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To TiVo or Not to Tivo: Mid-Season '06/'07, part 1
by rick   January 16, 2007

saturday, night, lights This is part one of CSP's brief mid-season assessment of the 2006/2007 fall TV shows, some of which may have already been cancelled. Which they probably deserved. These capsule reviews are definitive and binding -- you have no choice but to agree with them.
(All of CSP's staff are licensed televisionologists, having logged over 500,000,000 hours of quality, hardcore TV watching between them.)

tivo 'Til Death
(starring Brad Garret, Joely Fisher, & Eddie Kaye)

This show's like a visitor from another time, and it's failure has more to do with the changing face of television than its talented cast. Brad Garret's a funny dude, and while his character here isn't Robert Barone, he still has plenty of opportunities to throw his dour humor around as a cynical and long-suffering history teacher. Joely Fisher and Eddie Kaye also come off well, but the whole thing feels dated, a multi-camera throwback to the early years of Everybody Loves Raymond. The best new comedies are all single camera, no laugh track. This show isn't good enough to rise above and they're aren't any signature comic characters.

tivo Friday Night Lights
(starring Kyle Chandler, Scott Porter, Connie Britton, Zach Gilford, Minka Kelly, Gaius Charles, Taylor Kitsch & Aimee Teegarden)

This is one of my favorite new shows of season -- just a well done drama all the way around. Well-acted, well-cast, well-directed well-shot and well-scored. Every episode feels like a forty-minute chunk of movie because the production values are so high and the locations so varied and believable. While most shows choose to keep things simple location-wise, saving budget for a outdoor crowd scene here and there, Friday Night Lights throws the kitchen sink at you: football scenes, rallies, night practices, side-of-the-freeway dramas; the camera follows the most important action in its key characters lives, period. Only a few things bother me. Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch, as Lila and Tim, pack the requisite youth and good looks but not the chops to pull off some of their more difficult scenes. The football action also doesn't match the action in the film Friday Night Lights -- understandable given the smaller scale and budgets of television, but noticeable because everything else here looks and sounds nearly as good as the film.

tivo Happy Hour
(starring Lex Medlin, John Sloan, Beth Lacke, Brooke D'Orsay, Jamie Denbo & Nat Faxon)

It's nice to see Twix umpire guy, lonely Cingular guy and funny guy from the Holiday Inn Express commercials land a series -- it's just unfortunate the vehicle will drop them back in commercial auditions weeks after celebrating their pilot's pick-up. It's a dinosaur. Friends was an early nineties phenomenon. The only reason people watched it into the 21st century is to see what happened to the characters. Let it go. It's over. Happy Hour's first episode promises something at least slightly different - two guys in the prime of their single lives, in the gray area between college and adult responsibility, getting lit on martinis while lip-synching a goofy song. Episode 2 plays like a script taken off the Friends reject pile. Too-cool for-school guy once made a mushy mix tape. Dopey lead has to find out what happened. Flashbacks. A little forced hilarity. I feel bad for John Sloan, who I saw in a production of Retreat to Moscow at South Coast Rep. A terrific actor, completely deserving of a shot, is wasted here. He doesn't even come off that well. Just lost, like a poor-man's Matthew Broderick stumbling through a generic leading man's flat boring lines.

The good news for the cast: now, at least when they step into a commercial audition, the casting director will say, "weren't you in that show...?"

tivo 20 Good Years
(starring John Lithgow & Jeffrey Tambor)

I have a theory about John Lithgow. The man's trying to act so large that he can be seen from outer space - so over-the-top big that God will notice him. Mission accomplished in 20 Good Years. Although, in this case, he'll have to settle for being a supernova - 20 Good Years sucked liked the light of a thousand white hot suns before being mercifully extinguished by NBC. Jeffrey Tambor is no small actor, but he's positively Chekhovian next to Lithgow. He's completely wasted in a show that starts with a juvenile joke about his penis size and then just devolves. The whole series isn't worth 5 minutes of Arrested Development. Avoid watching at all costs.

tivo Men in Trees
(starring Anne Heche, Derek Richardson, Sarah Strange, James Tupper, Abraham Benrubi, Emily Bergl, Timothy Webber & Suleka Mathew)

With Men In Trees, Darren Starr goes back to doing what he does best, and while it's certainly not groundbreaking, and definitely not geared towards men, it has its own appeal. The show is an instant reminder of how Anne Heche became famous in the first place. Before she dumped buckets of crazy all over the joint, she was just a burgeoning movie star, not especially good-looking but a believable woman on the edge. She's good in Men in Trees, and she has to be or the show would fall off it's axis. No question the show was pitched as Sex in the City meets Northern Exposure, but the execution is good and the writing sharp. The women of the show are given all of the depth; the men are only slightly more predictable than the trees. We're given quirky virgin guy, nice bartender guy and, of course, perfect love interest guy, whom no doubt will be courting Marin for the better part of six seasons. Still, it's a well-made show that will appeal to many of the same folks who regularly watched either of the shows from which it was derived.

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