From the Files of ...
Next week, the annual Top 10 lists rule. But before we get to the best of the rest, there are a few things about the past year's television that deserve comment.
From the Not-So-Fast Files: Considering I'm not much of a David E. Kelley fan, I still marvel at the swiftness with which Girls Club (Fox) was canceled. After reading scathing reviews prior to its premiere, I began to lick my chops in anticipation. But when the show premiered, I found myself thinking, hey, this isn't that bad. In fact, this isn't bad at all. It was certainly as entertaining as Boston Public, and that show still survives. So, while I'm on no campaign to rescue the show, I do find it troubling that with only a few steps out of the gate, even products from longtime powerhouses can be snuffed in a blink.
From the Promising but Disappointing Files: Birds of Prey (WB), Push, Nevada (ABC), and Fastlane (Fox): What all these shows have in common are stylish production values, unusual premises, and appealing performers -- all notable contributions to the small screen. All except Fastlane (my favorite of the bunch) tanked. Birds, like Push, tripped over its own cleverness. Though I don't know the Batman mythology, even I was bugged by the liberties creators took with the Batman tale. After much waffling, the show was finally canceled.
As for Push, Nevada, I watched it during its short run and thought, "all right already." This show is supposed to be arty and mysterious. Though lovely to look at, mostly it just made me wonder why I bothered to sit through another hour.
Now Fastlane I actually consider a guilty pleasure. Seeing McG (Charlie's Angels director) work his mojo on the small screen is an absolute thrill. Leads Bill Bellamy (Deaq) and Peter Facinelli (Van) as partners in a secret LAPD operation have a great chemistry unmatched by anything else on the tube. I even find myself making less fun of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (all grown-up now and calling herself just Tiffani), though I still don't buy her as Deaq and Van's tough-as-nails boss, Billie. Fast cars, faster women, impossible car chases, and explosions make this show rock. But after the third episode, I found myself bored with the setup: the caper, the bad but always sexy girl in the middle of it all. Van (and sometimes Deaq) getting it on with the sexy bad girl (in some of the most erotic sex scenes I've seen on TV). Car chase, party, blowup, car chase, shootout. The bad guys taken down. The bad girl arrested or killed. Justice is served. Yup, this is every young boy's wet dream, and guilty as charged, I'm there for the ride.
Is that still on? There are several shows I've never understood the appeal of, but yet remain on the air: Still Standing and Yes, Dear (CBS), Good Morning, Miami, The Mole, and The Drew Carey Show (ABC) are all tops on my list. Someone is watching, which makes me wonder: Is there a "TV Eye" in Bizarro world where these shows are fawned over? I shudder at the thought.
Which all brings me to the things I'd like to see more (or less) of on prime-time TV:
A decent vehicle for Anna Deavere Smith, Blythe Danner, and the other women of Presidio Med (CBS). The soapy medical drama does not do these fine actresses justice.
Fade David Caruso into the background, and foreground the marvelous Khandi Alexander and Emily Procter in CSI: Miami (CBS). I said from the beginning that this version of the CSI franchise is stronger than the first. Now, after watching the season closely, it's clear to me that Alexander and Procter (along with the supporting players) are much more interesting than the wry, pun-cracking Horatio Caine (Caruso).
A decent vehicle for Andre Braugher (Hack, CBS). He deserves so much more.
Make Cedric the Entertainer Presents (Fox) an hour. This is a scary proposition. When the show is on, it's on. When it's not, the half-hour can't end soon enough.
The retirement of Frasier, ER, Just Shoot Me, and The Drew Carey Show. Haven't all their jokes and stories been told?
OK, I said this last year, and no one paid attention: With next year's 24 (Fox), take a hint from the telenovela format: Change the cast, change the circumstances. Yes, Kiefer Sutherland rocks, but it's the mystery (not the anticipation) of what characters will do that makes this show tick.
That's all I have. Happy TV watching, and, as always, stay tuned.