Posts Tagged “Drama”
You can’t help but stack this show up against the long list of police procedurals and dramas we’ve all been watching for decades. Based upon my own somewhat extensive viewing history, one show sets the standard for the genre: Hill Street Blues. There is a fairly short list of quality series that can even come close to that standard, series like NYPD Blue and Law & Order. Maybe it’s no accident then that Detroit 1-8-7 feels a lot like NYPD meets L&O … and there is nothing wrong reaching high.
But only if you live up to it. I’m a little surprised to say that yeah, Detroit 1-8-7 manages to do that, if only just barely. In a decade, assuming it lasts that long, it might even earn the right to be considered on the level of either of those shows. We’ll have to wait and see on that. For now, I tend to think that Detroit 1-8-7 is off to a pretty solid start.
Let’s face facts here though. There is a clear logjam of cop shows on primetime right now and countless other variations thereof. Everyone is trying to adjust the formula a bit, tweak the details, alter the presentation, whatever it takes to land a winner. Detroit 1-8-7 opens like L&O, with a quick narration about Detroit and murder rates; if it had aired on NBC I might suspect that the show’s genesis was L&O: Detroit. The title sequence recalls NYPD Blue. The editing/filmography falls into that mock-documentary/pseudo-reality show style we’ve already seen elsewhere. Detroit 1-8-7 manages to mix that all together without spoiling the stew. But no matter how good the recipe, we’re still left with a bowl of soup.
Eh … love those metaphors.
Recognizing that a key ingredient for any successful cop/detective show is a quirky lead, Detective Louis Fitch, played by Michael Imperioli, has been given his fair share. The most amusing (or simply odd) of which is his strategy for dealing with confrontation by calling people, even when they’re in the same room. Some viewers might confuse Fitch’s quirky behavior with uninspired acting by Imperioli … don’t. Imperioli is portraying Fitch as low-key and socially awkward; there’s nothing wooden about Imperioli’s performance that isn’t meant to be that way. The phone thing plays an important role throughout the pilot; I just hope Imperioli’s (and the deft touch of the writers) isn’t lost on their audience.
The rest of the cast is not exceptionally remarkable–that could be a good thing. A couple of standouts are Abby Ward and James McDaniel. Ward is the Medical Examiner and they do well in the initial episode to play down her hotness; if you caught her in AMC’s Spartacus, you know what I’m talking about. She doesn’t have much to do in the pilot, but when she is on screen, her character of Erin Cummings is quite appealing. She gets a couple of the more inspired lines as well. NYPD Blue fans will recall McDaniel as Lt. Fancy; it’s nice to see McDaniel back on TV. The role of Jesse Langford, a veteran detective close to retirement, fits him almost too well. I keep waiting for him to say “I’m too old for this shit!”
However, the most intriguing character thus far is the city of Detroit itself. It gives the show a look of its own instead of your usual NYC generic set piece. It remains to be seen just how much that do with that. Another strength of the show is going to be how all of these characters play off of each other. It was the best aspect of the pilot and I hope this ensemble gets a chance to gel as the series progresses.
Maybe there are simply too many cop shows to wade through lately. If so, Detroit 1-8-7 may not have that great of a chance to make an impact. That would be too bad because there is quite a bit of potential here … if we get the chance to see it.
Detroit 1-8-7 airs Tuesdays on ABC at 10/9c
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Oh … no caps in the title! How very … um … what’s the word? Gimmicky. That’s it.
Is there any night of any given week in which one Jerry Bruckheimer series or another isn’t on network TV? If we include cable channels in that question, the answer would be an obvious ‘no’. I would have to do some actual research to be certain, but the answer might still be ‘no’ even without USA Network in the mix.
So JB brings us another crime-time in prime-time series with the forgotten. It’s kind of Cold Case meets Without a Trace, only our heroes aren’t really cops this time. They’re featured players in ‘The Forgotten Network’, a loose collection of amateur sleuths dedicated to tracking down the identities of unidentified murder victims after the official investigators of such matters have given up.
Our crew is led by Alex Donovan (Christina Slater). Various other pseudo-specialist round out the team, view of whom are any more notable than the others. You have the artist, the schlub, and a mixed batch of hotties who mostly look really good while casting judgemental glares upon the shenanigans of their male teammates.
Here’s the thing. In order for the forgotten–basically an okay concept–to really work, it’s needs a sparkling cast to pull it off. So far, there has been very little sparkle. I really like Slater, but he’s bringing nothing special at all to this performance as Donovan. There is a small spark of chemistry between his character and a female detective Grace Russell, played by Rochelle Aytes. Donovan is an ex-cop himself (who has lost someone in the past) and there is a history between him and Russell, but this is the only relationship of any importance between the only two characters we’re likely to remember.
At it’s heart, the forgotten is a gimmick … and not just because of the whole ‘matchbox twenty’ style of the name. The cast is going to have to work a lot harder to sell the gimmick. Otherwise, all that’s left is another forgettable Bruckheimer cop show.
the forgotten airs Tuesdays on ABC at 10/9c
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Dark Blue: Wanted meets The Handler
Undercover cops have been done and redone by television for decades. Some successfully, others much less so. The only thing “new” that Dark Blue really brings to the table is the idea that this undercover squad doesn’t officially exist. But that is also a fairly common gimmick for such shows and in almost every movie about the subject from The Departed to Raw Deal. TNT has never really been about originality. Look at the junior net’s schedule for any given day … originality doesn’t exactly jump out at you. But, occasionally, they still manage to deliver something with just the right combination of formula, concept, and casting. The Closer, for example, is not much more than Columbo in a skirt. But it works, thanks to casting and some very solid performances.
The things is, I’m not entirely sure that Dark Blue has that winning combination. Back in 2004, TNT brought us Wanted, a show about a cross-section of specialists from a variety of law enforcement organizations forming a unit that “didn’t really exist” and “operated just outside the rulebook”. That show I liked and I can’t help but see Dark Blue as a paler shade of Wanted. Dylan McDermott leads the cast as Carter Shaw, your brooding, sexy with a touch of angst hero type. Joe Pantoliano did it better in CBS’s The Handler, another short-lived cop drama from 2004. McDermott is no Joey Pants, but then, he isn’t David Caruso either. He is the leading man type, which is maybe enough to lead the rest of the lesser known cast beyond one season.
The best thing Dark Blue has going for it is the name Jerry Bruckheimer in the credits. The plot and acting are both a cut above certain other Bruckheimer productions (ref: David Caruso mentioned above). Even when Bruckheimer projects are lacking in depth, they often make up for it in production value. As astonishingly shallow and silly as CSI: Miami might be, it looks good. Dark Blue is not nearly as glossy, but maybe that means they can throw some of that Bruckheimer money at better writers. Unfortunately, there is little to be seen in the first episode to support that theory. One can hope this series will get stronger with age. If it doesn’t, not even the Bruckheimer name will save it for a second season.
Leverage: The Equalizer meets The A-Team
This time, TNT isn’t even pretending to be original. Anyone remember the A-Team? How about The Equalizer? Leverage has all the character humor of the A-Team (including their own version of the conman archetypes) with a healthy dose of The Equalizer’s ideology. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it also can pay off in certain circumstances … such as network TV. This must be one of those circumstances since Leverage is into its second season. Of course, TNT managed to leverage an audience share from a strong lead-in last summer with The Closer, landing Leverage some pretty nice numbers for cable. This time, the show is paired with Dark Blue and now it is the lead-off hitter, neither of which suggests much of a chance for a repeat ratings performance.
Timothy Hutton (long removed from his Oscar) is the mastermind of a team of con artists and reformed crooks. This team doesn’t have Mr. T, but they do have their own Hitter (Christian Kane). They also have a Grifter, a Thief, and a Hacker to round out the team … it says so right in the opening credits. The con jobs are all pretty straightforward fare, with the standard plot point these shows always fall back on: the original con will almost certainly go wrong, but our team is too good to fail and there is always another con right around the corner.
So it’s been done. But think back to the A-Team. You didn’t get any more shallow or derivative than that. Every episode was unfailingly just like every other episode. Yet we watched five seasons worth of it back in the 80′s. And, coming soon to a theater near you, we get a theatrical version. We didn’t watch this stupid show for the plots. We watched for the characters … and how those same characters played off each other. This is where Leverage might actually succeed. Here we have just the right balance of tom-foolery and tongue-in-cheek to make these characters humorous without being cartoonish. The whole ‘Robin Hood’ shtick only works if you can put together the right band of merry men. I kind of think they have.
Leverage airs on TNT Wednesdays at 9/8c followed by Dark Blue at 10/9c
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Would you buy insurance from this man?
There it is … right after football … the (mostly) traditional CBS Sunday Night line-up.
- 60 Minutes
- The Amazing Race
- Cold Case
- The Unit
These are all returning programs, specially 60 Minutes (aka “Grandpa’s Favorite Show”), which has been around for a century or so. Well, maybe not a full 100 years, but I’m pretty sure Andy Rooney has been at it at least that long. In fact, I think Andy may have died back in the 80s … they just dig him up once a week, muss up his come-over, and prop him up in front of a teleprompter. Seriously, over at CNN, Larry King has often been heard to say “Damn … that Rooney guy is old!”
Nothing 60 Minutes is doing this year is going to knock any of the dust off their old trusty stopwatch. I only hope somebody is taking care of that thing because I’m pretty sure they don’t make stopwatches like that anymore. Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley are gone, but a change of faces doesn’t change the basic format and content of this long running news program. You always know what to expect and get exactly what you expected … which may explain why 60 Minutes continues to do well in the ratings. Or maybe Grandma just hasn’t figured out her remote control yet.
The Amazing Race is into it’s 13th season. If the show manages to keep my interest this year, I may actually contribute a longer piece on it in the next couple of weeks. It seems that something new is added each season, but I’ve yet to see what that may be this time around the world. There’s the usual mix of teams, though I didn’t see any gay couples this year and the token octogenarians have already been eliminated. It should be noted that the “blondies” team this year, aka the Southern Belles, seem dimmer than usual and unlikely to last long. Fortunately, enough general hotness remains among the other contestants. There is already some potential inter-team steam being generated between one of the brunette gals and exceptionally buff guy name Dallas. It remains to be seen if that is going anywhere, particularly with Dallas’s mommy making up the other half of his team.
Cold Case is steady as always, with the clear intention this year to get Lilly (Kathryn Morris) involved with Eddie (guest star Bobby Cannavale) as your ongoing subplot. Usually, all that hormonal stuff is nothing more than a distraction from the current case the team is working. But I sort of like Bobby, though I wonder if he can play any other role than his usual cop/fireman type badboy. Cold Case has become one of those shows I’ll watch if nothing else is grabbing my attention. Though I continue to ask myself why the badguys are always so damn eager to confess once the jig is up.
I’ve been watching The Unit since it started three years ago. I’ve been a fan of Dennis Haysbert since he was President (on 24) … this guy has nearly sold me insurance several dozen times. The rest of this cast is very good as well. While these guys are all clearly heroes, they are also very human. I like that they’re not above knocking off a team member every once in a while. I imagine there are actual people like this in the world and I thank God they’re on our side. This season is taking a very dark turn with a major terrorist plot in play to bring down the highest levels of our government. Past seasons have seen the team fighting against government insiders and bureaucrats; it’s nice to have a more traditional kind of bad guy for a while. I recommend this one, though I personally think it sucks that The Unit has landed on Sunday night. Who knows … it may fit right in with the rest of the CBS Sunday line-up.
The CBS Sunday Line-Up starts with 60 Minutes at 7/6c.
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I’m a big fan of Psych on USA; I feel a need to disclose that before I get into this review about The Mentalist. If you have no clue as to why that might be worth mentioning, then don’t worry about it. If you’ve seen both shows, then you know that there is a core similarity to their central characters. And you probably know by now that the similarities stop there. So, we’ve got that out of the way … let’s get to it.
The Mentalist is built around Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), a former TV Psychic now turned criminal investigator. Think John Edward meets Sherlock Holmes. The idea here is simple and really pretty common to TV detectives: he sees the stuff everyone else doesn’t. But that only scratches the surface of the premise, if the pilot episode is any indication.
The real talent of any “mentalist” is not so much what they intuit or “see” … it’s their ability to manipulate people and events toward a center predictable outcome. So the real fun here is watching Jane casually trick people into doing exactly what he wants without ever actually asking them to do anything at all. Maybe trick isn’t the right word here … maneauver may be more accurate. Like pieces on a chessboard.
Jane’s manipulations are sometimes subtle, other times obvious. And the end result, while predictable, can easily spin out of control. The pilot episode opens with a case being solved–in a manner of speaking–and reaching a rather violent conclusion. But that’s just the opener. The central case of the episode has nothing to do with the opening scene, but it instantly gives the viewer an insight into Jane and his methods. All very effective. The main case is structured to give us further information about Jane and his past, and it does so in a believable manner.
Jane and the other members of his team are led by Teresa Lisbon, played by Robin Tunney (Prison Break). This role is a departure of sorts from the kind of character Tunney often plays, which is nice. Lisbon is tough and unforgiving, even a hard-ass in some ways. As for Baker in the lead role, he is perfectly cast. For this thing to work, you have to get behind the lead. The fact that he is egotistical and manipulative has to be offset by a certain level of charm and likability … exactly what Baker brings to the part.
If I have any complaint thus far about The Mentalist, it’s that these so-called clues that only Jane can spot are just too obvious. Any competent investigator should be seeing the same thing, and the viewer certainly has no problem spotting every not-so-subtle clue that is dropped. You’ll have the case solved almost as soon as Jane does. However, as I’ve said, that is only one aspect of the show’s premise and, frankly, it’s not the best part anyway.
The Mentalist airs Tuesday’s on CBS at 9/8c.
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