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Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The New TV Season: Worst To First

I had the best intentions of writing up reviews of all the new fall TV shows, but that dream was killed by the crush of Annie Lennox Week last week. So here's my quick rundown, from the worst I've watched to the best so far:

#19. Big Shots (ABC) - A show following in excruciating detail the emotional problems and shallow bonds of super-rich white men who play golf at the club. Remind me again. Who is this show for, exactly? Female viewers will hate these assholes and their boorish behavior, and men will hate their unlimited bank accounts and soapy subplots. And just to piss off the LGBTs, there's a creepy storyline with a transgendered prostitute. Ready for some stale "he/she" jokes? Ugh. Hard to believe you could screw up a show with eye candy like Dylan McDermott and Michael Vartan, but...mission accomplished.

#18. Carpoolers (ABC) - Four men, trapped in a car. One of them is Jerry O'Connell. None of them are funny. Here's a joke sample from the pilot: "I'm gonna buy the world's oldest Rubik's Cube...and then hire someone to solve it for me." Yeah, I didn't laugh either.

#17. The Big Bang Theory (CBS) - Reviewed here.

#16. Gossip Girl (CW) - Reviewed here.

#15. Cavemen (ABC) - Just because it's not as bad as you thought it would be, doesn't mean it's not still bad. The problem here is really one of execution -- it's just too high-concept, the comedy too lowbrow, and the sleazy premise too off-putting. Vuilding a show around an ad campaign for auto insurance is a bad idea. (Too bad Julie White, as a realtor, is so underused. Somebody give that woman her own sitcom!)

#14. K-Ville (Fox) - Reviewed here.

#13. Bionic Woman (NBC) - There's potential in the idea of updating the 70's series...a meditation on self-identity and how we fit in the world is a valuable discussion in our war-prone culture. But casting killed the potential, at least in the pilot; Michelle Ryan is soft and flat as an actress, and fares badly in battle scenes against the villainously delicious Katie Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica). I'll watch a second episode, but it better pick up soon.

#12. Moonlight (CBS) - A police procedural with a twist...the private eye's a vampire. The pilot was shaky, but leading neckbiter Alex O'Loughlin has charm. If they can get the film noir atmosphere right, there could be a guilty pleasure in the making.

#11. Deserving Design (HGTV) - Nothing special, really, about this Extreme Makeover: Home Edition knockoff...except its host. Celebrity designer Vern Yip's return to series television makes the show appointment watching, even if you're immune to the teary backstories of the families. Because no one uses textiles like Vern. No one.

#10. Aliens in America (CW) - A fish-out-of-water comedy with an au courant, ethnophobic twist...a Muslim exchange student comes to live in heartland America. But stick it out, because the story has its ethics in the right place, exploiting culture disassociation for laughs AND for contemplation. Tonally similar to Freaks and Geeks, it's got a chance to be great...especially on the CW, where lower ratings allow shows some room to find their footing (Everybody Hates Chris).

#9. Reaper (CW) - Arch to a fault, I really wanted to hate Reaper...especially its artificiality, its coy self-awareness, and its lame jokes. But I just couldn't. Director Kevin Smith (Dogma) directed the pilot, and his fingerprints are all over the story -- an overage slacker discovers his parents sold his soul to the devil, who's come to collect. Credit a solid supporting cast, especially Tyler Labine as the clueless comic relief and Ray Wise as a superb prince of darkness.

#8. Back To You (Fox) - A formulaic, run-of-the-mill sitcom about feuding newscasters. But if you're going to do it by the book, this is the way to do it....with a little zing, a familiar setup, and two irascible leads (in this case, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton).

#7. Chuck (NBC) - I liked the second episode last night a LOT less than the pilot, which is troubling. But I did review the pilot here.

#6. Journeyman (NBC) - I didn't immediately embrace this series' whole time-traveling, do-gooder shtick; it all felt a little Quantum Leap-ish to me. But as we learned on HBO's Rome, Kevin McKidd is an engaging actor, and the series -- if it can keep the whimsy and maudlin sentiment to a minimum -- has endless possibilities. The challenge for the producers will be to stretch the idea, rather than settle into convention.

#5. Cane (CBS) - I was always a sucker for prime-time soaps: Falcon Crest, Dallas, Dynasty. Jimmy Smits' seriously sexy gloss on the formula is hardly intellectual, but its got enough glitz and scene-ripping dialogue for it to be a deliciously frosty rum punch. (The dynasty in question? A sugar cane and rum dynasty, complete with dueling sons and an aging patriarch. Marvelous!)

#4. Tim Gunn's Guide To Style (Bravo) - How super-sweet is Tim Gunn? How charming is this shameless ripoff of What Not To Wear? How tall is Veronica Webb? How embarrassed would I be if a camera crew went through my underwear drawer? How surprisingly entrancing is this show?

#3. Private Practice (ABC) - No one is more shocked than I am that I liked this spinoff so much...I've detested Grey's Anatomy almost from day one. I'm a sucker for theatrical stars on TV, so the presence of Audra McDonald and Taye Diggs as recent divorcees is a big plus. And Tim Daly is soooooo dreamy. And this Kate Walsh woman, she's got a kicky little spitfire thing going on that I really like. The writing needs to sharpen up, and I'm already dreading the endless parade of baby birthings in this California pregnancy center...but anytime I can see McDonald scarfing down an entire chocolate cake, I'm there.

#2. Five Days (HBO) - This co-production with the BBC, which premiered last night on HBO, is as dramatically sharp as anything else on television, and it has the one thing that's been missing from the TV lineup this fall: gravitas. A missing wife and children creates a cycle of despair and desperation among her extended (and dysfunctional) family and the British police. Some of the world's best actors, including David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland), Janet McTeer (Songcatcher), Hugh Bonneville (Stage Beauty) and Edward Woodward (The Equalizer) are along for the ride.

#1. Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) - Okay, sue me. It's over the top, it's brutally cheeky, and it's got the depth of a kiddie pool. But there's something I found mesmerizing about the Darlings, the Kennedyesque clan at the center of this lighthearted morality tale about money's corrupting influence. I especially dug Peter Krause's conflicted consigliere, Donald Sutherland's slick pater familias, and William Baldwin, whose run at the Senate may be ruined by his love affair with...a transgendered woman. But unlike Hot Shots' similar storyline, she's not the brunt of the joke. He is. The show balances precariously between cleverness and cloying sugar, but if they can continue to find the struggle underneath the glamor, DSM could be a real winner.

Not Yet Premiered: Pushing Daisies, Viva Laughlin, Samantha Who?, Miss Guided, Eli Stone, The Next Great American Band, Cashmere Mafia, Lipstick Jungle, Crowned, 8 Days A Week, New Amsterdam
On the DVR, but as yet unwatched: Life
Skipping Entirely: Kid Nation, Kitchen Nightmares, Better Half, Tell Me You Love Me, Life Is Wild, Farmer Wants A Wife, Women's Murder Club

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Blogger Paul said...

i keep hearing good things about Reaper so will have to check it out... am eager to see Dirty Sexy Money too. I managed to see a pre air of Pushing Daisies and it is the most whimsical fairy tale - utterly lovely

10/3/07, 1:39 AM  
Blogger vance said...

Really? You liked Cane that much? and not Gossip Girl? Maybe it's cause Jimmy Smits does nothing for me but I was SOOOOOOO BORED.

There also seems to be a huge backlash already to Chuck 2.0 but I LOVED the second episode. Did I watch something else?

I hope you like Pushing Daisies. I'm now going to base my friendships based on reactions to this show.

10/3/07, 2:40 PM  
Blogger DL said...

Awh, you really should have waited just one more day, so that you could crown Pushing Daisies number one. Its pilot episode (which premiered in Canada last night) is one of the best I've ever seen. Hopefully the rest of the season will be able to live up to the promise.

10/3/07, 4:01 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Like the rest of your readers, I've been gushing over Pushing Daisies also. In fact, I scrolled down, expecting to see it at #1.

It's rare that I fall in love after just one episode, but this one did it for me. I am sooo in love with this one. Our wedding is next April.

10/5/07, 3:53 AM  
Anonymous Tiffany said...

1) I second everything said on here about "Pushing Daisies." It is one of the most delightfully whimsical, sweetly heartfelt shows I have ever seen -- AND I DON'T TYPICALLY GO FOR THAT KIND OF TV!!!! I think that I appreciate the deliberately self-conscious, "Big Fish" sense of being a fable that you see in the show, but I also appreciate the fact that Chi McBride leavens out the quirkiness just when it threatens to become too cloying. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about it.

2) Did you ever watch/review "Mad Men?" It's easily some of the best writing I've ever seen on tv. There are many things about this show that utterly intrigue me, but one of the things that fascinates me most is how it treats gay life in 1960. The show has introduced two minor characters -- a closeted gay man and a closeted lesbian -- who depict what it must have been like to be gay in 1960 with more honesty, sensitivity, and simple humanity than anything I have ever seen. It's not a focus or anything (I don't want to be misleading); it's simply woven organically into the depiction of the lives of these two secondary characters in the same way that other secondary characters' storylines are woven into the show. There is absolutely no "Afterschool Special" vibe to the way their stories have been handled, which I love. I tell you, this show lives up to its "critically-acclaimed" billing, and then some.

10/6/07, 11:00 PM  

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