Which of these 4 New Network Dramas Is Worth Your Time?
4. Made In Jersey — The CBS legal drama, already given a deadly Friday night time slot, is about a woman who rises from Jersey trash to white collar law firm. Other than the fish-out-of-water premise, it’s a fairly rote legal procedural. In the pilot episode, Deb Garretti Keenan (Jessica Blank) — a first year associate — captures the attention of one of the law firm’s partners (Kyle MacLachlan) by noting that a pair of pliers are likely not a murder weapon but simply a device used by women to yank up the zipper on their tight-fitting jeans. It moves from there into legal drama formula, which is to say: Lawyers don’t actually practice the law as much as they investigate crimes to find out who the real killer is (Spoiler: It’s never their client). There’s a nasty-elitist blonde, plus a sympathetic lawyer friend (Pablo Schreiber, aka Nick Sobotka), plus the white-trash Jersey family who offers common-sense advice typically more sound than the advice from the well-educated and wealthy soft-shoe lawyers. The only thing interesting about the series is that the lead — who sports a heavy Jersey accent — actually has a posh English accent in real life.
3. Elementary — I’ll admit that “Elementary” wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, and I know how unfair it is to compare it to the BBC’s “Sherlock,” which it’s totally not ripping off. There are countless Sherlock Holmes adaptations, and it’s a simple coincidence that the CBS version would update it into present day and work modern technology into Holmesian plot lines. Total coincidence!
The truth about “Elementary,” however, is that it’s Sherlock Holmes in name only. Besides the character names, there’s really very little separating the show from other CBS procedurals, which is to say: It’s not a bad show, just a bland one. It’s very routine, very formulaic, and rather uninspiring. Both Jonny Lee Miller (as Sherlock) and Lucy Liu, as his sober companion, Dr. Watson, are very serviceable in their roles, but there isn’t a lot of magic or chemistry in their relationship or the pilot. It very much followed the “Castle” investigation pattern: There’s a murder followed by a series of potential suspects until one is isolated and the case is solved. The signature Sherlock deductions were obvious, and Aidan Quinn is wasted as a cardboard cutout of a Captain Gregson, with whom Sherlock is consulting with on investigations.
I didn’t expect much from “Elementary,” but I was secretly optimistic. I love the character, and there is plenty of room for more than one (or two) strong iterations. Unfortunately, “Elementary” is very pedestrian and unlikely to suit anyone except your grandparents.
2. 666 Park Avenue — The Sunday night ABC series starring Terry O’Quinn as Gavin Doran, i.e., Satan, was better than I expected, but I didn’t expect much from the series. Doran/Satan runs a penthouse, The Drake; he manipulates tenants into signing contracts with him in which they exchange their souls for ten years of wealth and success. When the contract is up, the tenants lose their sh*t trying to avoid their inevitable trips to hell. The show will center on Jane Van Veen (Rachel Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), a young couple who are hired to manage The Drake and who, unwittingly, sign their own contract with Satan.
Terry O’Quinn is fun in the role: He’s camping it up along with his character’s wife, played by Vanessa Williams, and they seem to be enjoying themselves much more than anyone else involved in the series. I’m less sure about Taylor and Annable, who are pretty but bland and not the kind of characters I could see myself investing in. Moreover, the pilot episode didn’t give any strong indications as to where the series is heading, although I would imagine that the young couple will form a series arc while each episode will also focus on a single tenant and the expiration of his contract. In this particular episode, it was a gentlemen who had agreed to murder someone in exchange for having his wife — who had recently committed suicide — brought back to life. Things do not go well for the young man.
It’s not a good show, but it has modest potential as a guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, it airs on a very crowded Sunday night, and it’s premiere ratings were mediocre, so it’s unlikely — if it does improve — to have many viewers around to witness it.
1. The Last Resort — Shawn Ryan’s “The Last Resort” reminds me a lot of another show that Ryan had his hands involved in, “The Unit.” The military language of the universe is obtuse and difficult to adjust to, almost as though it’s being spoken by kids making up words in the backyard while playing war. Also, like “The Unit,” everyone has the same affection as Rebecca Pidgeon: They speak in halting montones. Moreover, it’s an insanely unlikely premise: A submarine crew, given orders to nuke Pakistan, refuses to do so without a direct order from the President. The United States military, in turn, attempts to take out the submarine. The submarine escapes to a nearby island with a few nukes in their arsenal, and they basically engage in war with America. It’s batty bat bat batsh*t, but by the end of the pilot episode, it’s immensely engrossing, thanks largely to a beastly performance from Andre Braugher, as commander of the submarine, who gives a speech the clinches the deal.
I have no idea how “The Last Resort” will sustain itself over the entire course of a series, and sadly, the style of the show seems to magnify all of Scott Speedman’s flaws (he plays the second in command), but right now, it’s a riveting and ballsy high-stakes action thriller, and easily the best new drama of the network season.