Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TV: My Unfair Previews, Fall 2006: ABC


Nothing new on Mondays. On Tuesdays, Set for the Rest of Your Life is a reality series planned for midseason, to replace Dancing With the Stars when its season ends. Wow, ABC, you're off to a really bad start. I don't care about "reality" shows -- I don't even watch Survivor or Amazing Race anymore -- and, like last year, I'm giving myself a free pass to avoid them. I'm not even going to bother to hunt for the web page for this one.

Also on Tuesday, two new sitcoms. First is Let's Rob.... Apparently that's the full title now (according to the web page it is). It used to be Let's Rob Mick Jagger, but I guess they're going with the ellipsis instead. You know, in case they come back for a second season (yeah, right!) and have to rob somebody else. Or maybe they'll use the Mick Jagger title for one year, then switch it to, I don't know, Abe Vigoda the next year. (That would be sad.) Originally, the show was going to be Let's Rob Jeff Goldblum. I'm not kidding. But Goldblum was already signed on to do Raines. Well, when that show tanks, maybe he can be in the second season (yeah, right!).

I said all that bad stuff to say this good stuff: I think the premise is intriguing. A comedy take on a season-long plot show like 24, in which some inept goofballs plan to, yes, rob Mick Jagger? Interesting. Mick Jagger playing himself in cameos? Has some promise. Starring Donal Logue? Okay, you got me. I'm in. He's hilarious. But then the promo copy on the web page says: "What they don't know is that there's a much richer target for them... the chance to find hope, self-esteem and confidence within themselves." And I'm out again. Gag. That is cheesier than a one-ton block of cheddar. Seriously, why are you trying so hard to make me hate you before you even air? Interesting side note (well, interesting to me, anyway): the creators of this show are Jon Beckerman and Rob Burnett, who also created Ed. And in the pilot episode of Ed, before being replaced by Michael Ian Black, the character of Phil was originally played by... Donal Logue. He couldn't be in the series because he was committed to another show that got picked up, Grounded for Life. Hey, I said it was interesting to me.

Then there's Help Me Help You (nice Tom Cruise reference there; you're on the cutting edge of ten years ago), which stars Ted Danson as a group therapy leader who's in need of therapy himself. Ted Danson is available? Man, I thought Becker might still be on the air. It was one of those shows, like Yes, Dear, that you kept thinking had been cancelled years ago, but kept showing up with new episodes. A cockroach show, unpleasant and tough to kill. Anyhoo, this new show looks like it will be much, much easier to kill.

On Wednesdays, the new show is The Nine, about nine people who were taken hostage during a bank robbery. Promo copy: "They will share the common bond of what happens inside the bank and will be forever affected and intertwined because of it." Yeesh. Who writes this stuff? Every episode begins with a ten-minute flashback (is it any wonder this show follows Lost? People love flashbacks!) to the robbery, then picks up with "The Nine" in their later lives. Going back to the ad copy, this show "will keep audiences hooked with the mystery of what happened during the hostage standoff," with each episode "uncovering why and how these nine strangers are still linked today". Already I can say: who cares? This premise loses me instantly. It's got a decent cast -- Chi McBride, Tim Daly, John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox from Enterprise) -- but I can not imagine caring about what happens during this bank robbery, dragged out ten minutes at a time over, what, one year, two years, five years? Especially when you know these nine people survive. "And in this episode -- one of the nine almost gets shot! But then he doesn't. But next time, they might really shoot him! But you already know they don't. But maybe the time after that -- nah, we're just kidding." Sounds awful.

Thursday brings two comedies whose premises sound so awful I can't believe it. Big Day, which... okay, I'll let the promo copy tell you: "If '24' married 'Father of the Bride,' their child would be 'Big Day.'" If you don't want to hurt somebody after reading that, you must be on Prozac. Yes, it's another serialized sitcom, like Let's Rob.... Only this one is all about the minute crap that leads up to a wedding. Ugh. You know how some people get so up inside their own ass when planning a wedding that the entire rest of the world ceases to exist for a year? You know how awful spending time with those people can be? "Choice of side salad? A trivial decision you would think, but for the mother of the bride, this might as well be the most critical decision of her life, and if you're the caterer, you'd better get it right." Oh my GOD I already hate this show so much. Also, what about the second season? "Welp, we're married now." Do they get married again? Come on, people. Try not to create shows whose premises are exhausted after the first year. (That goes for Let's Rob..., too.)

Next is Notes from the Underbelly, another show about people crawling up inside their own ass, but this time it's about a baby, not a wedding. Okay, I've had it. Look, you goddam TV people: everybody knows what weddings are like, everybody knows what pregnancy is like. And unless the wedding or the pregnancy directly involves you -- NOBODY FUCKING CARES. These are not inherently magical or fascinating things. These are ordinary, happens every day, happens in every life kinds of things. You can have a plot about a marriage, or a baby, but to build entire shows around these things, as though you were revealing new truths, as though they had never happened to anybody else in the history of the world -- Jesus Christ! Get over yourself.

Also on Thursday, a new show from J.J. Abrams, Six Degrees. Playing off the "six degrees of separation" theory, it's about six random people in New York whose lives intersect in ways they're unaware of. Could be soap opera stuff, like Felicity, but the way the web page is playing it up, could be mysterious fate/destiny stuff, like Lost. Tell you what, Abrams, how about you just stick with the blockbuster TV hit you've already got and help give that one some kind of direction, rather than gallivanting about making new TV shows and directing Tom Cruise vehicles. Still, this does star Hope Davis, whom I love, and I have liked all three of Abrams' previous shows, so I'll give it a try. But seriously, J.J. -- pay some attention to Lost.

On Friday, we have Betty the Ugly, which is an adaptation of a huge Spanish language TV hit. Dad runs a fashion magazine; dad hands things over to son; dad hires Betty to be son's assistant, because he knows Betty isn't attractive enough to distract son from his job. And this is a comedy? Hm. I'm leaning toward "pass" on this one, but on the dead zone of Friday night, anything can be worth checking out.

Also Friday is Men in Trees. It stars Anne Heche, which already makes me cringe. She and Tom Cruise need to go away and have a crazy party by themselves. Anyhoo, she's a best-selling relationship expert whose relationship falls apart (didn't see that coming!) during a trip to Alaska. So she stays in Alaska to heal, and, I'm assuming, Northern Exposure-style quirkiness ensues. Man, wasn't Northern Exposure awesome? This show, on the other hand -- I don't think so.

On Saturday, we've got ABC Saturday Night College Football. This sounds like genius to me. Not that I'm inclined to watch, but it sounds like an excellent programming strategy on a night where all you have to worry about are reruns of Cops or reruns of old movies. This could get decent ratings. I'm interested to see what happens here.

Sunday brings the non-anticipated, non-demanded return to television of Calista Flockhart, in Brothers & Sisters. I'd summarize the plot, but I keep falling asleep. Lots of soap opera-type malarkey. Does feature both Ron Rifkin and Balthazar Getty from Alias, which is interesting -- but not nearly interesting enough to get me to watch. This is what's taking over for Grey's Anatomy (which is moving to Thursday)? Good luck with that.

Okay, that's, like, one, maybe two shows I'd care to watch. Wow. Not looking like a good year for ABC. But what do I know -- they'll probably get five huge hits out of this mess. And cancel the one show it'll turn out I actually like.

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