Falling Into TV

Salt Lake City Weekly | September 3, 2004
The Complex: Malibu (Fox, Fridays): Couples compete by renovating an apartment in a Malibu shoreline complex; a panel of real-estate experts evaluate the remodeling results to vote off couples; the couple whose unit nets the highest price at auction will receive the profit from all of the units … So, this is still network TV, right? Not some obscure digital-tier channel funded by Home Depot for viewers who think Trading Spaces and their ilk have “gone too Hollywood?” The Complex was ripped-off from—uh, inspired by—The Block, the highest-rated Australian show of the last 15 years and further proof that Aussies are loony drunks.

Renovate My Family (Fox, Mondays): Another home-remodeling show, but not just any home-remodeling show—this one features one of the obnoxious families from Fox’s Trading Spouses and is hosted by the son of Dr. Phil. Yes, what sounds like a half-assed Mad TV sketch is an actual primetime show that not only cribs the remodeling genre, but also personal-makeover shows and Dr. Phil’s “Git Real” psychobabble into one big Idiot Soufflé. If this is a trend indicator from Fox, we should expect Let’s Watch a Cat Eat Its Own Vomit by next summer.

The Next Great Champ (Fox, Tuesdays): Or this, right now, the “controversial” (read: free publicity for everyone) new boxing-realty contest series that shares sooo many similarities with NBC’s The Contender, I won’t be watching either damned one of ‘em out of protest—or utter lack of interest, same diff. Whereas The Contender will be hosted by fake boxer Sylvester Stallone and oldster Sugar Ray Leonard, at least The Next Great Champ has Oscar De La Hoya, a fighter who’s still in the game. But, will he be singing?

Father of the Pride (NBC, Tuesdays): As we’ve learned from DreamWorks’ Shrek, Shrek 2 and the forthcoming Shrek 3: Suck It, Disney, kids love wisecracking, CGI-animated animals as much as their parents love wisecracking, ironic commentary on pop culture—oh, and everyone loves poop jokes. Father of the Pride, about the behind-the-scenes lives of wisecracking, CGI-animated animals working for Siegfried & Roy (no maulings nor man-love addressed here, thank you), only contains enough good one-liners and snazzy graphics to make a decent promo. It’ll come in handy when this pricey mistake winds up as Adult Swim filler on the Cartoon Network at 3 a.m.

Hawaii (NBC, Wednesdays): A smart, slick and highly unlikely combo of Fastlane, CSI and Hawaii 5-0, Hawaii could be the best cop drama to drop in NBC’s lap since Boomtown—and we all know what happened with that. Sexy undercover cops (including Crossing Jordan’s Ivan Sergei and Six Feet Under’s Eric Balfour) driving hot cars real fast, solving too-easy crimes and pissing off the captain is nothing new, but Hawaii’s authentic eye for Big Island detail is so dead-on, it looks like nothing else on TV—especially not Fox’s ‘ho-riffic North Shore, which may as well be shot at a Joe’s Crab Shack in Ventura. The best of the lot so far … cancellation must be looming.

Joey (NBC; debuts Thursday, Sept. 9): When even snooty acquaintances who claim to never degrade themselves by watching television say, “Joey? There are far better Friends characters to spin-off into a new series than him, like Phoebe, or Chandler, even Gunther … I mean, have you read this month’s Economist? Fascinating,” you know there’s mucho riding on Joey. Matt LeBlanc has taken his piece of the Friends pop-culture juggernaut and moved Joey Tribbiani to Los Angeles, where he’ll pursue that acting career we’ve been hearing about for the last 10 years and reunite with his sister, Gina (Sopranos casualty Drea de Matteo), who we never knew existed. On the upside, Joey is funny and comfortable enough to keep Friends fans and NBC execs satisfied; a relatively de-skanked de Matteo instantly establishes a comic range beyond doing blow and getting beaten up; and, well, at least it isn’t Ross. On the downside, Joey’s failed-audition-of-the-week misadventures are no match for those of Johnny Drama on HBO’s Entourage, the new gold standard for Hollywood-insider comedy. Then again, all of this is far more analysis than a guaran-damn-teed hit (for one season, at least) warrants, even without the obligatory “Will Joey be the new Frasier?” jive—NBC’s out of the sitcom game, hadn’t you heard?

Medical Investigation (NBC; debuts Thursday, Sept. 9): This is what NBC’s all about now: Flashy, one-hour dramas centered around cops, doctors, doctor-cops, cop-doctors and the cop/doctor-related people who work with them. In a none-too-promising twist, Medical Investigation (original even-worse working title: Medical Mystery) features a core ensemble fresh off cancellations from last season—Neal McDonough (Boomtown), Kelli Williams (The Practice), Christopher Gorham (Jake 2.0), Anna Belknap (The Handler) and Troy Winbush (Soul Food)—and two of those shows died in the same fatal Friday timeslot MI will hold after its premiere. For you who still feel like getting attached, Medical Investigation is essentially CSI meets UPN’s long-forgotten Burning Zone, forensic let’s-solve-this-puzzle-together dissection of deadly disease breakouts that “must be contained before more people die, damn it!” If a few CGI tigers have to be put down, cool.

Jack & Bobby (The WB; debuts Sunday, Sept. 12): If you thought the boneheaded let’s-clone-Smallville stabs of previous seasons like Birds of Prey and Tarzan were odd fits, just let The WB’s latest high-concept Gen Y soap soak in: The coming-of-age saga of two brothers named Jack and Bobby, one of whom will become the U.S. president in 2040, according to occasional flash-forwards to the future. Instead of the shaping of a young Clark Kent/Superman, Jack & Bobby is blatantly modeled on the less-than-superheroic Kennedys, minus a problematic Teddy and plus an eccentric college professor single mom (Christine Lahti) in place of a booze-running patriarch. But, if this actually works, maybe Comedy Central will jump on George & Jeb.

LAX (NBC; debuts Monday, Sept. 13): OK, not all of NBC’s dramas are cop/doctor vehicles; some involve pretty people working security in the private sector—like last season’s surprise hit Las Vegas, a show The Only TV Column That Matters™ laid odds would be as ill-received as a computer-animated sitcom about Siegfried & Roy’s talking tigers. The pretty people of LAX (original even-worse working title: Hub), of course, work security in Los Angeles International Airport—and everyone knows that airports are just as exciting to hang out in as casinos, right? Yeeaah, anyway, Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood provide the requisite hotness and we-slept-together-once-and-what-a-mistake-that-was tension, but what happens when the bomb threats and drunken pilot plots run out? “Someone’s been reading a Maxim at the magazine shop for 10 minutes! Get a team over there now!” “A man’s brandishing a spork at the Cinnabon! There’s no time to lose!”

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