A ‘Ringer’ plea: Let Sarah Michelle Gellar have fun

RI2 Heaven help me, I’m a 43-year-old man who is still watching the CW’s Tuesday drama “Ringer,” a show wanting for joy, believable situations, relevance to society today or human catharsis.

I’m watching because despite all of the above, I find the show strangely entertaining. Not as a guilty pleasure, because like I said, there isn’t a whole lot of pleasure in it, aside from watching Ioan Gruffudd and Nestor Carbonell (another 43-year-old man, I’m relieved to see) interact with Sarah Michelle Gellar. I think, to the credit of exec producers Pam Veasey, Jon Liebman and JoAnne Colonna, they have spun a mystery that I’m half-curious about.

Most of all, though, I’m watching out of the hope, perhaps in vain, that they will let Gellar be funny.

“Ringer” is almost absurdly glum for a broadcast show, let alone one on the CW. And yet, the angst that comes with the characters’ plights is not the kind that anyone could really identify with — anyone, at least, who isn’t a gazillionaire, or a gazillionaire’s wife who faked her own death, or a gazillionaire’s wife’s sister who is faking being a gazillionaire’s wife. “Ringer” is the show that did “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans the favor of bringing Gellar back to television — in dual roles, no less — and yet, the show seems determined not to let us enjoy her.

Watching Gellar, week after week, in characters that don’t permit her to have any fun, is the most tragic element of “Ringer.” Every once in a while, there’s a flashback to what’s supposed to be a lighter moment, except those moments are fraught with ominousness (it’s a word — I looked it up). Every once in a while, Gellar is allowed to smile, but only out of embarrassment rather than joy. In last week’s episode, Gellar was given one laugh line. It wasn’t funny, and the actress seemed to know it as she delivered it. 

“Ringer” might be too far down its path to shift gears in tone, but while I’m not suggesting turning it into “The Wacky Adventures of Siobhan and Bridget,” I’d say it’s worth the effort for the producing team (including co-exec producer Gellar) to cut loose a little more with the star. Find some actual humor in her situation — I’m sure it’s there to be discovered. Take the pedal off the Grim-mobile and let her savor life for a moment. 

On “Buffy,” Gellar was vibrant, but on “Ringer,” she just seems trapped. From a plot standpoint, that’s part of the pull, but you don’t have to throw out the whole plan for the show to let her breathe a little.

Even in tragedy, there can be comedy …

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