Monday, May 17, 2010

My Five Cents: NBC 2010 Fall Dramas...

NBC announced their new fall shows over the weekend and fortunate reporters got to screen clips and some shows in full during the network's Upfronts ceremonies held in New York City. Though I have not returned to the wormy, mealy Big Apple to attend such an event, I was still granted the opportunity to take a look at what's to come in order to offer you my five cents. But if you don't want to just take my word for it, take a look at the clips below and judge for yourselves.

The Event is an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, who will be pulling double-duty also on NBC's returning Parenthood), as an "every man" who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancee (played by Sarah Roemer) and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Ritter is joined by veteran actors Blair Underwood, in a nice turn as Obama-esque United States president, as well as Laura Innes, Ian Anthony Dale, and Scott Patterson. The pilot features nice dramatic moments but ultimately the "bigger than now" premise that has such vastly different characters' placed on a collision course in a global conspiracy is a bit reaching. For those missing the intrigue of LOST or the adrenaline-power of 24, this may be a decent substitute, but it remains to be seen if Ritter can be taken seriously as a gun-wielding, "take no sh*t" dude. Despite his new goatee, he still has a sweet and innocent baby face!

Undercovers is the new J.J. Abrams show that reads like a typical popcorn action flick from the mid-nineties. Or Alias. There's a lot of martial-arts style ass-kicking and sleek leather "uniforms" for the flash, but the spy drama literally has its Mr & Mrs Smith type leads making out in the midst of danger. And not in the ironic way. Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), are retired CIA agents who fell in love and opened a small catering company in Los Angeles. When one of their fellow CIA friends goes missing, the couple are reinstated in the line of duty to come to the rescue. So far the production budget hardly seems justified by something ordered to series that ran it's course as a fine two hour film a few years ago.

The Cape is a one-hour drama currently slated for mid-season, starring David Lyons as Vince Faraday, an honest cop on a corrupt police force, who finds himself framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He is forced into hiding, leaving behind his wife and son. Fueled by a desire to reunite with his family and to battle the criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City, Faraday becomes "The Cape" his son's favorite comic book superhero, and takes the law into his own hands. It is yet another series NBC has ordered that relies heavily on action, stunts, and FX. The fate of it will lie greatly in the fate of the two that come before it. If they fail, this one will probably never even make it to air. However, it is nice to see a form of a superhero that doesn't actually have super-human powers. It makes the show feel a bit more grounded than others might.

Chase is a fast-paced drama from Jerry Bruckheimer that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America's most dangerous fugitives. Kelli Giddish stars as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down the violent criminals on the run. Cole Hauser, Amaury Nolasco, Rose Rollins, and Jesse Metcalfe round out the elite team, written and directed by veteran television genius David Nutter. Nutter, the "strong female hero" presence, and the majority of his cast are the reason this out of all the aforementioned ones should satisfy the action junkies, but in order to win the ratings war it will need to dump the clunky, corny dialogue ("Didn't your mother ever tell you girls shouldn't play with guns?") as well as its one clunky actor, Metcalfe.

Outlaw stars Jimmy Smits as a U.S. Supreme Court justice who abruptly quits the high-level position when he realizes just how flawed the system he believed in, and adhered so strictly to, really is. Now that he's quit the bench and returned to private practice, he's determined to represent "the little guy" and use his inside knowledge of the justice system to take on today's biggest legal cases-- and he's making plenty of powerful people unhappy along the way. Jesse Bradford, Carly Pope, Ellen Woglom, and David Ramsey also star. Last fall CBS' The Good Wife snuck under the radar, despite its big name talent, and quickly became one of the strongest written character-dramas that still manage to uphold procedural elements in recent years, let alone on current television. This has the same capacity.

Harry's Law (mid-season) is the newest legal drama from David E. Kelley. Starring Kathy Bates, hot off her turn on comedic hit The Office, Ben Chaplin, Aml Ameen, and Brittany Snow, the show uses Boston Legal's Denny Crane as it's model to use quirkiness to remain relevant. Bates' character of Harriet is a curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer who, having just been fired from her cushy job, is completely disillusioned with her success and looking for a fresh start. Her world unexpectedly collides with Malcolm (Ameen)'s, a young man trying to figure out life. When he finds out Harriet is a lawyer, he begs her to represent him in an upcoming criminal case. All of the characters come together over wanting a fresh start, but with so many of them, and all from different walks of like and at different points in their lives, there is an overwhelming task at hand to try to bring them altogether in a believable way. The disjointed caliber of stars attached also distracts somewhat. Community attempted a similar thing with its merry band of misfits in Greendale Community College, but they had the classroom as a common ground. Hopefully Kelley can find something similar, too, because would be a true gem to see Bates on television a bit more long-term.

The new Law & Order (Los Angeles) is a procedural crime drama that will follow the theme and storylines similar to the usual-brand series but on the streets of tinseltown. The series is just another in a long line of hit or miss unimaginative spin-offs. After so many years-- and after canceling the original-- there was no need for this show, but it will undoubtedly find a comfortable home on the screen of countless sets in "middle America" that manage to keep CSI, NCIS and other procedurals at the top of the ratings week after week.

Will NBC's comedies fare any better initial reviews? Stay tuned because those are coming next!!

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