What, No CSI: Cleveland? Previewing CBS’s New Shows
As premier dates rapidly approach, let me offer the fourth of five installments, with my reactions to three of CBS’s pilots. None are much to write home about, but they are something to blog about, so here we go, below the fold:Big Bang Theory
How it was probably pitched: Beauty and the Geek, the sitcom
If Judd Apatow and a few others have ushered in an era of Geek Chic, nobody seems to have told the writers of this show. In a bizarre way, the show’s pathologization of geeks is actually quite impressive, though, and to prove it, try this exercise: try to write a 22 minute script, filling it with as many stereotypes of geeks as possible. Get someone else to count the references. Then get them to watch the pilot of Big Bang Theory, and compare the counts. I bet you’ll lose the competition. Important to this exercise, though, is that you should not watch the show yourself, and that you should probably dislike the person required to watch it. The four key geeks, we learn, play Klingon Boggle, one had a girlfriend defect to North Korea, they all express excitement at watching 1974 lectures by Stephen Hawking from MIT, one encourages a young woman to get her own “game character, [so] we could hang out, maybe go on a quest,” another is remonstrated to “save it for your blog, Howard,” they drink out of juiceboxes, and the action builds up to such lines as “This wasn’t my first pantsing, and it won’t be my last.” Not content to fill the script with geek stereotypes, though, the other key character is a ditz, which allows another group of stereotypes into the script. Ultimately, I predict the writers’ eagerness to spew stereotypes will get the best of them: surely the Trekker jokes, endless references to MIT (I counted 4 this time), and jokes about math will run out fast. The CBS exec introducing the shows boasted of how their new shows were trying to be different this year, and now I get it: last year, CBS was the most-watched network, so Big Bang Theory should certainly offer a change for them. Sadly, both of the two key actors are actually relatively funny, with good comic skills; the show, however, is simply bad.
Cancelled for the pilot previews, since they’re still working on it. Sounds bad, right? But last year, 30 Rock was pulled for the same reason, so maybe not.
How it was probably pitched: Telenovelas are popular
Cane isn’t quite a telenovela, but it certainly learns from them, and, no, I don’t just say that because the cast is Latino/a. It’s kind of slow, and the story is all about battles within and between families, in this case the Duque rum barons from Cuba and the White sugar farming Samuels family. Agricultural drama: you gotta love it! Throw in Polly Walker reprising her snake role from Rome, make everyone attractive, pepper with multiple sex scenes (actual or interrupted), let us question everyone’s past and motives, and this is definitely telenovela-ish. The acting is all pretty decent, with Jimmy Smits and Nestor Carbonell – who Lost fans will know as the original Other – in particular pitting their respective onscreen charisma against each other. In case anyone missed the substantial Latino/a cast, CBS are sure to include many scenes of cigar-smoking, dancing, and a guy whose accent makes Al Pacino’s in Scarface seem restrained, so the “Others” may’ve moved from Lost to Cane. I’ve professed my usual disinterest in melodrama (well, non-camped-up melodrama) in a previous review, and this disinterest ensured I wasn’t really going to get giddy when watching. But it has the potential to be a guilty pleasure for some, and is a relatively decent evening soap for evening soap fans. I’ve seen worse pilots, and it’s certainly encouraging to see a network even think it can offer a drama with a predominantly Latino/a cast. It’s also effectively counter-programmed, against the comic Boston Legal, and the procedural Law and Order: SVU, so it should carve out its own space on Tuesday nights. Personally, though I wish it no ill, I won’t be there to follow.
How it was probably pitched: Las Vegas meets Cop Rock
Yes, people sing in this show. Sort of. The pilot has four musical numbers, complete with choreography, but canned music with actors mouthing/quiet-singing on top. Based on the British Viva Blackpool, which I’m told is lower budget, and more quaint, this is very glitzy and over-the-top. The central premise involves a man trying to establish his own casino, whose partner pulls out at the last minute, leaving him broke; the partner is killed, leaving him a suspect, and Hugh Jackman as the big casino owning giant in town gets involved too. I don’t really have that much to say about the show, except that it’s too silly for me, I prefer Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (now that would make the story interesting!), and I don’t care enough about the characters, settings, or themes to do much more than flip the channel quickly to The Simpsons, where the songs are funnier.Tags: Big Bang Theory, Cane, CBS, fall previews, pilots, Viva Laughlin