Spoilers for, in order, "Bionic Woman," "Dirty Sexy Money," "Life" and "Back To You" coming up just as soon as I eat a tangelo...
I made most of my complaints with "Bionic Woman" clear in the column -- Michelle Ryan's bland, the fight scenes aren't that impressive, etc. -- but I had a few other issues. First, while I've enjoyed Jason Smilovic's Mamet-lite dialogue on other shows like "Karen Sisco" and "Kidnapped," there are moments here where it really goes awry, notably the "like a ride at Disneyland" exchange between Sarah Corvus and the German guy. ("Which one?" "I've never been." Then why the bleep did you bring it up? Who talks like that?) Second, there were two scenes that were borrowed pretty liberally from comic book movies: Jamie's sprint past the car from a famous deleted scene from the original "Superman" (where the little girl is revealed to be a young Lois Lane), and Jamie's tentative jump across the roof from the first Sam Raimi "Spider-Man." I've got no problem with homage and even outright theft in some cases -- if I didn't, I couldn't watch "Heroes" -- but both of those scenes in their original form had a sense of joy that's almost entirely lacking from the grim, grim "Bionic Woman." The bleakness of David Eick's work with Ron Moore on "Battlestar Galactica" works because of the premise -- humanity nearly annihilated and on the run from the annihilators isn't exactly a fun sexy time, you know? -- and Jamie's initial freak-out at going bionic mirrors the original character's reaction back in the "Six Million Dollar Man" episodes that introduced her. But I think one of the reasons I and so many other critics responded so strongly to Katee Sackhoff as Sarah -- aside from the massive charisma advantage she has over Ryan -- is that she's the only person in the entire show who seems to be enjoying herself.
I like Smilovic and Eick's other work, and there are enough glimmers of something potentially great -- notably the opening scene with Corvus taking two to the chest and apparently not dying -- that I'm far from giving up on the show, but it's not remotely as good as I was hoping.
When I first watched the "Dirty Sexy Money" pilot back in June, I was engaged but not overly jazzed by it, but when I went back to watch it again last week -- followed by a solid later episode -- I found myself enjoying it significantly more. I'd still put it in about fourth place of the new shows (behind "Reaper," "Chuck" and "Pushing Daisies"), but comfortably ahead of everything else, and much of my previous ambivalence comes from my general lack of interest in traditional soaps. (It's the same reason I've never entirely warmed to "Ugly Betty," even though I recognize all the good stuff on that show.)
Anyway, brief specifics, as I already covered a lot in my review. First, I like Peter Krause a lot more when he's using his tightly-wound powers of self-righteousness in the service of comedy ("Sports Night") rather than drama ("Six Feet Under," where Nate was consistently my least favorite part of the show), and I'm glad that Craig Wright and Berlanti seem to agree with that, as he spends so much of both the pilot and the other episode I saw getting flustered with the petty, entitled, naive Darlings. I'm not entirely sold on Natalie Zea as this legendary seductress -- and given her character's connection to Krause's, she's arguably the most important of the five siblings -- but I was greatly amused by Billy Baldwin and Glenn Fitzgerald as the angry minister, and also by the notion that Samaire Armstrong's character would care about succeeding on her own merits, since that thought has no doubt never entered the real Paris' head. Again, given my personal tastes, I'm not sure this is a show I would watch long-term if I had a different job, but I think Wright and Berlanti are doing a solid job so far.
"Life" in a nutshell: He loves fruit! Is amazed by modern technology! Loves more fruit! Loves his Zen koans! Invades personal space like he's Goren from "Criminal Intent"! Loves even more fruit! Is not attached to that car! Unless there's fruit involved!
I so, so wanted to like this show -- Damian Lewis has vast reservoirs of goodwill stored with me for playing Dick Winters in "Band of Brothers" -- but Charlie Crews annoys the hell out of me (which is hard to do, given the aforementioned goodwill), I have no idea whether Sarah Shahi can act (and was amused to see the writers contrive a shower scene for her in the middle of an arrest), and the case in both this episode and the second one bored me to tears. Out of loyalty to Lewis, I'll give this bad imitation "House" one more shot with the third episode, but barring a miraculous turnaround, I'm out.
Finally, episode two of "Back To You" was like an odd mirror image of the pilot. In the first episode, it felt like Grammer and Heaton got most of the genuine characterization and handful of good lines (mainly Chuck's speech about returning to Pittsburgh, delivered seconds after realizing that he had a daughter) while the supporting characters were the broadest, sitcommiest types available. Here, Chuck and Kelly are in the middle of a dead goldfish plot that should have been banned from all sitcom writing rooms circa 1988, while the subplot about Gary trying to look macho in the face of the taser zap was really funny. It's broad physical humor, sure, but at least it was in service to some vaguely recognizable human behavior, in that local news reporters have to do stupid stunts like that all the time, and here we just followed the premise to its logical conclusion.
Ratings for the premiere were good, not great, and my feelings about the show are a shade below that: mediocre, not good. My wife loves traditional sitcoms, so I suspect I'm not done with "Back To You" just yet.
What did everybody else think?