Thursday, September 20, 2007

Raising 'Cane'; Big 'Bomb'

I've been busy the past few days catching up with the newest CBS dramatic offerings for the upcoming season. All in all, the Eye's newest shows don't rank favorably with its sister network, the CW.

But in fairness to CBS, the CW may have two of the best new shows of the fall in "Reaper" and "Aliens In America," so it's not surprising that CBS' mediocre new series fall short.

I've watched "Cane," "Big Bang Theory" and "Moonlight," the last of which I'm giving its own separate view tomorrow.

Of the remainders, "Cane" was better than I thought it was, though I don't think I'm going to commit to watching it on a weekly basis.

"Cane" tells the story of a multi-generational Cuban-American family headed by Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno, who have made a fortune in both the rum and sugarcane business. His son (Nestor Carbonell) and son-in-law (Jimmy Smits) are vying for control of the future of the company.

I figured the show might have a "Dallas" type of feel, and to an extent, it does (minus the camp), but "Cane" actually aims a lot higher, with Shakespearian overtones. You definitely see the influence of "Romeo & Juliet" and "King Lear" and even "The Godfather" in the pilot.

Despite all that and the stellar cast, "Cane" came off a bit flat. (Perhaps if CBS had included a bottle of Duque family rum...) There are so many characters introduced in the first half of the pilot - each with varying story threads - that it's very difficult to follow.

Probably the biggest thing working against "Cane" is that the American viewership has shown over the past couple of years that it is losing interest in serialized shows, but hopefully, enough viewers will stick with "Cane" that the show can develop itself a bit.

On the other hand, "Big Bang Theory" deserves a quick death. It's ironic that CBS has two of the best-written sitcoms on the air in "How I Met Your Mother" and "New Adventures of Old Christine," yet the network almost axed both in favor of dreck like "Bang." ("Christine" is still on the bench for the fall, despite another Emmy nom for star Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Anyway, "Bang" follows two nerd roommates, earnest Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and clueless Sheldon (Jim Parsons). Their world is altered when a gorgeous girl not in their IQ range (Kaley Cuoco) moves in next door. Leonard falls for her, but Sheldon thinks he is wasting his time.

Of course, the sitcom is playing on the idea of opposites attracting, but Galecki and Cuoco don't really display any sort of chemistry that you believe something could actually develop between them in the future. The punchlines are fairly dense and pretty much telegraphed. Only a small subplot of a fellow nerd (Simon Helberg, "Studio 60") who thinks he is suave and attempts to woo the girl made me laugh at all, and that's unlikely to be played as much more of a side joke.

With the flat "Bang" and the disappointing "Back To You" on Fox, no wonder some people are saying the sitcom is all but dead.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: The 10 p.m. hour of Thursday nights remains the week's best in terms of quality, at least for one more week until the new shows start.

Actually, one of the summer's best, "Burn Notice," wraps up its season tonight with a two-hour finale (USA, 9 p.m.), but don't worry, the numbers were so strong that it was renewed for a second season early on.

The other big hit of the summer, "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.) is also all-new and also earned a second season renewal just announced this week.

Finally, making me program my VCR very carefully, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (FX, 10 p.m.) airs two episodes tonight. "Sunny" is everything "Bang" isn't, proving there is still life in the sitcom genre.


zodin2008 said...

I watched the premier/pilot of "Back to You" and it was funny ENOUGH to at least watch 1, maybe 2 more episodes. But I am wavering.

Half the time I was watching the show and watching Kelsey Grammer back in his familiar sitcom genre, it just made me MISS the genius "Frasier", that much more. I still maintain my view that "Frasier" is possibly the greatest sitcom of all time, maybe even better (at least on par) with "Seinfeld" and far superior to the higher rated and more popular, "Friends".

As for CBS, I watch 2 shows on their network - less than all the other 4 networks (including CW) - "Jericho" (not back until November) and "How I Met Your mother". None of the new shows hold any interest to me. I like Jimmy Smits a lot, great cast for "Cane", but unless I am dying to see a new series, I am not going to watch if I am luke warm.

But against competition like "Law & Order: SVU" & "Boston legal", I will be pulling for "Cane". I can't stand those other 2 shows.

As for CBS Comedies, it's hard to explain. This network gets huge ratings for dumb humor like "The King of Queens" (now retired) & the awful "Rules of Engagement", yet it's absolute best comedy (and in my top 10 list of all time comedies), "How I Met Your Mother", it can't get any ratings traction.

Now, I don't watch "Old Christine", but I respect it's pedigree, star Dreyfuss, and the positive critical reviews - and that show can't get ratings either. Put dumb comedies out there, and people will watch.

America, for that, you deserve to lose a "slap bet" with Barney.

Phillip Ramati said...

I was very underwhelmed by Back To You, but given the pedigree of its cast and crew, I'll give it another shot.

Trust me, Old Christine is a strong enough sitcom that it's a real shame to see it benched in favor of the likes of Big Bang Theory.

zodin2008 said...

To be honest, I am far less critical of CBS on the 'Old Christine' benching than I am of the American public.

The fact is, what's CBS supposed to do? their two BEST sitcoms are 'Christine' and 'Mother'. Theese are also the two lowest rated sitcoms.

In their shoes, they could have just gone ahead and canceled both shows, but instead, CBS is giving us more 'Mother' (big time yeah!!!) as of Monday and still keeping 'Christine' alive for the inevitable failure that 'Bang' will be.

Look, CBS also didn't have to keep "Jericho" but 8 million pounds of nuts being sent to CBS Headquarters changed their mind.

Interestingly, CBS has the most solid across the board ratings of the 4 Major networks, but they have the least amount of buzz worthy shows. NBC has far worse ratings, but tons of shows we like, the critics like and are 'buzz worthy'.

I may not love the shows on CBS (except for 2 shows), but I really do appreciate that the few I like they are working harder to keep around. It's not CBS' fault that most Americans who like CBS shows are idiots, and would rather flock to watch David Caruso over act in Miami, rather than Neil Patrick harris win slap bets with Marshall.

But CBS seems to have learned their lesson - not every show can be a "CSI" ratings monster, and when you have shows that are 'buzz worthy' ("Jericho") or award worthy ("Christine" and "Mother"), than do your best to keep them around.

They missed the boat on "Love Monkey". That was a fantastic, buzz worthy show, but it didn't get the big boffo ratings of the more formulaic 'The Unit', so "Monkey" was dismissed to VH-1. CBS got a lot of negative press and 'tsk tsk' from the TV writers, so now they will try harder to keep the buzz worthy but lower rated shows.

Let's face, the demo's for the type of show that 'Christine', 'Mother' or 'Love Monkey' is (or was) is not typically the demo CBS gets - usually it's reserved more for ABC and NBC. I think CBS appreciates you get a more intelligent and upwardly movile TV fan when you have shows like 'Mother'.

Phillip Ramati said...

You can't say Bang will be an inevitable failure when it's joining the likes of 2 1/2 Men and Rules of Engagement, low quality shows with big audience numbers.

zodin2008 said...

Actually, I can say it, seeing as 'Bang' is starring one of the most unwatchable actors ever on Television, Johnny Galecki.

When your ratings hopes are riding on the likes of Galecki, that's not good.

Phillip Ramati said...

I think the ratings hopes are more likely riding on Kaley Cuoco. :-)

Anonymous said...

Looks like you were wrong about Big Bang - asswipe!

Phillip Ramati said...

Wow, rude much?

I've pointed out numerous times that Big Bang has been a ratings success, which puzzles me because I find it to be very unfunny. Clearly, there 10 million taste-afflicted Americans who would disagree.