Thursday, September 27, 2007

ABC: The Agony And The Ecstasy

I've got to wonder who is making the programming decisions at ABC, but it's got to be more than one person. It's the only way to explain how the same network could produce both the absolute worst and very best new shows of the season.

Tonight marks the debut of steaming pile of dog poo called "Big Shots" (ABC, 10 p.m.), which for some unfathomable reason has earned the coveted post-"Grey's Anatomy" time slot.

I won't waste valuable bandwith on "BS" (the world's most appropriate initials) except to say it tries to pass itself off as a clone of "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex & The City" for men, and fails spectacularly. Despite what would normally be considered a talented cast - Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, Michael Vartan and Joshua Malina - the four leads are so unlikeable and the storylines so inane that I'd only watch another episode of "BS" at gunpoint. Even then, the bullet might be preferable.

The four leads are rich, powerful businessmen who all have women troubles. They spend a bunch of time discussing them at fancy clubs or the golf course, whining endlessly. Then they go attempt to solve their problems in the most stupid ways possible.

Anyone who reads this blog knows my biggest pet peeve as a writer is having characters perform actions that don't make any sort of sense in the real world. The McDermott character does this in spades in a ridiculous plotline involving a transvestite hooker.

And the pilot may have set a TV record for using the word "penis" the most times within 43 minutes. "BS" explores a lot of the same themes as "Dirty Sexy Money," only "DSM" does it a lot better and is worth an hour of your time.

What makes "BS" so especially irritating is that the same network bigwigs that OK'd "BS" also have given us flat-out the best new show of the year.

"Pushing Daisies" is so beautiful, so clever, so brilliant that I actually feel bad for you, the viewer, that you still have to wait a whole week to see it.

"Pushing Daisies" (which will always get the full title treatment here from now on) is not only the best new show of the year, it may also be the most inventive, creative pilot ABC has ever produced (and yes, I realize I am talking about the same network that gave us "Lost").

"Pushing Daisies" is essentially a fairy tale, about a man named Ned (Lee Pace) who discovers he has the power to raise the dead with a single touch. But the power comes at a terrible price - if he touches the person again, they die; and if he doesn't touch the person a minute after reviving them, someone else dies.

While this may sound like a somber theme for a TV show, it's witty and funny and sad and wonderfully executed. It co-stars Anna Friel as Chuck, the love of Ned's life; Chi McBride as Emerson, a private detective who knows Ned's secret and uses it to his advantage; and Kristin Chenowith as Olive, a waitress in love with Ned who can't understand why he won't pet his own dog. Jim Dale provides the best voice-over narration to any show since Ron Howard's work on "Arrested Development."

I'll preview "Pushing Daisies" more when it debuts next Wednesday, but this is not only the best new show of the year, it's one of the best shows overall for the year.

NASHVILLE DONE: The Fox reality series "Nashville" has already been yanked, at least temporarily, from the lineup. Replacing it Friday nights will be reruns of the new series "K-Ville."

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Before ABC offends our senses with "BS," it premieres two of its top shows with "Ugly Betty" at 8 p.m. and "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m. I was disappointed with the heavy-handed tone to "Betty's" finale, but the show was so good the rest of the time that I'm anxious to catch up.

I've seen the season premiere of "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.) and while it does drag a bit at some points during it's hour-long premiere, there are still quite a few great moments, especially as both Joy (Emmy winner Jamie Pressley) and Randy (Ethan Suplee) have to deal with Earl's incarceration. It's followed by the hour-long season premiere of TV's best sitcom, "The Office" (NBC, 9 p.m.) and the season premiere of "ER" at 10 p.m.

"Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) picks up where last season left off, with Lana and Chloe facing death and the Bizarro version of Clark flying around. Fortunately, Clark will have the help of his cousin, Kara, aka Supergirl. It's followed by a rerun of the "Reaper" pilot, a show I highly recommend.

Summer may be done, but there are still new episodes of two of the best series to come out of that season with "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" (FX, 10 p.m.) and "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.)


zodin2008 said...

Phillip, let me start by harping on one thing you said - your 'complaints' about "Ugly Betty" season finale. Huh? How can 2 people watch the same thing and get such different reactions?

While there were some disappointing season finales ("Heroes") and some that really were head scratchers ("Bones"), my wife & I both agreed that "Betty" (along with "Lost" and probably "The Office") were amongst the best season finales we saw back in May.

Oh well,, it's one of many shows I am excited about tonight.

And yes, Thursday & Monday are by far my 2 BUSY nights. At 8, I am a fan of "Smallville", NBC Comedies and "Betty", which is the reason right there why I have 2 DVR's.

I would say thanks for the 'heads up' on "Big Shots", if I had any intention of watching it, but it sounds like a waste of time.

And I have decired this already, but how in God's name when casting this show, did they cast Josh Malina, the genius/dorky/nerd from series like "The West Wing" and "Sports Night" as the guy with the hot, blonde mistress, and cast Michael Vartan, the studly CIA superspy/lover of Sydney Bristow on "Alias", as the guy who loses his job and finds out his wife's cheating on him?

My only explanation is that Malina and Vartan were supposed to get eachother's roles, and accidentally, they each received the wrong scripts and confusion has apparently ensued. Oh, and I am not a fan of the other two guys on the show, Dylan McDermott or Christopher Titus. So the 2 actors I actually like, they've mixed up their roles anyway!

As for "Daisies", wow...that's one helluva recommendation. I really had no intention to watch - the basic plot/story doesn't interest me, but maybe I will check out the pilot. Remember, I am trying to keep my new shows down to a minimum.

As for "Back to You", episode #2, personally I laughed out loud several times last night. A lot of it maybe my supreme comfort level with Kelsey Grammer as a television comedian. Either way, I enjoyed the 2nd episode even more, laughed a lot, and I will stick with "You" until it stops being funny.

Side note - Kelsey Grammer's character is named 'Chuck Darling' and the clan on DSM are the 'Darlings' - coincidence? :-)

Phillip Ramati said...

I found the whole store shooting subplot to be a bit too heavy with the tone Betty normally set, which is why I didn't like it. But if you did, more power to you.

Everything about BS is a mess, and yeah, the casting decisions about Malina and Vartan were the least of it.

I know you are looking to cut back on your TV viewing, Zod, but if I were you, I'd watch Pushing Daisies and cut out every other show on TV if you have to.

OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.

zodin2008 said...

Oh, 1 more thing...

I liked the season premier of "Bones" enough to stick with it. The cast still has that easy, likeable repoire, and you could feel the genuinely happy emotion of Booth and the squints when Zack showed up at the end.

TJ Thyne continues to shine as Jack Hodgins as well. (I realize "Bones" was Tuesday but just watched it last night).

zodin2008 said...

Wow,'d put "Daisies" over just about everything? That's pretty strong.

Phillip Ramati said...

I stand by my comments. The only criticism of Pushing Daisies I have is that the pilot has set the bar so high that it may be difficult for the cast and crew to clear it every week, but I'm definitely going to be there to see them try.

Jonathan said...

Cannot wait to see "Daises," huge fan of Fuller's. Loved "Wonderfalls" and his work on the best Star Trek series: Deep Space Nine. Wish it was tonight.

I am dreading "Smallville" since at the end of last season they actually had a good run of episodes (5 or 6 in a row if I remember correctly that were fairly stellar; I especially loved the film noir esque installment), and I'm sure somehow they're going to screw up their season finale tonight. First, you know freaking well that Lana and Chloe are not dead; hope we don't have to reverse time to fix all this, reversing time is the most annoying of all of the Deus Ex Machina that exists out there. Second, supergirl just sounds like a stupid idea no matter how cute the girl might be. I'm hoping that we finally get to see some fighting between Lex and Clark this season, and glad to hear James Marsters is coming back. If this is to be the show's last season, I can say it's been an interesting roller coaster of a ride watching it for the past 6 years and counting.

Watched both "Bionic" and "Sexy Dirty Money" last night. Felt pretty much like you; "Bionic" was interesting enough to garner further attention, but was underwhelming. I really didn't like the way the action scenes were shot and the overuse of rain and loud annoying heavy metal music reeked of cliches. Loved Sackhoff and Ferrer; it will be interesting to see where this is heading. "Dirty Sexy Money," however was brilliant, and might be a little better than "Reaper" and "Journeyman" (My other two favorite new shows that I've seen). The scene between Peter Krause and William Baldwin (Both are brilliant here) in the limo talking about the "Trany Hooker" was priceless.

Wasn't planning on watching "Big Shots," and your thoughts haven't given me any reason to change my mind. More excited about next Thursday with the returns of "30 Rock," "Supernatural," and the fore-mentioned "Daises."

zodin2008 said...

Jonathan, and don't forget, "Friday Night Lights" is also back next week!

I have to disagree with yuo a little on "Smallville". I enjoy the show, but last season was mediocre and I fell asleep watching the "noir" episode - my wife and I found that to be the most boring installment of the year. I think we even fast forwarded during it.

I know for a fact that Lana isn't dead - they left it open and it's been hinted everywhere that Kirstin Kreuk will be returning. The question mark is Chloe - it sure seemed like they killed her off and I hope that wasn't the case. I adore Allison Mack.

I also could care less about 'Supergirl'. Enough with new characters - would rather have more Chloe than Supergirl.

As for next week, yes, I love "30 Rock" and looking forward to seeing Jerry Seinfeld on it, but with "Smallville", "Ugly Betty", "The Office", "Mad Men" and hell, even the season premier of "Earl", it's hard to say there's nothing to watch tonight!

Phillip Ramati said...

I still enjoy Smallville, though I admit it does get to be uneven. There are rumors floating about a Justice League spinoff when the show ends featuring the heroes like Green Arrow and Aquaman who have appeared in the show. If that's the case, Supergirl might be introduced to go along with that concept.

I forgot to mention Marsters, who should be back a few episodes into the season.

Yes, Thursdays are still the best night for TV, or the worst if you are trying to have a life!

zodin2008 said...


I was wondering how Wednesday was going to turn out and Ben Silverman must be doing BACK FLIPS right now. This is stunning.

The fact that "Bionic" won the key 18-49 demo war against the trifle ("Practice") and the dark and boring ("Criminal Minds") is rather momentous. Even more shocking was the surprising numbers for "Life".

It seems that of NBC's 4 new 1 hour shows, only one can really say it failed its first week - "Journeyman". I think NBC will take a 75% success ratio.

Phillip Ramati said...

These are the overnights, but yes, encouraging signs for NBC. The key is sustainability.

I think NBC has had the smartest marketing strategy in offering previews of the pilots for these shows ahead of time in a variety of platform, which generates positive buzz. When you factor in the people who probably skipped the pilots this week because they had seen them already, the numbers may be even better.

But more importantly, people are talking about these shows, which helps sustain them. ABC does the exact opposite by not putting out any previews, and I think it really missed an opportunity to promote shows like Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money.

And I know a lot of Grey's Anatomy fans were disappointed with Private Practice, which needs to get its act together quickly.

zodin2008 said...

The fact that DSM is in fact doing WORSE than "The Nine" has got to be a hug eblow for ABC.

But considering the ratings news, I have this feeling that you'll be getting some ABC pilots mailed your way come late July, early August (in 2008).

Jamie said...

i only watched half of "BS" this morning as i was getting ready for work (God bless TiVo!), and, gasp, I kind of liked it. it might be because most of the lead characters are what we women like to refer to as "eye candy." i do understand where you're coming from, but I think I'll give it one more look before I take it off my programming que.

Phillip Ramati said...

As I always say, people must make their own TV choices.

I will most certainly not be checking it out again.

zodin2008 said...


My wife and I loved "Alias" and she was obssessed with Michael Vartan as 'Michael Vaughn' on that series - but as much as she adores Vartan (and she has enjoyed Malina's work on "Sports Night" and "The West Wing" but I don't think he qualifies to anyone as eye candy) the negative reviews and glut of new shows that are far more interesting wasn't enough to sway her over to "BS".

Besides, as long as "Mad Men" keeps airing new episodes on AMC at 10 PM Thursdays, there's really nothing else we could even consider - "Mad Men" is easily one of the best shows on Television! (and if you like good TV and you like to watch guys you may consider eye candy, most women feel the lead of "Men", Jon Hamm (who portrays the character, 'Don Draper') is pretty much hunky eye candy.

Since it's already well into "Men" first season, I highlight recommend catching up whenever AMC runs a marathon in the future, or renting the season 1 DVD's from netflix when those come out - I would recommend "Mad Men" to anyone.

Jamie said...

Thanks, Zodin. I'll have to check that out.
And, like I said, I only saw half of BS while drying my hair, so I'm sure I missed out on some of the "finer" points of the show.
Still...Dylan McDermott...