Preview: Pretty Handsome

Shakespeare's sister

In the US: FX. No airdate yet

Joseph Fiennes hit international stardom nearly a decade ago with Shakespeare in Love. He went on to do a few other movies, including Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel & Laurence. But then he disappeared for a bit, only to resurface on stage or in German films about the Red Baron.

So what’s he been up to? Turns out, he’s been doing a series for FX all about a gynacologist. Not too surprising, given that the show’s by the creator of Nip/Tuck. What’s more surprising is that said gynacologist wants to be a woman.

From Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy comes a new drama pilot based on the life of a family man who realizes he’s a transsexual. “Pretty/Handsome” stars Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love”) as Bob, Carrie-Anne Moss (“Matrix” Trilogy) as Elizabeth, Blythe Danner (“Huff”) as Bunny, and Robert Wagner (“Two and a Half Men’) as Scotch

Is it any good?
Without wishing to be tedious and undefinitive again, it’s all right. It’s not rubbish, but it’s flawed.

Essentially, the show could have gone one of two ways. Either it would simply have been about a guy who discovers he’s a transsexual and what happens next.

Or it could have been attacked by writers like this. You see Bob has a secret and writers like to have themes. So Bob is just one example in this story of someone who has a secret. In fact, everyone has secrets. There’s isn’t anyone who doesn’t. They’re having affairs, tempted to have affairs, being groomed…

So to a certain degree you feel like you’re being clubbed over the head with an obvious metaphor/allegory. Elements of it are implausible in the extreme, particularly the far too self-confident and mature kids. And building on that irritation, most of the secrets involve wish fulfillment, fantasy, wanting to air the secret, etc, so we get various ‘what would happen if…?’s that get repetitive and more than a bit annoying with their washed out, home movie, shakycam-ness.

But having said that, the story itself is interesting, occasionally amusing and at times touching, particularly when Fiennes has to deal with another transsexual who want to be his patient. It’s well acted, although Robert Wagner (who also guests in Do Not Disturb) is a bit hammy. The politically incorrect neighbours (who dress up as “negros” for a Halloween party) and responses to Bob’s new patient make it clear that it’s not going to be easy for him to reveal his secret, even though you just wish he would.

It’s not too compelling and the whole thing is supposed to take five seasons to tell the whole story, but it might be worth trying for a while, I reckon. Here’s a YouTube preview to give you a taste.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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