Pay cable channels have long been the province of the soft-core sex series. These anthologies can take several different formats and settings, but what’s universal about them is that each episode delivers the audience at least a single bout of vigorous, no-holds-barred, end-of-the-world type intercourse between only the best-looking people. In short order, these would-be underwear models get hot’n’heavy as soon as the opening credits have been accommodated, and, unfortunately, there’s very little substance behind the program’s stories.
This is where FEMME FATALES has tried and has for the most part achieved something a bit different. They’re offering up sex with a twist. Its producers have delivered a slightly stronger narrative than that of traditional sex series – even a few recurring characters – pushing the envelope a bit from ‘what’s possible’ to ‘what’s probable’ in its make believe world where deception and double-cross are daily dangers.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
For those of you not in the know, a femme fatale is defined as “a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.” And – though it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyone – a femme fatale is usually a stunner. A looker. A real dame with an attitude, gams that go all the way up, and a rack you can see coming from a mile away. She’s the complete package, and she’s not afraid to tell you so again and again and again. It’s simply part of her allure.
And they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s truly the case, then the writers for FEMME FATALES should probably be found guilty of stalking. There’s very little truly original to their individual stories, many of them shamelessly lifted from films which have already plumbed this territory. At one point, I suspected they had late one night scoured a video store’s catalogue of film noir titles, selected their favorites, and then mutually agreed, “we can do this better, through in some TnA, and shorten the screen time from two hours to 24 minutes each!” What’s disappointing about that is that, in most cases, the actual sex does feel gratuitous to the yarn they’re trying to spin; in other words, getting heavy in the sheets only serves the purpose of reminding the audience “this is pay cable, so we’re allowed to show you plenty of boobs.” In rare cases were the copulation central to the story; rather, it only served the ratings … not that there’s anything wrong with that!
However, one of the more surprising developments to the program is that FEMME FATALES’ writers appear to know how to throw the audience something a bit more inspiring that they probably didn’t see coming. It won’t be evident in the first episode (and maybe not the second or the third), but at some point it’ll dawn on you – the viewer – that they’ve strung together an intricate web: some of these minor characters return in subsequent episodes where they take center stage. It’s a stroke of genius to introduce Camille (played by the fetching Ana Alexander) as a secondary character in “Behind Locked Doors” as a perfunctory women’s prison inmate (with a heart of gold!) only to have her become the prime focus in “Help Me, Rhonda,” where we’re treated to what really happened that caused her to end up in jail. In fact, I found this formula so interesting that I would rather the showrunners had employed it consistently in each and every episode, but that wasn’t meant to be.
Like other pay cable shows have done, FATALES employs a central narrator – HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT had the Cryptkeeper, and FATALES has Lilith (Tanit Phoenix), a lean, mean sexy machine who usually appears in two sequences, one to help set-up the story and another to deliver its moral. FATALES even tinkers with this just a bit by having Lilith appear in a handful of additional scenes within the story where she’s helping to push the tale forward or even pulling strings to make it a bit more exciting. And why not? She’s much better looking than the Cryptkeeper, she doesn’t have his annoying shrill laugh, and her boobs are vastly more eye-catching. Why not make use of those assets, eh? (Besides, come the season finale, the audiences discover that Lilith may’ve had more to do with these stories than was originally thought!)
FEMME FATALES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is produced by Four Amigos and Radioactive Fishtank. DVD distribution is being handled through Entertainment One (EOne). As for the technical specifications, no expense has been shared in delivered some excellent production quality television; it all looks and sounds very impressive. Furthermore – for true aficionados of the program – there’s a shocking wealth of special features: each episode includes a commentary track with the cast and crew; deleted and alternate scenes; several production featurettes; a special director’s cut episode; the show’s 2011 Comic-Con panel; bloopers; music tracks; photo galleries; and even more. Seriously, they’ve served up everything AND the kitchen sink. The only thing missing is soap for the long, cold shower enthusiasts might need to come down from their sensual ‘high.’
RECOMMENDED. The femme fatales of FEMME FATALES might be more than a bit predictable – the stories they’re given have been seen before, but it’s a sure bet that their breasts haven’t! Still, the writers find a way to tweak the overall narrative of the program by re-introducing secondary characters into bigger stories later on, making the world come to surprising life (but not a lot of depth). You’re likely to tune in for the sex but stay for the afterglow because revenge is a dish best served cold (and with an audience). Modestly charming and an easy way to pass thirty minutes, FEMME FATALES is worth a single glance if for no other reason than the fact that, in the end, it tried to do something a bit different and succeeds on its own merits.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One (EOne) provided me with an advance DVD screener of FEMME FATALES: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more