Brown's 'Medusa' dares to poke fun

TELEVISION

November 30, 1991|By STEVE McKERROW

You'll laugh, you'll sing along and you'll probably be grossed out more than once -- which is the way lots of people react to Madonna. So why shouldn't a parody of the pop queen be the same, only more so?

MTV's Julie Brown is the perpetrator of "Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful," a sometimes savage satire of the Madonna-on-tour film "Truth or Dare," premiering at 10 p.m. tomorrow on the Showtime premium cable network (with repeats Dec. 5, 13, 18 and 31).

Visually, Brown is sometimes dead on the mark, down to Madonna's right-cheek mole and her overly made-up eyes. And in one hilarious song number, "Like a Video," she and her male co-dancers are all wearing artillery shell brassieres.

"I should be happy," pouts Ms. Brown into the camera early on, complaining, "I'm still a frightened little girl in a rainstorm . . . it's so hard to be me."

But at other times, she's threatening to fire everybody in sight -- including her manager when a concert in the Philippines is disrupted by an erupting volcano, which showers the stage with ash.

Real footage of a volcano -- perhaps this year's destructive blowup of Mount Pinatubo -- forms a clever backdrop to some audience shots.

"You should have done a volcano check," shrieks Medusa/Brown backstage afterward. Her sycophantic crew (which includes Chris Elliot as stage manager and a couple other recognizable stand-up comics) placates her with outrageous flattery. (Bob Goldthwait, Carol Leifer, Wink Martindale and MTV's Tom Kenney are among cameo performers.)

The real Madonna may actually be among the canniest of people in show business. But Ms. Brown's Medusa is portrayed as thoroughly dim -- such as when she introduces her tour by saying "we opened in Asia, a foreign country" -- and shallow -- as when she's rehearsing for a tryout in "Romeo & Juliet" and can't understand why Juliet wouldn't just "get a new boyfriend" after Romeo's death.

Viewers should know, however, that while the real Madonna is often raunchy and/or vulgar (depending on your sensitivity), Ms. Brown's take is at times downright coarse. In fact, a couple scenes (difficult to describe in a family newspaper) detract from the generally incisive level of satire.

It's adolescent, smirky humor that would have been best left undone.

Still, as Ms. Brown showed a few years ago with her parodic video "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," the "Medusa" special emphasizes that the forms and figures of pop culture are rich, rich targets for lampooning.

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