Monday, September 19, 2005

TV: Head Cases

Mostly harmless.

Head Cases continues the trend this season of determined mediocrity. Nothing I've seen so far has stood out as especially good, and nothing so far has been truly awful (although The War at Home comes closest).

Head Cases stars Robin as a young attorney on the fast track to a partnership at his law firm, who suffers from a sudden nervous breakdown, precipitated in part by his wife locking him out of his house. I'm sure there's a backlog of complaints his wife must hold against him, but all we see him do in this episode is miss a meeting with a therapist for his son, due to a big court case. So his wife comes off as kind of a heartless bitch here, and it's hard to tell if that's intentional or not, since it seems like the series is heading for a reconciliation between the two of them.

Anyway, he goes off the deep end, and gets checked into a "Wellness Center". Four months later, he's ready for release, but there's a catch: he has to mentor another recently-released patient, the much crazier Adam Goldberg. Do they clash at the beginning? Do they grudgingly help each other out? Do they become partners in a new law firm by the end of the episode? You'll have to watch the show to find out! (Or if you've ever seen any TV show ever, you could probably just make an educated guess.)

Goldberg is crazy in a much more flamboyantly scene-stealing kind of way. He's jittery, a fast talker, prone to inappropriate verbal outbursts and sudden fits of wacky violence. It's all very Ally McBeal. But I like Goldberg a lot, and I was happy to watch him ham it up.

Robin, on the other hand, is, and always has been, a blank slate. He looks like, and acts like, a generic acting mannequin (model #7A: boyishly handsome). I've never seen him do anything that couldn't be done by literally any other actor in Hollywood. He is a bland performer who makes bland choices. Which probably means he's perfectly suited to television -- especially mediocre television like this.

There are a couple of laughs throughout; Goldberg delivers to a certain degree on the comedy half of the dramedy equation. But O'Donnell's (there, I said his real name, are you happy?) mental illness and personal problems are meant to be taken much more seriously. And I just didn't care at all about him, his wife, or his grubby little kid. I say dump the family and beef up the role of O'Donnell's secretary from his old law firm, bring her over to the new firm, turn her into the new love interest. (Although it looks like she's not even coming back next episode, so that might be a problem.) I'll probably watch one more episode, because Richard Kind is being added to the cast, and he's very good at being a funny oddball, but the only reason I'd ever tune in again would be because it's on Fridays, and there's not much competition. As with much of this year's new programming, Head Cases is a default program, not an intentional destination.

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