Writing these reviews, there are two kinds of reviews that are both easy and fun to write. One is the review of a great new show, like, say, My Name is Earl. It’s easy because you really don’t have to explain why a good show works, because it works because it works. It’s fun because, if anyone is actually reading these things who isn’t automatically sampling things anyway (and that’s really an open question, I admit), you get to turn them on to something good.
The other is the review of blatant garbage like Teachers, both because there’s a lot of fun verbiage you can use in explaining how a thing is bad, and because there’s nothing like a destructive review to serve as revenge for a bad work having taken precious TV watching minutes away.
But then there are shows like Pepper Dennis, shows that neither make you giddy nor make you say “how on earth was this put on the air”? It’s a reasonably made example of a show that isn’t quite aimed at me.
The show is set in the world of TV news, a realm which has given us good shows in the past, whether the comedic take of Mary Tyler Moore or the dramatic edge of WIOU. Pepper is an intrepid girl reporter, in a world in which those shiny pretty local news reporters are more likely to be uncovering corruption and talking people down from building ledges than to be covering press conferences, visiting the local demonstration, and otherwise doing the lets-cover-the-things-presented-to-us-as-news and the hey-we-listened-to-the-police-band coverage that local TV reporters spend their time doing. No, she’s the TV daughter of Lois Lane and His Girl Friday. Pepper is a have-it-all kind of gal who actaully has it all except a man and the anchor position she wants. When she gives in to her lusts and has a one-night stand, anyone who follows the modern TV cliches knows that the one-night-stand guy will show up the next day as the new guy brought in to fill the position she was aiming for.
But despite that sort of triteness and the over-the-topness, the show has its charm, most of which comes from Rebecca Romijn, playing the title character. Chipper, driven, but emotionally clumsy may be a stock character, but played well, it’s an endearing one. It’s a comedic drama, more Ally McBeal than anything serious, but the situations (the romantic conflict with the new anchor, and the differences with her meeker, milder, yet personally clumsy sister) just aren’t that enthralling to me. All in all, smoothly made, but a little too silly without quite being funny enough for me. But if I’m sitting there and it’s on, hey, no problem.
Not that that’s likely to happen, since it’s up against House, Scrubs, and most importantly, Veronica Mars. And that last points to a rather large dilemma that Pepper Dennis faces. It’s tough enough for a midseason show to make it to the fall schedule… but when your network is about to merge its schedule with another network, so that at least half of the existing shows have to die, squeezing your way in becomes that much harder.