Friday, September 11, 2009

Pilot Presentation Screener Review - The Beautiful Life: TBL

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: TBL (script review: The Beautiful Life)
Status: Premiering Wednesday, September 16th @ 9pm on CW

I'm told that the adding of the odd ": TBL" after the title is due to legal issues. Why CW couldn't just come up with a DIFFERENT TITLE or, perhaps, like CSI, put the acronym before the title gets spelled out... will forever remain a mystery to me.

Please note, this review is over a 25 minute presentation screener, not the full pilot that will air this coming Wednesday. As such, many scenes are missing. Usually presentations film the key scenes along the A-plot and leave much of the rest to be filmed in case of pickup, but in this case, no exterior scenes were shot because the presentation was not shot in New York City and they knew that, if picked up, the series would be shot in NYC. So there is, actually, some connective tissue missing.

However, very little had changed since the script I read. So the "problems" I had remain. It's vapid, shallow, boozy and drugy, and I feel will be hard for anyone outside of CW's 2.5 million-ish viewers who watch Gossip Girl, 90210, and sampled the Melrose Place premiere. Spelling worse news for TBL is the fact that its lead-in, America's Next Top Model, premiered extremely softly on Wednesday. ANTM is no longer the crown jewel it once was, and it has never been that effective of a lead-in, anyway (the only "success story" to lead out of ANTM has been Gossip Girl, which really only "took off" if you think it ever did, once it moved to Mondays at 8pm). ANTM's second hour of its two-hour premieres is usually significantly stronger than the first (which is the "semi-final" round before the competition actually starts), but that was not the case this cycle, as ANTM faced Glee's premiere. So... we'll see what happens next week. ANTM might rebound. Maybe. ANTM being out of Glee's way doesn't help TBL, though, as it is moving right into the musical show's timeslot (and here's hoping Glee remains the demo magnet it was in the premiere and doesn't suffer a huge 2nd week drop-off).

Anyway. Content. This is a review, after all. I won't say much about the plot, such as it is. Several key scenes were missing. This presentation was all about the clothes, the bodies, the flash and glamour. It certainly hits all those marks. Corbin Bleu, though featured in the print campaign, is barely in the pilot... but his presence MIGHT attract a few High School Musical fanatics to the show. Another big name in the cast who I felt was underused (but, again, may be bigger in the full pilot) was Elle MacPherson as the head of the modeling agency, Claudia Foster. I really wanted to feel her Wilhelmina Slater / Miranda Priestly and just didn't get enough of a read on her.

TBL, regardless of its success, will launch the career of Sara Paxton, who plays Raina, the young hot new model in the model house. She is everything you want in a young female lead on the CW (and more)... charming, pretty, innocent, and immensely likable.

I'm not sure I can say the same of Ben Hollingsworth, who plays Chris Andrews, the other "innocent" in the show and is Raina's love interest (a point in the script about Raina's age - 15 years old - though I don't believe it was stated in the presentation but should be in the pilot as it was a key twist in a plot thread... so we'll see if this actually develops into anything that won't veer too close to statutory rape... Chris's age is ambiguous but he's older than 15).

Chris is "discovered" in a restaurant while his family and he and visiting NYC by a man named Simon. Simon takes Chris to Claudia's agency and Claudia demands he take his shirt off. So Chris does. This is terrible, but we ARE talking about models in this show. While he has a great face, my reaction was that Ben Hollingsworth needed to lose 20 pounds so that he have more visibly defined abs (the holy grail of male modeling is, after all, underwear modeling). Perhaps he has lost weight between presentation and series filming, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the abs in the print campaign are painted on. Ben is also too short to be a model (the girls are taller), as in Corbin Bleu.

But whatever.

Also whatever: Mischa Barton.

I will be watching the pilot when it airs on Wednesday to see if everything comes together with the full 43 minutes instead of just 25. But I don't see this as being a show I would stick with. Especially when Glee and Modern Family are on against it.

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