TV Review: [BO]Ringer
Yeah, I said it. I didn’t want it to come to this. Attempts were made to will this feeling away, but they were useless in the face of this monstrosity.
Ringer, the new prime-time series that puts Mrs. Gellar back on the small screen, is a blindingly shiny un-nuanced faux-noir, weighted down by soggy affect. Yes… SOGGY.
The show revolves around twin sisters Bridget and Siobhan (both played by Gellar), who’ve been estranged for the last six years. Bridget is a recovering addict and ex-stripper. And the smudgy eyeliner tells us that she’s still a hot mess of a lady. She’s also on the run from the mob after witnessing a murder. She seems pretty calm about it though, even when she flees to see her twin sister, Siobhan. Siobhan (pronounced: shuh-VAHN) is a Park Avenue wife, and has probably never stripped because she wears her hair in a chignon (see above photo). The sisters seem to be repairing their broken relationship until Siobhan mysteriously disappears overboard, during a boat trip. Bridget panics, mostly by rubbing her temples, before she decides to pose as her sister. She soon discovers Siobhan’s seemingly perfect life is full of secrets.
I wanted to love it. But I don’t. I cringe.
In interviews, Gellar’s been describing this show as a cross between Dynasty and Twin Peaks, which only make me think she watched some version of Twin Peaks made for people who like Twin Peaks, but wish it was awful.
She’s also been relaying how arduous it is to play twins:
“The joke is that I’m playing five characters,” Gellar explains. “I play Siobhan and Bridget present day, both women in flashback, and then ‘Shivette,’ which is when Bridget is pretending to be Siobhan.”
Yeah… It’s weird (and a touch self-congratulatory), because if you ever took Character Acting According to Sarah, you’d learn that you actually become another person, just by changing your hair. It’s a crutch that more or less disappears after the pilot episode, leaving Gellar flailing whenever she’s forced to… you know, act; not exactly Primal Fear, you know what I’m saying.
Since her time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer —it remains, not just her best work, but great work, by anyone’s standard— Gellar’s acting has devolved into a parade of monotone detachment. There are still glimmers of that promise she displayed on Buffy, mostly when a scene demands some sort of heightened emotion, but she struggles with naturalism and remains painfully unconvincing when engaged in mundane tasks – like picking up a phone… or sleeping. It is particularly problematic when your show hinges on a case of mistaken identity, a setup that lives and dies by the attention paid to its details. Tasked with playing two sisters who are, on paper, as different as can be, Gellar does exactly nothing to distinguish their characters. Bridget and Siobhan are really just Gellar, pretending she has range… via her hair.
This may be why the writers of Ringer have completely squandered the opportunity to capitalize on this device. Any potential moments of authentic suspense (Will she give herself away? Answer: No, because everyone around her is an idiot) are abandoned in favor of annoying and explain-y dialogue, which solely serves to deliver information and nothing else. It would have been nice to learn of Siobhan’s less-than-adored status within her circle by seeing that discomfort play out on screen, rather than having someone walk up to Bridget (as Siobhan) and pronounce, “You’re in a good mood. That’s unusual.” Really? Shut. Up.
None of this matters, of course. The show is doing fairly well, ratings-wise, which hardly gives Gellar the motivation to start behaving like a human. But it’s a bummer for people like me.
I will defend her work on Buffy until the day I die; it was a magical perfect storm that played to all her strengths and somehow rendered her weaknesses invisible.
But Ringer does neither.