Fall 2000: "The Geena Davis Show"
Ms. Davis' previous job -- and, we're guessing, her next job -- as the mother of a computer-animated mouse in "Stuart Little," was no tour de force, but it's clear that in between that and this, her eponymous TV series, she attended the famous Brooke Shields School of Thespianity. You know, the one with classes like "Advanced Being A Tall Actress Next to a Short Leading Man" and "Mastering That Deer-Across-the-Headlights Look."
Here Geena stars -- much the way a black hole is a star -- as Teddie Cochran, goofy and, yes, it must be said, tall single woman living in New York. What she does for a living is hard to explain, really -- she's the head of a non-profit company of some kind which manages to afford her a lavish lifestyle replete with expensive suits and an enormous Manhattan apartment. And two deeply annoying clichés for high-maintenance friends, played by Mimi Rogers and Kim Coles as, respectively, the man-hating bitch and the soul sistah.
In a stirring montage reminiscent of Scorsese, of Bergman, of -- dare I say it -- the opening credit sequence of Three's Company, Teddie meets and falls in love with Peter Horton from thirtysomething, here called Max Ryan. Peter has the benefit of being tall, so at least he can be included in shots with Geena, which might be easier for the cinematographer but is probably very bad for Peter's clip reel. Not that he does anything here you haven't seen before, right down to his everpresent Miami DeVice stubble.
Teddie and Max fall in love, yes, and Max proposes, and the two fiancees move in together, Teddie joining Max in his positively palatial mansion in the suburbs of New York. There she finds -- gasp and swoon! -- Max has two adorable moppets she must stepmother. More surprisingly, Max has what is credited as a "caregiver," Gladys, who, in the manner of all middle-aged black women, is wise and taciturn, and also cynical about the competence of this newcomer to the family.
Consider this the sequel to the squattingly wretched Chris Columbus film "Stepmom," only without the uplifting benefit of watching Susan Sarandon die a slow, painful death.
The moppets are bad. They are given dialogue, like all adorable moppets, which could only be churned out by overpaid Hollywood joke-slingers. And whatever they say or do which isn't overinflated is in shatteringly poor taste; as when the 13-year-old boy, Carter, sees that Teddie has joined her first family breakfast wearing only a t-shirt, and he performs a pop-eyed doubletake that would have shamed Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas. He gets to do this not once, not twice, but three times in the pilot episode. Carter is going to grow up to have issues. To say nothing of the unfortunate child actor, John Francis Daley, trapped in the role. Just a few years ago, John Paul Steuer was removed from Grace Under Fire when Brett Butler waved her new boobs at him; now it's a gag when a 13-year-old is looking at Geena Davis' middle-aged buttcrack.
Peter Horton is also bad. He does what he can, true, but that's not much beyond standing around like a board off of which the jokes are supposed to bounce. He projects an upper-middle-class stability directly at odds with his choice of this ridiculous woman for his wife, but hey, who wouldn't fall for those mile-long legs or those mile-deep dimples?
The rest of the supporting cast is also also bad. They're filler, sawdust in the already cheap and fatty chopped meat of this show. They're lucky, each of them, if they can nail the cardboard silhouettes of their caricatures to the backdrop. Particularly noteworthy is bon vivant Harland Williams' pathetic imitation of a human somewhere in the middle of the show. You might remember him as the irritant around which the oyster Disney secreted the brilliant pearl known as "Rocket Man." Why this hasn't resulted in the nuclear annihilation of both Los Angeles and Orlando we cannot imagine.
Into this morass enters Geena Davis. Her time at the Brooke Shields University, Actressing Campus was not wasted. She is every bit as incapable as she is irking. Her every facial expression a rictus, her every line falling to the soundstage floor with a resounding clang, she storks her way through this insipidation with lurching incompetence. She is a frizzed, spackled, sequacious nightmare, dizzyingly stupid, numbingly godawful, a rapidly sinking corvette becalmed in a sea of ineptitude. Not only doesn't Geena Davis belong on TV -- she doesn't belong anywhere. Napoleon would have kicked her off of Elba, Charlie Manson would chase her out of his cell. After The Geena Davis Show is deservedly cancelled, she should be dropped into the deepest part of the Marianas Trench where her bones can dissolve in the calcium-poor waters after her flesh has fed the bioluminescent fish.
This will not come to pass, this reviewer can tell you that. What will instead happen is this show will tootle along, poofing out little banal farts of video footage, while ABC figures out what worthless huddled mass of humanity should next benefit from a sitcom budget and enough craft services to feed every child hunkering down to three grains of rice behind Sally Struthers and her film crew. While each episode of The Geena Davis Show airs, just over 250 people across the world will have died of diarrhea for want of about seven cents a day's worth of simple salts and sugars.
And Geena Davis, and Peter Horton, and David Flebotte and Terri Minsky and Gene Stein and Nina Wass, will retire to their comfortable beds, unaware of the great injustice they have visited upon the world.
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