As much as it tries Dirt, FX’s newest hour long drama does not have that Sweet Smell of Success.
The show, which premieres on January 2, stars former-"Friend” Courtney Cox as a celebrity-tabloid editrix combination of Bonnie Fuller and Gail Weathers, Cox’s alter ego in the Scream trilogy.
Like other FX dramas, especially Nip/Tuck, Dirt tries desperately to be “dark” and “edgy.” To wit: Lucy Spiller (Cox) runs two nasty tabloid magazines that never print lies but aren’t above setting up stars with prostitutes to get the money shot.
Initially the series attempts to follow two magazines (ala American Media's empire), but to make things simpler for viewers, in the third episode the two magazines, ‘Drrt’ and ‘Now,’ are merged into ‘Dirt Now’.
Spiller's best friend from college Don Konkey (Ian Hart) is a “functional schizophrenic” who happens to also be an ace paparazzo who talks to his dead cat. Spiller and Konkey interact with a full range of Hollywood stereotypes from closeted action stars to murdering rap producers to sports legends with penchants for anal action. One such cliché is Holt McLaren (Josh Stewart), a young actor whose star is on the wane. In exchange for favorable clips, McLaren lets slip to Spiller that a popular young catholic actress (Shannyn Sossamon) is pregnant out of wedlock. When Spiller runs the news on the cover of her magazine the young actress ODs and dies. But she doesn’t leave town, instead her pregnant ghost proceeds to move in with Konkey. Rumor has it in a later episode she gives birth to kittens. Seriously.
In press materials Matthew Carnahan, the show’s creator who produces with Cox and her husband David Arquette, has described initially wanting to write a show about a schizophrenic and being persuaded to refocus his efforts on the tabloids. That Dirt’s creator wasn’t initially hooked on the concept is apparent and the final product suffers for it. Of the three episodes available for review, the one episode not directed by Carnahan was noticeably more vital.
Dirt does have a lot going for it, however. With Nip/Tuck, The Shield and Rescue Me FX has a proven track record of incubating and nurturing unconventional guilty pleasures, and if the progression of quality in the first three episodes is any indication, a little practice could go a long way for this show. While Hart’s Konkey the Paparazzo is often a bit much, Cox seems to relish playing mean and a few of the side characters are particularly inspired - specifically noteworthy is Canadian actress Carly Pope scene-stealing as a lesbian drug dealer to the stars.
By Garth Johnston