Dirt: The Complete First Season

Dirt: The Complete First Season

C+

Dirt: The Complete First Season

The TV drama Dirt casts a cynical eye on a sordid showbiz milieu where everyone wants to be Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, but they'll settle for being O.J. Simpson or even Kato Kaelin. On this show, tabloids are primarily in the business of blackmail and manipulation, with minor sidelines in subscriptions and advertising sales. Courteney Cox plays the scheming editor-in-chief of a celebrity magazine that appeals shamelessly to mankind's basest instincts. Cox's black-hearted press titan is essentially evil-genius ex-US Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller, crossed with Satan. Or is that redundant?

The show explores the colorful goings-on at a powerful tabloid and the sleazy, disreputable characters in its orbit, from a troubled Hollywood power couple (Josh Stewart and Laura Allen) with enough skeletons to fill a warehouse to a closeted gay action hero (Grant Show) to a lipstick-lesbian smack dealer (Carly Pope). Respected character actor Ian Hart co-stars in the David Arquette role of a twitchy schizophrenic ace photographer whose hallucinations allow the show's writers to get all arty with surrealistic digressions. Paul Reubens, Jennifer Aniston, and Vincent Gallo drop by for juicy guest spots as a hard-drinking reporter, rival editor, and deranged former child star respectively.

Dirt is powered by cheap psychology and even cheaper irony. A drinking game could be devised where viewers do a shot every time a character clumsily references Cox's father's suicide. And if a character is introduced as a preening moralist who loudly espouses temperance, virtue, and chastity, odds are good that he or she will be coked-up and pregnant with Osama bin Laden's secret love child by the third commercial break. Yet as with far superior explorations of the dark side of the human psyche, like Profit, Mad Men, and Action, there's a transgressive kick in seeing just how far the characters will go. Of course, the aforementioned shows offered neat little bonuses like fascinating, multidimensional characters and terrific dialogue. The best Dirt can offer is industrial doses of sex and sleaze, augmented by T&A;, rampant drug abuse, and threesomes, threesomes, threesomes. Cox's exposé of tabloid depravity captures something vivid and punchy about our scandal-mad cultural climate. For better or worse, it does so mainly by crawling just as lustily through the gutter.

Key features: The requisite fawning making-of featurettes and decent deleted scenes.