Fox kicked off its new summer season in earnest tonight with the much ballyhooed premiere of sudser North Shore, which was hyped to be Las Vegas meets The OC but was closer to, uh, I don’t know. Crap? Okay, it wasn’t that bad. Unlike failed Fox superbomb, Skin, what this show lacked in writing or acting it made up for in campiness and a general lack of pretension. Yeah, the philosophical surfing metaphors from Twin Peaks alum Michael Ontkean were a bit much (and predictable), but the breezy, if not clunky, plotting kept us moving to each awkwardly placed commercial break.Speaking of clunky, robot-in-training Brooke Burns made the unnecessary transition from hostess of Dog Eat Dog to night time soap luminary in a fitfully painful way. Brooke, starring as the sexy new guest relations exec at James Remar’s Hawaiian resort, embraces every scene with an enthusiastically blank expression which seems unfazed by any actorly obligations such as reactions or emotion. I’d like to think that she’s engaging in her own study of the Kuleshov Effect, but I think it has more to do with Botox and a debilitating lack of talent.
And yet, whenever Brooke – aka Nicole – was on screen, I was riveted by her vapid execution of even the simplest lines like the one-word doozy “Jason?” Once in a while, the script called for her to be smart or tough as nails, a task to which Ms. Burns sunk to the occasion. If only Linda Fiorentino were about ten years younger…
Or if only radiant guest star Brittany Daniels were offered the role instead. North Shore was very kind to the Sweet Valley High twin, who had her fair share of stunning closeups and flattering lighting. Her subplot even had a nifty twist. Turns out Brittany’s tennis star character likes her doubles unmixed. We should have seen it a mile away, especially with Martina trying to stage a comeback tour these days, but we’ll take the ounce of originality where we can get it.
The rest of the show was enjoyably predictable with our hero, Jason (played by some guy from Roswell or something like that) trying to hold the resort together. He ambled from subplot to subplot – often bringing a smile, his good nature, and a little moral high ground to any given situation. His lifeguard buddy, Gabriel (sort of a younger, more jacked Ben McKenzie), got into trouble with a jailbait hotel guest who insisted that 15 was the new 21 (nice try North Shore, but we’ll get our witty banter from The OC, thank you very much). When Gabriel turned down the baby vixen’s topless advances, she predictably told James Remar that she’d been attacked by the flaxen lifeguard. The unfortunate result of this was a bizarre heart-to-heart between the teen girl and Nicole. Proving the writers to be one group of sadistic motherfuckers, Brooke Burns was assigned the task of relating some childhood trauma of never having her daddy attend her ballet recitals. I don’t know if the girl truly felt badly for Nicole or just wanted her to shut the hell up because next thing we know, she’s suddenly telling her shrew mom that she lied. No comped room for you, biatch!
Elsewhere in the North Shore universe, we met plucky waitress-next-door MJ who wants to someday launch a line of t-shirts and beachware. As the sisterly/buddy type, she’s clearly in love with Jason, and God help us when this Jason-MJ-Nicole love triangle rears its cliched head. In the meantime, barkeep Frankie – whose dreads and detached attitude are supposed to mean he’s tough and distant – winds up in a silly excursion which results in Nicole playing craps at an auto-detailing shop. For a mysterious guy, Frankie sure does chuckle a lot.
I guess the revolving door of guest characters – which also featured Seinfeld’s Baboo this episode – will keep things amusing. I also look forward to OC regular Amanda Raghetti making her big splash as a North Shore cast member. As long as every episode doesn’t end with a silly scene of Jason riding the surf and regaining some sort of lost, Blue Crushy perspective on life, I’ll be happy.