Joe Lavin

March 18, 2008

The Spitzer Scandal Reviewed

3 1/2 cigars out of 4

Eliot Spitzer's salacious new scandal "Ho No!" is a tantalizing tour de force of intrigue, deception, sexuality, and general idiocy that will delight audiences of all ages, especially investment bankers under indictment and members of the media. It is not often that a juicy new scandal emerges out of nowhere, but such is the case with this offering from New York's Luv Guv. Before this prostitution scandal opened, few outside New York probably even knew who Eliot Spitzer was, but the formerly dull New York Governor is now an instant star -- such is the power of this hot new scandal.

The story revolves around the exploits of Client 9 (Spitzer), a powerful Governor who is caught in a prostitution sting with the high-priced hooker Kristen (played by newcomer Ashley Alexandra Dupre). Hijinks ensue as the details of their tryst are revealed through a federal wiretapping investigation, and soon the high-minded former prosecutor is hoisted upon many of the laws he helped create. The script's irony is rich, and the schadenfreude is flowing!

In fact, rarely has such a dynamic scandal broken so quickly, and you won't want to miss the first fifteen minutes. It begins with a strangely powerful press conference. The words are few, but the images (especially the sour look on Spitzer's face) are precious indeed, even if the appearance of his wife at his side does seem a little clichéd. How refreshing it would be for her to have shouted out what she was really thinking at that moment! Alas, she remains the supportive spouse throughout.

While overall the story is strong, it is not without some weaknesses, including the lack of a satisfactory second act. Within minutes, the Governor's problems are known to every viewer, and he is completely disgraced. At this point, despite the shocking events, there are few places for the story to go.

The reveal of the Kristen character and her back-story do make up for that to some degree. However, the attempts to drag the scandal out by having Spitzer hold off on his resignation, frankly, feels a bit forced. Who in the audience did not know that Spitzer was finished even in the first few minutes of the scandal? And yet somehow, this lasts two whole days. Frankly, these two days of waiting seem merely like an attempt to pad the scandal out to feature scandal length.

Nevertheless, it is fascinating how the details of the case come out. Instead of seeing the action, so to speak, the particulars are revealed by having reporters read them out on live television. I think one reporter was even wearing a trench coat. The unbridled joy on the faces of the anchors, as they report these serious charges, provides compelling commentary on the jaded nature of the current zeitgeist. Also, it's fun to watch distinguished anchors search for hooker synonyms on live television.

"Okay, Brian, we've already used escort, call girl, and lady of the night. How about high-end harlot?"

Kudos especially go to Chris Matthews of MSNBC. Seldom has such elation been expressed on the screen before. It's also worth mentioning the compelling character of Lieutenant Governor David Patterson. Patterson, who in the story becomes the fourth African-American Governor in the nation and the first blind one, provides a stark contrast to the general jerkiness of the Spitzer character. Patterson plays himself and gives a convincing performance, although one can't help but be a little disappointed that the original choice for the role, Morgan Freeman, had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

Like any great scandal, this one has certainly gotten audiences talking. Much like last year's Larry Craig scandal spurred meticulous conversations about men's room etiquette, much of America is now talking about the details of high-end prostitution, including how (and how not) to pay for it. During few other times has one been allowed to start conversations with, "So, say hypothetically you wanted to sleep with a $10,000 hooker, how would one go about doing that without getting caught, you know, hypothetically?"

All in all, "Ho No!" takes us on a roller-coaster ride of scandal, intrigue, and sexual punditry and is clearly the hottest scandal since Clinton-Lewinsky ten years ago. Bravo! We can't wait for the sequel, though one can hardly imagine what that could possibly be.

©2008 Joe Lavin

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