TV Review: 'Dirt' Season Two
Show has lightened up, but lost some of its edge
Fine, the show seems to be saying with the first two episodes of its second season, which premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday. If we can't beat reality, we'll use it. The result is a somewhat lighter and funnier show than the one that aired last year, but "Dirt" has also lost a little bit of the bleakly comic outlook that, while sometimes tough to watch, at least scored points for ambition.
What that show aimed for was a last-days-of-Rome vibe, detailing the devil's bargains made by celebrities and the people who exploit their actions for a voracious public, personified by ruthless magazine editor Lucy Spiller (star-executive producer Courteney Cox) and her ace photographer, the schizophrenic Don Konkey (the fantastic Ian Hart). No one came out looking very good, and the season ended with Lucy bleeding in her driveway after being stabbed by one of her tabloid targets.
It's no spoiler to say that Lucy survives the stabbing -- and her outlook shifts ever so slightly as a result. She's still a workaholic, and she'll still do just about anything to get a story. But, at least through the first two episodes of the season, she seems to acknowledge that the world will not stop spinning if things don't come out just right. Heck, she even finds room for a sappy love story in her magazine at one point.
The rest of the show, too, has brightened its palate a little. The lighting is a little brighter. Don is taking his meds and suffering less from the visions that haunted him last year. And the celebrity scandals Lucy's magazine, Dirt Now, covers -- well, let's just say you'll recognize a couple of them.
There's the sitcom star (a self-deprecating Tom Arnold) who leaves a profanity-laced voice mail for his teenage daughter, the heiress who suddenly finds her faith when faced with jail time, the gold-digger whose baby is of uncertain parentage. Even if you only scan the headlines while waiting to buy your groceries, it won't be hard to figure out the real stories "Dirt" is using for inspiration.
Playing spot-the-scandal is amusing enough, but "Dirt" should probably be reaching for more than that. If it doesn't want to be a pitch-black satire of celebrity culture, that's fine -- and frankly, the show could stand to have its characters be a little more likable. But it's gone from skewering celebrity obsession to doing little more than winking at it, losing some of the teeth it had last season.
The changes have, unquestionably, made "Dirt" an easier show to watch. But in going for the breezier tone, it's also become a less interesting show to watch.