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August 30, 2015

Eli Stone: Freedom

by Richard Keller, posted Feb 8th 2008 10:21AM

(S01E02) "I'm getting the ass end of this arrangement, man!" -- Eli Stone, concerning his role as supposed prophet.

Ah, now I see the pattern! The titles of all the first season episodes of Eli Stone will be titles or references to titles of George Michael or Wham songs. Next week's title is 'Father Figure' and the week after that it's 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go'. It also looks like each week will feature another performer, or set of performers, who sing a piece of that particular week's song. I wonder who'll they'll get to sing 'Wake Me Up' in a few weeks.

This week we were treated to a rendition of Michael's "Freedom 90" sung by a boys' choir. Their first appearance on the show was okay, but they really got high marks from me during their choreographed number later in the show, accompanied by Jack Bristow senior law firm partner Jordan Wethersby. I don't know if that voice was really Victor Garber's or not, but it worked pretty well nevertheless.

During a conversation about Stone a friend brought up the subject as to whether or not these musical numbers Eli has in his head are similar to what you would see in shows like the very short-lived Viva Laughlin. I would definitely have to say no. The musical numbers on Laughlin, and its more successful British predecessor Viva Blackpool came more out of the situations that the characters were encountering rather from the nonsensical ravings of the lunatic mind. If you wanted to compare Stone with another show I would say it we be more like the BBC programs Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective. Detective in particular would be more of a match with Stone as it featured the feverish hallucinations, which sometimes featured musical numbers, of a hospital-ridden Philip Marlow.

Well, enough about that! I have to say that I very much like the series premiere of Stone: it had a funny and whimsical beginning that carried the rest of the program. This week, not so much of that. It's not that I didn't enjoy the episode, but the lightness that surrounded last week's installment just wasn't there this time around. In fact, if Eli didn't have any visions this episode could have been swapped with one from Boston Legal or Ally McBeal.

I think it had a few things going against it. Since it was only the second episode much of the beginning was subject to a recap by a number of the characters of what had happened the previous episode. And, that's after a one-minute recap at the very beginning of the program. We really didn't need all of that information; the first recap should have covered it all. The other thing going against it was the lack of visions that Eli had. Other than the quick glimpse of the boys' choir at the start of the episode and the two scenes with the biplane (reminiscent of North by Northwest, perhaps?) the next vision was until about the third break.

Of course, the visions seem to be limited to the plot of the particular episode. For instance, the red biplane was there because the client Eli was about to take on was a pilot; the boys' choir was there because this was where the client's son (which she gave away for adoption) was singing. Still, I wish there was a bit more substance to them, and that they were spread out throughout the episode, so that the bulk of the show wasn't your basic legal dramedy.

The third thing going against this episode was the introduction of associate Maggie Decker. I have only one word to say about her: really? Okay, she's a first year associate, and I'll give her a little slack. But, not being able to raise objections in court and properly question a witness? Come on! I have never been to law school but I know they must have mock trials on occasion to work on that type of stuff.

Thing is, it looks like Maggie may turn out to be Eli's partner during his transformation into a different type of lawyer. She would be the right person for him to work with as he could pass along all of the knowledge that he has gained over the years directly to her. I just hope that they downplay Maggie's ignorance and make her a stronger partner for Eli.

There were a number of good things going on this week. I am glad that Eli just didn't drop his fiancee in order to live his life fully before he eventually dies. We've seen that so many times before and I like that Eli is sticking with the woman he will marry, despite what she said to him last episode. I also like Jonny Lee Miller in the role of Eli Stone. I can put my finger on why, but for some reason Miller reminds me a bit of Vince Vaughn in some of his characteristics. In other words, he has that nice guy-doesn't take any crap type of attitude that Vaughn has shown in movies like Dodgeball.

Who I really enjoy is Victor Garber, mostly because he isn't an arrogant d*&k of a lawyer. Despite the fact that he owns a huge law firm that caters to big business, somewhere in there he is still a human being. The best example of this is his conversation with Eli after he doesn't take the huge Supreme Court case. Even though he doesn't understand what Eli is doing he certainly respects his decisions. Perhaps that's because, deep down inside, he envies the way that Eli is re-inventing himself.

Next week -- Eli and his wife-to-be face off in court.

Is Eli Stone a prophet-in-training?
Since his visions match so much with his clients' needs, I'd say yes.102 (64.2%)
His visions really have nothing to do with the cases he is taking on.2 (1.3%)
It's too early to tell.55 (34.6%)

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Well I've given this show 2 shots now (mainly because it's after Lost and new) but it's time to cut it loose.
Jonny Lee Miller's American accent is the worst since Mark Addy on Still Standing (and, possibly, Eddie Izzard).

February 10 2008 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yep, Victor sings. I've seen him live, his voice does funny things to my insides.

February 09 2008 at 2:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Did anyone else notice that the law firm's office was completely different from the pilot? Eli's office, the central area, the conference room ... I thought it was a completely different set. But then, maybe I was hallucinating because of an inoperable brain aneurysm!

February 08 2008 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, Victor Garber is pretty big on the Broadway circuit. From IMDB:
Has been nominated for Broadway's Tony Award four times: as Best Actor (Featured Role -Play) in 1978 for "Deathtrap;" as Best Actor (Musical) in 1982 for a revival of "Little Me" and in 1994 for a revival of "Damn Yankees!"; and as Best Actor (Play) in 1989 for "Lend Me a Tenor."

Originated the role of Anthony in the 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

Originated the role of John Wilkes Booth in the 1990 Stephen Sondheim musical "Assassins".

So yeah, anytime you see him singing in anything, it really is him. :) He's multitalented!!

February 08 2008 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never expected to see Jack Bristow in my life break into song! I am really surprised by how good of an actor he is. Even in the piece of crap that was last season's Justice he was good as the ass-hole lawyer. Now if only Jennifer Garner busted in behind Eli during that scene and asked her dad what the hell he was doing I would've been able to die happy.

February 08 2008 at 2:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike McNamara

I'm pretty certain it was Victor Garber's voice as he has a pretty strong musical background.

For those who don't know -- he played Jesus in the film version of Godspell in his twenties -- which if you might find amusing if you, like me, first discovered him playing tough, scary protective father bear Jack Bistrow.


February 08 2008 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maggie Decker was the worst excuse for a character ever. First year associates should already be familiar with procedure. Anyone that bad would have never made it thru law school.

One of her lines in the show was, "I may be not be a good lawyer, but I'll get better..." Chances are she would get fired before she ever got the chance to get better.

This show seems like a shade of Ally McBeal with only the vaguest difference being that Eli Stones hallucinations are not from neurosis but from his genetically fated brain aneurysm. The character's dialog comes from the same hat that the Ally McBeal dialog was drawn from.

Eli's fiance deliver an overly dramatic line during their dialog about his aneurysm that was written as a plot device for future tension. "Eli, you may have the brain aneurysm but you are not the only one who has to live with it."

Come on! He may not be the only one who has to live with it, but he is the only one who will die from it! The empathy of his fiance is so shallow that any sane person would have dropped her in a heartbeat.

The cliched characters on this show may be an easy way to jump start a new show but I personally believe that most of the viewing public are more sophisticated than that. Unless the hallucinations become more clever and their tie-ins to the episode resolutions become more of the catch for the show, I doubt this show will catch on. The writing for the characters certainly are not going to do it any justice.

February 08 2008 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Victor Garber is a singer, and that was indeed him. He's always good in whatever role he finds himself in, but his Alias character was my favorite (and his guest spot on Frasier).

I liked the show more last week, but I think I see where they are taking it. It could work, and so far I'm still watching.


February 08 2008 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TK101's comment

I believe it was indeed Jack Bristow - sounded like him too - some might know he was in a TV movie musical called Cinderella, with Brandy playing the title character

February 08 2008 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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