Common Wisdom

life as we know it is a teen drama focusing on a set of three teen male stereotypes. If you were to ask people for one-sentence descriptions of teen males, they would all apply to these characters… and if you came up with anything of a bit more depth as a descriptor of a human character, you will not find it here. Teen boys want sex and are cruppled by peer pressure. Those of you who heard that some of the Freaks & Geeks folks were behind this and were expecting something of similar quality are apt to be sadly disappointed.

Published in: on October 9, 2004 at 1:13 pm  Comments Off  

Beyond legal bounds

The problem with many shows is that they quickly run through all the reasonable dramatic situations, and are soon going for the over-the-top and ridiculous. For the new show Boston Legal, the opposite is apt to happen; they are likely to go through all of their over-the-top fun storylines that they have to repeat themselves or turning boring. And since they’re not being meaningful or insightful, boring would be more of a kiss of death than normal.

Boston Legal is barely a new series. It is to The Practice what Mayberry RFD was to The Andy Griffith Show, continuing on with characers that had accumulated on the earlier show.

And yet, it is quite the opposite of what The Practice originally was. That show, as with most lawyer shows, was about the good lawyers who might sometimes cut corners, but they are always doing The Right Thing against the sleazy lawyers they oppose. In this new show, our protagonists are those sleazy lawyers, blackmailing clients and giving them bad advice so that they don’t get into trouble for sleeping with the client’s spouse.

I never watched the last days of The Practice, so I had not seen the performances that James Spader and William Shatner had been getting such attention for. The attention is justified; both characters, while quirky, seem fully informed and quite watchable.

The place where it goes wrong is when it tries to be more of an ethical lawyer show. That ends up feeling like filler. And this is one of the rare cases on television where the camerawork style is aggressively bad and annoying. But this series is worth a peek at least for the two stars (and the guest stars on the first episode were of surprising quality; that may have been just a first-episode stunt). We’ll see how long they can keep the steam up.

Published in: on October 4, 2004 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dangerous Housewives

There’s a problem with Desperate Housewives.
Oh, it’s not a problem of quality. This is pretty well done — the tale of four lovely women whose lives are in desperate straits (divorced, impending divorce, overwhelming motherhood, and in the midst of a heated affair) is total with humor, speed, and enough over-the-topness to give the humanity of the characters sharp contrast. Narrated by a suicide victim friend of the group, the characters are enthralling (and even endearing; the relationship between the divorced Teri Hatcher and her teenage daughter, who aids and abets Teri’s plans to snag a man, is particularly pleasing.) This is fun, frentic, human, and quite watchable.
The problem? It’s been scheduled against the other notable, narrated, frentic, human fun show on the schedule, Arrested Development. The shows are not the same, but they differ from other show in much the same ways, and they are likely to be attractive to much the same audience. With Arrested Development struggling in the ratings, this could harm the better show…
But hey, the first new episode of AD is still a month away. Take the time now to get friendly with this new show, then learn to work your VCR, your TiVo, your ReplayTV, or whatever.

Published in: on October 4, 2004 at 10:33 pm  Comments Off  

Middle of the Hill

Kevin Hill is an amiable show about a lawyer who moves himself from a high-pressure law firm to a more understanding female-centered place when he is saddled with single fatherhood. THe pilot suggests that this is light-hearted show focused more on the human interest tale than on the lawyering. more Ally McBeal than some heavy legal show…. although not as goofy or fun as early Ally. Not painful to watch, nor particularly compelling. It does get points for having a black lead in a role that does not specifically have to be black, but that’s a point of social justice, not of show quality. It’s certainly not good enough to have gotten recorded twice instead of my recording the second episode of Veronica Mars, but it seems that this is what I have accidentally done. Sigh.

Published in: on October 3, 2004 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Complete Savages, Volume 1

Last night, I watched Complete Savages, Mel Gibson’s sequel to his popular film The Passion of the Christ. As with almost any sequel, the success at the end of the prior film has to be shown to be temporary. In this case, the grace that was earned through the death of the Christ (note: hardcore adherents insist on the "the", much akin to fans of "the Bat-man") has gone to waste. A group of males, a father with several sons, live together without the aid of a woman, and they digress to levels of filth and sin, breaking several of the commandments. Clearly, the love of the Christ has not elevated them; perhaps they can learn to love each other?

Perhaps. But if they want to make it funny, they have to turn down the laugh track. Now, I’m not like some people with laugh tracks — I don’t assume that a laugh track is faked when even the bad gags get laughed at. I’ve been in the audience for these things, and the audience laughs at almost everything. You’re in a good mood, being entertained in a group, and besides, you want to give the show what it needs to succeed. However, they do have the option of turning up or turning down the laugh mix into the show. The constant, loud interruptions of laughter kills any momentum that the comedy delivery might have here. Not that it appears to be a brilliant show underneath, but it’s hard to embrace even what might be funny in it with that constant interruption.

Published in: on October 3, 2004 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Daily Knowledge Download

I know I’ve talked before about how insightful The Daily Show is, how it cuts to the truth better than serious news and analysis shows.

Now it turns out that it is demonstratably informative as well.

It’s the smartest TV going, folks.

Published in: on October 1, 2004 at 1:12 am  Leave a Comment  

The hottest dance music is at Club House!

The thrills and chills of being the guy who gets bats for baseball players is the source of the new lightweight drama Clubhouse. A series of carefully manufactured conflicts lead conveniently inconsistent characters into obvious moral conflicts. At least for me, it doesn’t work on a personal fantasy level, and it’s far too stiff to be involving as a drama.
The shame of it is that the show uses the talented Christopher Lloyd and the amiable Dean Cain in roles they wear easily, Lloyd as the equipment manager and Cain as a ballplayer.

Published in: on October 1, 2004 at 12:57 am  Comments Off  
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