Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pooh's Views of Early Fall TV: The Good

So far the new shows I've decided to watch have been a bit underwhelming We've seen the debuts of several new shows, and I've taken a gander at several of them: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; Smith; Shark; Six Degrees and SHeroes. By and large, meh. Today I'll talk about the ones which I have liked so far, later, I'll get into the bad and the unoriginal.

1. "Heroes" - okay, so they are so obviously going for the X-Men storyline to appeal to the immense fanboi base. So what? I'm something of a fanboi myself, so it works for me. Plus, they've made several good choices - only one of the players introduced thus far has the Supermannish whiny-guy thing going, and they have made some very interesting choices not just for powers but for who has them. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Japanese salaryman, as well as the flying brothers.

Additionally, they are aiming more for Darknight era Batman, rather than Adam West. I'll take dark and mysterious over campy pretty much any day. One downside is I'm not convinced that either female lead is up to carrying the show. Well, I'm convinced that Ali Larter isn't, and I don't recognize the girl playing the cheerleader, so I'm, at best, skeptical. A further negative is that they appear to have picked the Most Annoying. Voice. Ever. to do the "previously on 'Heroes'" bit: B+

(However, Kung Fu Monkey has a good point about the dialogue, which is at times...pretentiously portentious:

he first episode was laden with the particular disease of non-genre guys writing genre: "Behoooold. I bring you superheroes WITHOUT CAPES! What brave new world of fiction is this? And look, there's even a plotline using a series of pictures as a narrative device. They are called, in the underground, 'co-mic book-es.'"

2. "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" - Profoundly disappointing pilot episode. Not saying it was bad, but compare it to the pilot for "West Wing." Maybe for those who never watched "Sports Night", the show might seem original, but I feel like Sorkin is covering old ground with 30 minutes more per week to use. Matt Perry and Brad Whitford seem to have a nice reparte, but I'm concerned that they are not distinct enough from each other either in appearance or personna. I could be proven wrong, but who wants to watch "Smart and Smarter?" I did enjoy the opening teaser (and especially enjoyed the dig at the Media for all reporting the "Network" aspect of it, as if it was an original observation.)

Lest I seem too negative, I thought the second and third episodes were better - a lot will ride on Sarah Paulson, who didn't have much to do in the pilot, but has certainly been growing on me. She'll always be compared to Allison Janney's C.J. Cregg. High bar there. Additionally, I don't feel like we 'know' any of the characters besides Matt & Danny so far - what is D.L. Hughley supposed to be doing? (And after ignoring the 15-year old looking groupie in almost perfunctory fashion, what odds on their being a shocking twist regarding alternate sexuality?) Is Nate Corddry (of "Daily Show" moderate fame) playing Topher Grace playing Jimmy Fallon? Will Danny Concannon, er Tim Busfield ever stop inducing "hey it's C.J.'s hubby! What the hell happened to his beard?" reactions. I know, I know, it's early, but my expectations were pegged insanely high.

But despite all my complaints, it's Aaron freaking Sorkin writing the dialogue, and Matt Perry and Brad Whitford can still in fact bring it: B

(Slate disagrees with my last point, writing the show off as an excercise in "I'm Aaron Sorkinbitch!, and you're not")

3. "Friday Night Lights" - There was not a single original element in the pilot episode. Isn’t there a rule against a director of a film (Peter Berg) turning around and directing a TV show of the same title? It’s supposed to work the other way, right? (See Miami Vice, Firefly/Serenity, etc…) To my recollection, Altman had nothing to do with MASH the series, for an example of a movie being made into a show.

So, let's see, take the basic plot line of "Varsity Blues," remove the MTV-related goofiness. Mix in the hyperkinetic, shaky camera work from "The Shield," and in the soundtrack from "Any Given Sunday" because it works well for football. Add insanely violent football action, plus the Standard Miracle Comeback ("SMC"). (Simmons has a point:

I can't stomach another climactic game scene in which the home team recovers an onside kick, runs the next play for 20 yards, then, on the final play, the QB throws a 50-yard pass that his WR catches on the opposing 30 and takes off for the winning TD. Not even the CFL has 140-yard football fields. Come on. This isn't rocket science.
I know, didn't occur to me at the time either, but yeah.)

All that said, it was still amazingly well done for network TV, and fully watchable. Even knowing what was going to happen the SMC still had chill potential. Even if the throw should have gone 30 yards out the back of the endzone unless Deer-in-headlights backup QB guy took at 23-step drop before throwing...The trash-talking rapper/preacher running back was surprisingly effective as well - in his prayer following the game, his cadence reminded me uncannily of that of my former college roomie who's now a pastor.

The challenge now is to make the show interesting and believable across a whole season. How many SMC's can we really believe in? And will the show be able to maintain the almost painful earnestness, or will it be reduced to what Tall Guy predicted: "The OC" in pads? B-

I am most intrigued by "The Nine" - after the disappointing premiere of "Lost" (by adding more and more stuff to the island, they are in danger of neutering the essential "Lost"-ness of the whole deserted island thing. More on this one next week, I promise). The pilot teased, and now we really want to know "What happened inside the bank?" Unfortunately, I'm guessing from the previews of the second episode that it is going to be told, in a piecemeal, flashback manner. The premise is "Lost" inverted. And I'm not sure that's a good thing - the backstories make the island happening more interesting, I'm not sure how much I'll care about What Happened After to the Nine until I know What Happened Before. Of course, I could be wrong, and it could be pure marketing genius, as the show will demand repeated viewings once the whole thing plays out, spurring DVD sales, etc...but I'll stay with it for a time, at least. Grade: Incomplete


monak said...

what? no review on Veronica Mars???

Pooh said...

I'm giving it til tonight's episode to turn has been bad so far this year. I don't think they figured out how to do the whole "both sides of the tracks" thing for college kids...