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TV reviews: ‘Kath & Kim,’ ‘Eleventh Hour,’ ‘The Mentalist,’ ‘Life on Mars’

“Kath & Kim” (Thursdays, NBC): I lasted seven minutes before declaring this adaptation of a popular Australian comedy a lost cause. Molly Shannon and Selma Blair play the dysfunctional but chummy mother and daughter of the title, a pair of vapid, celebrity-gossip-magazine-reading buffoons. Neither character is likable, believable, or — most important — funny. I’m not even sure anyone told Blair that it’s supposed to be a comedy, because her delivery on the punch lines has the same flat monotone as her delivery of the straight lines.

“Eleventh Hour” (Thursdays, CBS): From producer Jerry Bruckheimer comes this generic remake of a British series about a brilliant scientist (Rufus Sewell) who helps the FBI with cases that involve … science. It’s not clear what this means, exactly. I mean, don’t ALL crimes involve science somehow? The law of gravity, at the very least? I think they’re going for particularly unusual scientific applications, as in the first episode, which involves secret cloning. Still, “science” is a little too broad a category to write a show around, and this one is laughably bland. It’s just another show about a “quirky” lead detective and his unamused partner/babysitter. “In science, a negative result is as important as a positive result!” Dr. Science tells us, to remind us how important science is. Science!

“The Mentalist” (Tuesdays, CBS): This one, I like. Yep, it’s another show about a nutty guy solving crimes. But it’s all in the execution. This guy, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), used to have a career as a psychic and showman (think John Edward). Now he helps the “California Bureau of Investigation” (which is totally not just the FBI with a different name) solve crimes by using the talents that made him a good fake mentalist: a knack for observation, reading people’s body language and other cues, and sleight-of-hand magic. The first episode’s mystery was very easy to solve, but Simon Baker is fun to watch. I can see this show being good comfort food: not great, but reasonably intelligent and enjoyable.

“Life on Mars” (Thursdays, ABC): Remade from a British series (yep, another one), this is a sharp, unusual cop drama about a New York detective named Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He’s still a cop, and he’s still working in the same precinct, but it’s 35 years ago. He sometimes hears things that make him think he’s really in a coma in 2008 and dreaming all this … but “all this” sure feels realistic to him. He uses his 2008 know-how to help solve crimes, while adjusting to the rather lax attitudes of law enforcement in 1973 (beating up perps for no reason, blatant sexism, etc.). The concept is intriguing, and the 1973ishness is conveyed convincingly in the sets, costumes, and music. With Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli (from “The Sopranos”) as co-stars, it seems like a torrent of F-words is always on the verge of breaking out. Good thing the show doesn’t air live. Anyway, I’m hooked after the first episode and eager to see where they go with it.

17 Responses to “TV reviews: ‘Kath & Kim,’ ‘Eleventh Hour,’ ‘The Mentalist,’ ‘Life on Mars’”

  1. Richie Says:

    I thought “Kath and Kim” showed a small amount of potential, assuming that the lead actresses figure out who their characters are. I thought John Michael Higgins was great, but that’s probably just my Arrested Development bias showing through.

  2. Adam Says:

    Im upset I missed Life on Mars, I had been looking forward to it then just completely blanked and forgot when it came on. Are you going to be watching My Own Worst Enemy tonight Eric?

  3. Byrd Brain Says:

    The Mentalist sounds similar to USA’s Psyche, no?

  4. Savvy Veteran Says:

    I didn’t like the first few minutes of “Kath & Kim” either, but I thought that after that it was decent. I’m really not sure what the heck Selma Blair is doing, as it seemed like she was merely alternating between ‘pissed off’ and ‘unenthusiastic’ for the whole show. Molly Shannon and John Michael Higgins were funny though, and it seems to me that the show could be pretty good if they retool a little bit. I actually laughed more during “Kath & Kim” than the episode of “The Office” that followed.

    What I could really use right now however, is some new 30 Rock.

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  7. Nate Says:

    I thought Life on Mars was fantastic. My only complaint is that it airs on Thursday night. I’m on the fence about Kath and Kim. I haven’t even heard of the other two.

  8. Fox Says:

    The US Kath and Kim is an odd one.

    Down here in Australia-ville the characters grew out of a popular if broad sketch show in the 90s. Most of the humour in the Australian version is derived from the mangling of language, a bunch of now tired catch phrases and flaunting of all the main casts’ decidedly non-Hollywood physiques.

    The US version has the decidedly un-chunky Selma Blair playing Kim, and is missing the key character in Sharon Strezleki – Kim’s trodden upon rotund nominal best friend altogether. And the language emphasis doesn’t appear to be there either.

    I don’t know how you can take out so many key elements and still call it the same show – which to be fair was not the pinnacle of comedy tv to begin with.

  9. Fox Says:

    Also – the tv show title “The mentalist” is one of the more unintentionally humourous ones I can remember – for Australian and UK audiences at least.

    It’s kind of the equivalent of a serious cop show titled “The Retard”.

  10. Rob D. Says:

    I kind of liked Kath and Kim. It wasn’t amazing, but I didn’t think the first Office episode was that great and now it’s my favorite show. I think it has potential to be really good.

  11. Dave the Slave Says:

    “Do you notice anything diffwent about me today? .. I’m standing on one foot!”

    classic. :-)

  12. CW Says:

    I watched the BBC Life on Mars (thank you, BitTorrent) and loved it. Therefore, I suppose it was inevitable I’d be annoyed by the remake. The casting seemed wrong to me. Jason O’Mara looks too hard-bitten to be Sam, and the police chief is a one-dimensional bully. (The chief on the BBC show is a bully too, but he’s an INTERESTING bully.)

    But this is probably just a case of “it’s different from the first one I saw, so it’s wrong.” (Same thing happens to me with musical revivals.) I’m glad to hear the U.S. show has fans.

    Re: The Mentalist and Psych, they do sound similar on paper, but Mentalist has a darker vibe. Psych (which I also love) is almost pure comedy, while Mentalist is a drama with occasional humor. Simon Baker is terrific, and the idea of a reformed former fake psychic is intriguing. Well worth checking out.

    I enjoyed My Own Worst Enemy too (in spite of the awful title, which makes it sound like a bad reality TV show).

    I was amused by the vague “science” thing in Eleventh Hour too. Other unintentional humor:
    * The impassioned speech that Rufus Sewell gives to the grieving father that ends in “our constituent chemical components.”
    * Marley Shelton as a bodyguard.
    * Marley Shelton as a bodyguard who leaves her protectee alone all night. (What, bad guys don’t attack in the dark?)
    * Marley Shelton as a bodyguard who knows she’s on call 24 hours a day but still sleeps without pajamas, so that when the panic button goes off she has to run through the hotel wearing an open bathrobe over black lingerie.

  13. GWGumby Says:

    I’ve been enjoying the Kath & Kim promos that have run all summer, so I was looking forward to finally seeing it. It didn’t win me over, nor did it seem to impress many others.

    What makes the Mentalist different from Psyche? All the write-ups of it makes it sound exactly the same to me. At least Byrd Brain and I have picked up on it.

    It will be interesting to see where Life On Mars goes. The biggest missing piece from the British show that I remember was the stark difference from the proper procedural almost heartless bureaucratic police work in the present to the more intuitive, instinctive, brutal and technology-less past. Yes there were references to cell phones and computers, but it seemed out of place for Sam to be talking about working on a “hunch” to solve a crime since “hunches” and “gut instinct” are more tools of the past police work not present police work. The whole point of the British show was Sam’s constant clashing with his “proper” future/present police methodologies with past precinct’s sometimes more effective but often improper ways of doing things. As time goes on he learns to go with his gut more and teaches the others to follow the book more.

  14. Ben C. Says:

    Psyche= Guy who wants to be a cop (or at least help them out with cases) pretending to be a psychic
    The Mentalist= Guy who used to pretend to be a psychic as a FBI agent.

    I had the same reaction when I saw the promo’s for “The Mentalist”. I just wish it were as funny as Psyche!

    Isn’t “11th Hour” a saying, basically meaning they bring the guy in at the “11th hour”, when no one has any more ideas as to how the crime was committed, to solve a crime? My whole problem with this is that, if you know the guy is good and can solve these crimes, why wait ’til the 11th hour? Just bring him in right at the beginning and save everyone time and money.

  15. kevith Says:

    I’m sorry that this bugs me enough to post, but it’s called “Psych.” You know, short for “psychology” or what you would say to your friend in 3rd grade after you said you’d give him your favorite Garbage Pail Kid. “Psyche” is something different.

    I had the same reaction about them seeming similar, and admittedly have not seen more than a few minutes of “The Mentalist” yet, but it looks interesting. I mean they really both come down to a guy who uses his powers of observation to be a “psychic.”

    The difference seems to be that one currently pretends to be psychic so he can work for the police while the other used pretend to be psychic and now just works for the police. Yeah, I’m having trouble separating these based on the setup. It’s just that “Psych” aims more toward humor and children of the ’80s.

  16. Dave Says:

    Based on the review + comments, I now will Tivo Kath and Kim and analyze Selma Blair’s performance. So, K+K has managed to attract the strangely-enamoured-of-Selma-Blair-and-likes-strange-things audience.

  17. memikeyounot Says:

    I watched the BBC version of Life on Mars avidly a couple of years ago and loved every episode. I was nervous about this new adaptation, but liked the 1st ep so will continue to DVR it to see where it goes. I’ve never been a fan of Harvey Keitel in anything, so his role will be my least favorite, but maybe I can get over it..

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