Friday, September 26, 2008

Season Premier Hits and Misses

Quite a few shows had their season premiers this week. I’ve already written about CSI Miami (”Resurrection”) and CSI NY (”Veritas”) on this blog, but I thought I’d also give some attention to a few others that premiered this week. I also realized that I never turned on ABC for anything. At first I thought they didn’t have anything new, but then I realized that except for Lost, I don’t watch any ABC shows.

Law & Order SVU: “Trials”
I have a full recap for the season premier episode “Trials” on my blog All Things Law & Order. I also wanted to make note here that while the episode wasn’t bad, it really wasn’t anything special either. Most notable was the introduction of the new ADA Kim Grayleck (Michaela McManus). It was notable because it was awful. Her acting is wooden, maybe just a hair better than Elizabeth Rohm, who also played an ADA on Law & Order (the “mothership). It seems that they are making Grayleck purposefully annoying, portraying her as the competitive go-getter who thinks that she’s better than everyone else. It is made worse by her marginal acting. I hate to pass judgment so quickly, but you know what they say about first impressions...and my first impressions are usually right on target. I sense problems with McManus, hopefully the show won’t wait too long before they pull the plug on Grayleck.

The episode also continues to focus on the personal drama with Stabler (Chris Meloni) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay), and seems to put less emphasis on the actual crimes. It’s almost becoming a soap opera. I still like the characters, and the chemistry of the overall cast could be the best in the Law & Order franchise. But I would like to see more about the crimes and how they solve them, and less about things like Stabler’s troubled daughter and Olivia’s apparent post traumatic stress.

NCIS “Last Man Standing”
(NCIS Photos CBS)

The season premier of NCIS, “ Last Man Standing” picks up 126 days (according to the tally Abby (Pauley Perrette) was keeping) from the season finale when DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), Ziva (Cote de Pablo), and McGee (Sean Murray) were banished to other jobs outside NCIS. While Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) kept his position at NCIS, he was saddled with a new, and inexperienced staff.

Ziva, now back to being a Mossad agent, is working undercover singing in a cabaret style bar, and gets caught in a terrorist’s explosion, McGee is relegated to a basement area where he is “boss” of his own computer tech team. DiNozzo is stuck on a Navy ship, begging to get out.

They also have a new NCIS Director, Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll), who replaced the ever-annoying Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly), who is now dead and buried (so I hope - you know how TV shows like to bring people back from the dead).

While investigating a murder, it becomes necessary for Director Vance to clue in Gibbs to the fact that he had to transfer Gibbs' people away for them to help Vance work on a case. It seems that there is a leak within NCIS and Vance thinks that one of the three new people he put to work under Gibbs is the culprit. Vance was hoping that somehow Gibbs would be able to pick up that something was wrong with one of them, his magical radar would go off and he would start to investigate. Now really, I think that was the dumbest, most convoluted way to get to the bottom of a leak.

The bottom line is that it seemed obvious in the fact that the show would not work well without Ziva, McGee, and especially DiNozzo, and that they wouldn't leave these people out of the loop and of the show for long. As the show ends, it’s only DiNozzo who hasn’t officially returned to the NCIS home base. But we have to expect he will.

Also glaringly obvious was that it was the woman with the law background who was the leak. Yes, they tried hard to make it look like it was someone else, but not hard enough. Still, the episode seemed to work better than most, and I am not exactly sure why. It may have had something to do with the fact that Ziva, McGee, and DiNozzo were on the screen but not necessarily together. We got less of their usual juvenile banter. It also could be that Director Shepard is gone. While new Director Vance also seems to have his own quirks, at least he isn’t slobbering all over Gibbs like Jenny used to. So the premier gets good marks from me, and I hope the show keeps it up.

Without A Trace: “Closure”
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no happy men on television these days. They all have all kinds of “issues” and are filled with angst. The poster boy for “Troubled Male Leads” belongs to Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia). Every time he is on the screen, I feel like the life force is being sucked out of me. Malone is different from characters like House, for example, because House seems to actually have some sort of life and interests outside the confines of the hospital. Malone, however, seems like he lives and breathes the FBI, and not in a healthy way. Sure, he’s going through therapy, but it seems even his therapist (played by Linda Hunt) seems to want to run away from Malone every chance she gets.

The real drags on “Without A Trace” are the cases themselves. They seem the same every week. And so it was with the season premier, “Closure.” It was nothing new. Someone went missing, they investigated, they found them. This show needs more. According to ratings reports, it also needs viewers, as they dropped off significantly from last year’s season premier. It was probably due to the change in the day that the show airs. I don’t know why CBS keeps moving this show. This show either needs to get Malone on some happy pills, or they need to start feeding them to the writers.

ER: “Life After Death”
I haven’t watched ER regularly for quite some time. I may have only caught a few episodes last year when they went into reruns and nothing else was on. The season premier, “Life After Death” finishes off where the season finale left off – with an ambulance explosion. It seems that Dr. Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) was injured, although the extent wasn’t fully realized until they began working on him in the ER. Full disclosure here, I never like Pratt. Never. In fact, he was one of the characters that caused me to stop watching the show because I found him to not only be a terrible doctor, but just an all around annoying guy. So I wasn’t sorry when Pratt’s injuries proved to be fatal. The sad thing is, there isn’t much else redeeming in the episode or in the show’s cast that makes this show compelling. Too much time was spent on Pratt’s death, and on the mourning of his colleagues. Since all I recall is how much his colleagues hated to work with him, I almost found the Pratt tributes phony.
As far as the series is concerned, there is no drama left. It’s just a bunch of actors spewing out medical terms over a patient. This is being billed as ER’s final year, and that’s a good thing, because this show has been on life support for quite some time.

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