After a 8-year hiatus, the young, campy, Queen of Generation Y has returned with more, so much more, than any Buffy enthusiast could have ever wished for. I speak, of course, of Sarah Michelle Gellar; her new program is called Ringer and it seriously could not be more wonderful. In case you have yet to experience its majesty, here is the deal:
Gellar plays Bridget Kelly, a Wyoming ne’er-do-well who accidentally witnesses a murder. Frightened, she skips town just before she’s supposed to testify against the killer. With thugs and law enforcement officials in pursuit, Bridget flees to New York, where her long-estranged identical twin sister Siobhan has married into brooding British wealth. (Hellooooo, Ioan Gruffudd!) Siobhan’s life is basically the fancy New York life of any lady in any Michael Douglas thriller from the ’90s.
The only person who knows what Bridget’s up to, and who Bridget keeps calling even though cell phones are a super-traceable means of finding one’s whereabouts, is her NarcAnon sponsor. (This will be important later.)
All of this happens in the first ten minutes of the first episode. But the next ten minutes are when it really gets exciting!
Siobhan, the wealthy twin, reveals to Bridget a very crucial detail: Andrew (that’s Mr. Gruffudd) has no idea that Siobhan is an identical twin. Then, moments later, clad in giant sunglasses and an enormous jaunty scarf, she takes Bridget out on a speedboat and fakes her own suicide.
Bridget, seeing a solution to her quandry, decides to temporarily take on Siobhan’s identity until she can skip town, but Siobhan, mysteriously, appears in Paris at the end of the episode, lounging barefoot on a sofa in a charcoal sleeveless top that just screams Evil Twin With Evil Plans. “She’s still alive,” says a male voice over the phone, ominously, before the episode ends.
And that’s just the pilot.
By making Bridget a sympathetic character, we get to vicariously live through the poor Wyoming girl as she inhabits the world of a wealthy socialite who is conveniently exactly the same size. And while the audience is left to wonder about certain details, we couldn’t be more excited to see what she’s going to put on next.
This is most evident in the second episode, in which Bridget-as-Siobhan abruptly has to throw a party for three hundred people in an unfinished loft space that happens to have a dead body in it. Despite all obvious obstacles, Bridget-as-Siobhan dresses to impress, with gold accents and pulled-back hair suggesting one of the more pedigreed waitresses at the Luxor. “DIVA!” I found myself wanting to yell at my laptop screen every time there’s a wardrobe change. But, like, really elongated. “Deeeeeeeeeeee-vuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh!!!” Like that. It’s so good!
Later, B-as-S shows up to see Andrew in a fabulous wrap, says something meaningful and then takes off the wrap to reveal a giant patterned gown, which just happens to coordinate perfectly with the triangular tiled floor, square Corbusier chairs, and skyline of New York.
I actually don’t even remember what happened in the scene, so taken was I by the gloves and the earrings and the dawning realization that this show is basically Invitation To Love updated for the new millennium.
Siobhan’s clothes on Ringer—which Gellar describes in interviews as not fitting her own $100K-per-edisode budget—were assembled by Cynthia Bergstrom, who has come a long way since her work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, when all the supporting characters were constantly trading off those dumb shirts with the numbers on them.
Speaking of Buffy, can we just mention the outright majesty of Gellar’s return to primetime? In interviews, she’s said that she waited for Ringer to come along specifically so that she could please her longtime fans. (She’s also said that strong female characters are easier to find on TV than in feature films, which is kind of seemed crazy but which totally makes sense, I think.) Also, about those longtime fans: while Gellar is not unknown to, say, Maxim readers, it’s worth noting that Buffy reruns air daily only on Oxygen, the middle-aged lady network, and LOGO, the channel for homosexuals. So, there’s that.
At 34, Geller is the oldest lead actress on the CW. (Well, unless you want to count Tyra Banks as an actress, which I guess you could argue, although let’s not distract ourselves with her right now.) Geller’s slightly older than the stars of Nikita and that horrid-looking Rachel Bilson vehicle, and even older than all of the dinosaurs still plodding along on the 60-thousandth season of One Tree Hill.
Siobhan Martin, the more evil of the two twins, is the stepmother of a troubled teenager named Juliet. And while Gellar barely looks older than she did in Cruel Intentions—that film’s fashions being a subject worthy of its own long, long post—I don’t think we’re meant to think that Andrew is much older than Siobhan is. Which is kind of mind-blowing, because the Buffy I remember best is the fourth season one, where the freshman housing lottery stuck her with the worst kind of roommate: a Cher-loving demon who couldn’t stop clipping her nails.
To disorient audiences a little more, Ringer also has oodles of flashbacks, so we get to see drug-addled Bridget showing up at Siobhan’s with a birthday cupcake. (You can tell by she is on drugs by her eyeliner, of course.)
We also get to see what the CW vision of poor children is, as we see the young Bridget and Siobhan eyeing a necklace in a store window. (Hint: poor children on television do not look like poor children in real life.)
Ringer is not perfect, but it’s close to perfect as television seems to get these days. And since its odds of being renewed for a second season seem pretty good, I have confidence that there’s a chance that the show could grow. And with two Queens to dress per episode, things might only get better.