'Ringer' (9PM ET Tuesday, the CW) isn't terrible. But it's less than it could be, and it has yet to present viewers with compelling reasons for putting up with its contrivances.
Props to 'Ringer' for even attempting a film noir atmosphere on a CW budget, but when a noir doesn't have a sense of visual flair or the right tone of wounded melancholy -- yet takes itself seriously -- it can quickly start to feel mildly cheesy, if not ponderous.
In 'Ringer,' Gellar plays identical twins, and if you value your health, you won't do a shot every time one of her characters is shown in a mirror. (Get it? Two sisters! Identical twins! Mirror images! Get it?)
Down-on-her-luck Bridget is the bad twin -- well, not so much bad as misguided, in that way that newly sober former strippers often are. For reasons I won't give away here, she's got bad guys on her trail, and eventually she meets up with her estranged sister Siobhan, a wealthy New York socialite who appears to have it all (except a civil relationship with her husband).
It's not a bad premise -- throughout television history, evil twins can usually be counted on to bring some enjoyable melodrama -- but the show's sludgy pacing might be its biggest problem. With any luck, future directors will do a better job of infusing the show with energy and momentum rather than an enervated sense of plodding competence.
'Ringer' has to expend a lot of time setting things up and explaining how the twins' lives aren't particularly rosy, and thus there's less time to make Siobhan or Bridget truly interesting, but Gellar does the best she can with the rather bland material she's given. At one point, Nestor Carbonell's law-enforcement character asks Bridget if she's OK, and the way she delivers her two-word reply -- "Not really" -- is vintage Gellar: vulnerable, self-deprecating, deftly endearing.
Still, without the kind of sprightly, witty dialogue that 'Buffy' fans will recall from that show, Gellar's performances as Bridget and Siobhan seem a little wan, quite frankly. It's not clear whether Gellar needs to be surrounded by a well-oiled ensemble, has to play a character on an epic quest or should speak humor-infused dialogue in order to truly click as the lead performer on an hourlong drama, but so far, 'Ringer' doesn't quite make the grade on any of those fronts. Television does seem to be the right medium for her, but it's not yet clear whether 'Ringer' is the right vehicle for her modest yet sturdy skills.
Of course, regardless of who's playing the leads, the show's twins-with-dangerous-lives concept is contrived, but that contrivance doesn't have to matter much going forward if 'Ringer' supplies ample compensations for putting up with its less believable aspects. Nestor Carbonell, Kristoffer Polaha and Ioan Gruffudd (who plays her husband) are good in their so-far limited supporting roles, and if 'Ringer' gets the balance between melodrama, noir and straight-up drama right, it could be a twisty little escapist slice of cheese.
And if that doesn't work, maybe bring on the vampires.
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