stuff anyway, or else the cheapness would be further exposed. So. You’re pretty safe here, is what I’m saying.

Listen, there is a chance people missed Sharknado. Maybe they don’t like sharks. Maybe they hate tornados. Maybe they don’t have Twitter, or cable, or were themselves caught in a sharknado. For those who meant to watch but forgot and can’t decide if they want to DVR a re-run, I am here for you. For those who did watch but want to relive the experience through the magic of screen grabs, I am here for you. For those who didn’t know about it or didn’t feel like watching or rampantly don’t care, I am here for you, because now you can digest a quickie version without having to miss out on seminal, pivotal moments like this:

That’s so flat, it’s practically graffiti on the building. Like a Banksy painting but without the wit.

And now, inspired by the physical sacrifice of the erstwhile (yet forever) Steve Sanders, let’s plunge into this thing, motorized prongs at the ready for optimal slicing and dicing. You’ll enjoy — I hope — that this wasn’t watchable on my iPad, so I had to go old-school and take photographs of my TV. Ergo, this recap will look as low-budget as the movie itself — a fitting, if accidental, tribute.

Have you ever seen a sharknado? Behold.


Fug the Fromage: Mannequin

The other night, working late, I flipped on HBO and stumbled into this:

Yes, it’s Mannequin, a movie whose main titles flagrantly rip off the animated opuses of Savage Steve Holland, and which I watched so much on VHS as a kid that I think I broke the tape. Between Andrew McCarthy having to get handsy with a giant doll, Kim Cattrall, a young Lt. Provenza, Meschach “Designing Women” Taylor, James “Everything” Spader, Estelle “Sophia Petrillo” Getty, and That Actor I Always Mix Up With The One Who Played Ferris Bueller’s Dad, it seemed ripe for a trip to the Fug Nation Fromagerie. When you see TV’s Samantha Jones in her youth playing a half-human sex doll, you wonder if Sex and the City is the way Emmy’s life might have gone if she’d ditched the semi-pervy sculptor and learned that she doesn’t need to be dependent on a man for her freedom. Alas. And if I’ve just spoiled the movie for you… well, I haven’t, because you know how it ends even if you don’t know how it ends; Hollywood Montrose and the aforementioned Mr. Spader will make sticking around worth your time; and it includes the single worst piece of prop-making I have seen.

The best part about the main titles is that a) they show up after the movie itself has begun, grinding it to a halt just so we can have an animated romp involving a time-traveling elevator and animals who think they’re people; and b) they’re so freaking weird that they make you wonder what might’ve been if the movie HAD been an animated romp involving a time-traveling elevator and animals who think they’re people.


I just wanted to show you James Spader’s title card. He is a pig emperor of Rome while it’s burning around him. I hope someone dear to him has framed this and hung it in his study, or better, that he will one day again be nominated for an Emmy and skip the ceremony, so that they can put this up as a headshot when his name is read.

Okay, let’s dip into this movie and see what a 1987 rom-com has to teach us about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

its teachings will change your life