Monday, July 13, 2009

The 52-minute Tango

Now where were we?

For TDH, it's somewhere between the unemployment line and his next movie of the week, never to be re-aired, but forever to be rehashed among his stalkers ... err, fans. (Never fear, oh ye faithful; taped copies will be available later; please proceed to the conference room at the end of the hall.) A victim of the famed-role curse? Possibly. Enamoured with Jose, Jack and Jim to the point that you may wonder if he likes boys? Possibly. Either way, he could be a bigger one-hit wonder than Rick Astley, and when you see pictures of him sinning his way through Sin City, you have to wonder if he's even hoping that someone starts a TDHroll.

And at the other end of the proverbial Street of Dreams is RS, who, for all intents and purposes, puts the phoenix to shame when it comes to rising from the ashes. You've got to hand it to someone who bites the hand that feeds her -- and then pays for reconstructive surgery. All was forgiven at The Network once her (once again) good name propelled The Rebirth straight to top 10 of the Nielsens. The irony is that while she's a good actress - and has a mantle full of awards to prove it - her best work, without question, was done during the fourth season of The Show.

While RS and TDH's looks had gained them notice in every corner of the earth - and cyberspace - their acting skills were laudable, too. RS was the stronger of the two, but TDH really blossomed over the course of four seasons, and together, they grew into a formidable duo.

Partners, in every sense of the word.

And by the time the curtain went up on Season Four, TDH and RS had perfected the ability to complement each other nicely, play off each other's strengths, and never upstage one another.

Over the years, I have seen acting partners who had great chemistry both in movies and on TV, but this ... this was off the charts. To this day, I've never seen anything like it.

Every line ... every movement ... every look ...

TDH and RS turned the simplest of scenes into a sultry, graceful tango to which only they could hear the music. And for a while, watching them was magic.

Absolute magic.

But, as with any profession, sometimes it's hard to separate professionalism and personal lives, and inevitably, those emotions show up on screen. In the best-case scenario, it gets the actors' juices flowing and the viewers salivating. And, in the worst, it leaves the fans asking if what they just watched was, in fact, The Show, or if The Network is, in fact, trying to ruin their night, or, depending on just how bad it was, their lives.

The second episode of the fourth season was the first time when I noticed that something had changed. If not for the out-of-this-world A-plots, it would have been easy to forget that The Show wasn't real.

And it seemed I wasn't the only one having trouble remembering.

The final scene of that episode was the most raw and emotional I ever seen either TDH or RS. Everything they were feeling was reflected in their eyes, their voices and their body language. And for the first time in four years, TDH wasn't simply playing his character, he had become his character. There was no woman on Earth that he wanted more than RS, and there would never be a woman he would love more. Granted, I was a mere child the first time I watched this scene, but even back then, I sensed something was different. Real tears were falling from RS's eyes. There was a hitch in TDH's throat that no script had called for.

As the season rolled along (or at least tried to amid pre-emption and shifting timeslots), every touch, every kiss and every look had an intensity that made me glad that my mom had already given her approval three years earlier that this was a nice, wholesome family show and didn't bother checking up on what I was watching. Sure, it was on during the family hour, but at times, it almost felt voyeuristic. My friends and I had no qualms that this was what true love was. And given that our basis of comparison had not too long ago been Zack and Kelly, we did wonder at times if maybe there was a reason why those embraces were so off-the-charts hot.

Put simply, we wanted our hair cut like RS, and we wanted to fall in love with boys who looked like TDH. We did our research, and we weren't naive. After all, with acting like that, the ratings should have been a lot higher. Any show where the studio medics should have checked to make sure both leads still had their tonsils after a love scene gets attention, plain and simple.

But by the end of the season, the heatwave had cooled off to the point that The Show, once again, was a different show. But this show was one where TDH and RS could barely look at each other, let alone touch. And they had all but disappeared from the magazines that sucked up entirely too much of my babysitting money and the entertainment shows that I'd faithfully schedule my algebra homework around.

What had happened?

Surely The Network wasn't just screwing with us again -- addressing those pesky rumors by falling silent? No, that couldn't be possible. That would effectively put a stop to publicity for The Show altogether. TDH and RS were The Show.

Come to think of it, when was the last time there had been any advertising for the show? Would it even be on this week?

And since when did RS, who since the third season had been about the same size as the oboe player in band class who was held back a year because of her "eating problem," gain weight? Was she sick? Had something happened to her? And why, in the season finale did her tears, once again, seem real, much like the hitch in TDH's throat?

To this day, I get choked up watching that scene. It has different meaning for me now, but there's something so tangible about their grief. These were two people in pain, and it was far more pain than the stage direction called for. I saw it then, and I see it now. There was something going on that only they knew, and it could forever change The Show.

The episode left me unsettled. What would the fifth season be like? Could it get any worse? I scurried off to see what had been written about the season finale by the usual suspects: People, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide. Maybe there would be a hint about what was to come.

But nothing, not even the long, hot, miserable summer waiting to see if TDH would ever make it back to RS (on The Show, people) the year before could prepare me for the two words at the end of the episode synopsis:

Series finale.

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