Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rolled in Flour and Deep Fat Fried ...

The title is a phrase I have used a time or two about what should be done to literary critics. Might include a few on the movie end, too ...

That said, I believe it is okay to voice an opinion if you can do so a) without malice; or failing that, b) without naming names ...

There is a cable TV show just cranked up recently. The producer is a well-known fellow whose work I have long admired. The lead actress is an attractive young woman who co-starred in a big summer blockbuster a few years back. The setting is cool, and some of the supporting actors are really good. (The second female lead steals every scene she is in.) The story takes place in the south, and it's a fun premise, based on a series of books by a guy whose stuff I also like.

There are two things that go clunk! in a big way for me.

First, the southern accents are all generic, no two of them match each other, and none of them match the state where the show takes place. All these people are supposed to be locals, born and raised right in the little town where it all happens, and you sure can't hear it. Texas is not Louisiana is not Mississippi is not Alabama is not Georgia. (Even within states there are differences, sometimes easy to hear -- El Paso, and, Houston, say -- but I wouldn't expect that level of accuracy.)

I suppose this isn't too big a turd; of the dozen or so actors who are regulars, only three are from south of the Mason-Dixon line, and none of them from the state where it's set. Got actors from New York, Chicago, L.A., Australia, and Las Vegas.

You see this a lot, the generic southern, or in the case of Brits, the generic American accent. Easy to fix, just get a voice coach from whatever region and get everybody to talk like she does. They seldom bother. You see Daniel Day Lewis in anything? He always nails it.

Second thing that bugs me, and this is a little worse, is that the lead actress has a range of expression that stretches all the way from A to ... B. Either she looks A) two-weeks-post-lobotomy befuddled, or B) Deer caught in the headlights befuddled.

Maybe it's Botox, which is a curse for young actresses, far as I am concerned. Or maybe the director is holding her back. Or she doesn't have the range. Whatever. It is distracting enough to be noticed, and that's bad for the suspension of disbelief, which, given the nature of the show, takes a bit of doing anyhow ...

I feel better now. I hope I have been circumspect enough to keep most people in the dark. Those of you who figured it out, good for you.


Anonomouse said...

Meh, True Blood just looks like a sleezy peep-show trying to cash in on the Vamp Erotica theme. If the books are any good, you can't tell it by the show.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

I was thinking the same damn thing...Why throw vampires in the mix, they do nothing for the plot?

Sanctuary premieres on SciFi in a week and a half...Here's hoping it's better than Fringe.

Re: The accents; Sometimes you are too far away from trees to see the forest. Paula Deen sounds as fake as I could imagine...Now. My wife asked if people really spoke like that in the south, and I said of course not, she's acting.

A friend of mine from Columbia called last month, whose voice I hadn't heard in years. He sounds just like Paula Deen. I've been away from it for so long, I've forgotten just how country fried the accent really is. Doubt if I could tell a Floridian from a South Carolinian at this point.

Steve Perry said...

Thing is, Alan Ball, who wrote American Beauty, which won all kinds of awards, Oscar™, Golden Globe™,WGA -- as well as Six Feet Under, which was a great show, has the chops to do terrific stuff. I think the show lives or dies on the main character, and in this case, his lead actress doesn't seem to be doing the job.

She reminds me of Keanu Reeves doing Bill & Ted Excellent Adventure. Whoa, dude-- !

Mark Jones said...

1. Yeah, I recognized the show. I win a cookie!

2. Yes, the books are good. I've been reading them for years. The tv show has a lot more graphic sex than the books did, and we get a lot more time spent on other characters than we did in the books (inevitable, given that the books are written in first person from Sookie's POV). As my wife says, when the show departs from the storyline of the book*, "just think of it as fanfic."

3. Yeah, the accents are all over the place. It would be nice if they were consistent (and accurate), but...

4. I like Anna Paquin in the role, though perhaps that will change as the series continues.

*That's her recent approach to enjoying adaptations of all sorts of things. "Just think of it as fanfic. It doesn't _have_ to be exactly like the original book/comic/show/movie/whatever. Accept or reject it on its own merits."

Steve Perry said...

Nature of the medium that a movie can't look like a book -- I can live with that. It's that Paquin's vapid expressions -- both of them -- don't do anything to convince me she's remotely real. There are vampires running around, she's been brought back from the edge of death by drinking vampire blood. She's got the hots for one, and the sum total of her wonder at this when she gets to thinking about it is to go mow the lawn.

I also don't think much of the main vamp's abilities. He's faster than a hamster on speed and stronger than a gorilla, but a white-trailer-trash couple slings some silver chain at him and Sookie has to save his ass? How did he stay alive since the War Between the States -- blind luck?

Don't you think after a hundred and fifty years of practice he would have learned how to pay better attention? Sense a threat? That scene clunked big-time.

J.D. Ray said...


Sanctuary has been available as a series of "webisodes" for several months. It's all done in front of a green screen, and the rendering quality in them isn't up to broadcast quality, but it's certainly good enough. There are about eight of them, which I believe make for about two or three hour-long broadcast episodes. So far it looks pretty good.



Steve Perry said...

Paul Deen just sounds obnoxious, but she's the real deal. Lot more of her down there.

I like William Sanderson. And of course, the other deputy in the series, Chris Bauer, is Bobbe's long lost twin. Rutina Wesley is perfect as Sookie's best friend.
And they all have southern accents -- Sanderson's is real -- he's from Memphis, Bauer and Wesley's are fake but if they are going to affect a southern accent, why not do the right one? Since you have to come up with one anyhow, how much harder is it to learn a specific one as opposed to the generic?

Or they could all learn the same generic so they'd sound as if they were all from around here.

Which doesn't excuse the other silly stuff, of course. That first episode with Sookie saving the vamp, that was strictly Plot Device Man at work.

B. Smith said...

I had a problem with the V dealers getting the drop on Bill as well.

The vampire portrayals are a bit too uneven and they are usually more silly than scary. The vampire porno and the draining scene were creepy but everything else has been pretty flat. The thin fangs just don't look right either.

BTW my wife is from Paula Deen land and the accent isn't fake. It's that sickly sweet Georgia low country drawl. My wife picks it up again whenever we go down there for a visit.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Whoa, thanks J.D.!! They look good, I hope to God Hollywood doesn't gum it up with a bunch of fluff. The SciFi channel is so desperate for quality programming these days.

B.Smith, I do know she's not fake, I'm from South Carolina. I got teased do much about my accent when I first got here that I started mimicking British comedies to cover it up. Still comes out sometimes, like when I'm pissed off, or talking too fast. But up here in the Pacific Northwet, people think you're some backwoods hick if you sound like Bo Duke, so I downplay it quite a bit.

B. Smith said...

We live in Iowa now and it has the opposite effect on people here. They bend over backwards for the Mrs. because they love her accent.

I grew up in New Orleans and on the Northshore but my accent is mostly gone. It comes back with a vengeance after I visit home but it fades pretty quickly.