Fall TV 2006 – week one

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Jam-packed week! Let’s get right to the shows:

Last year, a bunch of new lawyer shows debuted that just didn’t survive. This year, we try again. I already mentioned Justice in my last post. Shark stars James Woods as a top-notch defense attorney switching to head up a team of prosecutors specializing in high-profile cases. The cast is again (ever so realistically) made up of only attractive lawyers, including Jeri Ryan (once Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager) as their queen bee. The show is pretty good, judging from the pilot which was directed by film auteur Spike Lee. The dialogue (at least Woods’s parts) is rapid-fire and smart. Though they really lay on the legalese and it’s a bit hard to follow, that’s OK because we’re basically watching to see the battle-wise Woods teach (the hard way) these newbies how to win. Thursdays on CBS (4 out of 5)

The Class was one of the shows I previewed on YouTube a while back. Starring Jason Ritter (last seen on Joan of Arcadia, and son of the comedian John Ritter) stars as a romantic guy who wants to celebrate his fiancée (who he met in 3rd grade) by having a reunion party for his 3rd grade class. It’s the perfect sitcom formula for bringing a diverse bunch of characters together, including: suicidal shy guy, quirky flighty girl, bitter sarcastic girl, beautiful girl in sad marriage, lug pining for beautiful girl, etc. The situations are contrived (as most sitcoms are) but some of the lines are pretty funny (I don’t know how they’re going to bring everyone back now that the reunion’s passed, though). I just hope that the characters will grow beyond their stereotypes. This is basically Friends with twice the cast. Mondays on CBS (4 out of 5)

Jericho: What if the world was destroyed and, as far as you know, your town is all that’s left? It’s kind of a creepy concept to build a series on. The pilot basically set up the situation and introduced the characters, but I don’t know how long this can go on if they don’t have more stuff happening. It was basically a crisis story. Prodigal son of the town mayor (played by Skeet Ulrich, from Miracles and Scream) returns home for a visit. As he’s leaving town, a mushroom cloud is seen in the sky and after he gets into an accident, he helps rescue a busload of children. The town is dealing with the loss of communication with the outside world. Sheriff, deputies, firemen, etc. all help everyone make it through. I was very much caught up with the story threads (especially the boy who listened to the answering machine message left by his parents who died on vacation in Atlanta as an explosion occurred there as well). Unfortunately, I was turned off by the “we’re not just neighbours, we’re family” country-fried hok’em. We get it–urban=bad, small town=good. Enough already! Wednesdays on CBS (3 out of 5)

I had doubts that I would have had any interest in the hot new show of the season: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Created by Aaron Sorkin (the mastermind behind The West Wing), this show is a serious drama behind the scenes on a Saturday Night Live style comedy show. What convinced me to watch, besides all the buzz, was the return of Matthew Perry (my favourite Friend) to television. This show is very good. Perry plays a writer teamed up with the West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, who take over the show. The dialogue is well-written and doesn’t seem too “insider” to be relatable. The actors are all very good (even Amanda Peet, who I really don’t like). This show has a lot of promise. Mondays on NBC (4.5 out of 5)

Continuing with the big name show creators, J.J. Abrams (the hardest working name being dropped in showbiz) has created another show. No spies or mysterious islands this time (unless Manhattan qualifies). Featuring a handful of characters whose lives unknowingly intersect, Six Degrees is intended to suggest that, even in NYC, people are very connected (“six degrees of separation” and all that). The cast is varied: I love Hope Davis and Campbell Scott (who mostly appear on the big screen), but really don’t like Erika Christensen or Bridget Moynahan. The intersections are incredibly contrived and by the end of only the first episode, I’m expecting them all to meet up and compare notes. Also, for a show built on the idea that we are all connected, these characters don’t have lives like anyone I know. Nevertheless, I’m curious enough about what happens to them to stick around—for now. Thursdays on ABC (3.5 out of 5)

Smith is yet another show featuring movie actors. Ray Liotta and Virginia Madsen play a husband and wife, but the husband actually runs a team of thieves. Last year there were at least three shows about thieves that didn’t do too well, and I don’t have high hopes for this one either. I get very tense watching these shows: people are always lying; you’re afraid they might get caught; and the characters are not very likeable. The pilot was pretty well-acted (though I am not a Liotta fan), but it felt like a movie that was over by the end of the episode. I don’t know why I should watch the next episode. Perhaps I’ll come back to see more of the criminally underused Shoreh Aghdashloo (Dina Araz from 24) as the “boss” who hires and backs Liotta—we’ll see. Tuesdays on CBS (3 out of 5)

So much more to come next week, including the debut of Heroes (I can barely contain my excitement!) and many returning shows.

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