Fug File: Fug the Fromage

Fug the Fromage: Grease Live on FOX

A note, before we begin:


You surely heard that Vanessa Hudgens’ father died of cancer the night before the show. Which means during the most intense eight weeks of her professional life — rehearsals for this sucker — she was also enduring the most intense eight weeks of her personal life. That is a massive emotional blow to be dealt right before your show must go on, and she earned the hell out of my lifelong respect. Not just for keeping it together and doing her job, but for doing it beautifully. Sometimes, the only choice you’re given in life is how you deal with the the bitchy unilateral decisions it makes for you. The universe took something away from her on a night when she probably did not have the option to back out, even if she desperately wanted to, and the choice she made was to perform like he was still watching. I dearly hope he was. And that Austin Butler was there waiting for her when the cameras went off. I’m REAL invested in our girl now, Fug Nation. Former Fug Madness winner Vanessa Hudgens got my damn heartstrings.


Also, she had a GREAT time in Rizzo’s sunglasses. AS SHE SHOULD. Rizzo is the Anna Wintour of Rydell. She is to be feared, and cherished, and obeyed, but also loved and respected. IF YOU CUT HER DOES SHE NOT BLEED? Also she is resolute about her hairstyle and never far from her giant shades. Totally the same.

Okay, let’s dive in:

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Fug the Fromage: The Wiz Live!

(This just in: NBC is re-airing this on the 19th, if you missed it last night, so set your DVR if you want to see it!)

So much to cover from last night’s live performance of The Wiz! Let’s dive right in.  I obviously just want to open with Common’s face:


I love Common. I mean, in general, not specifically here, although his role as (essentially) Emerald City’s bouncer was quite amusing. I just have to note my love for him for the record whenever he appears. I say it whenever I drive past a billboard in which he is featured, for example.

And now down to the real business, which I shall present in list form because I love a list:

Number one: Most importantly, this was SO MUCH BETTER than Peter Pan Live! or Sound of Music Live! which is, I think, exciting news for everyone (other than those of us who love a televised trainwreck, but still; I firmly believe that a well-done live musical event is good news for everyone).

Two: I have seen The Wiz before, but not for a long time, so those of you who are more familiar with it than I am, please feel free to weigh in at length at whether you thought this was well done, stuff that got screwed up, and anything that I missed. (I am, however, very familiar with The Wizard of Oz, and, as an adult, it’s really fun to see how many subtle nods there are to the movie in this musical, beyond the obvious. I love thinking about how that source material was adapted into and updated for and tweaked to get this story; it’s fascinating to me from a creative standpoint, even though, obviously, the bones are the same.) I do wonder how much knowledge of a musical helps you enjoy that musical. Heather and I saw Hamilton three weeks ago, and we both went in not having listened to it at all (intentionally), and we LOVED IT. But I think that part of the appeal of these NBC Live Musical Extravaganzas is nostalgic. I really enjoyed this, but I didn’t have a nostalgic connection to it as a musical. If you did, how did that affect your enjoyment of it? (I am EXTREMELY NOSTALGIC about The Sound of Music and I thought that production was a shitshow, but that production also was a shitshow; my theory is that if you had nostalgia for The Wiz, it only made this good experience better.)

Three: You know the basic story of The Wiz (I assume): A tornado comes through town and yada yada yada, Dorothy’s house lands on an evil witch and kills her, and then she proceeds to collect a bunch of friends en route to see The Wiz, all of them looking for a favor: Dorothy wants to go home, the Scarecrow needs a brain, the Tin Man needs a heart, and the Cowardly Lion needs some courage. The Wiz wants them to do him a little favor first — it’s quid pro quo in Oz — and kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Just a little light murdering!  Which they do, only to learn that The Wiz is actually human like everybody else and she can’t actually magically give them what they need at all. Luckily, eventually, they learn that they already had everything they needed inside themselves all along.  Also: I forgot how much this story is about Dorothy killing people, accidentally, or on purpose. I mean, in fairness, they did all really deserve it. And there’s your recap. Let’s get to the details!

Four: Amber Riley was amazing as Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, and also her costume is rad. LOOK:

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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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