Rich People I Don’t Care About, and Dead People I Do: Previewing ABC’s New Shows
Continuing with my reactions to the pilots for new shows, below the fold, I review ABC’s Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Samantha Who?, and Big Shots. Sorry Grey’s Anatomy fans, ABC didn’t show Private Practice. Nor did they show Cavemen, Carpoolers, or Women’s Murder Club.Pushing Daisies
How it was probably pitched: Amelie meets CSI: Miami
The posters for Pushing Daisies are everywhere in New York, and none grabbed me – a close-up of two people lying on grass is hardly an invitation to watch. But a few minutes in and I could see why the marketers had a hard time, since this isn’t normal television. Sure, it promises to be a procedural – guy touches dead person, they come alive, he asks how they died, they return to death, he solves the murder, the end. But it’s not just a forensic procedural; as the ABC exec introducing the shows quaintly dubbed it, it’s a “forensic fairytale.” Its tone is whimsical, and light on its feet, even while delivering some very welcome dark humor and an at-times wicked parodic sensibility. It’s actually quite charming, from Anna Friel’s turn as the winning “alive again” love interest, to the wonderfully written voiceover. Most of my notes involved non-televisual comparisons: “magic realist novel,” “Amelie-like,” and “Tim Burton-esque” among them. Its colorization, though, takes a page from CSI: Miami, using rich, otherworldly colors effectively, especially in the opening scene, to signal its disinterest in being strictly realistic. The pacing is slow, but sure, and overall it’s quite gloriously weird. I worry that the key narrative tension (he can’t touch the love interest again or she’ll die) has a rather limited lifespan. And I worry that it’s too different for many viewers. But with direct competition coming from the rather formulaic Back to You, America’s Next Top Model, and Deal or No Deal, and from The Campaign to Eliminate Babysitting’s Kid Nation, maybe it will find a receptive audience looking for some innovation? I was pleasantly surprised, and will definitely give it a shot, stupid subway posters or no.
Dirty Sexy Money
How it was probably pitched: Dynasty for the Paris Hilton years
Okay, so I’m cheating with my proposed pitch, since the ABC exec dubbed it “Dynasty for the new millennium,” touting its “escapive and satirical and ripped from page 6 quality.” Well, there is very little satire, and escapive, yes, but let’s hope it escapes from television altogether. It’s not really bad, per se, but it’s not good. I admit I’m not a fan of melodrama, so soap fans and evening soap fans in particular may like this much more than do I. But the problem arises from the mix of melodrama (focusing on the Darlings, a flamboyant, dysfunctional rich family) and a watchable, realist, and subtle performance from Peter Kraus (as the lawyer hired to clean up after them). Certainly, DSM kicked off the theme for the remaining ABC previews of stranding an excellent actor with a good performance in the middle of mulch. Donald Sutherland is okay too, but everyone else is just over-the-top, poorly and predictably written (guess what? The politician brother is having an affair. Bet you never expected that!), and boring to watch. So a strange paradox is created – the melodrama is boring, while the straightman at the center is interesting. I’m not sure that’s how they envisioned the genre-mix to work. Regardless, it doesn’t work, for me at least. DSM wins points for its innovative extratextuals, using Perez Hilton’s site to circulate stories about the show’s Darling family. But it loses points for putting more into the hype than the show. Though maybe in that respect it really is the perfect show for the era of Paris Hilton?
How it was probably pitched: Let’s get Christina Applegate back on TV
The pitch couldn’t have been more than that, because the show is really bad. Applegate plays a woman suffering from amnesia who gradually realizes that she wasn’t a good person, and would like to become a better one. Pity the writers didn’t enjoy a similar realization about their writing skills. The set-up is like a Disney Channel made-for-TV movie, and though the stock Disney movie character of the annoying 10 year-old boy is missing, his place is taken by much of the cast. Applegate’s okay, but it’s often hard to tell, since her dialogue is a long string of pregnant “If you could change your life, what would you change?” fifth-rate philosophizing, and jokes that just aren’t funny. It tries to be sweet, but fails there too. You know when you’re watching something unfunny, and there’s always one person in the theater who laughs, making you wonder why? Well, there often wasn’t even that one person. I’ll stop here: you get the point. Like Samantha’s former life, this show is best forgotten.
How it was probably pitched: Desperate Housewives for men
I’m not sure Big Shots‘ creators really thought through what they wanted the show to do. On one hand, it’s about guys. Not just guys, but guys: the references to penises, checking out women, and the number of scenes involving golf announce the show’s raw guyness. On the other hand, its generic format is that of the tawdry evening soap. Granted, I don’t see the Nielsen data that ABC does, but I’d presume we have two different demos in tawdry evening soap watchers and penis-&-golf worshippers? Yet its lead-in is Grey’s Anatomy, so someone’s giving it the sweetheart treatment, and perhaps they think Grey‘s young female audience want more golf in their lives? I’m dubious. Anyways, all four guys play golf, talk about penises, watch women a lot, and talk about how hard life is being millionaire CEOs. Alias‘ Michael Vartan turns in a very good performance, yet wastes it on a show that is mediocre at best. And I found it particularly discomforting to hear Joshua Malina spouting mindless dialogue, since after West Wing and Sports Night, I’m used to him speaking in fluent, intelligent, Sorkinese; without it, he’s pretty lame, as is much of the show. Oddly, too, this was the second ABC pilot prominently featuring a tranvestite hooker (and yes, this allowed for yet more penis references, though sadly no golf references). I’m not sure audiences will care for the four main characters. I don’t.Tags: ABC, Big Shots, Dirty Sexy Money, fall previews, pilots, Pushing Daisies, Samantha Who?