Watching TV So You Don’t Have To

This is TV premiere week for the major U.S. networks. While some shows jumped the gun and started last week, Monday was the beginning of a sudden onrush of new content. And I’ve been paying attention (the sleep in my eyes is a testament to this). Here’s my take after days one and two:

Journeyman on NBC (pronounced Journey Man it seems) is excellent. The basic “average American guy gets afflicted by time travel virus” has been tried before, but never with production values, writing and a cast like this. I think it has staying power.

K-Ville on Fox seems promising too. It’s a fairly standard buddy-cop format, set in New Orleans. But one of the cops is an ex-con, the supporting cast is solid, and the pilot’s story-line was compelling. I’m not as convinced that this show will last; it depends a lot on where episode number two goes.

I get a lot of flack from Catherine for my devotion to The Unit, returning on CBS, mostly because it appears on the surface to be a celebration of the miltary-industrial complex and America’s prowess. Which it is. But it’s also a weekly dose of David Mamet on television, and that’s not be trifled with. Besides, I could watch Dennis Haysbert read the phone book and I think it would be interesting, and I’ve got a crush on Rebecca Pidgeon. Last night’s season opener revealed a snappy new opening credit sequence and a story that was somewhat less celebratory of military might (although things did get blown up).

Catherine also refuses to watch Kid Nation on CBS; she’s offended by its blatant exploitation of children. So am I. But that doesn’t keep me from watching. The show is basically “Survivor for Kids in the Old West” — take 40 kids, dump them in a faux wild west town in the desert, and see what happens. Unfortunately, given that there are kids involved, the show can’t really hope to be a realistic Lord of the Flies remake, and so in lieu of children going insane and eating rats we are given cheesy reality show hi-jinx cut with soulful interviews with mournful 8 year olds. Ultimately it’s not all that interesting, mostly because you know that nothing real is going to happen.

I’ve watch two of the crop of nerd-based shows so far. The Big Bang Theory on CBS stars Johnny Galecki, who I really like in the final seasons of Roseanne back in the 1990s. Alas the show is a tumult of nerd jokes and pop-culture references that seem demographically peppered over the plot rather than central to it. Such as there is a plot. Perhaps it will find an audience. But I won’t be in it. Similarly the drama Chuck on NBC is packed full of pop-culture references, but is a drama in the school of The Greatest American Hero, and indeed shares many of the sensibilities of that ABC show from the 1980s. There’s not much to like about Chuck, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t last more than 3 or 4 episodes before cancellation.

On the DVR and waiting for watching tonight are the season premiere’s of the returning House from Fox and NCIS from CBS. There’s also the U.S. edition of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (I love the U.K. version), the premiere of ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money (which John Doyle glowed about in the Globe this morning), and a big night for NBC with the opening of the Bionic Woman remake and the new drama Life. It’ll be a busy night.


Charles's picture
Charles on September 26, 2007 - 16:16 Permalink

Kitchen Nightmares premiered last week on Fox, and if you are expecting anything even similar to the UK version, you’ll be disappointed.

It’s more “Hell’s Kitchen” than “Kitchen Nightmares”

Chuck McKinnon's picture
Chuck McKinnon on September 26, 2007 - 16:21 Permalink

As someone who’s REALLY not looking forward to hearing “Oh, hey, just like the TV show!” every time he gives his name to motor vehicles, banking, or other personnel: I hope you’re right about the demise of Chuck, the TV show (may my demise, and that of others of like name, be long delayed).

Alan's picture
Alan on September 26, 2007 - 17:45 Permalink

The Unit speaks to the part of me that played GI-Joes in the second half of the 60s. Except the bits about girls.

Dennis's picture
Dennis on September 26, 2007 - 19:20 Permalink

I really enjoyed the first episode of ‘Journeyman’ — and agree, i think it has some staying power. Hopefully NBC will stick with it — they have a tendency of dumping good shows early on in their run.

Derek Martin's picture
Derek Martin on September 26, 2007 - 22:21 Permalink

I miss the old theme music for The Unit.