Catching up

Yes, yes, I’ve been falling well behind in reviewing new shows. Missed some pilots. Life is full, mostly in good ways.

  • Century City is a basic law drama set in the future, with lawyers facing the complexities of life brought on by new technology. Judging from the first episode, they seem to have let these complexities keep them from remembering the law. In the pilot, a man’s drink was spiked with nanodevices that would transmit to the spiker the feelings when the spikee made love to his lady. The pilpul of the episode was over whether they could charge the spiker with rape, or whether he’d get away scott-free. But until the claim came up that the spikee was voluntarily spiked, no one even thought about charging him with the various offenses involved in spiking a man’s drink with invasive technology. Sigh. Some casting the piece likes me, though, given the ongoing presence of Hector Elizando and the likely-recurring role for Robert Guillaume as a judge.
  • The Stones: years ago, Nick At Nite had a great contest. They were looking for people whose lives were sitcommy; the person whose life made for the best sitcom would get an actual single episode produced about their life. The winner, as I recall, featured a divorced couple who, in their old age, both have to move in with their same offspring – certainly a reasonable sitcom premise. The Stones dances close to that, with Robert Klein and Judith Light playing a recently divorced couple living in close proximity (I missed the exact details, having caught the second episode but not the first.) And in the hands of the able director Jim Brooks, they end up with… not much. Occasional flashes of humor, Klein and Light know their way around the characters, but they’re forced to act like, well, sitcom characters rather than real people to get the friction. They shouldn’t have to. Moments of humor shine through, but not enough.
  • Wonderfalls is a series that I should like, judging from the critical response and associations being made. It falls into the category of supernaturally-delivered-mission-of-the-week shows, in the tradition of Early Edition and Tru Calling and the far superior Joan of Arcadia. In this case, the missions come via talking toy animals, who annoy her and give her goals in obscure ways that only make sense once the goal is achieved. The animal concept is cute and works, but the agent they are sending on missions is an annoying slacker who may be amusing herself, but is largely annoying me. “Quirky” seems to be a major goal here, and some of it works, but not all of it. Tim Minear is behind it, and he was one of the key guys on Angel – a show which is only now finally approaching its potential, apparently in his absence. (Most shows give you a final season that make you feel it was time to wrap things up; Angel offers up a final season that makes you wish all of the seasons had been this good.)

Published in: on March 29, 2004 at 8:43 am  Comments Off  

The gal returns

ABC’s website still says that Karen Sisco will return in March.

What it doesn’t say is that it wil return to the airwaves, but not to ABC. USA Network apparently will be airing unaired episodes of the series starting March 31st.

A good show, gone too early, but at least we’ll get those last few.

Published in: on March 29, 2004 at 7:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Beyond Help

Ahh, there are things to be caught up on here. And rather than take the time to do the good reviews that new good things deserve, I’ll catch up slightly by disposing of something that should be disposed of. The Help focuses on the staff of a wealthy family, and is an us-against-them kinda thing where the us is at least as immoral as them. No one to like, no one to root for. Really, it’s an attempt to trot out a supposedly sexy cast in tight outfits, but they are at best a generic sexy and it fails to interest. The comedy is not funny, it desperately tries to be audacious but there;s nothing to support it. Skip this’n.

Published in: on March 17, 2004 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Quick sum up

Busy days, but there have been three new programs launched over the past few days…. I may comment more on these later but:

Cracking Up, a sitcom about a pyschology student who moves in with a family to deal with their crazy kid, only to find that the kid is the sanest one, doe shave some positive attributes and texture. However, the family members are all such cartoons that it was hard to be involved. It’s all played on a very obvious level. There are some talented folks here (and some others), so maybe something will shake out, but it just ain’t quite funny yet.

Game Over also has over-the-top characters, in this case a family of characters who don’t realize they’re each stars of various videogames. He’s a race car driver, she’s a Lara Croft-esque spy, the kids are various things, and while there is a good gag or two along the way, this is quite limited by the way they’re doing the computer animation. Everyone spends their time mugging, as though it’s impressive that they can do that sort of computer animation. Even if it were impressive, it just ain’t funny. (The same concept might have been much funnier… and probably more expensive to film… if it wasn’t a computer animated show.)

(Arrested Development does the crazy family so well that its easy for everything else to pale in comparison. The more you get to know the AD characters, the funnier it all becomes. Smart, smart stuff.)

And there’s a new series on Bravo with a name that eludes me at the moment, about three couples going through therapy, all done in a rapid-cut style. In each case, it’s an annoying man and a woman who suffers through it in some ways. It’s all just annoying. Particularly the character who is supposed to think he’s funny when he’s really being annoying — doesn’t take a genius to figure that the audience might also find the character unfunny and annoying. The ads push this as filling the void left by Sex And The City; it feels more like it fills the void left by the U.S. version of Coupling, and doesn’t even take up all of that slack.

Published in: on March 11, 2004 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Kingdom Hospital

While I’m capable of enjoying a horror tale (and have written a few myself), the haunted house form has rarely really grabbed me. And it was only after watching the first episode of Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital, a haunted hospital series, that I really put any thought into why.

As a general rule, the central antagonist (and often the central character) of a haunted house tale is the house itself. It may be populated with individual spooks, but generally they are mere echoes in the evil nature of the house itself.

And as characters go, a haunted house is simply boring. It may have a history, but its only real character trait is meanness. There’s not much in the way of subtlety or complexity there, because it’s not a human being. It’s a building. And being a hospital doesn’t change that much.

Kingdom Hospital has a story (site of an old mill fire that killed a lot of child laborers), but it’s still just a building. It’s a hospital, although mighty empty for a hospital. King has reworked a European series leaving visible thumbprints of a somewhat clumsy effort. There are nice scenes, nice moments, good acting, but it doesn’t add up to much.

It also hit what is beginning to be a sore spot: the use of psychics in fiction. I know, I know it makes as much sense as using vampires and werewolfs on some level. But the problem is that there are people who proclaim themselves “psychic” in the real world, and while some of these people are merely self-deluded, a large portion of them are scam artists, and often of the most vile sort. They prey on people who are in need, who are desperate. The folks in the “psychic detective” business, for example, prey on victims of recent crime, building false hope and in far too many cases creating wild goose chases for the police at times when they are most needed. Having “psychic” characters who are actually psychic and a force for good seems kind of like having a rapist character whose magical manhood is actually curing the women of fatal diseases they didn’t know they had. It’s putting a friendly facade on something that is in reality quite nasty.

Published in: on March 8, 2004 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Uncle Walter was disappointed

The best comment thus far on the Janet Jackson “event” comes from the estimable Walter Cronkite. "I was really disappointed because I was out making popcorn. I spent a lot of time in the next couple days hoping to see a replay. And then in the replays I didn’t see anything at all of interest."

Published in: on March 3, 2004 at 5:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday bye-bye

NBC has announced that The Apprentice will be the big lead on Thursdays next season.
<p<now, this may seem like a minor note to the casual TV watcher, but the coupling of four sitcoms with a drama has been NBC's structure for Thursdays for decades now. It has frequently gotten them both great ratings and great respect. While it's easy to say that "oh, they're losing Friends, so it has to change”, it should be noted that this all predates Friends. It predates Seinfeld. That Thursday line-up was where America watched The Cosby Show, Night Court, Cheers, Taxi… and a bunch of forgettable filler shows that started at the half-hour mark.

Thursday used to be my big night at home. Get a large pizza, and watch NBC from the start of the first sitcom until the credits rolled on Hill Street Blues.

Ah, but nothing is permanent…

Published in: on March 3, 2004 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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