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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Yeah, I Like Television; You Got a Problem With That?
For years I fought my addiction to television—I intentionally chose not to watch the hyped-up new shows for fear of adding another hour to my weekly viewing schedule. Now I've just decided to let go, let TiVo, and this being the start of the new fall season, I'm falling for it hook, line, and season pass.

With the weird prolonged rollout, I've only seen three of the new shows, and none of them are threatening my career yet.

Joey (NBC, Thursday at 8): Talk about a nothing-burger. Since the big structural differences between Friends and Joey are that he’s now alone and in Los Angeles, I guess it’s an In & Out Nothing-Burger. Matt LeBlanc’s a one-note actor (and, memo to the writing room: He’s dumb, we get it; it’s not that funny), and although I yield to no one in my love for Adriana La Cerva, I concluded from the pilot that Drea de Matteo can’t really act either. (I had to rewind on several occasions just to figure out what she said—a problem I never had on The Sopranos.) I don’t get what role the cute, married attorney neighbor is supposed to perform. Perhaps she’s the Monica character—someone who’ll indulge his cute stupidity and explain stuff to him; and I guess the bright nephew is Chandler, a smart guy (let’s hope he’s not quite that smart-mouthed) who’ll sort out the big fat mess he makes of his love life.

Medical Investigation (NBC, Friday at 10): OK, we’ve finally found a forensics investigation-type show that I won’t watch. As I wrote elsewhere about another canceled “all the members of my supersmart team are frowning really hard and talking into high-tech walky-talkies until we solve this problem that’ll kill us all if we don’t figure out the solution in the next three minutes” show, the problem with programs like this is that none of the characters can crack a smile for the entire hour because it’s all so damned serious and deadly. This one is also deadly dull. The lead actor, Neal McDonough, has a face that can only play cops, and the short-handing on the inevitable “I sacrificed my family so I could protect my country” motif was just plain lazy. Television is supposed to be fun. The new season isn’t looking good for NBC thus far.

Jack & Bobby (WB, Sunday at 9): I agree with the Surfergirl—once you know which one of the McCallister brothers is the president of the future, what’s to watch for? The pilot was interesting enough—Jack is appealing and good-looking, and I got a sense of what it must be like to be the big brother reluctantly accepting the burden of making sure his weird little brother adjusts to high-school life; Bobby was quirky and “different” without seeming self-conscious—finally an eccentric and lonely teen who is also quite charming with a personality that’s heart-wrenching without resorting to pity. Christine Lahti is a good actress, but her part’s a bit one-dimensional; she’s a pot-smoking professor mom who wants the best for her boys, but it seems that in every exchange she ends up cajoling and shouting at whoever she’s talking to. (And, professor, don’t get involved with guy from K Street—he’s a pornography addict.) The West Wing-influenced elements (one of the J&B producers served time on TWW) were fun, but that whole flashback from the future thing was done so well in the Spanish movie Noviembre/November that I couldn’t help thinking of the awesome film rather than the so-so TV show. I’d probably watch it again, but without much enthusiasm.

(Weirdly, the theme of a mother treating two brothers differently because one boy had been sick came up in the great Israeli movie about selfishness and selflessness, Bonjour, Monsieur Schlomi, which I saw on Sunday. It was spooky to see the whole mother-brothers theme played out again so soon afterward.)