Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Premiere Week Redux: Yay or Nay

Happy New Year everyone! I could say I resolve to write more than one blog post a month, but, you know, no promises there. I can promise I will post my top 10 list soon....ish. Before the Oscars at least.

This week saw a bunch of new TV show premieres, of which I flagged four to check out. And since I clearly don't have time to write about what I'm watching, I've decided it's time to stop giving middling shows multiple chances before dropping them. I mean, I still have full seasons of Nikita and No Ordinary Family on DVR that I somehow believe I may someday watch.

But no more. From now on, each show is getting a yay or nay after one episode. So while I haven't gotten to Shameless yet (and my disinclination to do so may suggest which way I'm leaning there), here's how the new system has worked on three new shows that premiered this week.

I was pretty much onboard with this one from the promo alone. Entourage lost its ability to successfully mock Hollywood seasons ago, so there was a void for some other show to take its place. And at least so far, Showtime's new comedy about an unsuccessful transition of a British hit to American schlock brings in the satire and the laughs, Turtle-free.

Now, sure, some of the jokes are a little obvious. And there is one glaring flaw to the pilot: they barely introduce major character Matt LeBlanc, who by most critical accounts is the funniest part of the show. But that just means the show's bound to get even better. And with a British-style limited run of seven episodes, there's less time to lose focus.

Verdict: YAY

Lights Out
One of the downsides of the success of shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men and Breaking Bad are that now cable channels think every one of their shows should be dark, slow, and downbeat (which, by the way, none of those three previous shows entirely are). And as well-done and cinematic as some of the shows to follow are, at a certain point enough is enough. I need some entertainment in my TV.

This also ties into the trend to make TV shows more like movies. And when you get something as big scale and unpredictable as Lost, great. But for some movies, even good ones, two hours is plenty. Loved 127 Hours, but wouldn't want it to be a second longer. Which brings me to Lights Out, a cinematically-minded show that's well-done enough but I just don't want to watch 13 hours of it.

In some ways, Lights Out is like if you took Breaking Bad and replaced drugs with boxing. It's similarly about a guy with financial troubles forced to do something his family would disapprove of in order to provide for them. But the similarities end there. There's no humor, no immediate stand-out characters, and overall it's just kind of a bummer.

Now, I'm also not a fan of The Fighter (though fully support Christian Bale's upcoming Oscar win), so maybe I'm just not into boxing things. Or at least boxers. Just as Mark Wahlberg's character was the least interesting thing about the movie, here too I don't feel like the main guy is strong enough or interesting enough to anchor the show. And movies have so mined this kind of story before there just may not be too much new to say.

I dropped Terriers after one episode too, and weeks later critics were saying it was the best show on TV. So that could totally happen again. But Terriers was still a lot more fun. I'm not in any way saying Lights Out is a bad show or that you shouldn't watch it. But I've got dark cable drama fatigue, and this just isn't good enough to make the cut.

Verdict: NAY

The Cape
I won't write too much about NBC's latest attempt to get a superhero show going, since that would be somewhat unfair when I only made it a half hour into the two hour pilot. I didn't get to Summer Glau's introduction or even to where the main guy officially becomes "The Cape." But I still maintain that a half hour was plenty of time to label this craptacular.

To keep it brief, I'll just sketch out the reasons I labeled this with the c word. First off, ridiculously serious tone. This is a superhero show in the absolute most conventional sense. Music that rips off other superhero movies, dialogue that's ripped from a comic book; the only humor here is unintentional (though there's plenty of that). Next, bland main character. It may not help that he again looks identical to Mr. Schu from Glee and the main guy on Rubicon, but since he has less personality than either of them that can't be blamed. And again, the dialogue is just atrocious.

Verdict: NAY

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