Fall TV 2006 – week zero

The fall TV season doesn’t “officially” start until this coming week, but a few shows have already gotten started. Surprisingly early (some years it doesn’t begin until November), The Simpsons returned last Sunday with a Sopranos/Godfather-inspired episode featuring the new character of Michael, Lisa’s classmate and son of Springfield mob boss Fat Tony. Other returning shows that have popped up already include Prison Break, Bones, and House (none of which I watch). I have, however, checked out a couple of the new shows that have debuted already: Vanished and Justice.

Vanished stars John Allen Nelson (last seen as the tragically misguided Walt Cummings on 24) as a US senator whose wife is abducted. As the FBI begin to investigate and try to find his wife, other mysteries and secrets start to bubble up supposedly leading to a larger conspiracy with a bit of a Da Vinci Code flavour. In 24 style, each episode (I watched two) follows multiple story-lines involving members of the senator’s family, an ambitious reporter and so on. Unfortunately, I’ve already given up on the show because the characters are not very interesting. Perhaps the drama’s just not well-written, or there are more questions given than answers, but I don’t really care what happens to any of them—especially not the senator’s wife. (3 out or 5)

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Justice brings back Victor Garber (last seen as Jack Bristow, entombed with uber-villain Sloane on Alias) as the charismatic yet-slightly-heartless head of a top LA law firm. Along for the ride are Kerr Smith (remember him as Jack from Dawson’s Creek) and Eamonn Walker (remember him as Kareem Said from Oz) as other lawyers in the firm. This show is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and follows its CSI forbears down the road of slick storytelling with plenty of visual stunts and hi-tech wizardry. At first that turned me off and I was going to give up on the show (I missed the great scripting and intense drama of The Practice). However, my rule is generally to give a show at least two episodes to sell me (since it’s unfair to judge a show solely on the pilot episode). By the second episode, I enjoyed the show more for what it is—a rollercoaster ride. The fast-pace recapping of evidence and the clip-show snippets of conversations really move the story along and in the end I’m very interested in just how all these courtroom fireworks are going to come together. I’m also intrigued by the final scene of each episode which reveals what really happened. It’s a gimmick, but kind of a cool one that nods to the fact that the trial is more about tactics than truth. (4 out of 5)

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