Larry David, former head writer for Seinfeld, opened a portal for cable: being not the handsomest guy, being so old he was even around before MTV, yet slipping out from behind the camera and starring in his own TV show. Post–Curb Your Enthusiasm, here comes Laura Kightlinger, writer/producer on Will & Grace and sometime performer there as Nurse Sheila. She’s 36 and shows it, with looks that bulimic show biz fears and abhors: the okay face and lightly exercised body of a regular human being. Further, she’s a large-boned woman. Do we dare venture to think size 8 or 10?
SIZE 8? 10?: Look, out, bulimic show-biz Hollywood!
As the writer/creator and charming eponymous lead on The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman, an eccentric, highly watchable, eight-part LA-set cable comedy series, Kightlinger seems more obsessed with getting the tone right of her odd little show than with toning her arms and abs. And that’s admirable, making for fun late-evening on the tube, Fridays and Sundays at 11 pm on the International Film Channel through September 22.
Jackie Woodman is the most foolish, stubborn, misguided, out-of-it person in all of Hollywood. She’s a trying-to-be screenwriter who sticks to her revolvers by toiling on with a personal script. Who would buy such an outré thing? Where are the digital effects? Nobody tells Jackie to quit, but her story has everything wrong by today’s studio wants. It’s autobiographical, whimsical, short on action and long on character. It’s a period piece and, worse, it’s sort of feminist. Jackie’s project is the retelling of the travails of an aunt in the 1930s, a non-teener, who wanted to be a Roller Derby star but whose sexist husband got in the way. Does that sound like Gwyneth or Nicole? Whatever, dramatizing this story is what keeps Jackie at her laptop. But nobody’s asking for her screenplay, and she has no agent, and she’s got confidence issues, and she’s easily distracted, and she’s got an annoying day job as a reporter for a gossip rag of a film mag. The script sits there shapeless, like an unmade bed. “It’s not my flesh and blood,” she admits. “It’s my saliva, all I do is talk about it.”
In a modest, clumsy way, Jackie is the only honest, unaffected person in her LA milieu. It’s easy to goof on Hollywood: everything stupid and greedy and shallow that you joke about, however exaggerated, is true, somewhere. People in the industry do wear those nutty inside-out clothes and say those madly philistine things! Still, the stuff on Jackie Woodman is fresh and funny, like the cellphone-bound African-American executive who seems 22 years old and coos ingenuously, “A screenplay written by a woman? Wow!” Or the guy in a suit who “loves” Jackie’s screenplay (well, the idea for her screenplay) but then announces, without blinking an eye, “We’ve got to make it younger, hipper. Nobody goes to movies to see people get older.”
As in Curb Your Enthusiasm, an occasional real-life celeb saunters through Jackie Woodman as himself (Andy Dick, cruising at a Hollywood party) or herself (Sally Kellerman, as an actress-turned-cultist). Jackie is too grounded to get star-crazy. She’s thrilled to meet Kellerman, however, remembering some fine classic movies, Foxes and M*A*S*H, etc., and proposes a career interview to her magazine. She should have known: such expansive, historical pieces are . . . history. Jackie’s cocaine-challenged editor hasn’t even heard of Kellerman. Aging actresses? The editor’s only concern about Goldie Hawn is whether her face is caving in from plastic surgery.