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Network Television Rundown (Oh And One HBO Show - Deal With It Qualler!)

In the beloved tradition of Qualler's semi-regular Cable Television Rundown feature, I present to you a rare treat: thoughts on new television shows from yours truly! Now I considered coming up with some grand hilarious metaphor for each show like Qualler's become so skilled at doing, but I don't want to step on his toes toooo much, so I'm trying something else. Now the latest batch of (scripted - I'll leave the reality TV talk to Brigitte and Lady Amy) network mid-season programming is by and large forgettable, as it usually is, while also predictable to the point of triteness is that the new HBO show How To Make It In America, which premiered Sunday night, is a distinct cut above your average commoner-enticing commercial-laden idiot box content. In an attempt to show how easy it would be for network heads to turn their lame attempts at obtaining new viewers by making their programming just a little more intelligent, I will be reviewing the first three shows as if they were designed for HBO and How To Make It In America as if it were another bumbling half-hour sitcom on CBS, FOX, NBC, or ABC.

The Deep End: Featuring the criminally underrated character actor Billy Zane as head partner of a morally ambiguous law firm, the new spring drama follows four fresh-faced first year lawyers, including Big Love's Tina Majorino, as they dive into cases defending various known Los Angeles kingpin gangsters. Suspicious of the firm's backdoor dealings and public corruption charges, the rookies attempt to put aside their own problems (law school-inspired alcoholism, workaholic-inspired divorce) and band together to figure out the real agenda for the case, which sprawls and unfolds over the course of the first season. With taut suspense and no soap opera theatrics, The Deep End is sure to be the first original lawyer-themed drama in years: an exciting combination of Damages and The Wire. [Sad Reality Sets In: It's actually just another lame ABC attempt at combining the glossy quirk of Boston Legal and hot bod 20-something attraction of Melrose Place, all in boring self-contained format.]

Human Target: Harking back to the first two seasons of 24, but with the no-holds-barred B-movie grittiness of late-70s revenge flicks, television mainstay Mark Valley stars as Christopher Chance, a mysterious man who works as his own security team. With a little help from two venerable sidekicks played with scenery-chewing aplomb by Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley, the trio stakes Chance out in high-stakes scenarios, aiming to lure out and catch terrorists, murderers, rapists, and more as he acts as a block of cheese in a mouse trap for his high-paying clients. Self-aware humor is sprinkled delightfully throughout the post-noir suspense series. After a couple enjoyable self-contained eps to get the ball rolling, Human Target really hits its stride when Chance finds himself embroiled in an ongoing battle with "The Onlooker", an embittered rival that looks to take down Chance and his team over a dense nine-episode story arc with plot twists, clues as to the identity of "The Onlooker" and only minor love story distractions. [Sad Reality Sets In: It's a hokey one-note action series with too many chase sequences and hand-to-hand combat battles.]

Past Life: Finally topping Fringe as the paranormal show du jour is Past Life, a show whose ridonkulous premise is handled so delicately and emotionally that one can't help but get wrapped up in its ongoing Lynchian mystery. Nicholas Bishop plays Detective Price Whatley, a modern day Agent Dale Cooper, who's (after a shady past) been forcefully enrolled in the search for a killer in rural upstate New York. What he really didn't sign up for though is his partner Kate McGinn, the town's resident new age-believing sheriff, who guides him through the strange town's cast of characters, including her deputy (played with stoic perfection by The West Wing's Richard Schiff) and the show's subject in question: a spooked teenage boy named Noah who claims he remembers being murdered. Together, Whatley, McGinn, and Deputy Talmadge work together to solve the X-Files-esque mystery by the end of the first mind-bending season. [Sad Reality Sets In: It's Fringe, except with weekly reincarnation mysteries to be solved by the two most generic lead actors you could ever imagine.]

How To Make It In America: What a waste of time. Completely unsympathetic twenty-something characters mope around New York City and we're supposed to be laughing at it? At least that's what the laugh track suggests. They're trying to become entrepreneurs of some kind, I guess, but it seems the real focus is how the group of friends all end up sleeping with each others' ex and current significant others. There's no style as it's all shot like every city-centered half-hour sitcom, and the principals are all culled together from American Apparel ads and former failed dramas. There's even a rapper as one of the friends to show that it can be "multicultural." [Relieving Reality Sets In: It has almost none of the self-loving/loathing swagger of Entourage and the alternately realistic and stylistic directing puts the viewer directly into modern day NYC. The characters are aimless and lost, both idiotic and vulnerable, and the pilot ep makes me want to journey through their wandering with them as they try to find their footing in life as post-college nobodies in a city that eats people like them for breakfast everyday.]

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  1. Blogger qualler | 6:07 PM |  

    Haha, deliciously high-concept way of attacking other new shows, Chris! You get my Qualler stamp of approval.

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