‘Outsourced’ (NBC – Thursday, 9:30 p.m.)

“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

The Preview (Originally posted on 9/23/2010):

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.

The Review:

7 out of 10

Unfortunately, Outsourced looked a lot funnier in the trailer than it has turned out to be. I’m not saying that I don’t like the show but I think the whole concept of the series works better for a film than it does for a weekly sitcom.

The hilarious trailer is literally a four-minute summation of the entire pilot episode and though the jokes while rapid-fire in the trailer are very funny, they don’t work particularly well for comedic value over the course of 23 minutes. That or it was one of those issues like with the film The Hangover where they literally showed every funny scene in the movie in the trailers and because of that when I actually saw it I didn’t think it was that funny. Probably not, though, because every episode following the pilot has followed the same trend and I’m still not laughing as much as I would have hoped.

Every single episode kind of follows the same formula and that is Todd dealing with an issue involving the differences between American culture and Indian culture. Some of the jokes work but a lot of them don’t and the reason why is that they keep reverting to this standby of taking an American turn-of-phrase and having one of the Indian characters repeat it using a funny accent and saying it in the style of… well… an Indian. Here’s an example:

Gupta: As you say in America, it looks like you are up a creek and have forgotten your paddle. Also, this is a creek of feces… a most unpleasant creek for you.

See what I mean? That line was one of the funnier ones but every episode is full of these and it gets a little stale when there’s a dozen of those per episode because you really just start expecting it. Like I said, it’s the kind of thing that works sporadically in a feature film but it can’t carry a series. Just think of how well it worked during the few cameo scenes with Mooj (Gerry Bednob) in The 40 Year-Old Virgin (and it was even funnier because he was so foul-mouthed).

WARNING: NSFW (LANGUAGE, SEXUAL REMARKS)

But you wouldn’t want a whole series based around that (foul language and sexual remarks notwithstanding). It would be like having an entire series based around people who tried to speak American English but they also sounded like Yoda. It would be funny the first couple of times but it would lose its appeal rather quickly.

Beyond that, though, these characters are very likable and although the different scenarios all have the same general premise, I find myself still wanting to tune in every week. It’s very charming.

So, in the end, Outsourced is an enjoyable show even if it’s not as funny as I would have expected and it does have the potential to pick up steam and become a lot funnier with a little bit of effort on the writer’s part.

Watch full episodes of Outsourced, here.

‘The Whole Truth’ (ABC – Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.)

This unique legal drama chronicles the way a case is built from the perspective of both the defense and prosecution. Showing each side equally keeps the audience guessing, shifting allegiances and opinions on guilt or innocence until the very final scene.

Kathryn Peale, the product of a New England background and a sheriff father, is the Deputy Bureau Chief in the New York State District Attorney’s office. Jimmy Brogan, born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen and a friend of Kathryn’s since their days at Yale Law School, is one of New York’s rising criminal attorney stars. Buoyed by their respective teams, these evenly matched lawyers—each with a strong streak of competitiveness, a fervent belief in their clients and an equally intense passion for the law go about creating two different stories from the same set of facts. As this up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the legal process mirrors the excitement of a championship match, it becomes evident that truth has nothing to do with innocence or guilt—at the end of every trial, the only thing that matters is what the jury believes. – ABC

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

Shawn:     “A totally new kind of legal drama!”  Really, ABC?  Sorry, but not quite.

So, yeah,  I admit it.  Occasionally I read other reviews before I post if for no other reason than to see if the pros caught the same thing about a particular show that I did.  This certainly was the “case” with The Whole Truth, because this time, I knew that I had seen this show before but I just couldn’t put my finger on where and I was hoping that someone’s review would ring the proverbial bell for me.  That’s when I came across this from Paige Wiser from the The Chicago Sun and it all fell into place:

There’s no skimping on the sordid and blunt evidence, but the cases are absorbing. And unlike “Law & Order,” which had a way of leaving us hanging, we do learn the “whole truth” by the end of each episode. You can’t put a price on closure.

That’s it!  The multiple perspectives AND the big reveal at the end of the episode explaining what really happened… it’s Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2006 flop, Justice!  So, apparently, Jerry is just recycling old projects and hoping that no one will notice.  Regardless, I was one of the folks who really did like Justice, despite it lasting only 13 episodes.  Like Justice, The Whole Truth has a very strong ensemble cast and appears to be pretty compelling.  That being said, I am a little irked by the main premise of this show which is going to stick in my craw every episode:  are we really supposed to believe that the same defense attorney and A.D.A. are going to be adversaries EVERY week in EVERY case… in New York City ??? Seriously, are these the only two lawyers in town?  Jerry Bruckheimer plus the fact that it’s Justice recycled are the only two reasons that I am in the category of “reluctantly” watching the pilot.

The Review:

5 out of 10

I hate doing this but… meh. TWT was exactly what thought it would be: a Jerry Bruckheimer production of a former Jerry Bruckheimer production, namely, Justice. The two shows are nearly identical to each other in structure and formula. The only real difference is the added perspective of the prosecution and the bitterly annoying main characters who, as noted, are long-time friends and it’s implied that they had a romantic relationship at one point. They threw that in for tension at the end of the pilot and quite frankly I really don’t care about that aspect of the storyline because it is about as compelling as the past romantic relationship between Jerry and Elaine mentioned every now and then on Seinfeld.

TWT is nothing more than a typical formulaic procedural and to make matters worse, as noted, it’s a recycled show that didn’t work the first time and what really is a bad harbinger for TWT is that it’s nowhere near as good as its predecessor.

None of the characters are particularly interesting and they all are “roll-your-eyes” clichéd. Brogan is the stereotypical, “man-of-the-people,” working-class defense lawyer who, when he’s not discussing pro basketball with transexuals while standing in line to get a pastrami sandwich in a deli, he’s shooting hoops in his office to while going over case strategy with his associates. Oh… I almost forgot… he’s so hip that he wears $1,200.00 suits to court with red tennis shows…. *sigh.*

Peale is the polar opposite of her long-time friend. She’s a conservative, tough as nails, hard-nosed prosecutor who only wears sensible shoes and would never be caught in red tennis shoes… or talking basketball with transsexuals in delis. In order to clear her mind and figure out case-strategy, she likes to drag her colleagues down to the pistol range to fire off a few rounds… *sigh.*

I must say that as boring and contrived as these characters are, what makes them far more annoying is that they are calling each other every five minutes to taunt each other with whatever new piece of evidence or information they have that hurts the other’s case.

Wha… are you kidding me?

What the producers are doing is trying to capitalize on the fact that all evidence has to be shared with both sides. The are playing fast and loose with discovery and it’s just ridiculous. Despite what’s portrayed on TWT, there IS a legal process for discovery spelled out in every jurisdiction’s rules of procedure. You don’t just start calling the opposition and give them a heads-up on every new piece evidence or witness you just were made aware of and you sure as hell don’t tip your hand on strategy. The whole thing is just nonsense.

All in all, despite how weak TWT is, it’s not a horrible show by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s just not very good either. If you like this kind of safe, semi-compelling legal procedural, you’ll probably be pretty comfortable with TWT (and you’ll probably hate my review of Law & Order: Los Angeles, as well).

But if that’s the case you’re going to be pretty disappointed because it’s unlikely that TWT is long for the prime-time lineup. It is currently the lowest rated show on ABC and it’s not getting better.

The truth is that I wouldn’t recommending committing to The Whole Truth.

Watch full episodes of The Whole Truth, here.

TV Tech SCOOP! Today Netflix Ditches Disc For PS3, Adds 1080p/5.1 Dolby Surround Content!

It’s official!  As of today, PlayStation 3 owners (and Nintendo Wii owners) will no longer need a disc to access Netflix streaming of television shows and movies.  This welcome development is long-overdue and highly anticipated for a service that has been beloved by PS3 owners and Netflix subscribers alike.

To make it even sweeter, the service for the PS3, which was already equal in quality to the XBox 360 service and far superior to the same service for the Nintendo Wii (the Wii offers no high-definition video service for Netflix, whereas the PS3 has offered programming in 720p since its inception) will also now be far superior to another media player device (including Microsoft’s XBox 360) by also offering programming in 1080p and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround content for a true home theater experience.  These two features are not available currently on ANY other media device at this time.

A couple of notes on this:

First, there seems to be a discrepancy between today’s Netflix blog post and the Netflix press release from October 14th.  Today’s blog seems to imply that only 1080p content will feature 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound audio whereas the press release seems indicates that the enhanced audio will be available on all content.

For right now, I’m going to assume that the press release is the more accurate source for this as the writers of the official press releases in the P.R. departments are a bit more meticulous with the details than those who handle the corporate blogs.  I will research this later personally with my own system and if my assumptions are incorrect, I will update this article accordingly.

Second, there was something buried in the press release that should be noted as very significant to home theater enthusiasts:

“Dolby Digital Plus supports up to 7.1 channels of premium-quality surround sound…”

Now, although only 5.1 is being offered currently, as noted, DD Plus does have the capability to support the more contemporary 7.1 format.  Considering that Netflix has a strong reputation of actively improving the services they offer, it would not be surprising to see 7.1 offered in the future.  It might be a while, (after all, it took a year for Netflix to develop a PS3 application to run its streaming service as opposed to using a disc), but the wait will be well worth it.

This latest development is just one more reason to consider a PS3 as your ultimate media and entertainment device.

Current PS3 owners, go to the “PlayStation Network” section of the main menu and install the Netflix application from the “What’s New” area and you’re ready to go!

‘$#*! My Dad Says’ (Thursday – CBS, 8:00 p.m.)

$#*! 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

The Preview (Originally posted on 9/23/2010):

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???

The Review:

0 out of 10

Here are some numbers: 16 in the three-minute teaser, 40 in the first act,  26 in the second act, five in the closing of the show, for a grand total of 87 for the entire 21 minutes of the pilot.

Now, at this point I’m sure you’re asking, “What exactly is he counting?”  Well, I’m not going to leave you in the dark, what I counted was the number of attempts (and, yes,  I really did count) at what the writers apparently believe are jokes and the only reason I knew that they were jokes was because of the contrived and FORCED laughter from the live studio audience.  You see, I say that the laughter was forced because there’s no way any sane or rational human being would consider those ‘jokes” to be funny.  There has to be coercion involved and I suspect that it was at gunpoint.

And do you know what you get for the 87 attempts at humor in 21 minutes (at a rate of 4 per minute)?  Two actual funny jokes… and they were both gay jokes so out of the 87 attempts they had to resort to a stereotype joke in order to be funny.. and it wasn’t even that funny.  And for good measure, they did throw in a predictable dick joke that involved a vegetable… and that wasn’t funny either.

It’s official:  this may be the worst sit-com ever made.  It is far worse than I could have imagined.  It is puke-in-your-mouth awful.  The level of suckitude© cannot be expressed in words and in fact, I’m truly at a loss as to how to describe how bad this is on a level that human beings can understand.  It’s like trying to explain how the mind of God works.  I couldn’t do it and in fact I can’t comprehend it myself.  I literally cannot comprehend how bad this show is.

Everything I said about the show in the preview was absolutely correct, but worse than it bearing no resemblance to the twitter feed, as I noted it would be, it’s everything I hate about sitcoms on FLIPPIN’ STEROIDS.  I always believe that every show, even the worst of them, has some redeeming value.  $MDS has NOTHING redeeming about it, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, not even the Shat.

In fact, although the character development and horrible writing of this show are not the Shat’s fault, I blame him for agreeing to this project after he read the script.

Every character and every actor in this show is awful and Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan should be banned from television for five years for their horrible performances on this.

I want to forget I ever saw this show.

Watch full episodes of $#*! My Dad Says, here.

TV SCOOP! The Early Casualties of the Fall 2010 Prime Time Schedule: ‘Lone Star,’ ‘Outlaw,’ and ‘My Generation’ Cancelled

FOX DOES IT AGAIN!!!

Well, if you didn’t hear the news already or wondered why your TiVo or other recordification device didn’t record FOX’s “new hit series” (their words after the first week with only 4.3 million viewers), I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but FOX has unceremoniously cancelled Lone Star after only two episodes.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, because I did

The first is the time slot and the network.  This show is the replacement for 24 which just ended after 8 seasons.  This is the last show in the world I would have ever expected to replace 24.  If there was a show that I would have thought would have gone in the Monday night at 9:00 p.m. slot on FOX,  it would have been either Human Target or Fringe.  Both are excellent action shows that could easily carry 24’s torch in that slot and to be completely honest, I think this show would be better suited for CBS or ABC.  They would seem to have the demographic for it more than FOX.

…I just didn’t think it would happen after two episodes.

So, I’m going to give this show 6 weeks without any expectation of it surviving the Thanksgiving season cuts.  This way I won’t be disappointed if another good show is cancelled which unfortunately, as good as this show is, I do expect to happen.

So, I was absolutely correct about LS and my other two concerns didn’t even have a chance to materialize as issues.  This was the absolute worst time-slot that this show could have been in.  As noted, this was the old 24 slot and even though by the fourth season 24 was beginning mid-season to avoid any breaks (because the breaks severely hurt the ratings), they still managed to put an action or police procedural in that slot.  Since the fourth season of 24 the residents of the 9:00 p.m. slot in the Fall have been: Prison Break, Vanished, K-Ville, Prison Break, Lie to Me.  Now, I will certainly grant that it hasn’t always been a success in that slot for FOX, but audiences certainly have known what to expect there and they didn’t expect a serialized soap, no matter how clever it was.

I am simply amazed that no one at FOX considered that this was a really horrible time-slot for what was a really good show.  I mean, seriously… I’m no network executive and I have absolutely no experience professionally in television, but I knew immediately from when I saw the pilot in August that it was beyond questionable to park LS here.  Seriously, who’s running things over there at FOX?

The only good thing about the demise of LS is that Lie to Me is being moved from Wednesday into its slot at 8:00 p.m. to Monday at 9:00 p.m.  Now, I don’t care about LTM because as much as I like Tim Roth, I don’t find the show particularly original or compelling, but filling their spot in Wednesday is going to be the show that should have been there all along: Human Target.  FOX apparently has found religion regarding HT and is making it the lead-in into the season premiere of Hell’s Kitchen.  That really is significant, especially considering how FOX (like it does with so many shows) was planning on putting HT out to pasture on Friday nights.

I think what’s happened is that someone who isn’t a complete idiot at FOX realized that they only had one new drama this season and it just failed miserably so maybe 8 to 9 million viewers in the middle of the week ain’t so bad considering they have nothing else.  So, although, I’m a little sad to see Lone Star go based on principle, if it means giving HT an opportunity to succeed… well, Lone Star… don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

A final note on Lone Star: there was no reason to cancel this show, in fact there was no reason for it to be on FOX to begin with.  LS was tailor-made for F/X and it could have thrived there with the ratings it received on FOX.  It’s not a particularly expensive show to produce (which is obvious by the sets and locales) and it’s the type of show like Damages that would tell a story better over the course of 12 episodes than it could in 22.  The real question is: why couldn’t FOX figure this out before they picked it up or even after they cancelled it?

Some Sanity at The Big-Boy Networks

In other, more positive news, NBC’s Outlaw and ABC’s My Generation have also both been cancelled.  You may recall that I blasted what I consider to be the worst new drama on TV this Fall, Outlaw, despite the fact that Jimmy Smits is still a favorite of mine and I will tell you this show certainly won’t be missed… by anyone.

As for My Generation is concerned, all it took was the trailers for this show to tell me it was going to be awful and I want to thank ABC for saving me the trouble of having to watch the stupid thing and writing an actual review.

The real concern now is: who’s next?  Well, all I can tell you is that you’d better not get too attached to any of the new network dramas this Fall because none of them are doing particularly stellar.

‘Law & Order: Los Angeles’ (NBC – Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.)

The newest addition to the Law & Order brand, “Law & Order: Los Angeles” fuses classic ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with the distinctive backdrop of LA – delving into the unique attitudes, cultures and crimes of the West Coast.

The drama follows Detectives Rex Winters (Skeet Ulrich, “Jericho”) and Tomas “TJ” Jarusalski (Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”) as they pursue cases through the diverse City of Angels. As members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery Homicide Division, Winters is a straight-shooting ex-Marine with a clear-cut worldview as stubborn as he is, while TJ, who grew up the son of an Oscar-winning Polish cinematographer, knows too well the dark underside that is behind-the-scenes Hollywood.

Deputy District Attorney Morales (Alfred Molina, “En Education,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “Spiderman 2″) is a sarcastic realist who believes moral righteousness is great in theory, but ineffective in a street fight. Though he knows how to manipulate both his public image and the behind-the-scenes politics, he’s still a killer in the courtroom who lives to see justice served. – NBC

The Preview (originally posted on 9/17/2010)

Shawn: Hi, my name’s Shawn and I’m a recovering Law & Order fan. You see, one day about four years ago, I decided that the entire franchise, which I had been watching faithfully since 1990, had turned to utter crap (and that includes SVU which people still think is good for some reason). The formula was stale and the “ripped from the headlines” garbage became a convenient crutch that was about as exciting as your local theater group practicing their ad-libbing skills by randomly choosing topics from a hat (which of course, is a common theme in television production lately. see: Running Wilde in the Tuesday Preview.). Unfortunately, it took about a decade too long for this show to be cancelled. What I can’t seem to figure out is why the arrogant Dick Wolf thinks that simply taking the brand of crap that is Law & Order and moving it from one side to the country to another is actually going to produce a better product.

And before you say to yourself, “Well, this could be different,” I’m going to have to stop you right there because, no, it’s not going to be different. Do you know how I know? There are two obvious reasons. First, take a look at the first sentence of the show description by NBC:

“Law & Order: Los Angeles” fuses classic ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with the distinctive backdrop of LA – delving into the unique attitudes, cultures and crimes of the West Coast.”

The first thing that they mention as a selling point is what made the show suck to begin with (the “ripped from the headlines” crap). It’s the reason that people stopped watching… period, you unoriginal nit-wits at Dick Wolf Productions.

The second reason that stands out is the simple fact that NBC doesn’t have a single trailer of this new series out that shows a single scene from the show. What are they hiding? After all, this cast is amazing. Skeet Ulrich, Alfred Molina and Academy Award nominated Terrence Howard star in this and NBC isn’t highlighting any of them in the promotions for this new “hit” series? It makes absolutely no sense, unless of course, they know the moment that they show five seconds of this show in a trailer, audiences are going to sing in unison, “I thought they cancelled this stupid show.”

Here’s my theory: NBC owes Dick Wolf a lot for twenty seasons of L & O, twelve seasons of SVU and amazingly, nine seasons of CI (whatever network it’s on now). That’s 41 seasons of television. To put that in perspective, that’s 50% more than all five series of the entire Star Trek franchise. So, Dick Wolf says, “You’re doing another ‘Law and Order’ series whether you like it or not and you’re going to do it in L.A., because that’s where I live now.” NBC’s response was, “How high did you say you want us to jump, Mr. Wolf?” and voila, L & O: L.A. is born. NBC knows it’s going to be crap but in order to keep it semi-profitable, they sunk a lot of money into casting and even I have to say that was a brilliant move on their part because as much as I have no interest in anything L & O, even I’m considering watching the pilot just for the cast. So, in principle, no, I would not recommend this but for curiosity’s sake I probably will watch the pilot and only make it halfway through because I’ll be so disgusted.

The Review (See above):

3 out of 10

This will be the shortest review of the season. Do you know why? It’s simple: everything I predicted in the preview was exactly spot-on. This show is nothing more than the original Law & Order that just got cancelled after 20 seasons except for the fact that it’s set in L.A.

What’s really disappointing is how poor the performances are from this all-star cast. It’s to the point where it’s embarrassing. I really want to chalk this up to poor writing, but I don’t know if I can. This whole show is just awful and no one is getting a free pass.

The only reason it’s getting three stars is because it’s not as bad as Outlaw.  I expect it to be canceled by the end of the season.

Watch full epsiodes of Law & Order: Los Angeles, here.

‘The Defenders’ (CBS – Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.)

Two colorful Las Vegas defense attorneys who go all-in when it comes to representing their clients. Nick and Pete are the local go-to guys with an eclectic client list who are still looking to hit their own jackpot. Leading the law firm of Morelli & Kaczmarek are Nick Morelli, an earnest, hard-charging attorney who represents his clients to the best of his ability, no matter how big or small the case; and his partner, Pete Kaczmarek, whose passion for the law is matched only by his love of fast cars, beautiful women and expensive clothes. Joining them in their growing law practice is new associate Lisa Tyler, an enthusiastic young attorney looking to put her exotic dancing days behind her; and their young assistant, Zoe Waters, a spunky and sweet ingénue who is eager to please her bosses. While Lady Luck shines on their legal careers, the partners have their hands full when it comes to their personal lives. With Pete busy cruising the Vegas Strip for his latest romantic conquest, Nick is focused on repairing a fractured marriage to his estranged wife and remaining present in the life of their young son. No matter the offense, Nick and Pete aim to prove that when the stakes are high, they’re willing to bet the house on the clients they defend in Sin City. – CBS

The Preview (originally posted on 9/17/2010)

Shawn: I have to keep reminding myself that I am sick of legal procedurals and why but then I get dragged right back in by shows like The Defenders starring Jim Belushi (According to Jim) and Jerry O’Connell (Sliders) who star as a couple of working-stiff lawyers here in my city, Las Vegas. Here’s the thing, I’m not going to be watching this show because I expect it be some fantastic weekly legal thriller, on the contrary, I expect that part of the show to be clichéd as every other legal show. No, I’m watching because I like Belushi and O’Connell and after seeing the trailers and interviews associated with this show, I think I like these characters. Again, how relatable the characters are can make or break a series. Truthfully, this show doesn’t have to be about lawyers, it could have been about cops, plumbers, copier salesmen, the Mexicans on The Strip shoving the cards in your four-year old’s face offering hookers direct to you hotel room… whatever. It doesn’t matter because this is a buddy-[insert profession here] show and nothing more and this could work with Belushi as the comedian and O’Connell as the straight man. I think I’ll need to watch the first few episodes to get a handle on whether this show is worth hanging on to, but I will say this: if they start that crap like they do on CSI of randomly mentioning streets and neighborhoods in Las Vegas without any actual resemblance to where these landmarks truly are geographically-speaking, I will shut it off.

The Review:

8 out of 10

Congratulations, CBS! You’ve given me a legal procedural that actually enjoyed and only winced at a couple of times while watching.

The Defenders works for the reason I thought it would: Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell and it’s not just the fact that they were cast in the roles of Nick Morelli and Pete Kaczmarek, but that the characters themselves were apparently written for these two.  And for the record, I don’t care what anyone says, even though According to Jim was awful and lasted far too many seasons, Jim Belushi is a very good actor.

Our protagonists are a couple of working-class lawyers based on the real life Las Vegas attorneys, Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese. I appreciate this on a couple of levels.

First, unlike what most legal procedurals portray, most attorneys are not the kind of lawyers you see on Boston Legal or L.A. Law. Most attorneys are working-class folks who work long hours and although make a good living aren’t Rockefeller rich by any stretch of the imagination. Nick’s a recently separated father who cares as much about getting to his little boy’s little league game and reading to him before he goes to bed as he does about representing his clients. Kascmarek is a bit more Hollywood, but he’s still very believable as Morelli’s loyal right-hand partner who’s fiercely dedicated to his clients and to doing the right thing. So the realism factor on that is pretty refreshing.

The other thing that I like is that, again, unlike most legal procedurals, this one isn’t composed of an ensemble cast at a big firm or in a D.A.’s office. One of my pet-peeves with legal procedurals is that there are just too many characters and they take away from the actual cases and become too much of the story themselves. Legal shows are supposed to be just that… dramas about law, not soap operas. Too many characters on a show tends to invariably water down the cases and make them clichéd and predictable. The Defenders is primarily about our two main characters, Nick and Pete, and to an extent their new associate, Lisa Walters (Jurnee Smollet, Friday Night Lights)… that’s it. That small core group of characters allows the audience to focus on the compelling cases and the character development without losing anything in either department. And after two episodes this formula is working very well. I love these guys.

These stories are very compelling and very topical and unlike the laziness associated with Law & Order’s “ripped from the headlines” nonsense, The Defenders deal with issues as opposed to specific news headlines and what’s even more impressive is that they are actually addressing issues specific to Las Vegas. The prime example of this is in the second episode, Nevada v. Carter, where they focus on the very well-known issue in Clark County of the problem in the Public Defender’s Office having massive, overflowing caseloads that they can’t handle because of the limited number of often inexperienced attorneys and it is causing serious miscarriages of justice. It really impressed me that in the second episode they addressed this very hot and important issue.

The only aspects that I don’t like about The Defenders are the nit-picky things that bug me about all legal shows (like not being able to get the law or court procedure correct sometimes) and shows that take place in Las Vegas (that I noted in the preview), but the show is so good that I’m just going to let them slide and not even mention specifics.

Watch full epsiodes of The Defenders, here.

‘Undercovers’ (NBC – Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.)

From acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost,” “Alias”) and executive producer/writer Josh Reims (“Brothers and Sisters,” “What About Brian”) comes a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership.

Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Vacation,” “Soul Food,” “Resident Evil: Afterlife”) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Dr. Who,” “Bonekickers”), are a typical married couple who own and operate a small catering company in Los Angeles – with help from Samantha’s easily frazzled handful of a sister, Lizzy (Mekia Cox, “90210,” “This Is It”). Secretly, the duo were two of the best spies the CIA had ever known, until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired.

When fellow spy and good friend Leo Nash (Carter MacIntyre, “American Heiress,” “Nip/Tuck”) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss and agency liaison, Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, “Deadwood,” “Jericho”), to locate and rescue Nash.

With assistance from resourceful CIA field agent Bill Hoyt (Ben Schwartz, “Parks and Recreation,” “Bronx World Travelers”), whose professional admiration for Steven isn’t hard to miss, the pair is thrust back into the world of espionage, disguises and hand-to-hand combat.

Following leads that take them to cities spanning the globe, Steven and Samantha quickly realize that perhaps this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides exactly the kind of excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing. – NBC

The Preview (originally posted on 9/17/2010)

Shawn:     Wow.  There is not a whole lot more to say about Undercovers than that.  J.J. Abrams has done it again and NBC has proven again that they have gone from being the worst network on TV to perhaps the best.  Do we really have to see even see one episode to be sure that this show is going to be great?  The answer is a resounding, “no.”  You’ve got a great cast with some actual chops, a relationship that I truly believe and care about from just the trailer and non-stop, J.J. Abrams-style action and spy-goodness that makes this show another moral imperative.

The Review:

8.5 out of 10

As I noted in the preview, there isn’t a whole lot to say about Undercovers than “wow.” Seriously, if it’s action, Sci Fi or mystery and J.J. Abrams is attached to it you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be fantastic. It’s akin to when Martin Scorcese’s name is attached to projects about organized crime or if Stephen Spielberg’s name is attached to a project about World War II. We know what these greats do best and Abrams is establishing himself as one of the greats in both Film and TV.

Undercovers is no exception. It’s an exciting adventure from beginning to end on every episode. Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw have excellent chemistry and both play the role of the domesticated spy perfectly.  They both carry themselves with an air of sexiness that both male and female audiences can appreciate. 

The supporting cast is fantastic and all provide differing levels of comic relief to lighten up the episodes.  Gerald McRaney is their C.I.A. handler who’s supportive (albeit a little crotchety and annoyed by them at times) but who knows more about their reinstatement than he’s letting on. Carter McIntyre as the fellow agent who keeps it light with his sense of humor and wise-cracks and Bill Hoyt is the quirky, eager mission contact who provides the duo with operational support and can speak nine languages. He’s also an uber-fanboy of Steven and to Steven’s dismay, Hoyt has no shame about constantly reminding him of that.

The action and the fight scenes are great, the production values are fantastic with excellent CG that actually convinces you that you are in multiple foreign locales during every episode as opposed to watching scenes against an obvious green-screen backdrop, and most of all the character interaction and stories are compelling.

Undercovers is like watching a feature film every week and I look forward to many more adventures with the Blooms.

Watch full episodes of Undercovers, here.

‘Raising Hope’ (FOX – Tuesday, 9:00p.m.)

Raising Hope is a new single-camera family comedy from Emmy Award winner Greg Garcia that follows the Chance family as they find themselves adding an unexpected new member into their household.  At 23 years old, JIMMY CHANCE (Lucas Neff) is going nowhere in life. He skims pools for a living, parties every night and still lives at home with his family, including his MAW MAW (Cloris Leachman); his mother, VIRGINIA (Martha Plimpton) and his father, BURT (Garret Dillahunt).  Jimmy’s life takes a drastic turn when a chance romantic encounter with LUCY (guest star Bijou Phillips) goes awry once he discovers she is a wanted felon. Months later, when Jimmy pays a visit to the local prison, he learns Lucy is pregnant with their baby, and after she gives birth, he is charged with raising their daughter. – FOX 

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

Shawn:     I didn’t think it was possible but Rasing Hope has given me whole new reason to hate sitcoms.  You see, what’s pissed me off thoroughly is the lie perpetuated on show’s Official Page that I posted above.  It’s leaving out a crucial detail and the omission is by design.  The little baby’s mother, isn’t just a wanted felon, she’s a serial killer and her big joke in the trailer is that they would never execute a mother of a seven month-old baby.  Then, they cut to a scene with Jimmy sitting on the other side of the glass with the baby on his lap watching her get electrocuted and about halfway through the process he covers the baby’s eyes.  I’m sorry, and you can call me old-fashioned, but a baby being separated from its mother and then forced to watch her get executed in an electric chair is not exactly what I would call charming or endearing.  FOX has been doing a very good job of hiding that little piece of information on their website and their regular TV spots for this show.  Gee, I wonder why?  What I saw is not nearly as bad as the fact that they are trying to hide it.

Beyond, that, of course this show is as stupid, clichéd and as recycled as any other sitcom.  Seriously, though, the rule of thumb for FOX should be to assume all of their sitcoms are going to suck.  It’s just a question of to what degree of suckitude (© 2010, TV-Tastic).  Raising Hope is certainly no different from any other FOX sitcom and they brag about why it sucks.  The claim to fame of this show is that Greg Garcia created it and of course he was the award-winning writer who came up with My Name is Earl.  What no one wants to admit about My Name is Earl is that it wasn’t funny after the first season and to be honest, the novelty wore off after the first 10 episodes.  And of course, this show isn’t even much different from Earl with the portrayal of the stupid, white-trash and downright depressing family.  Again, recycled crap.  It’s seems like a shame too because the main cast includes Cloris Leachman, Martha Plympton and they FINALLY got a lead role for one of my favorite character actors of all time, Darren Gillahunt (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Deadwood), an actor that is so talented that he played TWO different characters on Deadwood and no one noticed it was the same guy.  So, yeah. we’ll be passing on this.  Oh and if you watch this video, you’ll the scene in question.

The Review:

7 out of 10

Well, like Detroit 1-8-7, we have another case of I was exactly right yet I was dead wrong at the same time.

First, the mea culpa: the scene that I was most concerned about in the trailer with the mother being executed in the electric chair wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed in the trailer. When taken in context with the ridiculous tone of this show and although I would have preferred that it not be in the episode, it flows pretty well in a cartoonish sort of way. In fact when I think about it, cartoonish is the perfect way to describe that scene. It was like something on Family Guy and South Park where, yes, under normal circumstances it would be processed by your brain as being horrific, but in context it’s pretty tame, because it’s really just slapstick. I’m guessing that the reason that FOX decided not to air that spot on TV was because it screened as poorly with their test audiences as it did it with your friendly neighborhood test-critic.

Now, on to where I was right and what I hate about this show. Raising Hope is exactly what I thought it would be: a typical Greg Garcia show about a family of really dumb, loser P.W.T. (that’s po’ white trash for the unenlightened) who are completely ridiculous and just like the aforementioned scene, absolutely cartoonish. It’s style and tone is very much like My Name is Earl and it goes to show that Greg Garcia is really kind of a one-trick pony which is something I suspected all along.

That being said, the show is pretty funny and despite its flaws is very charming. The characters, although cut from the ‘Earl’ cloth, are endearing and all very well-cast. There’s a lot of good humor here and even though they’re resorting to the same Bundy-style adversarial family that has been used a hundred times before, they all seem believable in their caring for each other.

What has really sucked me into Raising Hope show is Hope herself. That cute little baby is irresistible especially for anyone who has kids and honestly, you forget about the flaws of this show when you see that precious little face. She reminds me of my own daughter at that age and I seriously just melt when she’s on-screen just being cute. You will too.

Watch complete episodes of Raising Hope, here.