Taped in London and Malibu by Ruby Wax Prods. Executive producer-writer, Ruby Wax; producer, Clive Tulloh; directors, Don Boyd, Tulloh, Wax; Take Joan Rivers and cross her with Mercedes Ruehl, add a pinch of Rosie O’Donnell and a dash of Bette Midler and you’ve got Ruby Wax, a nice Jewish girl from Chicago who hit it big with her own talkshow in London and is now looking to conquer America. Good luck, Ruby. It ain’t gonna be easy.
Yet judging from the first outing of the short-run (six episodes) Fox summer series “The Ruby Wax Show,” this over-the-top, fortysomething yenta who delights in flaunting her saggy boobs and flabby tush is just the kind of nut case who might win some attention while much of America is out bodysurfing and barbecuing.
Simply put, Wax is a true original. Think of what it would be like to have your fearless Aunt Gloria from Lansing take a video cameraman and do a public access cable show in which she follows celebrities into taxicabs, into hot tubs and on shopping sprees, and you’ve got the picture. It’s talk TV at its most basic: just a cinema verite camcorder, a microphone and a chatterbox — no desk , no audience, no band, no sidekick, no rehearsal, no pontificating, no plug-o-rama. No prisoners.
Wax herself is wacky but clever and cat-quick. Her disarming, self-deprecating, chatty and ironic style is deceptively shrewd. It doesn’t take long to realize that Wax’s whirlwind, wiggy ways are calculated to relax her oft-guarded subjects in a fashion that makes them forget millions are watching. And darn if it doesn’t work better than any given hour with Barbara Walters.
In the premiere, Wax literally climbs into bed with Goldie Hawn, who lies there and discusses candidly how women “need to be touched” while in bed with a man rather than just having him “poke his thing” into your leg when he snuggles up from behind and feels in the mood.
Ooh, did somebody say, “Family Viewing Hour”?
Wax and Bette Midler bond like old gal-pals while in a taxi and shopping the markets of London. It doesn’t feel forced but shockingly breezy.
But the most inspired moments come during an opening segment with Pamela Lee on the Malibu set of “Baywatch,” where Wax — who is cute but has some extra poundage in the places where most surgically unaltered post-40 females tend to accrue it — decides that she simply must squeeze into a bathing suit and become Lee’s body double.
After asking some “Baywatch” male extras if they needed special acting training to learn to catch a Frisbee, Wax lies down on the beach and sticks her ample backside into the air, splayed in all its somewhat cellu-lit glory.
It takes extraordinary courage for a woman to put her motherhood-affected figure on display on a California shoreline right there alongside the finest flesh that medical science has to offer. Finally, someone has the guts to go on TV and say, “Hey, America, I like marble cake! Deal with it!”
The opening half-hour zooms right by, leaving a viewer wondering where Wax has been hiding the past decade. Answer: England, where she became a national treasure as host of the show “Ruby Wax Meets …” and chatted up the likes of Madonna, Roseanne, Billy Crystal, Danny DeVito and Imelda Marcos.
It would be a shame if this show didn’t grab the attention it deserves this summer. In weaving spontaneity and a running comedic diatribe with the one-on-one celebrity interview, Wax, who also writes, executive produces and co-directs, has done nothing less than reinvent the star-driven chat form. It’s gab TV the way Hunter S. Thompson might envision it.
Tech credits are all exceptional, in a purposely off-kilter way.