The Freshman TV Class of 2010-2011, Part 3: Procedurals
Note to network TV: there are already enough procedurals. CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Criminal Minds, Law and Order: SVU, Bones, House, The Good Wife, Medium, The Mentalist, NCIS, NCIS: LA, and (debatably) Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice are enough. Really. CBS, I’m talking to you in particular.
Perhaps I should’ve sent out the note before the Upfronts, since procedurals are all the rage for next year, with 4.5 new lawyer procedurals, 5.5 new cop procedurals, and 2 new doctor procedurals. Instead of breaking them down by network, let’s look at them in those terms:
“I Didn’t Do It!”: Lawyer Shows
Outlaw and Harry’s Law should both be treated together, since their trailers were clearly cut from the same cloth. Both star a biggish name talent (Jimmy Smits and Kathy Bates respectively) as successful individuals who tire of their regular job and hence who change gears to help a poor, innocent African-American in their first case. Both are serious with a touch of sass, both are transformed into better humans by their experiences, and both want their own Green Mile moments. Both shows count on the talents of their stars, but Smits was unable to pull the trick with Cane, even with Nestor Carbonell at his side, and Harry’s Law risks splitting the vote with The Good Wife or losing out to it since the latter is a better show by most appearances. Consider me bored on both accounts, though with David E. Kelley behind Harry’s Law, maybe it’ll do better than I think, and become more funny and charming than it seems at present?
The Defenders’ claim that few lawyer shows depict the defense seems somewhat amusing in the context of a season with these other shows, and as much as I will always love Stand By Me, Jerry O’Connell is no Jimmy Smits or Kathy Bates, and Jim Belushi delivered his best performance in K9, which isn’t saying much. Amusingly in the trailer, after Belushi notes O’Connell’s strength as a comedian, O’Connell deadpans that he signed on largely for the experience of working with Belushi – a great joke if ever I heard one. I’d schedule the wrap party for this one early in the season, though I would’ve said the same with According to Jim, so maybe the Belushi Protection Society will keep this one on a feeding tube for a while longer. It’s unclear if it means to be funny or serious, both or neither, so it’s tonally vapid … in addition to seeming boring.
The Whole Truth promises the seemingly bold move of offering both sides of a case. But we’ve seen this before, and if the trailer’s anything to go by, this will result in head-spinning and/or gimmicky back-and-forth editing that could wear thin by the end of the second episode. Rob Morrow stars, but his former affability seems lost in an attempt to be a big boy lawyer. Once again, I’m unimpressed.
And, crossing the cop/lawer boundary is Law and Order: Los Angeles. There’s no trailer here, just a CGI teaser, so it’s hard to judge. But perhaps the tired, dead, horse-kicking series needs the jolt of a new visual style and a new location. Alternately, perhaps we’ve all seen LA in way too many crime dramas and cop shows already. I refuse to judge at this point.
“Book ‘em, Danno!”: Cop Shows
After falling for Lost’s Jin and Sun something fierce, it’s hard not to be intrigued by Daniel Dae Kim’s latest outing, Hawaii Five-O. With Grace Park costarring, no less, it’s a perfect fan Lost/BSG collision. The trailer didn’t do much for me, and suggested little more than a regular cop show, without the CGI bells and whistles that the CSI franchise brought into the picture. But it’ll have the advantage of a great location in Hawaii, and if they use that location and film it half as well as the folks at Lost did, it might at least pull a CSI: Miami and look too beautiful to cancel. Meanwhile, I owe Daniel Dae Kim at least a couple of episodes of watching.
CBS, ever mindful of their need to program 80% procedurals, has also commissioned an as-yet-unnamed Criminal Minds spinoff, which just seems wrong. No network should be allowed more than two cop show franchises. Surely there are only so many 50 year-old guys in the country and eventually their supply as viewers will run out? No trailer, just a premise, and an uninspiring one at that.
Bound to have more edge is FOX’s Ride-Along, from The Shield’s Shawn Ryan. Set in Chicago with a distinct Southland feel to it, it might be a good test of whether NBC just flubbed the delivery with Southland or whether it was the audience’s fault all along. At the same time, ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7 tries to offer a similarly gritty, NYPD Blue meets The Wire image of Detroit, starring Michael Imperioli. Both shows clearly have pretensions of being life-like, cutting-edge, and finger-on-the-pulse, and the latter in particular has an appealing visual style. Whether network TV can pull off this level of realism remains to be seen, and I’d rather hold judgment till I’ve seen more.
Finally, Chase follows a team of US Marshals led by a tough, kickass woman. Jerry Bruckheimer produced, yet penned by Jennifer Johnson. It’s a reasonably well-edited trailer, promising intrigue, action, and tough cookies, but see the note that opens this post to see why I’m unlikely to care.
“Ouch!”: Doctor Shows
After NBC’s Mercy and Trauma were tossed from their steeds this year, ABC is offering its own pair of medical dramas, no doubt buoyed by its success with Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and hence sure that it can do better.
Body of Proof seems to have been made by the same team who did the Harry’s Law and Outlaw trailers, or at least written by the same machine. Many years after leaving China Beach, Dana Delany’s back headlining her own medical drama, as a neurosurgeon who has to leave her job and become a medical examiner. The former automaton now finds her humanity with corpses. If that irony sounds too heavy-handed to you, you’re not alone, so I propose that if the first four episodes repeat the irony more than twice, the show is dead to me.
Off the Map is the more intriguing offering, from ABC’s own Shonda Rhimes and co-writers, starring Wonderfalls’ Caroline Dharvernas, yet set in the South American jungle in a Medicins Sans Frontiers set-up. I repeat my interest in shows filmed and set outside the US, and hence hope that it works, but as with Outsourced, I worry about the significant potential for it to reel out stereotype after Othering after boneheaded prejudice. Let’s hope it pulls it off and avoids those ailments. It’s also interesting to see a trailer for a Rhimes production that doesn’t put the sexual intrigue first and foremost. I’m still skeptical, but at least I’m curious too.
And those are the procedurals. For our last installment, I’ll discuss other dramas (and dramedies).Tags: ABC, Body of Proof, CBS, Chase, Criminal Minds, Detroit 1-8-7, FOX, Harry's Law, Hawaii Five-O, Law and Order: Los Angeles, NBC, new shows, Off the Map, Outlaw, procedurals, Ride-Along, The Defenders, The Whole Truth, upfronts