Mayweather Syndrome is a debilitating condition that results in audience apathy. Onset of symptoms occurs whenever Travis Mayweather opens his mouth. Shortly thereafter, the cancer of his atrocious acting metastasizes to the other cast members, eventually killing the appeal of the show.
There is no known cure for Mayweather Syndrome.
Like Star Trek, Enterprise is an attempted prequel to the Star Trek franchise, though much less well-known and much less interesting. It aired circa 2004, not that you’d know that, or particularly care.
When nervestaple first introduced me to this show a few weeks back, he said it was terrible but he watched it anyway. Referring to the theme song, he said, “I can see where they were trying to go with this.” No comment better sums up Enterprise. The pacing moves at Impulse. Judging by the slack-jawed boredom some episodes inspire, they seem to be set to Stun. Some patches of good (and occasionally better-than-good) writing, acting, and directing exist, but the overall product is disappointingly inconsistent.
The second thing nervestaple did was point to Scott Bakula and said, “And this guy is the worst. The. Worst.” I don’t really think that’s fair. In my opinion, Bakula does kinda alright, especially when his character is lying. And calling someone “the worst”, when they’re standing next to Anthony Montgomery, is a serious accusation.
Anthony Montgomery is the worst.
In a series with horrible cold-opens, phoned-in premises, and a phenomenally-misguided theme song that sounds like it’s going to segue into “Proud to Be an American”, Montgomery nonetheless stands out as the most abominable thing (dis)gracing the screen. I have noticed that you can replace all his lines with “Hurf dee durf” and achieve the exact same effect. It’s a shame I never wrote for Enterprise, because I actually would have written him those lines to see if anybody noticed the difference.
Montgomery plays Travis Mayweather. Normally, at this stage in the review, I’d describe his character, but he doesn’t have one, because he hurf-dee-durfs all over the place until the audience hates everything he does.
The first episode I saw was in the second season, by which point the writers had accustomed themselves to Montgomery’s strengths (sitting) and weaknesses (everything else), giving him only the lines he could deliver convincingly (none). He would occasionally walk on, say, “Hey, Captain, look at this!” or, “Captain, I have discovered something else relevant to the plot!” and then he’d disappear. After the pilot and early episodes, the writers clearly realized Montgomery couldn’t convey any emotion but “Blah blah blah.” That basically leaves him with such pivotal lines as, “Captain, I think something’s about to happen,” and “Hurf dee durf.”
Whenever a character serves as an interface between the characters and the plot, something is wrong. When Battlestar Galactica had this problem with Gaeta, they solved it by giving him more characterization, and by the end he was one of my favorite characters on that show. But Montgomery responds to additional characterization the same way he responds to, well, anything else: by bugging his eyes out, smiling, and hurfing-dee-durfing away. At some point, the writers gave up.
If I were Scott Bakula, this is how I’d talk to Montgomery off-camera.
Montgomery: So, Mr. Bakula…
Bakula: My friends call me Scott.
Montgomery: So, Scott–
Bakula: And you can call me Mr. Bakula.
Montgomery: So, Mr. Bakula… I was wondering if you could, you know, use your considerable influence to help me get more acting work. For some reason, my résumé is as lifeless as my Play Dead plot threads and my vacant stares.
Bakula: Say, I need to go get my coffee. It’s boiling.
Montgomery: Hurf dee durf?
Bakula: My coffee. It’s boiling.
Montgomery: I didn’t think coffee was supposed to be boiled.
Bakula: Exactly why I need to go get it. Talk to you later.
The worst thing about Travis is that the other characters aren’t allowed to pretend he doesn’t exist. I imagine a conversation between Scott Bakula and a guest star going like this:
Guest star: “I shall punish thee for thine insolence!”
Bakula: Whoa, whoa, hold on now. Let me talk to you over here a minute.
They walk off the set.
Guest star: What is it? They’re waiting for us back there.
Bakula: I don’t like the way you’re reading that line.
Guest star: What about it? It says I look at Travis, and say, “I shall punish thee for thine insolence!” Then I slash him, wounding him harshly but not lethally.
Bakula: Yeah, the script says that, but if you could just skip ahead to the slashing, that would be great. If you read a line at him, he thinks he gets to read his line after it. Don’t… don’t encourage him.
Guest star: But if I skip ahead, that would remove every point to him being on the set at all!
Bakula: There already is no point for him being on the set. Contracts obligate us to put up with him. But we’re not obligated to like the bastard.
Guest star: I think I understand.
Bakula: Also, if you could try to actually kill him, that would be cool too.
I fundamentally don’t understand how someone this bad even gets called back, let alone cast. He shouldn’t even be cast in community theater. I mean no slight against community theater, actually, as a local actor myself. I just mean I don’t want to see him in anything.
Because, when an actor sucks, it hurts everyone. It’s painful for him, painful for his scene partners, painful for an audience that only wants him to succeed–and he’s working so hard! All this, only to see him fail and fail again at displaying the most basic traces of human emotion. So when I say I don’t want him even in community theater, I mean that for everyone’s sake.
I get–and sympathize with–the need for the token black guy. Enterprise is set in a post-racial future, and you need to cast a relatively diverse group of people. It would be impossible to justify not doing that. But there have to be many much-more-talented African-American actors out there. I mean, I personally know several. Jesus Christ. Even this cynical explanation fails to convince me that there was actually any reason–misguided or no–to cast the sonuvabitch.
And here’s a conversation between Montgomery and me.
Montgomery: So, I have no career anymore, and I was wondering if I could audition for your community theater play.
Montgomery: Hurf dee durf.
So it’s clear that behind-the-scenes sex/contracts/sex contracts got Montgomery the part. Clearly frustrated at not being allowed to kill the character, the writers give him “oops, you nearly died” plots frequently. Perhaps this is because he can play an uninteresting body on a slab convincingly. Perhaps they just wanted to see the fucker die. The bottom line: he can play dead, but not much else.
While this strategic writing decision at first seems wise, it forces the other actors into painful situations, giving them the unenviable task of pretending they’d mourn if he died. No actor on the show is good enough to pull that off. Even worse is when they cry over his comatose body, talking about the things the character supposedly did back when he was still walking and talking, and refer to him as if he had aspects of a personality. “I remember his practical jokes!” Really? Cause I just remember him being a bug-eyed lump of clay. And the audience is forced to play along with this farce, and pretend like he really does have a personality.
This is how I envision a conversation between Montgomery and one of the Trek franchise’s competitors–say, George Lucas. This conversation would be framed by Lucas’s desire to make Trek worse to distract people away from the fact that Lucas, too, is peddling crap that’s derivative of his once-good material. It is my firm belief that this conversation happened.
Lucas: So, I need you to throw the show.
Montgomery: I didn’t think television shows were like sports games, that you could deliberately throw.
Lucas: Yes, but here’s a nice, shiny object.
Montgomery: Hurf dee durf.