Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Defenders Pilot

 Jerry O'Connell Pete Kaczmarek Jim Belushi Nick Morelli The Defenders pilot prison window
I have to say, I liked the pilot of The Defenders more than I thought I would. This Jim Belushi/Jerry O'Connell buddy lawyer show was feisty and fun, and smarter than expected. There are wisecracks and testosterone-y posturing, but the court case was handled seriously, with some good detective work by Morelli (Belushi) and lawyer newbie Lisa Tyler (Jurnee Smollett). It's nowhere near as wacky as Boston Legal, but it finds a similar balance between drama and comedy that's enjoyable.

Belushi is great here, with a combo of seasoned, smartass Vegas lawyer and broken-hearted man devastated by an impending divorce. Jerry O'Connell once again finds a way to make being a sleazy arrogant jerk somehow adorably charming. The two have a good rapport, and it'll be fun to watch the bromance develop on The Defenders as they work through cases and personal issues together.

Jurnee Smollett (Friday Night Lights) is also likable in The Defenders, though her role felt a little underdeveloped. O'Connell's scenes with her felt like he was doing a drive-by on the way to getting back to the good stuff with Belushi, and I'm hoping that changes.

For the other women characters on The Defenders, we have 80s-eyeshadowed receptionist Zoe (Tanya Fischer, who you may remember as free spirit Windy on the excellent Life on Mars). Zoe is a bit flaky and hands everyone their messages on heart-shaped post-it-notes, but she's got it together--enough to even scam the wily Kaczmarek (O'Connell) out of hard-to-get show tickets.

Kaczmarek also has a hate/sex relationship with D.A. Meredith Cramer (Natalie Zea), which was the weakest aspect of the show. Cramer is a cliche hardass woman character, a Barbie doll lawywer with vacant eyes, and so thin she looks like she might break in half. The only plus for this male-centric show is that she's at least not a teenager, but they're going to have to make Cramer a lot more interesting for me to accept this part of The Defenders plot.

All in all, The Defenders is definitely worth pursuing if the pilot is indicative of the rest of the series. It looks like it might be a nice breezy antidote to the rougher, gorier procedurals that are the norm these days. If Smollett gets more action, the bromance flourishes, and the court cases stay sharp, this will be a fun mid-week guilty pleasure.

Watch The Defenders on CBS, Wednesdays at 10/9c.

PHOTO: Jerry O'Connell as Pete Kaczmarek and Jim Belushi as Nick Morelli in The Defenders pilot, screencap c2010 CBS Paramount Network Television.

The Best Lisbon / Jane Moments on 'The Mentalist'

A highlight of successful series "The Mentalist" is watching the developing relationship between by-the-book CBI Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and irreverent, eccentric consultant Patrick Jane. With a constant exchange of heated banter, wry looks, and friendly competition, Lisbon and Jane gradually show us their mutual respect and affection for one another. Lisbon's professionalism and Jane's tortured past prevent this from developing into a true romance, but if you watch carefully, these five episodes of "The Mentalist" give us tantalizing moments of both sweetness and flirtation between our two heroes.

Season 1, Episode 6: "Red-handed"
While investigating the death of a casino owner on "The Mentalist," Jane manages to rake in a fortune by counting cards at blackjack. His newfound wealth and generosity leads to a fun scene at a bar, with the casually dressed agents sporting a quarter million dollars worth of jewelry. The practical Lisbon has an attack of conscience over the extravagance, but Jane smoothly protests: "I know those emeralds look lovely with your eyes." Lisbon blushes like a schoolgirl but relinquishes the necklace, gently laying a hand across Jane's back in thanks before she takes off.

Season 1, Episode 11: "Red John's Friends"
When a convict with a link to Red John is discovered dead at the serial killer's hands, Jane is devastated by both the loss of life and the loss of a lead to his wife and child's killer. As he sits on a hotel room bed near the crime scene, staring vacantly, Lisbon visibly struggles with how to comfort him. With the look in her eyes and just the slightest brush of her hand against his arm, we sense the tenderness she feels for the emotionally walled-off Jane.

Patrick Jane Simon Baker Teresa Lisbon Robin Tunney The Mentalist

Season 1, Episode 16: "Blindness"
Lisbon and Jane barely escape a car bomb with their lives, and the explosion blinds Jane temporarily. Fearing the disability might be permanent, Jane lashes out at everyone and insists on working despite orders to rest. It becomes evident how close Lisbon and Jane are becoming, as Lisbon is able to maneuver through the minefield of Jane's personal boundaries to take care of him. We get rewarded with a pure moment of Lisbon and Jane affection on "The Mentalist," with a sweetly sensual scene where the blinded Jane reaches out to gently trace the smile on Lisbon's face.

Season 2, Episode 1: "Redemption"
Jane takes his bluntness about the futility of police work too far this time, and Lisbon's angry enough to take off in the SUV and leave him behind at a crime scene. Jane later apologizes with a conciliatory gift of fresh strawberries, and a desperate plea to work: "I have nothing else to do." Moved by the intensity of his declaration, Lisbon concedes. "The Mentalist" viewers, and Lisbon, get a pleasant surprise as Jane warmly embraces her with heartfelt thanks.

Season 2, Episode 11: "Rose-colored Glasses"
While investigating a case at a high school reunion, Jane tries to guess what sort of girl Lisbon was -- and what instrument she played. Lisbon is amused that Jane keeps getting it totally wrong. At the end of the reunion, Jane asks Lisbon to dance, and urges her to pretend he was the boy she crushed on back in high school. Lisbon won't give in to his baiting, but she agrees to the dance. It's the sweetest and most romantic moment between the pair yet on "The Mentalist," as the two hold each other close and sway to the music. "Trombone?" Jane asks, his final guess. "Nope," Lisbon replies, and then she closes her eyes and nestles into the crook of his neck.

We're left wanting more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Raising Hope Pilot & My Brief Interaction with Running Wilde

Raising Hope pilot screencaps images photos pictures Martha Plimpton Virginia Lucas Neff Jimmy Chance Garret Dillahunt Burt baby
Yeah, I'm not sure about Raising Hope. I suspect I'm not the target audience for FOX comedies. I'll be honest--I only tuned in to watch because there was nothing else on that I wanted to watch, and I LOVE Martha Plimpton.

When I first saw ads online for Raising Hope, I actually thought Martha Plimpton was going to be the mother of baby Hope. I was a bit taken aback that the 40 year old Plimpton was actually playing the mother of the very very grown-up Jimmy (Lucas Neff)--until they explained she'd been 15 when she gave birth to him.

I can't really imagine the writing room that came up with Raising Hope. It's part Rosanne/The Middle lower class family drama and part absurdist comedy from Planet WTF? Jimmy is driving down the street and picks up a screaming woman who's being chased down the street by an angry man. Grateful for her rescue, the woman promptly has sex with Jimmy in the van. The next morning, the family is enamored with Jimmy's new girlfriend--until they discover she's a murderous fugitive. Then Mama Chance hits her over the head with a TV and they turn her into the police.

Hilarious, right? It gets better. Jimmy visits murderer girl in prison and finds out she's pregnant with his child. He brings the baby to her execution--but don't worry, he covers the baby's eyes as its mother is electrocuted. Are you rolling on the floor yet?

I was ready to write off Raising Hope as Not For Me, but the second half picked up. Neff brings sweet charm to the hapless Jimmy, who has some warm and funny scenes with a grocery store clerk played by Shannon Woodward. Plimpton also brings her excellent wry delivery and comic timing to scenes with the baby and Neff, and there's actually a really sweet moment when Mom and Dad Chance sing 70s tunes to baby Hope to quiet her.

(I suspect there are also quite a few people out there who appreciated the nostaligic humor of riding in cars as a kid--in the days before you were supposed to be strapped in like an astronaut--and avoiding the rusted hole in the floor. Good times.)

The sweet and charming moments in Raising Hope, and the truly funny slapstick, make it all the more jarring when the show veers into gross-out or whack job territory. It doesn't need to try so hard to be "kooky" or "wild". A scene involving vomiting was actually funny--when it happened off screen. Once it actually hit the screen, it ceased to be funny.

On the strength of Neff and Plimpton, I may give Raising Hope the two episode test to decide if it's worth pursuing. On the other hand, the new show Running Wilde with Will Arnett and Keri Russell couldn't even get me to the opening credits--or Keri Russell. After a few minutes of watching Will Arnett in painfully awkward and "look how funny we are!" scenes, including some weird photoshop disaster, I had to turn it off. Maybe there was something entertaining farther along, but I just couldn't wait.

Raising Hope and Running Wilde air on FOX, Tuesday nights at 9/8c.

PHOTO: Raising Hope pilot screencap, c2010 20th Century Fox Television.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Event Pilot : "I Haven't Told You Everything"

Jason Ritter Sean Walker airplane hijack The Event pilot I Haven't Told You Everything screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capture
Okay, I have to admit, I was pleasantly blown away by elements of tonight's pilot episode of The Event: "I Haven't Told You Everything". In today's world of spoilers and commercials that give away too much, it was nice to know I had some preconceptions of the plot that turned out to be completely wrong. There was one out-and-out gasp moment and the big end surprise which I had a suspicion of only slightly before it actually happened. Despite some irritating flaws in character development, all in all, The Event pilot made for good, dramatic TV.

My reservation about The Event pilot early on was in Jason Ritter, who plays Sean Walker, a man who hijacks a plane for reasons other than the ones we initially suspect. Ritter is paired up with fresh-faced beach beauty Leila Buchanan (actress Sarah Roemer), and something about that pairing just felt off to me. Though only four years apart, my immediate impression was that Roemer was way younger than Ritter. I suspect Ritter is supposed to be playing a younger character than his real life 30 years of age, so they gave him some college boy facial hair to try and make him seem like a casual free spirit type--but oddly, Ritter looks a lot younger without the scruffiness.

*SPOILER ALERT* It was a relief as the plot of The Event pilot progressed, and Ritter and Roemer got some more time to develop their characters. As we got another view of Leila's family and another angle on the story, I started to care more about the fate of the characters as well. Once the action heated up on the plane, and in the flashback when Leila goes missing, Ritter also seemed to hit his stride on the dramatic level. It may just be a lack of chemistry between the actors throwing off the earlier scenes, which is a problem when it's an extremely important relationship in the plot of The Event.

Also difficult to overlook in The Event pilot were some boneheaded moves by the characters. After diving off a cliff into the ocean and saving a drowning woman's life, Sean ends up spending his romantic cruise with Leila as a foursome with the woman and her boyfriend. Leila and Sean justifiably find the couple a little creepy, but Sean still decides to go snorkeling with the woman--without his girlfriend or her boyfriend. Who would do that? He's getting ready to propose to the woman he loves on a love boat, and so he spends the morning with some strange woman he met on the beach? I don't think so.

Even more boneheaded is Leila's parents at home. A big point in the plot is that Leila's parents are overprotective, and keep phoning her on her trip to check on her and what she's doing. Then they send their 7 year old daughter outside in the driving rain--without a coat--to retrieve her bicycle, and they don't accompany her or even watch her out of the window. Who is writing this stuff?

It was also a bit annoying to watch The Event pilot scene where the President (Blair Underwood), his family, and all of the Secret Service sit and stare at an airplane barreling towards them instead of trying to get the hell out of there. While I can buy being paralyzed by fear for some of the characters, I have to think that at least one of the agents would be shoving the President into the car and at least attempting to peel out of the driveway at 200mph.

That said, the mystery elements of The Event pilot were intriguing, and I liked the way that shifting the point of view and replaying an earlier scene created all sorts of cool revelations. It was a surprise to realize Sean wasn't a crazy hijacker, but someone who was actually trying to save everyone on the plane. My big gasp moment came when we discovered that murderous pilot behind the locked door was actually Leila's father--no doubt coerced with threats against his family.

I'm also curious about the secret facility with detained folks working in labs, who have a "leader" in Sophia (ER's Laura Innes). Sophia knows more than she's telling, hence The Event's pilot title: "I Haven't Told You Everything". As Sophia and the President and everyone else stood and watched the plane on its death run, I suddenly suspected something Dramatic was about to happen. Though I don't think I was prepared for the plane vanishing into some sort of time warp/shift/black hole/vortex. Pretty cool stuff.

Questions about The Event abound now, which is a good way of getting us to tune in to the next episode. Where is the plane, and who saved the people on the ground? Who kidnapped (or killed) Leila, and is the rest of her family alive? What was the point of wiping Sean and Leila's existence from the cruise merely for a kidnapping? Were they hoping to take Sean out of play as well?

And, of course, what is "The Event" that Sophia mentioned?

The Event has an intriguing premise, but I think it will have to keep up the spectacular surprises to keep me on board. I'm feeling gun-shy after elaborate serials like Battlestar Galactica and Lost failed to answer all of those cool questions they asked along the way. It's not enough to set up mind-boggling mysteries--you've got to include a payoff.

Word is that The Event will give us some big answers next week. Hopefully the answers will make us want to tune in again, rather than tune out.

The Event airs on Mondays, at 9/8c on NBC.

PHOTO: Jason Ritter as Sean Walker in "I Haven't Told You Everything", The Event pilot screencap c2010 NBC.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kim Kardashian Is Not a Pedophile; Justin Bieber Is a Flirt

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber work together on the set of their Elle photoshoot.

Never in a million years did I think I'd be defending reality star, famous-for-being-famous, Kim Kardashian. But the latest uproar over her Elle photoshoot and mild flirtations with 16 year old Justin Bieber have gotten completely out of hand. Besides making a mountain out of a molehill, the world apparently still thinks that older men/younger women is hot, and younger men/older women is "gross".

It's always amazing to me how thoroughly people can live with blinders on, never paying attention to those teenage female models in sexy photoshoots and young girls in films with men decades older than them--but the moment Demi Moore ogles a man 15 years her junior, all hell breaks loose.

Now we have Kim Kardashian, a 29 year old who's being called a "cougar" at best, and pedophile at worst. All this for basically standing in the proximity of a teenager and not acting like a nun. Perhaps we can forgive the insulting tweets from hormonal teens and crazy pre-teens, but the rest of the world definitely needs to grow up.

Want all the scoop on the Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian "courtship"? Want to know what Chelsea Handler thinks about her boy Bieber's "betrayal"? You can check out the full story in "Kim Kardashian Is Not a Pedophile; Justin Bieber Is a Flirt."

PHOTO: Screencap from behind the scenes video of the Elle photoshoot, c2010


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