Monday, April 26, 2010

Gravity - a Starz solid heavy weight

I subscribe to HBO, Showtime and Starz these days not for the movies, which is a nice benefit, but for original programming. And there is a lot on these channels.

A number of 30 minute "sitcoms" are offered by these channels, many offbeat and/or dry. Despite the representation, a few aren't "sitcoms" or even could be called a "dramady" - think "Nurse Jackie" which has some dry, witty moments just like AMC's hour long "Breaking Bad" but neither is any kind of comedy as compared to "Weeds" on Showtime which even in Nancy's worst moments can somehow be wryly amusing in the sense one sees a cartoon situation with a "what a revolting development this is" aura.

Friday, Starz introduced "Gravity" following the season return of its amusing comedy about caterers, "Party Down."

"Gravity" is not a comedy. It is about a group of suicide survivors who collide in an out-patient program. I suppose if the script was about some zany crazies who attempted suicide, well maybe. It is a 30-minute-per-episode drama series with some dry, witty moments. And it probably will be very good - except the 30 minute format may be a bit constraining.

Yes, there is something amusing about the initial few minutes in which Robert Collinsworth (played by Ivan Sergei pictured above), an ophthalmologist who can't get over his wife's death from cancer, drives his Mercedes over a cliff directly into the swimming pool of a passing gay cruise ship. He thereby gets his 15 seconds of fame as a joke on YouTube known as "the suicide dummy."

But your own psyche knows this is not comedy.

Nor is the suicide attempt by Lilly Champagn played by Krysten Ritter (pictured above). Lilly attempts suicide by chasing a bottle of pills with a rich slice of chocolate cake she makes from a box mix, many boxes of which she has in cupboard. An atheist, she falls for a dirtbag she has never met who she sees in heaven after flat-lining at the hospital.

Attempting suicide is a crime. Entering from left field comes Detective Christian Miller (Co-creator Eric Schaeffer pictured below) a vegan/gambler/yoga obsessed and weird cop.

Robert and Lily must join a support group run by a former baseball player named Dogg (Ving Rhames pictured below) who's now in a wheelchair.

Eying each other, knowing some or all will try suicide again, this group (including a number of other strong actors) will struggle. Is there a dark sense of humor? Yes. But when Dogg takes them for a "field trip" on a short notice, whatever chance there was to call this a sitcom fades suddenly.

Fortunately if you are not a Starz subscriber, you can watch episodes 1 and 2 online now. I'd recommend watching both to get a feel for the show.