Sunday, January 08, 2006

New TV series, final verdicts on 2005

This fall has been notable for all the pretty good but not great series that I felt borderline about. The Night Stalker started well but jumped the shark in the forth episode. I kept giving it a chance for a few more episodes based on its early promise, but finally decided to give up when episode 7 seemed, while not as bad as the last couple, just dull. But it turned out to be the first of a two-parter, so I thought, well, I'll watch one more and then stop. Then ABC canceled it. That's right, they showed part 1 and then canceled it before airing part 2. Pretty obnoxious, huh?

Last I heard, the networks had only canceled two shows, Night Stalker and Threshold. I'm a little sad about Threshold, because it had good characters, but I'm not brokenhearted by any means. Threshold wasn't a must-see show, but I did like it, and it was certainly better than the non-cancelled Supernatural, which I remain borderline about. For me, character is important in a show, and Supernatural's generic pretty boys just don't do it for me; the show feels like it was designed in committee. It's watchable, but I'm just not excited about it.

Of the dramas, the one that turned out best was Bones, which gets by on its interesting characters, most notably Dr. Temperance Brennan. My first take on Temperance was she was a hot chick version of Dr. House, but as I continued to watch I thought that with her amusing confusion regarding popular culture and her distanced yet sincere approach to people she's really more like a hot chick version of Data from Star Trek: Next Generations. She's funny, she's likable and she has good chemistry with the FBI guy. And the stories are getting a little more interesting. Still a little contrived and obvious, but at this point the drama I would most miss.

I also took a quick look at Ghost Whisperer. It was critically panned but is a big hit so I thought I'd take a look. It's blank, soft-headed and soft-hearted and quite tedious, at least from the half of an episode I saw; more Touched by an Angel than Medium.

The most notable shows this year are both comedies, My Name is Earl, which I think is the funniest show of the season, and Everybody Hates Chris, which runs a close second. It took me a while to see Chris, because there were shows I liked opposite it, but now I can finally write my mini-review of it, along with a couple of the new replacement shows.

Everybody Hates Chris

Premise: Everybody hates Chris, obviously.

Review: It's tempting to compare this show with Wonder Years, since they're both about young boys who grew up in previous decades and both narrated by the adult versions of those boys, but Chris is a much less sentimental, nostalgic show with more edge to it. I would say they're probably equally good, although I might like Wonder Years better simply because I grew up at the same time in the same sort of suburbs. But Chris is very funny. I've never cared much for its overrated creator Chris Rock - I don't think he's that funny and he strikes me as awfully misogynistic - but the young Chris hasn't acquired that disturbing anger that defines the older Chris, making him much easier to relate to. Perhaps as the show goes on we'll see him become a bitter, successful comic.


Premise: Sometimes innocent people actually go to jail. Someone should try and get them out!

Review: This has potential. While every other crime show is about a brilliant investigator bringing down a criminal, this is about a brilliant lawyer freeing the unjustly incarcerated. An organization lead by a flamboyant corporate lawyer (with perfect flamboyant, successful lawyer hair) played with gusto by Kyle MacLachlan investigates cases where the wrong person may be behind bars. I've only seen one episode, but it was pretty interesting. It's a very television view of law, in which you prove someone is innocent by finding the real culprit, and the first episode gets a little too fancy in the reason the injustice happens (apparently over-eagre DAs aren't enough), but it's got a lot of the fun investigation quality of the Law and Order shows. I also like it's rather progressive nature and suspicion of power and authority, so I hope they keep doing a good job and have some success. Anyway, I always like Kyle so it's nice to have something to watch him in.

The Book of Daniel

Premise: Jesus thinks you should stop taking tranquilizers.

Review: I was so looking forward to this based on the commercials. It looked like a sort of Desperate Housewives soapy comedy about a priest who deals with a bunch of crazies and has face to face talks with a witty, irreverent Jesus Christ. It's a shame the person who put together the ads didn't put together the actual show, which is one of these sincere, Everwoodish dramas. Even Jesus isn't really that witty; the ads edited his dialog for more punch, but the conversations themselves are genial and sometimes light-hearted but not especially funny. I got bored and stopped watching about a third of the way through the two-hour premiere.

Four Kings

Premise: Four guys hang out and hope their show doesn't get canceled?

Review: I only watched about five or ten minutes of this, it struck me as another of the bland, generic, unfunny comedies that are flooding our airwaves. I couldn't be bothered.

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