Thursday, January 31, 2008

He thinks he's a prophet, but he's at a loss: 'Eli Stone' review

The first of two columns today reviews ABC's "Eli Stone," which I didn't like:
A few hours before I had a chance to watch the first episode of the new ABC drama "Eli Stone" (10 p.m., Ch. 7), my friend Ellen Gray from the Philadelphia Daily News e-mailed me to ask, "Did you watch 'Eli McStone' yet?" Moments later, she followed up with, "Sorry, I meant 'Eli McBeal.'" And just like that, I thought the experience of watching the show -- about a lawyer who begins hallucinating musical performances by George Michael and thinks he himself might be a prophet -- would be ruined. How could I tune into something this high-concept and kooky and not view it as imitation David E. Kelley?

In fairness to Ellen, I would have to be either blind, deaf or in a different profession for the last decade to not instantly spot the similarities to "Ally McBeal" and the rest of the Kelley canon: lawyers taking unconventional cases and using unconventional tactics. The blurry line between eccentricity and madness. Did I mention the music?

"Eli Stone" does not, in fact, come from the mind of Kelley, but rather Greg Berlanti, one of the most prolific and reliable producers of TV drama today. (See "Everwood," "Brothers & Sisters" and "Dirty Sexy Money," not to mention the only season of "Dawson's Creek" that was worth watching.) Here, Berlanti seems to have fallen down a rabbit hole, beginning with a wackiness quotient that it usually takes a Kelley show months or even years to achieve -- and that's usually the point when those shows become unwatchable.
To read the full thing, click here.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank god I wasn't the only one who didn't like this show. Not only was it an Ally rip-off it was overly cutesy and just plain stupid.

Also, the point at which Ally went down the toilet was when the little fantasy sequences went from underscoring what Ally was feeling or thinking (making out in a giant cup of coffee when invited to coffee or getting tossed into a dumpster when dumped) to hallucinations she actually believed she was seeing. Eli does that in the pilot. So why would I want to tune in for the rest of the series?

Art Fleming said...

Dont wanna get all anal about that but you spelled Julie Gonzalo Julie Gonazalo (she was in Veronica Mars!, thats my excuse for noticing)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fixed Art. Thanks for catching that.

Mo Ryan said...

Word on the Eli music being super annoying. It's a problem with several ABC dramas. I was gonna go off on the overly perky music in Eli and Brothers and Sisters and other ABC shows in my review, but my review was too long as it was. But yeah, the music is there to nervously announce, "NOTHING serious going on here! All is fine! Just funny silly stuff! No actual emotions, hahahahahahha!" It's annoying as hell.

dez said...

Re: "Celebrity Apprentice": I wonder if NBC jumped the gun on that. I bet (and hope) it gets crushed by "Lost" tonight and every Thursday going forward. Or can they still pull the plug if it tanks against "Lost"?

jcpbmg said...

I had such high hopes for this show when it was first announced last spring. And I was really looking forward to some quality tv however with all of these bad reviews as well as the horrific portion of the pilot that I saw, I'm really disappointed in Berlanti and Guggenhiem.

I consider them both quality writers but this is just such a let down (I'm not saying its an S60 sized disappointment, but still).

cg said...

I didn't any interest in this (and it sounds horrible) but if spy-daddy is singing...
And mock if you will, but Celeb Apprentice has been a hoot (best to date since the first season IMHO). It's just a completely different dynamic.

Mo Ryan said...

I must guiltily admit that I've seen Thursday's Celeb Apprentice. No spoilers (and NBC cut off the part about who got fired anyway). But I didn't hate it, weirdly. Then again I watched a 2 hour ep in less than 40 minutes.

Devin McCullen said...

Which season of Dawson's Creek was that? I'm sure I wasn't watching by that point, anyway, I left about the same time Andie did.

BTW, I was just trying to find that out, and discovered that they actually shot scenes with Meredith Monroe for the finale but didn't use them. Damn it, I actually watched the stupid thing, and they couldn't even give me that?! (Granted, I watched on the infinitesimal chance that Dawson was the one who would die, but still.)

Matt said...

Berlanti ran Season 3 of Dawson's Creek, I believe--the season with most of the Kerr Smith/gay content.

And Celeb Apprentice has been interesting, despite the fact that the celebs themselves aren't actually "celebrities," in part because of the genius idea of letting the winning team watch and heckle the losing team in the boardroom, and because, even though the people aren't really famous, the vast majority of them appear to be certifably nuts.

Todd said...

I was an early adapter of the ABC annoying music bandwagon and I honestly didn't notice it here. Then again, I think I liked the show more than you did. It has problems, but I saw room for positive growth.

Carrie said...

Matt, it was definitely season 3, but I think that season is best known for the Joey/Pacey relationship, a.k.a. the only interesting thing Dawson's Creek ever did. (For my money, Kerr Smith's coming out episodes in season two were leaps and bounds better than anything they did with his character after that.) Perhaps I'm biased because of my undying support for the Joey/Pacey union. Sorry. Heh.

I actually enjoyed Eli Stone when I saw it months ago. I found it fun. I hope it holds up on a second viewing, but I know even if it doesn't I will stick around at least until Victor Garber sings. How awesome is that going to be?

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should tell Metacritic you didn't like it -- because I wouldn't have colored your review green (for favorable).

But then I hardly ever color reviews. (I always had trouble staying inside the lines.)

And again, I'm sorry about the "Eli McStone." Really.

-- Ellen

dez said...

I must guiltily admit that I've seen Thursday's Celeb Apprentice.

Oh, I watched the first couple of eps, but quickly lost interest (Ivanka's okay, but she's no Carolyn, and the substitute Georges all stink). I just want it to fail because I hate that Trump took what was a really fun show and turned it into complete and utter crap :-)

Byron said...

Funny story about season three of Dawson's Creek:

My sister and I were both home for the summer a year and a half ago, so we mutually decided to watch Dawson's Creek through. The first two seasons were exactly what we expected: guilty fun. But then the third season premiere starts, and it was so absurd, what with the strange woman on the bus and Jen as a cheerleader, that I paused it halfway through and said "Wait--I bet this is all a dream sequence." And then we looked it up online, and found out that not only was it not a dream, but the weird girl on the bus was somehow Jen's sister.

We never unpaused it.

Nicole said...

If Victor Garber will sing, then I will give it a whirl, otherwise, I really am tired of lawyer shows that try to be quirky. Ally McBeal got on my nerves after the first year because you never saw them actually work, the women dressed liked tramps and they were functional alcoholics (which may be true in the legal profession, but not the whole firm at least one that stays afloat).

I tend to be overly critical of lawyer shows because that's what I do, and it takes super acting for me to overlook the inevitable inaccuracies and complete fantasy that occurs even on a show like Lay & Order. Throw in quirkiness and it becomes nauseating.

For once, I want someone to put the soul-sucking mind-numbing reality that is the practice of law on tv - and if the Office can make cubicle workers funny, I am sure this could work too.

Dan Coyle said...

Wow, looks like Marc Guggenheim has already topped "Every time Wolverine dies he fights an Angel of Death" for pure, completely unnecessary inanity.

Dark Tyler said...

I really don't get it, though. There was a point like a year ago, I really likes Marc Guggenheim. Not sure why, exactly. Maybe the fact that he was writing pure Wolverine mindless baddie-chasing-exploding fun while being executive producer to a soap opera which I rather enjoyed at the time? Anyway, the combination had an Allan Heinberg vibe to it, you know? But then he just... lost it. On both TV and comic levels.

Pity.

jcpbmg said...

I totally forgot about this before but Guggenheim was a staff writer on The Practice back in the day, so with that in mind, should we have seen this coming?


(And I too am a big Alan Heinberg fan, though I admit I've never read any of his, or Guggenhiems for that matter, comics)

Carrie said...

Aw, Byron, it actually gets tolerable around the episode where Pacey and Joey take dance lessons together. They totally dropped the ridiculous Jen as a cheerleader and has a long lost Lolita sister thing right before that episode. And...now I'm done defending Dawson's Creek. I sound like a lunatic.

The Alden said...

I really liked the pilot, though the musical bits were a little hard to handle. I think there's real potential here, and I'm gonna keep watching. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree here.

However, I'm betting this show will fare better post-Lost than Invasion and its ilk ever did, as after an intense hour of Lost it's nice to sit back and watch something light. As long as they tone down some of the musical bits, or at least make them shorter and easier skipped.

Dan Coyle said...

For those wondering, Guggenheim's been writing for Marvel comics since 2005; his books include Blade, Wolverine, Marvel Comics Presents, and Young X-Men launching in April. His first Amazing Spider-Man arc starts next week.

Bjooks said...

The similarites to Ally McBeal never occured to me, but then again I never watched that show because of the estrogen quotient. And I didn't plan on enjoying this show either, but unfortunately it did win me over. I liked it. Mostly due to Johnny Lee Miller (or, as my boyfriend kept reminding me -- "Zero Cool").

I'll be watching it until I inevitabily get tired of it, but tonight, I enjoyed this one.

BTW, wasn't the head of the law firm also the head of the law firm on Legally Blonde? Shouldn't he have been fired for sexual harassment ;-)?

Matt said...

The musical numbers are at least a bit too much, but I have to give them credit for getting the legal stuff largely right--no random volumes of U.S. Reports, but BarBri and PMBR books in the law student's apartment, and the legal jargon hits right.

And I'd almost watch that supporting cast read the phone book.

Pamela Jaye said...

The commercials were painting it with a sort of Journeyman vibe, so I thought, maybe... My Grey's list was asking if we were going to watch because of "the controversy"- I hadn't heard the controversy. Then you said Ally McBeal, and I checked to make sure I'd set the DVR for more than just one ep.
When I saw the big dance scene, thought of Viva Laughlin, which I never saw and just heard of in passing, flre thru my head, but aside from that it's okay.

I don't relate to this guy the way I relate to Ally (or Meredith Grey)
or sincce he's not female, even JD. But I'll hand out a while cause the TV landscape is so barren, I'm recording every ep of Psyche (and my DVR is getting full. Watched Flatlines last night finally. Wasn't scary. Wasn't all that interesting either. Took me three days to watch.

A side note on Chuck. What about Brian went downhill when Marjorie left. I'm glad for every chance to see Sarah on Chuck (on the eps she's actually in - and they could focus on her at work now and then - said the girl who watches Scrubs, Grey's, House, and even ER.
I knowthey did for one ep - but it not *working* in the hospital.