Ah, Numbers. Excuse me, Numb3rs. Were they aiming this for me? The veteran leads of Northern Exposure and Taxi, plus the ever-so-cute Sabrina Lloyd of Sports Night and Ally McBeal/Chicago Hope‘s Peter MacNicol, in a math-themed show shot in part on the CalTech campus where I used to hang? Couldn’t be a coincidence.
And yet, the results are a mixed bag. Oh, if you’ve heard me talk about David Krumholtz’s performance in an unaired Judd Apatow pilot, you might think I’d find fault with him here. Nope. He’s spot on, he was just wrong for that other role. And they do a good job of finding the right situations to apply math to, and find ways of speaking about it that folks should be able to follow, and that doesn’t seem bogus (in contrast to, say, every single “enhance that low-res photo to 100 times as much detail” scene we see in crime shows these days.)

But the math gets sloppy later on (basically, in trying to find what’s generating a bunch of points, they switch from trying to find one focus to trying to find two foci — but in the second calculation, somehow one of the seemingly even-weighted foci ends up at the same point as when there was merely one, which means that the second focus exerted no power.) And that lovely Sabrina Lloyd is being used in a role where she has no chance to show her powerful spark. And frankly, I think they’ll have a hard time keeping from being repetitious — although “repetitious” actually seems to be the goal in the current procedural-laden world.

Worth checking out. Not worth committing to, yet.

Published in: on January 26, 2005 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Getting it right

Writers of fiction get a lot of things wrong. I know I’ve sure put a few factual whoopsies in my stories. Most of them tend to get overlooked; thank goodness when readers are as ignorant as the writers! But on TV, it happens so costantly that it’s worth noting when someone bothers to get it right.

For example, last night’s Point Pleasant had a scene where a couple pulls into a gas station late at night and there’s an attendant there to pump the gas. Now, this might seem odd to people most places in the country – when stations are open late at night, there’s only one person manning them, and they’re behind the counter, taking money and dispensing lottery tickets, right? Except in New Jersey and Oregon. In those states, self-service gas is illegal, so there always has to be an attendant. He may not always be waiting outside late at night, you may have to wait for him to come out because he may be the only one on duty, but he is indeed there. As an old Jersey boy (who found it tricky the first time he had to pump his own gas after years of driving), I appreciate them getting it right, of not making the common TV mistake that the entire country is L.A., with the same laws, the same televised high-speed chases (most locales don’t have our traffic and thus don’t have our vast supply of traffic copters to cover them), and the same fast food chains.

In contrast, The West Wing got sloppy last night. No, I’m not talking about questions about what the right count of days is that the president has left, as that gets into the complex question of whether presidential elections fall on leap years on Earth-Bartlett. I’m talking about the fact that Abby was attending a big-league NASCAR race on the day after the State Of The Union address. Even on Earth-Bartlett, the SotU is in January. The NASCAR seasons runs late February to late November. If they thought that no one would know better, then they’re wrong.

Published in: on January 20, 2005 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Not that pleasant, not much point yet

Point Pleasant launched last night, a tale of a cute half-breed devil gal who washes up on the shores of the titular New Jersey town (although it’s obviously filmed in California, as the ocean shows up on the left side of the screen while on the east coast, it would be on the right side of the screen). Marti Noxon, the second or third most key person on Buffy, shows up… and shows that as much as she may have learned from working with Joss Whedon, she should have been studying some Stephen King.

Y’see, King knows something about writing horror stories that keep you interested. Read Christine or Cujo and you’ll see a little taste of the horror to come early on — and then the next half off the book is all just character stuff. Get you to care about the people, and then it really matters when they’re in jeopardy.

Instead, cute semidevil gal is shown to generate problems for herself and the surrounding folks, a mixture of the uninteresting and the unlikable. At the end of the first episode, I don’t care what happens to any of these folks, neither the teens (who generally don’t look like teens) nor the few adults that exist to provide a frame for the teens.

This show could use Allyson Hannigan. See her do her shy girl act for 15 seconds and you care about her. Allyson, however, is slated to start showing up on Veronica Mars, a show which continues to be brilliant on a level I can’t quite define. (I can tell you one sign of the genius: that Veronica is not coming from a place of moral purity. In a series with this layer of darkness, it would have been wrong for her to have always stood against the snooty rich. Instead, it is clear that she was quite happy to run with them before she fell from grace, a fall which was not caused by her own choice of actions.)

Published in: on January 20, 2005 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

In pinball, Tilt means that your playing is done

Caught the pilot of Tilt, a new poker-oriented drama on ESPN. Now, ESPN has tried one fiction series previously, the watchable Playmakers, which was cancelled not due to quality or audience but because the NFL complained. This left me fairly dubious about committing myself to an ESPN series, as they were unqilling to commit themselves to even a successful series. But hey, I was willing to give it a try.

Perhaps 3/4s of the way through the hour, the cable signal cut out… and I felt relieved. Despite various attempts at being over-the-top, the show was dull. I didn’t care what happened to the central character (a famed but shady poker player), nor to any of the other characters involved (the casino boss who works with the shark, other poker players who aim to take the shark down.) And while it’s tough to make poker interesting in fiction, they didn’t even really try. If you were to watch this, you’d believe that the key to being a great poker player is to always have the winning hand; there was nothing more subtle regarding knowing when to get out of the hand, or to bluff, or even to calculate odds. The winners win because every hand their shown playing, they have the best hand. Yawn.

There have been a number of watchable shows set in Vegas in recent years — Nikki, Las Vegas, and Lucky are ones that I’ve chosen to watch recently. And it would’ve been nice if ESPN had grabbed up Lucky when it fell, rather than manufacture this new underwhelming piece.

Published in: on January 14, 2005 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

The baddest guy on TV

The oft-enjoyable Gilmore Girls for years had an annoying “bad boy”, played by Milo Ventimiglia, whom the lead teen girl inexplicably fell for. Lucky for the viewer, Milo’s character headed off to California, leaving our teen back east.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve checked in on American Dreams for the first time in a fair while. There, Milo Ventimiglia is playing an annoying “bad boy” whom the lead teen girl is inexplicably in love with. And he’s heading off to California. And this time, the teen intend to go with him.

I think this guy is out to ruin every teen gal in TVdom.

Published in: on January 10, 2005 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

'cause it's rare it's well done

You know, I was going to get around to going back to about the 9 minute mark in the Medium pilot episode for some lines that I thought demonstrated the abysmal morality in purporting this show as reflecting facts — but it’s too much bother. Despite a line or two of energetic dialog, this plays by the numbers, everyone is amazed and befuddled by the horribly accurate predictions one can make when one is a being fed the lines by the writers of the fiction. Wouldn’t be worth watching even if they were promoting it honestly.

Published in: on January 10, 2005 at 2:06 am  Leave a Comment  

An unlikely return

Just caught a Quiznos ad featuring Baby Bob! Now, I understand that this character was spun off from advertisements in the first place, but given that the service he advertised ( failed and that his TV show was generally seen as a blight on the landscape (despite my unlikely fascination with it), I woulda thought he’d be too tainted now. It made more sense when they were using the Spongemonkeys.

Published in: on January 10, 2005 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Rubber band check

Caught last night’s premiere of Committed, a new relationship comedy featuring a guy whose rubber bands are much too tight and a woman whose bands are too loose. Not an undoable premise, but the characters, particularly the guy, play their reactions in rather cliched style. This may work for stray moments of an otherwise solid character, but the cliches really don’t add up to a character.

On the other hand, the clown living in the woman’s closet doesn’t particularly bother me the way it seems to upset other reviewers.

Published in: on January 6, 2005 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Lost personal effects

I’m watching Lost, and noticing that while the men have several days growth of beard from their days on the island, the woman’s underarms that we see are free of any visible stubble. Seems like a poor use of any honed blades they happen to have.

Published in: on January 6, 2005 at 12:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Vega$, old school

As I type this, I’m watchin an episode of Las Vegas guest-starring Sylvester Stallone and Duran Duran. It’s the most exciting TV episode of 1982!

Published in: on January 4, 2005 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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