June 30, 2009

death row baby? now that's comedy

Variety reported yesterday that Greg Garcia, creater/producer of recently cancelled My Name is Earl, is creating a new pilot for Fox. It's a half-hour comedy about a 25-year-old who has an affair with a woman imprisoned on death row for murder and winds up having to raise the resulting baby with the help of his weird family.

Now, I'm all for dark humor. Written in the world of My Name is Earl, maybe this could work. After all, that Earl had some really messed up shit on his to-do list. But...a death row baby? At least make it a cute kid. No reason to make life even harder with an unfortunate case of ugly baby.

June 16, 2009

new show review: royal pains

I've been inexcusably absent for almost two weeks. For shame. I will not use the summer hiatus excuse because there is quite a bit happening on the small screen these days.

Yes, much of it is wasteful reality programming (with the exception of NJ Housewives, which I learned to love over the weekend - finale tonight!) but there are also a few scripted shows that I've been testing out. Here's one that's caught my eye...

Royal Pains
(USA on Thursdays)

USA has a solid reputation for original programming with shows like Burn Notice, Psych, and the forever running Monk. They've cornered a strong niche and work the alternative calendar to their advantage. The latest installment is a summer show called Royal Pains about a reluctant concierge doctor in The Hamptons for the summer.

Right away, I like Royal Pains because it has that summer show Malibu Sands-Beverly Hills Beach Club feeling about it. The main character is Dr. Hank Lawson played by Mark Feuerstein. You may not know his name, but you definitely know his face. He's been in a million movies and TV shows (my favorites: Cliff Calley in West Wing and Simon Stein in In Her Shoes). He's always really good, but never seems to have a starring role (or at least one that made it past one season).

In the pilot, we see Hank as a successful young trauma surgeon in NYC with a promising career and a hot fiancee. After making a judgement call to give priority to a kid with a traumatic injury, the hospital's main donor dies on his watch. He's fired, loses his girl and goes into a beer-drinking-in-underwear depression. We've all been there.

In swoops his kid brother Evan played by Paulo Costanzo. You may know Paulo from Joey, but we won't hold that against him because he was great in movies like Road Trip. Evan is a goofy CPA with social climbing aspirations (think Andrew McCarthy in Weekend at Bernie's). He convinces Hank to join him for a weekend in The Hamptons, where he will skillfully sneak them into parties where they clearly do not belong.
Long story, short: Hank ends of saving the life of a woman at an exclusive party and is unwillingly sucked into the job as the official Hamptons concierge physician on call. He and his brother are persuaded to stay for the summer in the guest house of an impossibly rich and mysterious Hamptonite Boris, who is played - oddly enough - by Campbell Scott.

Overall, I've really liked this show so far. Feuerstein can play a likeable guy flawlessly, which proves to be an interesting combination with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Promising side characters include Jill, a love interest for Hank who works as administrator to the struggling local hospital, and Tucker, a wise beyond his years 16-year-old rich kid basically living on his own (absent father is played by the aforementioned Andrew McCarthy).

It's worth a gander.

June 3, 2009

new show review: southland

Not exactly a new show anymore, but I thought it was worth a quick review since it's coming back next season.

Just watched all the episodes on DVR almost consecutively, which I think helped the show for me. I'm not sure I would have stayed as engaged if I was waiting for the next episode from week to week. Overall though, I liked it more than I thought I would.

Filming is done in the style of ER where the camera acts as a person - as if you are watching from the vantage point of someone actually in the scene - in the back of the cop car, staring over the body, running after the suspect, moving around the room, etc. It makes for exciting, very quick transitions, but can also be a bit dizzying, especially when the same tactic is used to film a quiet night at home - you might see it through a window pane or a crooked doorway shot. Sort of makes you feel like a prowler.

Another odd directorial decision is "bleeping" the curse words. Although it's filmed with a single, moving camera, the show is not filmed as a documentary (like The Office), but the characters swear openly and are bleeped. I can't wrap my head around this. On one hand, I find it refreshing that the cops and criminals have potty mouths. I never bought such clean language on NYPD Blue and Law & Order. But if I'm supposed to be treating it like a "real" show, who's doing the bleeping? It's just weird.

Unlike many cop shows, Southland is largely character-driven. We're talking many characters. MANY. This might be my biggest problem with the show. I'll try to organize my thoughts into the various partnerships:

Detective Team 1: Det. Adams (Regina King) and Det. Clarke (Tom Everett Scott)
These two are the most recognizable actors in the cast. Regina King is practically carrying the show on her shoulders. Her storyline isn't particularly complex, but her performance is flawless and compelling. By the end, you really care about this character. On the other hand, Tom Everett Scott's character is a waste of space. I am a fan of his, so I'm sorry to say it. To be fair, I think it's the writing. Next to Adams, Clarke seems like a lame, heartless, doofus with a boring side story about his blogger wife competing with his aspiring writing career. Hopefully, the finale cliffhanger will either relieve us of the pain or turn this guy around.

Detective Team 2: Det. Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) and Det. Moretta (Kevin Alejandro)
You may recognize Hatosy from Outside Providence and other movies, and Alejandro from Ugly Betty (he played Santos). They're a good pair and handled the central case of the season. No complaints really except for Bryant's bulky side story with his wife played by Emily Bergl, who I normally really like (Men in Trees, Gilmore Girls). Their story was just repetitive and tiring, with no payoff in the end. I was hoping the dog would eat her.

Chief Detective & Mistress: Det. Salinger (Michael McGrady) and Mia Sanchez (Lisa Vidal)
McGrady does fine as the head detective, but his side story was all over the place. Cheating on his wife with a needy TV reporter, rebellious teenage daughter who catches them but doesn't care, DUI, Facebook stalking the daughter. It was too much. I know they're trying to set us up for the future - I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Mia - but I could have used a little less of him.

Cop Team 1: Officer Sherman (Ben Mackenzie) and Officer Cooper (Michael Cudlitz)
If Regina King is carrying the show on her shoulders, Michael Cudlitz might be giving her a piggyback ride. We got a taste of his story - divorced closet case with a sad childhood and a painkiller problem - but we didn't get hit over the head with it. We saw him develop as a mentor to Sherman (Mackenzie) using bully tactics that all proved to be part of his plan. We're left with a lot of questions about this character, which is what you want at this point. Mackenzie is making a valiant effort to overcome The OC curse. Probably my favorite team.

Cop Team 2: Officer Brown (Arija Bareikis) and Officer Dewey (C. Thomas Howell)
Completely unnecessary. Cut them out. Dewey's story was an uninteresting distraction from the others. I'm guessing he's out after the finale, but I don't think she's needed either, except possibly to improve the gender ratio.

As I said, I liked this show more than I thought I would. NBC put a lot of publicity into it as the heir apparent to ER, and it did get decent ratings. But the network took the legs out from under it by moving to Friday nights for only 13 episodes (the standard issue for NBC fall shows). I'll keep it on the DVR, and you should watch online this summer if you're in the mood for some LA gang violence.

June 2, 2009

new for summer

In all my excitement about fall lineups, I almost missed new summer shows completely. Summer series are the junior varsity teams for each network, usually heavy on competition-based reality programming. ABC is coming out with about 100 of them. Can't blame them - we just tend to watch less consistently in the summer, so we're looking for something fun that's not necessarily plot intensive.

Surprisingly, the much-picked-on NBC has three (plus one mini) drama series premiering in June that look promising. Looks like this is a set up for the short-runs accommodating their new fall schedule.

I'll try to get to reviewing or at least previewing the new shows in the coming weeks. Today, I'm starting with some fluff. Two new summer series from ABC Family. Don't laugh, I know you have seen at least one episode of Greek or Secret Life of the American Teenager. And liked it.

First, 10 Things I Hate About You. I loved this movie - it's a huge teeny guilty pleasure of mine. I have the VHS and will never let it go. I worry this will suffer the same fate of the unfortunate Clueless series, but I'm willing to give it a shot - mostly because it's summer and my DVR is hungry. The only returning character is the dad, played by Larry Miller.

Here's the preview (premieres July 7):

Next, Make It or Break It. I may have lost many of you by now. For those who are holding on, yes, this is a gymnastics show. So sue me for hanging onto Olympic fever for just a bit too long. I blame Shawn Johnson. The premise is the trials and tribulations of a group of Olympic hopefuls. Seems like Center Stage meets Bring it On. The cast includes Peri Gilpin (Roz from Frasier) as a gymnast mom and Candace Cameron (DJ!) as the girlfriend of a gymnast dad. His name? Are you ready? Steve Tanner. STEVE. TANNER.

Here's the preview (premieres June 22). Come on, you know you want to.