Either the rest of the world is catching up with Hollywood or Hollywood is growing tame. The most surprising element of Showtime’s new series “Out of Order” isn’t the graphic sex or language, but rather how relatively normal Hollywood screenwriting couple Mark (Eric Stoltz) and Lorna (Felicity Huffman) Colm appear. Still, in the world according to cable, relatively normal, is well, relative.
“Out of Order,” from the writing team of Donna and Wayne Powers, is that subscription-only blend of comedy and drama peppered with copious amounts of language, nudity and drug use. In the never-ending quest to depict real life – only more so – skein will undoubtedly draw comparisons to HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” But it’s fair to say more viewers will identify with the Colm family than the Fisher clan. It all comes down to how dark you take your comedy.
With this limited series of only six hours, Showtime will either have a very competitive show on its hands or a damn entertaining miniseries, depending on whether the net can corral the impressive cast for another run. Episodes air Monday nights at 10.
Forty-year-old Mark sees his life as if it were being played out as one of the movies he and his wife write. Mark and Lorna have been married for 16 years, have a 9-year-old son, Walter (Dyllan Christopher), and run from various banal chores to soccer games and school plays. Lately, however, their successful team screenwriting career has been sidelined by Lorna’s battle with depression.
Lorna has decided to heal herself with a mix of alcohol and pot under the tutelage of Steven (William H. Macy), a has-been film producer in “movie jail.” Spielberg, or anybody else for that matter, hasn’t called him back in years.
Steven and Lorna revel in their misery while Mark faithfully attends to family duties. Mark’s extremely supportive and understanding, but his devotion to Lorna is a complex issue. On one hand he fantasizes about exacting revenge on the man who sexually abused Lorna when she was 7. But finding comfort with another woman doesn’t seem to give Mark pause.
Donna and Wayne Powers have crafted alluring characters that are neither totally likable nor completely reprehensible, as in any good drama; Wayne’s direction allows the audience to laugh with them at their foibles, as in any good comedy.
To itas credit, there hasn’t been a show that has dealt with clinical depression with such clarity. To that end, Huffman is a marvel. Her Lorna is heartbreaking and irksome, her utter helplessness at her own predicament palpable.
Stoltz has an easier job as the mercurial Mark, who has imaginary conversations with the various family pets and is living mainly inside his own head. Mark gets all the laughs, but the character isn’t beyond scrutiny. One of the show’s most promising aspects is anticipating the repercussions of Mark’s many mistakes.
Joel Ransom’s camera work is like a film school crash course with various nods to several pics, the least of which is an extended ode to the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” masturbation scene. And like in that film, the soundtrack is key, used here as an additional source of commentary.