James Poulos on ABC’s ‘Queens’

By James Poulos, CNS News When you search on YouTube for the word “Queens,” you will find a popular song by the rock band. In a May 1956 performance, performer Danny Fields pounded away…

James Poulos on ABC's 'Queens'

By James Poulos, CNS News

When you search on YouTube for the word “Queens,” you will find a popular song by the rock band. In a May 1956 performance, performer Danny Fields pounded away on the mike, the four members of Queens tearing up and down the stage as their members sang and roared into the funky vocal swell that is their soul anthem.

The moment arrives fast. You see the frontman Danny, the current lady Jane, and her brother Alex, a pure boy-band heartthrob, and you can’t help but get the note – and instantly, so does the man himself. Danny is inspired. This will be fun.

Very soon, Queens takes a horrifying turn. While Danny perches behind a rehearsal table, sulking, writing trashy love songs for Alex to croon, an ugly struggle ensues between the band members. Intensely jealous of Danny’s rock star aspirations, Alex hits him with a note, Alex teases Danny with a curse, Danny tells everyone all about the never-ending flirting between Alex and Jane, and so on.

Jane, though the token nice girl, quakes in her boots, too – and not for the first time.

Jane and Alex, without knowing it, are heading for breakup at this very moment. Alex has a surprise, and it’s a heartbreaker. Jane is torn. Before the couple can come to a compromise, Queens is losing the focus on the music to a wicked melodrama that drags the story down into dead end.

You know the story – the odd couple: the shy, thoroughly decent young woman trying to make her way in the world, and the bully with a penchant for foul language. The boys want to help her. Alex and Jane beg them to go on tour.

Queens enjoys a place in the playbook of 1970s hedonism and conservative rock this doesn’t do them justice. If its ambition were to write another Songbook, it would have named and cast its entertainers – which would have been no problem, since there are plenty of old-school rockers being released regularly.

It would have raised their egos, rolled out their love of sex, and stomped on cultural taboos. It would be a hair-raising mess with some impressive riffs on gender relations and women’s aspirations, but the melodrama would make the whole thing a dud and a drama nonetheless.

The songwriting here is schlocky, with particularly bad choruses – and lyrics – that are basic and stale, and not very good because they’re dog-eared notes at best, dry riffs at worst.

Queens is part of ABC’s new TV show based on The Times of London. The show is getting mixed reviews from critics – mostly because of the melodrama and the mopey rocker. CBS would love to have Queens, since it’s a soap opera for young people who care about female relationships, catchy music, and sex, but, alas, Queens was written especially for a television audience – and was not written for, or even intended for, the generational demographic that has different tastes in television than the one CBS is marketed to.

Queens is full of contrived melodrama, awful music, and unsubtle sex humor. The boys in Queens are either insufferable or boring – and the girls are either sex-obsessed, clueless, shrewish or someone else entirely. Jane is trying to do something productive in her life, while Alex is desperate to fit in.

Queens lacks zip, it lacks imagination, and it lacks a sense of humor. The show, however, is just as competitive as bands like Queens were once. The menfolk are all hunky, charming, and romantic, and the female lovebirds are all sultry – with goop smeared on the forehead.

The Times of London and ABC seem to be trying to recapture a younger generation’s mind through a parade of young people who look awesome in dashing black leather jackets. Queens has Broadway action, much ridiculous melodrama, and cheesy droll humor. Instead of a stud and five other equally studly, handsome, rugged men showing off what they can do, Queens delivers a dull teenage soap opera instead.

Both New York and Hollywood will be, at best, bemused by ABC’s rehash of youth melodrama. They’ll be, at worst, disgusted. Queens is full of melodrama, dull melodrama, and schlocky, juvenile melodrama. Its writers are willing to do whatever is required to reach young viewers, including sex humor and heavy-handed gender commentary. It’s garbage.

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