I'll start with the bad-mediocre-ish and put the goodies in Part 2. Today I'll be reviewing Shark, Brothers & Sisters, Vanished, Kidnapped, Standoff, Runaway, Smith, The Class, and Six Degrees.
James Woods, plays Stark, a ruthless defense attorney who experiences a wave of guilt after getting a wife-beater off the hook on a technicality, who later kills his wife in a fit of rage. To make ammends, he joins the prosecution, leading a ragtag group of green lawyers to go after his former colleagues and their well-paying clients. Despite playing a highly-skilled and educated lawyer, Woods comes off instead as a brash know-it-all with a penchant for lectures and scolding, to quote Seinfeld, like “an old man trying to send soup back at a deli.” An eloquent well-spoken charmer he is not. To spice things up, they hired Jeri Ryan, but alas giving an aging former bombshell five minutes of screentime each week really doesn’t help. The rest of the cast is unspectacular. Also, the director and cinematographer deserve to be shot. The show’s drab colours and lighting make it look something that aired in the ‘80s. If CBS was looking to hang on to their 50+ demographic, it’s definitely a winner. Sadly, Shark doesn’t have many sharp teeth, more like a set of stained dentures.
Airs: Thursdays 10pm on CBS
Familiar Faces: James Woods, Jeri Ryan (Boston Public), Sarah Carter (Smallville) Danielle Panabaker (24)
BROTHERS & SISTERS
Calista Flockhart returns to TV as an outcast daughter who returns home to her somewhat disfunctional family. The family business is in financial peril, her younger brother is confused and angry after a stint in the army, and her mother is holding a years-old grudge against her for convincing him to enlist in the first place. The story walks a tightrope with keeping the family business afloat on one side, and just trying to co-exist as a family on the other. The show tries to be insightful and emotional, but ultimately it lands squarely into the realm of the inane. You can tell the writers are trying to be witty, but more often than not, their lines fall flat. Marti Noxon joined the show briefly and then left due to creative differences, and I can see why. With veterans like Sally Field, Ron Rifkin and Rachel Griffiths heading the cast, I was expecting more, but they can’t help what lines the writers feed them. It also doesn’t help that Calista Flockheart stopped being cute and/or interesting halfway through the run of Ally McBeal. She’s not a headliner.
Airs: Sundays at 10pm on ABC
Familiar Faces: Sally Field, Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under), Ron Rifkin (Alias), Balthazar Getty (Alias), Patricia Wettig (Prison Break)
The wife of a US senator disappears without a trace. As the mystery unravels, all the people around her seem to be involved with everyone it seems holding onto a secret of some kind and it is soon apparent it’s a grand conspiracy. I can't even give a decent summary because the plot is so incredibly convoluted. The mystery continually deepened with few answers of consequence and after awhile I just gave up. If you enjoy a long conspiracy/mystery yarn, this might be for you, but I lost patience quickly. It’s a season-long commitment and there’s nothing and no one in the show that stood out.
Airs: Mondays at 9pm on FOX
Familiar Faces: Ming Na-Wen, Rebecca Gayheart, John Allen Nelson (24)
A privaleged teenage boy is taken in a bloody shootout on the way to school. Two men set off to find him and those responsible. One, an FBI agent nearing retirement, the other, his former partner: a "specialist" - a man who works outside the law. Begrudgingly, they work together to try to find him, while the men who took him plot their next move. The performances are mediocre, the plot rather predictable, and I feel it’s going to turn into another conspiracy show just like Vanished. Kidnapped is a more paced show and not as vast and immediate as Vanished, which has a 24-like feel to it. In the end, both are subpar renditions of the same basic story, with Kidnapped having a buddy-buddy cop spin on it.
Airs: Wednesdays at 10pm on NBC
Familiar Faces: Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under), Delroy Lindo, Timothy Hutton, Dana Delaney
Standoff is a drama about crisis negotiators who also happen to be involved with one another. Ron Livingston plays the lead, trying to juggle his professional and personal life, which he of course, fails miserably at. The premise is thin: a procedural drama with an office romance that complicates matters, but the individual stories (hostage takings) are usually well-written and fairly interesting. What the show lacks is chemistry between the cast and good dialogue. It’s a good show to watch once in awhile, but it certainly won’t be on your to do list, especially if you’re a fan of character-driven shows. FOX has taken the show off the air for the moment for re-tooling, so to quote Seinfeld once again, “prognosis negative.”
Airs: Tuesdays at 8pm on FOX
Ron Livingston, Gina Torres (Firefly)
A loving husband and father is framed for murder, so he goes on the run while trying to clear his name. The kicker? He takes his whole family with him when whoever’s responsible threatens his kids. After running from motel to motel, they finally land in a small town and try to blend in. It’s an intriguing idea: a whole family on the run. The trials of being a teenager and petty family squabbles present a nice contrast to the heavy drama of being pursued by the FBI while trying to expose a frame-up. It’s Prison Break meets 7th Heaven. There’s potential there but the jury is still out. Either way, it’s the closet thing CW has to a new hit this year.
Airs: Mondays at 9pm on CW
Familiar Faces: Donnie Walhberg, Leslie Hope (Commander In Chief, Everwood)
Smith is about a group of career criminals who gather together every once in awhile to commit high-paying high-risk heists. On their trail is the FBI, trying to nail each and every one of the unknown “Smiths” and the brother of a man killed by one of the gang. It’s a very well written and executed show, and goes all-out to entertain each week. My only problem with the show is its unlikable characters (they’re all scumbags) and their rather bland backstories (so far). Lacks heart as I’ve stated before, but still worth watching for now. I’m not entirely convinced the premise works as a TV series but if anything it’s always filled with high-powered action and intense drama.
Airs: Tuesdays at 10pm on CBS
Familiar Faces: Ray Liotta, Amy Smart, Shohreh Aghdashloo (24)
A hopeless romantic throws a surprise birthday party for his fiancee, inviting everyone he could find from their third grade class (where they first met). As old friends come together, hilarity ensues. This is very much a standard sitcom with a lot of the usual jokes you’d expect, but it’s funny nevertheless. What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up with good execution. Although the cast is mostly unknown, they put in some decent performances, with the exception of Jason Ritter, who has all the comic timing of a baked potato (he also has annoying look and voice to boot). Lizzie Caplan, who you may remember from Mean Girls in particular shines playing a jaded blunt-spoken rebel. She might, in fact, be reason enough to watch the show – she’s that good. It needs work as it’s it doesn’t have the polish of it’s fellow CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother, but the basic foundation is there.
Airs: Mondays at 8pm on CBS
Familiar Faces: Jason Ritter, Lizzie Caplan (Mean Girls), Andrea Anders (Joey)
Six Degrees follows the lives of six seemingly unconnected people in New York City. Slowly but surely their lives intertwine and interweave with each other. The six are: a lawyer, a girl on the run, an alcoholic photographer trying to clean up his act, a self-made high-powered executive, a widow and single mom, and a guy from the hood trying to play it straight. You can tell right away this is from the creator of Lost as the underlying theme of connectedness is prominent in both. A strong cast and better-than average writing could make this a great show, but at the moment it’s too early to tell exactly what the show’s going to evolve into. It certainly will get more interesting as time goes on, but I’m very much on the fence. Fate needs time to play out.
Airs: Thursdays at 10pm on ABC
Familiar Faces: Bridget Moynahan, Erika Christensen