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April 4, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | April 4, 2007 |

We interrupt this regularly scheduled trade round-up for an old-fashioned TV Whore Clip Show. I’ll include a couple of roundup-type bits at the end (if that’s all you care about, just scroll on down to the bold little “roundup”), but in the meantime, let’s talk about some other TV things.

First up, “Raines.” A couple episodes in, I’m sad to say that my opinion hasn’t really changed from my original review — I still think it’s a show with potential, but it’s being held back by rather rote and mundane procedural storylines. Last Friday’s episode even featured a parody of Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” (subtly called “Crazy Money”), which felt ripped right out of a “Law and Order” episode. Of course, this episode also featured a great moment of Raines’ “crazy,” when he didn’t just imagine the episode’s victim, but imagined them both in a full-on Mad Hatter tea party. But the good bits like that, and the overall good Goldblum stuff, still isn’t quite enough to pick up the storylines.

And to clarify a point from my original review — I applauded the pilot for avoiding the typical “L&O” and “CSI” gimmicks, while also complaining that the crime/mystery was too simple and obvious. A reader tried to take me to task on this, claiming that I couldn’t have it both ways. But that’s a preposterous notion, to suggest that the only good crime stories must have Wolfian or Bruckheimerian gimmicks to build suspense and hold viewer attention. Back in the pre-“ripped from the headlines” days, the original “Law and Order” used to routinely give great story, sometimes throwing in a twist or two that didn’t feel cheap or gimmicky. And although I never watched “NYPD Blue,” my understanding is that the same was true for this show in its prime. More recently, “Boomtown” took a show-wide premise/gimmick (the Rashomon-style use of multiple viewpoints for the story’s narrative) and used it brilliantly to tell great crime stories. And right now, while the stories don’t always work and sometimes get a bit convoluted or over the top, “Numb3rs” is doing a generally great job of spinning good stories without busting out the “L&O” or “CSI” crap. Point being — it’s definitely possible. And because “Raines” comes from “Boomtown” creator Graham Yost, the show’s failure to get the crime stories right is particularly disappointing. At this point, I’ll probably stick with the show for one or two more episodes, but unless those episodes show a sign of changing waters, I’ll be cutting and running before the month is up.

Some folks have asked for an update of another pilot I very hastily reviewed a few weeks ago, FX’s “The Riches.” My original two paragraph blurb said that the show had enough potential to stick with for the moment. Well, unlike “Raines,” “The Riches” is living up to that potential — four episodes in, I’m really enjoying the hell out of this show. Eddie Izzard’s accent seems to have mostly settled down, and while Minnie Driver is guilty of slipping at times, her accent has also moved away from being an active distraction. (And as an aside: Wow, where the hell did all the Minnie hate come from in the comments to my mini-review? I’ve never been her biggest fan, but it’s impossible for me to hate her simply because of Grosse Pointe Blank. But even putting my own love for that flick aside, I was still surprised to see such animosity and invective hurled her way. To each his/her own, I suppose.)

I was originally going to say that my biggest complaint with “The Riches” is the older son. But after this week’s episode my point of view has changed and I now see that that my only real complaint is with the whole “family left behind” storyline. To this point, that storyline has mainly involved the older boy, but last week’s episode gave him something else to do — the whole grade-changing caper — and it showed that his character has some potential of its own when pulled out of the Travelers storyline (the idea of him using his con background to sort of go off on his own and wreak havoc at the school is rife with possibilities). As for the “family” plot, something dawned on me while watching this recent episode — my issue here is a direct parallel to my one issue with the soon-to-return “Big Love.” As much as I love Harry Dean Stanton’s performance as Roman, I generally don’t care all that much about the folks back on the polygamy ranch or the “the old life nipping at my heels” story thread. In both shows, the central focus of these families trying to “fit in” is rich enough, and crafted well enough, that I just don’t think the “old family” storylines are necessary. In fact, they mostly feel like they’re being used to create a sense of anxiety and danger for the families, but this isn’t necessary in either case — there is enough risk in both families’ situation already, with the risk of being caught and outted as frauds. But this complaint still hasn’t diminished my fondness for “Big Love,” and it’s not enough to ultimately detract from my enjoyment of “The Riches.” In fact, with so many shows still on hiatus, “The Riches” is (at the moment, at least) the show I’m most enjoying. And a quick special shout-out to Gregg Henry (who plays Hugh Panetta, Izzard’s slimy boss) — I’ve always known and loved him as Val Resnick from Payback and, with this similarly slimy role, he’s been wildly entertaining.

…And if anyone knows where I can get “one of them x-marks-the-Jew necklaces,” please let me know. I know Driver’s character suggested Wal-Mart, but a search of their website turned up bupkis. As I may be going to an Easter dinner this weekend, it might be nice to have some jewelry clearly emphasizing the fact that me and people of my ilk are responsible for that whole killing-your-savior incident.

For my Showtime buddies out there, a quick repeated plug — if you’re not yet watching the Thursday night combo of “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” and “This American Life,” get on it. The first is as strong, entertaining and thought-provoking as it’s always been. And the latter is really a quiet form of brilliance, both visually and intellectually stimulating. For my non-Showtime buddies, go rent some of the older “Bullshit” DVDs, and keep your eyes peeled for the eventual “This American Life” DVDs.

So reader “Daisy” recently wrote in to ask about what’s been going on with “The Black Donnellys” ratings and what that might mean for the future of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Well I’m happy to report that “Donnellys” has been getting its ass beat on Monday nights. Last Monday, it got whomped both by CBS’ “CSI: Miami” and ABC’s season finale of “What About Brian.” In fact, overall, it was one of the lowest rated shows on the night’s primetime schedule. This week, its ratings got even worse, as both the household ratings and household shares went down (technical Nielsen mumbo-jumbo meaning “fewer folks watched”) — it got beat again by “CSI: Miami,” as well as by ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and it was again one of the lowest rated shows of the whole night. These numbers are worse than most of the ratings “Studio 60” was pulling in, which is at least a little vindication for the Haggis v. Sorkin battle. And NBC has been paying attention — on Monday afternoon, before the most recent episode had even aired, the network announced that “Donnellys” would be getting unceremoniously yanked early. As of April 23, the post-“Heroes” time slot will belong to “The Real Wedding Crashers,” which comes from the ever-ripe minds of “Punk’d” creators Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg (it’s a show where improv performers crash weddings as guests, caterers, etc. and fuck with the wedding, with only the bride and groom in on the fact that it’s all a gag). NBC hasn’t said when it will air whatever is left of the “Donnellys” episodes, which certainly points to an impending cancellation.

Does this mean that there’s hope for “Studio 60?” Probably not. Contrary to last week’s internet rumblings, the show has not yet been officially terminated, and the final episodes for the season are still in production (episodes 17 and 18 are already in the can, episode 19 was scheduled to be finished last week, and episodes 20-22 are in various stages of production). But NBC still hasn’t said when we’ll see these last six episodes, so you can sure as shit expect a quick summer burn-off. And while NBC execs have been a little outspoken about some other bubble shows (like “30 Rock” and “Friday Night Lights”), suggesting that there could be second seasons a-coming, there’s been no such quiet support for “Studio 60.” That, coupled with the show’s not-insubstantial cost, all but guarantees that the show will not be on the board when NBC announces its new fall schedule at the May upfronts.

OK, two important programming notes, and then we’ll get to a mini-roundup. First up, at 9 p.m. on Sunday April 8th, the National Geographic channel is airing a one-hour special about the Philly Mob of the 80s (called, on the nose, “Philly Mob”). Yes, this is the same time that “The Sopranos” returns for its final run. But for you non-HBO folks, or those with a DVR (and actually, “Philly Mob” will have several re-airings), this might be worth a viewing. I haven’t seen the show, mind you. But growing up in Philly in the 80s, I remember the bloody stories of the Philly mob falling apart in violent fashion throughout the decade, largely due to the fantastically named boss Nicky Scarfo, who even had quite a few members of his own “family” killed. So I suspect this will be an interesting hour. But more importantly, when I accidentally stumbled upon this other programming note it made me giggle with glee. Tuesday night. MTV. 10 p.m. “Inferno 3,” mother F’ers!! God bless. I’m telling you, these “Real World/Road Rules” challenges are infinitely more enjoyable than you might think, and the best of guilty pleasures. Get busy watching or get busy dying.

And now, let’s bang out a quick roundup discussion. (That’s-what-she-said!) Word on the street is that the “Lost” folks may take a page from the “24” peeps and give the show a delayed start next season. As you’ll recall, they tried the mid-season no reruns break this season, and that wound up being a monumental flop. So now ABC and the producers are considering starting the fourth season’s run in January, and simply running new episodes straight into May sweeps, as “24” has been doing of late. This is, in my estimation, clearly the best solution. They’ll miss the fall sweeps, sure, but with the increased success and popularity of dramas on the cable networks, viewers are becoming increasingly impatient with serialized shows that don’t run straight-through, and what the network might lose from not having the show on in November, it’ll likely make back up in February and May (particularly since, as long as the show doesn’t tank content-wise, there shouldn’t be quite the viewer drop-off they experienced this season).

And speaking of ABC, they have lost a game of chicken with Fox. Last week, Fox decided it was time to extra-bloat the Wednesday night “American Idol” results show to an hour, because…well, because they’re greedy. This means that ABC’s new sitcom “Notes from the Underbelly,” which was scheduled to premiere on April 11 at 9:30, would be squaring off against the ratings juggernaut (and against the second-half results portion, to boot). So the next day (last Wednesday), ABC quickly announced that “Notes” would be moving to Thursday at 10 p.m., where back-to-back episodes would air after “Grey’s Anatomy.” This seemed to be a strong show of support for the new comedy (about a couple expecting their first kid), not just by getting it away from “AI,” but by giving it the infuriating-yet-popular “Grey’s” as a lead-in. That ABC was trying to fight for it suggests that there might be something to the show. But yesterday, ABC said this Thursday 10 p.m. time-slot will only be a one-time deal, for a back-to-back premiere. From then on out, the show will air Wednesdays at 8:30. ABC said this decision was made because “October Road” has been doing so well in the Thursday 10 p.m. slot (excuse me while I go wretch). I’m actually bummed about this second move, although not because I particularly care about “Underbelly.” Rather, had it stayed in the 10 p.m. slot, it would’ve been first network comedy to air there in quite some time, as that hour is typically reserved for heavier dramas. I think it would’ve been real interesting to see how a comedy fared there. But oh well.

This next story saddens me. I quite like FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (don’t worry — it’s not being cancelled), which is gearing up for its third season. And I obviously love my boy Donovan McNabb (the ever-ready-to-puke quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles). So I was bummed to learn that the show wasn’t able to secure Donny for a guest role. The episode they wanted him for, “The Gang Gets Invincible,” will purportedly focus on the Sunny crew trying out for the Eagles. If that episode is as funny as most of last season was, that could be the single best half-hour of comedy for me, personally, ever. I can’t wait for this show to get back on the air.

Earlier, I mentioned the likely demise of “The Black Donnellys,” now that it’s been put on hiatus. Well that’s not the only show to get an early April dismissal. Fox’s terrible “The Wedding Bells” has seen its production stopped after just seven episodes — the final straw seems to have been the fact that last week’s airing came in fourth place for the time slot, even behind the CW’s “WWE Smackdown.” So far, Fox is planning to air two more episodes, with no word on whether the last-produced episode will ever make it onto the tube (and Fox hasn’t said what will get that Friday time slot for May sweeps). Meanwhile, the recently returned “Six Degrees” is no more, yet again, as ABC has yanked it off the schedule for a second time. And it’s pretty safe to say that this second plug-pull is the show’s death knell (particularly since the network is planning to replace it with reruns of “Wife Swap”). And lastly on the death front, the CW has confirmed that this will, in fact, be the end of “7th Heaven,” with the last episode slated for a May 13 airing. Whatever.

Turning to premium cable for second, HBO has signed Sydney Pollack on to direct a movie for the network about the 2000 election. The script for Recount comes from Danny Strong, an actor best known for roles on “Buffy” and “Gilmore Girls,” who must be psyched to have his first script being directed by an Oscar winner. Recount hasn’t started casting yet, but HBO hopes to have the flick airing in the spring of ‘08, just in time for the big fall election. HBO succeeds more than it fails with its flicks, so we can expect this to be a pretty decent flick, and it should be real interesting to see who’s eventually cast as Bush and Gore.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Pilot Watch 2007 to be over and done with — I’m so sick of this shit. This week, we’ll keep it real quick and dirty with just two nuggets. First, Jason Alexander is giving the network sitcom thing yet another try, as he’s signed on for a recurring role on ABC’s untitled comedy pilot about a police precinct, and he’ll play the (no-doubt wacky) internal affairs guy. Third time’s the charm, right Jason? Meanwhile, I’m very sad to report that the CW has halted production of the comedy pilot for “M.I.L.F. & Cookies.” The show, about a bunch of divorced moms living in an apartment complex (and told from the point of view of a local security guard) has had some casting problems, which led to the halt. I’m shocked — shocked, I say — to find out they were having trouble finding folks wanting to be a part of such a classy-named show.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier, this Sunday brings us the return of “The Sopranos.” If you’re looking for a refresher of what’s come before, the following seven minute video pretty much covers it all (so beware, spoilers ahead), in hilariously entertaining fashion (and a big huzzah to the special “Arrested Development” shout-out, complete with a great music cue):


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He’d like to congratulate the Liverpool Football Club (the EPL team he’s elected to make his own) for its strong win in yesterday’s first leg match of the Champions League quarterfinals. Yeah, that’s right, the TV Whore watches some soccer. What?

It's Always Pajiba in Philadelphia

The Clip Show (and some Daily Trade Round-up) / The TV Whore
Apr. 4, 2007

TV | April 4, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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