Over/Underrated 2013: Part Eight

8 Jan

Overrated

Melissa McCarthy

— Brook (@brooklynhofstad)

I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I was trying to figure out a way to critique Melissa McCarthy without mentioning her weight. I hate to say it, but I don’t think there’s another way.

The last thing I’d ever want to do is fat-shame someone. Melissa McCarthy is beautiful, and I couldn’t be more happy with Hollywood branching out and giving leading roles to women who might be considered conventionally beautiful (and sorry, JLAW DOES NOT count).

Besides Melissa McCarthy, there is another plus-sized actress making a name for herself in Hollywood: Rebel Wilson.

The difference between the two is that we the audience laugh WITH Rebel. We laugh AT Melissa.

There’s a scene in The Heat where Melissa McCarthy’s character parks her car in a very tight spot. She is too large to open the door and get out of the car, so she is forced to crawl through the window into the neighboring car, and open its door and finally exit the car. What is set up to be humorous comes across as sad because McCarthy’s size is clearly the butt of the joke.

But fat jokes can be funny…

In Pitch Perfect Wilson’s character calls herself “Fat Amy.” (Yeah, so twig bitches like yourselves don’t do it behind my back.) The two girls in the scene would’ve dubbed her that if they had been given the chance, but Amy throws their narrow-mindedness back in their faces. We laugh at Aubrey’s and Chole’s discomfort, not Amy’s “fatness.”

The reason that McCarthy’s brand of comedy so consistently falls flat while Wilson’s works is because McCarthy is the punchline; Wilson is the set-up.

However, that’s not the only problem with McCarthy’s brand of humor.

She has a tendency to overact in every scene. She continues with a bit long after it can be considered even remotely amusing, and the whole joke leaves a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. I know a lot of her scenes are improv, and the key to improv is understanding the importance of timing. Part of that is knowing when to stop, especially after the joke has died.

It’s even worse when this schtick involves a co-star. McCarthy’s character typically antagonizes the other to the point of frustration, and they “fight.”

When I watch her movies I feel like I am watching bickering children. Instead of laughing, I want to knock some heads together just to make them shut up.

When Bridesmaids came out, I was thrilled to see that there was life after Gilmore Girls for McCarthy (not a Mike and Molly watcher, sorry). Yet each time the credits role at the end of one of her terrible movies, I’m left wanting my favorite, harebrained chef to make Lorelai a snack and convince her to work things out with Luke.

MM

Underrated

James Wolk

— Brook

James Wolk is the best actor whose name you probably don’t know.

On the last season of Mad Men, he had a recurring role as Sterling Cooper peeon and Pete Campbell’s nemesis, Bob Benson.

Bob Benson had fans captivated, and the theories began to fly. Maybe he’s a government spy. Maybe he symbolizes a young Don Draper. Or maybe he’s an investigative journalist hellbent on bringing Sterling Cooper down.

Whoever he is, he walked onto the screen in those itty bitty board shorts and walked away with all our hearts.

With leading man good looks and the ability to seamlessly become his character, Wolk is clearly just getting started.

His rise to fame hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. His “big break” came five years ago when he starred in Front of the Class, a Hallmark movie about a teacher with Tourette’s. He went on to star in the the ill-fated Lone Star, a Fox show that was axed after only two episodes.

He also had guest roles on Showtime’s Shameless and ABC’s Happy Endings.

Now he can be seen in NBC’s The Crazy Ones, and his performance proves how much he’s grown in a relatively short amount of time.

Going up against the likes of Robin Williams, he holds his own and even steals the show occasionally.

He has the uncanny ability to up the ante for a supporting character when they might otherwise have just been forgettable.

This will serve him well as he continues to grow in popularity.

And James, if you’re reading this, please break the short-shorts out every once in a while. I mean great acting is one thing, but give the fans what they really want.

JW

Off the Mark

Glee

— Andrea (@prettyandink)

Since first airing in 2009, FOX’s Glee has a history of taking serious issues and greatly downplaying them before wrapping them up with a tidy little bow and never speaking about them again. Remember when Blaine thought he might be bisexual? Or when Coach Beiste was being domestically abused? Or when Marley had that eating disorder? Or when Ryder was dyslexic? Neither does anybody else. Anyone who has any personal experience with these issues knows that they’re the type that don’t just go away after you sing a song about them. Often there are related struggles that last a lifetime. To excuse them after two-three episode arcs seems ignorant and callous.

What made me willing to overlook Glee‘s insensitive storytelling was the music and the cast. I fell in love with Lea Michelle’s ambitious Rachel Berry and with Cory Monteith’s self-doubting Finn Hudson. Throw in Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss and I’d stick around for almost anything.

2013, however, brought the airing of some Glee episodes I find too maddening to ignore. Glee hit an all-time low with its episode entitled “Shooting Star,” which originally aired on April 11, 2013. In this episode, the glee club is forced to take cover in the choir room after gunshots are heard somewhere in the school building. The students cry and record goodbye messages to their families on their cell phones while irresponsible heroic Mr. Schuester goes out into the hallway to find a missing student. At the end of the episode, students are given the all clear. There were no injuries and no fatalities.

Who, then, was the shooter? Coach Sue Sylvester takes the blame, saying that she keeps a gun in her desk for protection and it accidentally misfired. Viewers know, however, that the “shooter” was none other than McKinley High’s handicapable Becky Jackson, a student with down syndrome. Becky had brought the gun to school in order to feel more “prepared” for the future and accidentally shot it when showing Coach Sue. Sue is fired for all of about three episodes until Becky, overcome with guilt, admits it had been her all along.

Glee is not the first television show to feature a school shooting. On One Tree Hill, for example, a school shooting was used as a platform for the characters to discuss bullying and the price paid for popularity. By comparison, the Glee school shooting was used to…Oh that’s right, it wasn’t used for any purpose whatsoever. It didn’t advance a single overarching plot point, and the couple of revelations that were made by the characters in the stress of the situation seemed disingenuous and belittling Being a teacher myself, school shootings are not something I take lightly. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the senselessness of such acts is all too prevalent, and not something I want to see acted out on television for absolutely no reason.

I wish I could say that “Shooting Star” was an isolated incidence of script writing gone wrong, but now that Cory Monteith’s death has changed the end game of Glee it’s almost as though the writers of the show have just flat out quit trying. The show has contained a serious case of Catfishing, yet another prom (how many years have these kids been in school?) and a stripping Santa Claus. If that weren’t bad enough, in a recent episode, Mr. Schue yet again decides to play friend instead of teacher and happily twerks his way down the hallway with his students in order to defend the dance craze. I have nothing against twerking, but would I do it with my students? I think not.

Glee used to be an amusing show about following one’s passions and accepting who you truly are. Now it’s just a disappointment.

Glee

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