The Freshman TV Class of 2010-2011, Part 4: The Other Dramas
Rather than organize these by network, which would be a bit obvious and boring, how about instead I list them from least interesting (to me) to most interesting?
This means that we start with the tough, three-way battle for the title of Worst New Drama. Our contestants? NBC’s Love Bites, ABC’s My Generation, and The CW’s Hellcats. Love Bites has a horrible trailer, and whoever made it really should be embarrassed, since it left me deeply confused. I get that it’s an anthology romcom that promises to demean a new group of stars each week with trite dialogue and plots, but it’s unclear whether the women we meet at the beginning are part of a continuous frame, if Greg Grunberg is either, and if so how they relate to the other stories. It just shifts gears without explaining how or why. It also has a really bad voiceover and looked more like a tampon ad than a show; indeed, if you’ve seen the playful UbyKotex attack on the obnoxiousness of tampon ads, you’ve seen an effective satire of Love Bites. Oh, okay, we’ll give it the title, shall we?
That said, in terms of paint by numbers programming and obnoxiousness, My Generation is really throwing a hail Mary pass to the end zone. The premise is that a group of people who graduated together ten years ago are now being checked up on. Filmed documentary style, yet fictional (the fiction is evident from the patent stupidity and formulaic quality), it revels in its self-importance, as if this is this is the new Up Series, telling us all about aging, dreams, potential, realization, life, plans, and The Things That Matter. As an exercise, get out a piece of paper now, write down ten of the most formulaic, trite high school characters you could imagine; then, keeping with the theme of trite, imagine where they’ll be in ten years; and I guarantee you’ve now created something on par with the writing behind this show, at least if the trailer’s to be believed.
In third place for worst show is Hellcats. The title alone bugs me. With Cougar Town already on the air, did we really need another show whose title animalizes women? Apparently so. The show also perplexes me, since it seems a very small toggle of The Beautiful Life, a show that died a remarkably quick death last year for The CW. Only it’s cheerleaders now, not models. This seems a move in the wrong direction: surely the model’s life is more aspirational than that of a cheerleader? Perhaps that’s why our central character is a street-wise, edgy blond who is forced into cheerleading to get a scholarship to become a lawyer (‘cause we all know that nothing impresses a law firm more than cheerleading on the CV!), and yet who makes lots of critical comments about cheerleaders. She’s a character that The CW is specializing in – utter insiders who think they’re outsiders. I’m inclined to bemoan the creation of a generation who think they’re facing great struggles, and who want the sympathy for it, when they’re some of the planet’s most privileged individuals, but that way lies Grumpy Old Man territory, and I need to keep faith that the audience is more complex than what’s on the screen, lest I give up all hope in life. Suffice it to say, meanwhile, that Hellcats and I will not be BFFs. It’s only third worst since I’m least in its target demo, so I’ll give it a break.
Blue Bloods’ trailer made Tom Selleck look past his shelf-life. It also contains one of the more vapid promotional comments I’ve heard, from Selleck: “This show is very exciting. It’s got plots. It’s got action. It’s got all that stuff.” “All that stuff,” eh? Sounds like a great work of art to me! Anyways, it’s a family cop drama set in New York with an Irish family, from a pair of Sopranos scribes, and also starring Donnie Wahlberg. Magnum PI and the New Kid on the Block just ain’t doin’ it for me. It seemed a little more sophisticated than the average cop show, and I’ll leave room that it may rise to greatness, but at the moment, it’s just a big “Meh” from me.
I was disappointed by Undercovers, the new J. J. Abrams show. Maybe this is a case of the trailer hurting the show, or maybe it shows that the editor was really frisky when s/he made it, but it’s far too much sexual intrigue and not enough spy intrigue (or heck, not even enough family intrigue). I expect way more from the guy behind Alias, but when the show’s title is that cheesy, maybe my hopes are foolish. Chuck is a great, fun spy dramedy from a prominent showrunner, but it’s struggled in the ratings; I wonder how this one will do when it looks worse in almost every respect. I’m really excited to see network TV greenlight a drama with two African-Americans as the leads, but equally concerned that if it fails (because it’s not that good), some bonehead execs will see it as a sign of the unmarketability of such a casting model for a show.
Nikita is the other new spy drama, with Maggie Q showing prowess as a hunter and killer, yet struggling with the ability to keep more than lingerie or underwear on at any given time. Again, I’m happy to see a non-white lead for such a show, especially on The CW, who came a very distant fifth out of the five major networks last year in terms of non-white series regulars. It feels like Alias with more contemporary music, and also looks more action-packed and plot-driven than Undercovers’ somewhat basic premise. It’ll need more going on in it than just a scowling Shane West, and I’m not underestimating The CW’s ability to disappoint me, but for now I’ll sign up for an episode or two.
When Flash Forward concluded with another blackout, I half expected for one of them to see “the event.” Certainly, the new serial show, The Event, has a similar visual style and cryptic “what’s happening, man?” element to it. It also has a really annoying trailer, showing us various fascinating incidences, only to tell us these are not “the event.” The suggestion, I get it, is that The Event is so monumental that all these other things (like an assassination attempt on a President in the over-theatrical form of flying a jumbo jet into him) are small potatoes, but it’s a tenuous, dangerous strategy for a trailer to take to deliberately withhold telling you what it’s all about (imagine: “Grey’s Anatomy is not about lawyers freeing the wrongly accused, it’s not about a loveable old man who moves in with his son to humorous consequences, and it’s not about enjoyable television”). And when the NBC press release announces, “Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind,” I really should be checking out by now. But it’s high concept, it’s serial, and now that Lost’s gone, what am I gonna do with myself? Okay, NBC, I’ll check it out, but if it really is the V meets Flash Forward hybrid that your trailer suggests it is, I’m gone.
Consider Me Interested
David Lyons didn’t do much to impress me on ER, so I’m wary of The Cape, given that it’s centered on him. All the same, the Unbreakable fan in me finds it hard not to be drawn in by this tale of a man who must leave his family and assume the role of a superhero called The Cape, named after the hero in a comic he read to his son. Summer Glau also stars, which should ensure it some extra viewers, though personally I don’t know what the hoopla is all about with her. I like the world they set up – vaguely Gothamesque in its dysfunctionality and need for a hero. And thus while I’m aware it may just be a pastiche of other things that I like, and wholly unable to deliver when push comes to shove, for now I’m casually interested.
Terra Nova has no trailer, and only sketchy details, but there’s enough to hook me for now. A Steven Spielberg production, the show finds a family sent back in time as part of a mission, with others, to correct humankind due to the imminent death of the human species. If I set aside my skepticism that any well-funded entity would care enough about the species, not just their own selfish selves, to correct our course through time, this sounds kind of cool. Could be dumb, very dumb. But I’m eager to hear more.
No Ordinary Family is the second of the superhero stories to join television, and though he has experience as Ben Grimm / The Thing in the Fantastic Four movies, I’m especially fascinated by the somewhat odd casting of Michael Chiklis, and eager to see what he can do after The Shield. He’s the father of an Incredibles type family, who after exposure to something superhero-ish, all gain powers. Julie Benz (Dexter Morgan’s wife in Dexter, or Darla in Buffy, depending upon your preference) also stars. Smallville used to be interesting, before everyone started wearing PVC and Clark showed his ability to leap a shark in a single bound, and I’m hoping this could be an early season Smallville, yet with a little more adult grit, and with a family element. I’ll be watching.
And tied for most interesting-to-me is Lonestar. This show may be utter crap, but for now I pay homage to whoever made the trailer, since it really is quite excellent. We’re presented with a character who seemingly has two loving wives, each not knowing of the other’s existence. But before this seems like Big Love, we’re introduced to his nasty father who is the kingpin in a con he’s running with one or both. Except the son wants out. On paper or read on a computer screen, it sounds kind of dull, no? And yet the trailer had me really interested. He seemed like a fascinating, original character, and the trailer offered just enough pictures of the surroundings to suggest that it’ll be visually interesting too, examining the location as much as the characters, and situating one within the other. All this could be the product of very good editing, but kudos to the editor, since you got me in the door.
And that’s it. I’ll be back to discuss scheduling all this stuff later, but I hope some of this helps you decide what to watch and what not to watch this Fall. I’ll try to watch each pilot too, and be back with more in Fall.Tags: ABC, Blue Bloods, CBS, drama, Hellcats, Lonestar, Love Bites, My Generation, NBC, new shows, Nikita, No Ordinary Family, Terra Nova, The Cape, The CW, The Event, Undercovers, upfronts