The Tan Man Is Back
I have to give it to George Hamilton. He's got staying power. When other careers built on matinee-idol looks have faded into oblivion, there he is, tanned and dapper, chatting it up on some talk show or flitting across the big screen. A quick look at his résumé shows nearly 100 appearances in TV and film roles -- a good portion of them as himself ... rather, an impeccably tailored parody of himself. Now, how many celebrities are there who can do that? William Shatner comes close. But somewhere along the way he became aware of "the joke" and began playing himself with a big wink to the audience that said, "See? I'm playing a tongue-in-cheek version of myself." Not funny.
Maybe it's something in the cocoa butter that allows Hamilton to ingeniously navigate that nebulous territory of playing at playing himself, and doing it with panache. You can't count George Hamilton out. Tan man is back, and he's back on the new ABC reality series, The Family.
Yes, I said I swore off reality shows a few "TV Eye" columns back. But 1) it's my job to watch, and 2) watching George Hamilton play at playing the host of this new reality show is reason enough to tune in.
The premise of The Family is familiar. A bunch of greedy nobs compete against each other to win a small fortune. Of course, they have to lie, backbite, strategize, whine, suck up, and generally do whatever they have to do to win while couch potatoes across America watch from home. In this case, an extended family is brought together to live lavishly in a mansion, complete with servants who, unbeknown to the contestants, are the secret board of trustees that decides who wins (hee-hee).
One big, whopping problem with the show: It plays the "Italian family" angle up too much. There's lots of talk about loyalty, bloodlines, and taking down family members who cross each other. Where's the Italian Defamation League when you need them? I half expect Uncle Michael -- the designated patriarch of the family -- to appear with cotton balls stuffed in his cheeks next time.
But I don't care about the family as much as I do the servants. A larger bunch of self-righteous snobs I've never seen. God, I love them -- especially Franck Porcher, the chef, and Linda Levis, the head housekeeper. Linda is the most down-to-the-earth of the bunch, and her opinions are fair and reasonable.
Then, there's Hamilton doing what he does best: playing the bon vivant, flashing those Liquid Paper-white teeth, champagne in hand when there's good news to share and gravely frowning when he intones, "I'll tell the family." This is when he delivers the trustees' decision and a family member is eliminated. Or not. Apparently, there are chances to return to the fold. But that's all just background noise to the appearances of Hamilton, impeccably pressed, cravat in place, hair perfectly coifed, that mole perched ever so perfectly above his lip. All the while, that glint in his eye, knowing that we know that he knows this is the slickest gig he's had yet.
The Family airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC.
Academy Awards night is coming, which means it's also time for the Independent Spirit Awards. Held the day before Oscar night, it's shy on glam, but high on rah-rahing the art of filmmaking and those who make films in spite of the odds. As a measure of this, three special grants are given to emerging filmmakers, many of whom have a SXSW connection. The Someone to Watch Award recognizes a "talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition." Among the finalists is Eric Eason for Manito, which won the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at SXSW 02. Jeffrey Blitz, whose Spellbound won the Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at SXSW 02 (and is also nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Feature category), is among the Truer Than Fiction Award nominees for emerging documentary directors. The Producers Award finalists include Effie T. Brown (Real Women Have Curves -- a SXSW 02 favorite) and Jesse Scolaro and Allen Bain (Manito).
Stevie (directed by Steve James), one of this years' SXSW documentary features, is nominated for Best Documentary, while Charlotte Sometimes (directed by Eric Byler), winner of the 2002 SXSW Audience Award for First Narrative Feature, has nominations for the John Cassavetes Award (given to the best feature made under $500,000) and for Best Supporting Female. Manito is also nominated for Best First Feature.
For a full list of nominees, visit www.ifp.org.
The Independent Spirit Awards ceremony airs live on Saturday, March 22, at 4pm, on the Independent Film Channel. A taped broadcast of the ceremony airs at 8pm later that evening on Bravo.