TV Squad previews ABC's new shows
For ABC, we're covering: The Knights of Prosperity (formerly Let's Rob...), Help Me Help You, The Nine, Big Day, Notes from the Underbelly, Six Degrees, Ugly Betty, and Men in Trees. (We'll do a Part 2 of the ABC previews once we receive the remaining shows.)
The Knights of Prosperity (Formerly Let's Rob...)
(Tuesdays at 9 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Eugene Gurkin (Donal Logue) is poorer than dirt, but he's always dreamed of opening a bar. When he sees a janitorial co-worker drop dead, he decided that it's his mission to rob a rich, pampered celebrity and fund his dream. The target? Mick Jagger. Problem is: he's completely inept. To help him, Eugene recruits a band of similarly down-and-out people, who also have absolutely no idea what they're doing, either (well, except for one of them....)
Joel says: Meh. The plans to rob Jagger are supposed to play out over the entire season; think of it as Heist with morons. The moments where the Knights of Prosperity (the name the gang gives themselves) scheme and plan their caper aren't as funny as they should be, and seeing them ineptly execute part of their plan every week might get old. But the scenes with Mick Jagger are funny. I won't give them away; watch the pilot and see if you don't agree that Mick's the best thing on the show.
Help Me Help You
(Tuesdays at 9:30 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: What brings people to group therapy? This show examines the fobiles of each member of a therapy group being treated by Dr. Bill Hoffman (Ted Danson). Little does the group know that Dr. Hoffman is just as messed-up as they are.
Joel says: This show had some laugh-out-loud moments, especially involving one of the group members, who refuses to acknowledge that he's gay. And the views into the group members' lives will make for a lot of possible plot possibilities. But the show begins and ends with Ted Danson (although sitcom veteran Jere Burns is in the group, too... which reminds me of the show he was in with Judd Hirsch, Dear John), and the insight into his life wasn't overly funny... yet. If they keep Jane Kaczmarek, who guest starrted in the pilot as Hoffman's ex-wife, they may have something there; the chemistry between the two was palpable.
(Wednesdays at 10 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: We follow several people as they go about their day before entering the same bank at around the same time, where they very quickly find themselves hostages in a bank robbery. Cut to 52 hours later, and nine people emerge from said bank when the SWAT team moves in. But what happened within those 52 hours? Why are some people reacting to others in the group differently? In subsequent episodes, the mystery of what really happened will be unraveled.
Keith says: This is the new show of the Fall (so far -- I haven't seen Day Break or Traveler yet). Studio 60 is great, but I believe The Nine is the one show people will talk about with friends between episodes. There's nothing mystical or Lost-like in this show (other than the frequent flashbacks we'll see throughout the season), but it captured my attention more than any of the other screeners (and I saw near all of them). In fact, I watched this one twice -- something I didn't do for any other show. Take notice of the subtle glances the characters give each other when they meet again after the robbery. Can you figure out what happened in there?
(Thursdays at 8 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: A quirky countdown to the marriage of Alice (Marla Sokoloff from Modern Men) and Danny (Josh Cooke from Four Kings). The screener episode sets up all the pressures on the happy couple as the hours tick off to their ceremony. Think: Scrubs meets 24.
Anna says: I can see how this show can be lengthened into 22 episodes. The pilot only covers the first 37 minutes of the wedding day and plenty of plotlines are opened up. There are a lot of characters introduced in the pilot and, sadly, they all seem very stereotypical. There's the slut, the overbearing mother, the uneasy father, the ex-boyfriend, the stressed-out wedding planner, etc. The pacing is peppy and the script is sometimes witty and sweet. However, I don't think I laughed at all.
Notes from the Underbelly
(Thursdays at 8:30 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Andrew and Lauren are a young professional couple who have just gotten pregnant, and it's scaring the crap out of them. Lauren's afraid she's not going to be sexy anymore, and Andrew is afraid he's going to screw everything up. Their friends aren't helping; their single friends don't get it and their coupled friends are giving them conflicting advice.
Joel says: When I saw that this pilot was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family), I was shocked, mainly because I couldn't believe such a big name was invloved in such an unfunny show. I mean, really: who wants to see a full season of some skinny yuppie whining about how fat she's getting and seeing some still-playing-video-games 30-year-old guy getting flop sweats as the big day gets closer? I can see that by just visiting the houses of my married friends. The only redeeming character is the boozing, promiscuous girlfriend of Lauren, who is played by VH1 talking-head show veteran Rachel Harris. If your only redeeming character is the alcoholic slut, then your show has problems.
(Thursdays at 10 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Everyone's supposedly connected through six degrees of separation. You know, like the Kevin Bacon game. We meet a group of people who are connected in ways that none of them seem to realize, though are they more than just coincidence? Will they ever really come to understand that, through a friend of a friend, they're closer than they realize?
Keith says: I was actually a bit disappointed in this show, since we're talking about a J.J. Abrams creation. Like The Nine, there's nothing otherworldly going on here. Though unlike The Nine, this show just seems rather uninteresting to me. It's very much about relationships, who's meeting who and how they've come to meet them. It's very hard to understand where they're going with this show from just the pilot, so I can't really say if this is going to be worthwhile quite yet. Definitely worth a second episode viewing.
Ugly Betty (formerly Betty the Ugly)
(Fridays at 8 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Betty Suarez doesn't look like she should work at one of the biggest fashion magazines on the planet. She has a bad haircut, thick glasses, braces, and thinks a poncho that says "Guadalajara" on it is the height of fashion (heh... I'd probably like her). But she gets hired by Mode magazine when the publisher decides his son, who he's installed as the editor-in-chief, needs to have an assistant that won't tempt him. Betty's full of great ideas, but will the snobs she works with give her a chance?
Joel says: ABC labeled this show as a "comedy", but it's got a lot of melodrama in it, too. That's because it's based on a telenovela that has versions running all over the planet (It started in Columbia, and it was named Betty la Fea). The unfortunate part is that the melodramatic elements, like the backstabbing done by the EIC's main rival on the magazine (played by a Joan Collins-channeling version of Vanessa Williams), distracts from the "girl trying to fit in" plot, which actually generated a few chuckles here and there. America Ferrera does a good job as Betty, and she and Eric Mabius, who plays her boss, make a good pair. But I have to wonder if this show, which is basically a soapy version of Less Than Perfect, is something American audiences are going to embrace.
Men in Trees
(Fridays at 9 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Anne Heche plays NYC relationship coach Marin Frist who, as she's flying to Alaska, discovers that her fiance is cheating on her. She gets stuck in a town where the man to woman ratio is 10:1.
Anna says: Anne Heche is surprisingly likable in this role. She is hilarious as she battles the elements in Alaska and has terrific chemistry with the leading man. The Alaska characters are well done: not too podunky (is that a word?), but just small towners. The script is very strong and smart and full of self-help cliches that are humorous. There will be plenty of comparisons to Northern Exposure, and it definitely is similar but hopefully can emerge from that show's shadow. I was also very impressed with the great use of music in the pilot. This is definitely getting a season pass on my TiVo.