Unlike most comedies, with a drama, the pilot episode is typically indicative of the rest of the series. Most great dramas at the very least had decent pilots (and certainly all the ones currently airing — “Breaking Bad,” “Justified,” “Parenthood,” etc.), but when your drama pilot begins as badly as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s “Ringer,” there’s not much hope for success. It’s a tailspin at takeoff, heading for an uneventful crash into the ocean. Even a marked improvement wouldn’t make “Ringer” worth checking out, and given the number of twists and surprises in the pilot episode that don’t pay off, it seems very unlikely that there’s much room left for improvement.
There’s little need to belabor the stultifying mediocrity of “Ringer,” the description of the premise should be enough to steer most people away, “Buffy” loyalists notwithstanding. Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as estranged identical twins. Bridget is a stripper with a history of prostitution who is on the run from the mob after she agrees to testify against one of its members in a murder case. Siobhan is a wealthy socialite. After Siobhan fakes her suicide, Bridget takes that opportunity and steps into Siobhan’s life, only to discover that her twin sister also has a complicated existence: She’s married; her step-daughter hates her; she’s sleeping with her best-friend’s husband; she’s pregnant; and the baby is probably not her husbands. We also find out at the end of the episode that Siobhan is alive and, for unknown reasons, has also put a hit out on her sister.
See how dumb “Ringer” sounds? And yet, the soap opera melodramatics might have worked for the show if it at least had a sense of humor about itself (like the early seasons of “Desperate Housewives” or Peter Krause’s decent “Dirty Sexy Money”) or even a consistent tone that’s anything other than grim. But there’s no spark here; it’s a potentially juicy salacious mystery that’d in most cases would be accused of being overcooked. But here it’s not cooked at all. It’s flat and lifeless, as vacant as SMG’s eyes. It wants to be dark and moody, but it fails at even that; the sheen cancels out the atmospherics. Gellar is dreadful; she’s no different as Bridget, Siobhan, or Bridget playing Siobhan. It’s all the same staid character reluctantly going through the motions. The premise itself is not only preposterous, it has an expiration date of maybe three episodes before it either runs out of twists or piles them on so high that all interest is lost. “Ringer” has no sense of fun; no sense of mystery; no sense of character; and no sense of purpose. There is simply nothing compelling about it, and no reason to stick around for a second episode.