Say hello to my big (and black) friend
There's a line in the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip pilot that finds Judd Hirsch's Wes Mendell lamenting that much of TV is now created to appeal to 12-year-old boys "and not even the smart ones." That line returned to me when I saw the premiere of Rob & Big, the new MTV reality comedy series from the creators of Jackass. The Jackass connection should have been a clue that I, a 47-year-old woman, was going to be annoyed. But I also know that programming on the so-called women's networks bores me, so I thought, what the hell?
At the center of this "modern-day odd couple" are professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and his bodyguard and "best friend" Christopher "Big Black" Boykin. They live in Dyrdek's Hollywood digs, where their camera-worthy life is captured for our viewing pleasure.
Why does Dyrdek need a bodyguard? Apparently, it's aggravating when he wants to skate in public and a security guard or the cops come out to stop him. Big Black was hired "with one goal in mind to [allow Dyrdek to] ride whenever and wherever he wanted." If scenes from the opening credits are to be believed, Big Black takes down irritating security guards in one swift belly blow. Who cares if that rent-a-cop, probably working for minimum wage, is just doing his thankless job? What really matters is that Dyrdek gets to ride. Why? Because he's good at it (he is), he's rich (he hires a jet to fetch a new dog), and, most importantly, he wants to.
Lest you think Dyrdek is a total bourgeois swine, it's not like he hasn't put some of his money to good use, "giving back to the sport that made him a star." He launched a foundation used to build legal skateboarding plazas around the world. Now, that is pretty cool. What's not so cool is the running conceit of the show: I have talent and money and a big black guy to physically intimidate anyone who doesn't let me have my way. But that's not offensive, you see, because said big black guy is funny in the way a 6-foot-6-inch, 416-lb. man should be: as in cracking a skate board with one stomp; being caught honking whatever died inside him into the toilet; or swimming in socks and a jockstrap, shaking himself off, caninelike when he emerges from the pool. (I admit: I laughed.)
In spite of the annoyances, there are glimmers of the chemistry that obviously captured the Rob & Big creators' attention. Strangely, Dyrdek's skill at playing himself pales miserably to his skateboarding abilities. Even that not-so-bright 12-year-old boy can't help but notice how telegraphed Dyrdek is. Stick to skateboarding, son. As far as working the camera goes, it's Boykin who is more agile in his formidable skin and will keep viewers coming back for more.
Rob & Big premieres Thursday, Nov. 2, 9:30pm on MTV.
What I Learned at AFF
Ugly Betty's America Ferrera is not fat or ugly or particularly chatty. She is, however, gracious, posing on request with Ugly Betty fans who asked for a photo op with the young actress after the Steel City screening at the Austin Film Festival. Ferrera has a supporting role in the film... Michael Ian Black is frickin' brilliant. He and his Stella cohorts waxed nostalgic on their accidental rise through television, including an absurd period when they were on CBS during the Murder She Wrote years... It makes sense that writer Larry Wilmore is so adept as the Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show. He was a performer prior to writing gigs on The PJ's and The Bernie Mac Show. His first TV writing gig was on In Living Color a job he got when he couldn't get an audition for the show.
What Else Is On?
Last Best Hope: A True Story of Escape, Evasion, and Remembrance. This locally produced documentary follows World War II pilot Bill Grosvenor as he returns to where he spent his prisoner-of-war years. His story, along with Belgian Resistance fighters' interviews, creates an intimate portrait of a war often cast in broad, patriotic strokes. Airs Monday, Oct. 30, on PBS. Check local listings.