The Boyfriend of the Week

June 24, 2010 [comment on this write-up]

This week's Boyfriend is one of those guys who never really piqued my interest until, out of nowhere, he suddenly had me swooning like a preteen at a screening of the latest Twilight movie. I knew who Dax Shepard was, of course, but the only films I'd seen his name attached to were ones that looked pretty painfully lame (Without a Paddle, e.g.). I'd probably seen him in a few guest TV spots over the years, but had mostly written him off as a thoroughly unappealing goofball (as opposed to a thoroughly appealing goofball, like his Without a Paddle co-star, ex-Boyfriend Seth Green).

That all changed when the new NBC TV series Parenthood start up this winter. In case you missed the pilot season, which ended about six weeks ago, it's a family drama/comedy based on 1987's Ron Howard film of the same name (which starred ex-Boyfriend Steve Martin). I had some definite reservations when I first heard the buzz about it last fall, primarily because I've always been a pretty big fan of the original movie, which, among other things, taught me everything I ever needed to know about baseball songs involving diarrhea.

While I could see how it might lend itself well to a weekly series (the overall concept of the film, I mean, not the diarrhea song) (ALTHOUGH), I had little faith the same network that gave us the remake of American Gladiators was going to be able to pull it off successfully.

Despite those reservations, I decided to give it a try when I read it would costar Peter Krauss from Six Feet Under, Lauren Graham (who replaced Maura Tierney, thankfully, because Tierney would've been all wrong for this part in my opinion), and, wonder of aces and bliss!, the great Bonnie Bedelia (ask me sometime how much I loved the movie Heart Like a Wheel when I was a kid and I will promptly burst into tears and exclaim, "So, so much!" I'm kind of a dork like that.).

Dax was a "neither here nor there" for me; his name in the credits neither interested me nor turned me off. Until his character, the family flake (Crosby), walked on-screen for the first time, that is. I suddenly sat up a little straighter in my chair, in fact, and MAY have exclaimed something to the effect of "YOWZA!," though I will neither confirm nor deny this now.

Not only did Dax look a lot better than I remembered (aging nicely, Mr. S., and I'm glad to see you have finally found a hair style that doesn't make you look utterly ridiculous -- though some (fools) may attempt to argue with me about that), but his character, as it turned out, is easily one of the funniest, sweetest guys ever to grace a primetime TV dramedy.

NO EXAGGERATION!

The show is about a big extended family, the Bravermans, who all live in the same California town. The two parents, Camille (Bedelia, of the absolutely fabulous hair, I might add) and Zeek (Craig T. Nelson, of the absolutely terrible hair, I might also add), are struggling with their 40 year-old marriage after an affair and a financial deal gone bad threatens to put the kibosh on the ties that bind.

Their kids, all adults, are meanwhile busy with their own lives, though still very close to each other and to their parents as well. There's Adam (Krause), married to Kristina (Monica "I Have A Stick Up My Arse" Potter), the most traditional parent-type characters, with a teenage daughter and an autistic son named Max. Julie (Erika "My Teeth Are Very Pointy" Christensen) is married to Joel (Sam "ADORBS!" Jaeger), and is a full-time lawyer to his stay-home dad. Single mother Julie (Graham, who is great here) has recently moved back to the area, currently living with Camille and Zeek after going through a rough time in Fresno with her troubled teenage daughter Amber (Mae Whitman, who I've liked since I saw her as the tough little girl in When a Man Loves a Woman).

And then there's Crosby (Dax), the youngest Braverman, who, as the series opens, finds out he's the father of a five year-old mixed-race boy named Jabbar, the product of a one-night stand with a dancer he never saw again. Until now.

What I like the most about this series is the way the characters interact. They really feel like they're all part of the same family to me (great banter, body language, etc.). Each household's problems are unique, and yet also somehow completely relateable -- even for me, despite the fact I'm not a parent myself (I am, however, a fairly practiced daughter and sister, so maybe that counts here).

Even better, the show doesn't try to do anything too ridiculously dramatic -- it's the drama of real lives told realistically, with a fair helping of comedy thrown into the mix for good measure. I really enjoyed the first season of Parenthood and was pleased to learn a few of weeks ago that it's been picked up by NBC for a second year. Hoo-ray! If you want to try to get caught up a little bit between now and then, some of the episodes (including the pilot) are available on NBC.com. I strongly encourage you to give it a rumble -- I think you'll enjoy it.

For those who did watch, I feel your "I Miss Crosby!" pain right now to the extreme. My heart, it feels all hollow without him (<-- melodrama). The good news, though, is that since falling for Dax in Parenthood, I've started watching more of his films, and I'm beginning to realize that he's ALWAYS Crosby. No matter what his character's name or circumstance, he's still pretty much the same dude, with minor variation. While this likely means he's not the world's finest actor, I adore Crosby so I'm not about to complain. Besides, you know who else is like that? Harrison "Old Shoe" Ford. And I don't hear you guys bitchin' about his lack of breadth.

Case in point: Dax's latest film, The Freebie, which features him playing a character who's living quite a different life from Crosby, but who has a very similar personality. This film, which opens nationally in August, I believe, is about a young couple, Darren (Dax) and Annie (the lovely Katie Aselton), who have been happily married for a few years but whose sex life has taken a dive.

Instead of talking directly and openly about their feelings, though (bah! talking about feeeeeeelings!), they decide the solution is to have a "freebie" night during which each one will be allowed to have sex with someone else. The goal is to return to their marriage the next day, reinvigorated with passion for each other.

This, naturally, goes very badly. You can read my full review of the film here, complete with a rant on the dangers of assumptions and poor communication skills. Lord a'mighty, people. It's just so simple. TALK TO EACH OTHER.

Or at the very least, don't have sex with people you aren't interested in on a personal or emotional level. That's a coach seat on the Bullet Train to Self-Loathingsville right there, for sure. Did we learn NOTHING in college, people? (Kidding, Ma.)

Getting back on track, my point was that these two Dax Shepard characters, Darren and Crosby, are similarly kind, intelligent, witty, and loving guys. Good-natured and exactly the kind of person you could easily imagine as one of your closest drinking buddies. He's a bit of a funny-looking guy, Dax is -- I can see your point there, readers -- but once you get to know his characters, he becomes almost impossible to resist.

Well, some of his characters, anyway. As I mentioned earlier, after enjoying Dax's role on Parenthood, I started tracking down a few of his older movies. Unfortunately, all three of the ones I ended up watching were pretty agonizingly awful.

Oh, okay, okay. Without a Paddle, about three old friends who come together to take the camping trip their dead buddy always wanted them to take, was not "agonizing," I guess. It was the most watchable of the trio, if only because it involves the story of D. B. Cooper (go figure), which I too have always been intrigued by. I got a bit of a kick out of the fact the fellas kick off their camping trip by digging up their old box of clues and maps about Cooper's disappearance -- clues and maps they'd obsessed about as kids. I once poured over a map like that myself as a youth. (Where IS that guy??) And so, their memorial hike for their dead friend ends up being a long-dreamed-about Coop Hunt, which is a concept I can get behind one-trillion percent.

It's too bad that concept was wasted on this film, though, because instead of being fun, it ended up being fairly standard stupid comedy nonsense. Granted, I'm pretty picky about comedies; I find them a lot more hit-or-miss than just about any other genre of film. But rarely did I even twitch into a smile during this one, let alone laugh out loud.

That said, I was still fairly entertained. I mean, I've seen worse.

FOR EXAMPLE. . .

. . . the other two Shepard films I rented, Let's Go to Prison and Employee of the Month. Worse. Much, much worse. Worse times infinity plus infinity (note for people who are bad at math: that's a LOT).

Let's Go to Prison (oh. . . let's not), I didn't last ten minutes into. Had to turn it off or risk a brain hemorrhage. It was THAT BAD. The writing! The dialogue! The entire concept! Garbagio.

And Employee of the Month? Well, let's just say that had I seen this movie a few years ago, I might never have been able to make Dane Cook a Boyfriend of the Week. Because: argh. Also: Jessica Simpson. Also: Dax dyed his hair blond, ye gods! 'Twas the stuff of nightmares. Really, really unfunny nightmares.

Immediately after watching those three Dax disasters, I had to force myself to stop renting any others (well, "force" isn't quite the right word; it took very little self-inflicted arm twisting. As in: none). I was worried if I made myself watch one more crappy Dax Shepard comedy, I was going to forget all the good stuff about him and suddenly find myself drawn to a weep-fest in the coat closet. Which I'm already doing all too often these days, good sir. Don't make it worse.

And so, dear friends, my advice to you is that you close your eyes and pretend Dax Shepard appeared out of nowhere, magically, in 2009. Pretend none of that other schizznit in his filmography exists and limit yourself to his new stuff alone: Parenthood and The Freebie. Only those, nada mas.

Here's hoping that with these two greats under his belt, Dax will finally be headed towards the kind of solidly-written, authentically emotional and funny TV and film he deserves. Because while I wish I could say I would watch that man in ANYTHING, this, alas, has not turned out to be the case. Some things even I up with cannot put. You dig?

MacGyver Factor Score: 92.996%.

Points off for. . . you know. . . for example. . . just. . . everything you did before 2009. Except we're pretending you didn't exist back then, so I'm not sure how I'm making this work. This must be that thing they call "theoretical math."

BUT! Points back for the incredibly adorable way you smile. Ach, I love it. So crooked. Crooked perfection. The Leaning Tower of Pisa of smiles.

Greatly looking forward to getting to know Crosby (and Jabbar!) better in season two of Parenthood. Truly, madly, deeply, much.

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Boyfriend-Related Links

Dax Shepard's IMDb page
Follow Dax on Twitter!
Parenthood on NBC
Trailer for The Freebie
Dax Shepard's movies on Netflix (don't look!)


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