The Eyes have it

Eyes brings to the screen an interesting mix. It’s a show about a detective agency, but if the pilot is any indication it will be at least as much about the intrigue within the agency as it is about the cases. The agency at hand isn’t some gritty noir joint full of dames and booze and guns (although, come to think of it, in the first episode we do indeed see dames and booze and guns) but rather an upscale place (albeit one with apparent financial problems). The drama at hand isn’t deep serious real life drama. It’s not angst, it’s villainous competitors, in-house affairs, things of that ilk. The characters each have attitude to a degree that would hurt if this were a more serious show, but this aims toward fun and hits the mark quite well.

Tim Daly plays the lead, a talented if morally flexible detective with some con man instincts. Those of us who are My So-Called Life fans (and if you’ve never tried to become one, the DVDs are available) should be glad to see A.J. Langer again. And if you’re looking at one guy and asking yourself “is that Gunn from Angel?”, the answer is no – the eyes and bald head may be similar, but this is actually a guy from The Magnificent Seven TV series (yeah, I know you don’t remember that, but I was an extra on that one so it sticks in my head) doing what may be the unexpected stand-out job of the piece.

The folks making this did a good job of letting you know by the end of the episode that this is not just a cse-of-the-week episode, that Things Will Be Going On. I know I’ll be watching what happens for at least a few episodes to come. May even watch the first one again, rare for me with a drama (although I do actually find myself watching a couple shows, Two and a Half Men and Arrested development, multiple times these days.)

Oh, and one other thing impressed me during Eyes: an ad. It’s pitching a birth control patch, and the writer of it had a brilliant idea: taking all the “not for women with a history of spontaneous human combustion”-type disclaimers and putting them in the mouth of a doctor who is explaining what the product is for. Brilliant. Suddenly, instead of those Happy Fun Ball-esque warnings having the effect of making the product sound more dangerous than worthwhile, it makes it sound like the doctor is someone who is attentive and cares — and thus, the very suggestion of the product carries more weight. Not that I’m going to rush out and buy one of these patches, mind you, but I can’t help admiring the technique.

Published in: on March 31, 2005 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Thin Grey Line

Another note on reviewer perspective: I’m one month shy of my fortieth birthday. I’ve seen a lot of TV in that time, and that has an impact on my response to shows. I write about how I like something; I’m not smart enough to tell you whether you’ll like it or not.

Case in point: Grey’s Anatomy, the new Sunday drama about interns. This is not a Boomtown or an Arrested Development, doing things in a way that is distinct from all that came before. It’s reasonably smoothly done (if sometimes lacking in subtlety) with a mostly good cast, but the pilot suggests that I won’t be seeing anything covered here that I haven’t already seen in shows from St. Elsewhere through Scrubs, and without the additional fun of those two particular examples.

So it’s not for me. But if you’re not edge-of-forty, if you haven’t watched decades of medical drama, you may like it. That’s a call you’ll have to make.

(Now I’ll have to find an explanation for why, at this particular age, the network TV drama I most fervently refuse to miss is one about a teen girl detective…)

Published in: on March 31, 2005 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Who loves ya, baby? No, not you, Allison…

I think that all reviews of adaptations, remakes, and sequels should be done by two reviewers: one who has experienced the original material, telling you how well it captures the spirit of the original, reflecting on the faithfulness of the work. The other review should be by someone who has not experienced the original, judging the work on its own merits. You can have a great adaptation which has little to do with the original (say Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and you can have a slavishly accurate adaptation of a strong work and yet have it be a weak work (the TV miniseries version of The Shining, perhaps.) Those are separate factors, and need to be weighed seperately.

For the new version of Kojak, I will have to be the second reviewer. Although the original run was not actually before my time, and the reruns have long been available, I can’t recall ever watching an episode, and my impressions of it come more from references and parodies. The new version certainly captures some aspect of the cartoon image of Kojak – a gruff bald guy with spherical lollipops (at first I wrote “suckers”, but I realized that made him sound like some sort of odd squid) – and plays agains it in other ways – black not greek, and with moments of strongly-displayed sensitivity.

The pilot featured the hunt for a serial killer of prostitutes, not exactly a subtle police drama item. And it did focus on a gruesome style of killing, in ways that made some portion of our viewing audience turn away. And it relies on story points that aren’t exactly fresh, with twists that could be seen a half an hour ahead of time (possibly leading to the sense of a very padded episode, which was encouraged by efforts at fancy slow-mo moments.)

But that is not to say that it’s devoid of anything interesting. Ving Rhames is definitely a screen presence here. Chazz Palmienteri is always a good thing to have on a project, even if he’s not fully used here. And the dialog had quite a bit of snap to it. There is hope for this, and the overall watchability will depend largely on the selection of stories.

Published in: on March 29, 2005 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Workplace comedy jamboreeeeee!

In the introductory episode of Life on a Stick, the key characters speak primarily in expository dialog… and I suspect that’s a creative decision, not just the burden of a poorly thought-out pilot. And actually, it’s a technique that can work comedically; I can think of more examples in written literature than in performance. However, it requires better talent than what you see on this show. We’re left with underfascinating obnoxious teens… and with the common sitcom delusion that a girl with a pretty face and flat hair is “ugly”.

The American version of The Office is being compared to the British version by other reviewers, and is being judged as the “milder” and less funny version. Perhaps they’re right. I get largely the same vibe off of it; somewhat funny in a cringe-inducing manner, but I suspect that too much of it would get old quickly. The British version, made under the normal British sitcom system of brief seasons that do not necessarily lead to more seasons even if successful, never added up to all that many episodes, and it has not worn out its welcome with those who have seen them all. I suspect that with the much more rapid presentation of episodes that the American system offers, this will end up grating on the American tastes. I know that I’ll be willing to watch individual episodes, but won’t feel compelled not to miss it.

Now hush, I’m watching Kojak.

Published in: on March 26, 2005 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Blind writing, Jake needing progress, and more notes

Yes, yes, I’ve fallen far behind. So here we are playing catch-up.

The pilot for Blind Justice was exactly, beat-for-beat, the pilot that you’d expect a reasonable, commercial producer to make about a newly blind cop. The conflicts, the dubious partner, the troubles at home… all well done, and all exactly to be expected. Perhaps if I had not seen enough shows before, I would be more entertained.

Jake in Progress is being pushed as a male Sex and the City, which might be more impressive if I liked Sex and the City. I like the look of the show, I like that it’s being done with serious intent, I really like that it uses Wendy Malick. There are some clumsinesses (there is a problem with indicating early on what a character is; in the first episode, there was an actor who I assumed was supposed to be an ahtlete for his first minute on screen, and Malick’s boss character first appeared to be a receptionist. So far, I don’t care about the characters or their dilemmas. This is a series I could check in on from time to time, but not something that I have to watch.

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOR PAST EPISODES OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT AND HILL STREET BLUES. AND HAPPY DAYS, I SUPPOSE. Since the Arrested Development episode of two weeks back (“Mommyboy XXX”), I’ve seen references to the small bit of TV reference that occured when Henry Winkler’s lawyer character jumps over a shark, echoing a Happy Days event which led to a now past-its-prime piece of cultural terminology. However, I have not seen anyone comment on Winkler’s character mentioning running into a judge at a drag bar… which would seem to be a more obscure reference to a cross-dressing judge on Hill Street Blues, played by Arrested Development star Jeffrey Tambor.

The “Goo Goo Gai Pan” episode of The Simpsons which aired a couple weeks back was hitting the mark in a way that the show (still quite watchable) rarely does these days.

And I am really hoping that Heather Locklear gets a reasonably successful series… if only to keep her from showing up on shows that I like. Next victim: Boston Legal.

Published in: on March 24, 2005 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cutting up

It’s time for me to play catch-up a bit, as the computer was effectively down for a while and life has been too full to catch up since then.

Caught an episode of Cuts, a new sitcom (apparently a spin-off of something I don’t watch) set in a “day spa”. An uninvolving, jokey sitcom. Not particularly horrid as such things go, but nothing worth the bother either.

Thursday brought the premiere of Law and Order: Franchise Extension. Er, I mean Law and Order: Trial By Jury, much the same as other L & O shows, only with more focus on the courtroom scenes. (Any suggestion of a major focus on the jury proved inaccurate in at least the first episode.) As such, it falls into the general L & O category of “watchable, if you need filler”, but nothing more. It does have the advantage of Bebe Neuwirth, who is a good actress and sexy largely because of her intelligence. But that’s not enough to put it on my recording schedule.

As a side note, even if I hadn’t known that Jerry Orbach had died, he looked aged enough in the episode that I might have thought him not long for the world.

Published in: on March 5, 2005 at 8:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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