Flesh & Bone

January 19, 2016


If there is a dumber, duller drama on TV this season than Starz Flesh & Bone, then the fact that the Golden Age of Television had taken a downward turn will be pretty much undeniable.

Taking the sex and histrionics of Showgirls (without the camp to make that combo tolerable) and reflecting it through a bunch of stock horror characters perpetually hitting Soap Opera level histrionics, it’s a grey, grim and tawdry behind-the-scenes snooze, where the bitchy, backstabbing world of American ballet is the focus.

Like Black Swan, the plot follows Claire, a prima ballerina, who rises meteorically through the ranks of a fictional ballet company, as all around her lose their heads, their appetites and their scanties. 

There’s her psycho roommate who has no problem being called a whore, but takes umbrage at being called mad; the ‘brilliant’ director who bangs call boys in his office and sprays his lines like cat piss all over his underlings; there’s the well off friend who strips on the side to keep up her comfortable lifestyle; and an army brat brother who jerks off on the phone when talking to our hero.

There’s also a homeless avatar of Heath Ledger who rambles truisms; a freaky French philanthropist who funds the company; and any number of rude, crude, egotists who pout and peacock about, snapping off lines that seem poorly constructed even for this pale imitation of soft-core pornography. 

And then there’s Claire herself, who though apparently a naturally gifted performer is one of these virginal innocents that TV chiefs like to make the hero, even though audiences despise them (we’re looking at you Karen Cartwright from SMASH). She seems shocked to learn that the company is filled with sex-mad nutrition deniers despite the fact that she herself is a chronic self-harmer who wears her own blood as blush, is sent into a trance at the sight of a condom wrapper, and has a penchant for yoinking drugs.

All this occurs in the first two episodes, which revels like a 12-year-old boy with a copy of Penthouse at its own obscenity. There’s drugs, incest, sexual harassment, oodles of period blood, crippled bodies and an agonizingly drawn-out spell in a high-end strip joint. 

Yet it’s dully shot, poorly penned and drained by its decision to turn all the characters into pass-remarkable vending machines, filled to the brim with the same vapid camp that relies on the attitude of bitchy queens, instead of the intellect of fully formed divas.

Written by a failed dancer who won an Emmy for her work on Breaking Bad, Flesh & Bone is precisely the type of ‘gritty’ crap that American TV has started to rely on in recent years, which wants to stir controversy and shock, rather than give us a true evocation of the world through well-drawn characters and credible experiences.
The very definition of must miss TV, it’s not even worth a hate watch.

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