Jeremy Likes TV

I like TV. Probably more than any human should.

Review: Ringer – “Pilot”

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Rating: 54/100

You may want to take this review with a grain of salt. Actually, you maybe want to take it with a few grains of salt. I normally like to fool myself into thinking my opinions are unimpeachable, but not here. Not with Ringer. In the interests of full disclosure, my name is Jeremy and I’m the owner of a long-time infatuation with Ringer star Sarah Michelle Gellar [1]. Pictures of SMG plastered my freshman dorm room’s walls. I count Buffy The Vampire Slayer among my three favorite shows of all-time, and not solely because of Gellar although I doubt anyone else could have embodied Buffy Summers as perfectly. It’s because of these things that I was predisposed to not hate Ringer whereas a perhaps a more rational, less emotionally invested person would. And, as expected, I didn’t hate it. Mostly, I’m just happy to have Gellar back on TV where she belongs [2].

As anyone who’s read any of the press or seen any of the promotional material for Ringer knows, the series follows twin sisters Bridget Kelly and Siobhan Martin (both played by Gellar) whose lives become intertwined after one twin (Siobhan) disappears mysteriously [3] and the other twin (Bridget) assumes her life due to a whole host of soapy reasons, not the least of which is that Bridget is the sole witness to a murder perpetrated by a Native American gangster [4] and is under federal custody until she testifies against him. Did I mention that she’s a recovering addict? And also a former stripper? No? Because of course she is. Siobhan herself is harboring secrets, such as having an affair with her best friend’s husband (Kristoffer Polaha, Life Unexpected), and carrying on a loveless sham of a marriage with a cold husband (Ioan Gruffudd, Fantastic Four) who very conveniently isn’t aware that she has a twin sister.

Despite my affection for Gellar and despite the fact that I don’t necessarily hate it, Ringer is pretty awful, although I’m still not quite sure if it falls under the “So Awful It’s Actually Good” category or the “Yeah… This Is Just Awful” category. It was, in a lot of ways, a fun pilot that didn’t overstay its welcome, while also managing to be unintentionally funny at times. It’s also without shame in laying down soap opera trope after soap opera trope like so much leaky piping. Within the first 44 minutes of the series’ history we’ve already been treated to secret twins, one twin assuming another’s identity, a long-standing rift between said twins [5], an affair with a best friend’s husband, a sham marriage, strippers, drugs, and even a secret pregnancy. Oh, and multiple murders. And a double cross. I think that might cover it.

While its plotting may be exhaustive, where does its future lay? Ringer was originally developed for CBS and it’s obvious why the network passed on it. It doesn’t fit their normal cookie-cutter procedural mold for the 50+ set at all. It’s also slightly outside of The CW’s usual teen base audience, yet it already feels like it fits in a way with The CW aesthetic despite skewing slightly older and having a somewhat different atmosphere. Gellar is passable in the dual roles although she may have to draw some differentiation between the two characters as the series progresses because they both were shaded the same way in the pilot. Polaha and Gruffudd aren’t really given much to do in this episode, but Nestor Carbonell (Lost) shows flashes of being a potentially interesting character as Bridget’s FBI handler. Also, series writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder’s continued reliance on mirrors as a motif is a little too on the nose. We get it guys. Really. No need to spoon-feed. Ultimately, Ringer isn’t the type of show that you’d describe as being put together very well, but there’s enough intrigue here to warrant at least a second look. It’s a mess. It’s trashy. But God help me… I think I might end up liking it and will probably hate myself for doing so. But, thus is Gellar’s lure. She’s had me in her grasp for going on fifteen years. Why stop now?

[1] Although she’s since been passed by Kristen Bell and, more recently, Victoria Justice. Damn you, Victorious.
[2] Her film career (Simply Irresistible, Harvard Man, Southland Tales) proved, to be kind, to be something less than stellar.
[3] Only to predictably reappear in the final scene of the episode.
[4] The guy murdered his own brother. Sensing a theme here?
[5] The reason for the rift is not yet entirely clear but it appears that Bridget did something while under the influence, possibly leading to the death of Siobhan’s son. There’s a mention of a Sean and a mysterious picture of Siobhan with a tow-headed child.

Random Thoughts:

  • Not the greatest start to the episode with the use of the “(Insert Number Of) Days Earlier” narrative device. You pull that crap and you get called a lazy writer by me.
  • What are the chances that Nestor Carbonell is a non-aging FBI agent here? Maybe Richard Alpert left the Island and went to Quantico?
  • Bridget, upon seeing Siobhan’s apartment for the first time: “This looks just like my house… except not at all.” Say what now?
  • Ridiculous plotting: Bridget, while impersonating Siobhan, admits her ruse to her NA sponsor by saying, “They all think I’m her.” By this point in the episode, we’ve seen her encounter exactly two people as Siobhan. Really.
  • Can someone explain how this show is any different than ABC Family’s The Lying Game? I mean, other than the ages of the central characters. Because they’re essentially the same show.
  • Ringer’s pilot drew over a million more viewers from the same timeslot a year ago so it seems to be an early success for The CW. Gellar is, for all intents and purposes, a brand so I could see Ringer lasting at least the entire year, if not longer.

Where To Watch: The CW | Tuesdays | 9:00 ET

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Written by jeremylikestv

September 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm

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