Plane Ketchup: Memphis Blues

What’s with the near simultaneous emergence of two cop shows with Blue in the title. Did someone do the research to discover that Blue is the word most linked with successful cop shows, given the success of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue… heck, even Pacific Blue lasted five seasons. (Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any Blue cop show failures, although the same does not hold true for non-cop Blue – Bay City Blues, anyone?)

Memphis Blues launched on TNT the day after they aired the final episode of Saving Grace, and it seems designed to fill its space in more ways than one. It’s a southern city-based cop show with a very similar visual texture and much the same sense of the ribald camaraderie among police officers, plus the same sense of being invested in the local community. It is lacking, of course, the most powerful attraction of Saving Grace; I quite enjoy Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard, but really, can that beat nekkid Holly Hunter?

The show tries to set up Lee’s character as a cop with a holistic view on life, able to sing Elvis, to get information out of a little girl by playing dolls with her, to do what it takes to work out what needs working out. But the things that are supposed to seem quirky and interesting seem more uncomfortable, There are are some bad production choices, like running a soundtrack over a dramatic scene with Woodard, where the music does not match well with the talented rhythms.  It’s not enough to make me run screaming, but I certainly don’t feel like I gotta see more of this.

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scoundrels

Scoundrels is an hourlong comedic drama about a family of crooks, whose lives of crime kind of, sort of, almost owrk, but not quite.

I don’t feel passionate enough about this in one direction or another to write a fuller review. The lovable rogues aren’t that lovable, the plot complications don’t make sense, the cops and other criminals don’t act quite like human beings but merely like characters of conveience for whatever the writers think they’re doing. Skippable, and I expect I’ll continue doing so.

Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 6:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Time does not ruin all things

I was just Netflix-on-demanding an episode of Kate & Allie in which Kate helps out at a public access cable channel staffed by Andrea Martin (an obvious choice, given her SCTV background), Bill Cobbs, and Grant Shaud. It looked like it might be a backdoor pilot… and you know, if now, a mere 24 years later, some ABC exec finally got around to saying “yes”, it would probably still be a very workable concept with that fine cast.

Published in: on June 23, 2010 at 5:25 am  Comments (3)  

Don’t cross this Rubicon, because they don’t double-cross

Rubicon, the new AMC series just previewed, is a well cast, well photographed series that seems to be trying to tap into a whole Davinci Code vibe, with some mysterious forces encoding mysterious information in pointlessly mysterious ways, considering all the way there are to convey information these days. It’s a Big Mystery series, full of all these little clues, demanding attention to detail.
Which is a problem, because… well, the crossword puzzles. There are datapoints being hidden in crossword puzzles of the major newspapers. And we see the crossword puzzles. And they aren’t… they don’t look like any crossword puzzle that you’d find in a major US newspaper. They aren’t symmetrical, and more importantly, they have words that are in an across word, but not a down one. And no, these aren’t the British style puzzles, either.neither in format nor clues. They’re just… wrong. And by golly, this isn’t just in the text of the episode, there’s even a stylized graphic one shown in the opening credits. (And really, a proper-looking crossword puzzle is not hard to slam together, particularly since you don’t need to show all the clues and have something that works in full detail. You just need a good-looking grid with the right number of squares for whatever clue you’re hiding there. But even if you need a full puzzle with a certain word hidden in it, that can be put together quite quickly, in a few hours even with clues, really, if you’re not worried about what level of difficulty the clues are.
So what we have here is a series that asks you to pay attention, but then shows you that they haven’t bothered doing so themselves.
Skip it

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 6:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Hot in Cleveland

Ever go back to watch the first episode of a sitcom, and discover that the characters there seem more like fully-rounded human characters rather than sitcom beasts, because the writers had not yet discovered the three tics apiece that they were going to build the characters around? Well, I’m hoping for the opposite to happen with Hot in Cleveland, TV Land’s entry into the original sitcom world. There are some things in the show that make me really want to like it, but the pilot (which can be viewed online here through July 10th) is so much about The Primary Tics That Define Our Characters that they have no room to be human, yet.

The concept behind the show is at least somewhat awkward; it’s about how three past-their-prime gals from LA accidentally find themselves in Cleveland, only to discover that they shine in the city’s lesser standard of beauty. This is, of course, insulting to both cities, to women, and to men, but we’ll let that go as a sitcom setup (I’d be shocked if this concept wasn’t originally sold as “the Sex And The City gals meet The Drew Carey Show“). But once you get past that, you have something workable – three women out of their element who find the difference advantageous. Things can be done here.

But what really makes me want to like this is the cast. Central is Valerie Bertinelli, and I’ll admit that my affection for her owes as much to her being a key early TV crush thirty-mumble years ago as it does to her comedic talents. She is cast as a writer. Wendie Malick (whose early appearances on Kate & Allie I’ve been watching lately – they weren’t using her as a funny person, which was necessary for her role but seems a shame based on her later achievements) is a diva from a recently-cancelled soap opera who lives within the fading echoes of her own fame… in other words, a character not that removed from the aging supermodel that made her the comedic standout on Just Shoot Me. Jane Leeves, who has pleased me since she played Blue on the syndicated sitcom Throb (from that interesting period when they were doing syndicated original sitcoms) is a salon owner… and in Cleveland, they meet up with the caretaker of their new house, played by Betty White (who my love for arises mostly from Sue Ann Niven on Mary Tyler Moore and from The Betty White Show; she did a fine job on Golden Girls, of course, but that show doesn’t have the place in my heart that it does for others.)

Actually, come to think of it, Golden Girls is an interesting show to mention here, as it was at heart about three women peers facing the same challenge (in that case, aging) from different perspective together, with one older truth-talker added in. Hot in Cleveland can be described similarly, only the challenge is the sudden relief from aging, or at least the judgment thereof; that is obviously a narrower and less universal topic, but angled right, there may be much comedy to explore. The pilot of the show isn’t up to it; it looks at times like a scratch pilot, like something where little money was risked on the production, that it was just something filmed to give executives enough information to decide whether to spend money on actual episodes. (Much of that effect comes from the camera work and editing; I’m not an expert TV maker who can tell you why the moment-to-moment cuts seemed awkward and jarring, but I’m enough of a TV watcher to tell you that they were.) And the actresses had not yet built any chemistry together, nor was there a sense of particular character relationships; the characters are defined by who they are, not yet by how they react to each other.  So there is plenty of need for growth, but there is clear room for that growth; this is not a good sitcom yet, being very obvious, but it is not a sitcom that cannot be made good. There is reason for hope. And the joy of the summer doldrums is that there is no reason for me to abandon it immediately.

One note for the attentive: the director of the pilot was Michael Lembeck, who has quite a respectable history as a sitcom director and some record in features – the recent Tooth Fairy being his latest – but who TV viewers really got to know when he was playing Max, Valerie Bertinelli’s brother-in-law on One Day at a Time (a pleasant performance). I hope they liked working together again!

So I have some hope

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upcoming documentary

I’m not sure why to major cable channels would pick a minor blog like mine to make such a significant announcement, but I certainly won’t stand in their way!

The Great White Reich

Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

The one with too much rice

I had too much ground turkey in the freezer, so I let one 20-ounce package defrost for a few days. It’d been too long since I did a meatloaf anyway (except for a store-bought -pre-mixed together salty bit of ho-hum I did a month or so back.)

This one:

  • The ground turkey
  • Leftover rice, which didn’t look like much but really overwhelmed the small amount of meat.
  • Some Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal
  • Two eggs
  • Raisins
  • Left over salse from the Mexican deli where we’d gotten authentic tacos a week or earlier
  • Sweet and sour sauce left over from some Trader Joe’s tempura chicken we’d had the night before, poured over the top.

The result? lackluster. A surprisingly white loaf with a vague spice heat and vague sweetness but neither winning or making an impression. Excessive rice. Food, okay food, but certainly not good food.

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  

1) Why, dear lord, why? 2) Really, why?…

You know how friends was about a somewhat charming bunch of friends who lived nearby and generally found excusable reasons to be in each other’s apartments at various times, in ways that flowed really well if one accepted them as a tight-knit community?

Well, the new dumped-during-the-summer-months sitcom 100 Questions is like that, if one removes establishing who the characters are and why they are together in general and why they are all crowded onto a small set at a specific instant and just have it be a bunch of good-looking but not particularly likable people inhabiting a set, reusing comedy rhythms we’ve seen too many times before. It seems like the sort of thing that a good director like James Burrows might iron out the kinks of, and by golly they had James Burrows for a pilot but after he shot it they decided to strip out half the cast and try again, so his touch is gone and this thing is just a mess.

The central conceit of this is that our meant-to-be-beautiful-but-made-up-to-the-point-of-awkwardness lead female is answering a series of question for a dating service interview, and each question turns out to call for an episode-long flashback answer… thus giving it a framework much akin to, say, How I Met Your Mother only that it’s a series of individual stories being told rather than pieces of a bigger one, so the structure just seems repetitive. Perhaps if in the framing scenes, our lead lady was played by Bob Saget, that would make all the difference.

I’m trying to watch a second episode of this, to be fair… but it’s too much like work to do so, which is not fair for me. I’m scratching the rest of this off of the DVR right now.

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 5:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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