Monday, October 01, 2007

Short Takes (New TV Season, Part 2)

Private Practice (ABC)
I wasn’t crazy about the backdoor pilot that they presented on Grey’s Anatomy last season but I’m pleasantly surprised by the official debut (see cast above). The characters are all introduced fairly smoothly and all given a chance to strut their stuff a little. The melodrama is kept to minimum (though there is soap enough to go around.) And the people on this show are, more or less, adults…instead of the hormonal teenagers in adult suits on Grey’s…and though the remarkable Kate Walsh is the spun-off star they very carefully set this up as a true ensemble show and that’s all to the good.

Back to You (Fox)
Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton are back on a new series. It’s an old school type of work place sitcom. Comedy veteran Fred Willard offers up some welcome wackiness now and again. It’s all very familiar. It’s all very non-threatening. And the laugh track is too often having a better time than the viewers. Back to you, Fox, I’ll pass.

Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)
I think the title of this show (see cast below) is incredibly lame but the show itself has a breezy, engaging, audacious charm. Peter Krause is more than fine as the idealistic lawyer drawn into the service of the incredibly rich, incredibly famous, willfully reckless and spoiled Darling family (a family he watched grow up as his late father held the same job.) And Donald Sutherland brings a twinkly gravitas to his role as patriarch of the family. The writing on this show is fun…with just enough mystery and drama to keep things from getting too frothy…much in the way that I imagine Big Shots (see below) wanted to be.

Survivor: China (CBS)
I stopped watching Survivor a couple of editions back…the routine of the show is so rote now that there’s really not anything new to be discovered…but I checked into this one because of the decidedly exotic location. The Chinese government, eager to prove themselves a welcoming host before next year’s Summer Olympics, allowed this edition to be filmed in their country. The locale is the only interesting part of the show…the Survivors are again seemingly clueless about the game (doesn’t anybody who comes onto this show watch it before they apply?) and the intrigues have been indulged in so many times…in the same ways…that it’s only vaguely interesting. This edition’s cast is pretty colorless (as of this writing they’ve already tossed out the chicken farmer and the female pro wrestler) and the challenges are dull and predictable…but hey the scenery is nice.

Ugly Betty (ABC)
The consequences of the multiple cliffhangers from last season are explored and Betty, harried to the max, rushes around trying to put out emotional fires. The spark of discovery from the first season is gone but the writing is still taut (and at times audacious preposterous) and it looks like my favorite Americanized telenovela is going to keep the twists and turns…the humor and the romance and the pathos…coming. And that’s cool with me.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Sigh. I know it’s supposed to be a sexy soap opera but these people can be really trying sometimes :-) Actually I have some emotional investment in almost everyone except the central figures…Meredith and Derek…whom I continue to find tedious as a couple. This episode picks up on some of the threads from last season…including and especially Burke’s leaving, Izzy’s declaration of love for George, and Miranda being passed over for Chief Resident…and moves them along at a fairly smooth pace. The subplot in the first new episode of the season about the deer was silly but it allowed Izzy to have a moment with the interns she’s supervising and I guess that was okay. The romantic couplings at the end had me rolling my eyes but I’m guessing that others will find them to be wonderful. Whatever works. I’m on the record (see here) as having said that my favorite couple on this show was Burke and Christina and now that off-camera incidents have put the end to that relationship I got nobody to root for on the romantic front (I was kinda digging George and Callie but that’s not looking so good right now either) but I will continue to watch. As much as last season made me weary with its relentless pathos I’m still invested in these characters enough to stick around and hope for something more upbeat (at least as upbeat as a soap opera can get :-)

Big Shots (ABC)
If this show was twice as clever as it thinks it is it would still be a crashing bore. Nothing in this mess works…not the self-absorbed, whiny lead characters, not the limp writing, not the “clever” plot twists, not the absurd situations, nothing. And those critics that described this as a male version of Sex and the City owes the cast, writers, director, and crew of that far superior show a very big apology.

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