Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dirty Sexy Fun; Practice Not Perfect

ABC made up for the year it didn't put me on its critics list by sending me a bunch of DVDs for preview. So much so that I've enlisted help to review them all in time.

Yes, loyal dozens, you not only get the word of the TV Guy, but you get special guest star Stephanie, the Cherry Blogger as well.

First up is me, though, because I've been fortunate to catch the first two episodes of one of the best new shows of the season, "Dirty Sexy Money." (ABC, 10 p.m.)

Quite simply, "DSM" is everything that "Desperate Housewives" was in its brilliant first season: biting dark humor mixed in with an overarching mystery. (Hopefully, "DSM" won't devolve the way "DH" did after the first season, though).

Peter Krause ("Six Feet Under") is Nick George, the hapless attorney to the richest, most famous family in the U.S. — the Darlings (who are anything but). Nick doesn't want the job, which his late father previously held, but the patriarch of the family (Donald Sutherland) makes him an offer that seems too good to be true.

Five minutes after he takes the job, Nick quickly finds out there isn't enough money in the world to make it worthwhile. The Darling clan is constantly causing fires for Nick to put out: Patrick (William Baldwin) is an aspiring senator with a secret that definitely can't be leaked; Karen (Natalie Zea) is still in love with Nick years after the two grew up together, and makes no secret about it; Brian (Glenn Fitzgerald) is quite possibly the world's meanest and worst priest; Jeremy (Seth Gabel) is a party boy with no direction in life, while his twin sister Juliet (Samaire Armstrong) is a Paris Hilton clone.

Nick tries to keep all of the Darling issues at bay while investigating the death of his father.

"DSM" is never dull, deftly mixing Nick's real-world outlook with the antics of the Darlings. And while each of the Darlings could be written off as caricatures, by the second episode, they are shown with enough depth that it keeps the viewer interested.

Also airing tonight is the premiere of the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice" (ABC, 9 p.m.), which debuted last winter as a backdoor pilot during an episode of "Grey's." Since I didn't watch that episode, nor do I watch "Grey's," I turned the premiere over to the Cherry Blogger, who had this to say:

'At the beginning of the pilot episode for "Private Practice," Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) tells Chief Richard Webber that she is resigning from Seattle Grace and moving to California because she needs a change, she needs to start fresh, and she wants "to dance naked." Addison is looking for a lot less drama, and that's what "Private Practice" delivers. Anyone looking for the same fast-paced agnst-filled ups and downs of "Grey's" won't find it in "Private Practice" - at least not if the rest of the season follows the same pace as the pilot.

One thing about the show that bothered me from the start was the swap-out of actress Merrin Dungey for Audra McDonald in the role of Addison's best friend, Dr. Naomi Bennett. I was a huge fan of "Alias," and therefore a huge fan of Dungey, who played the Francinator. I read that she was swapped out because producers felt she didn't have enough chemistry with the cast. Boo! McDonald seems to take the role as her own well, but I do hope to see more development of her character, as well as the others, throughout the season.

The writing was fine for the first episode, but I'll need a reason to get behind these characters and stay hooked to "Private Practice," something I didn't find in the pilot. But I'm hoping writer Shonda Rhimes can pull it off.'

I can only add that "Private" is one of the more interesting shows on ABC's schedule. The network could have put it on Thursdays after "Grey's" to practically guarantee it a huge audience, but instead is gambling that enough "Grey's" viewers will head over to Wednesdays, establishing a beachfront there. It's a big gamble, one worth following.

MACON ACTRESS ON HOUSE OF PAYNE: Ed Grisamore reports that Macon actress Sylvia Boykin will appear on "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," (TBS, 10 p.m.) Boykin, a graduate of Stratford Academy, will be playing an attorney.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: One of the most buzzed-about shows of the summer was "Bionic Woman" (NBC, 9 p.m.), which debuts tonight. British actress Michelle Ryan takes on the role of Jamie Sommers, a bartender who is rebuilt with bionic parts after a devastating car accident. But she's not the first woman to undergo this procedure, and the original bionic woman, Sarah (Katee Sackoff) isn't the friendliest super-being around.

Having watched two versions of the pilot, I was a little underwhelmed by it, but there is enough good possibilities - especially with producers like David Eick and Jason Katims - that I'll be sticking with it for a while.

I enjoyed the first two episodes of "Life" (NBC, 10 p.m.) a lot more, and so did my parents. I think Damian Lewis ("Band of Brothers") is one of the best actors working and I loved his quirk-filled performance about a cop who returns to the job after being framed and sent to prison for 12 years. Some critics and fans, however, find the character too quirky and have been turned off by it, so I deliver the warning that this will be a show with little middle ground: you'll either love it or hate it.

CBS airs the season debuts of "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" after a new episode of "Kid Nation" (CBS, 8 p.m.) Fox is also all-new, with the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton comedy "Back To You" (Fox, 8 p.m.) leading things off. I was very underwhelmed by the pilot, but with all the talent associated with the show in front of and behind the camera, I'm giving it another shot.

Finally, the next installment of Ken Burns' "The War" (PBS, 8 p.m.) airs tonight, an extra-long segment that focuses on D-Day.


Jonathan said...

I think that is a fine assessment of "Life," I was one of the ones who found Rice a tad on the annoying side. I'm curious enough to stick with it for awhile though. Can't wait to catch "Bionic Woman" and "Dirty Sexy Money." "BW" seems like a show that NBC will have to stick with for awhile to let it develop a solid audience, but based on what they've done with "Friday Night Lights" and "30 Rock," I think this is the best network for it to be on right now.

zodin2008 said...

I am sure DSM is a great show, again, I just can't afford to add another hour of new programming. I did decide to "add" "Reaper" and it was fun, but I can't say I was in love with it.

I like the supporting actors (Ray Wise and Tyler Labine) more than star, Bret Harrison.

Yes, count me on the side of very much not liking the weirdo acting style of Damien Lewis. My expectations heading into watching the pilot of "Life" was that Lewis' character would be a bit more serious since he, well, just spent 12 years in prison!!!! It just seemed bizarre, annoying and far fetched.

Jonathan said...

I thought I would be a little dissapointed with "Reaper" due to all the hype, but I found it to be as close to a perfect pilot as they come. And like you said yesterday, phil, if the show does make it through the season, Ray Wise should be a shoo-in for an Emmy nom. Hell, maybe Tyler Labine as well, "Tape Hand!"

Phillip Ramati said...

I'm not a huge Tyler Labine fan; he was one of the reasons I switched off Invasion. But I thought Harrison really captured that slacker role very well.

NBC is probably the best network in terms of sticking with shows, which is good for shows like Life and bionic.

Jamie said...


I hope they stick to the mystery element. And I LOVED how each Darling had a separate ring tone. I think my favorite was "Rich Girl."

It *might* be my new favorite show of the season, but I thought that about Studio 69 last year, and changed my mind by the third episode.

Phillip Ramati said...

Good points, Jamie, I forgot to mention the ringtones.

Pilots are always an interesting venture, because the producers spend more time/money on them than subsequent episodes. Sometimes, great shows have mediocre pilots, while other times, mediocre shows have great pilots. But there was enough in the second episode of DSM that makes me think the quality will stick.

zodin2008 said...

If "Studio 60" had actually been called, "Studio 69", me thinks it would have been on HBO or Showtime...

Well, with those kinds of recommendations for DSM, maybe I will watch the pilot this weekend on Peter Krause & Donald Sutherland are always entertaining.

The guy playing the Priest who HATES Krause's character - he's really the moast annoying actor. He's actually a reason I wasn't planning on tuning into DSM.