The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: The Reliable Contradiction of Kerr Smith

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageThe Winter Olympics – as much as I loved watching parts of it (especially Curling, as you may have noticed) – have disrupted our TV schedules for what seems to have been an eternity. Now there’s March Madness going on – more cause for delays, and then there is only a few weeks left until all the season finales will have aired and we are left to our own devices and Summer TV.

So, in an effort to find something to tide me over this rough patch, I have gone back to an old classic that people still refer to all the time, but mostly in a pejorative way, which is in part undeserved. Yes, I am currently in a marathon Dawson’s Creek rewatch session!
What brought this on, you ask? Well, mainly the reappearance of Kerr Smith on the face of television in the CW’s new drama Life Unexpected. The show is actually not as bad as I had expected and not as juvenile as some of the other stuff the CW has put out before. And when I saw Kerr Smith as the responsible and lovable boyfriend, who we all know is going to “lose the girl” in the end (because the irresponsible, childish manboys always supposedly win a woman’s heart), I remembered that there had previously been a time when I had liked Kerr Smith. The times of Dawson’s Creek.

I can’t recall exactly when I originally started watching DC, but I remember that I saw one season (I believe it was the third) when I stayed in Wisconsin. I probably did see the show’s finale at some point as well, but I can’t remember it now, so don’t spoil my marathon for me!
What I do remember though is that I always hated Dawson and always liked the secondary characters a lot better. And one especially, Kerr Smith’s Jack.

ImageNow these days no teenage drama can go without a gay character, but back when DC came out (pun intended) in 1998, it was still a bit of a novelty. Kerr Smith was actually in the first gay kiss on prime time television, so how is that for groundbreaking by a show that has largely been dismissed as “the most unrealistic teen drama ever”?
I don’t really know why Jack’s story plugged at my heartstrings more than Jen’s or Dawson’s ever could, but I suspect it has something to do with the actor portraying him and all the contradictions that come with him.

The thing about Kerr Smith is that he is simultaneously the worst and the best actor in a TV drama I can remember. There are scenes when he is absolutely atrocious in his acting, completely missing the mark and coming off way too forced in his attempt to illicit emotions in the viewer. Seriously, it is more cringe-inducing than a bad high school play and makes me think of Bart Simpson’s comment about a theater production he has to watch being put on by the Springfield Elementary staff:
“I didn’t think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows!”

And yet, within a single scene, Kerr Smith can turn his crap around and pierce that wall of snobbish disgust you have put up to protect yourself from all those pretentious teenage TV drama dramatics. The decisive factor in Smith’s performance is this: he sucks when he has long winding speeches about the way his character feels and is supposed to be crying while talking. But when you actually let him shut up and throw out a tortured look from those piercing baby blues and give the smallest shoulder shrug while he turns away and lets the tears run free, that is when he gives you teenage TV gold.

He also has some fairly good comedic timing, which he rarely got to demonstrate on DC, but when he did, it was nice to see. Of course on his new gig on Life Unexpected he gets to exchange semi-witty banter with Shiri Appleby and that becomes him very well. That and the fact that even though his boyish charm hasn’t left his eyes, he doesn’t look like an eternal teenager anymore, which bugged me about him on DC all the time. He was such a smooth, pale, indistinguishable man child back then, even though he was in his mid to late twenties while playing a teenager.
Really, I think Kerr Smith is one of those men that look better the older they get and the grey temples don’t hurt him a bit. He is no George Clooney, but he can hold his own.

I actually like his understated acting on Life Unexpected and my heart is already breaking for the episode in which he is going to get dumped for the loser ex-high school football star, who now owns a bar and thinks that makes him a respectable business man. At the same time though I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop when I am watching Kerr Smith, because I know there will come that scene when he will give me the “suck-blow cringe” again. But there is a certain charm in the reliability of his contradiction and consistency is way overrated anyway, except when it comes to TV schedules.





Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)


Tuesday, March 9th
 8 p.m.  NCIS (CBS)
 8:30 p.m.  Better Off Ted (ABC)
 9 p.m.  Lost (ABC)
   NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
 10 p.m.  The Forgotten (ABC)
   The Good Wife (CBS)
   Parenthood (NBC)
Wednesday, March 10th  
 8 p.m.  Human Target (Fox)
   Mercy (NBC)
   Scrubs (ABC)
   The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
 8:30 p.m.  The Middle (ABC)
   Gary Unmarried (CBS)
 9 p.m.  Modern Family (ABC)
   Criminal Minds (CBS)
 9:30 p.m.  Cougar Town (ABC)
 10 p.m.
 Ugly Betty (ABC)
Thursday, March 11th  
 8 p.m.
 Community (NBC)
 8:30 p.m.  Parks and Recreation (NBC)
 9 p.m.  Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
   The Office (NBC)
   CSI (CBS)
 9:30 p.m.  30 Rock (NBC)
 10 p.m.  Archer (FX)
   Project Runway (Lifetime)
   Private Practice (ABC)
   The Mentalist (CBS)
Friday, March 12th
 8 p.m.  Ghost Whisperer (CBS)
 9 p.m.
 Medium (CBS)
 10 p.m.
   Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Starz)
Saturday, March 13th
Sunday, March 14th
 8 p.m.  The Simpsons (Fox)
 9 p.m.
 Desperate Housewives (ABC)
 10 p.m.
 Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
   Cold Case (CBS)
Monday, March 15th
 8 p.m.
 House (Fox)
   Chuck (NBC)
   Life Unexpected (CW)
 8:30 p.m.  Accidentally on Purpose (CBS)
 9 p.m.
 Trauma (NBC)
   24 (Fox)
   Gossip Girl (CW)
 10 p.m.  Damages (FX)
   Law & Order (NBC)