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Ringer: TV Review

IN THE October 1 ISSUE

FROM THE 2011 Articles,
andBooks & Tales,
andDeborah Harter Williams,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTV
SECTIONS

by Deborah Harter Williams

In her new series, Sarah Michelle Geller (SMG) plays twin sisters, Bridget and Siobhan, who reunite after being estranged for six years. Bridget, a former stripper and recovering alcoholic, is running from the mob after witnessing a murder. Siobhan is living the high life of a rich society wife.

One moment the sisters seem to be repairing their relationship while enjoying a boat trip, and the next Siobhan mysteriously disappears overboard. Bridget decides to take on her sister’s seemingly perfect life, she looks great in Siobhan’s designer wardrobe, but it doesn’t take long for her to be surprised by the many secrets that Siobhan has.

Since she started acting at the age of four, Geller has scored as Erica Kane’s long lost daughter on All My Children, Daphne in the Scooby Doo movies and, of course, her seven seasons as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Gellar brings Buffy cred to woo the CW audience, but oddly it has been suggested that at 34 she might be too old. Newsday claimed that “the show doesn’t fit the network…a trifle old-fashioned,” and gave it a C+. Meanwhile, People Magazine gave the series 4/4 stars. True, the show was originally planned for CBS – a slightly older demographic. Loud rock songs and a sub-plot with a teen-age stepdaughter seem like insurance against the “too old” charge.

The pilot has a hole in it, in fact, many holes. Bridget decides to take on her sister’s life without much thought (30 seconds on screen) and jumps right over any number of missing details – who her sister is close to, where the sock drawer is, and oops, that pesky pregnancy test – to appear fully outfitted and ensconced in the alien high-rise apartment when Siobhan’s husband comes home from work.

But the drama is so rapid fire, with characters and twists coming so fast, that it almost doesn’t matter. Just hang on and go along for the ride. I like that she seems drawn to her sister’s husband – is that the twin magic at work, that they will instinctively like the same things?

Technically, we’ve all seen enough “twin” plots since Patty Duke to know the conventions. The scenes between sisters give SMG a chance to strut her stuff and show differences between the two. But there is a moment on the boat where one fully expects to see the shot of them together in the frame and it just doesn’t come. We know the technology is there so this feels like a lapse.

If you don’t like flashbacks, this is not the show for you. The plot absolutely demands it. We go back in time to see the relationship of the two sisters, then Bridget’s life as an addict leading up to her witnessing a murder, and Bridget’s more recent life in witness protection. The writers do a great job of weaving these all together, though it’s hard to tell if they are tantalizing the viewer with almost enough information or tossing out more misdirection.

The recap at the beginning of the second episode is so good that you can almost skip the pilot. Episode 2 also includes a wonderfully creepy moment with Bridget revving up a saw with a dead body in the background, but before she can do any room improvements, the doorbell rings and when she comes back the body is missing and 300 people are coming for a cocktail party.

There’s a lot to work with here. When I get confused I think of SMG’s statement about how she keeps the two characters distinct in her own mind. She says, “Bridget is about redemption and Siobhan is about revenge.”

To me the ongoing challenge is about what characters the audience will like: Siobhan’s friend and husband, okay; the lover, not so much; and the step-daughter is nothing but snotty in the pilot but becomes more sympathetic in episode two. More compelling and easier to read are the folks from Bridget’s old life – the heroic and comforting professor who is her NA sponsor and the FBI agent who has good guy written all over him.

Learn more about this show on their website.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to rb@robinburcell.com or cindy@cindysamplebooks.com.

Deborah Harter Williams works as a mystery scout, seeking novels that could be made into television. She blogs at Clue Sisters and was formerly a mystery bookstore owner.

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