|The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman (2006)
Starring: Laura Kightlinger, Nicholle Tom, Azura Skye, Patrick Bristow, Colleen Camp, Giuseppe Andrews, Sally Kellerman
Director: Adam Kassen and Mary Kay Place
It’s a genuinely cool feeling when a TV show that looked uninteresting upon first glance turns out to be a major winner. Such is the case with IFC’s “The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman.”
Frankly, the show could potentially look uninteresting in numerous ways, but, for me, it was mostly due to its L.A./Hollywood-based setting, an environment that’s starting to seem awfully repetitive in the current TV climate. (Surely a list of examples isn’t necessary?) But a show about “the Biz” doesn’t have to be an exercise in more of the same, and “Jackie Woodman” seems to relish skewering the Hollywood underbelly in ways that make it a major accomplishment. (Sorry. It had to be done). The two central characters, Jackie Woodman (Laura Kightlinger, who also wears about eight hats behind the scenes) and her best-ish friend, Tara Wentzel (Nicholle Tom), are highly reminiscent of Edina and Patsy of “Absolutely Fabulous,” minus the wacky farce and high-profile careers, and someday, if these girls play their cards right, they’ll work their way up to Pats and Eddie status. They drink, they drug, they exhibit feelings only when the mood suits them, and feel unjustified senses of entitlement, yet somehow they’re likable. Perhaps this is because everyone else on the show is just a little bit uglier, and in turn we find a way care about the duo. Since each is deficient in numerous, complementary areas from the other, together they basically make one person.
Jackie works days at a tabloid newspaper with her vapid, dim-witted boss Skyler (Azura Skye), and Skyler’s toady underling Mitchell (Patrick Bristow); her real talent may lay in screenwriting, but since she’s all but given up on it, it’s questionable. Tara works in a low-level capacity at a production house but would much rather be acting and will pretty much sleep with anyone who looks as if they could help her out. Neither seems to make much headway in navigating their careers, despite opportunities arising left and right. (Maybe that’s where the title comes in?) Usually Jackie fucks up out of an absurd feeling of self-righteousness, and Tara’s at best begrudgingly left picking up the pieces or, at worst, forced to blow some guy.
One of the best segments from the eight-episode first season is called “Peyote Ugly.” Jackie has asked for a grant from a group of Native Americans to make a documentary, and upon receiving a check for $10,000, the following exchange takes place:
Tara: “You told them your name was ‘Whitepigeon.’ You lying bastard.”
Jackie: “Back off, white man. My great-grandfather lived on a reservation.”
Tara: “No, he was a poor drunk who lied about being an Indian so he could live there rent-free. These grants are for filmmakers of actual Native American descent.”
Jackie: “There are two schools of thought. One, suck it. And two, we’ve got the money, who gives a shit?”
That’s pretty much their attitude throughout the series.
The duo decides to go on a spending spree rather than make a movie. Of course, 10 grand in L.A. is good for a shawl and maybe a belt and not much more. When they realize they’ve got to actually show some product or return the check, they set off to document a peyote ceremony. Needless to say, very little filmmaking is accomplished, but the tripped out experience was probably worth it…or maybe not. Jackie and Tara find reward in almost nothing.
In the season finale, Jackie is swayed by the charms of an ultra right-wing talk radio host (Ray Wise of “Twin Peaks” and, now, “Reaper” fame) and ends up partying at a soiree of his hosting which has been modeled on Abu Ghraib. This is brought up not to sway you towards the series, but to illustrate how non-PC this fare is. Conservatives, beware: the title of this episode is “The Republicunt.”
The problem is that describing the plots of “Jackie Woodman” or giving away episode titles doesn’t do the show justice. Its setups and payoffs are so out there they must be experienced to understand that they could even be funny. The dialogue is positively acidic, and the characters take no prisoners and roast every sacred cow that walks across their path. For a show that on the surface looks like “Sex and the City,” it actually owes a hell of a lot more to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Laura Kightlinger and Nicholle Tom are not types generally considered “sexy,” but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find lust a big part of spinning one “Jackie Woodman” episode after another.Special Features: There’s a brief intro piece to the series itself and a quick sneak peek at Season Two (which is now playing on IFC), but neither is even close to being as enjoyable as just watching and rewatching the eight episodes on the set.