Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Entertainment that is so bad it is so amazing – Los Angeles Loyolan.
The climax of the pilot episode of ABC’s new drama “Revenge” takes place at a yacht party in the Hamptons. Victoria Grayson, the reigning queen of all upper class New York social circles, is announcing the winner of her charity art auction. Victoria, played to perfection by the sublime Madeleine Stowe, turns the announcement into a dressing down of her former best friend Lydia, all while wearing a deliciously fake smile.
The dialogue on this and all other episodes of “Revenge” is pure camp and is delivered in the most over-the-top manner possible by the ensemble cast. The plots are absurd and the conflicts contrived. All this adds up to an absolute train wreck of a TV show that qualifies as one of the poorest on any network. It is also easily the most enjoyable new show of the season.
“Revenge” is merely the latest example of a trend in the industry; that is, TV shows and films that are poorly technically crafted and are by all counts tremendously entertaining. From the Uwe Boll filmography to any movie starring Beyoncé Knowles – “Obsessed” is a personal favorite – there’s a great joy to be had indulging in the trashy brilliance of good-bad entertainment.
Perhaps the most famous example of widespread good-bad movie love is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the iconic film that stars Tim Curry as a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania. Screenings take place across the country every weekend, with audience interaction not only allowed, but encouraged. “The Room,” the passion project of director Tommy Wiseau, is beginning to approach this same cult status. Neither film is heralded as an achievement of cinematic brilliance, yet both are adored. It’s what makes them so bad that makes them so good.
The true joy of “Revenge” is that it gives the joy of a bad movie every week. While reality TV has kept the tradition of train wreck tragic programming alive, the worst shows on air have always suffered early cancellations before they could reach “so bad it’s good” status. “Revenge” is highly rated and critically acclaimed enough to thrive and be a likely candidate for a full-season order. This means the show gets the chance to grow into its cult favorite status and build on the base of campy drama it has already created.
Even though they may only come in two-hour doses, the best truly horrible films are the gifts that keep on giving. My friends and I get together every summer and watch the aforementioned Beyoncé thriller “Obsessed” and pore over each scene as if we were examining masterpiece cinema. From the singer turned actress’s incredibly over-the-top line readings to the hackneyed plot twists, the movie never takes itself too seriously and provides endless entertainment. I could watch her hiss her lines and threaten to kill Ali Larter every day of the year and never get bored.
The key to a good-bad film versus a bad-bad film is whether or not the work seems to have a sense of how much of a train wreck it is. The classic bomb “Ishtar” and the recently released “Abduction,” for example, aren’t much fun to watch because they take themselves too seriously. “Revenge” may take itself seriously, but it also understands the joy to be found in a show all about making the rich pay for their crimes. And while Wiseau, the writer/director of “The Room,” might say otherwise, it’s impossible to assume he really meant to create a cinematic masterpiece and simply stumbled into making this generation’s “Rocky Horror.”
Not every movie is destined to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Many aren’t meant to even come close. But when it comes to simply enjoying a movie, a masterpiece isn’t the most entertaining thing in the world. “Citizen Kane”? Yes, it’s a fantastic feat of filmmaking. But if it’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m looking for a good laugh, am I going to want to dissect every frame of a film or grab my copy of “Clueless” and relish the immensely quotable dialogue? Is that even a question? “As if!”
So while you’re enjoying your “Breaking Bad” and studying every scene, appreciating the incredible acting and intricate plotting, I’ll be enjoying the deliciously guilty pleasures of “Revenge” every Wednesday, obsessing over every catty quote and hammy line delivery. It may not boost my IQ, but it sure is a lot of fun.