Gravity -- TV Review

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"Suicide is painless," go the unsung words to the theme song from "M*A*S*H." That might be true depending on how it is done and whether you are the one doing it.

For those who try and fail, like the characters at the center of Starz's new series "Gravity," there's a lot of pain. Also, hope, irony, despair and a few other emotions that come to the fore from time to time. The stories of their struggles for traction on life's highway -- as individuals and members of a support group -- have an odd and offbeat sensibility, particularly compared to anything else on TV.

Creators and executive producers Eric Schaeffer (who also directs and acts) and Jill Franklyn have populated the series with people on the edge. By and large, the anguish that drove them to suicide has not gone away. The prospect of another suicide attempt, while rarely mentioned, never is far from the surface.

Apart from their failed attempts at suicide, the support-group members have little in common. Lily Champagne (Krysten Ritter) hates her job selling cosmetics. Robert Collingsworth (Ivan Sergei), an eye doctor, still can't get over the death of his wife a couple years earlier. Teen Adam Rosenblum (Seth Numrich) is stultified by his overbearing parents.

Then there's aging supermodel Shawna Rollins (a brave choice by Rachel Hunter), who fears aging more than death; Jorge Sanchez (James Martinez), whose small penis causes giant feelings of inadequacy; and Carla Glick (Robyn Cohen), whose sunny suburban demeanor masks a soul desperate to break loose.

Their small support group is led by Dogg McFee (Ving Rhames), a wheelchair-bound former baseball star. Rounding out the cast is the one character who has not tried suicide, Detective Christian Miller (Schaeffer). The detective, a compulsive gambler and a glib operator, has been obsessed with Lily since investigating her near-death. An implausibly flexible schedule gives him the time to track her every move and conversation.

"Gravity" is a curiously fitting title for this series that, despite its half-hour format, is absolutely serious about suicide. Most of the humor is of the dark variety. That is especially true of Collingsworth, who drove his car off a cliff only to have it splash down in the pool of a passing cruise ship. In another episode, the dark humor comes at Sanchez's expense, and it's close up and personal.

Fascinating characters, a solid cast and strong guest casting (Robert Klein and Anne Meara are in early episodes) combine with an eyes-wide-open approach to a typically taboo TV topic. The result is an intriguing series and a sense of the impact Chris Albrecht will have as Starz CEO, a job he started this year.

Airdate: 10:30-11 p.m. Friday, April 23 (Starz)
Production: Five Minutes Before the Miracle production in association with Starz Originals
Cast: Krysten Ritter, Ivan Sergei, Eric Schaeffer, Ving Rhames, Rachel Hunter, Robyn Cohen, Seth Numrich, James Martinez, Robert Klein, Karl Geary
Executive producers: Jill Franklyn, Eric Schaeffer, Dan Pasternack
Producer: Daniel Hank
Director: Eric Schaeffer
Writers/creators: Jill Franklyn, Eric Schaeffer
Director of photography: Marc Blandori
Production designer: Alan Bruckner
Editor: Lisa Bromwell
Music: Matthew Puckett
Casting: Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee
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