powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


New series review: Dirt (FX)

Courteney Cox is dead-eyed Hollywood muckraker Lucy Spiller in FX's Dirt. Her star shooter, Don Konkey (Ian Hart), is way off-center.

Premiering: Tuesday night, Jan. 2nd (9 central, 10 eastern) on FX
Starring: Courteney Cox, Ian Hart, Josh Stewart, Laura Allen, Jeffrey Nordling, Shannyn Sossamon, Rick Fox, Alexandra Breckenridge, Timothy Bottoms, Grant Show, Carly Pope, Will McCormack
Created by: Matthew Carnahan

Hooray for Hollywood? Slam on the brakes, shift into reverse and out come the horrid of Hollywood in FX's Dirt. It's the biggest slap at Tinseltown since Fox's ahead-of-its-time Action, which started and stopped in fall 1999.

Dirt star Courteney Cox is the first female protagonist in the network's signature line of provocative dramas. The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Lucky and Over There put flawed, combustible men at the hearts of their darkness. Cox's Lucy Spiller, editor-in-chief of Drrt and Now magazines, stalks her prey with a ruthlessness reminiscent of Faye Dunaway's aggressively amoral Diana Christensen in Network.

A scene from Dirt's third episode gets us a bit ahead of ourselves but illustrates the point. Lucy's chief assassin, a schizophrenic photographer named Don Konkey (Ian Hart), has just returned with a money shot of a Christian pop star who burned her face while freebasing heroin.

"She said it was like touching God," Don dishes, causing his boss to quiver down below.

"She actually said that? I think I just came a little," says Lucy, who otherwise favors a small electronic device or an occasional human boy toy.

In video press materials, Cox touts Dirt as deliciously "salacious. This is FX . . . It fits in with their other shows."

Cox's 10 seasons on Friends rendered her fair game for the ravenous paparazzi, even more so after she and husband David Arquette had their first child. So Dirt in part is payback, although its so far merciless portrait of Hollywood hardly prompts sympathy for either side.

The show's Drrt magazine (that's not a misprint) and its sister publication, Now, count on the weening ambitions of your basic celebrity commodity. Tuesday night's premiere introduces an easy mark in actor Holt McLaren (Josh Stewart), who's lately made a string of big-screen bombs. His wife, Julia Mallory, (Laura Allen), is faring better at the moment as the star of both a hit sitcom and a just released feature. So Holt is easily reeled in, divulging the pregnancy of actress Kira Klay (Shannyn Sossamon) in return for a puff piece on him in Now.

Events take a tragic turn, though, prompting Holt to feel a semblance of remorse until Lucy and Don treat him to a little video of what his wife's been up to lately.

"You can give your dirt to Don whenever," Lucy then tells her hollow-eyed fish-on-a-hook. "Just make sure it comes in regularly."

Dirt occasionally drops a real-life Hollywood name ("Mr. Clooney") or show (Dancing with the Stars). But it so far is cutting too close to Hollywood's rotten core to induce any cameos from stars playing themselves. Entourage this isn't.

Not even the Los Angeles Lakers want their their name to be used. So former Laker Rick Fox wears his old team's colors but plays for the L.A. Rock under the name of Prince Tyreese. He's a sleazeball, too, an erstwhile family man photographed au naturel in a hot tub with a tart. The pics are then used to blackmail him.

Cox's Lucy is under the gun, too. Her magazines' overbearing publisher, Brent Barrow (Jeffrey Nordling), thinks she wants his job. On the contrary, she says. "I like to get dirty."

Boss of bosses Gibson Horne (Timothy Bottoms) simply wants cost cuts. "Or so help me I will bury you."

It can all be more than a little overbearing. Cox strives to be super-steely, but summons a stricken look whenever someone tells her she's soulless. Neither demeanor is entirely convincing yet, but she seems to be settling in as the show goes on.

Ian Hart as crazed Don Konkey is Dirt's most intriguing character. His best friend, a cat with cancer, isn't around long enough to get its equity card. Don then channels a beauteous imaginary friend whose identity won't be given away here. Meanwhile, he'll do just about anything to get the shots that Lucy demands. That includes lopping off a piece of his pinky.

Later episodes will introduce Mariette Hartley as Lucy's "exacting" mother, Dorothy. Lucy also has a younger gay brother, Leo (Will McCormack), first seen in Episode 3.

Those who think the absolute worst of Hollywood will find much to like in Dirt. None of its characters can be accused of being honorable or decent. Instead it truly is a land of make believe populated with liars and cutthroats. This is a show where Lucy prepares her staff for the kill by showing video of sharks eating their siblings in the womb.

But that's not until Episode 3. In Dirt's case, it means the best is yet to come.

Grade: B