FOX’s new series “Monarch,” assuming the first episode sets the mood, is HIGH Nashville drama of the soapiest variety, with a fractured family dynasty, musical cues that would feel right at home in a Ford F-150 commercial, flashback scenes and plenty of actor shots lingering to milk the moment. Most major life decisions in the premiere are made by a character with a whiskey, pill bottle, or gun in hand. There are Hank Jr. and Lizzo covers involved. Martina McBride introduces herself! Murderous thoughts simmer around every turn, waiting to boil. And Trace Adkins plays the badass patriarch! It’s really wild.
But the show’s character, Gigi (Judsonia native Beth Ditto), is of most interest to nerds like us who still count TV shows with Arkansas connections. red carpet crash, working mom and married lesbian who retired from the stardom game but is obviously destined to be a star despite it being her sister Nicky (Anna Friel), not Gigi, who was considered the heir apparent to Dotty Roman (Susan Sarandon) musical throne. (Ditto, predictably, provides one of the show’s most real southern accents.)
Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s seen Ditto’s vocal and dramatic range as the queen of Camp Divine or the frontman of Arkansas rock band Gossip or anywhere else, she’s a damn pleaser: Ditto serves as the face and voice all day.
True to form of the genre, the screenwriters have the expository gas pedal pushed to the floor, but to be fair, it’s * * * first – and the Roman family has a lot going for it. Admittedly, I’ve never really liked soap operas, but then again, I’ve never seen a soap opera with Beth Ditto in it? In its favor, the show seems comfortable in its own sultry skin as such. As if the electric guitar licks on Reba’s “Fancy” took the form of a TV show.
Oh, and no idea where the song below fits in the upcoming plot, but when Ditto-as-Gigi covers Lizzo, we just say “thank you,” okay?