Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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TV Fall ‘07 Season Blitz, Day 4-5: Every Other Motherfucking Show Under the Sun

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 29, 2007

Who loves ya, baby?

Bionic Woman

(Wednesday Night, 9-10 PM, NBC)

Starring: Michelle Ryan, Miguel Ferrer, Katee Sackhoff, Molly Price, Will Yun Lee, Lucy Hale

Premise: Jamie Sommers (Ryan), a 24-year-old grad student recently forced to play mother to her teenage sister (Hale) and a child of her own on the way, gets into a horrible car accident (which is probably not so accidental) that costs her 75% of her limbs and nearly kills her. However, her super-scientist boyfriend (Chris Bowers) and a team of other spooks (Ferrer, Price, Lee) re-assemble her with mechanical body parts and a superior bloodstream, which not only save her life and give her super-human strength. But they’re not done with Jamie yet, and neither is Sarah Corvus (Sackhoff), the “original Bionic Woman,” who may have been behind Jamie’s accident.

Thoughts: A remake off of a spin-off is rarely a good idea, and Bionic Woman feels particularly unnecessary–the original show has all but faded from popular memory, not even making the cut for VH1’s second installment of I Love the 70s. And though I hardly know enough about the original series to quite stack the two up against each other, so far the remake has done a fairly poor job of standing on its own–there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, no clever modern twists to give it newfound relevance, nothing really to justify its existence in the first place.

Similarly, neither is Michelle Ryan a particularly inspired choice for the new titular action heroine–she’s believable enough as a struggling twenty-something, but once she’s called on for scenes of either extreme emotion or ass-kickery, she wilts. This is perhaps unfairly emphasized in the several scenes she has with Katee Sackhoff, best known as tomboy fighter Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica–as Sommers’ nemesis, Sackhoff packs all the charisma and badass chops that probably should have gone into the protagonist, and Ryan seems hopelessly outclassed in comparison. It makes you wonder why Sackhoff isn’t in the lead role herself–or just in another show altogether for that matter.

Because frankly, The Bionic Woman isn’t getting much support here. The show’s acting, writing, direction, editing, even the special effects, are all strictly C grade (and not in a charming throwback way, more in a “c’mon, how much time and money do we have to spend on this goddamn show?” way). Standout moments include one of the most clumsily handled sex scenes in recent memory (the whole plot with her fiancee/doctor is totally botched, but he’s dead by the end anyway so I guess it’s OK), and a particularly shudder-inducing moment where a young girl sees Jamie running at superspeed outside of her car window, but of course, her mom just misses seeing it and doesn’t believe her (“I just thought it was cool a girl could do that,” the girl declares). Most personally irritating was the show’s use of Sia’s “Breathe Me,” best known as the soundtrack to the Six Feet Under finale’s montage-of-mortality–I’m sorry, but you have to fucking earn the right to use a song that blankly emotional, and Bionic Woman is far from having paid its dues on that front.

Hit Potential?: Depends on how desparate young girls are for figures of female empowerment, and how desperate young boys are for chicks that look good delivering jump-kicks in high heels. The first ep got pretty good ratings, but I gotta believe that this is lasting a season or two, tops.

Worth Watching?: Not even a little bit, though seeing a post-Grey’s Isaiah Washington in an upcoming mid-season arc might be worth catching for historical purposes.

Private Practice

(Wednesday Night, 9-10 PM, ABC)

Starring: Kate Walsh, Taye Diggs, Tim Daly, Audra McDonald, Amy Brenneman, Paul Adelstein

Premise: Wanting freedom from McDreamy and the rest of the staff at Seattle Grace, Addison Montgomery-Shepard (Walsh) packs up for her own show in LA, spun-off in a backdoor pilot on a two-hour Grey’s last season. Here she joins up with a private practice (not much imagination to that title, huh), relatively free from the chaos of Grace, if not the personal drama. She joins her good friend, Fertility Specialist Naomi (McDonald), Naomi’s ex, Internal Medicine Specialist Sam (Diggs), and their co-partners, Psychiatrist Violet (Brenneman), Pediatrician Cooper (Adelstein) and Alternative Medicine Specialist Pete (Daly), the last of which Addison might have personal feelings for.

Thoughts: Even more than Bionic Woman, I just wanna label this one with a fat ol’ who gives a shit? If you like Grey’s, you’ll probably like this, albeit a whole lot less, and if you don’t like Grey’s, I’d sure keep my channel-flipping to north of ABC on Thursday nights if I were you. The whole thing smacks of what I like to call “Things Are Heating Up On An All-New Men In Trees!!” syndrome–meaning there’s gonna lots of personal drama that’s supposed to be fun and sexy, but whose participants are neither interesting or hott enough to make it anything but unbearable.

Yeah, there’s Kate Walsh, and she’s cute and kind of loveable and all, but she wasn’t even one of the cutest Grey’s chicks, and the two seasons she got at Seattle Grace hardly established her character enough to make her worthy of her own branch in Shonda Rhimes’ empire. Besides her, Brenneman and McDonald are bores, Daly looks like he’s still pissed off the killed his character on The Sopranos, and Diggs’ll find a TV show that actually makes him a legit A-lister one day, but this certainly ain’t it.

Hit Potential?: Sadly, it’s sort of a hit already–it was the highest-rated show in its time slot on Wednesday night, and with Grey’s devotees proven an insatiable lot, it could very well stay that way. The Knots Landing to Grey‘s Dallas, if you will.

Worth Watching?: Not unless you really can’t wait for things to get even hotter on an all-new Men in Trees!!!

Life

(Wednesday Nights, 10-11 PM, NBC)

Starring: Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi, Adam Arkin, Brooke Langton

Premise: After a dozen years of wrongful imprisonment for a crime for which he was framed, Detective Charlie Crews (Lewis) is finally exonerated, with help from his lawyer Constance Griffiths (Langton). Upon release, he promptly resumes his Detective position, despite his generous state settlement for his time unfairly served. He teams up with a new partner, Dani Reese (Shahi), and tries to come to terms with the past 12 years of his life, including with former partner Ted Early (Arkin), for whom wounds are still fresh.

Thoughts: If there’s one thing TV doesn’t need right now, it’s yet another “brilliant cop” show, where some quirky detective solves obscure and improbable mysteries with bizarre methods and a host of doubters to tell him how nuts he is, despite the fact that he’s always right. Monk, Criminal Intent, Psych, even House basically follows this formula, despite the med setting. Yet despite its adherence to this formula, Life manages to be perhaps the most promising new pilot I’ve seen this week, and perhaps the only one that feels, against all odds, distinctly fresh.

Most of this can be attributed to the truly outstanding performance of Damian Lewis in the lead role. Watching Lewis here is as revelatory as it was watching Hugh Laurie as House for the first time–unexpected, confusing, but unmistakably fascinating. Lewis’s Det. Cres isn’t a narcissistic supergenius, nor is he a seething vigilante–he eschews the two easy roads for something far more complex, a character whose feelings and motives aren’t really clear yet, who no one on the show can quite figure out yet. When his partner asks him why he returned to the force so quickly and he says that the thought of still being a cop was all that kept him going in prison, it’s not certain whether he actually means it, is just using it as an easy reason in case people like her ask, or if he even knows the answer himself. It’s funny–for all of these shows that are so wrapped up in mysteries, Life might be the first I’ve seen to let their characters be mysteries themselves.

Hit Potential?: Unfortunately, I don’t really see it. Despite Lewis’s brilliant performance, the show seems a bit too unconventional–and I mean legitimately unconventional, not the way a show like Chuck is “unconventional”– for breakout success, and it’s not quite flashy enough to really capture critics’ attention (Reaper, on the other hand…sigh). The lack of stars, even by TV standards, is most likely the final nail in the show’s coffin. Ladies and gentleman, meet your soon-to-be first “brilliant but cancelled” show of the ’07 TV season.

Worth Watching: For now, most definitely. Once the show inevitably explicates all the underlying mysteries–what Crews went to jail for, who actually set him up, what the deal with his ex-partner is–it might lose much of its appeal, and as a crime-of-the-week serial, the show probably won’t stand up so well. But the real worry is if it’ll even be allowed to get to that point, so all I can say is catch it while you can.

Dirty Sexy Money

(Wednesday Night, 10-11 PM, ABC)

Starring: Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, William Baldwin, Samaire Armstrong, Natalie Zea, Glenn Fitzgerald, Seth Gabel, Zoe McLellan

Premise: Nick George (Krause) is a successful lawyer whose lawyer father neglected him as a kid because he was busy keeping up with his biggest client, the Darlings–an extremely upscale, media-whorish New York family. When Nick’s dad dies, Darling patriarch Tripp (Sutherland) asks him to take over as the family’s lawyer, which he is initially resistant to for fear of alienating his family like his father did him, but accepts anyway when Tripp offers him an extremely generous retainer. Now he has to deal with the day-to-day drama of children Jeremey, a Pete Doherty-ish tabloid hog, Juliet, a spoiled would-be actress, Brian, a reverend with some un-catholic tendencies, Karen, a thrice-married trophy wife with a torch for Nick, and Patrick, a would-be senator with some skeletons in his closet, as well as Tripp and his wife Letitia (Clayburgh), who Nate’s dad might’ve had a decade-long affair with.

Thoughts: It’s drawn comparisons to CBS’s Cane, but the worst-titled new show of the year essentially presents itself in its pilot as an adult Gossip Girl–appropriate enough, since the shows run consecutively Wednesday nights. Both shows present an insider view to the lives of the rich and famous in high society New York, both are already neck-deep in scandal and bad blood, and both are seen from the view of the one “outsider,” here of course the character of Nick, played excellently by Peter Krause. Now being given a third starring role (at IITS we’ve spent much of the past few months catching up with his work in Sports Night and Six Feet Under) to officially cement his rep as a TV legend, Krause certainly makes the most of a role that could have easily been thankless, the kind of guy you want with you to help navigate through the seamy underbelly of the obscenely upper-class.

The rest of the cast can more than hold their own, though. Few shows this season could claim a cast this prestigious, with Krause joined by acting vets Sutherland and Clayburgh, new TV blood like Armstrong (Anna on The O.C., Emily in Entourage), Gabel (the creepy teen with a thing for Mommy Famke in Nip/Tuck) and Zea (The Shield, Passions), as well as, uh, Billy Baldwin. These dudes know what they’re doing, and it’s the kind of professionalism that a show like Dirty Sexy Money (uggggh that title) badly needs.

Hit Potential?: Maybe not quite a breakout, but yeah, I think the show should be sticking around for a while. It’s the kind of (relatively) classy show that ABC needs to be padding their lineup with–not as edgy as NBC, over-the-top as FOX, youthful as CW or geriatric as CBS, the channel makes its rep on adult dramas that you don’t have to feel embarrassed to watch, and on those grounds, Dirty Sexy Money is an excellent addition to the schedule.

Worth Watching?: Possibly, but yet to be determined for certain. That DSM stands out among the season’s new lineup is more due to the weakness of the lineup than the strength of the show, however. Beyond the thrill of watching consumate pros at the top of their game (even creator Craig Wright’s resume includes work on Six Feet Under, LOST and Brothers and Sisters), there’s nothing particularly compelling here, nothing much new or different. The show might just need more time to make the dilemma of Nick’s possible corruption carry more emotional weight (and for the Darlings to become more worthy and sinister competitors for Nick’s soul), as well as to expand upon the episode’s final twist about Nick’s dad’s death, before it can really become one of the new season’s leading lights.

My Name is Earl (3rd Season)

(Thursday Night, 8-9 PM, NBC–time likely to change)

New Cast: Leo Fitzpatrick, Ben Foster (most likely just for this episode)

Where We’re At Now: Having confessed to the kidnapping charge Joy was (semi-rightfully) hit with last season and taken the rap for her, Earl has begun to serve the two years of his jail sentence, where he runs into Sonny (Fitzpatrick), an old acquaintance who tries to teach him to act invisible while incarcerated. However, Earl forces attention to himself when he tries to pay back fellow inmate Glen (Foster) for setting him on a path to crime when they were much younger. Meanwhile, Randy moves in with Joy and Darnell, and Joy’s frustration at Randy’s reliance on Earl for even the slightest of daily tasks spurs her to teach him to fend for himself.

Thoughts: With its third season, My Name is Earl continues its performance as a goody-goody TV program–not since the halcyon days of King of the Hill has there been a show this quietly consistent, the kind of low-flyer that never really makes too much of a splash on the cultural radar, but always stays pleasantly reliable in its watchability. As with KotH, the plots to Earl are virutally irrelevant–you know Earl’s gonna do some good for a hard-luck ex-friend (who’s gonna be played by some unexpectedly cool second-string celebrity), Joy’s gonna be a hard-ass, Crab Man’s gonna be awesome and Randy’s gonna be stupid. This season premiere is no exception–yeah, Earl’s in prison now, and it’s good to get some new scenery, but Earl is Earl, and that’s really nothing but a good thing. So you’ve got some great flashback scenes, some inspired soundtrack choices and some none-too-cringeworthy moralizing, and a reminder that Thursday nights just aren’t the same without NBC.

Still Hot / Worth Sticking With?: Sure. You’re insane if you’re anywhere else besides NBC on your dial on Thursdays anyway, so might as well stick around for the most pleasantly underachieving comedy on the air at the moment.

Ugly Betty (2nd Season)

(Thursday Night, 8-9 PM, ABC)

New Cast: Illeana Douglas

Where We’re At Now: Woo, here goes. After the car accident they were in during the S1 finale, Daniel is recovering, but Alexis is still in a coma, for which Daniel is hopelessly guilt-ridden. Amanda, now fat, confronts her parents (with Marc’s help) about her being adopted, which they admit, but without explaining who her father is, which she and Marc conclude to most likely be Bradford. Claire, hiding out at a friend’s beach house, attempts to contact Bradofrd before he and Wilhelmina can marry, but Wilhelmina has other plans. Ignacio is still stuck in mexico, while Hilda nurses a wounded Santos in pre-wedded bedroom bliss, and Justin sneaks out from his Arts & Crafts summer camp to lurk around the MODE offices. And Betty attempts to get over Henry, who appears to be gone with Charlie for good.

Thoughts: Can’t really say with too much authority, since I’d only seen about two and a half episodes of the show before, the finale not being one of them, so parts were still a little bit confusing (how many fucking characters does this show have, anyway??) It definitely seemed like a solid return to form, though–gotta give the show props for juggling about a dozen main characters and at least twice that many story lines while still managing to give all the characters their proper due and not having the whole thing feel like a big mess. Meanwhile, the premiere did a good job of resolving what must’ve been one huge clusterfuck of an S1 finale, and introduced a couple new threads at the end of the episode that should make for some interesting shit in the season to come. Also, what are the odds of Jayma Mays, best known for playing Hiro’s girlfriend Charlie on Heroes, also playing a girl named Charlie in this show? Nifty.

Still Hot / Worth Watching?: Probably, yeah. If you dug the show’s rapid-fire fabulosity before, no reason why you won’t dig it now. I’d personally stick with Earl in the 8:00 showdown, but considering I was stupid and signed up for a Thursday night class this semester anyway, it’s all gonna be torrents anyway.

The Office (4th Season)

(Thursday Night, 9-10 PM, NBC–time likely to change)

New Cast: n/a

Where We’re At Now: Having been turned down for the promotion he tried out for in the S3 finale, Michael resumes his life at Dunder-Mifflin, including an increasingly joyless relationship with Jan, who he now lives with. Jim, also having lost the promotion (which actually went to Ryan), returns as well, and having dumped Karen (who quit the next day), he and Pam start a secret relationship. Dwight and Angela get into a fight over the ailing health of Angela’s cat, and Michael runs over Meredith with his car.

Thoughts?: Hardly an Office ep for the ages, but no show’s return is more welcome than this one, really (at least until next Friday, anyway, but more on that when the time comes). It’s nice to see Jim and Pam together for the first time, and seeing a now super-arrogant Ryan (with suit and beard to match) is definitely a treat. For everyone else, it’s the same old story–Michael does something hugely insensitive and tries to cover it up with even greater insensitivity, Dwight doesn’t seem to understand womanly issues, Toby gets wailed on and Creed says some wacky shit. It’s all good, baby bay-bay!

Still Hot / Worth Sticking With?: At this point, The Office is almost inarguable as this generation’s Cheers, the kind of loveable, family-like ensemble sitcom that could conceivably run for 20 years without really overstaying its welcome. Who knows if this season’s gonna be any better or worse than the first three–personally, I wish Karen had stuck around a little longer, and a new cast add-on or two wouldn’t have killed ’em–but it’s The Office, and as one of the 00s’ greatest TV institutions, its place on our dial and in our hearts is more than secure.

Grey’s Anatomy (4th Season)

(Thursday Night, 9-10 PM, ABC)

New Cast: Chyler Leigh

Where We’re At Now: The gang, minus George, start their first year as residents, while Callie takes over as Chief Resident, much to Miranda’s displeasure. Meredith and McDreamy are in flux, Burke is officially history and leaves without telling Christina, Izzie pines for George, who is cold to bride Callie. Meanwhile, as George starts the internship program for the second time (under Meredith as a resident), he gets chummy with newbie Lexie, who also happens to be Meredith’s half-sister, an introduction that Meredith does not warm to.

Thoughts: Well, there’s not too much to discuss here. This is still Grey’s, with all the implications, good and bad, that goes with that. Trading in Isaiah Washington for Chyler Leigh isn’t exactly much of an upgrade, and having the cast advance from wide-eyed interns to grizzled residents is sort of interesting, but in the end, it matters little. Of the soapier prime-time shows, Grey’s is the one that feels the most like a legitimate soap, and you don’t see too many TV critics comparing season 55 and 56 of The Young and the Restless, do you?

Still Hot / Worth Watching?: Been over half a season since I checked in on the Grey‘s gang, and I’m sort of reminded of why–the show’s glory days appear to be behind them, as the show seems doomed to keep recyclng the same personal dramas (Meredith breaks up with McDreamy FOR GOOD, but oh noes there they go having sex in closets again!) and watch their once interesting and fresh-faced characters get tired and boring. To be fair, it’s not really all that bad–the show’s basically the same as it ever was, and considering ER is on its 14th year or whatever, compalining about the show going four seasons seems sort of ridiculous. But at this point, I think I’m checking out of Grey’s for good. I’m sure the show can take the hit.

Big Shots

(Thurdsay Night, 10-11 PM, ABC)

Starring: Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Joshua Malina, Christopher Titus

Premise: Four rich, alpha male CEO friends in their late 30s and early 40s, living life in the big city (I forget which one, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the West Coast). James Walker (Vartan) has just been fired, but before his boss can tell anyone, he gets run over by a golf cart and dies. Duncan Collinsworth (McDermott) is on his way up in the world, but might be brought down by a scandal involving a call-girl that turned out to be a call-dude that he solicited in a gas station bathroom some time ago. Brody Johns (Christopher Titus) is whipped by his controlling wife, and Karl Mixworthy (Joshua Malina) is cheating on his with a girl who initially threatens to disclose his secret to his wife, but then befriends her instead.

Thoughts: Hmm. Four rich, alpha male friends living the high life on the West Coast? Seems like that niche has already been filled by one of those pesky HBO shows, and turns out that the world has little use for an aged, PG-rated view of that lifestyle. Essentially, Big Shots is a total waste of time–yeah, the acting prestige is there, but McDermott was always overrated, and Malina has always been the worst thing about every show he’s been on (all two of them). And who the fuck cares about Michael Vartan and Christopher Titus in this day and age, anyway?

Sorry, it’s 4:00 AM and I don’t feel like devoting any more thought to this show. The rest more or less speaks for itself anwyay.

Hit Potential?: Nah. The reviews are justifiably dismal, and why anyone would (or how anyone could) want to stick around ABC after the Betty/Grey’s two-hour block is beyond me. The best this show can hope for is to survive innocuously for a few seasons while everyone wonders what the hell it’s still doing on the air, a la What About Brian.

Worth Watching?: I mean…

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