The first season of FX’s series Dirt signaled the coming of a cultural apocalypse, with tabloid editor Lucy Spiller (Courteney Cox) leading the horsemen. It reveled in its own darkness, and the result was a show that was sometimes fascinating but just as many times pretty hard to watch.
As the show returns for its second season, though, Lucy and Dirt have both lightened up a little bit. "We just want it to be a little bit more of a broader appeal," Cox told reporters last week. "I think the people who loved Dirt last year will hopefully love it this year, but there will be just more of an audience because the people who read Us and In Touch and all those tabloid magazines, I think, will get a kick out of the show."
Cox, who’s also an executive producer of the series, says the working idea for new season — which premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday — is simply to make Dirt "more of a fun show to watch." That means a tighter focus on Dirt Now, the magazine Lucy edits, and the reporters and photographers who work there (including regulars Ian Hart and Alexandra Breckenridge and new recurring player Ryan Eggold), as well as a ripped-from-the-supermarket-checkout-headlines vibe to a lot of the celebrity scandals they cover.
"In almost every episode you’ll see something that you will recognize, and that’s kind of hopefully the fun of it that you’ll be able to guess who this person we might be talking about," Cox says. The first two episodes alone feature plots mimicking Alec Baldwin’s leaked voice-mail rant to his daughter (with Tom Arnold playing the sitcom star in question), a Paris Hilton-esque socialite busted for DUI and a Britney Spears stand-in trying desperately to control her still-pure image.
More highlights from Cox’s chat with reporters:
On real life being stranger than fiction: "What’s been really interesting is that we come up with these story lines, and sometimes we think, ‘Wow, no way this could happen, but man would it make for a good episode.’ And then you find out after you filmed it, you’ve written it, that something even more outrageous has happened, or they’ve done exactly what you thought they were going to do.
"When you sit in a writer’s room you go, ‘OK, what is the wildest thing that you could imagine this character doing?’ Sometimes it actually happens, because people are just really unpredictable. So it doesn’t scare me, but I definitely feel sometimes that people will see things on our show and say, ‘Oh my God, they just took that right from what happened,’ and we actually may have filmed it before it even happened. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true."
On the shortened, seven-episode season: "We didn’t know that we weren’t going to finish [the original 13-episode order], but the strike kind of changed all of that. So luckily, what works in our favor this year, which would have not have worked last year at all, is that each episode is self-contained. Even though there may be a character that goes over a few episodes you can watch each one and feel like you’ve wrapped up a story.
"So luckily, episode seven, which is the one that we finished on — no one’s getting stabbed, but it’s still an exciting episode. I mean, do we have bigger plans? Sure. But does it work? Yes."
On whether Dirt has made her more sympathetic to paparazzi: "I don’t think anyone in our show really comes off smelling like a rose. And I think that we’re showing the humanity of everyone, but no one’s looking great. …
"I would say that playing this character and working on this show has definitely shown me how hard it is and how competitive it is. It’s just really hard to run a successful magazine. I get that. And I’ve gotten just how many paparazzi there are out there and how hard it is to get the exclusive picture. So yes, I guess I’ve learned. It doesn’t mean that I agree with it all, and I definitely don’t agree with the obsession on certain celebrities. I understand the fascination, but when it gets obsessive, I think it gets dangerous. So I haven’t changed my view, but definitely I’ve learned all sides of it, for sure."
Psyched to have Dirt back? Do you think Lucy will really be able to lighten up?