Joshua Alston

Stories by Joshua Alston

  • BBC's Infidelity Soap Opera "Mistresses"

    Of the all things "mistresses" has going for it, originality isn't one of them. Wives' husbands and husbands' wives slink away for scandalous trysts. Shocking secrets come to light. Dirty deeds are done dirt cheap. It's standard nighttime-soap stuff, not unlike "Desperate Housewives," "Cashmere Mafia," "Lipstick Jungle"—I could go on. But the drama, a British hit now on BBC America, is so well rendered, deftly acted and observantly written, it feels fresh. Sarah Parish, Orla Brady, Sharon Small and Shelley Conn play girlfriends, all embroiled in adulterous turmoil. Even when the plot twists border on the unconscionable, "Mistresses" makes them float with subtle execution. It's yet another reminder of why we borrow so many TV concepts from the Brits: they're just better at this stuff. Naturally, a U.S. version is in the works, so bone up before it's time to give a snobby (but probably accurate) speech about how the original was so much better.
  • 'Dollhouse' and 'United States of Tara': I'm Every Woman

    By the third episode of "United States of Tara," Showtime's new dissociative-identity-disorder dramedy, things are going relatively well for the title character. Granted, life isn't easy for Tara (Toni Collette) when, at a moment's notice, one of her alternate personalities (among them, a randy teenager and a "Pleasantville"-style repressed homemaker) could pop out of her. But work is looking up–she's been hired to paint a fresco for her sister's boss, Tiffany. There's a wobble when Tara discovers that her new boss knows about her disorder, but Tiffany is surprisingly accepting. "You know, the weird thing is like, I kinda feel like everybody has it. Y'know, a little bit," Tiffany says. "It's like, over the course of a day, how many women do we have to be? Work Tiffany, or Sexy Tiffany, or Dog Owner Tiffany … it's hard, right?" It's at that moment that "Tara," reveals an alternate pe...
  • 'Trust Me:' Isn't It Bromantic?

    In TBS's new dramedy "Trust Me," Eric McCormack, formerly America's favorite gay man on "Will & Grace," plays Mason McGuire, a conscientious professional trying to work on his relationship with his partner, Conner (Tom Cavanagh.) Before you start thinking McCormack has been typecast, I'll have you know that Mason is happily married. And not Connecticut-married–his wife Erin is played by Sarah Clarke, once the unsinkable villain Nina Myers on "24." Mason and Conner are partners, but only in the professional sense–they work together at Rothman Greene & Mohr, a pressure-cooker of an advertising agency not unlike "Mad Men's" Sterling Cooper would be after civil rights movements and employment laws ruined all the good-old-boy fun. But more than it is about American consumption, work culture or the creative process, "Trust Me" is about the intricacies of a male friendship, and it's about time there was a...
  • Fox's "24" Has Overstayed Its Welcome

    Two years ago, I was so keyed up for the four-hour season premiere of "24" that I couldn't wait until the big night. Instead, I badgered a co-worker until he gave me his advance copy and I stayed up all night watching it. This year I got my own early copy of the "24" season premiere, its seventh—and this time I thought about badgering a co-worker to take it off my hands and watch it for me. For two weeks, it sat on my desk, a dreaded chore, not a savored treat.The problem isn't that "24" has changed too quickly. It's that everything is exactly the same. Before I watched a moment of the new season, I could guess way too much about it: there would be a huge terrorist threat, a shadowy conspiracy inside the president's inner circle and a couple of characters who get blown away just before they say something really important. Where's the innovation, "24"?This was supposed to be the season when the writers shook things up, and they have, at least cosmetically. The action has been shifted...
  • Katey Sagal Rocks in FX's "Sons of Anarchy"

    The old conventional wisdom held that there were no substantive, red-meat roles for actresses of a certain age. Try telling that to Katey Sagal, 54, one of the many tough, gorgeous and, yes, older women holding the television airwaves in their manicured grips.In FX's "Sons of Anarchy," Sagal plays Gemma Morrow, the treacherous matriarch of a California biker gang. Gemma just became a grandmother, but don't be fooled by the title. In her most memorable scene, she picks up hormone treatment for her menopause and, on her way out, runs into the tart who's been making time with her old man. She gives the girl a free rhinoplasty ... with a skateboard. Then, poignantly, she sits on the curb, remorseful and defeated.The scene is played with a grace and subtlety I wouldn't have expected from Sagal, who's best known for playing sitcom housewives both agreeable (Cate on "8 Simple Rules") and considerably less so (Peg on "Married With Children"). In Gemma, Sagal has at last found a character...
  • Surprises at the Emmy Awards

    For the first time in maybe forever, the TV industry served up an unpredictable awards show.
  • Playing Emmy Roulette

    Predicting award-show winners is never an exact science. But we always hated science anyway.
  • Reality TV Gets Transgendered

    Reality shows have long pioneered inclusive casting. Now they're pushing the boundaries again.
  • 'True Blood' and the Lost Art of Opening Credits

    Even as American TV has evolved, one of its most charming aspects—the title sequence—has become scarce. To save precious seconds, many shows have jettisoned opening credits in favor of a brief flash of a logo, à la "Lost." It's a shame. A great title sequence is a gilded invitation to join the show's universe.The credits for the new HBO series "True Blood" (from Alan Ball of "Six Feet Under" ) are the perfect amuse-bouche. The show is about vampires assimilating into rural Louisiana, and the credits are a flip book of Deep South postcards: images of hungry gators and modest homes, neon crosses and dirt roads. In the final shot, a woman is dunked for a river baptism and appears to emerge in hysterics. Either she's in rapture, or just a hairbreadth from drowning. This is the world of "True Blood," where quaint, romantic notions of the South are recast with dread.The package was made by Digital Kitchen, the agency behind "Six Feet Under's" Emmy-winning sequence. By hiring it again,...
  • More New Fall TV Shows

    Our TV critic catches up with the next wave the endless fall TV rollout.
  • A Place On ‘The Black List’

    After The Washington Post ran a series of surveys and stories called "Being a Black Man" in 2006, comedian Bill Cosby lambasted the project for being too rosy. "I'm not interested in hearing that things aren't as bad as they seem," Cosby told an audience. Now, with Obamamania at a fever pitch, the black community is under a microscope (see: CNN's hotly debated "Black in America" documentary) and every examination of it invites the criticism that the view is either too dismal, or not dismal enough."The Black List: Volume 1," a new documentary on HBO, is bound to irk Cosby-esque pessimists. It features interviews with 22 prominent African-Americans from all walks of life: former secretary of State Colin Powell shares the frame with guitarist Slash. Interviewer Elvis Mitchell and director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders don't strive to paint a full portrait of black America (as if that would be possible). Instead, they engage with some of its most esteemed members and, in doing so, pose...
  • TV: Why I'm Sick of 'Dirty Jobs'

    From "Dirty Jobs" to "Deadliest Catch," "Ax Men" to "Ice Road Truckers," the airwaves are overrun by TV shows about people—er, men—with dangerous, physical, soot-collar jobs. If people want to come home from a hard day's work and watch other people put in a hard day's work, more power to them—these shows attract tons of viewers. What's annoying is how they suggest there's a fascinating character study happening beneath the surface. What makes someone do this for a living? They seem to ask. We've got a theory: money, and lots of it. Want to see a really dangerous job? How about a woman working for minimum wage at a big-box retail store who can't afford health insurance? Marvel as she scans groceries, aggravating the carpal tunnel for which she can't go to a doctor. It might not be as visually compelling a show, but it would certainly be more relevant.
  • TV: Predicting the Emmy Snubs

    The Emmy nominations won't be announced until tomorrow, but there's no reason we can't be already be annoyed by the likely snubs.