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The Ratings Game 

by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & all premieres are creepin' on up, meaning you'll finally be relieved of your summer-long pins and needles. Don't pretend you don't care. You do. We all do. It's television. None of us has the attention span to read a book anymore (I myself have been skimming Never Let Me Go for the better part of a month); an hour-long drama's about the most we can manage.


So we all know we'll be perched TV-side for the fall rollout. While you sit there, though, with breath bated, finding out what new tragedies will befall Meredith Gray and McDreamy, have your ears peeled for swirling strings atop break beats. And while you wait to see whose cheeks next get mangled by the Carver (or even -- gasp -- the Carver's identity!!), listen for loungy synths and conga-like percussion. That's Grey's Anatomy and Nip/Tuck (like you didn't know), and the thing they have in common, besides surgically precise sexuality, is Bittersweet. The languid trip-hop duo is following up its musical accompaniment on The Devil Wears Prada and HBO's hip-as-shit Entourage this summer with lead-off spots on the two emerging network flagships. & r & It's not hard to see why. The group's debut, The Mating Game, is tailor-made for the screen. It comes packaged as the approximate score to a Buck Rogers-meets-Chinatown-meets-Dr. No mashup, combining noir moments with cabaret, spacey synths and vocals by Shana Halligan that could easily pass for the b-side to "Diamonds are Forever." The strings alone, whether plucked or bowed, soar with a sense of movement and direction to carry the production, coming straight out of the golden age of Hollywood. Add the overlay of canned beats, sampled brass and space elements and you have a very clever, very pointed commentary on 100 years of film score masquerading as wankerish commentary on love and loss. And even that masquerade could conceivably be a nod to La-La Land. What's more wankerish, after all, than the sentiments of soundtrack love songs? (See: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Take My Breath Away" if you need examples.) & r & Bittersweet, then, is pitch-frickin'-perfect for a network mentality that -- in the wake of films like Garden State, which lived and died by its hipster cred, and teen-centric shows like The OC -- has learned to stop worrying and love the indie pop. The producers of Grey's Anatomy have bought into this young, hip paradigm especially, so tapping Bittersweet is a signal that someone, somewhere in the monolith thinks the duo is ripe for a rise amongst 18- to 24-year-olds. Nip/Tuck, though, which skews older, has probably hit the band's actual demographic more directly. Meticulously presented, knowing, and just a little skeezy, Bittersweet is to Hollywood what Joan Rivers (and to some extent Nip/Tuck itself) is to the cosmetic surgery industry, a reminder of the inevitable corruption and decay of the image-driven. In Hollywood at least, wanton, ironic self-reference is hot right now.





Bittersweet at Big Easy on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 pm. Free, if you go to http://209.161.35.148/mp3s/addspokanelist.aspx.
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