Tag Archives: NBC

TELEVISION: NBC’s Crusoe Is Swashbuckling Fun!

One of the last of the new fall programs to be broadcast, NBC’s Crusoe [Fridays, 8/7C] is allegedly a radical retelling of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel, though it fudges on his background [slave owners not being particularly well thought of these days] and utilizes the “Lost Method” of storytelling.

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Here, Crusoe [Philip Winchester] is a newly married inventor/weaver who is off to the Americas to purchase equipment and materials to speed up his production and make him and his new wife, Susannah [Anna Walton] rich – or at least filthy, stinking well off. When his ship is wrecked by a combination of storm and rocky island coastline, he is the only survivor.

When a number of cannibals arrive on the island to sacrifice one of their number to the gods, Crusoe rescues him and, because he couldn’t possibly begin to pronounce the man’s name, he dubs him Friday [Tongayi Chirisa]. It just so happens that Friday is no savage – he speaks a dozen languages and has other knowledge and skills [archery among them].

When a band of pirates comes ashore in search of treasure – following a map tattooed on the back of one of them – things get very dicey, very quickly. Fortunately, both Crusoe and Friday are inventive and capable of thinking on their feet. It doesn’t hurt that Crusoe has plundered the remains of his ship and created a very comfortable refuge for himself – and some nasty surprises for unwanted guests.

Crusoe’s story is told from his point of view, in his present – but his life before the shipwreck is told in flashback. Thus we watch Crusoe trying to deal with the pirates in his present, and learn about the horrors of his childhood and the joys of his new marriage in flashbacks that are sparked by events in his present. It’s all very cool – and informative – but it doesn’t lead to amazing discoveries of either natural or supernatural natures. It’s all just glorious swashbuckling fun.

The show’s cinematography is amazing, though it helps to have a beautiful island to provide exquisite scenery. The main cast members are more than up to the swashbuckling and show themselves capable of carrying the darker, more dramatic moments. It seems a bit odd to put such a show on Fridays, but it offers a bit of pure entertainment, and that might help it survive TV’s dead zone. While there will undoubtedly be a certain amount of continuity, I suspect that we will be able to watch individual episodes without having to know every little detail of what has gone before – which also makes it easy to enjoy.

Final Grade: B

TELEVISION: My Own Worst Enemy – Jekyll & Hyde & The Spying Game!

Call it a hunch, but I suspect that NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy [Mondays, 10/9C] will be greeted by a lot of critics with cries of “It’s silly,” and “What the heck was that?” – which is kind of a shame. The series, which stars Christian Slater as super-spy/sociopath Edward Albright and nice guy husband/father/efficiency expert, Henry Spivey, is a hybrid of the Bourne movies and the latest British mini-series take on Jekyll & Hyde, Jekyll.

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When Spivey begins to remember being in places like Paris – where’s he’s never been, it leads to a bleeding of two distinct identities into each other. He soon learns that other employees of his consultants firm also have two identities and that he has been manufactured to give espionage superstar Edward Albright a completely effective cover for his downtime between assignments.

This causes problems for both personalities – Spivey suddenly awakens during one of Albright’s assignments and Albright wakes up in Spivey’s life. The results cause havoc for their boss/handler, Mavis Heller [Alfre Woodard], who might have to erase Spivey – but the two personalities figure out how to communicate with each other [in the same way that Tom Jackman and Hyde communicated in the Jekyll mini-series] and things begin to take even stranger turns.

I’m not saying that My Own Worst Enemy isn’t far-fetched. I’m not even saying that it doesn’t get silly in spots. What I am saying is that, like the BBC with Jekyll, NBC is taking a risk with a series that tries to do something fresh and different. I’m saying that My Own Worst Enemy is an entertaining hour of dark and light; a series that combines family drama and spy show with some genuine imagination. It blends Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Ludlum in a way that shoots for the fence – and might just pull it off, in time.

Slater does some decent work with both characters – and their lives. Besides Woodard, the excellent cast includes Madchen Amick [Mrs. Angelica Spivey], Saffron Burrows [Dr. Norah Skinner, the psychiatrist who monitors Spivey for problems associated with Edward], Mike O’Malley [Henry’s best friend, Tom/Edward’s fellow spy, Raymond], and Bella Thorne and Taylor Lautner [Henry’s children, Ruth and Jack].

The series creator, Jason Smilovic [Karen Sisco, Lucky Number Slevin, Kidnapped, Bionic Woman], may be onto something here. His pilot script, Breakdown, may be more than a little overstuffed, but director David Semel keeps it moving and hits some prime beats from the get-go. Simply put, there’s more here to like than not.

Final Grade: B-

TELEVISION: Heroes Returns With a Bang!

Tim Kring and his creative team on Heroes [Mondays, 8/7C] have heard their show’s fans. Heroes returns with one helluva bang, giving us the answer to last season’s cliffhanger – who shot Nathan Petrelli [Adrian Pasdar] – inside of the first ninety seconds of the season three premiere. The premiere, The Second Coming/The Butterfly Effect, promises to be one of the more electrifying two hours of the new season [only the first hour was sent out for review].

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One thing that remains constant is the show’s multiple character arcs that intersect in odd and unexpected ways. Thus, we find Matt Parkman [Greg Grunberg] in a desert; skip to a future confrontation from a very dark [brunette, actually] Claire and Peter, and meet a character named Tracey Strauss [Ali Larter] who looks exactly like Niki Sanders whom we were pretty sure had died in that exploding building in last season’s finale. Then there’s the character who returns from the grave; an encounter between the present-day Claire [Hayden Panettiere] and Sylar [Zachary Quinto] that doesn’t go the way anyone [except Tim Kring, who wrote the script] could have imagined. To cap it all off, there are the prisoners of Level 5 – and Noah Bennett [Jack Coleman] still channelling Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

One of the things that Heroes does best – when it’s on form, and it’s on form here – is juggle multiple plot and character arcs. Volume Three: Villains looks to be the most complex volume in the series, thus far, and yet none of the characters seems to be short changed. Even odd pairings, like Suresh [Sendhil Ramamurthy] and Maya [Dania Ramirez] work – and it’s the first time since her introduction that Maya doesn’t drain the life out of her scenes. The show’s FX are in good form, too. Hiro’s [Masi Oka] arch-enemy. A young speedster named Daphne [Brea Grant] is handled extremely well by the FX team, and Grant brings an impish sense of fun to the character.

If you lost interest in Heroes last season, or stuck with it but thought it opened too slowly, you’ll find season three a real rush [and not just in the sense of Daphne’s superspeed]. If you need to brush up on what’s happened, so far, there is a special one-hour summary episode that immediately precedes the third season premiere.

Final Grade: B+

TELEVISION: And So It Begins… Again

This evening the new fall season of television programming begins with two returning series on The CW [Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill], one on TNT [Steven Bochco’s inept Raising the Bar] and one on Fox [Prison Break]. Overall, the new season looks a lot like the last one. Thanks to the writers’ strike, a number of series that might have been cancelled are reappearing, series like Life, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to name a few. Add to them the few buzzworthy new shows [Fringe, The Mentalist, and Eleventh Hour] and it still doesn’t add up to the anticipation for Fox’s Joss Whedon-created Dollhouse. Which is not to say that there aren’t points of interest on the fall schedule.

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Knight Rider

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After months of hype the new Knight Rider finally premiered on NBC this weekend. I was expecting a disaster but was pleasantly surprised by a bad, but watchable two hr car commercial. There’s potential here for a good campy show if the cast can get a chance to gel. The acting in this is pretty awful, no chemistry amongst the cast and an audio mix that was muddled at best. The loud, techno soundtrack drowned out most of the dialog and Val Kilmer’s kit was devoid of any humor, wit, or style. To make matters worse, it sounded as though it was recorded in a jar. I couldn’t hear half of what he said. The new K.I.T.T. 3000 is devoid of personality or the “wow” factor that the original K.I.T.T. had. The chase sequences from Director Steve Shill are the definition of lame – a suped up Ford Mustang can’t outrun a Mini-Van? I did like K.I.T.T.’s morphing ability that was nicely done and not as goofy looking as I would have thought it would be. There were some weird inconsistencies in how the car looked during chase sequences where it was clear they used different cars. Part of the problem with the movie was it was hampered by an obviously small budget because there was no wow factor, the action scenes felt like they were straight out of the 70s. And it was a surprisingly talky, weepy, and whiney movie. Way too serious for the material.

Former Soap star Justin Bruening‘s Mike Traceur is every cheezy 70s action hero stereotype; bad gambler who has to help and become a hero to pay off his dept. Doesn’t care about anything. Bitter that his mother sent him away to military school because he was a discipline problem. Never met his dad. Gave up the love of his life Deanna Russo who needs his help to find her father. Etc. Yeah, I know this paragraph sucks, but I’m putting about as much effort into this review as writer David Andron did in his twelve days of writing this dreck. It contains such classic moments as K.I.T.T. asking Michael if he’s gay and a two minute potty break.

Even with all of it’s faults, I still somehow enjoyed the movie. It was bad and not campy bad. It had a rushed, low-budget feel to it. But I would like to see NBC give it a chance at a series. But only if they give it a full season to get it’s legs. If it’s a 6 and out deal then they shouldn’t bother.

Final Grade C-

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 2/18/08

NBC Picks up Chuck, Bionic Woman on the Bubble

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Now that the writer’s strike is over we are starting to get some answers about the future of freshmen shows. ABC is keeping just about everything and based on this announcement NBC is still unsure what it’s going to do.  For me the big disappointment of the season was Chuck – it’s just too much like Reaper and not as good, and Bionic Woman.  Bionic is a terrible show, but I would like to see NBC give it a chance to find it’s footing. Life is just  boring, I’m surprised to see that get picked up. Here’s the full press release.

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