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Monday, November 28, 2011

LOOK: SEASON 1 -- DVD review by porfle

If you liked writer-director Adam Rifkin's 2007 mockumentary LOOK as much as I did, then this Showtime television series of the same name is worth spying on as well.  With its eleven half-hour episodes, LOOK: SEASON 1 (2010) is a long-form continuation of the film, identical in style but with an almost entirely new cast of characters whose private lives we observe in minute detail through the lenses of all those hundreds of security cameras, camcorders, and other electronic eyeballs that are constantly trained upon each and every one of us more often than we'd like to imagine.

While this may sound like an awkward way to tell a story, it's surprisingly easy to get used to.  The fact that Rifkin has no shortage of camera angles to choose from in most scenes reminds us of just how many hidden cameras there are watching us, with the variety of media and unique look of each one keeping the show's visuals fresh. 

This also lets the director add some unexpected dramatic accents here and there, such as a sudden traffic-cam freeze-frame on a driver's face or an aerial sweep from one part of the city to another via a geological survey map.  All of this footage is cleverly edited, with zoom-ins for emphasis and rewinds to reveal things we missed first time through, as though manipulated by some omniscient storyteller.

All of this is aimed at titillating our inner voyeur--let's face it, it's fun to watch other people when they don't know we're watching them--and what's more fun to peep at than illicit sex and nudity?  LOOK, not surprisingly, is loaded with both.  As in the film, much of it is due to the antics of two spoiled, narcissistic high school girls, Molly (Ali Cobrin) and Hannah (Sharon Hinnendael), and, also as in the film, these underage characters are played by twenty-somethings to allow us guilt-free gawking as they prance around naked before various cameras or shoot homemade porno flicks. 

Although pretending to be her best friend, Hannah is deviously plotting a romantic match between virgin Molly and bad-boy jock Shane (Colton Haynes) only to set her up for a fall.  Meanwhile, we watch them skipping class and liberally wielding their credit cards at the mall--lounging through expensive pedicures and massages, binging and purging fast food, and cavorting in dressing rooms while whooping, dope-smoking security guards ogle them via a bank of video monitors.  An added dimension to this and other subplots is our ability to eavesdrop whenever characters text each other, revealing the various deceptions upon which entire relationships are often based.

Also holding up her end in the sex department is bored, coked-up housewife Stella (Claudia Christian, the gun-toting alien-possessed stripper from THE HIDDEN), who voraciously screws strange men in her own livingroom under the watchful eye of a home security camera while mild-mannered husband Leonard toils late at the office to support her lavish lifestyle.  Christian is a marvel to watch as her comically repellent character blows through the series like an ill wind, neglecting her children, mercilessly browbeating Leonard, griping about her oppressive life while getting bikini waxed, and indignantly berating a mall cop who catches her shoplifting. 

Other storylines are less sex-centric but equally interesting.  There's Dan the Weatherman (Robert Curtis Brown), a local meteorologist whose cornball antics during his TV news segments are popular with the oldsters but a constant agony to station programmer Andy (Jordan Belfi) who's striving for a hipper audience.  Brown is the perfect smarmy, golden-voiced, fake-cheerful weatherman type (which is why daughter Hannah despises him), while Belfi's Andy revels in being despicable not only to Dan, whom he's plotting against, but to everyone else as well. 

After Andy haughtily dresses down a waiter for bringing the wrong kind of sauce for his shrimp, the hidden camera reveals the secret ingredient the waiter adds to it before presenting it to the disgruntled customer, confirming one of our worst fears about dining out.  Andy's habit of visiting a local strip club after work for a "lapdance 'n' more" will become an integral part in one character's precipitous downfall later on.

The sole survivors from the original film are gangly mini-mart clerk Willie (Giuseppe Andrews), an aspiring singer-songwriter, and his slacker pal Carl (Miles Dougal), who seems to live at the store.  A lot happens during Willie's graveyard shift including a naked rampage by a pathetic, mentally unbalanced homeless man whom we observe throughout the series, never having a clue about how he sunk to such a sad state until the final episode.  The site is also visited by a carload of drive-by paintball assassins who plague the city during the season, one of their victims being a terrified Dan the Weatherman as he does a live location spot.

Several of the show's other characters pass through the mini-mart sooner or later--Leonard, Hannah and Molly, Andy (who, as you might expect, gripes at Willie for no reason), a couple of cops who become familiar after a few episodes, and a serial rapist (Richard Speight, Jr.) whose chance encounter with one of the main characters supplies a chilling cliffhanger ending to the season.  Much is made of Willie and Carl staging a live concert at the store to draw attention to Willie's music, and, while that particular storyline didn't do much for me, our frequent visits to this setting do provide some much-needed comic relief from some of the grimmer aspects of the series. 

The 2-disc DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby stereo sound and English subtitles.  There are no extras.

While some of the segments may seem a bit pointless and unrelated at first, the slowly-developing storylines (Rifkin is able to take his time here much more than in the movie) eventually begin to intersect and intertwine in interesting, funny, and often very surprising ways.  Other random vignettes (the booger incident is a cringeworthy example) may serve merely to illustrate some of the things that happen to us all the time which we're unaware of.  But the camera--our impassive, ever-present observer--sees all, knows all, and the addictively entertaining LOOK: SEASON 1 shows all.

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