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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Is Ringer Too Smart For TV?
Monday, September 19, 2011

Being a huge fan of Buffy, as soon as I heard Sarah Michelle Gellar was returning to TV with Ringer I set my DVR to record the entire season. While her movie choices may have been less than stellar, SMG knows how to make great TV. Last week’s Ringer premier featured questions, A LOT of questions. Personally, I love TV that challenges the viewer, but judging by the fact that there are multiple shows about the Kardashians I know that’s not true of everyone. The fact that Ringer is so challenging, and challenges in a way that’s unlike almost any of its predecessors, is what makes it so interesting to me, but also what worries me. In a television world that cancelled the likes of Dollhouse but continues to keep up with the Kardashians, is Ringer going to be too smart for TV?

What we know of Ringer’s plot so far is that twin sisters Bridget and Siobhan, both played by SMG, have been leading very different lives. Bridget is a former stripper and prostitute who kicked alcoholism, but witnessed a murder. Before she was set to go against the killer in court she became fearful for her life, assaulted the person who was protecting her, took his gun, and made a dash to see the twin sister she’s had virtually no contact with for the past half a dozen years. Bridget finds her sister married and extremely wealthy. She assumes her life is perfect.

The two go on a boating trip that ends in what Bridget thinks is tragedy when it looks like Siobhan has committed suicide. Being on the run, being a twin, and having seen what she thinks is Siobhan’s perfect life, she decides to take her place. At this point we start finding out Siobhan’s life is not as straight forward as it originally seemed.

Viewers are taken on a mental and emotional trip as every move Bridget makes, every sentence she says, and every appointment she misses, can expose her as not being Siobhan. All these moves, conversations, and missed appointments also fill both Bridget, and the viewer, in as to who Siobhan is, and who the people around her are. It's still unclear as to how Bridget is supposed to act around everyone, but everything they say and do reveals another small piece of who they are. Just like the character of Bridget, the viewer is thrust into this world completely unable to straightforwardly ask “who are you?” The feeling of tension and nervousness as Bridget tries to figure out what her sister's life is all about is so great one can't help but share the feeling as a viewer.

I can’t remember the last time a TV show asked this much of its audience, and I think it’s great. We’re dropped into a world where we know nobody and we’re not told a single thing. We have to figure it all out right along with the main character. This is challenging TV. This is TV you DVR so you can rewind and analyze everything from what the characters have said to the most subtle of eye movements. The biggest question, however, is whether or not something this enigmatic is too much for a large audience to handle, at least an audience large enough to keep it on TV.

Some shows that require a lot of the viewer have lasted, but recently, with reality TV being so inexpensive to produce, and celeb-centric vanity projects being huge hits, shows that challenge have to grab an audience quickly. The good news for Ringer is that it’s on the CW, which gave Hellcats a full season, and I’m pretty sure by the end of that show not even Ashley Tisdale’s parents were watching (I was. Sue me. I don’t like all my TV challenging, sometimes I like it dressed up as a cheerleader. That’s my prerogative. #BobbyBrownHaircut). Being on the CW means Ringer should get a chance to grow and keep a regular time slot. Ringer is a show, however, that seems like it’s going to be needed to be watched every week or else the viewer will be hopelessly lost. The CW would be wise to run the occasional mini-marathon, a la what ABC Family does with Pretty Little Liars, to keep viewers up to speed and possibly attract new ones.

The premier episode of Ringer laid the groundwork for something great. Hopefully it will be allowed the chance to grow. Sarah Michelle Gellar is once again in top form and something this interesting deserves a place on television.

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