The Boyfriend of the Week

August 4, 2007

You know what's really hard sometimes?

Being me.

Oh no. No, no. I know you think it's easy. I mean, you probably think I just sit around all week eating chocolates, watching TV, and drooling over hotties, right? It's never occurred to you that this might not be as easy as I make it look, has it. HAS IT!?

Well, let me tell you something, people. This job is HARD. And what's more, the pay is absolute crap. The last three weeks in particular have been even more torturous than usual. Why? Because I've been driving myself absolutely INSANE struggling to decide who to feature next. I've been trying to get at least two write-ups a month posted this year, and as July's minutes tick-tocked right past me, I began growing more and more anxious about getting my second write-up posted before the 31st rolled around (which, obviously, I failed to do). I felt like I was spending all my free time working on write-ups. But I just couldn't seem to get any of them finished.

The problem? All three of the guys I've been working on lately are on summer season TV shows, each one of which airs on a different night of the week. I start with Tuesday, when Eureka with Colin Ferguson airs on Sci-Fi, and great jehosephat, is that man ever gorgeous! Not to mention funny as heck. Deadly combo. So, naturally, come Wednesday, I'm scribbling away at his write-up like a woman possessed. Possessed by HOTNESS.

Just as I start to get into a groove, though, Thursday rolls around, bringing with it USA's Burn Notice starring Jeffrey Donovan. Come 10pm when the closing credits roll, I've tossed Colin's write-up aside like it's yesterday's Spaghetti-O's and moved on to Jeffrey's for the third time in a month. But before I even get to the paragraph on Blair Witch 2: Electric Boogaloo (not it's real title, alas), it's Friday night again and back on the USA Network comes James Roday's Psych, a show I confess has taken over Monk's position as my number one favorite television comedy. Sorry, Adrian!

This has been the last three or four weeks for me, people. Every other day, I've flip-flopped again. It all depends on whose show I last saw. And this has, quite frankly, turned into torture of the worst kind. At first I thought about just doing a threesome. But it's absolutely LAME to feature three Boyfriends in one write-up, especially when they have nothing in common. I mean, it was one thing to do a post on the entire male cast of Serenity -- at least they were all in the same flick together. But I don't even think Jeffrey, Colin, and James are connected via six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

I tried to focus, focus, focus, but no matter what I did, things were simply not progressing. By the last week of July, I couldn't even bear to watch any more of their movies for research, I was so paralyzed by indecision. Finally, I decided the only rational solution was to launch a new series, which, after some deliberation, I've decided to call the Series of Unfortunate Intents (my apologies to Lemony Snicket, of course) -- "Intents" because I intended to feature the first guy, and then I saw the second guy and intended to feature HIM, until I saw the THIRD guy. . . and "Unfortunate" because, well, I like to whine.

This week, then, represents the first in the trilogy, and to put a permanent end to the waffling, I decided to let my profession be my guide when it came to picking who got to go first. As my profession is "librarian," they are therefore going up alphabetically, which isn't all that original, I know, but it sure beats attempting to classify them using the Dewey Decimal System and then putting them in numerical order. Trust me on that one.

And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce this week's alphabetically-primo hunk, Jeffrey Donovan, star of USA's new spy-comedy, Burn Notice.

Now, I've actually known Jeffrey for a while, though I confess I never really thought of him as Boyfriend material until Burn Notice started up this summer. I'd seen him a couple of years ago when he was in a short-lived cable series (also on USA) called Touching Evil. That show, based on a British series of the same name, was about a detective, Dave Creegan (played by Jeff), who had just returned to work at the FBI's Organized and Serial Crime Unit after a year spent recovering from a near-fatal bullet to the brain. Though he was widely known as one of the best detectives around, after his injury, he wasn't quite the same. He turned a bit socially-inacceptably blunt, a bit unstable. And also just the sliiiiiiiightest bit sarcastic (note: when you read that last sentence in your head, use a REALLY sarcastic tone for full effect).

Cute, troubled, tough, and a total wiseass -- yum!

The show only lasted a season, which was too bad, though I kind of understood why. Sure, it had a fairly original concept -- putting an emotionally unstable guy in a unit that investigates some of the most brutal and disturbing crimes there are is kind of like sending the crazy after the crazies. But, for the most part, it was too familiar and derivative. There was a definite Mulder and Scully vibe between Dave and his much-more-mentally-stable female partner, and the cases were kind of ho-hum as well. In any case, I was still really enjoying it, but wasn't surprised when, after it ran its full set of 12 initial episodes, it never returned again. Oddly, it hasn't come out on DVD yet either, which surprises me, but if you're interested, you can catch the pilot episode, broken into several 8-10 minute chunks, on YouTube.

Now that Burn Notice has established itself as a show to be reckoned with, however, I wouldn't be surprised if Touching Evil finally did make it to DVD. Jeffrey's not exactly what you'd call a household name yet, but this show, I think, has the potential to finally get his career going gangbusters. He first started acting seriously back in about 1997 or so, when he landed a role on the soap Another World (though he'd had a few bit parts here and there before that). A few years later, he got a four-episode gig on the popular series The Pretender, playing Jarod's brother Kyle. (What's weird is that I must have seen those episodes, as I watched quite a bit of the show while researching my write-up on series star Michael T. Weiss, but I confess I don't really remember seeing Jeff at all. Either he didn't stand out to me at the time, or I somehow managed to miss him completely -- not sure which, or what that says about either one of us!)

Instead, the first thing I really remember noticing Jeffrey in, for better or for worse, was a movie I bet he and everybody else thought was going to make them an absolute fortune. UN-fortune-ately (har!), it was so amazingly awful even *I* could barely stand to watch it (and you guys know me -- I saw Bad Girls IN THE THEATER).

That movie? Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. Which I like to call Blair Witch 2: Book of Poo. Not only does MY title RHYME, but it's also, quite frankly, far more accurate.

Before I go ahead and finish with my ranty trashing of Book of Poo, though, I should state for the record that the original Blair Witch Project is one of my all-time favorite scary movies. I saw it in the theater with my husband (who was one of the unlucky few who got motion sickness from the swoopy camera work -- sorry, honey) and when we left the theater, I was shakin' like a James Bond martini. The only other movie that's ever freaked me out to a comparable degree was ex-Boyfriend Christopher Eccleston's Shallow Grave, and in both cases, I made my husband drive us straight to a bar so I could suck down a shot of vodka STAT and attempt to shake off the little frissons of fear that were zapping up and down my spine and making my hands shake like an alcoholic gone cold turkey.

Of course, there were things about Blair Witch I criticized from the very moment I calmed down -- primarily, I remember railing against the absurdity of a woman who had opened the film by pointing out all the many books on wilderness survival she'd read to prep for the trip and then didn't know to follow the river the moment she realized she was lost, particularly after she'd "walked south ALL DAY" and wound up in the same exact spot she'd started out from. Must've skipped that chapter, eh? Whoops.

That said, I still found the movie extremely effective (by which I mean: totally freakazoidal) -- you know that final scene, when Heather comes down the stairs and sees Mike standing in the corner? I can't think of that moment NOW without my stomach clenching into a tight little fist of fear. Which is pretty ridiculous given the fact I've probably seen the movie at least fifty times by now. It's weird, but sometimes I like to put it on while I'm doing other stuff and let it play in the background like it's music. I have no idea why, except that as a fan of horror movies, as someone who really watches a LOT of them, there is nothing I respect more than a horror movie that not only scares me half to death, but does it without even once showing me anything tangible to fear. It's like the first half of Jaws, where you famously don't ever see the shark. Shakespeare knew this too -- it's the things you DON'T see that are always the most terrifying.

And that, in a nutshell was the problem with Blair Witch 2. It's like the writers/directors completely forgot what it was about the original that made it so interesting and unique, and instead went right back to the standard horror movie cliches: "Boo!" music inserted at all the critical moments, blood and gore, naked boobs, bad dialogue, scenes set in insane asylums, etc. etc. etc.

As with the original, the movie is intended to sort of be "non-fictiony" -- the story opens in Burkitsville after The Blair Witch Project "documentary" has exploded all over the world, and the town has since turned into a total tourist mecca. People come from every-which-where to take tours of the haunted woods where Heather, Mike, and Josh were so horrifically tormented and tortured years before.

Donovan's character, also named Jeffrey, lives in an enormous, creepy, old factory (of course) and runs one of the new tour guide businesses in the area. His tour group this time consists of a goth girl, a Wiccan girl, and a married couple who bicker a lot (as all movie marrieds must). The group plans to camp out in the same ruins where the original Blair Witch footage was found, but while the night starts out fun, with drinking and spooky ghost stories around the camp fire, things get weird when, seemingly moments later, the group awakens to find the sun up, their camp trashed, their cameras missing, and a whole block of time erased from their memories.

The only clue to where that time went is some footage on a video camera (sound familiar?) and so they retreat to Jeffrey's spooky ol' house to take a closer look. When they finally realize what they need to do is play the tape backwards (Paul is dead!), they are shocked to see themselves in the throes of what looks like a hedonistic orgy of booze and nekkidness (enter: mandatory boob scene). Things go downhill from there when Jeffrey gets a call from the local sheriff, who tells him not to leave home because he's just found the tortured, dead bodies of a rival tourist group arranged in a pentagram on Coffin Rock, and he thinks Jeffrey and his group did it. And then weird things happen. And then one of them gets killed. And then one of the others kills someone else. And then there's some more stupid bickering. And then Jeffrey drinks ANOTHER pot of coffee. And then blah blah blah.

My god, insufferable! And I realize it was terribly naive of me to think this movie could possibly be any good whatsoever -- since when are horror movie sequels EVER ANY GOOD, MEG? But at the same time, the original had been so. . . ORIGINAL. I mean, those guys clearly knew how to make a really great scary movie. So, what the hell happened?

That said, the one thing that makes this miserable waste of two hours worth the $3.49 rental fee is . . . drumroll please. . . Jeffrey Donovan (you knew I was going to say that, right?). He's cute. He's funny. He has a scene that includes a shot of his nekkid fanny (note: it's quite nice). He clearly wasn't taking this movie all that seriously (too bad the writer and director didn't share in that attitude). In fact, he was so totally cute in this movie I didn't even roll my eyes a SINGLE TIME at the story line, so unwilling was I to allow them to move away from Jeffrey's addictive visage.

Now THAT'S love, people! And also, PATIENCE. And also, kind of a creepy, staring, stalker thing. . . Sorry.

But enough about the crappy movie, let's talk about the truly entertaining one, which didn't feature Jeffrey in a starring role, but did have him cast in a smarmy part that is pretty unforgettable (and which he was clearly having a lot of fun with). That movie is the extremely charming romantic comedy Hitch, starring ex-Boyfriend Will Smith and future Boyfriend (because of this movie alone) Kevin James. In this one, Smith plays Hitch, a relationship coach known by some as the "Date Doctor." James plays his latest client, Albert, an overweight, schlubby accountant who has fallen madly in love with a famous, blonde, gorgeous singer named Allegra Cole. Though the movie goes pretty much as you'd expect it to, with Albert finally winning over the love of his life by acting like his normal, extremely-dorky self, and Hitch realizing it's time he learned some of his own lessons as he too begins to fall in love, there are some scenes in this movie that just had me laughing my big white butt off, if you'll pardon the expression.

Case in point: this dancing scene. Oh man, I have no idea why the "white guys dancing" schtick is always so funny, but seriously, I cannot WAIT to practice that Q-Tip move before my next trip to a dance club. Kevin James should totally take that act to the auditions for next season's So You Think You Can Dance.

In addition to these two movies, Jeff's been in a number of others (most of which I couldn't find on DVD), as well as a ton of TV shows, including Crossing Jordan (he had a five-episode stint in its last season as the guy investigating the morgue for financial discrepancies -- also a fairly sarcastic character, which seems to be Jeff's "thing," for the most part), Monk, Threshold, Witchblade, and even an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street (as well as every actor's mandatory Law & Order episode).

But, as I said earlier, I think Jeff's career is finally about to take off for real with his latest series on the USA Network. Burn Notice has been getting solid ratings and good critical support -- fans are watching, critics are praising, and those of us who have longed to bear Bruce Campbell's children for decades are absolutely OVER THE MOON (man, it's about damn time that man got a regular gig!). One of the things I really appreciate about USA is that they actually give their shows a chance to succeed. They advertise them heavily, they develop solid web sites for them with entertaining features (Sam's Stash on the BN site is a pretty clever little mystery game, and who can resist the "Psych Out" outtakes on Psych's page?), and they never boot a series after only airing one or two episodes, like we so often see on the regular networks these days.

The show itself, for those of you who haven't watched yet, focuses on a contract CIA agent, Michael Weston (Donovan), who is in the middle of a job when the agency suddenly cuts him off -- issues a "Burn Notice" on him. The next thing he knows, he's been drugged and dumped in Miami, where he wakes up with no ID, no money, and a tail of two Feds (sounds like a Dickens novel, doesn't it?). To try to make a little money, Michael teams up with another ex-spy named Sam Axe (Campbell's character), who now spends most of his time drinking, going after rich women, and solving a few crimes here and there for pocket change.

Also in Miami is Michael's fiery ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), who started the series with an absolutely abominable Irish accent, but dropped it in the second episode, when, according to her character, she needed to switch to an American accent for some scheme she had in the works (Fi's a criminal, by the way). At first, I thought this might be something they had planned to do all along -- that one of Fi's characteristics would be a periodic switch of accents, which could be pretty fun even if most of them were as ridiculously awful as the Irish one had been. As it turns out, though, Fi's stuck with the American one ever since, which pretty strongly suggests to me that the switch was purely because the show's creators realized she wasn't fooling anyone with that horrendous Irish brogue. That, of course, begs the question: How come it took THEM so long to figure that out, when the rest of us were cringing a mere five minutes in? In any case, we do have to give Gabby chops for sounding like a pretty authentic American -- a number of people who have chatted with me about the show haven't realized that Gabrielle is actually still doing an "accent." She was born and raised in England!

In addition to her many accents, Fiona's got serious spy skills herself -- she's an ex-terrorist for the IRA -- so it's a good, if volatile match-up. But even more volatile is Michael's relationship with his mother, played by the awesome Sharon Gless (AKA Detective Christine Cagney from Cagney & Lacey!). And recently added to the mix, though he's still showing up as a "guest star" so it may not be for much longer, is ex-Boyfriend Seth Peterson as Michael's somewhat-estranged brother.

I should also mention, of course, that nearly every critic I've read so far has compared Burn Notice to MacGyver, and if that isn't enough to get you to tune in, I think you're probably beyond salvation at this point.

Oh, that's a terrible thing to say -- I'd never give up on you guys! And besides, there's still hope -- you have plenty of time to prove me wrong. So tune into Burn Notice Thursday nights on USA and let me know what you think. And then, of course, be sure to come back here in about 1-2 weeks for installment two of the Series of Unfortunate Intents, which I can tell you right now will be about Eureka's star, Colin Ferguson. I should warn you, however, that so far, I haven't been able to write more than "Eye crinkles!" before I begin drowning in my own drool. I have faith that I'll be able to get my saliva under control in time to get it posted before too much more time passes, though, so stayed tuned!

MacGyver Factor Score: 98.289%. Points off for participating in one of the most depressingly awful movie sequels of all time and not even having the common decency to feel bad about it. Whatever, man. Points back, though, for looking so damn good in white suits and shades. Mrrrrrrow!

Boyfriend-Related Links

Jeff's IMDb page
Touching Evil pilot (part 1) on You Tube (find other parts by searching)
USA's Burn Notice page
Jeffrey Donovan Fans
Hunk Du Jour's page on Jeffrey

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