The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2099 Thursday, 30 October 2003
Date: Wednesday, 29 Oct 2003 07:58:10 -0500
Subject: Skin Review in NY Times
THE ARTS/CULTURAL DESK
TELEVISION REVIEW; Wherefore Art Thou The Son Of a D.A.?
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
"Skin," a Fox drama set in the Los Angeles pornography business, is one
of those contrivances that are at once shameless and completely
satisfying -- the television equivalent of the designated hitter or
Double Stuf Oreos.
Its premise -- a Romeo and Juliet romance between the daughter of a porn
king and the son of a crusading district attorney -- is so schematic one
can visualize scores of young executives hunched around a table in Jerry
Bruckheimer's production company brainstorming over yellow legal pads ("
'Stripper C.S.I.?' 'Cops in the Cathouse?' No, wait, I have it: 'Law &
Massage Parlor.' ")
It doesn't matter. Fox has pulled off a slick, clever melodrama that
holds one's attention even when pole-dancing, thong-snapping adult
entertainers are off the screen.
In style and sensibility, "Skin" is a lot like another new Fox drama,
"The O.C.," about rich teenagers in Newport Beach. "Skin," however, is
better suited to mature audiences, though not because strippers' clothes
are any more revealing than the bikinis and belly shirts worn by the
Lolitas on "The O.C." The adults on "Skin" are more richly drawn, and
their vendetta -- waged with the weapons of law enforcement and the
media -- dominates the plot.
Ron Silver plays Larry Goldman, a Jewish Croesus who controls the Los
Angeles pornography industry with sleazy acumen -- when a group of
television executives balk at paying $2 billion for his soft-core
programming, he commands his Golden Girl strippers to do their thing on
the conference table. "These gentleman are entitled to full disclosure,"
Mr. Goldman silkily informs the ladies. "At your leisure: disclose."
District Attorney Thomas Roam (Kevin Anderson) is running for
re-election at a time when missing children dominate the news and the
police keep finding child pornography Internet sites on suspects'
computers. (The show opens with a grainy local news bulletin about the
abduction of an 8-year-old girl.)
When the police link one such site to an Internet server owned by a
subsidiary of Goldman Ltd., the D.A. sets his sights -- and campaign
strategy -- on putting Goldman behind bars. While he orders a 24-hour
surveillance of Goldman, Goldman hires private detectives to dig up dirt
on the holier-than-thou district attorney.
While the adults are scheming, 16-year-old Jewel Goldman (Olivia Wilde)
meets 16-year-old Adam Roam (D. J. Cotrona) at a party and they fall in
love, neither of them aware that their fathers are enemies. In the pilot
episode a scene in which the police invade a black-tie fund-raiser at
the garish Goldman mansion to arrest Goldman cuts to the two teenagers
sprawled on the Santa Monica beach in a "From Here to Eternity" clinch.
Adam and Jewel are exotically beautiful and easy to watch, but their
star-cross'd romance -- filmed in the gauzy, bleached light of a
designer perfume ad -- could quickly pall.
Luckily, there are a few lively moments when they too have to scheme in
order to see each other -- Shakespeare meets "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
Adam, who is half Mexican, half Irish (his mother, Laura Roam, played by
Rachel Ticotin, is a judge), is the closely chaperoned one who is
grounded for coming home from the party after midnight. (His mother
sniffs his breath for alcohol or drugs.)
Jewel, swaddled in trust, has much more freedom. She persuades her
Hispanic housekeeper to pose as Adam's aunt and take him out of school,
telling the principal that Adam's grandmother is deathly ill.
The dialogue sometimes falls into daytime soap speak ("I love you more
than breathing," Goldman tells Jewel after learning that she has been
seeing Roam's son. "But I'll be damned if I'll allow you to date the son
of the S.O.B. that put me on trial.")
Mostly the show works because story lines zigzag in unexpected
directions and because the adults do not fit neatly into hero and
villain categories. The writers try to confound expectations.
Returning home late from her first tryst with Adam, Jewel sweeps open
the door to the den and finds her father nuzzling a giggling platinum
blonde -- she is his wife and Jewel's mother.
A ruthless, at times brutish businessman at the office, Goldman turns
out to be a loving family man at home, but Mr. Silver is careful never
to let his character turn lovable or entirely despicable.
Roam, whose prosecutorial zeal is only partly fueled by his political
ambitions, is also depicted in shades of gray.
When Roam talks about the millions of parents who spend the first 20
minutes of their day erasing unsolicited pornography e-mail messages to
their children, his colleague's perfunctory Hollywood liberal rebuttal
about slippery slopes sounds hollow.
That effort to reach beyond television clich