A newish YouTube channel for women is less trashy, less fun | Bleader

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A newish YouTube channel for women is less trashy, less fun

Posted By on 06.05.13 at 05:11 PM

Julia Stiles at mother, prostitute Blue
  • WIGS
  • Julia Stiles as mother, prostitute Blue
There’s a Lifetime movie called Deadly Encounter about a young mother and restaurant hostess who is stalked, harassed, and nearly killed (repeatedly) by a shadowy man who has the uncanny ability to be wherever she is at any time. There’s a dramatic final showdown where her tormentor finally reveals his motives: she cut him off in traffic. She shoots him. The end.

It’s an example of television for women at its trashy zenith: it preys upon an irrational fear, stretches a scenario and its consequences far beyond their logical limits, and ends with a victory for our side. In short, it's great. Speaking of things that are "in short," I was excited about WIGS, the year-old, Fox-owned YouTube channel for and about women that presents its original series in digestible seven-to-ten-minute-long episodes at watchwigs.com.

It's like Lifetime for short attention spans and with a better pedigree; the channel was started by Jon Avnett of Fried Green Tomatoes-fame and Rodrigo Garcia, who wrote and directed 2005's Nine Lives (and is the son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Like Nine Lives, WIGS offers vignette-style glimpses into women's lives. Each series is named for and centers on a lead female character in some state of transition. There’s Jan, the fledgling photographer finding her footing at her first big gig (which is tough because she’s a frenetic, slapsticky klutz); Leslie (Catherine O’Hara), the aging actress vying for a role as Mother Teresa (because O’Hara could so easily pass for a tiny Albanian); Dakota (Jena Malone), the single mother trying to make ends meet as a savvy if ethically bereft poker player; and Blue (Julia Stiles), the single mother trying to make ends meet by prostituting herself. (One of her customers quips, "More like making rear ends meet." SHUDDER.) At the moment, there are 14 series in total, none of which centers on a black character.

Diversity issues aside, the shows on WIGS takes a more subdued approach to ladydrama than other women's channels. But lower budgets mean lots of talking, and unfortunately, the dialogue isn't consistently believable. Sometimes it doesn't make sense. A lot of the subject matter and scenarios are serious (or they're supposed to be), but the tone gets thrown out of whack. None of it comes off as much less ridiculous than something on Lifetime, just less enjoyable.

The actors are good, but not always given a lot to work with. An example: the usually great Sarah Paulson plays Blue’s coworker Lavinia, who complains in one scene that her name sounds too much like “vagina.” Well, no it doesn’t. The joke worked on Seinfeld with "Delores" and "clitoris," but not here. Also, that’s not the way anyone responds to “How are you doing today?” unless she was literally born and named that day. Then, after a little more complaining, Lavinia gets bummed about being a woman ("it's such a 'thing,'" she says) and bursts into tears in the office, which she says happens "every day." Maybe she is a gigantic infant.

Anyway, it's an instance when it feels like TV for women, by men.

Jan's season (which I couldn't bring myself to finish) starts with her photographing women immediately after they've had sex for a series called "Afterglow." She takes some shots while the male half of the post-coital coupling (played by True Blood's Stephen Moyer) stands around in a towel and assists. Afterward, all three hop into bed, cuddle under the sweaty sheets, and casually flip through the photos on Jan's digital camera. Everyone agrees she's done a great job and that none of this is completely fucking weird.

One good thing about Lifetime, once you get past the fact that television for women is objectionable at its core: it knows it’s a little ridiculous. It's campy. It's fun. WIGS can't quite decide what it is.

Gwynedd writes about TV on Wednesdays.

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