Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Non-functioning Unit

When I first heard over a year ago that CBS was going to be airing "The Unit," (CBS, 9 p.m.) I was eager with anticipation. Not only did the cast include Dennis Haysbert ("24"), but it was being produced by two giants in the industry, David Mamet ("The Untouchables" and many other movies) and Shawn Ryan (creator of "The Shield").

No one writes better dialogue than Mamet, and Ryan re-defined the genre when "The Shield" debuted.

So I watched the pilot when "The Unit" made its debut last year as a midseason replacement, and it fell well short of expectations. Not to worry, I thought, so they stumbled out of the gate. Surely, with the talent associated with the show, it will pick up over the next few weeks.

It didn't.

It wasn't that "The Unit" is a terrible show; it's that it's so ... average. Ordinary.

I look at it this way. I've been known to tackle a screenplay or two, and for someone who has never made a dime off it, I still have a little game. The screenplays that impress me most are the ones I know I never could have written in a lifetime, no matter how much help I got. I never could have created "The Shield." The concept may be simple enough, but the execution is flawless. Nothing I've written is remotely in the same hemisphere as Mamet.

"The Unit" feels like something I could have done. The military stuff on the show seems trite, and the civilian stuff involving the soldiers' wives gets positively annoying. After last season's ludicrous finale, in which the team gets targeted for assassination at a celebration dinner, I gave up. I have yet to catch an episode this season.

Obviously, I'm in the minority, since the ratings have been good enough for CBS to give the show its full season renewal already. It's a little irritating, because "The Unit" plays it safe while new shows that have a real edge to them, shows like "The Nine" and "Studio 60," struggle to find an audience (though last night's "Studio 60" misfired a lot).

It's not as if I wish "The Unit" were canceled; I'm sure the cast and crew puts in a sufficient effort in making it. Maybe it's my fault for having such high expectations. Maybe all that talent will yet jell. I just won't be around to see it. With "Veronica Mars" and "House" in the same timeslot once the World Series is over, there's too much well-produced options out there.

OURTUBE: Google is in the process of buying YouTube, the Web site devoted to unaired pilots and other TV oddities. YouTube has been something of a revelation in the TV industry. The series "Nobody's Watching," which never aired on broadcast television after the late WB decided not to pick up the pilot, got so many hits on YouTube that the cast and crew are re-assembling to create new episodes. "Nobody's Watching" was created by Bill Lawrence ("Scrubs") and tells of two slackers who are given their own reality show on a network.

When the deal finally goes through, YouTube's influence will only increase.

TUESDAY'S BEST BET: The Oakland A's and the Detroit Tigers square off for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series (Fox, 8 p.m.). Considering the starting pitching of both teams, this should actually be a pretty good matchup. Hopefully, one of these teams will be losing in the World Series to the Mets sometime beginning next week.

1 comment:

Zodin2008 said...

I hate "The Unit". To me, it's a below average show that is everything that is wrong and my problem with CBS and why I hate that Network so much. It's mediocre, hack writing and terrible acting, and that includes Dennis Haysbert, whom I loved as President Palmer on "24".

I did watch the pilot episode last March.

I have made this rant before btu what kills me even more about this below average dreck, was that the typical, red state, mindless CBS viewer loved "The Unit" yet probably found the well written and charming "Love Monkey" with Tom Cavanaugh too New York-y for their tastes. Typical.