Can a ragingly popular TV series with a genius of a star jump the shark in its sophomore season? Tragic case in point: Orphan Black, a darkly campy rabbit hole featuring Tatiana Maslany as a revolving array of clones. In season one, the brilliance of the show lay not only in Maslany’s interpretation of her characters — an uptight scrapbooker clone, a short-lived Teutonic raver clone — but the show’s awareness of its innate camp factor. Nothing was funnier than watching one clone pretending to be another clone — badly — and the show runners knew it.
But the sophomore season, which concludes June 21, seems to have forgotten itself. Instead of drawing on its strengths, the show has sunk into a quagmire of textbook melodrama: Siobhan, foster mom of reformed drug-runner clone Sarah, is now evil, unless she’s not, unless she totally is. Cosima, the rock-and-roll lesbian scientist clone, is dying, you guys! And somebody kidnapped Kira, Sarah’s dimpled wooden ventriloquist dummy of a daughter. Was it the scheming religious cult, or scheming scientific cult? Do we know? Does it matter?
The obvious conclusion: NEEDS MOAR CLONES. Here are a few suggestions for additional Tatianas that would serve two purposes: (1) Giving Maslany more stuff to do, of course, and (2) providing us with solid conformation that, artistically, at least, the show is beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
The only question remaining: Which of the show’s clones will get the honor of climbing onto a motorcycle and leaping over a killer fish. Will it be…
1. The Glamorous Ex-Supermodel Clone.
Whoever she is, she can’t be a current supermodel. Current supermodels are too busy to fight shadowy cabals, see. No, she must be a former top clotheshorse, preferably one who has graduated from a prestigious modeling school.
Think Julie from Charlie’s Angels, presented in the final season in a failed effort to save the jigglevision franchise. Come to think of it, we have yet to see a redheaded clone on Orphan Black. This could work out well.
2. The Sassy Precocious Junior Clone.
OK, fine: Maslany lacks the necessary baby face to pull of a little sister clone. But that’s what digital effects are for. Bring on the equivalent of l’il pixie Raven-Symone introduced in The Cosby Show’s 6th season, or Alyssa Milano’s little-sister character on Melrose Place, or the flaxen blond Cousin Oliver, recruited by the Brady family in the desperate moments after Cindy’s brain grew a frontal lobe.
Introducing the cousin-Skipper equivalent of Maslany could introduce some fun new teen hijinks, or at least allow Sarah to find a cheap babysitter for Kira.
3. The Clone From a Place You Didn’t Know Existed Until This Episode.
When you’ve run out of clones stemming from the scientists at the Dyad Institute, don’t despair. Just make up another Institute. Call it the Schmyad Institute. Call it Krypton.
The show runners for Lost know this tactic well; just when we were getting sick of Sawyer’s antics in season 2, boom! Meet the tailies! You know, the tailies? The people from that other part of the plane? Well, you know now.
4. The Romantic Replacement Clone.
You can’t not have romance on a show like this. People must love and lose. If Cosima dies, who will enjoy sexy times with her seductive French lab mate?
Well, here’s your answer: Another Cosima who’s not Cosima. We’re talking – if you’ll allow a Cheers reference – Shelley Long redux, by way of Kirstie Alley. The new clone would pretty much be Cosima all over again. But the producers could maybe change her hair color or something. Boom. Done. Onward. Not to be confused with …
5. The Replacement Seductress Clone.
She’s hot, but she’s no good.
Think Tiffani Thiessen, trotted out on season 5 of the original 90210 to get the guys all hot and drugged up and bothered. She’s not there to love you, fool. She’s there to complicate the plot – usually with a mix of strategically placed lingerie scenes; confrontations with the Good Girl over Her Man; and maybe a little Mary Jane – and then move on to another series in need of her scheming ways. We would suggest Michelle Forbes, who so provided this type of service so brilliantly on True Blood a few seasons ago. Except she doesn’t look like Tatiana Maslany.
6. The Fat Clone.
Why do all of the Tatianas have the precise same body type? Is there not one clone who secretly crawls off the reservation to do some 2 a.m. shame eating? Is there not one clone who perhaps has a bit of a problem with stress and the belly-swelling cortisol that comes with it? Or does every clone in Canada happen to adore 2-hour Pilates workouts and brisk, 5-mile runs through the tundra?
We doubt it.
If they put Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit, they can put Tatiana in a fat suit.
7. The Penitent White Gangsta Clone.
When a show like Happy Days starts to feel more like Meh Days, what do you do? You bring in a character who did some barely illegal stuff, but feels real bad about it and just needs a big-sibling figure. Think shoplifting arrests and botched runaway attempts – – stuff that’s naughty, not bad.
The ploy worked for Happy Days, which brought in camera-ready pseudo-deliquents Pinky and Leather Tuscadero in seasons 4 through 6. Not to be confused with …
8. The Perpetually Performance-Ready Musician Clone.
Yes, Leather was always ready to strike up a tune at Big Al’s. So were the various guest stars of Scooby Doo; if there was anything the gang from the Mystery Machine loved, it was solving a crime. And then jamming out to a hep tune from, um, Sonny and Cher.
But think bigger.
Think Johnny Tambourine.
9. The Streetwise Clone from Phluphia.
Full disclosure: I have no decent examples to offer. But is a character with an authentic Philadelphia accent too much to ask for, asks this writer from Philadelphia? One who hasn’t seen a decent representation of a real Phluphian accent on a big or small screen since Rocky? The Silver Linings Playbook took place in Philadelphia and starred an actor from Philadelphia and yet no one sounded like they were from Philadelphia. It’s embarrassing, people.
See the above video for edification.