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Jeffrey D. Sams
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It's been said that "Big Shots" is network TV's attempt at a male version of "Sex and the City. I'm always wary of such comparisons, but watching what creator John Harmon Feldman ("Tru Calling") has put together here does inspire the comparison.
It goes almost without saying that the show never delves into the true reason "Sex" was such a masterpiece - that it was a rich, intelligent insightful satire of modern relationships regardless of the gender of the participants. I don't expect any show to do that in the near future. "Big Shot" feels like a reaction to "Sex" from someone who never actually watched the show, only the simplified media hype around it. Feldman grabs Michael Patrick King's cliff-notes and runs out the back door.
Feldman sidesteps any realistic male perspective on relationships to drop us into a guilty pleasure fantasy world of high-powered CEOs. It's a fun guilty pleasure fantasy world - one centered around four friends who are constantly mired in scandal, offered improbably casual sex and held down by their wives and exes. Let's call a spade a spade. Feldman gets around traditional male clichés and any social commentary by fully embracing modern emasculation. "Men. We're the new women" says Duncan Collingsworth (Dylan McDermot, "The Practice") and while he isn't quite saying it while getting a metrosexual pedicure, the seed is planted or a satirical nugget that the show has no interest in exploring. These guys don't mind being a little feminized, a little needy - as long as they can still play with their toys.
Speaking of the guys, the cast is quite good. Notably, Christopher Titus who makes a welcome return to TV 5 years after his own sitcom got a premature heave-ho. It's not a huge stretch for the comedian to play "the funny one" in the group, but he takes his usual ticks and tailors it (or restrains it) to suit this show and this character beautifully. In a performance that gives the show it's most character, he plays the rarest of TV oddities: the happily married guy. There is also Michael Vartan's ("Alias") character who is cheated on by his wife only to fall for a long-time colleague (smoking hot Nia Long). Then there is Joshua Milana ("Sports Night") an odd-man-out who cheats on his wife with Jessica Collins only to have the two meet and become best friends. McDermot has got the most melodramatic story lines of all. An ex wife marrying his corporate competition (Paul Blackthorne, in his one thousandth villain appearance since "24"), a belligerent daughter working for him, a boy who shows up claiming to be his estranged son and a rendezvous with a prostitute who turns out to be a pre-op transvestite.
"Big Shots" is another worst-case scenario guilty pleasure show. Along the lines of "Nip/Tuck" or "Desperate Housewives". The stories, in an attempt to find original, ground approach a larger-than-life cartoon. Damn if it isn't entertaining though. Maybe that's just the guy in me. The one that would love a pad like Titus' character gets when he constructs a man sanctuary out of leather recliners, big screen TVs, video games and a basketball hoop or the ridiculous offers from beautiful women that McDermot's character seems to be burdened with all the time. Or simply a quiet day on the golf course with your 3 closest friends. It sends the mind spinning about how good it could be if it were on cable, where the tee box conversations could be extended to include in depth observations and the sex scenes could be fully realized. "Big Shots" proves that the wish fulfillment series isn't just for teenagers anymore.
If the show weren't so mired in melodrama (will the tranny's diary with Duncan's indiscretion in it get in the wrong hands?) and made no bones about the shallow male fantasy it wanted to be "Shots" could have really taken off and flown. "Big Shots" isn't for all tastes. It's pretty air-headed, simply written and pedestrian in execution. But it was a fun playground to play in for an hour a week. Empty but well done.
* * * / 4
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