Men are from trees, women are from venus fly traps

The name “Anne Heche” doesn’t mean that much to me as an actress. I know I must’ve seen her in things, but if you ask me I can only come up with a couple of titles of things she’s been in, neither of which I’ve seen. Sadly, I can tell you a variety of things about the history of her personal life, none of which are particularly my business, and I’d be just as happy not to know them.

But she is the lead of the new TV series Men In Trees, and she acquits herself reasonably well. The tale is basically a twist on Northern Exposure (oh, they’ll get tired of seeing that in every review), with an outsider coming to live among the oddballs in a small Alaskan town. The twist is that the newcomer is a female, a relationship self-help guru, who lands in a town that’s overwhelmingly male. This has some basis in reality; the ratio of available men to women in Alaska in general has always been quite high… but as my long-single Alaska-dwelling mom would tell me, “the odds are good but the goods are odd”, a line which the show uses as well.

Watching it, I noted some Sex and the City vibe to the rhythms and focus.  Turns out I wasn’t wrong, the show was created by a writer for that show. And I wasn’t a fan of Sex and the City, so you think it would be a bad thing. Thing is, I respect Sex and the City. It’s not that it was a bad show, it was a good show aimed at people who aren’t quite me. And this show is aimed if not at me, at least closer. The early sign is that it may work by avoiding the usual assumptions and shortcuts. The lead’s self-help advice is based on the idea that men fit into certain recognizable and repeatable types; if they go with contrasting that with the quirky reality of a world of individuals, instead of the recognizable easily-described and repeatable types that tend to fill out most shows.

Another sign that they weren’t aiming so far from me in this: the supporting cast. The show has the talented John Amos (hey, anyone who is part of both the Mary Tyler Moore Show universe and the All in the Family universe starts out ahead for me, add in West Wing and you get more respect… and all of that is very unimportant compared to the idea
that he can pull of gravitas and humor, as needed. Plus, there’s Abraham Benrubi, who I’ve kept my eye on going all the way back to his playing Kubiak on the Ferris Bueller rip-off Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (which, for anyone delving back into those years of TV, was vastly better than the official Ferris TV series.) Big smily guy, largely wasted behind the desk on E/R, far less wasted on guest spots on Buffy and Roseanne.

Anyway, when I saw Amos and Benrubi in the same scene, together, I was a happy little TV nerd.

This series is not a definite thing. We’ll see how they flesh out the townspeople as the series continues. But it is worth checking out an episode and seeing if it’s aimed at you.

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Published in: on September 15, 2006 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  

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