‘Detroit 1-8-7’ (ABC – Tuesdays, 10:00 p.m.)

In this ABC crime drama project, a fictional documentary filmmaking crew goes inside Detroit’s homicide division. – ABC

The Preview (originally posted on 9/15/2010):

Shawn:     “Once in a generation, a cop show comes along that re-writes the rules.” 

That is seriously said in the voice-over at the beginning of this trailer.  It may be true, but that show was The Shield, not Detroit 1-8-7 (which sounds more like a the title of an N.W.A. album than it does a dramatic television series).  Sorry, but this show re-writes nothing.  It’s the epitome of why I don’t watch formulaic cop shows anymore.  It’s all the same thing but this one is trying to be clever by combining the rawness and the grittiness of The Wire and to an extent Homicide: Life on the Street and the pseudo-documentary style of… The Office.  That’s right, The Office.  The difference is that The Office actually is consistently shot like a documentary.  The style of this show is all over the place.  I’m sorry, but if you want to convince us that the show is being shot by a documentary camera crew, your shots cannot include shots only possible if filmed while a cameraman is sitting on the hood of a moving car (that’s in the trailer). 

Beyond, that, though Detroit 1-8-7 doesn’t look awful, it just looks ordinary and typical.  I’ve seen this cop show before, and I can tell I’m not alone in thinking this way.  

This is from 1-8-7’s Official Page

“The detectives are well-developed and easy to follow… There are relationships worth investing in.”

– Mekeisha Madden Toby, Detroit News 

“…promises to be a mighty fine ride…smartly cast urban crime drama’s gutsy, gritty allure.”

– Matt Roush, TV Guide 

First, notice the ellipses that permeate both quotes like bullet-holes, indicating that ABC cut a lot out.  Second, knowing that, this is really the best ABC could come up with to promote critical acclaim for the show?  Seriously, that Matt Roush quote is just embarrassing, but honestly, I really don’t expect much from him anymore.  I think he just has too much on his plate so unless he really likes something a lot, he just whips out the TV reviewer’s thesaurus and gives us “mighty fine ride,” “smartly cast (which is kind of like sensible shoes),” “gutsy” and “gritty.”  As far as Makeisha Madden Toby is concerned, I think she got the memo that if you write for a Detroit Newspaper and live in L.A., it’s in your better interest to be pleasant when discussing a drama set in the city you don’t live in but is responsible for your paychecks.  I’m sorry, but, “The detectives are well-developed and easy to follow…” and “There are relationships worth investing in,” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.  

I’m sorry but there’s just too much good TV this Fall for me to waste my time with this.  I may catch the pilot or an occasional episode, but this isn’t appointment television by an 8-mile. 

The Review:

7 out of 10

Shawn:     Well,  I was right but I was wrong about Detroit 1-8-7.  It certainly is a typical cop procedural but despite all of that… it’s actually pretty good. 

As noted in the preview, I went into this highly skeptical and expected D187 to do everything I predicted it would and fail because of that and although it was entirely as I predicted the shocking part was that despite all of that, it didn’t fail (completely).  Like all cop procedurals, it takes its style from shows that have come before it and in particular the ones that I mentioned, but more than anything D187 takes after NYPD: Blue… ridiculously.  I mean seriously, if you didn’t know what show this was, you’d be waiting for Dennis Franz to show you his backside.

As I watched the pilot it was literally like being on a roller coaster and I almost got sick.  The opening 15 minutes were so clichéd that if my eyes rolled any further, I would have seen my own brain.  But then something miraculous happened:  the story started unfolding and it was actually pretty compelling.  But of course, just when it starts getting good they went back to the old procedural standbys and ruin it but then a few minutes later it starts getting compelling again and then during the climax scene of the police stand-off and hostage negotiation situation, it goes right back to being every other dopey cop show. 

“I’m going in there to try to talk to the guy who’s already killed 4 people in 24 hours without a bullet proof vest… and you can’t stop me,” and then what does Detective Louis Fitch (Michael Imperioli – The Sopranos, The Lovely Bones) do?  He walks in there and tells this psychopath who’s about to kill himself and his kids in a murder/suicide about his own feelings of wanting to “end it all” but he looks at the picture of his own kids and it makes him want to fight on… and of course, that tactic WORKS!  I know that was technically a spoiler but it’s not enough to justify a “spoiler alert” because it’s nothing new.  Anyone who’s ever seen a cop show or movie in the last 20 years where there was a stand-off/hostage situation has seen this. 

For a frame of reference on how a Detroit cop should handle all hostage situation and life imperiling situations, I refer you this lovely video (ignore the title… there’s nothing “X-Rated” about it… it’s on YouTube for goodness’ sake.): 

I’m not particularly impressed with any of these characters at this point who, as noted are pretty clichéd, and their interactions with each other lacks chemistry.  The dialog between them isn’t particularly impressive either, however that can become stronger over time and considering that D187 does have a pretty good cast, I expect the chemistry to improve.  Unlike Miss Madden Toby, however, I haven’t seen anything thus far that makes me believe that “there are relationships worth investing in,” I’m just going on gut instinct because for a show that has as much potential as D187 does, it’s simply impossible for me to comprehend that the character interaction will remain as weak as it has been thus far. 

They really need to give up on this pseudo-documentary thing that they stole from Southland (much more than The Office) because the angles (as I noted in the preview) aren’t working and they aren’t convincing anyone.  One of the things that I do appreciate about this is that people from the streets of Detroit actually talk like they are from the streets of Detroit and they drop the f-bomb and other profanities.  Now, obviously this is on ABC, so we don’t actually hear it but this time they took a good page out of the book of Southland which I’m impressed with and that was by putting the profanity in there but “beeping” it out so that we still know what was said.  It’s not that I particularly like filthy language, but I like realism and no street thugs talk the way in real life like the way that they do on TV.

I really hate admitting this but D187 is actually a pretty good procedural.  Like I said, it was definitely a stomach churning roller coaster that went from stupid to great to really stupid throughout but what’s good is really good there is a huge twist at the end of the pilot that convinced me to set the DVR to “Record Entire Series.”  If an episode ends with me wanting to know what happens next, I really have no choice but to program accordingly. 

Watch full episodes of Detroit 1-8-7, here and here.

‘Chase’ (NBC – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

 

From Emmy Award-winning executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) and executive producer Jennifer Johnson (“Cold Case,” “Reunion,” “Lost”), “Chase” is a lightning-fast drama that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. Marshals hunts down America’s most dangerous fugitives.

Kelli Giddish (“Past Life”) stars as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down violent criminals on the run. Starring as the members of Frost’s elite team are Cole Hauser (“K-Ville”) as Jimmy Godfrey, an East Texas kid who never grew up and is a true American cowboy; Amaury Nolasco (“Prison Break”) who plays Marco Martinez, a good intelligence guy who loves to talk; and Rose Rollins (“The L Word”), who portrays Daisy Ogbaa, a weapons/tactical specialist and a woman of few words. Rounding out the cast is Jesse Metcalfe (“Desperate Housewives”), who stars as Luke Watson, the fresh-faced newcomer whose Washington, D.C. upbringing did little to prepare him for the Lone Star State. – NBC

The Preview (Posted 9/15/2010):

Shawn: Although, seemingly formulaic and reeking suspiciously of U.S. Marshalls (I was waiting for Tommy Lee Jones to pop out and start barking orders about finding Richard Kimball in the trailer), the high-energy and the strong cast of Chase makes it certainly worthy of consideration.  I’m not jumping out of my pants about it yet but it is a Jerry Bruckheimer production and that definitely makes it worth watching for at least the first three or four episodes.  “Cautiously optimistic” is the best way to describe my enthusiasm for Chase.

The Review:

3 out of 10

Shawn:     Alright, that is the absolute last time I automatically give a show the benefit of the doubt for being a Jerry Bruckheimer production and I should have had this policy in place a long time ago because of CSI alone (but let’s be fair… I did use the phrase “cautiously optimistic.”).  Bruckheimer’s problem in general is that when he really gives a damn, he gets behind projects that although may not have long-term success are at least original (see: Justice, E-Ring).  When he doesn’t, he reverts to bland and intelligence-insulting procedurals like Chase

One thing I can say about Chase is that the there is certainly a lot of that during the hour, in fact that’s about all they do and yes it gets very stale, very quickly.  When they aren’t running all over Texas, they are sitting around a room and doing the psychoanalysis version of CSI but instead of a forensics investigation based on actual evidence, this crew comes up with off-the-wall behavioral theories about their fugitive’s psyche and it just so happens that everything they predict about the fugitive’s current and next moves is absolutely what the bad guy is doing!  They literally NEVER make a mistake or misstep and it left me with one conclusion: these jokers don’t need to be working for the Marshal Service collecting government salaries, they need to hook up with Miss Cleo and make some real money.

CALL MEH’NOW!

Chase is boring and contrived.  The characters are clichéd, poorly written and conceived, and furthermore generally cringe-worthy and unlikable.  The dialog is ridiculous, and the general premise of the show is that all you need to know about Texas is that everyone in the state worships Waylon Jennings and knowing that will allow you to track any fugitive.  The only thing that this show has going for it at all is that it’s fast paced and very well-shot which I think was done on purpose to distract the audience from how bad the show is plot and character-wise.  Either that, or they just sunk all of their money into the technical side of production and NONE into the writing side. 

For the record, the actors are fine and actually all have been traditionally very good.  The problem is the writing.  You can’t polish a turd and Jeff Gordon can’t win a race driving a 1993 3-cylinder Geo Metro.

By the way, I don’t even like NASCAR but I figured if Chase can make a whole show based on clichés and stereotypes about Texas, the South and rednecks, why not get in on that as well with the analogies.  When in Dallas…

Oh, and one last thing, Jerry… no one likes seeing the portrayal of a family terrified and graphically murdered execution-style during the opening sequence of a pilot… NO ONE.

Watch full episodes of Chase, here.

‘Hawaii Five-O’ (CBS – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

When Steve McGarrett’s father is murdered, he decided to return home to Oahu in order to catch the killer. The governor offers him the opportunity to run a new task force where he is able to call the shots. Detective Steve McGarrett brings together his own team, beginning with Chin Ho Kelly; an ex-Honolulu Police Detective and former protégé of McGarrett’s father. Kelly has been assigned to a federal security patrol after being suspected of corruption. Detective Danny “Danno” Williams is a New Jersey cop who recently moved to the island and is raising his 8-year-old daughter. Kono Kalakaua is Kelly’s cousin and a rookie officer, fresh from the academy. McGarrett’s team is giving full backing from the governor and plays only by their own rules. – CBS

The Preview (Posted on 9/15/2010):

Shawn: Way to go CBS for making this show sound like every other dry, formulaic cop show.  Thank God for trailers, eh?  I have to say,  I was just going to recommend the pilot and only the pilot simply for the sake of novelty (and the great cast). Watch it, know it’s probably going to be crap-tastic and forget about it. Then I saw the trailer below.  This isn’t Hawaii Five-O, this is friggin’ Alias in Hawaii with cops and it looks great!  Back to that great cast, you’ve got Alex O’Loughlin (The Shield) as McGarrett, Scott Caan (Boiler Room and the Ocean’s Eleven films) as “Danno,” Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, 24) and the smoking hot Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica) as Kono Kalakaua.  This one of the best casts of any show this season and I’m really glad to see Kim in a more prominent lead-role where he actually speaks his native language for a change… which of course is Eastern Pennsylvania English.  Heck, he didn’t even have to move for this show considering his last gig was on Lost for six seasons which is was of course, also filmed in Hawaii.  And, by the way, I am well aware that for a cop show the amount of action looks ridiculous.  That’s part of the reason why it appeals to me so much.  I mean, crap, if you’re going to go camp, go all the way… and we’d better see Wo Fat, too or I’m writing a letter.  This is another definite must-watch show.

The Review:

8 out of 10

Shawn: It’s becoming very easy to write reviews when the trailers really do an excellent job of telling you exactly what a show is all about and you don’t pay any attention to the show description on the network’s website.  Hawaii Five-O was exactly what I suggested it would be.  It’s a great fact-paced action show and the premise (albeit absurd but it was absurd for twelve seasons of the original series) of having the “Five-O” task force autonomous and only answering to the governor allows the audience to suspend disbelief to be able to enjoy all of this fantastic, frenetic action that would seem more appropriate in a Michael Bay film than a Monday night cop show.

The show is not all flash and no substance.  The pilot presented excellent and well-defined back-stories on all of the characters and really made it clear that even with all of the action involved, they can keep you entertained with a compelling story for an hour.  The cast is great and they play well off of each other with the best relationship being between McGarrett (O’Loughlin) and Williams (Caan).  It’s a typical straight man/comic routine with Caan’s biting sarcasm propelling the dialog between the two.  It’s thoroughly enjoyable all the way around and I highly recommend it.

Watch full episodes of Hawaii Five-O, here.

Fall 2010 TV Preview – Fridays

Part Five of the Seven Six Part Series (This has been edited because  I realized that there’s nothing on Saturdays but College Football, COPS and America’s Most Wanted.  Do you really need a review of those?)

8:00 p.m.

The CW:     Smallville (September 24, 2010)

Vic: The final season of Smallville begins this fall and we have Clark Kent finally on the cusp of eventually becoming what he is destined to become: Superman… the ‘Man of Steel.’ This season is what we Smallville fans all have been waiting nine years for. We have all hung in there through some exceptional stories, heart-wrenching losses, great heroes and villians and now it would appear that the baddest of the bad is coming to Smallville: Darkside is looking to take over our planet it seems that Clark will have no choice now but to jump into those tights that Mrs. Kent has been saving for him all these years… or does Lois have them now? That is why you must tune in and continue hanging in with what has been one of the most enduring Sci-Fi, Fantasy Dramas in recent TV memory. Smallville still has the chops. The performances are still great all the way around. Tom Welling still proves that season after season he can command every scene he is in and even in lighter moments he shows us an endearing and clumsy side. Erica Durance as Lois is quick, sharp and she has range. She proves that she has mettle as Lois up against Welling’s Clark. I can’t say enough about Allison Mack as Chloe. I just can’t wait to see how this all turns out this season. I for one hope to see the big guy finally fly and soar this season and hope you all watch as well.

Watch full length episodes of Smallville, here.

FOX:     Human Target (October 1, 2010)

In this drama based on a graphic novel of the same name, Mark Valley plays Christopher Chance, a for-hire bodyguard and private investigator who integrates himself into his clients’ lives so that he becomes a target instead of them. Assuming a new identity for each job, Chance relies on the help of his associates Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), but he can’t outrun his past — or the secrets driving his odd choice of work. -FOX

Shawn: Alright, so this is a little out of the norm because I normally don’t put show descriptions in with previews of returning shows.  I’ve made the exception with Human Target because I think it’s a show that too many people are unaware of because it was a mid-season replacement last year and unfortunately, FOX will most likely kill it by putting it on Friday night where they put all shows to die.  I cover this sad state of affairs in my column regarding the changing network attitudes towards Friday night prime-time and how FOX is, as usual up to the same old bag of tricks (read it here).  So, it’s basically like this: I am on a crusade for the critically acclaimed Human Target because it was one of the best new shows on television last year and needs everyone’s support.

The description is a little misleading.  Chance doesn’t just have a mysterious past, he’s a former freelance assassin who was a really bad dude, completely amoral who had a seminal moment in his life that made him reevaluate his own personal morality and vow to use his skills to protect people from now on.  It’s a fast-paced action show based on the DC Comics Graphic Novel and  they couldn’t have picked anyone better for this role of Christopher Chance than Mark Valley as the dashing yet compassionate former assassin (…and I’m just thrilled to see that Mark Valley finally has regular gig!).  The supporting cast is fantastic with Chi McBride (Boston Public, The Nine) as Winston, the gruff, former San Francisco police detective who works with Chance to keep him ahead of the game and regularly uses his connections from the old job to help Chance on his missions.  Then you have the other, more mysterious and far more deadly Guerrero, played by Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, A Nightmare on Elm Street) who is a hi-tech wizard and a former associate of Chance’s in his prior profession but unlike Chance, really hasn’t had a change of heart, he’s just helping out an old buddy, but he does have a very strict personal moral code that abides by religiously.

Great action, unique stories, wonderfully written and compelling characters are the hallmarks of this show.  I highly recommend that you set time aside on Friday for Human Target (or at least Divver it).

Watch full episodes of Human Target, here.

ABC:     Body of Proof (Later this Fall – TBD)

Dr. Megan Hunt (Dana Delany) was in a class of her own, a brilliant neurosurgeon at the top of her game. Her world is turned upside down when a devastating car accident puts an end to her time in the operating room. Megan resumes her career as a medical examiner determined to solve the puzzle of who or what killed the victims. Megan’s instincts are sharp, but she’s developed a reputation for graying the lines of where her job ends and where the police department’s begins. It turns out her career isn’t the only thing that will need to be rebuilt; Megan’s family has taken a backseat to her ambition, and now she’ll discover there’s a lot of work to do when it comes to dissecting her relationships with the living. – ABC

Shawn: If it hasn’t become abundantly clear by now, I really dislike procedurals in general.  It doesn’t matter if it’s police, law, medical, detective… whatever, I really have no use for them.  And it’s not that this show looks particularly awful, because it doesn’t.  It’s just the same thing I’ve seen time and again which is also one of the big reasons I have no use for sit-coms.  There’s just no originality in any of these programs and with the incredible batch of new shows that have come out this season, it’s not like there is a lack of originality in Hollywood, it’s just not being utilized enough.

What bugs me the most is that the procedurals don’t have to be unoriginal.  Hollywood producers  and execs choose to go that route because it’s safe and easy to pitch to advertisers and the general viewing audience.  For example, NCIS is by definition a procedural, but it’s still a good show because of how original it always has been.  Body of Proof doesn’t have anything resembling an original premise.  Not even the title is original, which like most procedurals and sitcoms reverts to the use of cringe-worthy “clever”  double-meanings for phrases and words to convey a commonly known phrase to attract the audience’s attention, e.g., House, The Whole Truth, Outlaw, Grey’s Anatomy, Rules of Engagement, Raising Hope, Running Wilde, The Biggest Loser, Bones and Blue Bloods.  That’s just from this Fall.  I didn’t even mention the stupidest one of all, HawthoRNe (well… now I have).  This show literally is a hybrid of Quincy, Crossing Jordan, CSI, House and Everwood.  Like I said, Body of Proof doesn’t look awful, and it does have a good cast, but it just looks ordinary.

FOX:     The Good Guys (September 24, 2010)

From Matt Nix (“Burn Notice”), comes THE GOOD GUYS, a new action comedy about what happens when an old-school cop and a modern-day detective expose the big picture of small crime.

Once upon the 1970s, DAN STARK (Bradley Whitford) and his partner, Frank Savage, were big-shot Dallas detectives. So big, in fact, that they were lauded as American heroes after saving the Governor’s son. Thirty years later, Dan Stark is a washed-up detective who spends most of his time drunk or re-hashing his glory days. A stranger to modern police work who would much rather trust his old-school police instincts, Dan has the reputation as being a bit of a wild card. Able to skate by on the heroic deeds of his yesteryear, he is still a semi-active presence on the force, and with the help of his liquor of choice, occasionally comes through to solve a petty crime.

Dan’s new partner, JACK BAILEY (Colin Hanks), is an ambitious, by-the-book and overall good detective, but is sometimes a bit too snarky for his own good. His habit of undermining himself has earned him a dead-end position in the department, and he is stuck solving annoying petty theft cases that nobody else wants. Worse, he’s been given the thankless task of babysitting Dan, the drunk pariah who can never keep partners for long. Jack may not see it, but he has little chance of getting out of his situation; his knack for making enemies at the station has assured he is not going anywhere.

His only ally is ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY LIZ TRAYNOR (Jenny Wade), a quick witted former girlfriend whom Jack hasn’t quite gotten over and the one person he turns to for help with his current professional predicament. Until Jack finds his way out of this situation, he is stuck awaiting the day when he can turn everything around, get back to solving actual cases and return to being a real detective.

On one fairly typical day, as Jack and Dan are pursuing a Code 58, the Dallas police code for routine investigations, which puts them hot on the case of a stolen humidifier, they inadvertently become engaged in a shootout over a stolen golf bag belonging to a notorious drug smuggler. This starts Jack and Dan on a wild chase to retrieve the bag, recover the contents inside and go after the drug smuggler – all while dodging his hired assassin!

The excitement of the case reminds Dan of the way he and Frank busted punks back in the good old days, and he convinces Jack to go along for the ride. Needless to say, many departmental rules are again broken in the reckless pursuit, showing their boss, LIEUTENANT ANA RUIZ (Diana Maria Riva), that Jack and Dan will be spending many more days in the Property Crimes Division, assigned to investigate seemingly minor crimes in order to keep them out of major trouble.

Shawn: Yep, I broke the rule again about not posting show description in regards to returning shows (well… not technically as this is just a continuation of the first season that went on hiatus at the end of August.).  But again, like with Human Target, I have to do this to counteract FOX’s continued insanity regarding good shows left to die on Friday night.   For the point of brevity (and because copy and pasting is a helluva lot easier) here’s the skinny on how FOX is abusing this show as I mentioned in the same column that I discussed Human Target.

It’s not even remotely fair what they’re doing to The Good Guys even by FOX’s idiotic standards, premiering it on a Monday in the middle of May when all of the other shows are wrapping up, letting it run for nine episodes over the summer and then dumping it into Friday night because it didn’t catch fire fast enough for them.

Simple, but to the point… it’s the same standard operating procedure that they’ve used with Human Target and countless other shows.

Now that the rant is complete, I really like The Good Guys.  It is very funny and full of action and Hanks and Whitmore play off each other brilliantly.

Watch full episodes of The Good Guys, here.

10:00 p.m.

CBS:     Blue Bloods (September 24, 2010 – NEW SERIES!)

­BLUE BLOODS is a drama about a multi-generational family of cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement. Frank Reagan is the New York City Police Commissioner and heads both the police force and the Reagan brood. He runs his department as diplomatically as he runs his family, even when dealing with the politics that plagued his unapologetically bold father, Henry, during his stint as Chief. A source of pride and concern for Frank is his eldest son Danny, a seasoned detective, family man, and Iraqi War vet who on occasion uses dubious tactics to solve cases. The sole Reagan woman in the family, Erin, is a N.Y. Assistant D.A. and newly single parent, who also serves as the legal compass for her siblings and father. Jamie is the youngest Reagan, fresh out of Harvard Law and the family’s “golden boy;” however, unable to deny the family tradition, Jamie decided to give up a lucrative future in law and is now a newly minted cop. Jamie’s life takes an abrupt turn when he’s asked to become part of a clandestine police investigation even his father knows nothing about, and one that could impact the family’s legacy.­ – CBS

Shawn: Blue Bloods is one of the most anticipated dramas this Fall for good reason.  Simply look at this cast.  Your leads are Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, and Bridget Moynihan… all television and film superstars (Len Cariou is no slouch either).  Superstars like that don’t just arbitrarily sign on to do a show if they don’t already know it’s brilliant.  The concept is definitely unique.  An original cop show that focuses on a multigenerational family of cops and all of the dynamics that go along with that.  I’m very excited about Blue Bloods.

Watch full episodes of Blue Bloods, here.

NBC:     Outlaw (September 17, 2010 – NEW SERIES!)

Few jobs are guaranteed for a lifetime, and a Supreme Court appointment is a position that no one ever quits – unless he is Cyrus Garza (Smits). A playboy and a gambler, Justice Garza always adhered to a strict interpretation of the law until he realized the system he believed in was flawed. Now, he’s quit the bench and returned to private practice.

Using his inside knowledge of the justice system, Garza and his team will travel across the country taking on today’s biggest and most controversial legal cases.

Garza’s team includes his best friend since childhood, Al Druzinsky (David Ramsey), a brilliant defense attorney with liberal beliefs; Mereta Stockman (Ellen Woglom), a hopeless romantic who is Garza’s loyal law clerk; Lucinda Pearl (Carly Pope), a wildly unorthodox private investigator who uses her sex appeal and wit to gather information for Garza; and Eddie Franks (Jesse Bradford), a tightly wound, rabidly ambitious Yale-educated attorney, recently hired as Garza’s law clerk. – NBC

Shawn: I’ve already done a complete review for Outlaw, here.  It is by far the worst drama on television.

Watch full episodes of Outlawhere.

Have the Networks (FINALLY) Started to Take Friday Nights Seriously???

In the past, Friday prime-time has been a notorious dumping ground for television shows that weren’t cancelled yet, but were on their last legs, at least for dramas.  Low-cost news magazines like Dateline and 20/20 have always found success here and of course in the last decade there have been several reality shows that have thrived here, but it’s been pretty much a foregone conclusion that if a drama winds up here, it’s not long for this world and will soon be gracing us only in syndication (if it has had a long enough run) or in your queue on Netflix.  Well, this season I’m noticing a trend of the networks taking the risk of putting new shows that they’ve invested in and some that are actually fantastic with money-making casts (see: Blue Bloods) on Friday.  They are also doing something else:  they are putting perennial solid veterans on Friday as well.  Now, I may not like or watch all of these shows (so you’re not going to see all of them reviewed or previewed) but it really is quite a change of pace for Fridays to say the least. 

The first example is (now) CBS’s Medium which has averaged 10 million per season the last six seasons.  What’s notable about this is that not only did Medium move from Monday to Fridays between seasons  5 and 6, they also switched networks (from NBC to CBS) yet still only dropped from 8.5 million viewers to 7.8 million.  It simply absurd that they kept 92% of their core audience while not only moving to Fridays but to a different network. 

CSI: NY on Fridays is the biggest head scratcher of all.  I hate the entire CSI franchise for a myriad of reasons that I’m not going to go into right now but there’s no denying its success.  Of the three shows in the franchise, CSI: NY is the worst performing of all of them but that’s kind of like saying that Tony Lazzeri was the worst run producer of the 1927 Yankees‘ three best in the infamous “Murderers Row” lineup with Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig being the two best.  Any team would have loved to have had the ’27 Lazzeri in their lineup just like any network would love to have CSI: NY in theirs.  By the way, I hate the Yankees more than I hate the CSI franchise but again there’s no denying their success. 

CSI: NY has consistently averaged 13.3 million viewers per week CONSISTENTLY for six seasons in the Wednesday night 10:00  p.m. slot which has typically been very competitive (although I must admit that with Leno on at 10:00 p.m. for a good portion of last season there wasn’t much of a challenge) and has been in the top 25 of all shows every season except one (it was #28 during the 2007 – 2008 season although it had the exact same number of viewers – 12.6 million – that it did last year when it was #23) going as high as #17 (2008 – 2009, 13.03 million).  Now it did take a dive last year falling to #44 with the 18 – 49 crowd but still, nearly 13 million is nothing to sneeze at even if you did drop in the “coveted” demographic.  Needless to say, CSI:NY is pretty much a sure-thing for CBS and they didn’t put it in the Friday night slot to cancel it.  Sorry… not with 13 million viewers.

An honorable mention needs to go out to Supernatural (and to an extent Smallville) which has been The CW’s stallion (for what that’s worth) on Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. for its first four seasons and that show is now on in the same slot on Fridays as well, but what REALLY caught my attention was not just all of the dramas on the major networks on Fridays but how Syfy has completely abandoned their original programming schedule on Friday nights that if I recall correctly, they’ve been going with for over a decade.  SyFy’s two most popular shows – the Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica and the franchise favorite Stargate: Universe – have been moved to Tuesday nights, premiering on October 5th.  This is monumental and I haven’t seen anyone take note of this.  SyFy owned Friday nights and one can only assume that this waving of the white flag was in response to the major networks actually paying attention to Friday nights again.

So why this big change in attitude towards Friday night prime-time?  Historically, the reason why the Friday night line-up has been so mediocre is because viewers go out on Friday nights and don’t normally stay in to watch television… especially the “coveted” 18 – 49 demographic.  Mind you, this is entirely speculative on my part but I have a theory:  it’s the economy. More and more people are staying home for entertainment instead of going out in order to save money.  When you’ve got unemployment at around 10% and 40% of the population who are worried that they might possibly lose their job within the next year, that’s certainly not a situation conducive to spending a bunch of money out at the club.  People are saving more, spending less, paying off credit cards and when they are spending money on entertainment it’s on long-term appliances like HD TV’s and Blu Ray players, both of which have gone down dramatically in price this year.

So, there is no question that most of the networks now see value in Friday night but the question is: didn’t FOX get the memo?

You see, FOX bothers me to no end with their programming decisions.  They are notorious for giving up too quickly on quality shows, not giving them a chance for audiences to grow and if they do throw an audience a bone and renew a show with borderline ratings, they stick it in Friday night to die.  The decisions they make at FOX are mind-boggling and reactionary on a whole different level.  Why these morons don’t understand that when you have the highest rated show of all time on three nights a week that it actually gives you latitude when it comes to relaxing a little bit when a drama doesn’t immediately perform as you hoped it would is far beyond my level of comprehension.  Hell, put American Idol on every night and use it as a lead-in for every 9:00 p.m. show.  It worked for 24!  I will remind you that this is the same network that cancelled Family Guy.  I will also remind you that this is the same network that cancelled perhaps the greatest Sci Fi series of all time, Firefly, after 11 stinkin’ episodes.  Topless Robot has a great article that explains exactly how stupid the programming decisions at FOX have been.

And this is exactly the approach that FOX is going with for both Human Target and The Good Guys, both critically acclaimed shows that had marginal ratings when the aired last season.  It’s not even remotely fair what they’re doing to The Good Guys even by FOX’s idiotic standards, premiering it on a Monday in the middle of May when all of the other shows are wrapping up, letting it run for nine episodes over the summer and then dumping it into Friday night because it didn’t catch fire fast enough for them.  Human Target on the other hand is one of the best shows on TV, period and could very easily build a locked-in huge genre audience if FOX had the foresight to give it a chance like they did with 24 in 2001 which, by the way had the identical audience numbers that Human Target had during its first season.

Now, you might be saying, “Now, waitaminute, here… how do YOU know that FOX isn’t doing the same thing that the other networks are doing?”  Nope, wrong. First, consider that we’re talking about FOX and we’ve already established what is common knowledge about their programming practices.  Second, the other networks mentioned are putting up four strong veteran dramas with built-in audiences and three new shows that they have just sunk a bunch of money into in order to develop.  You NEVER put a show with weak/mediocre numbers in a Friday slot if you want it to survive and have the audience grow.  Hopefully, because of the other networks taking Friday night seriously for once, these two great shows can be successful despite the neglect from FOX.  I doubt it, but I remain hopeful… because I really love Human Target.

Watch full epsidoes of Human Target, here.

Watch full episodes of The Good Guys, here.

‘The Event’ (NBC – Monday, 9:00 p.m.)

The Event is an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, “The Class”), an everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his would-be fiancée Leila (Sarah Roemer, “Disturbia”), and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history.

Sean’s quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including newly elected U.S. President Elias Martinez (Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, “In Treatment”); Sophia Maguire (Emmy Award nominee Laura Innes, “ER”), who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees; and Leila’s shadowy father (Scott Patterson, “Gilmore Girls”). Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind. – NBC

The Preview (Posted on 9/15/2010):

Shawn:     This is by far the most anticipated show of the new year and for good reason. It’s a spy/action/political thriller à la 24 shown from multiple perspectives with a Lost-type/FlashForward-type mystery to it. The cast is amazing and the effects look killer. This is one of those moral imperative shows. You must watch this. I’d comment more on it but the trailer confused the crap out of me and I still haven’t processed all of it.

The Review:

9 out of 10

Shawn:     First things first: my assumptions about The Event couldn’t have been more prophetic and it doesn’t mean that I’m that great of a judge of a show’s character, it just means that NBC marketed it perfectly. As noted above, I said it looked like Lost and 24 had a baby and considering an hour before it premiered, NBC was quoting Us Magazine (who had seen it) as saying the EXACT SAME THING, I’d say that’s precisely what NBC is going for and it wasn’t a plan that they just dreamt up over the summer.  This has been in the works for almost year, now.

Fans of 24 may not know this, but the last season of 24 (last year’s season 8 ) was not necessarily going to be the end of 24 as of mid-season ’09 – ’10, and in fact, 24‘s ratings weren’t even particularly bad (9.31 million viewers but they were dropping and had been for some time).  Despite the obvious repetitiveness of each season and the notion that the tank was clearly empty (the writers themselves admitted this), 24‘s main problem production-wise was that it was a very expensive show to produce every week and the ratings weren’t high enough for FOX to be able to ask for the advertising dollars they needed to produce it AND keep it profitable. Around the same time, NBC realized that they had made perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of all time in television programming history by completely eliminating their 10:00 p.m. drama slot, Monday through Friday (to save money), in favor of demoting Jay Leno (and, yes, it was a demotion) and putting him in there all week. If you don’t understand how colossal of a mistake this was, consider this: there was serious talk about NBC shutting down completely as a network.

So, in order to save itself from itself, NBC got some new people in and re-evaluated their situation and realized they needed a strong shot in the arm and actually inquired seriously about bringing 24 over to the Peacock Network. Well, then they got a look at the books and found out how much 24 was actually costing and of course 20th Century slapped a ridiculous price tag on it to boot, and NBC said, “Thanks, but no, thanks.”

So, although the idea of 24 never came to fruition on NBC, the concept of reviving the network with a bang was still alive and well and it’s pretty clear NBC REALLY wanted their own 24. They wanted their own 24 so bad that they hired the Executive Producer of 24, Evan Katz to a seven-figure, two-year deal to run The Event.  Truly, though, it’s not just about having their own 24, it’s about having their own Genre show with the built-in audience from the day the pilot airs.  Genre fans are the most dedicated of all television fans and NBC knew this most recently because they had a genre hit with Heroes until it started to suck (and don’t ask me when it started to suck because it’s all a blur to me.  I stuck with it until the December break last year before I was bored to tears with it.  Apparently it started to suck a long time before that.).  So, this is why you see the comparisons to 24, Lost, FlashForward and Heroes and even though Katz  claims that The Event is none of these shows, it really is certainly in the same vein because if it wasn’t, NBC would never have picked it up, nor would they have signed Katz immediately at the end of 24 for a ridiculous amount of money for 2 years.

Which brings up yet another good point about this series:  the confidence NBC has in it.  NBC had the opportunity to get 24 and with it one of the most popular characters in prime-time television history and an automatic large built-in audience carried over from eight previous seasons.  Now yes, there were the cost issues involved with acquiring and producing the series and of course it’s far cheaper to not pay Kiefer Sutherland the $13.2 million per season that he was making on 24, but having the kind of gravitas that 24 brings to your network right out of the gate might even be worth risking the scratch on… that is of course, unless you’ve got a show in the chute that you really believe will take Genre audiences to a whole new level and that is precisely what The Event does.

The Event redefines Genre television for a new generation of fans.  You undoubtedly see elements of 24, Lost, Fringe and FlashForward but the story is very unique, the mysteries are compelling and the style of the series with the repeated time-shifting (i.e., the show goes back and forth in time repeatedly and it’s not consistent), albeit a little difficult to keep up with at times, makes the drama that unfolds that much more intense.

The casting for The Event is very impressive.  Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter) is a bit of a newcomer but he seems perfectly cast as the average guy trying to find answers.  The rest of the cast is excellent as well with a lot of well-known television faces and character actors (Blair Underwood, Tony Todd, Laura Innes, Zeljko Ivanek, Clifton Collins Jr., Scott Patterson, Bill Smitrovich, to name a few. ) and no real superstars was very smart for a few reasons.  First, you have seasoned pros on this show who ALL can act (and if I’ve never mentioned this before please understand that all of my favorite actors are character actors).  Second, they come at a much cheaper price than, say, a Kiefer Sutherland would so think of it like a professional sports salary cap: you have the option of having one superstar and a team of mediocre players or a team full of really good players.  The latter is the preferred and it’s a necessity with a new series.  It’s also a necessity because unlike 24, The Event is… well… event-driven and not single-character driven like 24 was.  A show like this requires a diverse ensemble cast as to not distract the audience from the complex and engaging drama that is unfolding.

All in all, The Event is excellent and has truly lived up to its hype so far and I don’t really have any doubt that with Evan Katz at the helm it’s going do anything but get better and better.  This is the best new network show of the season and the only thing even on cable that’s better is Boardwalk Empire.

Watch full episodes of The Event, here and here.

Fall 2010 TV Preview – Thursdays

Part Four of the Seven Six Part Series (This has been edited because  I realized that there’s nothing on Saturdays but College Football, COPS and America’s Most Wanted.  Do you really need a review of those?)

Thursday

8:00 p.m.

ABC:     My Generation (September 23, 2010 – NEW SERIES!)

What a difference ten years can make. In 2000, a documentary crew follows a disparate group of high schoolers from Greenbelt High School in Austin, TX as they prepare for graduation, then revisits these former classmates ten years later as they return home to rediscover that just because they’re not where they planned doesn’t mean they’re not right where they need to be.

These students couldn’t wait to graduate and head out into the real world. But the world they were entering got very real very fast. As these classmates return home to revisit their old hopes for their future, they’ll discover that, even if you don’t get exactly what you thought you wanted out of life, it’s not too late to get what you need. – ABC

Shawn: OK, ABC, that’s enough already with the pseudo-documentaries.  It’s becoming as overused as 3-D is for feature films and like 3-D it’s just a cheap gimmick to try to convince people that your crap show really isn’t a crap show.  Do you think audiences aren’t going to notice that this show is no different from any other show about 20-somethings from different walks of life who all have something in common that brings them together?  This entire premise alone is going to piss off your target demographic for that hour (namely me) because it points out how old I am at 35 compared to these knuckleheads.  Don’t need that, sorry.  Despite the fact that the show makes me feel old, let’s be honest, it just looks dopey.

8:30 p.m.

CBS:     $#’! My Dad Says – (September 23, 2010 – NEW SERIES!)

$#*! MY DAD SAYS (pronounced “Bleep My Dad Says”), based on the popular Twitter feed by Justin Halpern, stars Emmy Award winner William Shatner as Ed Goodson, a forthright and opinionated dad who relishes expressing his unsolicited and often wildly politically incorrect observations to anyone within earshot. Nobody is safe from Ed’s rants, including his sons, Henry, a struggling writer-turned-unpaid blogger; and Vince, the meek half of a husband/wife real estate duo with domineering Bonnie. When Henry finds he can no longer afford to pay rent, Ed reveals a soft spot and invites Henry to move in with him. Henry agrees, knowing that the verbal assault will not abate and now there will be no escape. Describing their father/son relationship is tricky, but Ed will easily come up with a few choice words. – CBS

Shawn:

This is by far the most unfortunate post I have to write.  You see, I’ve been a big fan of Justin Halpern’s Twitter Page “Shit My Dad Says” for well over a year now and of course, I’m a huge fan of all things The Shat is involved with but I’m sorry to say that this is going to suck.  Not only is it EVERYTHING that I absolutely hate about sitcoms with the recycled and clichéd jokes, characters and plots it’s 180 degrees backwards of the whole premise of “Shit  My Dad Says!”  Just watch the trailer below to see what I’m talking about but first read this from Amazon in which Halpern explains the premise of the book bearing the same title:

‘At 28 years old, I found myself living at home, with my 73-year-old father. As a child, my father never minced words, and when I screwed up, he had a way of cutting right through the bullshit and pointing out exactly why I was being an idiot. When I moved back in I was still, for the most part, an idiot. But this time, I was smart enough to write down all the things he said to me.’

Now please explain to me how a wise-cracking jerk of a father, who’s apparently pretty senile and his sensitive and always correct progeny bear any resemblance to the description you just read FROM THE GUY WHO INVENTED THE THING?!

The answer is simply that they don’t resemble each other whatsoever but Halpern isn’t stupid.  He must know that this is garbage and that his new-found fame from this silly little twitter account will be over in about 15 minutes and he’s cashing in while he can and you know what?  I don’t blame him whatsoever.  If a bunch of no-talent hacks like the cast of Jersey Shore or The Hills or Keeping up With the Kardashians can get paid, why not a guy who has actually made millions of people laugh?  But please, be honest and don’t kid yourself into thinking that this is going to be anything but the highest level of suckitude©.  Believe me, I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this, but I know I’m not.

AND WHY THE HELL IS HALF THE CAST OF MADtv IN THIS???

NBC:     Community – (September 23, 2010)

Shawn: I have to admit, I’m a convert to Community.  When it debuted in 2009, I had high hopes for it because it looked clever and starred E’s Joel McHale (The Soup) and he’s always clever and funny.  It took me three episodes to be very disappointed.  Then, around Christmas-time (I think), I was in the garage working on a project and NBC was running a back-to-back marathon of the sitcom and I completely changed my mind.  Community improved dramatically and is very funny. I definitely recommend Community.

Watch full episodes of Community, here.

… And check out this great sneak preview, here.

9:00 p.m.

The CW:     Nikita (September 9, 2010 – NEW SERIES)

When she was a deeply troubled teenager, Nikita (Maggie Q, “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Mission Impossible 3”) was rescued from death row by a secret U.S. agency known only as Division, who faked her execution and told her she was being given a second chance to start a new life and serve her country. What they didn’t tell her was that she was being trained as a spy and assassin. Throughout her grueling training at Division, Nikita never lost her humanity, even falling in love with a civilian. When her fiancé was murdered, Nikita realized she had been betrayed and her dreams shattered by the only people she thought she could trust, so she did what no one else before her had been able to do: she escaped. Now, after three years in hiding, Nikita is seeking retribution and making it clear to her former bosses that she will stop at nothing to expose and destroy their covert operation. – The CW

Shawn: I’ve already done a full review of Nikita, see it here.  Good but not great.

Watch full episodes of Nikita, here.

FOX:     Fringe (September 23, 2010)

Shawn: Fringe is one of my favorite shows on TV currently.  If you haven’t watched it before it’s like The X-Files on steroids with a J.J. Abrams spin.  The stories are great, the characters are well-developed and it’s grown into a wonderful and fascinating story arc.  For those of you who are new to the series, don’t bother starting in, now.  You’re going to have to go to Netflix and add the first two seasons to your queue, or you’ll be completely lost, but it’s certainly worth saving the new episodes on the divver recordification device for when you’re done watching the old episodes.

Watch full episodes of Fringe, here.

NBC:     The Office (September 23, 2010)

Shawn: Every time that I think The Office has run out of steam, it does something that keeps me coming back for more.  Looking forward to yet another year at Dunder Mifflin.

Watch full episodes of The Office, here.

9:30 p.m.

NBC:     Outsourced (September 23, 2010)

“Outsourced” is NBC’s new workplace comedy series centered around a catalog-based company, Mid America Novelties, that sells American novelty goods including whoopee cushions, foam fingers and wallets made of bacon, and whose call center has suddenly been outsourced to India.

After recently completing Mid America Novelties’ manager training program, Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport, off-Broadway’s “The Gingerbread House”) learns that the call center is being outsourced to India, and he is asked to move there to be the manager. Having never ventured out of the country, he is unprepared for the culture shock. Overwhelmed, Todd discovers that his new staff needs a crash course in all things American if they are to understand the U.S. product line and ramp up sales from halfway around the world.

The sales team Todd inherits includes Gupta (Parvesh Cheena, “Help Me Help You”), a socially awkward employee; Manmeet (Sacha Dhawan, BBC’s “Five Days II”), a young romantic who is enamored with America; Asha (Rebecca Hazlewood, BBC’s “Doctors”), a smart, striking woman who finds herself intrigued by Todd; Rajiv (Rizwan Manji, “Privileged”) the assistant manager who wants Todd’s job; and Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan, Broadway’s “Bombay Dreams”), a wallflower who suffers from extreme shyness.

Todd also discovers other transplants working in his office building, including an American expatriate, Charlie Davies (Diedrich Bader, “The Drew Carey Show”), who runs the All-American Hunter call center, and Tonya (Pippa Black, “Neighbours”), a beautiful Australian who runs the call center for Koala Air. – NBC

Shawn: I don’t know what appeals to me more, the politically incorrect tone of this series or the fact that it looks absolutely hilarious.  I also like the premise that they telemarket novelties like rubber vomit and whoopee cushions.  Looking forward to this, I hope the show can live up to the hype in the trailer.

NEXT: Friday

‘Boardwalk Empire’ (HBO – Sundays, 9:00 p.m.)

From Terence Winter, Emmy Award-winning writer of ‘The Sopranos,’ and Academy Award Winning Director Martin Scorsese, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is set in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition, when the sale of alcohol became illegal throughout the United States.

America in 1920. The Great War is over, Wall Street is about to boom and everything is for sale, even the World Series. It is a time of change when women are getting the vote, broadcast radio is introduced, and young people rule the world.

On the beach in southern New Jersey sits Atlantic City, a spectacular resort known as “The World’s Playground,” a place where rules don’t apply. Massive hotels line its famous Boardwalk, along with nightclubs, amusement piers and entertainment to rival Broadway. For a few dollars, a working man can get away and live like a king — legally or illegally.

The undisputed ruler of Atlantic City is the town’s Treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, (Steve Buscemi) a political fixer and backroom dealer who is equal parts politician and gangster and equally comfortable in either role. Because of its strategic location on the seaboard, the town is a hub of activity for rum-runners, minutes from Philadelphia, hours from New York City and less than a day’s drive from Chicago. And Nucky Thompson takes full advantage.

Along with his brother Elias (Shea Whigham), the town’s Sheriff, and a crew of Ward Bosses and local thugs, Nucky carves out a niche for himself as the man to see for any illegal alcohol. He is an equal opportunity gangster, doing business with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Big Jim Colosimo (Frank Crudele), Lucky Luciano, (Vincent Piazza) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

As the series begins, Nucky’s former protégé and driver Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) returns home from the Great War, eager to get ahead and reclaim his rightful place in Nucky’s organization. But when Jimmy feels things aren’t moving quickly enough, he takes matters into his own hands, forming a deadly alliance with some associates of Nucky’s that set the Feds, led by Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) on his mentor’s tail. Complicating matters further is Nucky’s burgeoning relationship with Margaret Schroeder, (Kelly Macdonald) a local woman in an abusive marriage whom he tries to help out. – HBO

10 out of 10

Apparently HBO has decided that they are sick of playing second fiddle to Showtime for having the best drama on premium cable. After watching the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire I feel rather ashamed. I feel like a crook, in fact. I feel like I robbed HBO of the $10.50 that I should have paid them to see this show in the theater. Because it’s not a TV show, it’s a Martin Scorcese Academy Award winning film that comes into your living room once every seven days for twelve weeks. There is only word to describe this monumental television excellence: Epic.

The grand scale and visually stunning aesthetics are like nothing that’s been on TV since 2001’s Band of Brothers. The pilot alone cost $50 million and it’s perhaps the best $50 million spent on a television series ever. The sets are absolutely amazing and the level of detail is like none I’ve ever seen for a period piece outside of Titanic. There really is no question that you are in Atlantic City circa 1920 and this show does what I’ve pointed out that other quality dramas do and that is make the city as integral of a character as the politicians and gangsters.

The story and depth of characters are rich and engaging and you’re hooked from the opening scene and the role of “Nucky” Thompson… well, let’s just say the Steve Buscemi was born to play him.

Thompson is the epitome of the corrupt community leader for the prohibition era. He’s an institutionalized pillar of the community and gangster rolled into one. He’s the city treasurer who has built his power through graft and payoffs and is the most powerful man in town, controlling the police department and mayor’s office who hang on his every order. Like most crooked politicians in bed with organized crime he views as himself as morally superior to the gangsters he regularly does business with and he does his best to keep them at arm’s length. This is very interesting to note about his personal character because unlike most corrupt politicians, he truly does care for the citizens of his community and goes out of his way to help those who need it the most with no ulterior motives and his magnanimous attitude and tenderness isn’t out of guilt. As crooked as his empire his, he truly is a man of the people and believes in the virtue of public service. This dichotomy presents itself often as there appears to be a perpetual internal conflict between the noble and the nefarious going on inside of Nucky.

One of the more notable exchanges is between Nucky and his protégé, Jimmy, where he tells Jimmy, “You’d be very foolish to underestimate me, James.  I could have you killed,” right after he lectures him as a father would about going back to school and making something of himself for his wife and son. But, it’s how he says it that’s interesting… it’s kind of like that he has to convince himself that he could have Jimmy killed and he isn’t really comfortable with the idea even though we all know it’s true, he could, but still, we don’t buy it. Jimmy doesn’t buy it either as his classic response indicates while at the same time serving to polarize Nucky’s internal conflict.  “Yeah, but you won’t. Look… you can’t be half a gangster Nucky… not anymore,” and THAT is what Boardwalk Empire is all about.

It’s about how Prohibition changed this country during an era of excess. It’s about our own good and dark sides squaring off.  We see the likes of Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone as small time hoods, who we all know will become kings over the next ten years and rule their particular kingdoms through violence and terrorism but what’s often forgotten is that it was the average citizen that made that reign possible.  It’s a part of our collective history as Americans that hasn’t been told before and Boardwalk Empire shines a spotlight on it.

Boardwalk Empire is going to be one helluva journey. This is the best show on television… period, and yes, it only took one episode to figure it out.

Official Boardwalk Empire show site, here.

EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE REVIEW! ‘No Ordinary Family’ (ABC – Tuesdays, 8:00 p.m., Series Premiere September 28, 2010)

ABC Studios brings to life “The Incredibles”, the story of the Powells, an every day American family, who are too busy to spend time together. So they decide to take a trip as family as a way to reconnect, but on the way, their plane crashes. Now there’re back to their normal lives, but something seems to be happening to each one of them… they have superpowers. – ABC

The Preview (Posted on 9/15/2010):

First, let’s give credit to ABC for not only acknowledging right off-the-bat the most obvious criticism of this show – that being that it looks like Disney-Pixar’s The Incredibles – but outright OWNING it.  That’s the way to beat them at their own game!  And why wouldn’t Disney try to capitalize on their property in a prime time, live-action drama (for those of you that are unaware, Disney owns ABC)? Screw the nay-sayers, this show looks like a lot of fun and is my choice for sleeper hit of the season.  The concept is great and it’s not just a show for the family but it’s a show focused on the family as much as it is on their super powers.  Casting always tells me a lot about a show and No Ordinary Family is no different.  You’ve got Michael Chiklis as the dad (The Shield), Julie Benz as the mom (Dexter), Romany Malco (The 40 Year-Old Virgin) as the best friend and sidekick and lo and behold, Stephen Collins (7th Heaven) who appears to be our Lex Luthor-type.  I don’t care if I sound like a 10 year-old fanboy, I can’t wait to watch No Ordinary Family and apparently based on the amount of merchandising I saw over at the official site, ABC is pretty confident that they have a hit on their hands as well.

The Review:

8 out of 10

Last night, I was just about to do a review for the new HBO hit, Boardwalk Empire when Mrs. Tastic casually asked me when No Ordinary Family was premiering and I told her September 28th. Needless to say, I was very curious about her interest because she doesn’t like any of the shows that I do so I asked her why she was asking. She then informs me that she received an email offering her the chance to see an exclusive advanced screening of NOF. At this point I began pulling my hair out and I said, “… and you’re just telling me now???” She then said, “Well, what does it matter if it’s going to be on next week, anyway?”

This is when I discovered that apparently my wife is under the impression that I blog about miniature dachshunds.

To make matters worse, it turned out that she received the opportunity for the advance screening on September 14th and it was due to expire 90 minutes from when I learned about it.

AAAAARGH!!! (That was in celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day that was also on September 19th.)

Let’s begin, shall we?

Well, here’s the skinny: NOF is EXACTLY as advertised. Now, I know I said that about The CW’s Nikita, but it’s even more so in this case, and in fact a little to its detriment. I’m not saying that it’s not a good show (because, it really is) but that five-minute extended trailer literally gives away the majority of the pilot!

Bad move, ABC, because you took a lot of the fun out of the pilot episode. On the upside, though NOF is EXACTLY as advertised! Seriously, my preview is almost completely spot-on with its peremptory analysis.

As I noted last week, ABC does not hide from the premise of the live-action ‘Incredibles,’ it in fact they embrace it. Oh, and by the way, as an aside, the reason that the fancy wife got the invite for the advance screening to begin with: she’s registered at Disney.com (am I a TV prophet or what?).  So, basically, yeah, you’ve got a live-action ‘Incredibles’ but with a bit more of an adult theme.

I have to admit, I think it’s a little borderline for the 8:00 p.m. time slot.  9:00 p.m. is probably a little more appropriate considering the violence and more adult themes than I would have expected.  For example, The Powells aren’t just losing touch with each other… they’re REALLY dysfunctional and they are a lot of heavy emotional issues. One of the things I found particularly odd was that Jim Powell (Chiklis) seems OK with the concept of his 16 year-old daughter having sex with her boyfriend… but only if she’s ready. Yeah, that whole sub-plot was particularly awkward for me as a father and thank God the boyfriend was gone halfway through the pilot (yeah, I know that’s a spoiler… don’t worry, he won’t be missed).

So, yes there’s some pretty heavy themes that were kind of unexpected and as you would expect there is some moderate to heavy violence for prime-time television. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not violent like Heroes and in reality I am very thankful that it is nothing like Heroes whatsoever. Nothing against Heroes, which I followed faithfully for three and a half seasons, but in retrospect Heroes was a VERY dark show and I’m very happy that this approach to super heroes is a lot more light-hearted, however, I would definitely not recommend this show for children under twelve or so. Like with anything else, your mileage may vary depending on your kid.

Besides everything that I already knew about this show going into it, there were two things that I picked up on that I really liked. The most obvious was the big twist at the end of the episode that made up for the fact that most of the pilot was given away in the aforementioned five-minute teaser (***grumble, grumble***) and the second thing that was just brilliant was the music. If you pay attention, you’ll notice it’s classic super hero music.  Just think of the scores from the Richard Donner Superman films by John Williams and the Ghostbusters score by Elmer Bernstein.  It’s a very nice and subtle nod to the genre.

NOF is a very good show and I think it’s going to develop a very strong following. The premise is solid and the cast is fantastic and the characters are very well-conceived (although the kids are a little melodramatic my taste) and it has all the comic-booky goodness you can ask for.

‘Outlaw’ (NBC – Friday, 10:00 p.m.)

Few jobs are guaranteed for a lifetime, and a Supreme Court appointment is a position that no one ever quits – unless he is Cyrus Garza (Smits). A playboy and a gambler, Justice Garza always adhered to a strict interpretation of the law until he realized the system he believed in was flawed. Now, he’s quit the bench and returned to private practice.

Using his inside knowledge of the justice system, Garza and his team will travel across the country taking on today’s biggest and most controversial legal cases.

Garza’s team includes his best friend since childhood, Al Druzinsky (David Ramsey), a brilliant defense attorney with liberal beliefs; Mereta Stockman (Ellen Woglom), a hopeless romantic who is Garza’s loyal law clerk; Lucinda Pearl (Carly Pope), a wildly unorthodox private investigator who uses her sex appeal and wit to gather information for Garza; and Eddie Franks (Jesse Bradford), a tightly wound, rabidly ambitious Yale-educated attorney, recently hired as Garza’s law clerk. – NBC

2 out of 10

Before we go any further with this review let me just say that I didn’t have to even watch this mess to know how awful it would be but I did it anyway. Not because I wanted to, but because I felt that it was only fair that I exhibit some level of integrity with a review considering that the producers exhibited none when they created Outlaw.  I’ve made it clear that I’m skeptical of legal procedurals but this is downright embarrassing.

The show begins WORSE than I thought it could with a death-row inmate who obviously is set to be executed within hours talking with his wife through glass telling her to move on and to find someone else for her and the kids. Then the lawyer comes and delivers the bad news: the governor will not issue a stay of execution because, and I quote, “the governor is an idiot” which leads me to wonder if this guy was actually convicted of murder or jaywalking, considering his attorney’s brilliant legal analysis of the governor’s decision. Super Lawyer then informs both the husband and wife that he has “just filed a request with the Supreme Court to stay the execution.” He then tells us that he knows that it’s a “hail mary.”

In the next scene, we see our protagonist, Cyrus Garza, sitting at a table in Vegas, and he just gets the card he wants, cheers with all of the people standing around him and exclaims, “People say there’s no justice!” Then we see him being escorted out of the casino by security giving a lecture to these boners about how counting cards is not illegal and he then cites New Jersey State Supreme Court case law to prove his point. Beyond how stupid the whole scene was, there isn’t a lawyer on the planet that randomly cites case law for whatever everyday situation that arises… unless thery’re slobbering drunk and are attempting to intimidate the police officer.

Then, as he’s leaving the casino he gets accosted by some hottie cartoonish-lawyer from the ACLU about the case of the guy in the opening scene and she proceeds to lecture him about the law and he argues back with what the producers apparently believe a conservative would say and he then proceeds to have sex with the ACLU lawyer. After we see hottie ACLU chick laying on her sofa with her bra on the coffee table (dude… you couldn’t even take it to the bedroom?) we see Garza watching some news show about his father, Francisico, and himself which is being shown to audience for the sole purpose of plot exposition to show how the father was a liberal and champion of the little guy and how his son is “perhaps the most conservative member of the Supreme Court.” The father on the video then says that his son is wrong and that he believes that in his heart, Cyrus knows this. If you haven’t figured out the message yet it’s simple: all conservatives are horrible, evil and self-centered and all progressives are morally superior and altruistic. What’s also obvious is the blatant attempt to paint anyone who is a conservative as being a complete hypocrite and having morally reprehensible character traits (Garza is of course a degenerate gambler and a womanizer as well). 

Have I painted a pretty clear picture of how stupid this show is already? Just think: that was all in the first four minutes.  It really doesn’t matter what your politics are, the ridiculous preachiness of this entire show is so over-the-top as to make the show utterly unwatchable. This is exactly why audiences stopped watching Boston Legal three seasons in despite the fact that James Spader and William Shatner and the rest of the cast gave outstanding performances (Law & Order suffered from this problem as well).

I’m sorry, but seriously, who is this approach appealing to? All this does is completely alienate conservatives and moderates in the audience and with progressives, you’re just preaching to the choir. The biggest point of all is that audiences in general are sick and tired of this crap from television and film. They want to be entertained, not lectured to about social justice… especially not on Friday at 10:00 p.m.  If they want political partisanship they’ll turn on FOX News or MSNBC during prime-time.

Beyond the preachiness, the show is completely legally inaccurate and ridiculously clichéd. Statements like, “The whole legal system is based on protecting that one innocent person that’s been falsely accused,” “You lawyers are all the same. This is just a game to you. You make me sick,” and “You can’t put the system before a man’s life,” permeate the script in place of actual dialogue and original plots.

To make matters worse the cases aren’t even compelling. They are incredibly contrived and stolen from old Law & Order episodes and you pretty much have the result of the case figured out within the first twenty minutes and of course each episode is replete with the surprise evidence and the almost Scooby Doo-like conclusion (“…and I would have gotten away with it, too if it weren’t for that meddling former Supreme Court Justice!”). There are no surprises here whatsoever.

Speaking of clichés, the ensemble cast couldn’t be more ridiculous and – again, I’ll use that word – cartoonish.  Think of it like this: one day the casts of NCIS, Shark and C.S.I. were all involved in a bizarre cloning experiment like in the 1988 Ivan Reitman film Twins, starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They put all of their DNA together in a blender and it resulted in two casts, one that we’ll call the “Julius” cast, the other we’ll call the “Vincent” cast. Well, apparently the Vincent cast – the one that was the result of all of the leftover crap – systematically smothered the Julius cast with a pillow and burned their corpses and went to work on this show. The characters are lame and the acting is horrific.

The only reason to even consider watching this show is for Smits, who always puts in a solid performance and actually pulls off the Garza character quite convincingly but he simply cannot carry this bad show that spends far more time on the proverbial soap box then it does attempting to entertain the audience and when I say far more time, I mean it’s a 90% to 10% ratio. It’s kind of like when you get suckered into go to an Amway meeting for the promise of a free meal but with the Amway presentation you have the choice to get up and walk away after your meal.  If you watch this show, you have to wait for the entertainment portion to enter sporadically throughout the hour. NBC must be aware of how bad this show is which would explain why the put it in during the absolute worst time slot in the prime-time schedule.   I think it’s obvious that they are attempting to bury this show so it didn’t stain what is otherwise an amazing Fall prime-time lineup. 

So for my closing argument:  Hollywood, keep your politics to yourself, at least with prime-time television, and just create compelling drama that ALL audiences can enjoy. 

The Prosecution rests.

Watch full episodes of Outlawhere.