|Grosse Pointe: The Complete Series (2000)
Starring: Irene Molloy, Al Santos, Lindsay Sloane, Bonnie Somerville, Kohl Sudduth, Kyle Howard, William Ragsdale, Nat Faxon, Michael Hitchcock, Joely Fisher
There’s nothing more disheartening than watching the premiere of an intelligently written show, laughing constantly throughout, and, as the closing credits roll, knowing full well that it’s never, ever going to be a hit.
Prepare yourself, then, to enter “Grosse Pointe.”
After his experiences on “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Melrose Place,” and “Sex and the City,” writer Darren Star decided to try his hand at writing a behind-the-scenes look at the television industry. Actually, he’d had the idea for years, but it wasn’t until 2000 that he was finally able to bring the concept to fruition on the fledgling WB Network. Coincidentally, 2000 was also the year that “90210” went off the air after a run of almost a decade, but, fortunately, “Grosse Pointe” can be likened just as much to “Dawson’s Creek” and “Popular,” the two big teen-angst-ridden dramas on the WB at the time.
That having been said, however, there are certain bits about “Grosse Pointe” that inevitably draw comparisons to “90210,” not the least of which is the fact that Star referred to the show within a show (the nighttime drama on the series is also called “Grosse Pointe”) as “a misguided ‘90210’ rip-off.” Irene Molloy, who plays uber-bitch Hunter Fallow, bears a slight resemblance to Shannon Doherty both in appearance and attitude, just as Lindsay Stone – the meek Marci Sternfeld – will remind you of Tori Spelling. Same with Kohl Sudduth looking just enough like Luke Perry to inspire thoughts of him. If Perry noticed it, you can imagine he didn’t exactly love the running joke that Sudduth’s character, Quentin, wears a hairpiece because he’s going prematurely bald.
There are a surprising number of industry in-jokes for a show on the WB, where the demographics skew decidedly to the teens. Being that it’s a backstage look at a television show, you’d think it would be a given, but some of these jokes would go way over the head of the casual viewer. The best example of this comes in “Opposite of Sex,” which is rampant with such comments. Jason Priestley guest stars as himself, playing a sex addict who claims that going to regular Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Quentin, who’s been forced to attend, asks, “Better than syndication? Cha-CHING!”
At another point in the episode, when it’s decided that viewers will be able to phone in and decide if Marci’s character on the show lives or dies, Joan, the network executive, tells Rob (William Ragsdale), the show’s executive producer, that they’re going to have the promotion advertised on all Subway sandwich wrappers. He’s surprised, because he didn’t think the WB had that kind of budget.
“Oh, we don’t,” replies Joan. “It’s all trade…so you have to write an episode about a Subway turkey sandwich on wheat.
“But,” she assures him, “it doesn’t have to be an A-story.”
Hilarious, to be sure, but it’s also almost certainly why the show never took off, despite guest appearances from Priestley, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lesley Bibb and Carly Pope of “Popular,” Elizabeth Berkley, Kristen Davis, George Takei and Dweezil Zappa. And as with most series that end unexpectedly (and before their time), plots are left hanging. Don’t start watching with the expectation that you’ll see Dave the Stand-In (Kyle Howard) finally end up with Marci, or Quentin or former-underwear-model-turned-actor Johnny (Al Santos) score with new girl, Courtney (Bonnie Somerville). Better you should know now that these things don’t happen than get really, really pissed off at the end of Episode 17.
It’s a shame that the WB’s viewers weren’t intelligent enough to get the humor of “Grosse Pointe,” but at least Sony had the sense to release the complete series on DVD for those who will think it’s funny.
Special Features: Clearly, “Grosse Pointe” was a labor of love for its creator. Darren Star contributes four commentaries, some in conjunction with co-executive producer Robin Schiff. Better yet, he’s not afraid to dish about how certain plot points are based on his own experiences in television. He’s not naming names, of course, but in the commentary for “Secrets & Lies,” he speaks of how every show he’s ever worked on has at least one cast member sleeping with someone “below the line,” i.e. a crew member rather than a fellow actor. Star also provides a 20-minute about the show’s creation and run.