Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Still Lovin' The Cable

Looking at the network offerings tonight, it's a pretty depressing lineup, full of so-called reality.

Viewers, if it's their wont, can choose among the best celebrity impersonator, best budding inventor, best dancer, best standup comic and person who doesn't forget song lyrics. (I think people who sing songs publicly who don't know the words ought to be shot. But that's just my opinion.)

Anyway, cable has kicked up its game a notch with new series, many of which are being rerun tonight in case you missed them the first time around. A rundown of some of the new cable offerings thus far:

--Mad Men (AMC): Grade: A-. A slick look at the world of advertising in what is definitely a bygone era of the early 1960s. Written by "Sopranos" scribe Matthew Weiner, the performances are top notch, and it hits a "Sopranos" note of dark humor. Airs regularly on Thursdays at 10 p.m. The pilot re-airs tonight at 10 p.m.

--Saving Grace (TNT): Grade: B-. A quirky look on the guardian angel theme, Holly Hunter is terrific as a rock-bottom Oklahoma City cop with a one-way ticket to Hell, with Leon Rippy as her unconventional spiritual guide. Airs Mondays at 10 p.m.

--Damages (FX): Grade: A. I was wondering if this new Glenn Close series would be on "The Shield" end of the spectrum or the "Dirt" end. It is clearly the former. Close is spectacular as Patty Hewes, the one lawyer you never want going against you in a case. "Damages" tells two stories simultaneously; the first follows Ellen (Rose Byrne), a young lawyer who joins the Hewes law firm as it begins to go after a Ken Lay-type executive (Ted Danson). The second story picks up in the present, with a half-naked and bloodied Rose found by police after she wanders the streets of New York. Re-airs tonight at 11 p.m. Airs normally Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

--Kill Point (Spike): Grade: C. This miniseries, about an ex-Army squad that attempts to rob a bank and is forced to take hostages, isn't particularly bad, but most of the material seems awfully familiar. John Leguizamo is solid as the head bank robber, while Donnie Wahlberg does a good job as the hostage negotiator. But there really isn't much here that hasn't been seen a hundred times before, right down to the stock characters of the hostages. Re-airs tonight at 10 p.m. Airs regularly on Sundays at 8 p.m.

--The Bronx Is Burning (ESPN): Grade: B+. This miniseries, about the turmoil the Yankees went through during the Summer of Sam in 1977, is top-notch, with great lead performances by Oliver Platt (George Steinbrenner), John Turturro (Billy Martin) and Daniel Sunjata (Reggie Jackson). The supporting cast really does a good job capturing the likes of Thurman Munson, Jimmy Breslin and Gabe Paul. I'd give it an A, but the one area where it falters is tying the two plotlines of the Yankees and the Son of Sam together. It re-airs a bunch of times on ESPN and ESPN2. Airs regularly on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Of course, I'd save the best for last. "Rescue Me" (FX, 10 p.m.) is all-new tonight. It's dialed up the humor a notch this season, getting away a little bit from the dramatic stuff (with the exception of Jerry's suicide, obviously). I also miss Tommy's conversations with Jesus. But it's still better than 90 percent of the stuff on the dial.


zodin2008 said...

I miss Tommy Gavin, the manly stud. This new, "kinder, gentler" Tommy is less fun.

I also enjoyed the introduction of the new chief (played nicely by Jerry Adler, Hesch from "The Sopranos") and I think the funny rumor about his character's 'attribute' is hysterical. I think Leary and Peter Tolan have sort of based Adler's character on a rumor that went around about Milton Berle when he was alive.

I have not had the chance to check out "Damages" or "Mad Men" yet, but will tape "Mad" tonight. Thanks for the heads up. "Bronx" has been fun.

Jonathan said...

I also thought "Killzone" was a little cliched, but it was still entertaining enough to see where it goes. Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo are both terrific in their roles, and seeing Wahlberg here makes me miss "Boomtown" all the more. At least I've got something besides "Saw II" to get my Wahlberg fix in.

But you are dead on in your assessment of the cardboard cut-outs they have set-up as the hostages. I think people forget that one of the reasons a classic like "Dog Day Afternoon" works so well is that we also care about the people who are being held captive; I could give two craps here if the snotty rich kid or the whiny bank exec get it. And please don't take this as a homophobic comment, people, but does the elderly, scholarly gent really have to be gay; is there a reason for this besides making sure we've got a PC hostage crowd?

Phillip Ramati said...

Zod, Damages and Mad Men are definitely worth an hour each of your time. The Rescue Me writers seems to be a little bit too preoccupied with 'attributes' this season, even more so than past years.

Jonathan, I'm not sure why the writers made the old man gay other than to shake things up a bit. It does seem a bit inconsequential.

And while I liked the Wahlberg character quirk of proper English, I found the whole apostrophe angle - particularly seconds before a hostage may be shot - to be completely farcical.