Sunday, September 24, 2006

TV: Shark

The easy criticism of CBS's Shark is that it's House as a lawyer. As though Gregory House were TV's first prickly protagonist. Why isn't House Buffalo Bill as a doctor? That said, once you see James Woods chew apart his staff -- and the scenery -- in pursuit of the ends via any means necessary, it's hard to shake the comparison. Okay, here's another reason why the comparison doesn't hold: Shark isn't nearly as good a show as House.

But that doesn't make it a bad show. I've always liked James Woods, and his manic energy is focused well here as Sebastian "Shark" Stark, a high-profile L.A. defense attorney who switches sides to the prosecution when a case blows up in his face (he gets an attempted murderer freed, who then goes out and makes his next attempt more successful). Stark now has to work with District Attorney Jessica Devlin, whom he's showed up so very many times before -- how nice for him that she's a TV-friendly hot blonde with a big rack, played by Jeri Ryan. Ryan doesn't do much, but then, she's not given much to do other than generic foil-work.

Stark also gets saddled with the rejects from the DA's office for his team, since Devlin resents his presence (he's been forced on her by the mayor). The standouts on his team from this first episode are the ass-kissing, back-stabbing teacher's pet, Madeline Poe (played by Sarah Carter), who's generally right despite being a bitch, and righteous, pugnacious, stick-in-the-ass Raina Troy (played by Sophina Brown), who's generally wrong (but with good intentions), despite being, well, also a bitch. Bitchy team! Meanwhile, at home Stark is dealing with his 16-year-old daughter, Julie (Danielle Panabaker), who has to choose who will have permanent custody over her, Stark or his ex-wife, who is about to move to New York with her new fiance. Julie's a little too angelic and wise beyond her years to be believable, as is her choice to stay with her father, but the actress is still appealing enough to pull it off.

The pilot episode was directed by Spike Lee, but as opposed to his brilliant direction on his failed pilot for Showtime, Sucker Free City, it doesn't show; the look and feel of the show is passable, but not visually exciting or inventive as you'd expect from Lee. And there's one element in the show which made me roll my eyes as I haven't done since seeing the hologram machine in Bones: the full-size mock courtroom Stark has in his home. Yeah, that's likely. And maybe House has a full-size operating theater in his apartment.

All in all, it's decent enough for a legal show, certainly more enjoyable than Justice, primarily due to the strength of Woods, whose mania and intensity are always riveting. But, as I said when looking at Justice, I'm just not a fan of legal dramas. For me to have gotten hooked on this show, it would've had to crush a home run (as House did with another non-favorite genre of mine, the medical drama). As it is (to belabor the analogy), with Woods' help, Shark maybe stretches it out into a triple. But that's just not enough. I might give it a second look, but I'm not going to seek it out.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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