September 14, 2011

TV: Ringer (CW, Tue 9)

There's a lot of plot to get through in this first hour, but you already know most of it if you've seen any of the show's advertising. Here's the Evelyn Wood version. Ready? Deep breath, now:

Bridget (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is an ex-stripper, six months out of rehab, who's living in Wyoming. She's the only witness to a murder committed by a local crime lord, but doesn't trust her FBI handler (Nestor Carbonell) to protect her, so she runs off to the Hamptons to seek refuge with her estranged twin sister Siobhan (Gellar again). The sisters go boating, and when Bridget wakes up from her nap, Siobhan is gone, and there's an empty pill bottle on the floor of the boat. In the wake of Siobhan's apparent suicide, Bridget recognizes that she now has the perfect hiding place from the FBI and the Wyoming mob: She will become Siobhan.

She's aided in this by the fact that because of their estrangement, Siobhan had never told her husband (Ioan Gruffudd) that she had a sister, so there's no reason for him to suspect that she's not Siobhan. Still, it's not easy slipping into someone else's life, and everyone seems to notice that "Siobhan" isn't quite herself -- best friend Gemma (Tara Summers); lover Henry (Kristoffer Polaha), who just happens to be Gemma's husband; and step-daughter Juliet (Zoey Deutch). And that FBI agent has a hunch that Siobhan isn't telling him everything she knows about Bridget's whereabouts.

There is, of course, the big last-minute reveal that Siobhan isn't dead at all, but is hiding out in Paris from the life-threatening menaces in her own life, and is none too happy to learn that "she" is still running about New York.

We have here all the makings of spectacular goofball fun. The cast is talented and pretty to look at; there's room for tons of "oh, my god" plot twisting (even the lengthy summary above leaves out a few of the pilot's surprises); and Evil Twin melodrama is a form with a long, glorious history. But based on the pilot, the show is reluctant to dive headlong into its own silliness. It's taking itself a little too seriously, which is a particular shame given Gellar's comic abilities (her strongest moments in the pilot are those when her sense of humor is allowed to shine through). The show wants to be a serious soap opera in the style of Brothers and Sisters; it needs to be a trashy soap opera in the style of Dynasty. Where's Aaron Spelling when you need him?

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