That’s Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in a shot from Undercovers, a new spy series from J. J. Abrams. I picked this picture because, to be frank, Gugu is hot.
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Season 2010

So how is the season shaping up, and what new shows have I seen?

Boardwalk Empire. This is HBO’s foray into the gangster genre. Rather than being set in Chicago or New York, as most gangster stories are, this is set in Atlantic City. Now my recollections of Atlantic City date back to the 1950s, when I was a child, so I never saw the seamy side of the place. There was a scene in which one character was offered a chance to work as an IRS agent. Now my father was an analyst for the IRS, and spent years working for it, despite that, however, I’ve come to dislike the agency more and more, and now feel that he was simply being asked to switch allegiance from one gang of thugs to another. The show has the standard HBO look and feel, dimly lit interiors, nudity, foul language, some violence. It’s not particularly engaging, so it will probably be a hit for the network.

Hawaii 5-0. This McGarrett is the son of the original, so I suppose it’s more of a sequel than a re-imagining. Alex O’Loughlin, who despite being a good-looking Aussie has yet to have a successful series, and Daniel Dae Kim, from Lost co-star. They’re joined by Grace Park from BSG.

The Whole Truth. There was a series called Justice a couple of seasons ago that had a similar premise. The show dealt with a legal practice and at the end they would show the verdict, and then show what actually happened. Justice had an attractive, talented cast. This one has Rob Morrow from Northern Exposure and Numb3rs, and Maura Tierney from ER. Neither character is especially likable, and the show is barely watchable.

Undercovers. This one has two hotties, one for the guys, and one for the girls. It comes from J. J. Abrams, of Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe and other shows. In some respects it’s an updated Alias, and there was one hint that darker secrets are to be revealed. There was some amusing interaction between Gugu’s character and her sister, as well as between Gugu and a former lover. Some of the comments at IMDB and other places indicate that some people think it’s a fairly conventional spy show. I think it has possibilities, and that it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Detroit 1-8-7. This is another cop show. It’s not as interesting as the CSI franchise, and the characters aren’t very likable. Give it a pass.

Defenders. Jerry O’Connell and Jim Belushi star in this one. The name may remind older readers of the 1960s legal drama with E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed, but this one isn’t nearly as good. Jerry O’Connell plays a skirt chasing defense attorney, and Jim Belushi plays his partner. Throughout the story there was a minor concern with getting tickets to see “Junior.” I don’t think that I’ll be spoiling too much to say that the “Junior” they’re all excited about is Frank Sinatra, Jr. Really? Frank Sr. was a great singer and a competent actor, but his son? He’s trading on the old man’s rep. Give this one a pass too.

Outlaw. Jimmy Smits plays a Supreme Court justice who gives it all up to return to the daily practice of law. Not one of the Supremes has ever, to my knowledge done that, so that’s a major lapse of believability there. The case that I saw involved an Arizona cop who shot an Hispanic man. There’s the usual blather about profiling, and the evils of the Arizona immigration law, though the show didn’t come down on the side of the illegal immigrants. It did say that most Americans don’t support racial profiling. I rather suspect that most Americans say they don’t, but if you ask “Do you believe that in the light of 9/11 and other attacks that airport security should be especially vigilant regarding Middle Eastern males as possible terror suspects, or should airport security focus on everybody including 85 year old nuns?” that you’ll find most people will say to focus on the kinds of people that actually do this kind of stuff. Of course, the law itself, from what I’ve heard does not mandate profiling as such. It should be born in mind though that while we share a border with Canada, there is no problem with immigrants from there, or from India, Russia, Hungary, Germany or any other country, The problem is largely one of immigration from Central and South America. It makes sense to check on possible illegals from SA, and little sense to suspect the Indian recruiter who leaves incomprehensible job messages on your phone.

The show is watchable, but you shouldn’t feel under any compulsion to do so.

Blue Blood.This is a story about a family of cops. Tom Selleck stars as a NYC police chief. Everybody in the family is a cop except for the daughter, the black sheep of the family, who is a lawyer. Since she’s in the DA’s office I guess she’s a grey sheep. It’s a fairly standard show, with standard characters, and an ongoing subplot of corruption in the department. All in all fairly standard. If you drooled over Tom Selleck when he played Magnum, now that both of you are older you may want to watch this.

The Event. I watched the first episode of this, and haven’t watched another. It has a couple of problems. First, nobody is especially likable. Blair Underwood is just a touch more convincing as President than the current occupant of the office, but nowhere near as good as Morgan Freeman (Deep Impact), and even Kevin Kline (Dave) or Bill Pullman (Independence Day) were more presidential. Second, the timeline is confusing. It resembles nothing more than a kid retelling a movie plot, “He told her this, but, oh wait, before he did that, he did this.” Now many movies have had flashbacks (Sunset Boulevard, That Forsyte Woman, Citizen Kane), some have had flashbacks from multiple points of view (Citizen Kane, Rashomon), and some have had confusing timelines (Last Year at Marienbad), but all have been better than The Event. It’s already headed for oblivion.

No Ordinary Family. My commenter down below liked this one. It is fairly entertaining. The plot revolves a suburban family that is somehow granted superpowers. There are four of them, and one is granted great strength, so it has some resemblance to The Fantastic Four. The family struggles to adjust to their superpowers, and this provides some of the comedy in the show.

Chase. This one was probably inspired by USA Network’s In Plain Sight. There’s a strong, pretty female marshall and her team. Their mission, which is pretty much the current mission of the marshall’s service, from what I understand, is to chase down bad guys who are fugitives.

Dancing With the Stars. I normally do only new shows, but I felt I had to comment on this season. DWTS likes to pick some outrageous people, and this season they picked a guy called “The Situation” from The Jersey Shore, and Margaret Cho. “The Situation” comes across, to my mind, as having, in the words of a former co-worker, “the IQ of a turnip.” As to Margaret Cho, I find her tattoos simply repulsive. I don’t mind a small tattoo on shoulder, arm, ankles, glutes, or wherever, but when I see someone with tats that extensive I shudder. I also find her comedy unfunny. She was booted off the other night, and I think she made two mistakes, aside from being a lousy dancer. Her assignment was to do a story dance, and her song was Copacabana. Now that’s not a song about gay pride. It’s a song about a murder at the night club. She and Louis chose to do a gay pride thing. So that’s the first thing. Second, she chose to rub her politics and her moral choices in the face of the people watching. Now most people are pretty willing to live and let live, especially if they aren’t told that they have to support X, Y, or Z, or be thought of as a racist homophobe. When politics is forced down your throat, particularly when you’re expecting entertainment, the effect is to alienate people. So goodbye to Margaret.