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The Return of Jezebel James (2008)
i'm kinda surprised Posey and Sherman didn't fight the laugh track to their death. it's the main thing that confuses the tone of the show and probably contributed the most to the bad reviews. i expect theatre critics would be kinder to the show. many scenes seem more written for the stage than the screen, apparently another thing the audience has trouble accepting or comprehending. the show does have lulls, a lack of character depth, and reaches for unearned dramatic moments, but however flawed the presentation of ideas is, the ideas are at least present, there is at least some value placed on originality and creativity which is more than i can say for most shows.
Miss Guided (2008)
review of first episode
watching this i was more often bored than engaged. for a younger audience who hasn't seen all the romantic comedies and teen movies and TV shows of the last ten years this will probably be entertaining, but it's mostly an endless string of clichés. it doesn't have generic setup-punchline sitcom gags at least but the comedy is relatively sporadic and the drama is too shallow and unoriginal to hold my interest. the dorky Becky character is sympathetic but her situation is too one-dimensional and has been done a hundred times before. it's fine for a show to use templates as a foundation but it needs to put some originality on top of them and that's what this show mostly doesn't bother with.
Pushing Daisies (2007)
originality: The show has a Dr Suess/Lemony Snicket influenced narration over the first five minutes explaining the complex superpower Ned was bestowed with as a child which continues sporadically throughout. The score is very effective, but perhaps a bit too reminiscent of Tim Burton's films. moral fortitude: The fact that Ned killed someone else to bring Chuck back to life is waved away as insignificant. character consistency: Chuck is presented as seeing only the bright side of everything, yet she's apparently cynical enough to assume the worst about Ned, that's he's just using her for some reward. plot holes: How the killer traced the monkeys back to the travel agent. hallmark sentimentality: You can already see the recurring emotional scenes the "couple who can't touch" concept is going to be used as fodder for. miscellaneous: The whimsical banter is appreciated for it's rarity in an increasingly regimented TV dramedy field but it often feels too academic.
Starts out a lot like the main dude's other show Free Ride, a twentysomething dude living with his parents and hanging out with his more boistrous friend who makes all their plans and gets him into trouble and inspires him to make his move on the girl he's pining after. The type of comedy is similar too, more banter than gag oriented, and just as well done. The best friend dude is too old to play 25 and he acts too much like Jack Black though. The supernatural aspect is a vague collection of recycled ideas. The main dude has some kind of mind powers which he neither asks nor is told anything about by the devil. The devil apparently owns his soul but whether or not it still resides in his body is unclear. He doesn't mention feeling different, but dogs start following him around snarling at him. The armani-wearing devil seems like a played out device, it would have almost been refreshing to see him depicted more demonically. In the second half we're treated to a special effects sideshow that looks like something out of X-Men where our hero battles a flame-throwing earth-quaking escapee from hell. To me the battle scenes felt out of place, but it makes some kind of sense considering this pilot was directed by comic-book buff Kevin Smith. The serious drama in the second half also felt cheesy, especially the revelation that the villain is going to burn down an elementary school. Oh no! The children! And when he complains to the devil that he can't do his job after his first attempt, and the devil advises him to get inside the guy's head, it's like a really bad imitation of the deductive reasoning parts of cop shows, especially since working out where the guy would be next wasn't even our hero's major problem, it was that the enemy was too physically powerful. The integration of the supernatural stuff into the banal everyday, like handing in the enemy's soul at the DMV, seems derivative of both Dead Like Me and Buffy. I was a lot less into the show by the end than I was at the halfway point and don't think this series will have much originality to offer. SECOND EPISODE: missy's 30 seconds of dialogue emphasize how entertaining and clever the rest of the writing isn't. more sloppy uneventful mystery writing around this week's villain ending in another overblown special effects battle where he is defeated in a way that makes no sense. THIRD EPISODE: i'm torn about continuing to watch this show. i'd prefer to just watch a 5 minute compilation of all Missy and Sock's dialogue from each episode. the action and investigation aspect around each weeks villain is like a bad cop show.
The show is rarely overambitious or pretentious, mostly just dull and unoriginal. The first problems are a couple of incomprehensible moments. Young lawyer Ellen is being interviewed for a job at a law firm and the head interviewer is apparently upset that she didn't tell him earlier that she had been contacted by a rival firm. Presumably this was a response to her hesitating to sign the contract placed in front of her, but it was never conveyed that that was what she was even doing. Obviously you read a contract first, not just sign it immediately, right? So what logic is there in him assuming she has some other reason for not signing immediately? Doesn't make sense. Then later he goes to a bar to find her, and has her "autograph" the back of a business card, which makes no sense, and she does it as though she thinks it's normal, which makes even less sense. Wtf was that scene about? Oh then you have the classic "don't be a lapdog and bosses will respect your moxy" moral where Ellen rejects an interview with the more prestigious firm because it clashes with her sister's wedding and the boss comes to the wedding and offers her a job on the spot. The boss being Glenn Close, basically reprising Meryl Streep's role in The Devil Wears Prada, which emphasizes how much Rose Byrne as Ellen is taking on the Anne Hathaway role. I wouldn't be surprised if the show was pitched as "The Devil Wears Prada in a law firm". It's at this point that you realise there's virtually no legal drama going on. The case in progress is some rich guy (Ted Danson) being prosecuted for insider trading, but why this criminal case isn't being handled by the district attorney, and how the supposed victims of his insider trading have a legal leg to stand on to file a civil suit is not covered. It descends into more incomprehensibility from there. A witness is introduced, who may or may not know what she witnessed, which both sides (Ted Danson and Glenn Close) are monitoring, and it ends with the revelation that Patty (Glenn Close) only hired Ellen so that she would convince the witness (who is Ellen's sister-in-law) to testify. I could write a whole page on the absence of logic on Patty's behalf in this scenario, the biggest problem would be knowing where to start. The most distinct aspect of this show is that the acting/direction is more reminiscent of John Grisham movies than of other TV legal dramas, but the writing is more slow-paced than either. I won't be tuning in next week.
First Episode: Too low-key and monotonous to be very entertaining. There's no plot development, characters are one-dimensional and keep saying the same things over and over, but the show did make me think about how journalistic credibility and integrity are things judged on image, and the news is so focused on image that it forgets that actually has no bearing on it's ability to serve it's purpose which is dissemination of information, and it plays a large part in the pavlovian training of society to focus on image so that the more formal someone is the more seriously they will be taken. Second Episode: Lauren's lack of interest in conforming to these formal standards, setting her as the one person to see through the b.s., becomes more of a focal point and left me wanting to see more episodes.
riding the short bus to the courthouse
A hackneyed subpar written show in every aspect. You have the middle-aged hotshot lawyer who is blatantly sexist, a characteristic I doubt this show would have dared use if Boston Legal hadn't already taken the chance on not being PC and proved it to be acceptable. Beyond that the difference is in Boston Legal the sexual comments are funny and unique, here it's just ignorant coattail riding. "Have him make a sexual comment about the woman, it'll be funny". It isn't. Then you have the antagonism with the tough chick lawyer nemesis, a character who is utterly humourless and naively overzealous in her moralizing without offering a unique perspective on anything. So their dynamic is the classic cliché of the free and easy man and the uptight woman. Gee, do you think they'll have a breakthrough moment where he gets her to lighten up? I wonder. Even the opening part where the star's lawyer skills are supposedly demonstrated is amazingly dumb. He gets his client acquitted of an attempted murder charge by pointing out that he called an ambulance and stopped his victim bleeding to death, which he obviously wouldn't do if he wanted them dead. Wow, awesome deducting Sherlock. The overanimated panache with which James Woods plays the scene only serves to emphasize the banality of the writing by being so at odds with it. Not to compliment his acting though. His character is apparently unable to speak without becoming a bobble-head. Then he gives a speech about why he wins all his cases which he dubs his "Cutthroat Manifesto" which consists of a bunch of nonsensical hot air that has no apparent practical application. "Rule number one, trial is war, second place is death." OK, I guess if you can view a case as your life depending on it it would motivate you harder, but... that's just moronic. Then "truth is relative, find one that works". Uh huh, isn't that the principle all defense lawyers operate under by default? This isn't even a second rate Boston Legal, it's a bunion on the foot of that far superior show both dramatically and comedically. The redemptive family values in the home aspect of the star's life has marginally more appeal but is a lighter retread of what you've seen in every popular cable drama of the past five years.
review of the first episode
Could easily be mistaken for an addition to the insipid CSI franchise. It looks like they bought the glitter they spray their sets and actors with from the same supplier, as well as the computer chips they insert into their robot actors with the programmed pauses and rise and fall cadences to turn every banal line into a shakespearean monologue. It's hard to imagine how anyone other than upper income Ken and Barbies could accept any of these characters as representations of human beings, either actual or idealized. I would find it difficult to tell you what actually happened in most scenes but I'm not sure whether it's because the writing is so vague or just because the daytime soap acting threw me from even following it.
The Sarah Silverman Program. (2007)
Following a sitcom plot is so mindlessly easy that having her character simultaneously operate both within and without the context the rest of the cast inhabit is the kind of experimentalism that sitcoms could really use. The supporting characters ground the show in a sitcom reality which provides a contextual counterpoint to Sarah's erratic persona which, beyond general insensitivity, has no specific recurring traits for behavioural expectations to be based on, making her less a character than a canvas to be repainted in every episode if not scene. Sarah's ability to see everything from an outside perspective enables her to parody aspects of social behaviour that are subtle enough to usually go unnoticed. Every time she speaks it's like a self-contained 5 second skit. She overemotes a lot, demonstrating the countless things a smile or change in vocal pitch can signify, but never sticks with one idea long enough for you to get comfortable and form expectations that will be satisfied. This may be the most creative, original and experimental TV program ever.
Falcon Beach (2005)
Watching this show I wasn't sure if it was meant to be a parody teen show or if it was supposed to be taken seriously. It exaggerates the unrealistic drama of teen shows by removing any trace of personality from the characters and emphasizing their emotional reactions to things. The plot points seemed deliberately contextless and rushed, the characters seemed deliberately one-dimensional, at times the acting seemed deliberately bad, but it never got silly enough to make me laugh. After googling the show nothing seems to label it as a parody or satire, so I guess it really is just an unintentionally fascinatingly stupid show.