TV Review: Wishful Drinking

Carrie Fisher's latest autobiographical iteration, "Wishful Drinking," is great fun.

Wishful Drinking
Courtesy of HBO

Carrie Fisher has wrung a multimedia cottage industry out of her dysfunctional, famous-from-the-womb life, and this latest autobiographical iteration, “Wishful Drinking,” is great fun. A filmed version of her one-woman stage performance, the expansion to TV pulls the audience further into the archival clips and visual aids that garnish Fisher’s self-deprecating account of growing up in the spotlight. At 75 minutes, it’s less another postcard from the edge than a breezy mash note to the absurdities permeating Hollywood stardom in general, and Fisher’s tumultuous past in particular.

Fisher has by now exploited her birth to “simple folk,” as she calls them — actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher — in every imaginable medium, from book-turned-movie to stage show-turned-TV special. Yet given the material’s intimacy, this might be the most logical venue for Fisher to open a vein about a life she wryly describes as a “pathetic bid” for attention.

An ability to laugh at themselves is also a prerequisite for all those who have passed through Fisher’s orbit, including her parents (her father passed away after the special was taped); ex-husbands Paul Simon and CAA’s Bryan Lourd; and producer George Lucas, whom she thanks (sardonically, naturally) for her stalkers and putting her face on a Pez Dispenser.

Fisher truly lights up, though, during the passages where she discusses her parents, including a riotous sequence in which she attempts to connect the dots on not only their sundry marriages but those of their poly-matrimonial spouses as well.

The actress-author also playfully banters with the audience, insisting she’s “a good person, much like Sarah Palin.” Based on the crowd drawn to her show (taped in New Jersey), that line elicits the expected enthusiastic response.

Perhaps foremost, Fisher manages to continue her jaundiced, fun-house trip through her frazzled (though in many ways, privileged) existence without descending into self-pity — ruefully describing celebrity as “obscurity biding its time.”

Occasionally, Fisher’s one-liners (the title included) overreach into silliness, but as directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato — whose examinations of notorious women include “Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal,” “Monica in Black and White” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” — “Wishful Drinking” plays like a knowing valentine to the boozy, blowsy, “Mad Men”-era days of Hollywood.

Granted, celebrity misbehavior and excess remain central to our TMZ-informed times, but Fisher’s approach — looking back with humor — nevertheless feels like a portal into a galaxy not all that long ago, but pretty far away.

TV Review: Wishful Drinking

Special; HBO, Sun. Dec. 12,9 p.m.

  • Production: Produced by World of Wonder. Executive producer, Sheila Nevins; senior producer, Lisa Heller; producer-directors, Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato; writer, Carrie Fisher; co-producer, Mona Card.
  • Crew: Camera, Teodoro Maniaci; editor, Marc Cohen; music, David Benjamin Steinberg. 75 MIN.
  • Cast: With: Carrie Fisher.
  • Music By: