Commander in Chick? I'd rather see Commander in Chimp!

The central dilemma of Commander in Chief is that a female vice president, who the president didn’t actually want to see succeed him, who many people feel should have stepped down because her independent views do not match the Republican views of the elected president, is going to have to provide ethical leadership despite efforts to bring her down.

There’s a couple problems with this premise. One is that all of the dilemma about not representing what the people voted for is easily closed down by a simple political argument, buttressed with information from the pilot: the people voted for the ticket. She was brought on board to make the ticket more centrist, and the president was losing the election without her. So by her taking the role of president, the public gets what it voted for.

The second problem is far worse. While she is being depicted as an independent, centrist alternative to the evil Republican Speaker of the House waiting in the wings (and the series does hold policy attacks on Republicans; the attacks on Democrats are on personal style), she proves herself to be horribly unethical by her very first action as a president. She threatens a violent incursion against a foreign power (and ends up with a non-violent incursion) because she disagrees with the reason and method of a single execution that is taking place there under the law. You know all that grief that George Bush is getting for invading a sovereign nation which had previously done war with the US, after aligning international backing (weak though it may have been), with the supposed justification of WMDs and thousands of killings by the government without due process? Well, take away the thousands, the history of conflict, the international support, the supposed WMDs, and the lack of due process, and think how much ethical support exists for this incursion. Particularly considering that the US has capital punishment itself. If she needs to invade some place over executions, perhaps she should start with Texas.

A good cast (Geena Davis, who I’ve liked, well, ever since I saw her in her bra and panties in Tootsie; Kyle Secor, of Homicide and Veronica Mars, and Donald Sutherland, who I prefer to remember as the guy from Animal House rather than the person who caused Joss Whedon spilkis during the original Buffy movie), but it’s hard to take most of the dramatic conflict seriously. This is not a series begging for me to watch it.

Published in: on September 28, 2005 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just in case

So yes, stuck carrying around li’l baby girl, I did pop in the tape I had of the second episode of Head Cases.

And as bad as I found this season’s other TV series about a blond-haired lawyer who has fallen from grace and a dark-haired lawyer who still had much to learn who get together to form a two-lawyer practice in a hip Southern California seaside community, I cannot say that that series deserves cancellation any more (or less) than this one.

(And my goodness, I know that TV law will never be real, as that would be too boring… but at least assume that your viewer has watched other TV shows and know that you cannot introduce surprise evidence and that you don’t bring witnesses to the stand after you’ve started your closing argument…)

Published in: on September 28, 2005 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Development developments

SPOILER WARNING for those not yet up on season three of Arrested Development.Well, this week’s AD was kind of weak, and there were some scary developments for us hardcore fans. It had a real “next episode” closer, for heaven’s sake; that felt like a violation. And yet, the AD-nature of casting Scott Baio as the new lawyer to replace Henry Winkler (written out because of his role on another series) didn’t strike me until this morning. They’re replacing Fonzie with his assistant/apprentice/hanger-on Chachi!

Published in: on September 27, 2005 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Invasion of the Blowhard

Glowy things from under the sea take advantage of (or create) a hurricane in order to insinuate themselves into humans, causing problems for the extended family of a local lawman. All of which is smoothly done, I suppose, except that the weird things are more described as weird than actually seeming interestingly weird.

Smoothly made, I suppose, but for all the inhumans, hurricanes, conspiracies, and so forth, I never found myself caring.

This one comes from Shaun Cassidy, former star of The Hardy Boys and creator of the cult flop American Gothic… which I don’t have particularly good memories (in either the sense of “positive memories” or of “clear memories”) of.

Published in: on September 26, 2005 at 10:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Let the death derby begin

Well, I messed up taping the first episode of Head Cases. The second episode is sitting on a videotape upstairs, waiting to be viewed. But it seems kind of pointless now… this poorly-reviewed show is the first one of the new season to get the ax. No more episodes are scheduled to air.

Published in: on September 24, 2005 at 11:53 pm  Comments (11)  

At least they didn't call it "Unbearable"

Combinations and permutations. That’s what a lot of serial fiction is about. A comedy with romantic themes will eventually pair up any pair of characters that make at least minimal sense (as the Saturday Night Live parody Friends ad for the Ross/Monica coupling pointed out). Court dramas tend to have a few elements that make up all the cases, mix and mach. The broader the topic, the larger the set of elements that can be mixed before they start repeating themselves.

Inconceivable is a drama set in a fertility clinic. Sperm donors, surrogates, stored egg and sperm, complex couples… any competent writer could quickly make a list of complexities that can arise (implanting the incorrect egg or fertilizing with the wrong sperm, surrogate carrying wrong kid, surrogate wants to keep the baby, sperm donor wants involvement, woman carries triplets but wants to abort two, father dies before birth, giving birth will kill mother, yadda yadda yadda.) Running through a couple of these a week, however, there are only so many they can go through before being thematically repetitive. And a lot of these are things that much of the audience will be sensitive to. People are sensitive when babies are at risk. I suspect that this show will be uninteresting to the youngest set and too painful to many in the older sets to be a big success.

And the pilot was not that compelling. Characters had convenient stupidity (often about their own emotions) to drive their stories forward. Alfre Woodard shows up in the cast, but she’ll only be there through episode 2. Unsuprising, since she was established on Desperate Housewives at the end of last season, and that’s far more likely to see it through to the end of he season than this lackluster show is.

Published in: on September 24, 2005 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quickly giving up the ghost

Ghost Whisperer is a fairly doofy drama about a gal who can see ghosts, and helps them take care of their business on earth so that they can head off into the light. It’s a reverse Saved by an Angel, with the human there to serve the needs of the supernatural. “But at least,” I was telling myself, “it’s not Medium. At least they’re treating it as a work of fiction rather than passing it off as real like that series, which serves to encourage the delusional to waste valuable police time and gives additional resource to scamsters who are exploiting people already in dire circumstance.

Then I stopped by the CBS webpage for Ghost Whisperer and saw them promoting James van Praagh, a heinous and disgusting fraud who profits from deceiving people into believing he talks to the great beyond. These sort of people are damaging conmen, preying on the weak.

Shame on CBS.

Published in: on September 24, 2005 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Criminals mind, and you should too!

There is a trend on TV toward the gruesome, the nasty, the cruel and sadistic. The villains on the procedurals seem to be ever more not just murderers, but serial killers and torturers. Scenes of bloody attack and cruel treatment are common. It may be a raising of the stakes, but it doesn’t raise the interest, and it can make viewing things an unpleasant experience. There are some things that Mrs. Nat’s TV simply chooses not to view.

Criminal Minds is designed to fit into that category. Federal agents specializing in psychological profiling of roaming serial nasties bop around and figure out what the criminals are like, and thus find them.

It has a couple of good folks in the cast. Mandy Patinkin, who played the damaged-but-brilliant-at-his-job doctor on Chicago Hope, plays a damaged-but-brilliant-at-his-job agent. Thomas Gibson, who showed a joyful bouncy light beneath an officious facade in Dharma and Greg, gets to show an officious facade here.

As with most technical specialty procedurals done these days, the abilities shown here seem to go several steps beyond likely reality, and the logic takes a leap. (There is one scene here where they reckon someone’s been playing Go against himself, obvious because the Go board is on a lazy susan. Which might make sense, if Go was a game where there were sides and directions, like chess. However, it’s not. The reasons one might have a lazy susan for solo play – to be able to consider problems from different directions – apply equally as well for two people playing against each other.)

Overall, yet another procedural to generic effect. Plus a layer of gruesomeness, if you like that. Me, I think I’ll skip it. (And hope that Gibson lands back in sitcoms again.)

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Busy lovin'

Love, Inc. is a sitcom built around an agency that supplies assistance and wingwomen for thse seeking romance. Of course, the women who work at this agency all have problems with their own relationships. The lovely Holly Robinson-Peete (of 21 Jump Street and several sitcoms since) is the head of the group, and her marriage is dissolving. There’s a latina who is annoyingly desperate for any US citizen to marry to get her green card (because it’s soooo hard for a pretty woman to find a guy willing to play house for a couple years). And Busy Philips shows a very different color than she did in Freaks and Geeks, playing the woman who can expertly set up a relationship for anyone but herself.

This has some blatant “generic workplace sitcom” elements…. the supporting folks whose quirks are supposed to be funny but are just limiting and annoying. It does have some usabe structure to it. Much of this will ride on the quality of the cast. Holly is pretty much a straight gal here, and she can do that smoothly, so that leaves Busy as the real swing for it.

And I have a hard time judging her right off. I was so fascinated in watching the way that this did and did not reflect her earlier work that I never settled into it and just watched her as a character. My instinct is that this series will largely be generic filler, fitting in more with things like Eve and Cuts that follow it rather than the more unique stylings of its lead in, Everybody Hates Chris.

And I don’t need generic on my schedule.

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Not hate, but not utter love either

One of the biggest buzz shows for the new season is Everybody Hates Chris, Chris Rock narrating a fictionalization of his own childhood. And I can see why. It’s slickly produced, well acted, honest, and verging on touching.

But judging from the first episode, it’s also obvious, predictable, and not that funny.

It could become funny. It could build its rhythms that the viewer will invest in.

Young Chris is the eldest of three offspring of a loving-but-harsh mother and a loving-but-befuddled dad. He is bussing out of the generally dangerous Bed-Stuy to a common high-school danger-level high school a few neighborhoods over, where as the sole black face in the sea of white, he is the obvious target for what dangers exist. Being responsible for siblings he cannot control and dealing with the normal struggles of sliding into the teenage years, yes, yes, it’s all well and good. Heck, I can care about this character.

But it’s not dramatic enough to carry just on that. And this oen, anyway, was not funny enough to make it great. Watchable, yes, but I actually got more laughs out of each half hour of tonight’s season opener of Joey, a notoriously disappointing show.

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 12:48 am  Comments (1)  
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