Comedy Central’s new Cops parody, Reno911! launched this week. We get to see unlikely cops confronting unlikely criminals, and behind the scenes at the police station where all of the tawdry underbelly is revealed, with lust flying every which-a-way. It seems like something that would get tired fast, but frankly, it’s a little tired to begin with. There are a couple good performers in here, but all in all it’s cheap and obvious humor, not surprising enough to be funny nor subtle enough to be witty.
FX’s new series Nip/Tuck is not for the squeamish. It is set in the world of plastic surgery, and “surgery” is the operative term there — people getting cut open and oozing blood shows up here aplenty. However, they let you know what’s going on right up front, with someone’s ass being sliced open for some ass-backward surgery (literally) right in the first few minutes.
The series is focused on a pair of surgeons, one a slick, attractive Goofus and the other a bland, unloved Gallant. The initial story seems to make it clear that being Goofus is the more satisfying of the two, a sadly easy choice for a TV show to make.
This is a drama, although it is not clear totally from the first episode what the drama is going to be. Certainly, there will be family drama, which is playing out in terms too broad to be involving. Gallant’s marriage is too dead, his wife’s attraction to his partner is too convenient, it’s cheap drama that seems to want to masquerade as something more.
But the first episode also focused on a criminal getting plastic surgery, which brought the shoe into crime drama mode. That storyline appears to have been concluded in the pilot itself. If they try to pull the series in that direction too often, it will strain credulity; the life of plastic surgeons may logically go many directions, but it would make a poor base for a crime-of-the-week show.
The production doesn’t look cheap and shoddy, and the actors acquit themselves respectably. I’m just not sure whether there’s enough point to this. Still, it kept my attention to the hour. I’ll probably check out a couple more hours of this just to see what show they think they’re making.
As infrequent as the entries have been over the last week or so, they’re about to be even more infrequent. I’m off to the San Diego Comic-Con, and I won’t return until Sunday or Monday… and even then, I’ll be far behind on TV.
Fox attempts to be wacky with Banzai, a show full of short “can you guess the outcome” challenges presented as if it were a Japanese game show. The individual challenges can actually be semi-interesting: how many balloons will it take to lift a chicken into the air? But the relentless mock-Japanese aspect gets wearisome and mixed in with the challenges that get your attention (how long will Kelsey Grammer let an interviewer keep shaking his hand?) are ones that seem like poorly-staged Jackass stunts (two guys in shopping carts, jousting).
Comedy Central use to have a show called Short Attention Span Theater, where they would take brief bits from shows that were on the network roster. Some of the Banzai challenges could have added a bit of spice to that soup, but a half hour of that spice is too much of a not-that-good thing.
I’m having one of those weeks where people whose work I publish just keep winning awards. Justine Shaw (whose comics artwork can be seen in the last issue of The Factor, soon to be collected in TPB) just absconded gleefully with four Webcartoonists Choice Awards for her fantastic online comicNowhere Girl. Neil Gaiman, contributor to both Panel One and the upcoming 24 Hour Comics anthology, won a Locus award for his book Coraline. And now, in the only example that is relevant to this web journal, Dwayne McDuffie, contributor to Panel One, shares a Humanitas Prize for his writing on an episode of the Static Shock cartoon series on the topic of gun violence (they came out against it.)
Kudos to all!
An item in today’s “Studio Briefing” on IMDB.com leads off with this sentence:
The average broadcast TV viewer continues to grow older, according to a new study by media buyer Magna Global based on Nielsen ratings for last season.
That’s news? I mean, I could see bothering with an article if the opposite were true: “TV viewers don’t age!” And as I look at my receding hairline and youth, I wish it were so…
Buddy Ebsen passed away. Now, I don’t think that I’ve ever watched an episode of Barnaby Jones or Davy Crockett, but I always found him consistently strong and effective in probably his most famous roll, Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies. He maintained that consistent sense of character even when the show itself degenerated (as with many shows of that era, the black and white episodes are typically much better than the color ones.)
I also found it interesting the way that the actor chose to relate to his roles. Many actors shun being connected to their popular roles, as it seems to discourage casting directors from using them in other roles. (I perceive, perhaps without due foundation, that actors are more likely to be happy being associated with roles that continue to bring them royalties.) Buddy was just the opposite.
There was Beverly Hillbillies retrospective produced in the 1990s for which they planned to do it like most such retrospectives — have the actors come on and talk light-heartedly about the episodes. Buddy, however, would have none of that. He insisted that if he do the retrospective, he do it not as Buddy, but as Jed. And so decades later, the surviving Hillbillies were talking about the past episodes of their lives.
His willingness to be associated with his characters showed up at other times. When The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was being launched, the show had promos with Buddy playing Jed (which I thought was a nice touch and quite appropriate.) He would also play Barnaby Jones as a cameo in the lackluster Beverly Hillbillies movie and, as Mark Evanier points out, on a Tonight Show appearance. And there’s something nice about him wanting to be how the public saw him.
(Looking up the Beverly Hillbillies retrospective on IMDB, I find that the database includes the odd recommendation “If you like this title, we also recommend… National Geographic: The Battle for Midway (1998) (TV)“.)
With Ebsen gone… well, that’s most of the key cast of Breakfast at Tiffany’s that’s no longer with us. Peppard’s gone, Hepburn’s gone, Balsam’s gone, and yet that gem still twinkles. Power of the movies.
The US edition of the Faking It, a British show in which someone is given several weeks to learn to fake their way as an expert in some field, has now launched. The first episode in which a Harvard grad geek girl transforms herself into a cheerleader was watchable, if not as witty as the typical UK installment.
I’ve noticed a couple of things about these transformations. Usually, the transformation is sufficient to fools the qualified judges. And usually, the transformed individual claims a new-found respect for the career that they’ve faked… as though “hey, it’s so hard that it took me most of a month to learn to do it” is a reason for respect.
This Week with George Stephanopolous today had a very nice interview with two Supreme Court justices, Breyer and O’Connor, speaking in general terms about how things actually work in the court. It’s a relief to be reminded that the discussions among the justices are handled in a calm, intelligent, and honest manner. This makes them utterly unlike the Internet discussions that tend to follow in the wake of their decisions.
Alas, we don’t get a late-night This Week rerun that I can steer you towards (in contrast with Meet the Press.) This Week is generally the most useful and insightful of the newschat shows, and even if it’s not worth waking up early on Sunday to catch, those with Digital Video Recorders should record every epiesode; there is frequently enough some discussion that is the sources of later news and commentary, and often it is worthwhile to have that on disk.
I had seen several places that the Nathan Lane sitcom Charlie Lawrence had been yanked from the schedule, but it took the gay news site The Advocate of all places to tell me that the same horrid fate had befallen Baby Bob!
That show defined the limits of the sitcom. Admittedly, it was mainly defining the lower limits, but still…
It’s a tragic loss. It’s not so much the loss of this season that bothers me as the loss of future seasons. Imagine Baby Bob in it’s tenth year, when they have to somehow build the series around the conceit of a talking ten year old. Now that would be comedy! Particularly since there would still have to be someone off-screen providing his voice!
Ah, Baby Bob, we never truly got to know ye.