Eric D. Snider

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

Monday, October 13th, 2008

“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.

TV reviews: ‘Worst Week,’ ‘Gary Unmarried’

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

“Worst Week” (Mondays, CBS): I laughed a lot at the pilot episode of this fast-paced sitcom, and I was impressed by its enthusiastic embracing of farce and slapstick. It’s a single-camera show (i.e., no studio audience) about a hapless man named Sam who meets, and consistently screws up in front of, his fiancee’s parents. Yes, it’s like “Meet the Parents” — except that unlike Greg Focker, Sam is a likable underdog whose eagerness to please is endearing, not annoying. So many sitcoms are ultimately about guys being screw-ups, so it’s nice to see one that admits up front that that’s all it’s about, and then runs with it. The pilot involved many delightful elements of farce (miscommunication, people presumed dead who are not dead, etc.), and while I got squirmy a few times when I realized how bad things were about to get for Sam, I soon started seeing that as one of the show’s virtues: It’s a hilarious story about a perpetual trainwreck, and thank goodness it’s happening to someone else and not me.

“Gary Unmarried” (Wednesdays, CBS): … And now, after that refreshing bit of humor, we’re back to the same old boring thing. “Gary Unmarried” stars Jay Mohr as a newly divorced housepainter sharing custody of his two children with his ex-wife (who’s now dating their marriage counselor, haw haw!). It’s another bumbling-dad/horny-men/sass-mouthed-teenagers/bitter-ex-wife TV show, and it stands apart from the thousand similar shows in no discernible way. I chuckled a couple times during the pilot — not enough to watch the show again.

Ortega does what now?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

If you have not already seen the Ortega commercial featuring Olympic gymnasts Shawn Johnson and the Hamm twins, you must watch it immediately. You must subsequently refrain from making vulgar comments. Personally, I find the unwitting double entendre of Johnson’s declarations to be the least trainwreck-y part of the commercial’s overall embarrassment.

Also: How did Paul and Morgan Hamm, who are twins and grew up together, come out pronouncing the word “Ortega” differently?

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TV review: “Fringe”

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

“Fringe” (Wednesdays, Fox): The new show from “Lost” and “Alias” creator J.J. Abrams is promising, though the almost-double-length pilot episode was filled with contrivances and clichés. Then again, it surprised me several times, too, so I guess you take the good with the bad. It’s about an FBI agent named Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) who’s recruited to help the Bureau investigate weird phenomena, with a civilian genius named Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) and his crazy scientist father (John Noble) assisting in an unofficial capacity. Now, how you can make a show about the FBI dealing with paranormal activity and not mention “The X-Files,” I don’t know. But the pilot suggests that, unlike in “The X-Files,” all the stuff they’re going to be investigating is somehow tied together — “The Pattern,” they keep calling it. (Yes, I know some “X-Files” things were tied together, but certainly not all of them.) An evil corporation run by a lady who has a robot arm is involved. Also, I believe they can reanimate the dead. Things like that keep me intrigued, the central characters have potential, and the writing is snappy. I’m gonna stick with it.

TV reviews: “Do Not Disturb,” “Privileged,” “Hole in the Wall”

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

“Do Not Disturb” (Wednesdays, Fox): Traditional laugh-track sitcom set in an upscale New York City hotel, where the employees sleep with each other and make saucy remarks about the guests. Niecy Nash, hilarious as Raineesha Williams on “Reno 911!,” feels very reined-in and restricted as the hotel’s H.R. supervisor; Jerry O’Connell (aka the fat kid from “Stand By Me”) is a little livelier as the hotel manager. There’s absolutely nothing special about the show, but the pilot episode made me chuckle a few times, and the characters are all vaguely likable. I would say it’s the kind of show you watch if you’re flipping channels and it happens to be on, or if it comes on right after something good — except that we live in the age of TiVo, and such primitive TV-watching methods are outdated.

“Privileged” (Tuesdays, CW): This is a surprisingly watchable lightweight dramedy about a Yale graduate and would-be writer who gets hired to tutor a pair of hellacious teenage billionaire girls. The tutor, played by Joanna Garcia (who apparently was on “Reba”), has a perky, quirky vibe that reminds me of Sarah Michelle Gellar, while the two girls — one secretly studious while the other aspires to be Paris Hilton — have more angles to their personalities than I would have expected. There’s also some backstory with the tutor, who grew up here in Palm Beach and has an estranged sister and father still in town. I actually laughed out loud several times during the pilot episode, which breezed by rather enjoyably, and I was interested in what would happen to the characters. I just might keep this one on the agenda.

“Hole in the Wall” (Tuesdays, Fox): The Americanization of popular Japanese game shows is all the rage right now, but while “Wipeout” is genuinely funny, “Hole in the Wall” is merely loud and shrill. Literally everything that is said by the hosts and the contestants is yelled rather than spoken. The game involves three-person teams standing in front of a wall that’s moving toward them. The wall has shapes cut out of it; the contestants have to position their bodies to fit the cut-outs, lest the wall smash into them and knock them into a pool of water. The actual game play is certainly entertaining, but it adds up to about five minutes of a 30-minute episode. The rest is ridiculous posturing and trash-talking between the teams (so embarrassing) and cheesy banter between the hosts (soooo embarrassing). Thanks to TiVo, you could watch the enjoyable parts and skip the rest, but why bother?

New series added to TV schedule

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I’ve updated my previous list of season-premiere dates to include brand-new series. There aren’t as many new shows this year as there usually are (more fallout from the writers’ strike), so it shouldn’t be too hard to check out the ones that look promising. It helps that several of the new entries are on the CW, which makes it easy to write them off.

TV season premiere dates

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I stole this from E! Online. (Thanks, Kristin!) Please note that this schedule is only for returning shows. The schedule for premiere dates of brand-new series is forthcoming. Also, note that times are for the Pacific and Eastern time zones. Everything airs an hour earlier in the Mountain and Central zones. (Why? These reasons.)

UPDATE: I’ve added the new shows to the schedule. They’re marked with an asterisk. This info comes from The Futon Critic. If something is wrong or missing, take it up with them.

Monday, Sept. 1
Gossip Girl (CW), 8 p.m.
One Tree Hill (CW), 9 p.m.
Prison Break (Fox), 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 2
The Shield (FX), 10 p.m.
*90210 (CW), 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 3
America’s Next Top Model (CW), 8 p.m.
Bones (Fox), 8 p.m.

Continue reading…

The good news is, we got you a part…

Monday, August 25th, 2008

My friend Luscious Malone and I like to say this when we’re watching a movie or TV show in which an actor appears onscreen only briefly and only to do or say something dumb, demeaning, or embarrassing. For example:

“The good news is, we got you a part. The bad news is, you play Adam Sandler’s Elderly Sexual Partner #3 in ‘Zohan.’

Or:

“The good news is, we got you a part on ‘Lost.’ The bad news is, you’re going to emerge from one of the Others’ houses just in time to get shot.”

Last night I was watching an old TiVoed episode of “Law & Order: SVU” when I found myself saying this:

“The good news is, we got you a part. The bad news is, you play a forensics technician whose only line is telling Detective Benson at a Central Park murder scene, ‘My team’s looking for sperm clusters and foliage smears.’ Learn that line really well! Deliver it with gusto! Then be sure to put it on your demo tape!”

My team’s looking for sperm clusters and foliage smears. Yeesh. Thanks, SVU. You’re delightful.

Filed under: friends, uninterested in making

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Those of you who watch a lot of reality TV may find this montage amusing. Those of you who don’t watch a lot of reality TV may be reminded of why you don’t.

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Eric’s a guest at ‘The Watchers’ podcast

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Do you enjoy listening to movie geeks talk about movies and TV and video games and movies? Me too! And the nice folks at Always Watching were kind enough to invite me on as a guest geek for this week’s podcast (which is entitled The Watchers). You can view a rundown of what we discuss, and also listen to the podcast itself, and also subscribe to the podcast, here. (A mild warning: I think there’s some naughty language at one point, though I don’t remember when or how much.)

We recorded it Tuesday night, at which time it also was being streamed live for whoever happened to be listening. The regular crew is David Chen (who’s a big fan of mine, inexplicably), Devindra Hardawar, and Adam Quigley; guests were me, Myles McNutt of Cultural Learnings, and Alex Billington of First Showing. A good time was had by all. I think they talked more than I did, though, because I’m nervous around strangers, especially when I can only hear the strangers and not see them.

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