Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not So Much With The Viva, Laughlin

The loyal dozens who read this blog know I trumpet originality in TV.

When a "Friday Night Lights" or "Pushing Daisies" or "Life On Mars" comes along, I want everyone and their Uncle Bob to tune in.

But then, something like "Viva Laughlin" (CBS, 10 p.m.) comes along, and it makes me want to long for yet another "Law & Order" spinoff.

After watching the pilot yesterday, the only comment I can come up with is: Yeesh!

Let me expound on that. Like others have tried to with, say, "The Office," (NBC, 9 p.m.) some American producer got the idea of stealing a BBC TV series idea and Americanize it, in this case, with "Viva Blackpool." With "Viva Laughlin," those producers have come up with a new "Coupling."

Ripley (Lloyd Owen) is a Laughlin businessman who is trying to start his own casino. But when his main investor pulls out, Ripley is left with a gigantic debt on the unfinished edifice, forcing him to go to his archrival (series producer Hugh Jackman) for a loan, which he doesn't get. When the investor who pulled out is later found murdered, everyone - especially Ripley - is a suspect.

What makes "Viva Laughlin" supposedly different is the musical approach. The characters burst into pop hits like "Viva Las Vegas" or "Sympathy For The Devil" as sort of leitmotifs to introduce themselves to the audience. But the annoying thing here is that the original songs are being performed by the original artists, in this case Elvis and the Rolling Stones, while the actors sing over the music as you would sing along with your car radio or iPod. Why have a Tony award winner like Jackman trying to sing over the Stones?

Owen is hopelessly outclassed as Ripley, bringing no charm, no humor, no musical talent to the role. There's no reason to root for this guy, and he's the protagonist. Jackman brings a lot of charm to Nicky, the villain, but his role is only a recurring one in the series. The musical numbers don't pump you up; they are three-minute irritations, like when Owen and Melanie Griffith butcher Blondie's "One Way Or Another."

About the only positive thing I can say about "Viva Laughlin" is that it's not the worst thing on Thursday nights — "Big Shots" (ABC, 10 p.m.) is still on the air. But viewers who tune in and follow the show to its regular Sunday timeslot will get another tune stuck in their heads - "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

GIRL POWER: Some things to look forward to in 2008. USA will pick up the miniseries "The Starter Wife" for a new run next year, with Debra Messing returning to the title role of a wife of a movie mogul who must start over after a divorce.

Meanwhile, Fox has announced Jan. 14 as the starting date for "The Sarah Conner Chronicles," starring Lena Headey in the titular role in this spinoff of "The Terminator" movies. The series will take over for "Prison Break" on Mondays.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: As you can probably guess, "Viva Laughlin" and "Big Shots" won't be listed among Best Bets very often. But otherwise, Thursdays are still an awesome night for TV.

Most awesome of all is the season finale to the summer's most acclaimed series, "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.) A star-making turn from Jon Hamm leads a stellar cast (most notably January Jones, Christina Hendricks and John Slattery in his best performance ever) about an ad agency in 1960, and how times were very different — or were they?

The networks also offer some good fare. NBC gives us a new "My Name Is Earl" and "30 Rock," beginning at 8 p.m. After "The Office," a new ER airs at 10 p.m.

Betty plagiarizes her own magazine on "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.), while I'm guessing something sexy happens on "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m.

A new "Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.) and "CSI" air before "Viva Laughlin," pretty much guaranteeing I won't be watching CBS tonight.

A former Superman (Dean Cain) plays an evil scientist on "Smallville" (CW, 8 p.m.) as the series continues to mine the Superman mythos for acting talent. Word is, Cain's character may end up being a well-known DC Comics villain who could return later. It's followed by "Supernatural" at 9 p.m. Was anyone else disappointed that the kid from last week wasn't Dean's son? Talk about your chips off the old block!


zodin2008 said...

Thanks for reminding me of the whole thing with Dean and the kid last week on "Supernatural" - that was freaking hysterical and SO incredibly disappointing that he wasn't Dean's son. I actually think it would have been better for him to be the son.

But I think "Supernatural" has climbed up to be one of my 5 most favorite 1 hour shows on TV, past some heavyeweights. The show is really hitting its stride again.

I don't do musicals - so this is no LAUGHLIN matter for me.

Phillip Ramati said...

They couldn't work the kid in a weekly basis. After all, if he was Dean's kid, Dean would give up hunting, knowing he has a year to live.