Urban Myths

3 out of 5

Created by: ?

covers season 1

Urban Myths took a good premise of re-enacting such eponymous legends that involved various celebrities, and made a bold – but negatively perceived – move of casting white actor Joseph Fiennes to play Michael Jackson in an episode intended to deal with a myth involving Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor.  While the debate can go back and forth on the true intentions of that decision, opinion as to how it might’ve played out are unknown as the episode was pulled, for better or worse casting a questionable light over the project.  …Which I think made it confusing for everyone when it actually turned out to be pretty good.  The key – and what makes me hope we can one day see that pulled episode – is that the various actors, though doing impressions of known personalities, don’t overplay the roles, and don’t let the roles become the stories; rather, the myths are the interesting bit, and if it was easy to set up a fictional, famous musician or actor in a 30 minute episode – as opposed to the much simpler shorthand of just naming them Bob Dylan or Cary Grant – the tales told would be just as interesting.  So it’s a credit to the smart casting, the casual but confident direction, and the focused scripts: the material surpasses the sensationalism, which makes it clear why these would become myths in the first place.

Some episodes are perhaps too clever for their own good (Cary Grant and LSD = excessive fourth wall violations), and I feel like we’ve heard / seen plenty of variations on Hitler as an artist by now that the episode – though equally well made as the others – felt a little staid, and, of course, you can’t really reach beyond entertainment value when you’re just relating a story.  You can, however, try to tell the story to the best of your ability and with your own flair, and Urban Myths does that.  It’s unfortunate that it got off on the wrong foot in the cult of publicity, but perhaps it will get a chance to redeem itself further – the aired episodes were well received – with a further season.

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