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October 8, 2015

TV Squad previews FOX's new shows

by Jason Hughes, posted Jul 7th 2009 9:42PM
FOX Network LogoWhile it was a little odd that the "screener" of Glee we got was the exact same episode that FOX aired after American Idol in the spring, the rest of these shows were truly new. Dramatic offerings included FOX's loose adaptation of the DC Comics property Human Target and Past Life. On the comedy side they offered us screeners for The Cleveland Show, Brothers, Sons of Tucson and the aforementioned Glee.

After enduring the screener for Do Not Disturb last season on FOX, I could only hope that these offerings were at least better than that offense to the senses. And they were. Well, most of them. Unfortunately, it seems that FOX has at least one Do Not Disturb in them every season. Other than that, one of these shows was far better than I expected, another a bit worse, and a third one stands as one of the better pilots I've ever seen.

Glee (Wednesdays at 9:00PM ET)

[Premieres September 16, 2009]
Premise of the screener: Glee is the story of McKinley High School teacher Will Schuester's (Matthew Morrison) attempt to revitalize the Glee Club. He puts together a rag-tag team of misfits, led impressively by star-in-the-making, and she knows it, Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), and the high school quarterback Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), who's there against his will. Sort of. Actually, he loves to sing but has his rep to think about. It's the story of both Will and this gang of kids as they try to prove the school and everyone wrong about how cool the Glee Club can be.

Jason says: Because this is the same episode that already aired back in May, TV Squad's own Allison Waldman already reviewed Glee then. For the record, I agree that Glee is very well put together and might very well struggle to find an audience. But if a show is going to convince modern America to take a chance, it might be this one.

Brothers (Fridays at 8:00PM ET)
[Premieres September 18, 2009]

Premise of the screener: Mike Trainor (Michael Strahan), a retired NFL star, is lured back home by his Mom (CCH Pounder) to help with the family. When he gets there, he immediately starts bickering with his brother, restaurant owner Chill (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell), who's still learning to deal with life in a wheelchair. Rounding out the family is their father, Coach (Carl Weathers). It's eventually revealed that Mom masterminded the whole thing; after learning Mike's manager took his money, she realized the siblings could help each other.

Jason says: This was just a terrible show. The fact that the writers stooped to mining the various disabilities of its cast for humor just screams scraping the bottom of the barrel for laughs. Chill makes fun of the gap in Mike's teeth and Mike makes fun of Chill being in a wheelchair ... a lot. Hell, even the supposedly level-headed Mom sticks forks in Chill's legs in the hopes that he'll feel it one day. And the moments with Coach are just depressingly sad.

The most depressing thing, though, is that I love CCH Pounder and she's just wasted here. It didn't help that she said of all the men in the family in this pilot "I know he's an ass, but he's my son/husband and I love him" creating perhaps the most cumbersome catch-phrase in the history of television. There's just nothing appealing about anything that's going on.

The Cleveland Show (Sundays at 8:30PM ET)

[Premieres September 27, 2009]

Premise of the screener: A direct spin-off of Family Guy, Cleveland moves back to his home town in Virginia with his now fourteen-year old and fat son. There he reconnects with and marries his high school crush Donna, thus inheriting her two kids as well as her wacky neighbors, including a family of talking bears, a redneck and a little short tough guy.

Jason says: This thing's been in develoment so long it was supposed to debut last season. And now, before it's even begun, it's already been renewed for a second season. That leap of faith by FOX makes me hope that means it's going to get better. The funniest parts of this pilot were back on Quahog before Cleveland gathered up his son and left. In fact, that short sequence with Peter, Joe and Quagmire was also funnier than much of last season on Family Guy.

Unfortunately, it looks like the creators just wanted a second Family Guy. You've got your group of four guys that hang out at a different bar drinking: Cleveland, Tim (the bear), Lester (the redneck) and Holt (the little guy). Cleveland's new family has three kids, including a savvy little boy; the difference is he's old enough that everyone can hear him talking. The parallels don't stop there, as we even get the patented Family Guy flashbacks. There were a few laughs, but only a few. I was hoping for something with a voice its own rather than a near clone of Family Guy.

Past Life (Tuesdays at 9:00PM ET)

[Premieres Midseason]

Premise of the screener: Dr. Kate McGinn (Kelli Giddish) is a past-life psychologist who heads up a team of specialists who look to your past lives to try and help your troubles of today. She's balanced out by her new partner, Detective Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop), who comes into the game not believing in reincarnation.

Jason says: That premise lead me to believe that the show would be focusing on the problems in the present that are impacted by the past-life regressions. Instead, it feels more like Ghost Whisperer, only instead of dead ghosts leading the woman to what happened so her family and she can gain peace, it's reincarnated spirits.

Almost the entire focus of this pilot was investigating the murder of a teenage boy's former life. And the boy himself was just a conduit to that case. Solve the case, his regression goes away and he's cured. I thought they were going to be helping the present day person (the boy in this case) with problems he's having with the help of his regressions. I guess FOX is hoping that this show will follow the patterns of hits like Bones and Lie to Me, since it's coming down to crime solving, but I don't see it. The team isn't intriguing and I found myelf checking the clock a lot to see how much longer I had to sit through it.

Human Target (Wednesdays at 9:00PM ET)
[Premieres Midseason]

Premise of the screener: Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is a private contractor who uses a uniquely dangerous method to protect his clients. By positioning himself as a "normal" person near the client he's able to draw out the threat on their lives and eliminate it. He's assisted by his business partner Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) in this unorthodox crusade, but what secrets are in Chance's life that he's willing to put it in such danger over and over again.

Jason says: In the comic series that this is based on, Chance actually disguises himself as the clients to take out the bad guys. Now, Mark Valley trying to make himself look like guest Tricia Helfer in this pilot wouldn't work very well. As such, I can forgive the necessary change in the premise even though it does make him even more reckless as he's now endangering the client directly.

This was one of those shows that I went into prepared fully to hate, and then found myself really enjoying. Valley does a great job of playing the cavalier action star with a tortured past, and the bickering between the enormous Winston and Guerrero is great to watch. This first case took place almost entirely on a high-speed train, as such the excitement was almost inherently built in. But I think FOX has a pretty winning formula on their hands. If nothing, it's a call-back to those action-adventure series we loved through the '80s. We even get some MacGuyver style improvising by Valley.

Sons of Tucson (Sundays at 8:30PM ET)
[Premieres Midseason]

Premise of the screener: This is the story of three brothers who hire a clever slacker to play their father after he goes off to jail so they don't have to go into foster care. The Gunderson boys are Brandon (Troy Gentile), who is the innocent and slightly dim one at thirteen, eleven year old level-headed leader Gary (Frank Dolce), who runs the family, and eight year old Robby (Davis Cleveland), who's your typical rambunctious kid. The fill-in dad is Ron Snuffkin (Tyler Labine), who they scouted and found "working" at the sporting good store. Oh, and then there's Ron's infatuation with Robby's teacher Maggie Morales (Natalie Martinez) to consider.

Jason says: Tyler Labine has lit up the screen now in two consecutive series, first Invasion and then Reaper. Maybe they needed to take the sci-fi/fantasy out of his world, but FOX may have finally found the vehicle that makes Labine a star. It's always a risk when you're dealing with kids, because you need them to be cute but capable enough as actors to carry their scenes. All three boys are brilliantly written and performed. Like Malcolm in the Middle, FOX may have just found the next great dysfunctional family sitcom.

The back-and-forth between the boys and Ron is going to be where we find most of our laughs, and even though we had the obligatory premise set-up going on in this pilot, there were still plenty of those laughs to be found. Yes, Labine is generally doing the schtick he's ridden through three shows now, but it's a schtick that can be hilarious and it is such a contrast to Gary and the boys that it works all the more. Very rarely are you as a reviewer privileged to watch a show that just nails it from the opening scene, but Sons of Tucson does.

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