April 18, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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RINGER could have been a hell of a movie.
It happens sometimes with TV shows.  Remember Daybreak, featuring Taye Diggs as a cop who had to relive the same day over and over again, Groundhog Day style, until he could solve the mystery and save his girlfriend?  It stared out with a nifty pilot, but by the 4th or 5th episode, viewers were more exhausted by the constant repetition than Diggs’ character was.  Some premises just aren’t meant for 22 hours of series television, and as the season wore on, it became increasingly obvious that such was the case with Ringer

Greatly simplifying what became an insanely complicated storyline, Ringer (which could still return for another season, although its ratings lag behind even normal CW numbers, and the network has hardly given it a vote of confidence by preceding the last few episodes of the season with 90210 reruns) concerned twin sisters Bridget and Siobhan (both played by Sarah Michelle Gellar).  Bridget, a former stripper/hooker 6 months sober, was being pursued by Wyoming mob boss Bodaway Macawi (Zahn McClamon), because she’d agreed to testify against him as eyewitness in a murder case.  Bridget fled to New York, where sister Siobhan lived in wedded misery with husband Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) and stepdaughter Juliet (Zoey Deutsch).  Siobhan appeared to commit suicide in front of Bridget, who seized the opportunity to take on her sister’s identity.  As it turned out, though, not only was Siobhan very much alive, but she had plotted all of this to get revenge on her sister, her husband and anyone else who got in her way.  
Unlike Revenge, which has successfully strung out its plot over what is now most of a season by developing multiple storylines for its ensemble cast, Ringer made the mistake of concentrating almost completely on Bridget and Siobhan.  The result was a set of plot contrivances so tortured that they were very nearly hilarious (toward the end of the season, Siobhan, who was about to give birth to twins, was apparently lurching all over NY plotting murders as Bridget, without anyone noticing they weren’t really identical anymore).  Double-crosses became triple-crosses became quadruple-crosses, and it all became too much trouble to follow, much less develop any emotional interest.  And that’s not even to mention Siobhan’s lover Henry (Kristoffer Polaha), perhaps the most gullible character on network television.  Eventually, Andrew’s first wife Catherine (Andrea Roth) was turned into a psychotic lesbian murderess who ordered vicious beatings and partnered with Andrew’s business partner Olivia (Jaime Murray) to bring him down.  Week after week, characters who didn’t know about each other almost met… but since that would have stopped the plot in its tracks, they just barely managed to stay seconds apart.  Siobhan became more and more of a master villain every week, given no more motivation than a dumb grudge against Bridget for a tragedy that clearly wasn’t her fault.  The show failed on even the most basic level, unable to capitalize on the wish-fulfillment of poverty-stricken Bridget suddenly living in the lap of luxury.
It didn’t help that Gellar, a genuine TV star and forever immortal as the one and only Buffy, was well out of her comfort zone.  Neither Siobhan nor Bridget were allowed the sneaky humor that Gellar does so well, and although one sister was a Wyoming drug addict and the other a Park Avenue socialite, it was hard to tell the difference between them even in the scenes where they weren’t trying to impersonate one another.  
The season finale, written by series creators Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, and directed by Eriq LaSalle, barely managed a cliffhanger for a Season 2.  By the end of the hour, Macawi was dead, Andrew and Juliet both knew that “Siobhan” was actually Bridget (and while they were angry at Bridget’s subterfuge, there was little reason to believe their snit would last long), and Bridget had discovered that Siobhan was actually alive.  If the show somehow manages to come back, there’s hardly any mystery left to unveil, especially since Bridget and Siobhan are within a few Manhattan blocks of one another and Siobhan will be schlepping around newborn twins.  
In a 2-hour form, Ringer could have cut its story contortions down to the bone, had some fun with the twins trading places, and reached a satisfying conclusion.  At 22 hours, it was a sad waste of Sarah Michelle Gellar that seemed to have been plotted by dartboard.  Ringer had originally been developed for CBS, and when that network passed on the pilot, its corporate sibling CW took it over.  As Ringer itself proved, though, sometimes family members are better off staying out of each others’ lives.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."