Tinsel Author Writes: "Dallas Is Never As Interesting On the TV Screen As It Is In Person"

Hank Stuever is a critic for The Washington Post, but he did spend plenty of time down thisaway from 2006 through '08 whilst researching and writing his tome Tinsel, about o little town of Frisco and how its many merry residents guzzle holiday spirits. Which is something to keep in mind while reading his freshly minted review of ABC's Sunday-debuting G.C.B., set in Highland Park (pardon, Hillside Park) and based, of course, on Kim Gatlin's Good Christian Bitches, the first chapter from which you'll find below courtesy ABC and Hyperion.

Stuever can't stand the show, which had a sneak earlier this week at the Angelika in Mockingbird Station. Says it plays exactly as it looks in the new two-minute teaser seen above: "G.C.B. feels like a freshly unboxed set of life-size Rodeo Barbies arranged around a notion of what living in Dallas must be like." Then he goes on to make the larger point that all shows filmed in Dallas, be they fictional or factional, are kinda terrible because they cling to the hoary cliché that everything's bigger'n Texas when small-scale will do just fine. It's the same point Chris Kelly made in Texas Monthly last month, when he wrote that "the banality of G.C.B. is instructive: it reminds us that, given the choice between the broad and the specific, these shows always seem to opt for the broad." Writes Stuever:

Filmed in Dallas, G.C.B. strives only for the barest measure of accuracy -- to try any harder would be wasted effort, because all anyone wants from a show like this are gross cliches.

It has been this way with Dallas and television ever since Dallas first aired in 1978 (and will again, this summer, in a relaunched version on TNT). But Dallas is never as interesting on the TV screen as it is in person -- something about it becomes flatter, duller. That goes for fictional and reality shows; producers arrive from L.A. and just can't resist the ample visual shorthand: big hair, cleavage, Stetsons. The lazy mythos is woven with interstitial shots of steers and busy freeway stacks looming over the pastures.

Like the good people of New Jersey, Texans have no justifiable grounds to protest whenever TV decides to typify and mock them. That's because no one perpetuates Texan stereotypes more than Texans themselves. It's a sustainable brand value: That's just how we are here. That's Texas for ya, etc.

Just keep in mind: Only Sunday night's episode, the pilot, was actually filmed here; the rest was done in L.A. in an effort to keep costs down and the cast happy. I won't be watching; I'll dial up that last ep of The Good Guys I still haven't seen that somehow survives like a cockroach on the DVR.

Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky