I watch very little television these days. I do have a television in the bedroom though, and today I woke up an hour early and turned on the TV to see what was on. Between morning newscasts I found something intriguing on W Network. Googling it helped me to discover that the program is called “Zoe Busiek: Wild Card” and that it ran from 2003 to 2005 on Lifetime.
What was so intriguing to me about this program is how consistently mediocre the quality of everything is. The acting is, mediocre. The filming is, mediocre. The writing is, mediocre. It was great! It was as if the entire budget, crew, performers, everything had a ceiling of mediocrity and nothing could extend beyond. Joely Fisher (lead, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens, half sister of Carrie Fisher) has okay legs, so let’s show them. Put her in short skirts. Chris Potter as Dan, the male co-star, is good but not great looking in a bland, Bruce Boxlietner kind of way. Give him some standard “strong male” lines and situations. “Where is everybody?” he calls out, slamming his hands on the desk at the unattended hospital entrance. A security guard happens to run up just as they happen to see the bad guy on the security camera in the basement. “Lock down the building, please,” he orders the guard as they run off, knowing exactly how to get to the area close to where the bad guy has the girl in the wheelchair that he’s planning to kill.
In a simply amazing scene the two stars are running in the basement calling the name of the girl (won’t the bad guy hear too?). They hear a muffled cry and turn. There is the girl, her IV bottle taped to her mouth (Why is she not dead? Earlier he was going to suffocate her with a pillow until he was interrupted by a nurse. Now he thinks that stuffing her IV in her mouth is enough?). Zoe hastens to free her, and Bruce, I mean Dan, runs off to chase the bad guy. We see Bad Guy picking up a piece of metal pipe that happens to be lying on an otherwise spotless floor under the water lines. Hot pipes and escaping steam are all around. Oh no, Dan is wandering close to Bad Guy! Bad Guy is raising his arms with the pipe! Camera cuts to Zoe, turning a large faucet, the type that control high pressure systems like fire hoses. (How did she get there? How does she know that Bad Guy is right ahead of Dan when Dan doesn’t see him?). Phssst, and hot steam sprays in the face of Bad Guy, who falls to the floor (Why does turning the faucet let out steam in the face of Bad Guy? And how does she know it will?). “Are you okay?” asks Zoe, “I thought I needed to let off some steam.” Groan.
Simply amazing. Action scenes like this are often given short shrift in drama oriented writing but in “Zoe Busiek: Wild Card” the rest of the writing is also mediocre. Zoe knocks on her boss’ door suggesting a drink after work. Her boss asks if they are getting chummy now. Zoe says yes. Boss (female, new to the series and had earlier stated after some personal disclosure that sharing time was over) immediately opens a drawer in her desk and pulls out a bottle and two glasses. Zoe, swaggering and grinning as if she’s already had a few, flops herself on the chair (open door, glass office windows, but I guess everyone else has gone home?) and they share a drink of something. Whew, that barrier’s been broken now.
Television is not known for quality art. Still, “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” was at least professional. It didn’t feel like expert mediocre producers trying to get in under budget by hiring the cheapest writers/actors/cameramen/directors. Once in a while in “Zoe Busiek: Wild Card” you almost feel one or the other actors trying to rise above but no, the ceiling is there and they aren’t escaping. It’s somehow both amusing and comforting to see them try and then watch them sink back into the pool of mediocrity. Like watching your local sports team, the one that your neighbor’s cousin once played for. You keep following them and watching their games in spite of the fact that they haven’t made the playoffs in ten years. When they miss the playoffs again, you are comforted. Everything is the way it should be in the world.