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Footballers Wive$

The summer of 2005 may well be remembered as the moment when Univision’s sensibility invaded American network TV?from the toothy, obsequious host of Hit Me Baby One More Time to the garish outfits and overly stylized opening credits of Dancing With the Stars, prime time is starting to resemble one never-ending episode of Sábado Gigante.

That’s what makes the premiere of BBC America’s Footballers Wive$ (the dollar sign is their flourish, not mine) so timely. The promotional slogan — ”If you’re feeling desperate this summer, BBC America has a whole new set of housewives” — and familiar time slot could lead you to believe that the soap, which focuses on the lives of three football (American translation: soccer) families, is just a kick and a header from Desperate Housewives. But the series, which lacks all of DH‘s intelligence, wit, and irreverence, more closely resembles a telenovela. Yes, classy BBC America has served up a trashy soap.

As trashy soaps go, Wive$ is a pretty decent one. In a perpetually cloudy English town live football team captain/villain Jason Turner (Cristian Solimeno), his Alexis Carrington of a wife, Tanya (Zöe Lucker), nouveau-riche Donna (Katharine Monaghan) and Ian (Nathan Constance), and tabloid magnets Posh and Becks — excuse me, Chardonnay (Susie Amy) and Kyle (Gary Lucy). The sixsome dish up meaty helpings of adultery, fake suicide, attempted murder, adoption, and burnt bosoms — just in the first two shows alone. Not a sports fan? Not a problem. Season 1’s eight episodes, which originally aired in Britain in 2002, contain approximately 50 seconds of actual football.

The payoff with this type of show isn’t in the story lines — Tanya’s coke problem seemingly disappears partway through the season, as does Donna and Ian’s supposedly cherished out-of-wedlock child — but in the no-they-didn’t moments. And Wive$ delivers plenty of those: a nurse sexually gratifying herself with a comatose man’s hand; a wedding that begins Snow White-style with the ”sleeping” bride (flanked by children dressed as dwarves) awakened by the groom’s kiss; and a spectacular meltdown in which Chardonnay copes with the aforementioned bosoms flambé by lopping off her luxurious locks into a Courtney Love ‘do.

Wive$‘ rhythm and earnestness will seem dated to fans of current American soaps, who are accustomed to self-aware, O.C. dialogue. The love scenes are more jarring than sexy, as these Brits don’t seem to believe in foreplay. And the acting? Well, the show is lucky to have the talented Lucker, who convincingly spits out barbs as sharp as Tanya’s bobbed haircut (the producers must agree, since — spoiler alert! — she’s the only original regular who’s made it to season 4, which just aired in Britain). It’s less fortunate to employ the gap-toothed Monaghan, a graduate of the London branch of the Andrew Shue School of Acting (TM), who recites each line as if she can’t remember what brand of crisps she was supposed to pick up at Sainsbury’s. At least she has the right food on her mind: Wive$ is airy and cheese-flavored and leaves you wanting more.

Footballers Wive$
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