Saturday, May 26, 2007

TV: My Unfair Previews, Fall 2007: Fox


Later than anticipated, here comes the finale to my week of Unfair Previews. Last up: Fox.

Fox is the network that over the years has been the most frustrating to me. They almost always have the most interesting roster of new shows scheduled for the Fall Season -- unique, fascinating, packed with talent. And they almost always wind up killing those shows before the season is up.

I used to resent them for that, but now it's gotten to the point where I can hardly blame them. They try, America, they try. They put shows out there like Wonderfalls and Firefly and Profit and Action and The Tick, and then nobody watches them. I kind of feel like a network has an obligation to carry certain critically-acclaimed but ratings-challenged shows long enough to really give them a chance to catch on with the home audience. That's how, for example, Andy Richter Controls the Universe made it to a second season, or Arrested Development survived to its third season. But Fox can't carry every show, every year. At some point, you have to acknowledge that a network is a business, not an arts foundation.

Hell, if I were Fox, I might just say the hell with it, and put American Idol on every night for two hours. But, to their credit, they keep trying. Admittedly, this year it looks like they're not trying nearly as hard as they have in the past....

First up, on Mondays we have K-Ville, which is an example of what Fox has often done so well -- put a fresh and bold spin on a well-worn genre. It's a cop show, but these cops are set in post-Katrina New Orleans (the "K" in K-Ville presumably stands for "Katrina"), where the city is still a shambles and lawlessness runs rampant. It stars Anthony Anderson, who, as we have seen on The Shield, has the potential for brilliance; John Carroll Lynch, whom I always like (from The Drew Carey Show, Fargo, and Carnivale, among other credits), plays Anderson's boss. The show will hinge, I think, on Anderson's powerful charisma, and whether he has the ability to elevate the rest of a cast I'm mostly unfamiliar with to his level. I think he does. This is a yes for me.

New Amsterdam, on Tuesday, is another example of Fox willing to take a gamble, but I suspect this will fall less under the categories of "creative" and "visionary," and more under, "what the hell were they thinking?" In 1642, a Dutch soldier in the New World is granted immortality by an Indian woman he saves; he will never become mortal again until he finds his true love. Fast forward to the present. The Dutch soldier has lived through the entire history of the city of New York (formerly New Amsterdam), and now uses his centuries of knowledge to solve cases as a homicide detective. This walks the border of interesting and silly, falling more toward silly, I'd say. I don't care for the lead actor, and the preposterous set-up is not aided by the conceit that he seems to know everything that has ever happened in New York, down to every style of high fashion shoes. This looks like a miss.

The new sitcom on Wednesday, leading into the inexplicably still-existing 'Til Death, is Back To You, starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as news anchors reunited after a decade apart. Grammer and Heaton set out to prove that comedic success on one show (or as one character, in Grammer's case) does not necessarily translate to comedic success elsewhere (Heaton's former castmate, Brad Garrett, has already proven this abundantly on 'Til Death). The two leads display a profound lack of chemistry, and in the clips provided, the rest of the cast might as well not exist (the wonderful Fred Willard, who co-stars as the sports anchor, is not seen in the clips). These days, Fox's live-action comedy lineup just makes me want to weep. This turkey does not change that.

Thursday's Kitchen Nightmares is the new reality show featuring Gordon Ramsay, which means it is so staggeringly uninteresting to me that I'm not even going to finish this

Friday brings us two more reality shows, The Search for the Next Great American Band and Nashville. The former is American Idol in band form, and, as I despise American Idol, you can imagine how little I anticipate a show with the same format, only featuring more people performing at once. And the latter is "a high-stakes, high-drama docu-soap" from "the creative minds behind the hit series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County." And if that doesn't make you want to murder someone already, you and I should not watch TV together.

I'm going to break my unofficial rule for this week, and look now at two shows debuting in mid-season, because A) I don't want to end on such a depressing note as three awful reality shows in a row, and B) these are (or were) two of my most anticipated shows.

First is Sunday's The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which continues the story of the Terminator universe, and which either is set in between Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, or which completely ignores the existence of T3. (Some fans would probably like to ignore the existence of that movie, too, but I'm not one of them; I thought it was more than worthwhile, and you should give it a chance, if you haven't already.) The show stars 300's Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, the weasel actor who didn't want his character to be gay on Heroes as John Connor, and Firefly's Summer Glau as their mysterious protector. I love the Terminator series, and this looks like a decently action-packed successor to the films, even if Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron have nothing to do with it. I'm cautiously optimistic.

The other mid-season show is The Return of Jezebel James, which will follow Back To You on Wednesdays in 2008 (assuming Back To You lasts that long). I've been looking forward to this one ever since it was announced. A new sitcom from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, starring my beloved Parker Posey? Uh, hell yeah. Lauren Ambrose, who was so great on Six Feet Under, plays Posey's estranged sister, and it also features Scott Cohen, who is always enjoyable, and whose most memorable role was probably as Max on Gilmore Girls, which makes this a perfect fit. Even better, right? This should be awesome, right?? Yeah, well... then I watched the clips. First of all, it's saddled with an annoyingly intrusive laugh track, which caught me off guard, and which really doesn't work. Second, it's extremely conventional. It's all set-up, punchline, set-up, punchline, which plays away from the character-based comedy strengths of both Sherman-Palladino and Posey. Third, it centers around Posey, who can not conceive a child, convincing Ambrose to carry her baby for her. Baby comedy is almost always instantly off-putting to me; it reeks of contrivance, as well as the misplaced confidence that the writer's baby experiences are as fascinating to everyone else as they are to the writer. (As I may already have mentioned previously, ABC's Notes From the Underbelly is the rare exception; it's a darn funny show, and, to my great pleasure, it is coming back in mid-season.) And, worst of all -- it's just not funny. Not even a little bit. Frankly, it's horrendous. I couldn't be more disappointed. Every single thing about this show is a misfire, starting from Posey's embarrassingly, inappropriately oversized performance on down. Damn shame.

And that's it for Fox, which means that's it for my Unfair Previews for Fall 2007! And what a lackluster load of previews it's been. There's only one show I'm looking forward to with genuine enthusiasm, and that's a dark and gritty remake of some '70s sci-fi cheese. Everything else, at best, is pretty much take-it-or-leave-it (and I would say Fox's K-Ville and NBC's Chuck are the only shows I would even rank that high). It looks to be an ugly year ahead of us, people. Keep your fingers crossed that TV won't let us down! Or maybe go outside and get some fresh air instead, for god's sake. Just kidding! Don't do that. That would be crazy.

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by