The Down Low

Wed. February 25, 2004 12:00 AM
by David Viggiano

I’m back! I know I wasn’t around long before I disappeared, but here I am with a new name for my column and ready get Down Low.

The ‘80’s called and wanted the name of my column, “The Dish” back. So, I returned it to its rightful owner and stepped into the new century.

Now that I’ve caught up with the rest of you, look for a new column every week with the latest on what’s going on in the entertainment scene in Chicago and beyond.

So let’s get to it.

Last week we said goodbye to “Sex and the City” and the biggest surprise of the final episode was that there were no big surprises. Everything was tied up in a pretty little package. And that was just fine. Charlotte and Harry find the baby they want to adopt, and are happy. Miranda embraces motherhood, mother-in-law, and life with Steve in Brooklyn and is happy.

Samantha agrees to a monogamous relationship with Smith and is happy. Carrie returns to New York with Big and we’re all happy. And best of all, in another moment of simple brilliance, we find out Big’s name is John when it flashes on Carrie’s cell phone caller ID. Personally, I’m glad they gave fans what they wanted with no over-the-top surprises or cliffhangers. But in a move which, I suppose, shouldn’t be surprising; HBO has already started talks with the cast to bring the show to the big screen. Another round of Cosmos, girls!

With no more “Sex”, that leaves room for another HBO favorite to return. “The Sopranos” is back on March 7, and this is one show I guarantee won’t go for the predictable plot lines or happy endings. In fact, the promos look more mean spirited and heartless than ever. I can’t wait! Lorraine Bracco has bared her soul on screen playing Dr. Jennifer Melfi, but bares a lot more in the current Broadway touring production of “The Graduate” that opened this week at the Shubert Theatre. Taking over the role of the sultry seductress, Mrs. Robinson from Kathleen Turner, Bracco expands the “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” nude scene from the 1967 movie into a full-blown, full-frontal scene of considerable length. Of course, to me, five minutes nude on stage would seem like an eternity. But more power to the brassy Miss Bracco who lets it all hang out-- and I mean ALL. She adds class to an otherwise mediocre show. But unless your dying to see Bracco in the buff, I say save your money and rent the film.

So far this year the Broadway in Chicago series has been quite a disappointment. “Oliver” was a second-rate production with second-rate talent. When tickets are topping $70 bucks, theatergoers deserve a lot better. Even more infuriating was the shockingly mediocre production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, another show based on a movie made in 1967. I guess it's too much to ask anyone to live up to the original movie cast of Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, and Mary Tyler Moore.

You’re far better off seeing some of the terrific local theater that Chicago has to offer. You’ll spend a lot less cash and get a lot more show. And here’s some great news: The About Face Theatre has just announced an extension of “Pulp” their hit show that’s a hilarious homage to lesbian pulp fiction. It's both a critical success and a cult favorite among audiences. The sold out show has been extended until April 4 and already those tickets are going fast. I suggest getting a gang together and making a night of it. You haven’t had this much fun at the theatre since About Face’s production of “Xena Live! The Musical”. If you’ve never been to an About Face show, it’s About Time you did.

Have all you soap lovers out there checked out SOAPnet, the 24-hour soap opera cable station? If it's not included in your cable package, you gotta call and insist on it! As recently as a year ago, I was less than impressed with the station. Their original programs are lame, and if I wanted to watch any of the ABC soaps at night, I’d rather record them so I can fast forward through the commercials. (Sorry all you TiVo divas, I haven’t upgraded yet) But now the station has blossomed. They’re showing re-runs of

the classic soaps, “Ryan’s Hope” and “Another World”. You gotta check out “AW” if only to see 18-year-old Anne Heche as the troubled twin sisters Vicky and Marley Hudson. She won a daytime Emmy for her dual roles, but she didn’t win any fashion awards. The horrible outfits she had to wear (mind you, this was 1988) included multi-layer midi-skirts and shoulder pads a football player would envy. It’s hard to believe she’s the same pixie-like, petite, part-time lesbian we all know and fear now.

They also have “Dysfunctional Family Night”. It’s the best thing to happen to Saturday nights since “The Golden Girls”. The dream line up includes “Dynasty”, “Dallas”, and “Knots Landing”. Shear Heaven. And if that’s not enough to convince you, starting March 15, the ABC owned network will begin airing the NBC soap, “Days of Our Lives” weekday evenings at 6:00pm. But be warned, if you’re not a fan of the show, the “Marlena Serial Killer” story line will have you hooked. Head writer James O’Reilly has brought legions of wayward fans back to the show by killing off many of the oldest and most beloved veteran character. This shameless, heartless move has, ironically brought the Soap back to life and made it this year’s most fun guilty pleasure.

Following in the successful footsteps of Bravo’s Reality hit, “Boy Meets Boy”, FOX creates a new reality show with, naturally, a twist. “Playing It Straight” follows a beautiful single woman as she’s courted by 14 hunky men. So what’s the catch? Half of those men are gay. If, in the end, she chooses a straight man, they split the one million dollar prize. If she’s duped by a gay man, he takes all the money for himself. Do I think it’s tacky? Yes. Will I watch? You bet! Can openly gay men revert back to “playing it straight” convincingly? We’ll soon found out. The show premieres Friday, March 12 at 7:00pm.

Until next week, have fun, be fun, make fun.