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April 23, 2014

Eli Stone: Pilot (series premiere)

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 1st 2008 12:46PM
Eli Stone(S01E01) "Oh, Did I mention I recently found out I could be a prophet? Yeah, I was shocked too."

What better lead-in could a show about a guy who may be a prophet having visions of the future (or may just be plain crazy) want than the season premiere of Lost? And in this strike-stripped era of reality television and reruns, any new scripted fare is bound to draw the reddened eyes of those sad and pathetic little viewers asking themselves why oh why did they watch the entire season of Crowned.

But while I went into it expecting something different and interesting, I instead found a fairly standard legal drama with a gimmick. Sure, you could argue that Pushing Daisies is nothing more than a standard mystery show with a gimmick, but the characters and charm of Daisies can win out over that. So far, Eli is missing that ingredient.

The big controversy of this episode was in the presumption that a woman could successfully argue that a preservative in a vaccine caused her child to have autism, and have this argument stand up in court. And I was floored when at the end of the episode, ABC felt the need to plaster a big disclaimer on the screen.

THE PRECEDING STORY WAS FICTIONAL AND DID NOT PORTRAY ANY ACTUAL PERSONS, COMPANIES, PRODUCTS, OR EVENTS.

When I saw this disclaimer I laughed out loud. How freaking retarded. It's a TV show. Of course, it's fictional. But you see the most important part of that. Big pharmaceutical wants you to know that there are no companies or products that resemble the vaccine in that show. It never happened. Their stuff is safe. Buy more prescription medicine.

In a way, it's a pretty damned pathetic statement about how much power these big corporations have. After all, I've never seen a disclaimer on after Boston Legal, and they touch controversial issues as it is. But ... big pharm spends tons of money on advertising so we have to kiss their asses!

As for the show itself, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed so far. It has potential, but unless I start to see something more compelling in these visions of Eli's, then it's going to seem more and more like they're just a convenient gimmick to move the story where the writers want it to be. An easy way to push their characters in the direction they want them to go. And if I'm going to believe Dr. Chen's assertion that maybe Eli is some sort of prophet, I'm going to need to see a lot more importance in either where his visions are taking him and/or the visions themselves.

The characters themselves have some potential, but too much are just filling roles. For example, by the second time Eli went to see "Dr. Chen," I not only knew that the latter was going to become a principal character, but I also knew that his accent was fake and he wasn't really anything more than a guy with a gimmick to get by. Kind of like the show.

it's great fun to see Victor Garber as both Eli's boss at the firm and his fiance's father, especially since the two seem to be developing a professional rivalry. Now for my money, Natasha Henstridge is miscast as Eli's fiance as the two share very little chemistry. In fact, there was a lot more chemistry between Eli and Beth Keller, played by Laura Benanti. Beth is his client, the mother of the child with autism and the girl to whom he lost his virginity. Coincidences? Of course not, it's prophecy. My guess, and hope, was that this was intentional and he'll eventually leave Taylor (Henstridge) for Beth. Benanti is listed as a cast member which indicates she'll be back.

Also convenient is having the doctor who diagnoses his brain aneurysm (so maybe they're not prophetic visions?) be his brother. I don't know, it just seems like they're forcing things a bit. I hope the visions become a lot more extravagant.

STANDOUT MOMENTS

  • His brother dropping the classic Field of Dreams line "If you build it they will come," when Eli is going in for his MRI. A tongue-in-cheek nod that acknowledges the show runners are aware of the similarities.
  • George Michael actually appearing in the episode singing his signature song "Faith." And can I say that George is looking great for his age.
  • The autistic kid spelling out "GEORGE MICHAEL" in his wall of blocks, lending to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this prophetic stuff. After all, it's what compels Eli to take up Beth's case, going up against his own firm.
  • Tom Cavanagh (Ed) as Eli's dad, who may not have been as useless a drunk as his family thought he was; he may have suffered from visions as well.
  • Eli's mom being played by Pamela Reed, who also plays Jake's mom on Jericho, and transporting her husband's ashes in a can labeled "Chock Full o' Nuts." A nod to Gerald McRaney's (who played her husband on Jericho) death in the season finale of that show and the "Nuts!" campaign that brought it back to the air?
  • Dr. Chen's explanation of the whole series in a few lines: "Everything has two explanations, the scientific and the divine. It's up to us to choose which one we buy into. The science explains the enlarged vessel in your head, but does it explain how the girl you lost your virginity to happened to be suing your law firm? How her son happened to spell out a message to you with his blocks? ... Almost all religions believe that there are those who are sent to us to help us find our way. Some people call them prophets. ... God told Moses he'd send send a prophet to every generation. Why not a lawyer?
  • Loretta Devine as his sassy secretary, Patti. Why all slightly overweight black women have to be sassy sidekicks on television I'll never know, but I love Loretta and she plays sassy better than anyone!
Ultimately, while I wasn't blown away with the pilot, I'm still intrigued by the premise and hope there's something more substantial underneath what we've seen so far. There is some potential with the established character dynamics. It'll be interesting to see how long before Eli will lose his job at the law firm. After all, if the changes he wants to make in his life, as told to Beth at the end, involve more standing up for the little guy against big corporations, that stands in direct contrast to what the firm, and his boss and future father-in-law, are all about. I haven't given up on Eli yet, but I was hoping for something more.

What did you think of Eli Stone?
Great first episode, I'm hooked206 (41.6%)
Shows promise210 (42.4%)
I was expecting better53 (10.7%)
What a bomb!26 (5.3%)

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22 Comments

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Shel

I caught the second episode tonight and went back to watch the first online. I was intrigued, but instantly reminded of Ally McBeal. In fact, I went to IMDB to see if David E Kelley had any hand in this show (the answer is no). But the similarities are amazing. I kept remembering how Billy on Ally McBeal had the inoperable brain tumour and started acting completely bonkers. I'll keep watching, because I enjoyed both episodes (esp with a singing Victor Garber - I love Victor Garber), but I don't see how this can last more than 2 seasons without getting tired.

February 07 2008 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nattyff

great show, i was pleseantly surprised with the casting (many familiar faces there!!!), and although it's VERY similar with ally macbeal, i really like it (not to mention that many new show's are sufering a little fever of copycat, moonlight/angel anyone???, and that dosen't mean that they are bad shows).

February 02 2008 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
GerryofNorVA

Cop Rock meets Pushing Daisies

This show was SOOOO BAD I couldn't make it past 15 mins. From the opening scene with him dressed in a full 3-pc suit after 30-hrs of travel to deep in India (utterly ridiculous) to the multiple "hallucination" scenes with has-been '80s singer George Michael this show is a certified DISASTER ! This is the stupid, vapid kind of show America gets when the entire writing staff is hooked on crystal meth and "E".

Didn't ANYONE learn from the travesty that was "Cop Rock" ?! Anyone ?! We don't want musical dramas! That is to say, mainstream America doesn't want it. However, if they're going for the same-sex "we LOVE musicals" demographic then there you go. I could go on and on but the upshot is that unless you're in the referenced demo this show is a Complete Waste of Time and Effort. Five ughs.

February 02 2008 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

I saw about 10 minutes before I got tired of the cheese. Does anyone feel like this was a bizzaro version of Journeyman, where time travel is replaced by visions and good writing replaced by the wierd glaze that ABC seems to coat there shows with. I can't quite explain what I mean by "the glaze," but ABC shows always seem to have some quality that just hums along and screams, this is a TV show and not reality. (Every show but Lost that is.)

February 02 2008 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
La-Di-Dah

Great. I don't have to say much:

1. I concur with #14.
2. I concur with #7, #8, #9. The issue is there are parents out there who do not believe in vaccinating their children. No biggie if enough people still do (herd immunity); bad news if enough people decide they don't want vaccines. Yes, the show is fictional, but what's ever stopped people from believing fictional stuff - like that the flu shot can give you the flu.

3. The show made me laugh. I am going to keep watching. Maybe, just maybe it will take a turn for the superb like NBC's Life.

February 02 2008 at 2:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ladyangst

Nice. A tasteless use of the word "retarded" in reference to a show being criticized for its take on autism. How very meta of you.

February 01 2008 at 8:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nathaniel

I'll be watching next week. That said, I think they need to up the humor a bit, but not so far as to lose the seriousness each week.

I liked that there was a lot more character in this show than in many procedurals. I'm hoping we'll even get some episodes that barely even deal with a case and are all character.

Oh, and by the way, you just destroyed the Jericho season finale for me. I was just about caught up for the new season, and you just dropped one of the biggest moments like it's no big deal.

February 01 2008 at 4:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to Nathaniel's comment
PennieDagen

This show was great you can count me in. I will watch it!my husband and I laughed during the whole show. I really would suggest all of those people that have not seen it to tune in for an episode it was great. When the show was over you had a good feeling about it too!!! A++++

February 01 2008 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
modwild

I loved it. I liked the witty dialog and it reminded me of Boston Legal. Maybe I, too, am starved for scripted television. I didn't want to watch the damned thing because the commercials irked me, but came away very glad that I did.

I thought the lead played it very well, not overly crazy or dramatic, just like I'd imagine I would be if I started hearing George Michael singing faith. Well, maybe I would be a little more disappointed with such a third rate has-been invading my thoughts rather than someone I really like. Otherwise, good job.

February 01 2008 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chrisb

It wasn't the pharmaceutical industry who objected to this show. It was the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a non-profit organization made up of children's doctors. Nearly all pediatricians in the United States belong to this group. Their concern is that children who don't get properly vaccinated could die of preventable diseases like mumps, measles, etc.

February 01 2008 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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