I stumbled on this article while having an exciting lunch of rice. Oh, how I could live on rice. But I digress.
The article addresses television casting: “Men can be all shapes and sizes on film; women must be hot.”
While this is probably true 99 percent of the time, I am very interested in cases that go against this pattern. Even where a show is unsuccessful (and maybe is a contributing factor to its lack of success – for example, the short-lived and frankly not very good What About Joan?, which starred the unconventionally/not typically attractive Joan Cusack as the lead and the very conventionally attractive Kyle Chandler as her lovely, doting, devoted boyfriend. If it were not a vehicle specifically for the already well-known Cusack, would the casting breakdown have said, “Normal, frumpy, almost-middle-aged woman – average, no one would take a second look woman”? And if it does highlight some non-mainstream casting, that is the whole point of the show – Less Than Perfect, Mike & Molly, Ugly Betty – and no one could really claim that America Ferrera is not attractive. She was just made to look like a misfit in the fashion-model world. Nor is it even fair to say that the stars of the aforementioned shows are not attractive – but the premises and way the roles are written emphasizes that they do not fit into some scripted beauty ideal).
Why is it that if that were the casting description, and the eventual casting decision, people would question, “Why would he be with her?” about the hot boyfriend, but no one really questions that hot women would choose TV’s less-than-attractive men. (And here we might hear the “men have power/money” argument, which could explain many older men-younger women connections on TV, but it does not explain the King of Queens or the According to Jimphenomenon. In real life, I suppose I meet a lot more women of all types who consider men as a whole package, so the looks are not the deciding factor. I suppose TV reflects real life in this way – men are not as likely to look beyond the surface. And on a general level, most people are judging on appearance.)
I don’t even know that I would refer to what I feel for James Wolk and Kyle Chandler as “crushes”. They each have a certain quality that makes me want to see almost everything they are in. Even the stupid stuff. It is the charming, disarming smile. It is the guy-next-door relatability … but the kind of guy you really want to have next door. Still, it’s not a crush in the sense that I would really be interested in either guy. But I like to watch them. A lot. Anyone have a word for this? I don’t have a crush. I am not exactly a “fan”. I admire, I follow, but there are lines I won’t cross. For example, when The Crazy Ones, in which James Wolk had a starring role, became too stupid, I stopped watching. And the entire premise of the dull, forgettable What About Joan? was too maddening to accept, I did not watch it at all, despite Chandler’s role as Joan’s boyfriend.
I don’t always love the show Salem but somehow its cast makes a lot of decisions for me. This is probably the case for a lot of TV. I watch things solely because a specific actor or actress is in it. I have written before about how I will watch anything with Kyle Chandler in it (although I admit that there was no way in hell I could watch the ill-fated and ridiculous What About Joan?, a show that is so bland I can barely remember it – thankfully Joan Cusack has gone on to do fantastic comedic drama work in Shameless). And while I don’t, as a rule, go out of my way to watch everything that stars Lucy Lawless (I have never seen Xena Warrior Princess – the role that made her famous), her smaller roles in favorites like Battlestar Galactica, Top of the Lake and Parks and Recreation do make me want to see more of her), seeing that she has turned up in Salem make me more inclined to keep watching.
I am not sure why, but I also like Seth Gabel and Shane West well enough that they draw me back, too.
When you watch as much TV as I do, it’s hard to remember the details season to season and pinpoint why I should continue watching anything. When Salem started up again a couple of weeks ago, I almost felt like I was watching something I had not already seen, although I had already watched a complete season. Which does not say a lot for the show, even if its more horror-inspired, witchcraft-related scenes are vivid. It has an inexplicable draw, which pulled me back in. But at the same time, it does not incite hatred or love, so Salem stands somewhere in the middle ground, in territory about which I have no opinion. The show provides moderate entertainment, but I would not care if it were canceled. I don’t tune in waiting to see what stupid things will happen – it’s not The Following – or to see overwrought pretension play out – it’s not The Slap. It’s also not Mad Men or Shameless or The Americans or some other show I don’t want to live without.