As I watch the new shows, I’ll try and pop in a capsule review for you.

Sept 9, 2003

LAS VEGAS: Oh, yeah. Slick camera work, good acting, fun storylines, and lots of T&A in the first episode. James Caan is commanding, although I find him creepy to look at.... I think he’s had some botched plastic surgery. There are lots of pretty things to look at in a town like Vegas, though, so don’t let htat stop you. Some of it is predictable, some of it isn’t. Top-drawer writing. Will probably attract the CSI crowd.

NAVY NCIS: Oh, yeah, again. You’d think a new show wouldn’t spend it’s premiere moments cooped up in Air Force One, but with repeated references to the Harrison Ford movie and the spy novel, it turns a familiar tale on it’s ear. And what a treat to see David McCallum (Elia Kuryakin on The Man from Uncle after all these years, looking just dandy. Mark Harmon is much lighter on his feet than he was in his last Doctor show, thank goodness. Unfortunately, they’ve already set up the sexual-tension thing with a woman he hires who doesn’t believe in working romances, even though she already has the hots for him. Why do they do that?  this is good TV. Fans of JAG will get a kick out of it, yes, but so will fans of The West Wing. (Note that there is a REAL Navy NCIS, but they seem to be mostly lawyers sueing big companys for screwing the military.)

My only concern: it’s another program that focuses on Al-Qaeda as the prime suspects. There seems to be an overwhelming need to identify a global enemy to pick on (not that they don’t deserve it, mind; of course they do). But I recall as a youngster the constant fear of the “Russky threat” and the H-Bomb, which while definitely real was a completely overblown blanket of blame used by everyone and everything for anything that happened. I, for one, do not believe that Al -Qaeda or the Taliban are nearly as sophisticated or prepared as they shows portend. I believe their power comes in their ability to infiltrate and assimilate, in small groups in disparate places. Any idiot with a bomb can do what they are doing, because generally speaking the idiot is unnoticeable until it is too late. Programs like this are elevating the status of the terrorist factions to a level of superstardom, and over the next few years will once again plant the notion of a blanket of worldwide fear attributed to an extremely dangerous, but tiny, group of people. Do we need that again?

THREAT MATRIX: Woohoo, what a blast! Along the lines of 24 without the season-long story arc. We get to see all the latest spy gadgets, hit the foreign countries for their mysterious cultures, enjoy movie-like camera work, and get some entertaining character-development as well.  This one promises just to get better and better. Once again, Al-Qaeda is the main threat in this show... Won’t last. Too “out there” for the Average Joe (whoever the heck he is....).

TWO AND A HALF MEN: Funny and not at all stupid or over-the-top, unlike so many of today’s comedies that think we need to be hit over the head with “the punchline” (see Whoopi). A good crew of actors in the cast (Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, the horny judge lady from The Practice). Good enough to watch during commercials in Las Vegas.

I’M WITH HER: An excellent, subdued, entertaining and interesting premise, performed well by the cast. About a teacher who falls in love with a big movie star 9shades of Notting Hill). Even the requisite “goofy buddy” of the main lead male is toned-down and nearly normal. And Teri Polo (Meet the Parents; Domestic Disturbance) is surprisingly funny and very, very sexy.  You can tell a really good show when it makes you want to be in it. This one does.

BROTHERHOOD OF POLAND, N.H.: Review tomorrow (Sept 25)  

Sept 9, 2003

WHOOPI: I dunno. The critics were saying the pilot was bad and reshot a dozen times. Is it just  another attempt at sticking in a comedy amongst the zillions that seem to appear and vanish each year? The characters are interesting: Omid Djalili, playing a foreigner who works for Whoopi at her hotel, you will remember as the excitable guide from The Mummy. He does a good accent and certainly looks the part (“I am Persian, not Arab, you foreign pig!”) and is fun to watch. So is Elizabeth Regan, as a white girl who really knows how to talk black. In fact, it’s the characters on the show, all except Whoopi, that might make it work, because their talents seem endless... except Whoopi, I say again, who just seems overbearing.

There is a lot of racial humour, in fact. Which I kind of like. In this Politically Correct Overkill world, It’s good to see this stuff being the object of some slapping around. I’ll watch it again.

HAPPY FAMILY: Again, meh. I never like John Laroquette’s character on that courtroom show; in fact, never liked that show. Harry the judge was a great comedian/magician who took the easy way out by staying on that show, as far as I’m concerned. But Laroquette, who is a good actor I just don’t care for, and Christine Baranski, as his wife, make the best of a boorish concept. Their three kids, see, are all grown up and leaving home, until they all decide to move back again. So we get the fretting Mama, who would be Jewish if she wasn’t so WASP, and the overbearing Dad. What’s with this need to be overbearing these days on comedies? There was some humour, but I wouldn’t be upset if I never saw it again. Id’ rather watch Joe Schmoe, which is getting weirder and more entertaining all the time.

Sept 7, 2003

JOE SCHMOE: I missed the initial episode on SPIKE TV, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out during Episode 2. Joe is in a “reality show” called Lap of Luxury to beat the other contestants for $100,000. He doesn’t know everyone else is an actor, and the whole thing is set up for fun and to find out if he can figure it out. Episoe 2 is notable for the immunity challenge. This one was called the “Put your hands on a stripper” segment, where the last person to take his or her hand or body part off a nearly-naked female porn star wins the immunity “robe”. So here we have this beautiful blonde, in nothing more than a g-string, lying on a table, while everyone in the cast touches her, either with their hand, their butt, their knee, whatever. Two contestants - Joe and one of the women - each must hold their position of laying a hand on a voluptuous naked breast.

You can tell right off, I guess, that this is representative of what is happening with today’s reality shows; in an effort to win and grow their audiences, more and more sleaze is being dolled out in the name of entertainment. But wait: are those words synonyms... ? In any case, it was fun watching Joe do his daily interviews, talking about alliances and who he suspects, all the while knowing that he doesn’t have a clue. And they picked the right guy for the role: part goofy, part smart.

NIP/TUCK: Another new show featuring breasts as a lead character! The opening for this series about two plastic surgeons had me howling with laughter: a naked man is lieing on the table (again, more nudity and tables) fact down, butt exposed. One of our doctors reaches in right through the butt crack and pulls out a liquid-filled balloon, not unlike a breast implant. He turns to the other doctor and says “You put it in upside down”, to which doctor #2 replies: “Thanks for saving my ass again!”

What started out as a “where can this show go?” concept quickly turned fascinating, at times gruesome and morbid, at times hilariously funny. This is a drama, not a comedy, but it is full of humorous elements. The first episode introduces all kinds of plot information, but the focus is on the face-makeover given to a known Columbian drug criminal, who turns out to have molested the boss’s six-year-old daughter. Before you know it, our cutters are up to their necks in water (literally), botox, and body fat (yep, literally) with the Coumbian mob.

Nip/Tuck originated on the FX channel in the U.S., and has already been renewed for its second year. So we are getting a one-year delay, but it’s worth it. You have to love a show that can name a plastic surgeon’s sport boat after a chemical: Boatox. Now, that’s good TV.