I’m not saying that I’ve been watching too much TV, but I just stared blankly for five minutes thinking “I know I watched two new shows last night, The Agency and… and… and…”
The “and…” was INSIDE SCHWARTZ, which is situated in the deadly 8:30 Thursday NBC slot. When you get that slot, you know you’re going to get the highest ratings of any show cancelled that year. Being sandwiched between Friends and Will & Grace is such a gimmie, ratingswise, but they never quite find the show that will actually bring in viewers who weren’t watching those other two shows. That timeslot is cursed. Excuse me, that timeslot is the weber show.
This new show is about a would-be sportscaster who obsesses over his old girlfriend. Now think about the way an overexcited color man talks (note to those who don’t watch sports: no, I’m not talking about a colored man.) Now imagine hanging around for a half hour with someone who talks in that overstressed tone the whole time. Get to be annoying? I think so.
The gimmick of this show is that Schwartz’s interior monolog is all done as sports metaphor, with famed sportscasters commenting on his life, referees and fames sportsfolk showing up to comment on what’s going on. This didn’t get old as quickly as I thought it would, simply because they used it a little less than I thought… but I will be shocked if this gimmick is still in the show in 13 weeks. It’s an even bet whether the show itself will be around that long.
I expect this show will get a few complaints from Jewish groups. Schwartz is Jewish, but the real point of complaint would be (SPOILERS AHEAD! FEEL FREE TO SKIP IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE EPISODE AND ARE WAITING TO WATCH YOUR TAPE OF IT) the lead character’s dad, who is presumably Jewish, is horribly enthusiastic about ham (a no-no in traditional Judaism) and who hires a prostitute for his son. I wasn’t offended, but the awkwardness of the ham part really got to me. The prostitution part reminds me how my maternal grandfather responded to my mother’s announcement that she was marrying a Jewish boy by saying “you know it’s the Jews who keep the hookers in business, right?”
I’m not a sports fan, by and large. In the typical year, I watch one televised football game and maybe 4 stock car races, and go to one live sporting event. But I’m not inherently against sports-related fiction — certainly, the average baseball movie is better than the average baseball game, and I was a big fan of Sports Night. I was rarely lost by the sports references (there’s one baseball player who I was unfamiliar with), but I wasn’t amused by them either. There is some talent among the cast members, but I’ll be glad when The Tick starts up and gives me something to watch at 8:30 on Thursdays.
THE AGENCY is about the CIA. Automatically, that sounds problematic, since you can’t really do a CIA show without taking some sort of stand on their morality. The stance here seems to be “old CIA bad, current CIA good”, although in this episode it’s really just doing whatever they are told by those higher up. Despite a good cast (this is a good year for people I like getting work — this cast include Rocky Carroll and David Clennon) this was not a show I was looking forward to, nor did it win me over. The central flaw is that it was about the agency, rather than the people who work there. While there were attempts made to build human interest around the people, it still felt more like a tale of a bureaucracy. Not a thrill. And the convolutions of espionage and international relations make it hard to root for anything in the show.