FX’s “Dirt' panel is one of the most anticipated sessions of the cable tour.
Not because critics are excited about the show, but because some of them disliked it so intensely and might want revenge for the three hours they spent watching the screener episodes on DVD. Thus, the chance of Q&A drama is running high.
For those who haven’t seen it, the show’s celebrity tabloid premise might have worked better as a dark comedy, but one suspects the last thing Cox wanted to do was another half-hour series post-“Friends.' While watching the first few episodes, I kept wishing the procession of strap-on sex, rampant drug use and Courteney Cox grimly pleasuring herself with a vibrator would evolve/devolve into “Showgirls'-style high camp, but it never quite did.
It’s unfortunate because FX President John Landgraf is the sort of smart/bold executive that critics pull for. His half-hour “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia' manages to be the only funny original sitcom on cable. There was clearly a unique vision there for “Dirt' and, for better or worse, FX went for it full throttle.
Between panel sessions, Landgraf said he disagrees with most of the criticism of the show, and that strong reviews are not crucial anyway. Last year his Iraq war drama “Over There' received generous reviews, but not enough of an audience. Having a new series draw critical praise and high ratings is ideal, he said, but if he had to choose, at the end of the day the man wants a hit.
The “Dirt' premiere was the second highest-rated debut in FX’s history, mainly due to Cox’s star wattage, but its tough to believe the viewership will hold. Landgraf said he expects the second episode to drop in the ratings as well, and possibly the third episode as well.
One point of criticism Landgraf conceded is that “Dirt' lacks a sense of humor about itself. That was one of his notes too, he said, and starting at about the fifth episode, the show significantly improves.
“I really love the show from about midway through the season on,' he said. “Whether the audience sticks around that long, we’ll see.'
As for the rest of the year, Landgraf hasn’t yet picked up “Nip/Tuck' for a fifth season, but said he probably will, and said he’s also close to picking up the pilot of his untitled Glenn Close legal thriller for a full season.
Once the “Dirt' panel begins, Cox takes the stage in a black dress and cool demeanor. The critics are perfectly, surprisingly well behaved. Nobody mentions the reviews, though one works up the courage to ask her about San Francisco critic Tim Goodman’s blog retraction about whether Cox is masturbation worthy.
“That actually made me feel really good,' she said. “There’s nothing better than an ‘I’m sorry.’'
After the panel, critics swarm Cox to ask all the sorts of chatty, fan-like questions they were too embarrassed to ask in front of the room. One of them is, “Courteney, what’s the secret to a successful relationship?'
It’s a question that’s easy to snark at, but her answer was damn good: “As you grow, keep talking to each other, because it’s easy to grow apart.'