In a year with so many simultaneous premieres, and new series going up against old favourites for survival, there’s bound to be some quick casualties. In fact, there have already been two series gone after only two episodes. I can’t say that I’m in love with any yet, but I guess it’s still early.
The one series that has positioned itself as the 24/Lost successor is The Event. It has the ongoing mystery and multi-faceted story arc of Lost, and the action-filled style of 24. Initially it’s about a guy and his girlfriend who go on a vacation, but it’s also about how he hijacks a plane, and about how she mysteriously disappears. It’s also about the President of the United States and a mysterious group of government prisoners (who may be aliens). This show comes at its story from many angles and different character perspectives and keeps jumping back and forth in time (not literally, like Flashforward or Lost did, but the story is not told in chronological sequence). So far it’s OK. It lacks the dramatic depth that Lost had, but at least a lot of the “wows” are being revealed rapidly (there’s only been 2 episodes so far and we seem to know a lot). It has the thrill and suspense of 24, but Jason Ritter’s Sean Walker doesn’t hold a candle to Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. I hope the show doesn’t burn itself out too quickly. It didn’t grab me nearly as much as Flashforward did last year, and that series didn’t even make it past a single season…
Another hype-worthy show is the remake of the old tropical cop show, Hawaii Five-O. It wasn’t high on my watch list (I’m not a fan of police drama, and I didn’t watch the original), but it’s produced by Alias and Fringe producers Alex Kurtzmann and Robert Orci, and features former Lostie Daniel Dae Kim, and former Cylon Grace Park, so it’s got to be doing something right. Despite having extremely wooden actor Alex O’Loughlin as the lead, it’s enjoyably watchable — owing in no small part to the surprising performance of Scott Caan as the sarcastic Danny “Danno” Williams. He’s a regular Bruce Willis. As a unit, the characters work well and function more like a special ops team than a bunch of cops. Top it all off with a super-catchy update on the classic theme music and you can’t go wrong.
Another remake, Nikita features Maggie Q as the titular assassin who is trying to take down the black ops government division (cleverly named “Division”) who once employed/controlled/misused her. Despite many similarities, this show is no Alias. The acting is second rate and the characters are lacking in dimension. Nevertheless, for those of us who love the spy/assassin genre, it’s better than nothing.
From uber-creator JJ Abrams, this show is another player in the TV spy game. It features a couple who are both former spies dusted off on occasion for special missions. So far, the two leads (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe as Samantha and Steven Bloom) are charming and fun, but I’m hoping they will get past the cutesy bickering and develop into something more interesting to watch. Gerald McRaney isn’t bad either, as their crotchety handler Carlton Shaw. As much as I enjoy watching the show, they need to make it feel like these characters might be in real danger, otherwise there’s less suspense and less thrill. Apparently they’re still trying to decide between resembling Alias or Chuck
The Whole Truth, The Defenders, Outlaw
As usual, there are a slew of new legal dramas this year. The premise behind The Whole Truth is Rob Morrow as the defense attorney and Maura Tierney as the prosecutor used to date, so they have some kind of history and rivalry. It’s an OK premise, but this show really dumbs things down (summations recap the testimony and we get to watch little snippets of what we already saw moments earlier). Plus, there’s always a little turning point in each episode (like on Law & Order) where we shift perspectives from one side to the other — no big whoop, really. The Defenders casts unlikely actors Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell as partners in a Las Vegas law firm. The intent seems to be highlighting how fun/decadent Vegas can be, and how unconventional lawyers do well there. Belushi does pretty well, but I just don’t find the show that appealing. Finally, Outlaw has Jimmy Smits playing a Supreme Court justice who steps down in order to be able to represent the individual in need (rather than just the bigger picture). This series seems to be a male-centred version of last season’s legal hit, The Good Wife. There’s a preachy feel to this show (which it unsuccessfully tries to undercut by making Smits’s character kind of irreverent). My guess is that none of these series will make it.
Lone Star, My Generation
Speaking of shows that didn’t make it, Lone Star was touted by many critics as the best new show of the season, but it was also the first to get the axe. There’s no tears coming from me. I was bored with the first episode about a Texas con man who has two lives with two women and two “jobs” who tries to go semi-straight. The tone of the show is subdued, and the style is a bit like an independent movie. Despite the charismatic performance of lead, James Wolk, I didn’t care for his kind of anti-hero. On the other hand, I was a more disappointed with the elimination of My Generation. It’s a realistic mockumentary of nine (too-attractive) young people from the same fictional high school revisited 10 years later. I think the documentary style is pretty well-used, but sadly the stories are all very cliche and soapy. I find myself predicting a lot of what’s going to happen in future episodes. Despite the fact that there probably won’t be any more, I won’t miss knowing if I would have been right.
No Ordinary Family
The concept is simple: an American family discovers that they have superhuman powers. The premiere was fun. A lot of it focused on the dad (played by Michael Chiklis) learning about his new powers of invulnerability and strength, and mom (played by Julie Benz) dealing with her super-speed. Already we know that the struggle is going to be with their fractured family life (which seems really contrived; they all seem to get along well until someone reminds us of how mom’s never around or the kids start to bicker. It’s really heavy-handed and obvious.) I don’t know what they’re going to do about their powers, either. So far this show reminds me a lot of the early episodes of Heroes (but without the realism), so this series could go in many different directions.
A little-known series that I’ve been enjoying is Lost Girl, from Canada’s Showcase network. An attractive, sassy woman named Bo, finds out that her abilities to manipulate and seduce people and draw strength from energies (often resulting in their deaths) comes from the fact that she’s a Fae (i.e., supernatural, non-human being) and that the Fae are all around us. Despite being given the opportunity to enter their secret world, Bo decides to stay with her sidekick Kenzie and become a private investigator among the humans. I’m enjoying the whole supernatural demi-monde of the series, but it’s no Buffy or Angel. Still, I hope it sticks around long enough to fill that void.
Returning dramas next post …