Wednesday, 8 December 2010

New TV 2010 – The Mega Review Part 4

Outlaw – NBC

This is the most painfully dull show imaginable. Jimmy Smits is an American Supreme Court Judge, who is fed up with the flaws in the legal system, so quits his job, hires a team of mavericks and becomes a defence attorney. He runs about, shouting words like “indictment” and “declarant” as his team follow him around, taking it in turns to point out his plan is madness, but also that he is a genius. Both of the women seem to be deeply in love with him. It is almost like watching House, except you might actually like that show. The whole thing is so very dumb, and yet also so very boring, that when I was half way through writing this, it got cancelled.

I can’t wait to forget this even existed, and hope in vain for 42 minutes of my life back.

The Whole Truth – ABC

If you find yourself searching for a properly dramatic legal procedural, this is for you. It is interesting and well written, but its real hook is that you see the legal case from both the prosecution and the defence. What this means is that once the set up is established, we see the prosecution prepare every reason why the killer did it, and then the defence take a turn to prepare why he is an innocent man. Then we go to trial, and we see each side present their case. Just like a real courtroom. And because of this, the audience cannot be sure whether the defendant did it or do. When watching, you have to take a side, and end up with a real interest in the decision at the end, one which didn’t rely on bringing out some last minute surprise evidence.

This is interesting. It is fun. It doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, but I didn’t see any horrible malpractice going on, especially when watched after Outlaw. But most of all, it was really interesting to see two talented lawyers actually doing their job, at such a quick pace, and working as hard as possible to win an argument without knowing from the start that they are right. But it doesn’t exactly leave room for subtlety. But the story is, so very much, the hook that the characters end up as non-people. I can hardly even remember their faces, let alone their names or their personality. And given that I have only seen snippets of Law and Order, (the obvious comparison), I am not in that great a position to say if it compares well or not.

The big problem though is just how procedural it is. There is a rigid formula for each episode I can’t see them breaking. What you see in week one is likely to be what you see in week twelve. Still, definitely worth a look, if it sounds like you’re thing.

Running Wilde – FOX

There is a fine line between a masterpiece and a master-crap. Arrested Development is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It is hilarious, incredibly influential, and far too few people have seen it. That is a show about a dysfunctional rich family, with characters who are lovably self-centred. It could so easily have gone horribly wrong.

Running Wilde is made by some of the same people, and is an example of how wrong it could have gone.

It stars Will Arnett as a clueless billionaire, who convinces his high-school sweetheart, who is an activist, and her daughter, to move in with him. They will then surely learn life lessons, while suffering through dysfunctionaly wacky situations that in the end strengthen them as a family. But there is no humour. Literally, there is a distinct absence of jokes. It is also so very, very soulless. They are hateful characters. They are annoying, and they are just not funny. He is an entitled rich berk who is completely unrelatable, and she is an annoyingly shrill lover of nature. There is a kid, who is nothing, and so is not worth considering.

This is only worth your time is you believe the pedigree of the writers can save the show. And I would understand if you hold out hope that they might. But this pilot was a horrible mess, and if the Dollhouse fiasco taught me anything, it is that sometimes a bad idea is just a bad idea, and no amount of talent can salvage that.

Just watch Arrested Development again.

Raising Hope – FOX

At first, I thought I was not going to like this sitcom. There were not enough jokes, and I was put off by the darker tone of it. And uneducated, white-collar 20-something, with the help of his family, has to take care of a baby he was unprepared for. But then I realised, it is not a sitcom, it is a black humoured drama. And suddenly everything changed. Things which had felt like padding, now felt like characterisation. The tone started to warm, and I realised I was invested in finding out what happens next.

The plot is that about Jimmy, who lives with his poor parents, working as a gardener for the rich families nearby. He has a one night stand with a girl who hitches a lift in his van. She turns out to be a serial killer, and she also turns out to be pregnant with his baby. Nine months later, the mother is in the electric chair, and Jimmy is stuck with a baby he did not expect. That exposition out of the way, he tries to live his life, while learning how to be a dad to his new daughter. He has help from his eccentric family.

The show has some genuine hilarious moments, and I would like to see where it goes. I would want to watch next week, to give this more time to make an impression, because this is the best half-hours comedy of the season. It helps that Shannon Woodward has a role as the potential love-interest, and she was amazing in The Riches. It is worth a look, even though I am sill unconvinced of how good it will become.

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