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Kyra, Holly, Glenn: loving tough TV gals

Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, and Glenn Close have all the juice these days — and Dalton’s not complaining. Plus: The Five Best Uses of Cowbell, ”Daddy Day Camp,” and answers to reader mail

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Kyra, Holly, Glenn: loving tough TV gals

TV used to be filled with men’s men, who went by snazzy names like Magnum, Walker, and Nash. They were out there kicking ass with silly hats on and providing awesome one-liners along the way. Outside of the occasional Mary Richards or Murphy Brown, males have ruled the TV scene for decades. So what the hell is going on this summer? Everywhere I look, I see women. And not just ditzy Chrissy on Three’s Company-type women, but smart, sassy women who look like they could beat me up (granted, not all that difficult). I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to feel like my TV is from Venus instead of Mars, giving new meaning to the term boob tube.

Like everything in life, you can trace it all back to Kevin Bacon. Or, in this case, his wife. When Kyra Sedgwick first busted out her fake Southern accent on The Closer two years ago, she ushered in new breed of protagonist: the hard-as-nails heroine. As deputy police chief Brenda Johnson, Sedgwick illustrates that women can look good yet talk tough. She’s like Cagney and Lacey rolled into one…Cacey, if you will. Brenda is intense. She’s multidimensional. She uses words like ”malarkey.” In other words, she’s more intriguing than 99 percent of female movie characters these days. Which explains why other film actresses over the age of 40, who can’t get a decent silver-screen role, are migrating to TV in record numbers.

Wait? Did someone just say Holly Hunter? Hunter made the move this summer with TNT’s Saving Grace, in which she plays a wayward police detective given a second chance at redemption by an angel named Earl. I know, it sounds awful. But Hunter isn’t playing a kindly, sensitive soul who winks up at the Lord Almighty after carrying out His good deeds. She’s giving viewers a complex, conflicted character who gets sloppy drunk (been there), likes to hit people in the face (been there — on the receiving end), and enjoys posing naked in front of senior citizens (not quite there yet).

And take Glenn Close…if you dare! On FX’s Damages, she’s a cutthroat trial lawyer who revels in publicly mocking her opponents’ manhood. (Been there too, unfortunately.) What are they gonna do about it? The woman boils bunnies! No male TV star can match that. In fact, the dominant male TV character appears to be a dying breed. Bill Paxton thinks he’s running the show on HBO’s Big Love, but guess what? He’s outnumbered three-to-one! Denis Leary used to be the ultimate rebel on FX’s Rescue Me, only to now be hilariously undone by his sexually suggestive, beer-swigging, mechanically savvy superior — a woman.

As if there were any doubt left that women are taking over television, they’ve now even infiltrated one of the last safe havens of dudedom — the military. Lifetime’s Army Wives features spouses who kick unruly teens in the groin, practice boxing, and tell off their slacker husbands. One of the titular wives is an actual officer who informs her civilian hubby that she’d rather sleep with her gun in Afghanistan than with him back home. Ouch! What happened to snuggle time? The truth is, I’m happy there are finally real, dynamic female characters that women viewers can love, hate, or even love to hate. It’s about time. I just hope they leave a little something for us guys when all is said and done. And According to Jim doesn’t count.

THE FIVE

This week: The Five Most Incredibly Awesome Examples of Cowbell in Song

1. Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s ”You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”
Cowbell so strong I can even overlook all the random stuttering taking place.

2. Blue Oyster Cult’s ”(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”
Nor do they fear the cowbell, judging by the approximately 8,327 times they use it here.

3. Def Leppard’s ”Rock of Ages”
What a kick-ass intro. Now if only I could figure out what ”Gunter glieben glauchen globen” means.

4. Guns N’ Roses’ ”Mr. Brownstone”
Forget heroin! What GN’R really OD’d on was cowbell, with eight songs from their debut rockin’ the bell.

5. EMF’s ”Unbelievable”
The cowbell is actually less impressive than the fact that they scored a hit by sampling Andrew Dice Clay.

NEXT PAGE: Obsession of the week, and reader mail

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK

I went and saw The Simpsons Movie the other week. It was damn funny. But there was something even more hilarious before the film even began: a preview for Daddy Day Camp. Let me clarify: the preview itself was ridiculous. The plot, as far as I can tell, is that the characters from Daddy Day Care — Charlie Hinton and Phil Ryerson — have decided to take over a summer camp for kids. The result looks like Meatballs V. What’s so funny about it is that the actors playing Charlie and Phil have changed. Gone is Eddie Murphy, which is surprising considering he had no qualms appearing in crap like Norbit, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and…well, Daddy Day Care. In his place is Academy Award winner (how did that happen, exactly?) Cuba Gooding Jr. — who also never met a bad movie he didn’t like (witness Snow Dogs, Boat Trip, and Chill Factor). But what’s most shocking is that fact that not even sidekick Jeff Garlin is around! Look, I love Jeff Garlin. The dude is money on Curb Your Enthusiasm. But he is not exactly what you would call Hollywood A-list. The fact that he seemingly turned down an opportunity to star in a sequel to a film that grossed over $100 million domestically shows just what a turkey this thing is. So instead of Garlin we get a Garlin look-alike by the name of Paul Rae. Paul Rae! So if you want to see a movie with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing Eddie Murphy, someone named Paul Rae playing Jeff Garlin, and lots of cliché camp-run-amok gags, then Daddy Day Camp is the movie for you!

READER MAIL

Ah, the force was once again strong with Glutton readers as folks wrote in with thoughts regarding my son’s Star Wars-themed party. There were also several guesses as to my mysterious Hollywood crushes that go by the initials MB, HB, and JC. Would anyone get all three correct? Read on to find out…

All I could think while reading about the party was, bloody awesome! I hope when I have kids I can instill my Star Wars obsession into them while at the same time making sure they don’t take my figures out of their protective boxes. My future husband is a Trekkie though so I have a feeling we might be fighting for our kids’ allegiances. Think you could send some of those kids over to play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with me? I bought the nice DVD edition when it first came out but everyone refuses to play with me…even after I told them they could all team up against me. — Laura Levinson

You know, I also own Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and I have to concur that it was one of the stupidest purchases I’ve ever made, simply for the fact that no one will play with me either. I suppose after a few more screenings, Dale will be ready, although I am somewhat hesitant to let him handle any of my Star Wars merchandise. He held my original 1977 Luke Skywalker figure for less than 30 seconds before breaking the lightsaber, which granted, was never the sturdiest of contraptions to begin with, but still…

Really cool birthday party for your son! But I’m wondering…what are you going to do when your daughter wants the same kind of party, but with a Cinderella theme? —Valerie Clavelle

It’s worse than that, Valerie. Violet wants a Barbie party for her fifth birthday in December. I would say that my wife has to handle that one, but she is just as disturbed by the Barbie fascination as I am. I guess I could put on some green slacks and a pink Polo shirt and say I’m Ken or something. That’s actually probably less embarrassing than dressing up as a Sith Lord, now that I think about it.

Mr. Dalton Ross, can you be my daddy? After reading about your Star Wars party, I got the sniffles from laughing so hard! Mind the drip! That was carbon-freezing cool! Just a q, did the missus dress up like Princess Leia with the dopey side coils? ‘Cause that would’ve been ice! —Lana Chan

We all have our regrets and mine was not figuring out the Princess Leia hairdo for the wife. She actually brought it up herself an hour or so before the party started, but by that time I was in last minute freak-out mode over getting everything else ready so we bagged it. Of course, had she worn the buns it could have turned a bit disturbing had one of the partygoers asked her to don the Slave Girl costume, so maybe it was for the best.

Jen from Big Brother is growing on me! She is a classic (something or another). So for your crushes…Mischa Barton, Halle Berry, and JULIE CHEN! —Ron Wagner

You got the Halle Berry part right. You know, tons of people wrote in guessing Mischa Barton and all can I say is… ewwwww. And I don’t even know what to make of the Julie Chen thing.

Sounds like a great birthday party. I’m sad to hear the Star Wars things were sent back to Dagobah. As for the ”mysterious MB, HB, and JC”…Morena Baccarin, Halle Berry and Jennifer Connelly? —Melissa Cuppett

Congratulations, Melissa. You got the second two right. I see where you were going with the Morena Baccarin thing, figuring her sci-fi street cred (Firefly, Stargate) might put her in the top three, but no such luck.

Maria Bello, Halle Berry and Jennifer Connelly? —Bruce Cartier

Maria Bello does get very naked and take part in many explicit sex scenes in A History Of Violence…but it’s not her.

I’ve never missed a Glutton article, and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never enjoyed it more than when I read about your son’s Star Wars birthday party. I’m going to guess Monica Bellucci, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Connelly. —Philip Cotrell

And you would be guessing correctly, sir! The only one to get all three right. So wasting all that time reading Glutton articles was good for something after all. You now know way more about me than anyone should care to know. In any event, congratulations, Philip. Well played.

Have any thoughts about the new breed of TV heroine? Feel another cowbell-heavy track should have made the Five? And who has the guts to actually go and see Daddy Day Camp? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week!