Blind Dates

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September 25, 2010 by jamesessj

Every new TV season brings with it a flash of hope in my heart that some new show will catch my attention or, wonder of wonders, my devotion.  The last show to do so full-heartedly was Lost, although to it I was a latecomer — I missed the pilot, and I hate not seeing shows from their beginnings.  I caught up around midseason by simply starting in the middle and catching up later.  Which shows you, given the fact that I hate not seeing shows from their beginnings, what I thought of Lost.

This season I’ve recorded the premieres of quite a few shows — many more than usual — and have now watched most of them.  My impressions and grades follow:

Hawaii Five-O:  Decent, but overedited and overproduced, remake of the classic.  Alex O’Loughlin, who plays McGarrett, is perhaps a bit too low-key, while Scott Caan, who plays Dano, is terrific, but the writers are clearly intending him to be slightly-off, in the vein of Murdoch from The A-Team or Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon (Murdoch/Murtaugh?  Hmm…), but he’s not written that way in every scene; in some scenes he’s meant to be the logic-spewing restraint to McGarrett’s excess, in others he’s meant to be the slightly-off Wooster to McGarrett’s squeaky-clean Jeeves.  It’s great to see Daniel Dae Kim, and also Grace Park; late of Galactica, she’s quite possibly enough to turn this gay man straight, if she’d only answer my calls.  We’ll have to see how this show develops — I’ll continue watching for now, but the best grade I can give it is:  C+.

Lone Star:  Billed as the new Dallas, but only because of its milieu (Texas, and Texas oil), this tale of a con man leading two lives was actually quite good, except for the constant inclusion of music-overs.  Someone needs to tell these producers that a well-written, well-acted scene is more than capable of carrying its own weight — we don’t need music & lyrics in the background as constant reminder of a scene’s emotional content.  James Wolk, who plays the lead, is an extremely likable actor, and the rest of the cast is strong, as well, particularly Jon Voight, who brings to the role (get this) not a generic Hollywoodized-Southern accent, but an actual Texas drawl.  Whether the set-up can sustain twenty-four episodes over a season, much less multiple seasons, is an open question, but I’ll be watching.  Grade:  B+.

$#*! My Dad Says:  I watched this solely for Bill Shatner, and was pleasantly surprised.  He carries the show with bluster, with charm, with that Shatnerian twinkle in his eye.  His co-lead, Jonathan Sadowski, is much less strong — at times he seemed to be playing to the camera, the audience, or both — but he’s serviceable enough, and having Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan, both from Mad TV, as Shatner’s other son and daughter-in-law, is a nice touch.  This is a sitcom, so one goes into it with the lowest of expectations, but it’s an enjoyable half-hour.  But then I’m one of those who could watch Shatner read the phone book, so my opinion is not to be trusted.  Grade:  B.

Blue Bloods:  Police procedural crossed with family saga.  The procedural part, which takes up about 60% of the pilot, is surprisingly weak — but the family saga, anchored by Tom Selleck as New York City’s Police Commissioner, is excellent.  I would almost rather they’d turned Selleck’s occasional Jessie Stone movies into a regular series — he’s the best thing about this show, with a presence that’s one part Ed Asner and one part Daniel J. Travanti.  The rest of the cast is okay, although the decision to rerecord the dialogue in nearly every scene featuring Mark Wahlberg (this is called “looping” in the industry, or ADR, Automated Dialogue Replacement, its official designation) seriously mars his performance.  When the sound is this screwed-up, one wonders why they didn’t just fix the problem and start over.  The inclusion of the “Blue Templar” subplot — about a “secret society” within the NYPD — is an intriguing one in a show that’s otherwise so down-to-earth…but the menace hinted at in the final scene, between Selleck and his youngest son, who’s been recruited by Internal Affairs to penetrate the secret society, is just silly.  Is there a chance in hell Selleck’s character is part of the conspiracy?  Now that would make for interesting TV.  Grade:  B+.

The Event:  Not since Lost has a show moved back and forth in time with such abandon.  Jason Ritter, as a young guy who gets caught up in a bizarre conspiracy to kill the president (via an airplane crash, no less), is not the world’s greatest actor, and whether he can carry a show like this remains to be seen.  But there are many other players in this scenario, including the president himself (Blaire Underwood), a CIA agent (Ian Anthony Dale), Ritter’s would-be father-in-law (Scott Patterson), and Laura Innes, from ER, as the leader of a group of…paranormals? supernaturals? mutants?…a group of somebodies who are being detained in Alaska for their own, and the nation’s, good.  The first episode moved at a fair clip, vaulting forwards, leaping backwards in time, though never confusingly so, and the finale was a real shocker — no great shock that the president doesn’t die, but the means by which he’s saved is certainly unique.  Shows like this generally have a limited lifespan, because folks get tired of waiting for answers (look at Lost‘s declining ratings over the years), but if they’ve gone into it with their story clear and defined, the producers of the The Event may have something very good on their hands.  Grade:  A-.

These are all shows I will continue to watch.  Certain others I recorded, such as The Whole Truth and Detroit 1-8-7, I gave up on before the credits even began to roll…and in the case of Detroit 1-8-7, that was painful, as I wanted the show to work, for Michael Imperioli’s sake, and for James McDaniel’s, to keep alive the spirit of NYPD Blue.  But just as the course of a first date can be determined within a few moments, so can the course of a television show — and, alas, these shows were not that good from the very start.  And, just as a relationship can go sour after months or years of happiness, so can a television show — so whether The Event or Lone Star will still be on my DVR schedule a month, or three months, from now, who knows.  But so far this season, compared to previous seasons, is off to a great start.

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