Fall ’08 Season TV Blitz, Day 6: The No-Brainer Roundup (Worst Week, Gary Unmarried, The Mentalist, Knight Rider)
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 5, 2008
Cast: Kyle Bornheimer, Erinn Hayes, Nancy Lenehan, Jay Malone, Kurtwood Smith
Premise: Sam (Bornheimer) has recently knocked up and betrothed himself to Mel (Hayes), and plans to tell her parents (Lenehan & Smith) about it. However, he is about to have…
Thoughts: Well, at least there’s no laugh track. Apparently Worst Week is based on a British programme called The Worst Week of My Life (always with the brevity, those Yankee TV execs), but in America we already have a very well-established precedent for the Everything That Can Go Wrong Will Over Weekend With In-Laws setup, and you’d think Meet the Parents had more or less closed the book on that plot frame. Apparently, though, CBS thinks America will want to see horrific confluences of circumstances befall a relatively genial and well-meaning individual every Monday night, though, and in the season premiere alone, Sam shows up late and naked to his in-laws’ house, unknowingly pisses on Mom’s roast goose, knocks Dad unconscious and mistakenly informs Mom and Mel that he’s dead, and sets Dad’s portrait on fire. Sadism is alive and well on broadcast TV.
It could be worse. Bornheimer makes for a generally likeable, relatable protagonist, and he resists the temptation to just ape Stiller’s freak-out antics. Meanwhile, no one makes for a better no-nonsense hardass than Kurtwood Smith, he of That 70s Show, Robocop and Dead Poets’ Society fame, and even if the show hasn’t really let him loose–yet–the always pervasive threat of his stern disapproval gives the show a decent comedic tension. And, in all seriousness, the lack of laugh track really does help. But how could they possibly keep this show going for more than a couple episodes? How much bad shit can you really watch happen to one guy before you say “fuck this, I wonder who got voted off Dancing With the Stars?” And how many episodes can they really stretch one week out into? Are there going to be dream episodes? Or will the show eventually evolve ino Worst Month/Season/Year/Existence?
Hit Potential: Well, the critics seem to think it’s decent enough, and it’s gotten OK ratings. But can you really imagine this lasting 22 episodes? A second season? Dear lord.
Worth Watching: Not unless you think Flirting With Disaster is the pinnacle of screwball comedy. And even then probably not.
Cast: Jay Mohr, Paula Marshall, Ryan Malgarini, Laura Marano, Jaime King, Ed Begley Jr.
Premise: House painter Gary (Mohr) has recently divorced from wife Allison (Marshall), with whom he had two kids, awkward Tom (Malgarini) and bookish Louise (Marano). Gary contemplates whether to turn a one-night stand with Vanessa (King) into a more long-term relationship, and Allison informs Gary that she’s engaged to their marriage counselor Dr. Krandall (Begley).
Thoughts?; Gary Unmarried, unsurprisingly, is a show as unsophisticated and groan-worthy as its title. It’s a laugh track-smothered, Two and a Half Men-piggybacking sitcom with twice as many yuks as the thankfully unrenewed Back to You packed into its first half-hour last season. With relatively little plot or basic situational comedy to speak of, the success of the show is basically dependent on how charming you find the rogueish Mohr to be. And to be fair, he is pretty charming–dating back to his Bob Sugar days in Jerry Maguire, Mohr has always had a knack for playing sleazy, snaky over-smilers, and here he plays one of his most unapologetic to date. Too bad TV shows generally require more than one character, because there’s not much support to be found elsewhere, even with Jump the Shark Queen Paula Marshall and good sport Ed Begley Jr. in tow.
Hit Potential?: Can I really say “none” with any sort of conviction? Ratings haven’t been off-the-wall yet in either direction, but a show as unambitious as this on a channel as unambitious as CBS could be on years before we even notice that it should’ve been cancelled in its first half-dozen episodes. Maybe it’ll at least finally cancel out the decade-long hit that Mohr’s career took after Paulie.
Worth Watching: Nope. But y’know what was kinda underrated? King’s Ransom. Wish that was on cable more.
Cast: Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Owain Yeoman, Tim Kang, Amanda Righetti
Premise: Patrick Jane (Baker) is a brilliant detective guy who used to pretend to be a psychic, until a serial killer took offense and disposed of his daughter and wife. He has a team and solves mysteries. You know his steez.
Thoughts?: I mean…really? I don’t demand much in the way of creativity from my CBS dramas, but can you try a little harder than The Mentalist? If you want to see a quirky, brilliant detective with a haunted past, there are already about a half-dozen DV-Rable shows with that exact plot description, most notably NBC’s excellent Life, one of the few pleasant surprises of last season. But you could forgive it if there was some sort of twist, something to make The Mentalist at least slightly distinguishable from the cookie-cutter copy of a show format that it seems. And while I guess Simon Baker (he of Land of the Dead and The Devil Wears Prada) is slightly more dashing than your average superhero of a TV detective, and it’s always nice to see the super-underrated Robin Tunney (The Craft, Empire Records, Cherish) and the super-hott Amanda Righetti (The O.C., Reuinion, North Shore) get work, there’s nothing else to work with here. Just a brilliant dude, doing brilliant shit, while everyone else sits around and marvels at his brilliance. C’mon.
(You know what’s even worse? There are repeated instances in the show’s pilot where people ask Baker questions to the effect of “Who are you??” And not once–not once–does he turn around and proclaim, “I…AM THE MENTALIST!” I mean, seriously, if you’ve got a title like that…might as well work with it, right?)
Hit Potential: Undoubtedly. What else do CBS watchers have to do on Tuesday night?
Worth Watching?: Damn, I miss Reunion and North Shore. What happened to you, FOX?
Cast: Justin Bruening, Deanna Russo, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Paul Campbell, Yancey Arias, Bruce Davison, voice of Val Kilmer
Premise: TALKING CAR
Thoughts?: It’s hard to know exactly what to say here. Seems like acting disappointed, surprised, annoyed or amused by the stale humor, surreal plotting and blank characterization of this 2008 update of the 80s Hoff/Daniels classic would all be inappropriate, or at least redundant. So instead, I’ll just say this: This show is exactly what you expect it will be. I’ll leave it at that.
Hit Potential?: About as much as the updated version of the show theme, which sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to The Saint (KILMER!!), has to be a radio hit.
Worth Watching: WHAT Y’ALL WANNA DO, DON’T YOU KNOW WE ALWAYS COMIN’ THROUGH, ME AN’ MY CREW, LEMME HEAR YA SAY FIRE IT UP! (FIRE IT UP!!!) SAY FIIIIRE IT UP!!! (FIIIIRE IT UP!!)