Monday, August 22, 2005

Minding the Store With Pauly Shore: Kick Start My Ennui

At last report, I described an uncomfortable yet all encompassing sense of ennui from watching Minding the Store, Pauly Shore's reality series on TBS. Wondering why I felt the need to keep watching week after week made me really dig down within myself, to find out what would make me take precious seconds out of my leisure to watch a show about a fading comic and his travails at the "world famous" (this bit is rammed down our throats) Comedy Store on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip.

It’s kind of light and off-beat, which makes for easy viewing after a real day spent in real life land and its traffic and meetings and convenience store clerks who may or may not spill over into the Red Zone when you politely ask for change of a five. Shore, with his oddly deteriorating features and new whoa-is-me shtick is mostly likeable and watchable in his quest to lay off the easy pleasures of Hollywood (read = starlet wannabes fresh-off-the-bus) and rebuild what he freely admits is a career that went from boomingest boom to, well, busty.

But to paraphrase Bill Murray in Stripes:

There's something very very wrong with this!

Every reality show has some level of scripting, some level of unreality, if you will, built in: The Real World ain't all that real, the Survivor folk likely ain't going to die, and so on.

But Minding the Store pushes the line, at times until it’s an unfunny blur. Take, for example, the numerous storylines involving Pauly Shore and his zany crew of "whack pack" underlings and associates from the Comedy Store. One episode found Pauly ordering the minions to spruce up the (world famous) Comedy Store limousine. The upshot was a staged adventure to Mexico where, lo and behold, the limo was Mexican-ized, Tijuana-style: bright red paint from bumper to bumper, mariachi-ized horn, and interior replete with Mexican cucarachas, blankets, and hats. Pauly was appalled! What's an aging comic to do!

Indeed, one of the through lines of Minding the Store was how New & Improved the (world famous) Comedy Store really, really, really is! So on top of the canned element, we were treated to a marketing pitch for our troubles.

The other main storyline dealt with Pauly's increasingly desperate (and staged) attempts to become a dramatic actor and reenter the ranks of Hollywood's A List.

It was the episode in which Pauly put together an audition tape of sorts to, in theory, show off his dramatic acting chops that really began to kick start my sense of ennui ("Kick Start My Ennui" - take that, Motley Crue!). Up until then, I was easing into my role as viewer of rooting for Pauly and the revival of his career. He's got an oddball charm that remains from his MTV-styled Weasel days (How's it going, bud-dee?) and it was fun watching him attempt to rebuild his life and career in the town where self-invention and reinvention and self-promotion meld into one gloriously gaudy conglomeration.

Pauly, bless his heart, acted out a scene from what must undoubtedly be a blacksploitation masterpiece called The Black Godfather. He played the role of Badass Pimp, looking to get what was coming to him or some such. Now, if Pauly delivered a straight or nearly straight performance, we would watch Shore prepare for the role and root hit along as he strived with a madness in his soul to resurrect a once high-flying career.

Instead, it ended up being played for laughs: emphasis on played, and with not very many laughs as a result. Marlon, Pauly's Latino gopher, was dispatched to be the "propmaster" for the shoot. Requisite “mix-up” antics ensued, leaving Pauly with a pimp costume more befitting a vaudeville-era huckster than, well, a Black Godfather. Pauly's subsequent performance was bad, but not in that so-bad-it’s-funny kind of way. It was just excruciatingly and painfully awful.

The supposed payoff comes during a sequence in which Pauly proudly shows this schlocky tape about town in a bid to accelerate his new ascendancy to fame and fortune. As Pauly shows the tape to his shocked and awed looking management team, it appears that the climactically hilarious Subtitles of Comedy should read, "Isn't it hilarious how awful the audition tape is, and doubly hilarious that Pauly just doesn't get it, poor soul?"

But it doesn't work. At this point, I began to feel manipulated, used. Perhaps a little bit like how those fresh-off-the-bus starlet wannabes feel after a few dates with (legendary Playboy Mansion regular) Pauly Shore.

Speaking of the ladies, a subplot involved Pauly spending time with his sex therapist. He’s looking to settle down, it seems, but he just can’t lay off the one night stands. The only thing I found interesting about this aspect of the show is the continuation of a recent spate of reality programs that show therapists working with clients in session (see also: the excellent, unscripted Blow Out on Bravo). Didn’t The Sopranos teach us about therapist-client privilege?

In the end, though, I kept on watching. Pauly exudes a rumpled playfulness that managed to hack into my brain, power down its Thinking Center (which is just down the hall from the Pinball Arcade/Study), and keep me watching as each new pre-planned and canned non-adventure unfolded.

I'm not sure what I learned from Minding the Store. It was at times mildly amusing, mildly manipulative, and mildly inane.

The only way to describe how I feel is that it kick started within me a frantic sense of ennui.


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Eric Berlin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Montana.