Paramount // 2006 // 211 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // April 25th, 2007
A new hit from an easy target.
Despite its clever positioning as a self-aware, self-deprecating mock fest, the late VHI series So NoTORIous is essentially a vanity project for its star, Tori Spelling (Beverly Hills 90210). It's a sort of reverse psychology trick -- the star demonstrates just how clumsy and geeky and screwed-up he or she is, but we in the audience love them for it. See what a great sense of humor she has about herself? See how fearless she is? What a good sport!
Truth be told, Tori Spelling does appear to be a good sport. That doesn't mean, though, that the series isn't a calculated move to make her appear exactly as such. When Larry David attacks himself on the great Curb Your Enthusiasm, it's because he really is filled with that much self-loathing but gifted enough to make it hilarious. When Tori Spelling does it on So NoTORIous, it's an image makeover -- she's out to become the can't-beat-them-so-join-them queen. I don't blame her for it; it's good to see a celebrity who doesn't take herself too seriously (See? I bought it...). And while I believe in some of the ideas behind the series, I'm less impressed with the execution.
Here are the episodes that make up So NoTORIous: The Complete Series:
Tori gets a crush on a gaffer (Joe Manganiello, or the miscast Flash Thompson in Spider-Man), but the party she throws to impress him spins out of control.
Tori gets talked into joining a cult (led by For Your Consideration's John Michael Higgins) by her new boyfriend.
Tori is displaced from her apartment by her roommate Pete's (James Carpinello, The Punisher) noxious new girlfriend.
To land a role in the new Steven Soderbergh (who does NOT appear as himself) film, Tori visits a sex shop and winds up losing her BlackBerry.
Tori's new boyfriend, Carter, hits it off all to well with her mom (played here by surgically reconstructed Loni Anderson of WKRP in Cincinnati)
Tori is convinced her mother has put a curse on her following a run of bad luck.
Tori's opportunity to spend some time with her housekeeper, Nanny (Cleo King, Magnolia), is interrupted by the reappearance of her mother.
Tori's new friendship with a masseur blows up in her face when he turns out to be a horrible gossip.
A newly charitable Tori gets involved in the "Li'l Sis" program, but gets more than she bargained for in her new little sis.
"Never Before Seen DVD Exclusive Episode"
Tori heads to Canada to film a movie, and her friendship with Sasan (Zachary Quinto, Heroes...SYLAR!!!!) is tested when she hires him as her personal assistant.
There are some amusing conceits to be found within each episode (for example: Tori's dad, the late Aaron Spelling, never appears on camera -- instead, he talks to Tori through a speaker à la Charlie's Angels, one of his many hits), but for the most part the scripts are far too obvious and the pacing is sluggish. Re-read those plot synopses; there's not much material to be worked with in those story concepts, even for 22 minutes worth of TV. And it's not difficult to see that Tori's relationship with her real-life mother is strained, to say the least (as was well-reported following the death of Aaron); a large chunk of the material in So NoTORIous is based on Tori's mother (here a cold, cruel cartoon) screwing her up forever. If they weren't having problems before, this series ought to have sealed the deal.
So NoTORIous: The Complete Series (I've already grown tired of typing out that title) spreads its ten episodes out over two discs; the full frame video and stereo audio presentations are perfectly serviceable. Where the set wants to excel (I think) is in its inclusion of bonus content -- if you're a fan of the show, there's a whole bunch of extra stuff on hand here that you couldn't have gotten during the show's run on VH1. The trouble is that most of the bonus content isn't any good. In addition to the "Never-Before-Seen DVD Exclusive Episode" (which seems to me to simply be the unaired 10th episode, but it's never really referred to as such), there are a handful of commentaries by Tori Spelling and the show's producers. On these commentaries, you get to find out...well, nothing, really. They pretty much just sit and watch the show, occasionally pointing out the obvious on screen. BUT you also get deleted scenes, none of which are any worse than what was left in (that should've sounded more positive than it did). There's also some cast interviews (yawn), behind the scenes (zzz), and "outtakes" for each episode, which consist of little more than the actors turning towards the camera and making a face. And it's set to music.
So NoTORIous is not a bad show, and Tori Spelling certainly appears to be game for anything. She seems pretty aware of her status in the entertainment industry -- nepotism jokes, 90210 has-been jokes, and jokes about straight-to-video and Lifetime original movies are plentiful. My personal feelings about the show probably have more to do with my own resistance to a certain type of comedy; we'll call it the "fabulous" school (with members like Absolutely Fabulous, Will & Grace, and aspects of Sex and the City), where just because a character is catty, shallow, and slutty, I'm supposed to laugh. I've always found something a bit too self-satisfied in that approach, and prefer actual joke writing. So NoTORIous is light on the joke writing, but heavy on the fabulousness.
Review content copyright © 2007 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 211 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Never-Before-Seen DVD-Exclusive Episode
* Episode Commentaries by Tori Spelling and Series Producers
* Deleted Scenes
* Behind-the-Scenes Footage
* Cast Interviews
* VH1 Official Site