Tinsel Author Writes: "Dallas Is Never As Interesting On the TV Screen As It Is In Person"



Hank Stuever is a critic for The Washington Post, but he did spend plenty of time down thisaway from 2006 through '08 whilst researching and writing his tome Tinsel, about o little town of Frisco and how its many merry residents guzzle holiday spirits. Which is something to keep in mind while reading his freshly minted review of ABC's Sunday-debuting G.C.B., set in Highland Park (pardon, Hillside Park) and based, of course, on Kim Gatlin's Good Christian Bitches, the first chapter from which you'll find below courtesy ABC and Hyperion.

Stuever can't stand the show, which had a sneak earlier this week at the Angelika in Mockingbird Station. Says it plays exactly as it looks in the new two-minute teaser seen above: "G.C.B. feels like a freshly unboxed set of life-size Rodeo Barbies arranged around a notion of what living in Dallas must be like." Then he goes on to make the larger point that all shows filmed in Dallas, be they fictional or factional, are kinda terrible because they cling to the hoary cliché that everything's bigger'n Texas when small-scale will do just fine. It's the same point Chris Kelly made in Texas Monthly last month, when he wrote that "the banality of G.C.B. is instructive: it reminds us that, given the choice between the broad and the specific, these shows always seem to opt for the broad." Writes Stuever:
Filmed in Dallas, G.C.B. strives only for the barest measure of accuracy -- to try any harder would be wasted effort, because all anyone wants from a show like this are gross cliches.

It has been this way with Dallas and television ever since Dallas first aired in 1978 (and will again, this summer, in a relaunched version on TNT). But Dallas is never as interesting on the TV screen as it is in person -- something about it becomes flatter, duller. That goes for fictional and reality shows; producers arrive from L.A. and just can't resist the ample visual shorthand: big hair, cleavage, Stetsons. The lazy mythos is woven with interstitial shots of steers and busy freeway stacks looming over the pastures.

Like the good people of New Jersey, Texans have no justifiable grounds to protest whenever TV decides to typify and mock them. That's because no one perpetuates Texan stereotypes more than Texans themselves. It's a sustainable brand value: That's just how we are here. That's Texas for ya, etc.
Just keep in mind: Only Sunday night's episode, the pilot, was actually filmed here; the rest was done in L.A. in an effort to keep costs down and the cast happy. I won't be watching; I'll dial up that last ep of The Good Guys I still haven't seen that somehow survives like a cockroach on the DVR. Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin

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17 comments
CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

We know one of the teenage actors and she's truly a honest, good person. Hollywood will brainwash her, eventually, but for now it would be nice to see her have some success.

'inyastsuj
'inyastsuj

You mean to tell me, that what's on the t.v. screen, ain't real life?!?!? Whaaaa, that's just crazy talk....that's all that is!

Unclebarky
Unclebarky

Didn't flat out hate it, mainly because Annie Potts bucks it up on occasion and Chenoweth is hysterical singing "Jesus Take the Wheel" in Ep. 2. As far as stereotyping Dallas, what else is new under the sun? Brought this up during press conference for "GCB" in January. Got usual response that there definitely are people like this in Dallas. Yeah, there are. But not to the exclusion of all other Dallasites. I'm a Wisconsin native, but have been here long enough to know that we'll forever be in a photo finish with New Jersey in terms of TV always going back to the same tired playbook.       

elbueno
elbueno

Ahhhh, the Good Guys...the only show that managed to do Dallas with minimal stereotypes (beyond some ridiculous accents from Whitford and Jenny Wade).

Anon
Anon

This show looks fairly dumb, but that describes plenty of scripted comedy (and always has). It might as well be set in California for how much it is truly attempting to represent Highland Park. 

And Rangers100, remember that the show is not trying to show Dallas. It's Highland Park. Highland Park is a small town landlocked by a real city (well, not real by your standards since we drive cars) and a slightly larger town (University Park). If you don't spend time around people whose lives more or less don't involve leaving the Park Cities, you probably don't it.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Insert typical 'Dallas sucks, but Ft. Worth and Austin are the best, they should have set the show there!' comment here.....

Ed D.
Ed D.

I'll tune in Sunday because I enjoy a good cartoon and Kristin Chenoweth can make almost anything watchable for an hour. ABC is desperate to find a Housewives replacement and this might just work. (Wisteria Lane isn't exactly the home of subtle characters or realistic situations.) If only they'd filmed the rest of it in Dallas, I'd stick around for the second episode.

Rangers100
Rangers100

So these shows are just gross cliches... but Texans (and Dallasites) have no right to protest because they revel in these stereotypes.

Sounds about right.

There are parts of Dallas that are creative, interesting, thoughtful, engaged, conscientious, etc. But they are clearly not the dominant culture of DFW and Texas.

The dominant culture of Dallas and Texas is, sadly, multi-million dollar Republican megachurches buried in Frisco-style sprawl. It's jacked up monster trucks where a bike or small car would suffice. It's 10+ uncontested years of a walking, talking human fart joke of a Governor. It's a snake of a Baptist preacher in the heart of downtown Dallas and his serious issues with gays, Democrats, Mormons, and pretty much everyone that isn't old, white, and militantly Republican/Baptist.

It doesn't have to be this way and hasn't always been this way. But then again, this state once wasn't held hostage by a radical quasi-Christian Republican cult. Maybe someday it will be freed from this spell.

LaceyB
LaceyB

There is something so fugly and unwatchable about all these "packaged for your enjoyment" Texas series'. Even when Chenoweth was on one of those talk shows, it was all icky-poo Texas stereotypes. But, um, who in Frisco drinks? It's all beer and wine up here, until you go into Dallas for the real stuff.

'inyastsuj
'inyastsuj

But, ain't every guy in California a blond haired surfer dude? Ain't every person in New York a criminal, or part of a group of friends who hang out in a coffee shop and have zany things happen, week in week out?

'inyastsuj
'inyastsuj

Insert the typical, dumb ass insert typical comment, here! 

Albert
Albert

Texas is so horrible.

Raymond
Raymond

 You nailed it. Thanks.

'inyastsuj
'inyastsuj

I always thought the dominant culture was hard working, tax paying, family oriented people...who have a certain affliction called "being human" that makes them not as perfect as your lovely self, no?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Why else does The Colony exist other than to have liquor stores to serve our stupid dry county? Oh, right, the shabby starter homes and as a speed trap.

Albert
Albert

"But, ain't every guy in California a blond haired surfer dude?"

Carlos don't surf.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Don't work, inyastsuj, once Wilonsky leaves (the only reason to read this blog, btw) you won't have to worry about any more comments. Enjoy your own dumb ass comments and have a good weekend.

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