ABC Family is a network that I have long championed, but their recent efforts are difficult to recommend. Shows like Switched at Birth and The Fosters force you to wonder about all the things that seemed praiseworthy about many of their other shows. One of the best notes of their original programming was that it offered a certain demographic fun shows that exhibited a certain respect for their audience. Sure, perhaps not the very best of dramatic story craft, but solid entertainment for a certain age range that didn’t feel the need to call their own viewers stupid.
That’s a gear we slipped out of, to one degree or another, with recent efforts, but Switched at Birth and The Fosters at least have a semblance of flair about them, and frankly are aimed at those who lived through the actual target demographic of the network, but refuse to abandon the age.
Mystery Girls, on the other hand, isn’t clever enough to compete with the likes of Dog with a Blog (a solid show, by the way, which serves the tween audience well), and isn’t appropriate for any audience young enough to find anything in it worthwhile.
Co-created by, and starring, Tori Spelling, the plot and her character, Holly Hamilton, probably have their main value in some group’s psychology thesis, but become laughable at best as any sort of entertainment.
Where ABC Family‘s Melissa & Joey hit the target with an update to sit-com ideals of 30 years ago, ala TV Land‘s original efforts, in this case with a new spin on Who’s the Boss?, Mystery Girls aims at a sort of nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake offering, but without any great focus, and with an eye toward elements no one was actually missing.
If you’re being really generous, Spelling’s character, a kind of brain-dead-ish fame whore who hasn’t done anything interesting since her popular show went off the air all those years ago (except make appearances on shows like Celebrity Beekeepers), might be a spin on sticking it to the persona the media have turned Spelling into over the years. If you aren’t inclined toward generosity, and/or have seen True Tori, and/or are unimpressed by the fact that there seems no reality television pitch too stupid for Spelling to jump on, then you may have your hands full putting together all of the horrible aspects of one show that can be crammed into a twenty-minute run time.
Spelling and Jennie Garth play actresses (Holly and Charlie) who found fame in the very popular show Mystery Girls back in the day, but haven’t really been seen much since. Garth’s character, much as we are led to understand about her real life, is mostly content to raise her family, but Spelling’s is hoping for any shot at a return to stardom. Adding to the “reality” of the show, Charlie is intelligent, and thinks Holly’s idea to become real investigators in keeping with the personas of their show is fantastically stupid. Holly is, let’s assume, meant to be stupid and self-absorbed in that really fun sense of updating Chrissy Snow into one of the Real Housewives of somewhere, but the best possible version of the character is something that only exists in your imagination. The worst part about it is that Spelling can only manage to act like an idiot during the moments when she isn’t meant to, leaving the moments of “bewildered moron” reminiscent of the acting abilities of the kids on Barney.
A vanity piece of the worst order (and why Garth agreed to participate is beyond me), the show seems to exist only to give Spelling the opportunity to portray a character even dumber than people think she is, because this is meant to somehow convince them that she isn’t… or something.
The only bright spot on the show, apart from the fact that Garth is pretty good and at least gets to mock Spelling without Spelling being bright enough to catch on (wait, I may have answered my question about her involvement), is Miguel Pinzon who plays a superfan of the original show who scores a gig as the girls’ assistant in the new venture. It isn’t that his character is any less irritating than the show in general, but Pinzon has a charisma that takes over.
Not only is the show just plain unfunny, it only hopes at comedy by way of Holly’s ludicrous stupidity, and it doesn’t have the sense to realize that whatever poke at idiocy really cracks up Spelling doesn’t necessarily translate into anything an audience is interested in.
To show just how solid the show really is, ABC Family suddenly rescheduled the show just days before the premiere. What would have been an episode several shows in, which revolves around an internet rumor of Holly’s death, and the subsequent online bidding war for a sex tape she’s in, will now air as the first episode. Admittedly not as bad as the pilot, the episode throws audiences into a world where the Mystery Girls detective agency, or whatever, is in full swing. The pilot, which reunites the women after many years without contact, and has Holly hatching the brilliant scheme, will now air after several episodes. You have to guess this will be reworked quickly into a flashback episode.
The show conveniently doesn’t need outrageously strong numbers to get a chance on ABC Family, and there is every chance that there is a large audience out there begging for just this sort of hate-watch spectacular, especially with Spelling in the crosshairs, but if there is any hope at all, this won’t be around long.