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Diary of a TV Addict: September Part 1, The New Shows

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Hi, my name’s Ian and I’m a TV addict. During the summer I thought I’d conquered my addiction, or at least got it under control, only watching one show, Burn Notice (I did try the new Flash Gordon series but the less said about that the better, after all I’m an addict not a masochist).

Burn Notice has now finished (it’ll be back next year!) but some of my old favourites are back along with tempting new shows and from one a week I’m now back up to ten, with others (Pushing Daisies, Women’s Murder Club) still waiting in the wings.

While plenty of the new shows are interesting there doesn’t seem to be a surfeit of originality on display.  In fact, almost all the newbies I’ve watched feel like throwbacks to the past, although one does have the excuse of being a remake.

At one point in Cane, one of the characters refers to sugar as the new oil, and if that’s the case then Cane must be the new Dallas. Clandestine affairs, feuding families and two brothers that don’t get along, sound familiar? The attraction of this was Jimmy Smits; I watched him in L.A. Law, N.Y.P.D. Blue and the final season of The West Wing and enjoyed all of them. He’s not bad in this, in fact he’s very good, but the show just isn’t my cup of tea, I prefer my soap in the bathroom.

If Cane is Dallas with a new coat of paint then Dirt Sexy Money must be the new Dynasty. With that in mind I made sure I avoided it. Why couldn’t they reinvent Quantum Leap or Angel instead? Oh wait a minute, they have.

If it’s a sexy vampire detective you want look no further than Moonlight. It’ got everything Angel had, minus the sense of humour, but I’m hoping it will be able to find one in the coming weeks. It’s nice to see some vampires that don’t know Kung Fu, it makes a refreshing change. I’ll be sticking with this for a couple of episodes to see how it develops.  Having the two lead characters’ pasts tied together so closely felt a little contrived and would perhaps have worked better had we been given tidbits of information throughout the season or at least the first few episodes.

The Quantum Leap wannabe is Journeyman, although there’s also a healthy dose of Tru Calling in the mix. While it was an enjoyable pilot with Kevin McKidd making a likable lead, I might not have returned for a second episode as I could see a formula developing with McKidd trying to save someone in the past and his own marriage each week and that would get tired very quickly. Luckily the pilot episode turns that expectation on its head at the finale and I was left eager to see what happens next.

Some shows don’t just bring back memories of TV shows from the past but also have much in common with each other. A couple of years ago it was alien invasions (Invasion, Surface, Threshold ) and this year, as well as giving us a look into the lives of the idle rich, TV Land seems preoccupied with teenage geeks coerced into jobs they don’t want. Reaper may have a touch of Brimstone about it and Chuck may be a bit like Jake 2.0 but they have more in common with each other than those old shows. Chuck is forced to work for the government after he accidentally has the contents of a shared F.B.I./N.S.A. database downloaded into his brain.  Sam, the central character in Reaper, finds himself working for the devil (Ray Wise in top form) after his parents sold his soul before he was born. I’m not going to make any analogies between the current US government and the devil, instead I’ll point out the both leads share a similar job and that their work environment looks likely to play a large part in both shows. I’ll be sticking with them for a while at least but Chuck won out in the battle of the pilots.

The one show that can’t fail to draw comparisons with the past is Bionic Woman. The central premise is the same; a horrific accident (car crash this time) leads to Jamie Sommers getting new legs, a new arm and other accessories. She’s also still not keen on working for the government and this time who can blame her? Instead of cuddly Oscar Goldman she’s stuck with Jonas Bledsoe, played with more than a hint of menace by Miguel Ferrer. Time will tell if this can escape the shadow of its predecessor but I wouldn’t bet against it, some of the behind the scenes guys pulled off a similar feat with Battlestar Galactica and Michelle Ryan’s come a long way from British TV soap Eastenders.

One of the new shows that has at least a hint of freshness is Life. We’ve had detectives who have done time before, Jim Rockford springs to mind, but that was the private kind, in Life the central character returns to the force after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. The closest thing to it is probably Blind Justice which featured a blind detective returning to active duty, but Life has the added bonus that our hero is looking for the man who really committed the crime he did the time for. This should allow for both a crime of the week story as well as a bigger picture that will develop as the series unfolds. Far from the best of the new shows, this still did enough to get me back next week and if it does that it’s done its job.

The worst pilot award goes to Big Shots, it manages to waste a great cast on a badly written piece of fluff. Many shows have crossed the Atlantic; some go one way, some the other, The Office and Cracker being two that made the trip to the US. I’ve seen Big Shots compared to shows like Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City but what it’s really closest to is the British TV comedy Manchild (already remade for US TV but as yet unaired). Taking Manchild’s core idea of four friends sexual misadventures, it reduces the ages from approaching 50 to straddling 40, expands the running time from 30 minutes to an hour, adds more drama and removes most of the humour (actually this latter I think was the result of bad writing rather than planning). Having said that this will probably go on to run for six or seven seasons, but even if it does I’ll have no interest in watching it.

In Part 2 I’ll spout forth on the returning shows on my must watch list – C.S.I., Criminal Minds, and the two best shows on TV – Heroes and Dexter.

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About Ian Woolstencroft

  • Rohan

    Gah, someone called Heroes the best show on TV, are things really that bad?

    If all you’re counting is what’s running right now, The Office beats Heroes in writing, acting and overall consistency. I know, I know, apples and oranges, but have you seen the premiere of Heroes? The writing has gotten even looser and more ‘melo’. At least Nikki/Jessica didn’t show up.

    And make sure you don’t put-off Pushing Daisies for later, it’s a great piece of Television.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    I’d disagree with you on one point. “Big Bang Theory” is the worst pilot I’ve seen. I’d give it a three-episode run, tops. Still CBS sandwiched it between some other comedies, so it could have a slightly longer life. I wouldn’t anticipate a box set, though.

  • Ron

    You are out of your mind on The Big Bang Theory :

    Good Ratings For The Big Bang Theory In week 2 Again !!

    The show finished # 2 in its time slot behind the mighty Dancing With the Stars, and it built on its How I Met Your Mother lead in by 13%. It also beat NBC’s critically acclaimed Chuck by a whopping 14 %.

    The Big Bang Theory is thriving !!

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    We’ll see. . .

  • Ty

    “While plenty of the new shows are interesting there doesn’t seem to be a surfeit of originality on display. In fact, almost all the newbies I’ve watched feel like throwbacks to the past, although one does have the excuse of being a remake.”

    And what is your take on “Aliens in America?” Critics are saying that the show is very un-CW like in that it is actually good and not campy.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Aliens in America was surprisingly decent. It still needs a couple of eps to get a grip of itself, but it could turn out well.

    Big Bang Thory is medicore at best, and it slipped in its second week, as did Chuck which I like.

    Cavemen and Carpoolers are likely early cuts. They are both awful.