TV Squad previews FOX's new shows
At its upfronts presentation last month, the net announced two new reality shows, three new comedies and five new dramas. Of those, we have seen all the comedies and dramas except a drama called Nashville, which Fox has not yet released for preview.
Back To You
(Wednesdays at 8PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Chuck Darling (Kelsey Grammer) returns to the anchor chair and reunites with his former co-anchor, Kelly Carr (Patricia Heaton). Darling is a bit of a womanizer and is your typical self-absorbed anchor type with a boisterous personality. Things are a little tense between Darling and Carr when he returns for a variety of reasons. Rounding out the cast are Fred Willard as the politically incorrect sports anchor, Ayda Field as the inept and slutty weather chick, Ty Burrell as the hardworking reporter who desperately wants to be an anchor, and Josh Gad as the young and inexperienced news director. James Burrows, of Dharma and Greg and Cheers fame, is directing.
Anna says: As far as sitcoms go, this is probably better than any other sitcom currently on Fox (ahem, 'Til Death). You can tell that Grammer, Heaton, and Willard are old pros at sitcoms while the newcomers tend to overdo their roles just a tad. The large, diverse characters set this sitcom up for a long run and I think it will do well with viewers, at least initially because of the star power and then because it really is pretty funny. Of course, there are the usual ridiculous sitcom situations and the typical characters, such as the reporter who wants to be an anchor, but there are also a few subtle jokes and even some jabs at the local news business that had me laughing out loud. Willard gets the best one-liners and he delivers them in a subtle, yet perfect way. The sitcom crowd is going to like this one and it will fit nicely in with 'Til Death.
The Return of Jezebel James (working title)
(Wednesdays at 8:30PM ET - midseason)
Premise of the screener: Sarah Thomkins looks like she's the typical 21st century woman who has it figured out: a great job as a children's book editor, a nice townhouse, a successful "friend with benefits." But she realizes that she's in her late ("Mid!" she would say, correcting people) thirties, and she wants more. So, she sets out to have a baby; she's been able to achieve anything she's set her mind to do, so this should be easy. When she finds out that she waited too long to have one herself (she's only got two eggs left), she turns to her estranged sister Coco. Coco and Sarah are opposites: Sarah is determined and neurotic, Coco is bohemian and laid-back. But Sarah makes Coco an offer she can't refuse: carry her baby in return for free room and board for a year.
Joel says: This is the comedy Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino created after they left Gilmore Girls, and fans of GG will immediately notice AS-P's signature touches: dense, speedy dialogue and pop culture references that seem to be pulled out of nowhere (Sarah's neighbor's kid is up late, for instance, because his mom said he could watch Tavis Smiley's PBS talk show). But what surprised me when I watched the pilot was that it was shot in front of a studio audience. It's an odd combination: the rhythm of AS-P's writing doesn't lend itself to the pauses and spacing needed to allow the studio audience to react to the funny lines. Because of that, it seems like the pilot is a bit out of sync.
It's great to see Parker Posey get a shot a regular series; she plays Sarah, and she does a good job of showing the character's barely-under-control neurotic nature. But she hasn't quite grasped the character yet, and is going to need a few episodes to make her into a lead the audience will care about. Lauren Ambrose, who plays Coco, isn't given much to do in the pilot, as most of the episode sets up Sarah's situation. But there seems to be enough chemistry between Posey and Ambrose to make the two of them a good combination. Oh, and if you're wondering who "Jezebel James" is... it's explained at the end of the pilot. Maybe a change in title is in order...
Unhitched (formerly The Rules for Starting Over)
(Midseason, no air date scheduled)
Premise of the screener: Jack "Gator" Gately is newly single, as are three of his best friends, and they are all trying to find the second love of their lives. It's a little bit difficult to navigate the world of dating now that they're no longer in their 20s, but are in their mid-30s. They all have careers and are finding that the people who are now single are a little bit... uh... damaged. In other words, there's a good reason why these people haven't found someone to marry. Co-stars Rashida Jones, Shaun Majumder, and Johnny Sneed. Created and written by Bobby and Peter Farrelly.
Anna says: There is evidence of the Farrelly brothers all over this show. And not the touchy-feely Farrelly brothers of The Ringer. This is dirty comedy a la There's Something About Mary and, damn, it is hilarious. I cannot believe Fox does not have an air date scheduled for this show. It is unlike any other comedy on the network. And the comedy is courageous. No slap-stick, wait-for-the-laugh stuff of sitcoms. The one-liners come at you fast and furious and I had to pause my DVD player to laugh at least 5 times. As usual with the Farrelly brothers, there are unapologetically dirty jokes and clever ones.
I have two worries about this show: 1) that the writers will not be able to keep up the level of dirty/clever hilarity, and 2) that FOX will not figure out a way to promote this series. The network failed over-and-over again when it tried to promote Arrested Development. It needs to find a way to let people know just how different this is than anything else on television. Thank goodness they renamed it. The Rules for Starting Over just didn't do it justice.
(Thursdays at 9PM ET - midseason)
Premise of the screener: Julianna Margulies is a Providence, RI-based, strong-willed, egotistical defense attorney who bends the rules -- and sometimes breaks the law -- in order to fight for unsung clients. Backed by an eager, young staff, which includes a recent defector from the district attorney's office, Margulies' Elizabeth Canterbury plunges herself into her work so she doesn't have time to think about her missing son.
Meredith says: Imagine an updated The Practice (the early days), set in a different New England city, with Margulies playing the Bobby Donnell role. Except in stilettos. Produced by Denis Leary and directed by Mike Figgis (of Leaving Las Vegas), Canterbury's Law is sharp and fast-paced. Yes, it's yet ANOTHER courtroom drama in a TV landscape that's lousy with 'em, but the pilot episode is strong. While Margulies' Canterbury passionately proclaims to everyone -- from underlings to clients -- that she's absolutely right, when she's at home with her law professor husband, she's vulnerable and uncertain as she's reminded of the open wound that is her son's mysterious, three-year absence. I'm hoping this one makes it longer than Victor Garber's short-lived Justice.
(Tuesdays at 8PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays John Amsterdam, a detective in the NYPD who likes solving puzzles, has a dog named Thirty Six, is a recovering alcoholic, has a bartender for a best friend, and ... he can't die. That is until something special happens, and you find out what that special something is right in the pilot episode. In this opening episode he has to deal with a murder, a new partner and a unique "hiccup" to his immortality.
Kevin says: First of all, every time I mention this show to someone, they say "Oh, is that the vampire in New York show?" Let me put it on the record by saying no, this is not the vampire in New York show. Yes, it takes place in New York. Yes, the main character can't die. No, he's not a bloodsucker. At least, not yet. Plus he goes out in the sunlight a lot, so that makes it a bit difficult to be a vampire, at least in my book.
Coster-Waldau looks a bit like a poor man's Hugh Jackman (thankfully, this is not Kate & Leopold II), but he really holds this thing together. I'm assuming his dog's name means it's his 36th dog ... or else he's just admitting defeat in the whole "coming up with names for dogs" championship. The biggest problem is ... why does he have to be a cop? Couldn't he be basically anything? What I'm hoping is that he's not a cop for the whole season, he just does that until something happens. At one point people are going to realize (and some do, in the pilot) that he seems to have been around forever. Some of the best scenes are the flashbacks to different parts of his past, and I'm admittedly hooked. Sadly, it's a fairly smart show, which means it will be loved by masses and Fox will cancel it early.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles
(Sundays at 9PM ET - midseason)
Premise of the screener: If you're familiar with the Terminator franchise, then you know the main plot for the series. The show takes place after the events of the Terminator 2 movie, with Sarah and John Connor assuming new identities to keep hidden from any other possible Terminator attacks. For more, check out the script preview I did not too long ago -- not much has changed.
Keith says: Lots of action on-par with the Terminator movies, though purists (are there such people?) may be flustered by the lack of continuity in the way time travel seems to work on the show -- like the ability to travel forward in time, for example. I was pleased with the special effects and, as a Firefly fan, I was happy to see Summer Glau back on TV. I just wonder how they'll be able to have this work into the events of Terminator 3 (and 4, reportedly) when all's said and done. Personally I feel that the Terminator ship has sailed, and we'd be better off with something a bit more original (is there such a thing?)
(Mondays at 9PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Anthony Anderson plays Marlin Boulet, one of the few cops who worked through Hurricane Katrina and stayed on at the New Orleans police force. He was abandoned by his longtime partner during Katrina and has a bit of a temper and a drinking problem because of it. He defiantly remains in the 9th Ward even though its virtually empty... even his wife and daughter have moved to Atlanta. He and the other cops are working without much support, so they have to bend the rules a bit to get justice where criminals run much of New Orleans. In the screener, Boulet gets a new partner named Trevor Cobb, played by Cole Hauser, who has a mysterious past.
Anna says: I'm not sure this series is going to do a service to the ongoing plight of New Orleans. We see a lot of damaged homes and hear about mold and "toxic sludge", but the pilot doesn't focus on that. Instead, it goes big. Real big. As if the problems of New Orleans aren't compelling enough for a series. I worry that post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans was chosen as a backdrop for this series because it would tug on the heartstrings of Americans. The story in this pilot seems extremely far-fetched and the actors are given elementary dialogue. One plus side: it looks terrific. The cinematography is outstanding and there are several car chases that are adrenaline-fueled.