Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pilot Review: Red Widow

Red Widow (Sundays at 10:00 on ABC; Premieres March 3)

Never has anyone said, "You know who would make a great TV series about a strong bad-ass woman standing up for herself and her family? The lady who wrote the Twilight films." But for some reason, that's exactly what ABC did: they gave creative control of their new series Red Widow, based on the Dutch show Penoza, to Melissa Rosenberg. It's true that in recent years she has somewhat redeemed her laughable film career, which also includes a screenplay credit for the 2006 dance film Step Up, as an Emmy-nominated writer on Dexter. Unfortunately she still doesn't do female protagonists (or sophisticated storytelling) very well, so Red Widow is a big step backward for her and a total misstep, in general, for ABC.

Red Widow is about a seemingly perfect mafia-connected family in San Francisco. Marta (Radha Mitchell) is just trying to raise her three kids without the influence of her mobster father, despite the fact that her husband (Anson Mount) is a drug smuggler and her brother has done time. So when a notorious drug lord (Goran Visnjic) comes a-calling because one of his "shipments" has gone missing, the only surprise is that Marta is surprised when her husband ends up dead. You're so deeply engrained in mob culture, not to mention the fact that your husband is a dealer working alongside your convicted felon of a brother, and you really never prepared for this day when it all might come to bite your family in the ass?

I don't even want to waste anyone's time with this one: don't watch Red Widow. It's utterly ridiculous. It's poorly written, poorly directly, poorly acted, and poorly paced. Seriously, the introduction takes up more than half of the pilot; we know the husband is going to die: the show has "widow" in the title. Kill him already! It's one in a long line of annoying choices made here. The color red appears so often (as does the Golden Gate Bridge, which I wanted to jump off of by the end of the episode), particularly in Marta's wardrobe, that you could create a drinking game around it and be wasted by the end of the first hour of the two-hour premiere (and probably would have a better time than I did if you were). And in the pilot's most ridiculous and infuriating plot point, the family's youngest son is being bullied at his fancy private school; the youngster's solution? He brings his father's gun to school and points it at his bully. The ramifications from his parents? Nada. There isn't even a conversation with him. Marta shoulders the blame for the part her family's "lifestyle" plays, but she doesn't even reprimand the kid. With all the hubbub surrounding gun violence, particularly when it comes to children in elementary school as this character is, the scene seems totally irresponsible... plus, it's unrealistic in general. What mother wouldn't rip her kid a new asshole for bringing a gun to school?! Then again, Marta isn't exactly in the running for Mother of the Year as it is: she hides her family's mob connections and doesn't tell her kids what their father does for a living. So basically, she lies to them 24/7, and we're supposed to feel sorry for her? Or identify with her? I find it hard to sympathize with Marta's plight when her husband has had nearly two decades to get out of the business, yet it takes her kid waving a gun around to finally tell him to give it up.

Red Widow is just so stupid. Even the cast is confusing. Radha Mitchell isn't a terrible choice for the lead, but she doesn't exactly have an illustrious film career (Silent Hill, The Crazies, Surrogates). Her husband is played by the guy who was Britney Spears's love interest in Crossroads. Lee Tergesen is one of his business partners, and he hasn't done anything of note since Oz ended ten years ago. Clifton Collins, Jr. plays an FBI agent or a detective or something; you'd recognize him as "that guy" from a bunch of movies and TV shows, but he mumbles his way through the script so much that he might as well not even be speaking. I think the only decent casting decision is E.R. veteran Goran Visnjic as Schiller, an infamous drug lord whose presence looms over the entire first hour despite his not appearing until the last few minutes. Were he to appear earlier (cutting that damn intro down would have helped facilitate this), Red Widow might have been a little more fun. He chews the scenery like a champ, realizing full well how ludicrous this show is. Unfortunately, everyone else plays the melodramatic script too seriously, so he looks kind of like a cartoon character next to them. So even his presence is wasted because it's so out of place.

Anyway, this was all just a long-winded way of reiterating what I said before: don't watch Red Widow.

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