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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ringer pilot - It has be either good or really, really disappointing

This is spoiler-free, but stay out of the comments

Ringer is a crowd-pleaser. If your crowd has ADHD, doesn't look at things closely, and doesn't care about the thought processes and feelings of characters. The show has many twists, a pretty blonde lead, the makings of a decent love triangle, danger, and fast pacing. The scenes are very short, like in Sex and the City or X-Men First Class. The showrunners know that the viewers’ attention span is short before they are hooked on a show, so the pilot did a lot of jumping around between characters and did a lot in a short period of time. While some might have found this distracting and confusing, we liked it.

You know what's going to happen in the set-up of this show, so it's best that they get on with it as quickly as possible. If you saw the preview or have been reading anything about this one, you pretty much know everything about the pilot. If you haven’t seen the preview and if you are completely lost as to what happens on this show, you will be entertained by the pilot, but underwhelmed by the flat characters. We hope they become interesting later on. It’s not just plot that needs to have layers.

We wouldn’t say this is high quality, artistic stuff. It’s guilty-pleasure mystery/noir. We liked the presence of Richard Alpert from LOST, and Sarah Michelle Gellar is more than fine. A commenter pointed out earlier that she played both characters too similarly, but we think we haven’t seen enough of Siobhan to determine that yet. Siobhan was clearly putting on an act for her sister, and her reputation with her family is completely different from the Siobhan we saw interacting with Bridget when the reunited for the first time in six years.

We wonder if many people would like the idea of trading lives with someone else. You know how it’s so much easier to give advice about other people’s problems than do the right thing in your own life? Someone else’s life would be less painful and easier. The people wouldn’t grate on you like the people you’ve have to live with for years or grow up with. The problems would be simpler, if only because you wouldn’t care as much and the emotions, good and bad, would be gone. You’d have a little more freedom. You wouldn’t be too worried about messing things up, because it’s not even your life. Everything would be new and exciting. Of course, for Bridget, things aren’t going to be easy or fun, or that just wouldn’t make a good TV show.

This show really needs to find its emotional center, fast. Soapy intrigue and twists are nice, but we need to genuinely care about the characters, eventually. Also, we seriously question Bridget’s decisions and their logic. She does some dumb stuff for dumb reasons. (We explain more about this in the spoiler-y comments.) The show is unoriginal and the dialogue is bad so far. The writers said that they want to be like the Breaking Bad writers, but Breaking Bad’s genius isn’t just in its twists, but in its atmosphere, imagery, foreshadowing, characters, dialogue, and just scene-by-scene precision and excellence. We should really hold off our final judgment of Ringer until seeing a few more episodes though. Pilots can be clunky.

We wouldn’t say this was a great episode, but it does get the ball rolling with lots of action and set-up. We won’t have to wait around and watch things we already know are going to happen when next week rolls by, because the pilot got through most of the exposition early (like most pilots do). It definitely made us want to tune in again to see what happens next, and what more could you really ask for in a pilot? Maybe better special effects on the boat scene, but we don’t care that much about special effects. Maybe a better opera singer in the fundraiser scene? Because that wasn’t pretty and was every negative stereotype people associate with opera, except that the singer was thin and pretty.

Ringer has some big problems that will take talent, effort, and taste to fix. They aren't easy problems to fix either. Just putting five twists in an episode won't make up for everything else being sloppy. We hope the writers were just trying to sell a dumb pilot to the networks, who usually underestimate the viewers' intelligence. We hope they dig deeper next week and in the coming weeks. We really want to like this show and we want it to succeed and get better.

Episode Grade: C+
But it has earned a pass for the next couple of weeks.


  1. At least Bridget kicks more ass than we thought she did. She was able to tie the police officer guarding her up in the bathroom. We assume she got a hold of his gun, and it was downhill from there, but that would still be difficult, especially the tying up part. Who held the gun? Did she knock him out first? We are sure that if you have been reading this blog for any length of time that you know we would always be partial to the woman’s actual husband in a love triangle. But the other guy is really cute, even if he has an old man name (Henry). And the husband, Andrew, is icy cold and kind of mean to his daughter, who has a problem. Speaking of Juliet, we like her and we hope that Bridget, as an ex-addict, can have a positive effect on Juliet later. Do you guys think Bridget accidentally killed Siobhan’s son, Sean, and now she is out for revenge? That seems obvious, we guess, but the writers could be leading us on.

    Why did Bridget assault an officer and escape from police protection in the first place? To go see her sister? That seems like a crazy decision that would just get her into trouble and ruin her deal with the prosecution when the police inevitably went to Siobhan’s house looking for her. We also didn’t really see why Bridget “didn’t have a choice” about assuming her sister’s life. That needed to be clearer. The best guess is that she didn’t feel like the cops could protect her from the mobsters, and that fear was mixed with envy of her sister’s life. If Siobhan wasn’t around to live it, it at least shouldn’t go to waste? But how long did Bridget think she could pretend to be Siobhan. In reality, she would have needed to think this through more, and we needed to see more reasons as an audience. It seemed like a whim, not something that she had to do. Impulsivity and reckless disregard for the consequences might be a character trait of Bridget’s that will be developed and explain, but so far, it just looks like poor writing.

  2. Some of the stuff was pretty dumb and annoying..but at least it was a fun pilot. (most pilots on broadcast networks end up being dumb and boring)

    The boat scene! That was about the only thing imo that looked really bad in the effects. It just didn't fit in...It's like they downloaded an ocean video on the internet or something.

    When I mentioned the acting in the older post..I guess I was sort of comparing it to Nina Dobrev's Elena and Katherine on VD..guess I was spoiled by her. You can really tell the difference even if they wore the same clothes :P
    I will give Gellar some time though..

    I'm glad that the writers know about quality TV such as Breaking Bad. I also agree that there is more to Breaking Bad then the twists.

    C+ sounds about good

  3. Nina Dobrev is a better actress than SMG. SMG is a nerd/cult favorite, and everyone is making a huge deal out of her, but we were not blown away last night. "More than fine" was the best we could say.

    This show has got to improve. Hopefully it gets the time it needs. We're pulling for it. Breaking Bad's a good show to watch and copy for these people.

  4. "Ringer is a crowd-pleaser. If your crowd has ADHD, doesn't look at things closely, and doesn't care about the thought processes and feelings of characters." Zing! And, yes.

    Gellar described it in the commercials as a "film noir". Hmmm. Maybe in your head, sweetie. From here it just looks like a soap opera that takes itself too seriously.

    I totally agree with you that it needs to find an emotional center. 'The Lying Game' (the other twin switcheroo show this season -- we now have two too many) is not very good, but at least it has sympathetic characters and a lead actress who seems pretty adept at playing twins. In a pilot, they should at least make us care for one or two people. I kind of hate everyone in 'Ringer'.

    Very strange show to have on The CW. I'm curious to see if it can get better. I think its opening audience was disappointing, even for that network, though.

  5. "I kind of hate everyone in Ringer." Yeah, we do too.