As a young boy, Abe Lincoln witnesses his Mom being killed by a vampire. But as he seeks revenge, he discovers a plan where vampires conquer the United States. As statesman by day and protector by night, he fights to stop a deadly scourge.
Starring Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper.
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov.
Produced by Jim Lemley, Timur Bekmambetov and Tim Burton.
Genre: Historical Action Horror Drama.
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ABC’s mini-series, Diamonds [Sunday and Tuesday, 9/8C]wants to be the Blood Diamonds of television when it’s more like a morality play that fuses that excellent film with the baser aspects of 24 – and throws in some primetime soap that’s significantly less than 99 & 44/100% pure [or fun…].
When Senator Joan Cameron’s daughter is murdered in the Congo, it sets off a chain reaction that reverberates through the halls of both the U.S. and Congo governments and the offices of the Denmont Corporation – a major wholesale diamond supplier looking to go into retail for the first time.
The high-powered includes Judy Davis [My Brilliant Career] as Senator Cameron; Sir Derek Jacobi [I, Claudius, Gosford Park] as Denmont CEO, Piers Denmont; James Purefoy [Rome], Louise Rose [Eastenders] as Luna Kormoma, Joanne Kelly [Vanished] as Stephanie Dressler, and Stephen McHattie  as Llewellyn Anderson – which guarantees that the cheesy, over-blown script is at least well acted.
That script, by David Vainola and directed by Andy Wilson, is simultaneously overcrowded and simplistic. Arcs include the machinations behind the scenes at Denmont Corporation; the plight of a child soldier in the Congo; a model who becomes the face of Denmont Corporation – and its face; an investigation into the massacre that included the senator’s daughter; and a cantankerous prospector for diamonds in the Canadian Arctic.
The various arcs weave in and out – actually they jump in and out [not much subtlety here] in harsh cuts rather than more elegant transitions. Everyone is so, so serious – the script doesn’t allow much in the way of badly needed comic relief because it’s Saying Something. As a result, the whole thing feels like someone thought that 24 and Dynasty would meld into the general Blood Diamonds concept. The monster diamond at the heart of most of the arcs is beauty, though…
There’s a certain fascination in seeing a world-class cast acting the hell out of a Razzie-worthy production [too bad there’s not a Razzies for television], but it fades well before Diamonds’ four-hour running time. The really sad thing is that Diamonds is a co-production with the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, so it’s a genuine international fiasco. My grading for this is based solely on the performances – otherwise, diamonds would rate an F.
Last year’s mini-series The Starter Wife chronicled the events that led to Molly Kagan’s [Debra Messing] new, less wonderful life after her Hollywood producer husband, Kenny Kagan [David Allen Basche] told her he wanted a divorce. The mini-series did so well that USA decided to bring it back as an ongoing series [Fridays, 9/8C].
The series two-hour premiere finds Molly trying to get motivated as a writer, so she decides to take a writing class being given by bestselling author, Zach McNeill [Hart Bochner]. When she reads from her first children’s book, the class is quietly dismissive – though she does return for a second class where she reads from her journal – to very positive response. Positive enough that Zach invites her to a party where he can get her together with a magazine editor who is looking for a columnist with her skills. Not only does the party go badly for Molly, someone steals her journal and leaks bits of it to an influential gossip website.
Meanwhile, Molly’s friends, Rodney [Chris Diamantopoulos] and Joan McAllister [Judy Davis] have interesting problems of their own. Rodney’ interior decorating business is flourishing while his social life is a disaster. Joan is finding her sobriety difficult to maintain and when she takes a job at a posh rehab facility, her first assignment is watch over a faded movie star who is very creative in his approach to getting drunk.
Like most of USA’s “Characters Welcome” programs, The Starter Wife features a mystery – who stole Molly’s diary. Unlike the rest of USA’s shows, though, it goes more for the odd balance of soap opera storylines and dark humor –both of which Messing and Davis, in particular, can play adroitly. Those moments of pure soap melodrama are folded into a mix that gives the entire cast moments to shine but the success of the series rests squarely on the shoulders of Messing, who does indeed get all the best material [in her dreams she translates her many crises into versions of hit movies – Elizabeth and Mission: Impossible are among the films referenced in the premiere].
While the dark humor and melodrama work relatively well here, The Starter Wife does have a tendency to get a bit too frothy from time to time. If it keeps that tendency under control, the series should be able to hold an audience geared to the kind eccentric characters at which USA programs excel. If not, the show will be hard pressed to survive.