Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Smith: What's in a name?

I said plenty about "Smith" in my review this morning, but some spoiler-y commentary coming up faster than Amy Smart can steal your identity...

They left the surfing murders in. And the cat kicking. I'm so pleased. It's rare that you see a protagonist on a network drama who's a pure sociopath the way Simon Baker's character is, and when he shot those surfers for kicking him off their beach and daring to touch his board, my eyebrows raised up and I said, "Well, there's something you don't usually see on CBS." (And, in case you were wondering, that wasn't any kind of pre-arranged hit; per Baker, John Wells, Virginia Madsen and everybody else involved in the show, Jeff did it because they touched his board. On the other hand, when I asked Wells and Christopher Chulack what Jeff was doing with a sniper rifle in his truck on a surfing vacation, they didn't have an answer for that.)

The stuff with Baker, and with Amy Smart and the cocktail waitress, and Jonny Lee Miller's interactions with both of them were all badly needed, because, at least in the pilot, Ray Liotta was a real drag on the action. Aside from the scene where he's playing the piano and Virginia Madsen comes in, I couldn't read him and didn't really care.

As I said in the review, there's no good reason this thing had to run 55 minutes or so without commercials, especially given how much of the robbery got replayed twice. (The only part that merited it was Smart just brutally tasering her old classmate before crying rape; Franky G may have the muscles, but she is by far the scariest member of this crew.) Wells and Chulack love the whole in media res teaser device almost as much as they love filming in Hawaii, but they admitted they did it here because they needed some action at the front. Either way, it was more sluggishly-paced than I wanted, and without any real stylistic flair to compensate, especially during the heist itself.

I'm intrigued by the revelation that Madsen is an ex-con herself. Was she part of Ray's crew who got caught? Since it's pretty clear she knows he's still thieving, how many episodes will it take before she joins the team?

I'm in for a while, based on lack of timeslot competition and a great cast. But they need to figure out what to do with Liotta in a hurry, and they need to decide whether they're doing "Ocean's 11" or "Heat." As a wise man once said, walk left side road, fine. Walk right side road, fine. Walk down middle -- SPLAT! -- crushed like grape!

What did everybody else think?


velvetcannibal said...

AH! I just posted a long comment in your other post on this.

Alan Sepinwall said...

You can copy and paste, you know. :)

Anonymous said...

I got a lot of Heat from this and not very much Ocean's Eleven. What I like about this show is that these guys are pros. I don't know if there really are thieves like this, but if there are, I'm sure they act more like Smith than Ocean's.
It's my favorite new show of the season--so far.

velvetcannibal said...

Behold my pasting abilities:

While I share your choices for favorite scenes, I don't agree with your assessment of the show as a whole. I loved the deliberate pacing. When the heist started to go wrong, it really went wrong, and the tension was heightened because everything preceeding that had been so calm and minimalistic.

I loved the dialogue, or lack thereof. All of the relationships were illustrated perfectly in a few simple sentences, or a brief look between two characters. Instead of having the characters drop clunkers about the theft being perfect and nothing going wrong, the team just laid out the plan, carried out the job, and reacted as was necessary.

The only guy I wasn't interested in was the transport man, Joe. He's not developed enough for me. Well, none of them are that fleshed out after one episode, but he doesn't have enough of a personality.

I was surprised that the show didn't shy away from the fact that these guys are criminals. All of them exhibited the level of professional brutality necessary for that kind of work, and it was refreshing to see something less sugar-coated.

Hope's backstory got my attention. She's not the typical "conscience of the criminal" I expected her to be. And I loved that piano scene.

This is my favorite of the new pilots so far, and one I'll stick with for a while.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you've picked out my favourite moments from the pilot: Jeff's hilarious entrance, the cat (and the bed), him meeting Tom right out of goal, and Annie's intense moral emptiness. Liotta's Bobby, supposedly the leader and central character, I find myself entirely indifferent towards. He doesn't have the charisma of Danny Ocean or Mickey Stone ("Hustle").

I hope they're going to make better use of Madsen and Aghdashloo in future episodes. I want to see more of the elegant Charlie with her parties and her androgynous name.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Matt, most of the scenes with Jeff and Tom had a lighter tone than the rest of the show. My basic complaint is that it's not clever enough for the Ocean's school and not quite stylish enough for the Heat school.

Anonymous said...

Loved the first show and I'm glad they {spoiler} got rid of the gambling guy and I knew it was a mistake leaving the bystander alive.
Regarding Jeff and his rifle, that's his baby, it's a part of him. However, how the rifle got to Pittsburgh, I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

To use the fine art of copy-and-paste from my earlier post on TV Guide:

I officially have a new TV crush to add to Jamie Bamber and Hugh Laurie: Simon Baker. I enjoyed every scene that he was in. Especially the cat scenes.

I also loved Amy Smart's simple, but forceful "Stay" to the lady that she tasered.

The only thing that really bugged me was them all being on the same plane together. My husband snorted with disbelief that these super-smart thiefs would make such an dumb move.

Oh, and what the heck was Ray Liotta doing near the end when he was sitting on the curb in front of his house at dawn? Way to not draw attention to yourself. Weirdo.

Are Tom and Jeff supposed to be brothers?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call Jeff and Tom's scenes light. Maybe they act more familiar towards each other than the others, but that wrestling match they had outside the prison did not seem light at all. Tom was cold and detached, like Jeff wronged him some way that neither of them are willing to talk about.
Ok, so it's not as stylish as Heat, but that was one of the greatest crime films of all time. It's still Heatier than any other TV show.

Anonymous said...

My reactions are similar to yours: some great bits but parts where it really drags. Amy Smart was the standout for me; Annie was fun to watch and I snickered with glee when she tasered that woman.

I was also impressed the show had the stones to kill a security guard like that.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Tom and Jeff were brothers...