Wednesday, November 08, 2006

tv grab bag

I've already turned up my nose at Studio 60, but the rest of the TV season is still out there. Most of the shows have had enough episodes to work out the early kinks and also reveal the pretenders that just had a really good pilot. Let's take a quick overview, shall we?

First, the no-likies. The Nine got off to a quick start with a pilot that really snapped, then proceeded to just... fizzle. The show's time-shifting gambit is neither innovative or revealing (in the way it was in Soderbergh's Out of Sight). Strong performances from most of the cast, especially Tim Daly, Chi McBride, and John Billingsley, but the show's concept just doesn't have legs.

Runaway is already canceled, but it deserved it. If the show is about a family on the run from Johnny Law, I don't think you're supposed to root for the po-po to catch the protagonists. Leslie Hope was grave as the mom, but the whole thing reeked of flop from the opening credits. So long, we won't miss ye.

Standoff just irritates me. The show's tagline is "
There's no crisis situation they can't handle ... unless it involves each other." Pee-yuke. I hope Ron Livingston's banking the paychecks until his next interesting gig comes along.

Kidnapped is already gone. NBC yanked it from Wednesdays, promised to burn off the eps on Saturdays, then blanched at those ratings and decided the internets would be the perfect place to let the show reach resolution. Too bad. I liked Kidnapped. Jeremy Sisto was very good as Knapp, a private kidnap resolution specialist, and Delroy Lindo, as usual, ruled as Latimer King, FBI agent who puts off retirement to take one more case. Timothy Hutton didn't do much as Conrad Cain, mogul father to kidnapped son, but the show did an interesting thing by refusing to follow the "cops vs. private eye" cliches. Knapp is a former FBI agent who still respects the bureau; he now has different priorities. Latimer King knows that Knapp is good and trusts him, even if King must follow a different set of procedures. These two were very good. Not so good: a minor-league Hannibal Lecter that Knapp visited in prison every third episode or so. I like to think that if the show had continued, exec producer Jason Smilovic would have gotten rid of him. Kidnapped was a minor pleasure.

I like Heroes. It's not perfect, not by a long shot, but it knows how to work a cliffhanger and the show enjoys its pulpiness. Points for a character (Hiro) who embraces his powers and really, really likes being able to stop time. The show is so much fun that I barely notice that it stars Milo Ventimiglia, an actor whose appearance makes me throw up in my own mouth.

I grew up in a small, football-crazy town and I live in a small, football-crazy town and I will tell you that Friday Night Lights gets it real good. From football action that looks realistic to soap-opera that stays on the right side of plausible, the show has heart and chops. Plus it has the smoke-hot Connie Britton.

30 Rock is an okay comedy with two huge advantages. Tracy Morgan does a wonderful, smart turn as an egocentric movie star sliding into television. Morgan is fast, funny, sly and committed to his awful character. 30 Rock's crown jewel, however, is Alec Baldwin. "The Italians have a saying, Lemon. 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.' And though they've never won a war or mass-produced a decent automobile, in this they are correct. Mark my words, in five years we'll either all be working for him....... (looooong pause) or dead by his hand." That monologue by Baldwin is hands-down the funniest line of the year so far, and 85% of it is in the delivery. Baldwin is headed for an Emmy. A big, blustering Emmy win.

I don't think Jericho is really that good, but I'm watching. John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey put it best: "It's the best TV show of 1988!"

I do think Ugly Betty is that good. Adequately written, pleasantly twisty, and tongue so far in cheek that everyone has to mumble, UB lives and dies by one person: America Ferrera. Don't mistake my meaning. Eric Mabius is very good and Vanessa Williams is a hoot (as well as still seriously hot), but America Ferrera has a quality that make you want to have her over for tea and to tell her everything will be all right. So far she has kept Betty grounded and believable. That's no small feat in a confection as airy as this one. When she walked into Central Park as the pilot ended and the camera craned up as KT Tunstall's "Suddenly I See" came up on the soundtrack, I actually came out of my chair.

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