Baseball Toaster Western Homes
New TV Season, Hooray!
2008-10-08 17:01
by Mark T.R. Donohue

We're a few weeks in and I've figured out what I'm keeping on my DVR season pass list. Seems like the networks, across the board, are energized by the end of the writers' strike and the prospect of full seasons of their profit-making shows. Less reality and more "Heroes" is OK with me.

Jury's still out on the new shows. I have a lot of shows from last season that I bailed out on early due to strike depression, so I'm giving them my time now instead of anything new and clearly doomed -- the ads for that Jay Mohr sitcom, in particular, seem wretched. "Pushing Daisies," perhaps surprisingly, survived a short and overlooked first season on a network where it sticks out like a sore thumb. I was pleased to see its second-season premiere well-promoted. The show is still just a little bit too stylized for its own good, but if you're the sort of person who gets drawn in by Tim Burton sets or Coen Brothers scripts, at some point you just accept that every line of dialogue is going to be overloaded with puns and alliteration and go with it. Any show that can have French Stewart as a guest star and still boast at least three more overacting characters has got some charm to it.

The other show from last season I lost in the shuffle there was "Life," which I'm now watching with some interest. The police procedural show is so ubiquitous now that there's already a whole genre of shows that try to subvert its formula; "Life" is hardly the first show to try and put itself at right angles to America's obsession with very attractive corpses. If you want wisecracking with dusting for fingerprints included, there's the more meat-and-potatoes "NCIS," or cable's lovable "Monk" and "Psych." But "Life" has something going for it, mostly Damian Lewis's beatific lead character. If you haven't heard the hook, he's a police detective who was wrongly imprisoned for murder and has been released and returned to the job after years of incarceration. As a result, he has kind of "only he who has lost everything gains anything" quiet peace to him, in addition to a penchant for tropical fruits. It's a completely unique inverse to the hard-as-nails cop and the actress who plays his straight-arrow partner is witty enough to keep up with Lewis. Only thing is the same problem with all these shows -- how are there enough horrible murders in Southern California to keep all of these people on all these shows in their jobs? Sometimes I'm glad I live in flyover country.

New seasons of "Californication" and "Dexter" are underway over on pay TV. I haven't started the latter yet because I just finished watching the second season (suitably exciting, some more bad acting from the supporting cast, not as creepily airtight as the first). I did watch the first three episodes of David Duchovny's series. Is it OK for a sex addict to be appearing on what's basically a revival of HBO's classic nudity vehicle "Dream On," only with literary ambitions? I wonder if Duchovny hears his own voice narrating his various liaisons as he once did "Red Shoe Diaries." See, no matter how big you get, movie star even, you can never escape pay cable soft porn.

OK, I'm belittling Tom Kapinos's show a little. Wendie Malick was hotter as the ex on "Dream On" than the vacant Natascha McElhone is on "Californication," but other than that the writing is much better, the jokes are way better, and the girls are hotter. Carla Gallo played a porn star in a recent storyline. After ending the first season by suggesting that his protagonist had finally made his mind up to settle down with his daughter and her mother, Kapinos sets out right away to put Duchovny's Hank into situations that are going to jeopardize his new domesticity. Taking a job writing the biography of a coke-snorting, prostitute-enthusiast record producer (Callum Rennie) is like smoking in an oxygen bar. The producer knows the show works best not when Hank is happy, but when self-loathing (and drowning in topless chicks half his age). It's seems like there should be a little cognitive dissonance there between Duchovny's real-world commitment to recovery and the ongoing party on his show. Unless of course the whole sex-addiction story was a publicity stunt. At this point nothing would surprise me.

Couple movies I watched lately: Vantage Point was interesting from a technical standpoint but very dull as a movie; dividing it up into several 12-15 minute sections following each character removed the script from all requirements to give the characters motivations or personalities. Baby Mama sagged from a deathly stupid plot but had a decent amount of laughs. It seems weird to say that any movie's two highlights were Sigourney Weaver and Dax Shepard, but there you have it. Gone Baby Gone was a steady, interesting mystery that was a little longer than it needed to be but did do a good job essaying each of the characters so their actions in the end made sense. Ben Affleck is clearly at least a little smarter than the "Family Guy" and "South Park" writers think.

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