All posts by Sheldon Wiebe

James Woods Gives Shark Weight!

Shark - James WoodsDo we really need another lawyer show? CBS thinks so – and they've lured James Woods to star in Shark [Thursdays, 10 p.m.], a series that has been described as "House in a courtroom. That's not entirely the case – though Sebastien Stark [Woods] is definitely not the most likable guy on TV…

Six days after winning his latest high-profile case, Sebastien Stark is driving along, singing along with Mack The Knife when he gets a phone call. The man he defended has killed his wife. Stark breaks down. Then the mayor, Manuel Delgado [Carlos Gomez], offers him a position in the D.A.'s office – and gives him three good reasons why he'll take it. Amazingly, Stark takes the job!

Now the nastiest, snarkiest defense lawyer in the known universe is prosecuting, and D.A. Jessica Devlin [Jeri Ryan, Dark Skies, Star Trek: Voyager] assigns him a miserable case: a young woman on trial for murder, who claims she was defending herself against a rape. Even better, Devlin assigns him a team that consists solely of lawyers who are in her bad books. Best of all, the defense has unlimited funds and the case goes to court in forty-eight hours!

Meanwhile, Stark's relationship with his daughter, Julie [Danielle Pannabaker, Sky High], is rapidly deteriorating – in spite of her best efforts – and the Starks are due in court to set her custody in a very short while. For Stark, it's the worst of times and the worst of times…

Cast Photo - Shark

With forty-eight hours until trial, Stark shows that, whether he's on the side of the angels or no, he's one mean motherscooter. He builds his team's morale by rattling off a list of their shortcomings and introducing them to his "Cutthroat Manifesto" – three rules with which he tries every case: 1. Trial is war – second place is death; 2. Truth is relative – pick one that works; 3. In a jury trial, there only twelve opinions that matter – and yours is, most assuredly, not one of them!

On the plus side of the ledger, his team is joined by Madeline Poe [Sarah Carter], a hungry, ambitious young lawyer who plans to go into private practice and wants to learn from the best. "Sucking up," notes Stark, "always a good tactic." On the negative, he upbraids one of his team, and she says, "If I'm such a screw up, why don't you fire me?" he fires her! [How to win friends and influence people – not!]

Much of the trial material is standard stuff – though Stark's full-scale basement courtroom [made with items from famous old courtrooms] is not only different, but also the one over-the-top note in the show. His use of mock juries and forensics echoes that of the previously premiered "Justice," but his family issues are definitely his own.

Danielle Pannabaker shines as his daughter. She obviously cares about her dad – in spite of his absent-minded parental behavior. She makes one of the most important decisions in the premiere, and makes it for the most logical reasons – but it works on an emotional level because of what she brings to it. Plus, she provides the most cogent analysis of Stark's new career as a prosecutor: "I really thought you'd changed. It turns out you just changed sides."

Woods owns the screen whenever he's on and the only cast member – other than Pannabaker] who holds her own with him is Ryan, who's more-than-slightly-disgruntled D.A. Devlin gives as good as she gets. Stark's team is mostly colorless [not in terms of diversity, but in terms of presence] and it remains to see if they'll be developed at all – one of the strength's of House, of course, being that House's team has been developing as characters since Day One.


Spike Lee directed the premiere, and he does a good job of taking material that's only slightly better than average and playing it up. Lee is a genius and between his direction and performances from Woods, Ryan and Pannabaker, I'm definitely interested enough to see if the series can develop into top-flight entertainment. For now, though, it's the main cast that makes Shark worth watching – and they are spectacular.

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Kidnapped: Classy, Suspenseful Serial Punches Up NBC’s Schedule!

Kidnapped - Cast Photo 1Kidnapped [NBC, Wednesdays, 10. p.m.] is the second network series to revolve around the kidnapping of a member of a VIP family [FOX, Vanished premiered two weeks ago], but it is a much better series on almost every level. The premiere introduces the main players on all sides: the family of the kidnapped boy; the kidnappers; a freelance retrieval expert, and the FBI…

Jericho: Small Town Apocalypse!

Jericho - Mushroom cloudIt's been a while since we had a good post-apocalyptic series on TV. Jericho [CBS, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.] may well develop into just such a show. The series relates how the people of Jericho deal with the possibility that they may be the last enclave of civilization in America…


Jake Green [Skeet Ulrich] has returned home for the first time in five years, and plans to stay just long enough to claim his inheritance from his grandfather. For every person who asks where he's been, he has a different answer [The Army. The Navy. Playing minor league baseball….]. When his father, Jericho's mayor, Johnson Green [Gerald McRaney] refuses his request, Jake hops in his car and heads out of town. Then it happens – a mushroom cloud appears on the horizon, in the direction of Denver.

The rest of the premiere finds Jake and the people of Jericho dealing with one seeming calamity after another: a school bus is late returning from a field trip; a teenaged boy plays back a disturbing phone message; the town's power goes out; things fall from the sky… The basic problem with as ambitious a pilot as Jericho, is that there is so much initial set-up required that most of the show's core eleven-to-thirteen characters don't get a lot of character development.

What Steven Chbosky has done, in writing the pilot, is focus on the characters of Jake Green and his father, the mayor of Jericho, Johnson. We get a good sense of their dynamic, which leads to peripheral encounters with other characters being informed by it. Thus, we see Jake's better side when he's placed into a pressure cooker situation on the school bus, and Johnson's better side comes to the fore when he has to deal with a rapidly deteriorating situation at a gas station.

Chbosky also gives us glimpses of the spunk of Heather Lisinski [Sprague Grayden], a schoolteacher on the bus; the pain of Dale Turner [Erik Knudsen], the young man who receives the disturbing phone message; and the sense of mystery around former St. Louis policeman, Robert Hawkins [Lennie James] – who seems a lot about a lot of different things…

Jericho - Cast Photo

In next week's ep, Fallout, Chbosky focuses a bit more on Emily [Ashley Scott], who has an apparently not-so-hot past with Jake, and Bonnie [Shoshannah Stern], a deaf woman who livers on a farm just outside of town. The action concerns a couple of escaped convicts and the impending arrival of radioactive rainfall – and the town's preparations to survive it.

While the premiere shows a lot of potential – there's so much going on and so little character development – that it might not seem like a must-see series. I'd suggest you give the show a couple more eps before making a decision. By the second episode, we're learning more about the townspeople and getting a bit more information about the nuclear event witnessed in the premiere. Indeed, by the end of Fallout, we'll know more than all but one of the townspeople…

Jericho is an ambitious series, and while it barely skims the surface of its potential in the premiere, it appears that each successive episode builds nicely upon its predecessor. The technical aspects of the show [cinematography, direction, etc.] are top-notch, and the cast is more than up to the challenge of adding depth to their characters while each ep spotlights one or two more.

The main thrust of the series is to examine a post-apocalyptic world that isn't necessarily a worldwide desert, where the immediate threat isn't gangs of bloodthirsty bikers. This is a world where small town values get examined, in detail; a world where even the littlest child can show surprising courage. There may even be some aspects of Jericho deal with redemption and corruption. If you go into Jericho with any expectations, at all, you may find them being dashed. It's that kind of show.

Grade: B+

Indie Central: Hard Candy, The Proposition, District B13, Dead Man’s Shoes

Hard Candy Box ArtSome of this month's best DVD releases are indie films with small budgets and huge imaginations. Hard Candy is a psychological study that pits a young girl against a pedophile; The Proposition is a sprawling Down Under western that examines all sorts of moral dilemmas; District B13 is simply the summer's best pure action flick; and Dead Man's Shoes is a wicked spin on the revenge flick that calls in question the nature of justice.






Hard Candy - Ellen Page

Hard Candy

Following a brief internet exchange, fourteen-year old Hayley [Ellen Page] heads off to meet Jeff [Patrick Wilson], a thirtysomething photographer at a local caf

CBS Opens Season With Comedy Block: Call It Fun Monday!

Class PictureFor the second season in a row, CBS kicks off their fall schedule with an evening of sitcoms – call it Fun Monday – this Monday evening. What may the fall season's best new sitcom, The Class, premieres at 8:00 p.m. The near-hit sophomore shows How I Met Your Mother [8:30 p.m.] and The New Adventures of Old Christine [9:30 p.m.] also return [the less said about the glib and overplayed Two And A Half Men, the better]. CLICK THIS LINK TO SUBSCRIBE TO EMTV, OUR ITUNES VIDEO PODCAST!!









The Class 1a

The Class

From what I've seen in the series' first three episodes, The Class may well be the class of new network sitcoms, this season. The premise is a bit of a stretch – but it's played against itself so well that it works.

Ethan Haas [Jason Ritter] has planned a special party to mark the 20th anniversary of the day he and his fianc

TVonDVD: Grey’s Anatomy, Season Two; Lost, Season 2; House, M.D., Season 2; Masters of Horror: Dance of the Dead

Grey's Anatomy - Season 2 Box ArtWhy are hit TV shows hit TV shows? "Grey's Anatomy" mixes primetime soap with medical series to achieve something unique; "Lost" is a hybrid of ongoing series and anthology; "House" is Sherlock Holmes in a hospital and "Masters of Horror" [and especially "Dance of the Dead" is all about letting top-flight directors having free reign… CLICK THIS LINK TO SUBSCRIBE TO EMTV, OUR iTUNES VIDEO PODCAST!!





Upgrading Star Trek: Get The Lowdown From Those Involved!

Digital Enterprise 1On Tuesday, September 5th, John Nogawski [President of CBS Paramount Domestic Television], Dave Rossi and Michael Okuda [Visual Effects Producers on the Remastering of Star Trek] held a conference call to discuss the in and outs of their decision to upgrade the opening credits and effects shots in "Star Trek: The Original Series" – and score the classic Trek episodes with all-new music – to celebrate the series 40th Anniversary on September 8th.

Participants included: Will Shilling [Wireless Network], Bill Hunt [Digital Bits], Rob Owen [Pittsburgh Gazette], Matt Mitovich [], Ed Gross [Movie Magic/SFX], Patrick Lee [], Anthony Pascale [], Abbie Bernstein [Dream Watch], Robert Sanchez [], Raoul Mowatt [MSN], Vince Horiuchi [Salt Lake Tribune], Sean Elliott [IF Magazine], and Robert Ivins [TV Guide]. [Note, because of minor day surgery, I had to miss the call but Paramount provided a transcript.]