At this time a year ago, "Knights of Prosperity" (then called "Let's Rob...") and "The Nine" were two of the most-anticipated new shows on any network. Now they're teaming up for ABC's microscopically-rated summer Wednesday lineup, and watching the two combined hours of both shows last night reminded me a little of their initial promise and a lot about why they both failed. Spoilers ho...
After Mick Jagger -- far and away the funniest part of the show -- refused to appear in any episodes past the pilot, "Knights of Prosperity" creators Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman spun their wheels for seven episodes before having Eugene and the Knights move on to a new celebrity target. In the last episode to air before cancellation, they briefly considered Kelly Ripa, but then Eugene fell in love with her and they turned their attentions to Ray Romano, who in the show's universe is in town starring in an off-Broadway show where he plays a heroin addict.
Now, Romano's a good choice: he's funny, he's available, and he's friendly enough with Burnett and Beckerman due to the Letterman connection (Rob and Jon were writer/producers on "Late Show," Worldwide Pants produced "Everybody Loves Raymond") that he's not likely to bail before they're done with him. And, like Mick before him, Ray proceeds to steal the show out from under the main characters, whether he's overacting in his play (which is so cheesey that its title is included in the dialogue) or whining at length about the burdens of celebrity.
(From what little I know about Romano, this doesn't seem like a stretch; the "Raymond" writers once described Ray Barone as being exactly like Ray Romano, only saner and nicer, and they weren't being sarcastic.)
But the fact that at least two of the celebrity targets (maybe three; I missed the Ripa episode) so easily upstage the regulars isn't a good thing, and it's one of several reasons -- along with the name, the premise, the timeslot and America's near-total mistrust of new comedies -- that the show failed. All of the Knights have their funny moments -- Kevin Michael Richardson as Rockefeller was a great "find" (in that most of his resume consisted of voice acting before this), and I hope to see more of him in the future -- but none of them, with the possible exception of Eugene, exist as anything but the broadest of stereotypes, there to do their schtick and drop whatever pop culture-themed punchline Beckerman and Burnett thought up at the time. A little of that goes a very long way, and if Jagger and Romano weren't written any more deeply, at least we had our prior knowledge of each to fill in the blanks.
The first of last night's episodes suggests that the creators were aware of this, as the script was devoted to humanizing Louis the intern by introducing his rich bastard father. (Played by one of my favorite Hey It's That Guy!s, James "If Cromwell's not available, I'm your man!" Rebhorn.) And, again, I laughed from time to time -- a rarity these days for network comedies -- but I'm not in any way surprised that the show didn't work.
As I mentioned when I wrote about "The Kill Point" the other day, it became obvious quickly that "The Nine" had a flawed concept from the start. The bank hostage stuff was inherently going to be more exciting and interesting than anything happening to the characters in the aftermath, and yet the flashbacks themselves had two basic problems: 1)There's no suspense about any of the broad strokes (how/when the siege ends, who lives, etc.), so all that's left to fill in are the smaller details like how Scott Wolf betrayed his girlfriend or why Kim Raver's hair got butchered; and 2)Even the filling in of said details was never going to live up to however we imagined it in our heads when the pilot had that amazing time-jump from the start of the siege to the end.
Last week's episode took place almost entirely in the bank and suffered from the no-suspense problem as it tried to create false jeopardy around Wolf's character, while last night's episode was largely about the survivors' present-day problems. The notion that they're all being watched because one of them was in on the robbery doesn't thrill me -- it's one or two steps removed from a silly "Prison Break"-style conspiracy theory -- and yet I suppose it's more dramatic than most of the episodes that aired back in the fall. Interesting isolated moments here and there, but this is one of the most dramatic pilot-to-series quality drop-offs I've ever seen.
Anybody play nostalgic masochist like me and watch either one? What did you think?