Screen savors: Taking it off down under

And you think you had a rough day. Melissa comes home, in the new drama The Strip, to find her husband's in bed with... another man.

film reel 88 (photo credit: )
film reel 88
(photo credit: )
And you think you had a rough day. Melissa Walker thinks she's got everything: great job, loving husband, wonderful daughter. Well, two out of three ain't bad. Because here's Melissa coming home, in the opening episode of Channel 1's cheeky new Sunday night drama The Strip, to find her husband's in bed with... another man. Well, sure, she's been neglecting Glenn. After all, she's a high-powered real estate attorney in New Zealand, so busy she's got to write everything down, including her husband's request to "do something spontaneous" together. She's become what her daughter Paige calls "the human rolodex." Indeed, she leaves notes for her daughter, including one saying: "Six weeks till your birthday - jot down your thoughts." Writes daughter: "A-dop-tion." But when Melissa comes home to find Glenn and Murray doing something really spontaneous in their bedroom, she blows a gasket. First she gets mad, then she does better: she gets even. Ramming lover boy's fancy car is the start of a new life for Melissa, the launching pad for this well-written, well-acted import. The opening was delightful, mixing fact and fantasy in a devilish way that made us think of some scenes in Ally McBeal: Melissa's at work when suddenly there's a huge crash - a meteorite has landed on the law office, crushing Melissa underneath. Soon her husband, daughter and a TV crew are on hand examining the damage, but they hardly even remember her name. "This is by far the most interesting thing she's ever done," observes Paige dryly. Snapping out of what turns out to be a dream, Melissa still doesn't get it: she's all work and no play, leading to her husband seeking some new connections and her daughter to bulimia. Only when she catches her husband in the act does she finally grasp what's wrong with her life. What's happened to the Melissa who shocked her parents by doing a nude scene in Hair in high school? After dropping her daughter off at her mother's, Melissa cruises around, trying to understand what‚s happened, but all her eyes can focus on are ads for sexy outfits, asking: "Are you sexy enough for your man?" Off on another fantasy she goes, dreaming of making men's heads turn in a luscious new gown. The real turning point in her life, however, only comes later that night when a sorrowful Melissa heads off to find solace with her oversexed friend Kat. ("I got Hanked ˆ that was Hank," she tells Melissa as she emerges from a hunk's car in the parking lot.) Alas, Kat's gone off to the "hen night" for a colleague at a local male strip club, so Melissa reluctantly follows. Before you can say The Full Monty, Melissa's watching, eyes agog, as one of the strippers entertains a group of women on hand for the party. As she tells her mom later, "At the end of the worst day of my life, I laughed." Struck by the strippers' impact on her, she decides there must be something to it, and cashes in on a relationship with a strip club owner she's representing to buy The Fur, as the dive is called, and restore it, turning into the ultimate ladies night out, a new establishment she calls Man Alive. What makes The Strip - which does include men, and we see by the Web site, women, doffing their duds, in case you were wondering, and deserves a definite but manages to maintain an R rating - work is the cast and the writers, not to mention the, er, choreography. While we're unfamiliar with the New Zealand TV scene, everyone is excellent, especially Luanne Gordon as Melissa and Renee Ellwood as Paige. While the nod to The Full Monty and Ally McBeal are obvious, there's plenty that's fresh here to make it worth tuning in Sunday nights at 22:00. The Strip is goodtime entertainment, and a welcome breath of fresh air to the usually stodgy Channel 1. As for us, we're headed in a different direction, off to the US to catch up on the new Fall TV schedules and a break from the somewhat skimpy summer TV fare here. See you in three weeks.