The late 11pm start time for the first episode of "The Cho Show
" on VH1 seemed to me to be an exciting harbinger of edgy, wickedly profane comedy to come. It all started promisingly enough: Comedienne extraordinaire Margaret Cho
opened her new reality series with hard rock, a funny bit about Jack Black
and his only towel (you had to be there) and a flash of her va-jay-jay - suitable and desired for a late-night crowd. Then something truly unexpected happened: Margaret became mundane.
The usually outrageous Cho is not only restrained in this series opener, she's downright neutered. Her trademark uncensored hilarity is largely absent and she is often overshadowed by her entourage: We meet her parents Mr. and Mrs. Cho who are often skewered in her act, her fashionable assistant Selene Luna (who happens to be a little person) and her "glam squad" - hairstylist John Blaine, makeup artist John Stapleton and stylist Charlie Altuna. The more colorful personalities that burst onto the scene, the more Cho seems to fade into the background. Margaret Cho - wallpaper? Say it ain't so!
The main conceit of this first episode is Margaret's preparation for accepting an award for "Korean of the Year" and all the emotion and fashion hand wringing the honor entails. A spiritual advisor, comedian Bobby Lee
/ Mind of Mencia
) and Project Runway's
Jeffrey Sebelia all pop in, in breakneck succession. The show feels incredibly stagy in its first outing. I'm willing to accept that in order to insert narrative and drama, there must inevitably be some orchestration behind the scenes (Only the last delusional fan of "The Hills
" believes in the concept of "Reality" television as unmanipulated truth), yet other shows manage to do it with much more finesse. Here's hoping "Cho" feels more organic as future eps unspool.
Don't get me wrong: Some of Cho's more attention-grabbling stunts of the past would seem desperate and out of character now. At 39, she seems more comfortable in her now-tattooed skin (literally, as evidenced in a scene where she's airbrushed au naturel); she cops to past weight and self-confidence issues as well as her shaky relationship with the Korean community. But how to explain the toothless and stale quality of the episode? The entire episode (featuring parents, her "gays" and her support staff) plays like a retread of Kathy Griffin's
show "My Life on the 'D' List
" minus Griffin's charm and hilarious spontaneity.
On a positive note, the show picked up 23 minutes in when Cho accepted her "Korean of the Year" trophy at the KoreAm Awards ceremony and did a brief but funny stand-up bit. So far she hasn't been as funny off-the-cuff, but seeing self-described "Bad Ass Bitch" Cho in her element reminded me why I'm a fan. At the show's conclusion, previews of future episodes boasted what look to be fun upcoming cameos from Wanda Sykes
, Dave Navarro
, Michelle Rodriguez
) and Joan Rivers
I'll stick with it for now (and not just because it's my job). I'll stick with it because Cho is a massive talent capable of pulling off almost anything, including starring in an unscripted series eventually worthy of the chick who brought us "All-American Girl
" once upon a sitcom.
Anybody else catch "The Cho Show"? Tell us your thoughts here!
Story by Shannon Peace
Starpulse contributing writer