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Monday, September 25, 2006

New Show Reviews: Smith, Studio 60, Six Degrees, Jericho, Brothers and Sisters, and Men in Trees

We made it through the first big week of new-show premieres, and the good news is I haven’t seen a Head Cases yet. The bad news is, I haven’t found a new Lost or Veronica Mars either. But, this week, several more new shows debut, so I’m not giving up hope.

As always, here is the Tube Talk ratings guide. The ratings are based on having viewed only one episode of each show. So in some cases, you may want to try out the shows for a few weeks before calling it quits, as they sometimes take a few episodes to find their footing. If a show debuted this week (Sept. 17-24) but isn’t here for review, well, take that as a sign.

Ratings Guide:
Four stars — Do NOT miss this show. Use extreme measures if necessary, including hiding if visitors ring the doorbell, screening phone calls, and bribing a neighbor to record it for you if you haven’t mastered your DVR/VCR. Or just become completely irrational and don’t leave home when it’s on. (Previously rated four-star shows include Lost, Jack and Bobby, and Freaks and Geeks.)

Three stars — It’s good. Catch it if you can. (Previously rated three-star shows include Bones and Joey.)

Two stars — If you’re home with nothing to do, turn it on, but don’t waste your precious TiVo hours on it. (Previously rated two-star shows include Father of the Pride and Clubhouse.)

One star — It’s so bad you’ll want to shut off the TV and write an angry letter to the network that aired it. (Previously rated one-star shows include The Help and Head Cases.)

SmithThieves, killers, and eye candy all play a part in this engrossing, action-packed drama. It’s Ocean’s 11 for television, except the storylines and characters are much darker. And these bandits don’t seem to have the same knack for pulling off perfect crimes the way George Clooney and company do on the big screen. So far, the Smith gang is down one member due to a shootout— ending in a chest full of bullets for one sorry lad— and they managed to leave behind a witness who can identify the only female member of the team (Amy Smart, Felicity.) Another member of the group just got out of prison for a job that went wrong. So, they aren’t exactly smooth criminals. Simon Baker and Virginia Madsen steal the show, and I hope they’ll get more screen time. (And a special thanks to the smart exec who gave us Baker surfing in his opening scene.) The entire cast is brilliant, from Ray Liotta to Smart. However, Smith is a risky concept for television, as this is a group of thieves and murderers. That seriously hinders the likeability factor for the characters, which is usually key for a TV show to succeed. I applaud CBS for taking a chance with this daring drama. It was the best new show of the week. (CBS, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST)

Six Degrees
It’s hard to believe this dud of a drama is from TV-genius J.J. Abrams, who gave us two of TV’s greatest series ever: Lost and Felicity. Six Degrees and Abrams’ last dramatic effort, (What About Brian), have left me wondering what happened to the Abrams’ magic. Six Degrees isn’t horrible; it just isn’t memorable either. The premise of the show is that a group of strangers in New York City are somehow, by fate, all connected. In the premiere, we met the characters and watched as they tried to maneuver the rocky world of romance and life. Yawn. I was bored before the 20-minute mark. (Sorry, J.J. Don’t hate me.) You should know that not everyone feels the way I do about this show. In fact, E!Online’s Kristin Veitch loved it. (ABC, Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST)

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Maybe it was the hype that had me expecting this to be the best new drama of the season. Sadly, it isn’t. I liked the show. I didn’t love it, which is unusual considering that TV-writer-extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin is behind it. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional sketch comedy TV series. (Think Saturday Night Live.) Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are as charming as ever in their roles as a TV writer and producer, and Amanda Peet sparkles. However, the show, overall, seemed a little slow-paced and a bit flat. It lacks the charm of Sorkin’s signature show The West Wing. Considering Studio 60 is set in the world of television, I’m sure there are plenty of juicy stories to tell. I’m hoping we get to see a few of them here. My fellow critics who have seen the second episode tell me it gets better. I hope they’re right. (NBC, Mondays at 10 p.m. EST.)

---Editor's note, after viewing episode 2: My fellow critics were right. If you gave up on this show after the first week, try it again. The second and third episodes were much better, and Sorkin's signature cadence and pacing are back.

Brothers and SistersCalista Flockhart and Sally Field star in this family drama, heavy on the drama. It seems their mother/daughter relationship is strained at best. Make no mistake: This isn’t the Walton family. The Walkers have problems that can’t be solved within the span of an hour. The acting is top-notch in this series, but I’m not sure I care enough yet about the characters to make a weekly date with this one. I was excited that Tom Skerritt was part of the cast, but they killed him off in the premiere. Is it possible he’ll be back as a ghost, because that could get me to keep watching? I was most intrigued by Flockhart’s character, Kitty, a conservative political pundit, and her brother, Justin (Dave Annable,) a war veteran and drug addict. If you like family drama and have siblings, this one may be to your liking. (ABC, Sundays at 10 p.m. EST.)

Men in TreesBig city girl, reeling from a break-up, moves to an isolated town in Alaska where the men outnumber women 10 to 1. OK, so the concept isn’t fresh. (We’ve seen similar versions in Ed and Northern Exposure.) But, I still enjoyed this show immensely. It’s quirky, fun and a good way to spend your Friday nights. Anne Heche plays famous writer Marin Frisk, who realizes she’s spent her whole life in relationships with men and that she needs a break. The always-perfect John Amos portrays the town’s only pilot, Buzz, and had the best line of the show. “She’s no Selleck,” he deadpanned, after hearing “celebrity” Marin speak at a public meeting. (Any show that pays tribute to Tom Selleck gets points in my book.) Viewers will recognize ER’sJerry” (actor Abraham Benrubi) as the town’s bartender. Men in Trees is unsteady in places. The B story of the supermodel-looking gal who happens to be a prostitute is just bizarre. But overall, the show works. Even the title is clever. The name refers to the construction sign Marin spied when she hit town that warned of “men in trees” cutting branches. However, the Darwinian metaphor isn’t lost on the audience. She’s comparing men to monkeys, one of the smartest animals in the kingdom, but still, an animal. Granted, she has just cause, considering her fiancée followed his primal urges and hooked up with another woman. Heche is enjoyable and wacky enough to sell the part. “She’s a crackpot, but I dig her,” said the town’s deejay Patrick. Yeah. Me, too. (ABC, Fridays at 9 p.m. EST.)

Jericho — If you’re fascinated with disaster shows — or Skeet Ulrichyou’ll definitely want to check out Jericho. It’s the story of a small, Kansas town that survives a nuclear attack. The drama unfolds as residents see a mushroom cloud and realize that other cities across the nation have been hit. Panic, fear and unrest hit residents, as the mayor (Gerald McRaney) tries to keep order. Ulrich is solid as the mayor’s estranged son and the reluctant hero. Jericho held my attention, but isn’t nearly as gripping as last year’s brilliant drama Invasion. ( I know, I have to let it go.) (CBS, Wednesday's at 8 p.m. EST.)

**Check back soon for Tube Talk Girl’s take on Heroes, Ugly Betty, The Nine and Friday Night Lights.

What did you think of this week's new shows? What are your favorites? Share your thoughts in our comments section.


Rae said...

Awww Jack and Bobby, how I miss them.

Big Tuna said...

I liked Men in Trees and Smith, too. I liked Studio 60, but good Lord, Six Degrees was AWFUL! Jericho sucked me in. I'll be back to watch it next week.

tube talk girl said...

Yeah, I miss Jack especially. He he he. :)

Jenna said...

Simon Baker is DELICIOUS! He's soooooo good in Smith. He reminds me of Brad Pitt in Ocean's 11.

Miles said...

I didn't hate Six Degrees, but it did remind me a lot of What About Brian. Still, neither of those shows are a fraction as good as Invasion was. ABC made a big mistake there, if you ask me. That show had great potential.

Alex said...

I can't wait to watch Friday Night Lights with Kyle Chandler, or as you call him Tube Talk Girl, "hot bomb guy."

Becky said...

Thanks for this Jennifer. I usually agree with most of your opinions (except your love for My Name is Earl...I'm still baffled by that one!) I don't have time to weed through all the new shows, so this will help me. Smith, Men in Trees here I come!

Leesa said...

I was a little disappointed in Studio 60, too. but i think it will get better...

tube talk girl said...

You guys know I have a celebrity crush on Baker. I watched every episode of the depressing "Guardian" just to get my weekly dose of Baker. But, I wish he'd use his accent. It's sexy.

Bob said...

Jericho isn't as good as Invasion, but it might do well because of the whole nuclear fear we grew up in. (Hiding under our desks and all.)

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