Friday, November 11, 2005

Movie: Serial (1980)

So I’m scrolling through the late-night TV listings and come across this satire that I’ve never heard of before.

But Rosemarie has. It’s based on a novel by Cyra McFadden, one of those scandalous, zeitgeist-capturing books that merits reams of coverage in lifestyle magazines. Rosemarie can even picture the book’s original cover. But she never read it, and she hasn’t seen the movie, either. Set DVR on record.

SERIAL targets life in Marin County, California during the ‘Me Generation’ years, the era of consciousness raising, hot tubs and orgies. Or, as star Martin Mull says, “These are exciting times, aren’t they? Gas is over a dollar a gallon and it’s OK to be an asshole.” The cast is filled with TV stalwarts like Peter Bonerz, Tommy Smothers, and MAUDE’s Bill Macy. Horror icon Christopher Lee turns up just to keep things interesting.

The small screen pedigree extends behind the camera. Director Bill Persky was a key figure on the show KATE & ALLIE, and screenwriters Rich Eustis and Michael Elias would go on to create the family-friendly sitcom HEAD OF THE CLASS.

The TV influence sometimes works against the movie. It features a hellishly bad theme song that screams ‘Sundays at 9, 8 Central,’ and a jokey, episodic structure that makes it feel like an extended installment of LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE. Comedies that tackled similar subject matter earlier on have more bite, like the Paul Mazursky-scripted films I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

But SERIAL eventually buckles down and focuses on Mull’s efforts to salvage his marriage to Tuesday Weld. A solid ratio of its jokes score, and plenty of them involve nudity and/or profanity, which I always appreciate. It’s not a perfect film, but it deserves a better fate than surfacing on Cinemax at four in the morning.

Miscellaneous: Links

The latest subject being pondered at Reason: why are celebrity profiles so bad? Slate places 50 Cent’s GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’ in the context of autobiographical films and declares Eminem the winner. And Bill Pronzini offers a reminiscence of lost pulp master Jay Flynn at Mystery*File.