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‘Starter Wife’: Eh. What are you going to do?

 Debra Messing may be playing a newly-awakened feminist these days.

There are the requisite halting steps, to be sure. Messing’s Molly isn’t looking to overthrow the establishment or spend her vacation days (every day, that is) lobbying for NOW. She’s just oh-so-slightly changing the temperature of a world whose reality is unimaginable for most of us.

USA’s miniseries The Starter Wife, based the book of the same name, aired its fifth of six hours last night. Messing’s character had been living in a Hollywood fantasy world, ie. Hollywood, until she was rudely kicked out. The character is recuperating nicely, spending her days at a friend’s Malibu house. 

As far as divorces go, her aftershocks could be much worse. There is much that she does that is not in any way feministic, including ending her daydreams by blaming her physical imperfections for her failed marriage, and her friends take advantage of the requisite dumb young blonde character.

The thing is, Molly’s foibles are pretty true to what I’ve seen from divorcees. She’s been through a trauma.  The nature of a break-up, if you’re the one who’s been cut off, is that it makes you wonder what is wrong with you. There is an immense amount of self-doubt inherent to the situation. If the worst thing that this character–who has spent the last ten years living like a Barbie doll–if the worst thing that she tells herself is that she is unlovable because she has bags under her eyes, which she then covers with eye cream and proceeds to forget about as she immediately goes out to seduce the local beach stud, I think she’s rebounding remarkably well. 

Has society placed an unfair standard on women as to how they’re supposed to look and age? Absolutely.

Will this show fix that? Not at all.

But the overall message is not that bad. And Molly’s not Botoxing herself into a mask of oblivion. She’s out there. The show itself is taking baby steps towards making this character a healthy, free-thinking woman.

But what bugs me is the dialogue. There are several levels of cheese in entertainment– the slightly cheesy, which is pretty bad; the processed, “so bad it’s good” cheese, which I think the majority of viewers will enjoy if they can let themselves relax enough; and, apparently, cheese that has passed right through “so bad it’s good” that it kept going into “so bad it might once have had a shot at being good, but it went around one more time and now it just stinks.”

Seriously, some of the scenes–especially between Molly and Sam, the homeless beach stud (yes, I just wrote that), are like the particularly bad movies seen on Mystery Science Theater.

I take my summer schlock over-easy, but please–even I can’t deal with those.