16 July 2005 | liquidcelluloid-1
"Stacked" is exactly like the kind of show you'd see IN another show.
Network: Fox; Genre: Sitcom; Content Rating: TV-PG (adult content); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);
Seasons Reviewed: Season 1+
Take yourself back to around 1996. Pamela Anderson is calling herself Pamela Lee. She's just left "Baywatch" and made her "hotly anticipated" film debut in the future classic "Barb Wire" and kids around the country are horrified to hear that she used a body double in the movie's intro because she was pregnant at the time. Pamela Anderson, consistently regarded as one of the sexiest women in the world, is a hot commodity. People are throwing projects and star vehicles at her left and right. Again, this is 1996 - exactly where "Stacked" feels like it belongs.
About a decade after the hype has died down, her film career has fizzled, "VIP" never really took off, being with Tommy Lee has become a degrading cliché for any Hollywood actress, and she's had her implants in and out so many times nobody cares anymore, Pamela Anderson returns to the small screen for a little career resuscitation. For anyone out there who thinks that Hepatitis-C riddled body is still hot - be my guest to "Stacked", a show for the prepubescent teen who will watch Anderson do just about anything.
In keeping with the show's belief that Pamela Anderson can carry a sitcom, everything else about "Stacked" is passé - with only a running advertisement for Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" posted in the background to remind us we are in a new century. All the bad sitcom clichés are here: the screeching laugh tracks, the lame 1-liners, 1-dimensional characters. You'd think that after the mold-breaking neo-classic "Titus" - and even this year's sensational "Committed" - Fox could think beyond this. It is a sickening thought to imagine all the other sitcoms that where instantly canceled so that this one could be given all the benefit of the doubt from the public.
Here is your high-concept, pitched by producer/creator, hack sitcom writer and increasingly my arch enemy Steven Levitan: people who work in a bookstore meet beautiful ex-rocker's girlfriend, Skyler (Anderson), trying to escape her wild former life, settle down and be taken seriously. Bookstore attendees include the straight-laced proprietor (Elon Gold) who will clash with Anderson's wild ways, his brother (Brian Scolaro) who is desperately trying to keep the women around long enough to think of a way to get her, a chubby girl around the counter (Marissa Jaret Winokur, "Hairspray") to take the slings and arrows of the babe. The show will pretend to use Winokur to put everything in perspective before switching all the victories back on Anderson - it is her career life support after all. Lastly, we have the aging scientist who hangs out, reads the paper and mildly gets caught up in the events of the store (Christopher Lloyd). "Stacked" is exactly the kind of show you're more likely to see IN another show as a parody of a sitcom.
Winokur and Lloyd are clearly working well below their means. Particularly, Winokur who has effectively shifted her career into neutral in the thankless, degrading "fat friend" role. But once again, just like in his last series ("The In Laws") Elon Gold becomes the bright spot. I liked him then and I like him now. Gold knows exactly how silly this all is and while his ham-fisted over-acting would sink most any other show, it is perfect here. Any hopes for laughs come out of Gold's straight delivery or goofy eye brow shifts.
In the end, like any slavish star vehicle, it is all about making Anderson look good. In this case, the show has the uphill task of making Pamela Anderson look funny - which is something I wouldn't even wish on Steven Levitan. Every gag-inducing self-referential joke ("I seem to have a thing for bad boy rockers" ha ha ha). Every attempt to show how hard she has it and how misunderstood she is. Every time the show gets back to its core mantra: that the beautiful, popular, large-breasted blonde who men fall all over themselves for isn't the dumb stereotype we all imagine. This is the big twist? I'm all for breaking cliché, but Skyler, must have some flaw somewhere to be the slightest bit interesting.
One noticeable thing is that the joke roster in "Stacked" is heavily populated with the same tired gags making fun of what losers all the characters who aren't Anderson are. They "sat at the nerd table in high school", they "didn't date a lot in high school", anything they say is out of "bitterness for how lonely they are". Rinse and repeat. The entire series is like this. That is borderline propaganda people and it's lazy writing - to elevate one character by tearing down others. To discount all the intellectual or professional achievements of people because they aren't "getting any". "Stacked" is typical pandering television.
* / 4