Mary McNamara at the LA Times has a great piece this week (with follow up commentary from the brilliant Jezebel) about actresses of substance (read: over 35 with minimal plastic surgery) who are signing on to television gigs. She reports this not as a renaissance for television but as yet another nail in the movie industry's coffin and a denigration of one of our finest national resources, our actresses.
I'm taking a glass is half full approach, have you ever talked to a fan of Kyra Sedgwick's TNT series the Closer? When phrases like "the greatest television character ever created" are being tossed around (not to mention the show's record breaking ratings it's hard to see this as a downgrade -- especially when such admiration is rare for film character of any ange or gender.
Then let's consider that women over 35 are a demographic that's been essentially written off by Hollywood -- but shows like Weeds, Desperate Housewives, Damages and the Starter Wife are giving ladies something to watch in a summer of Superbads and Simpson Movies (both of which I loved, but my mom wouldn't watch on a bet) that's still meatier than re-runs of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Two and a Half Men. And let's face it, whenever the sitcoms lose, America wins.
This is a point I've been making (to many guffaws from film lovers) since Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended. Is it any wonder viewers felt so invested in Buffy Summers's future enough to rally its creative team to create an additional 'season' in a series of graphic novels (not to mention make minor hits out of some of the horrible films actress Sarah Michelle Gellar made post-Buffy)? After spending an aggregate 104.8 hours, that's 6.5 seasons minus commercial breaks, with her we probably know her better than we do our own families.
The [Black Best Friend] syndrome isn't something that Hollywood likes to talk about, even as it continues to be a winking in-joke among blacks in the industry. One African American actress said that she and her actress friends tease one another about forming a support group for characters who had to help out their "woefully helpless white girls."
Though I feel I must defend Merrin Dungey's presence in Alias. Francie had the emotional and romantic life that protagonist Sydney Bristow was never able to (life/work balance was a constant theme of the series). And when Dungey's character was killed off she was brought back as one of the best villains the show ever had, an evil spy who's had massive surgery to resemble Bristow's best friend and infiltrate her life. Which culminated in what had to be the greatest fight scenes ever committed to whatever they shoot television on: