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October 16, 2003


Karen Sisco

siscoThere's at least one watchable new show this season, and it's even on ABC. Karen Sisco, at least the 3/4 of an episode that I watched last night, is smart and sharp and makes outstanding use of some of TV's best character actors: Xander Berkeley, Robert Forster, and Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito on last week's episode. Carla Gugino is just as charming as she is in Spy Kids, but edgier and with better clothes. Very competant use of music too: Mazzy Star means "quiet interlude in which Karen ponders the emptiness of the life of a single, female US Marshal, and slowly sips half a bottle of Wild Turkey"; quick, noodly free jazz means "big shootout"; and Leonard Cohen means "bittersweet busting of smooth-talking con guy". This same con guy, by the way, seduces women by singing songs that feature their name, a trick that has made me develop a fondness for a guy at the messenger service who sings "Once In Love With Amy" every time I call. Good start, guys. I'm sure ADM will have something to add. -amy

My question about this show is, what are they going to do once they run out of shots from Elmore Leonard movies to rip-off? As you probably know, Karen Sisco is a character from Elmore's novel Out of Sight, a character who J. Lo played memorably and vividly in the movie version. Also J. Lo heavily informs Gugino's portrayal of the character -- she's basically playing J. Lo playing Karen Sisco. In fact, the whole style of the show -- acting, visuals, and music -- is almost entirely derivative of other filmed Leonard enterprises, viz. Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and a little bit of Jackie Brown, the Tarantino film based on the novel Rum Punch. Having seen each of these movies one million times, I felt like I was watching them again, all at the same time, in a fun house mirror. I guess this is in large part due to the influence of the show's producer, Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed Get Shorty.

Some scenes from these movies were repeated in last night's episode almost without variation apart from the dialogue: An infatuated Karen talking on a wireless phone to an attractive escaped fugitive (Out of Sight), a confrontation in an airport parking garage (Get Shorty), Karen walking briskly through Miami Airport and then later sitting in a bath while thinking about her love life (Out of Sight). Meanwhile, Robert Forster (who, uncoincidentally, was in Jackie Brown, need I remind you) plays Karen's father, and he seems to be playing Dennis Farina playing Karen's father, complete with the Chicago accent and "How's your wife, Ray?" kind of dialogue. They even mention "Lompoc", the word they couldn't get enough of in Out of Sight. In the midst of all this, there's even a scene in a bar with a guy who looks and sounds uncannily like George Clooney, looking and sounding exactly like Clooney in the bar scene in Out of Sight. They did everything but start taking off their clothes while standing on opposite sides of the room. Later, there's a shootout in a living room just like the one with Travolta, Delroy Lindo and Renee Russo in Get Shorty. The episode ends with a scene almost identical to the end of Out of Sight: Karen in the front passenger seat of a fugitive transport van with her crush/fugitive in the back.

Still, the show is relatively smart and interesting, and it portrays its characters in an interesting manner, even if you can't get over the feeling that Sonnenfeld is standing over everbody's shoulder going, "Remember that shot in Out of Sight? Make it like that."

ps. Also in this episode were Peter Horton (of thirtysomething) and, of all people, Jake Busey. -adm

categories: TV
posted by amy at 9:53 AM | #


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