Thursday, November 01, 2007

Legless, sleepless, powerless

Kind of an odd day for me, so all of last night’s viewing gets the round-up treatment. Brief spoilers for, in order, “Pushing Daisies,” “Private Practice” and “Life” coming up just as soon as I ask my doctor whether I can get a gorilla arm transplant...

As with “Reaper,” a Halloween episode is kind of a gimme for “Pushing Daisies.” They’ve done better episodes -- usually the ones with more of Emerson snarking on everybody else -- but the show has yet to put out a bad hour. Five episodes is a small sample size, but almost every new show stumbles in some noticeable way by this point, and “Pushing Daisies” hasn’t yet.

A nice showcase for Kristen Chenoweth, whose flair for comic bitchiness wasn’t really on display in her previous TV roles, and Lee Pace got to carry more of an emotional load than usual as we dealt with the reason why Ned, like Ray Wise as the Devil, hates Halloween. (One minor complaint about that storyline: in the pilot, Chuck’s dad lived across the street from Ned, while her aunts lived elsewhere, which is why they said goodbye at their parents’ funerals.) Interesting that they had The Narrator speaking in verse this week; I find in general that he works best in the flashbacks and for exposition and get annoyed when they use him to underline the emotions that are clearly on the actors’ faces.

I haven’t written about “Private Practice” lately, even though I’ve seen every episode. It’s definitely improved in a number of ways, notably in how the characters are beginning to act their age instead of squeaky-voiced teens. But I still find it to be completely inconsequential viewing. When “Grey’s Anatomy” is working – as, I have to admit, it was for most of last week’s unblogged-about episode -- the hospital setting lends an urgency to all the relationship angst going on around the cases. Here, despite attempts to create crisis storylines like the abused girl here or the blue girls a few weeks ago, everything feels too laid-back. The stakes aren’t high enough for me to get invested in whether Addison and Pete are a good match or whether Cooper will ever get the stones to ask out Violet. I know Shonda wanted to differentiate the spin-off from the original by changing the workplace setting as much as possible while still staying in medicine, but it feels like a waste of everybody’s talents, both off-camera and on. (What the hell is a world-class neo-natal surgeon doing at this place?)

“Life,” meanwhile, has grown on me quite a bit. While the things that annoyed me -- the fruit obsession, the Zen koans, Charlie marveling at modern technology -- are all still in place, Damian Lewis has such strong presence that I’ve learned to tune the quirkiness out like so much background noise. The cases still need improvement – which, as I’ve written, is a genre-wide problem at the moment – but I’m enjoying it just enough that I’ll be disappointed when the low ratings or the strike brings about cancellation.

That said, this wasn’t one of their stronger episodes, because the focus was on Reese instead of Charlie. I get that the partner has to become a more well-rounded character so it’s not just the Charlie Crews Genius Hour, but I still don’t buy Sarah Shahi in this part. I think about how often the female partners on “Criminal Intent” have to stand around and goggle at their partner’s brilliance and wish that, say, Shahi and Kathryn Erbe could swap series. Erbe would’ve killed with the AA story.

What did everybody else think? And, out of curiosity, did anybody watch the debut of Joe “Joey Mants” Mantegna on “Criminal Minds”? I watched a screener but found it as stultifying as every other episode of the show I’ve seen.


Anonymous said...

I agree on the supporting casts comment for LIFE. Right now the only two new shows with deep benches are CHUCK and DAISIES. Not a weak link in either one. Probably why they are my two favorite shows.

What do you think are the strongest new ensembles?

Anonymous said...

Any plans to blog or write about the new Joss Whedon/Eliza Dushku show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Two bits I neglected to mention from Pushing Daisies: Emerson's "think of it as an escrow between my thighs" and Emerson calling the money. Not a lot of Emerson this week, but what there was was choice.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Any plans to blog or write about the new Joss Whedon/Eliza Dushku show?

Beyond mentioning that the deal has been made, I'm not sure what there is to say. The show's nearly a year away from airing -- maybe more, depending on either the strike or Fox's scheduling plans. (It could get the Sarah Connor mid-season treatment.) I'm glad Whedon will back in TV again, eventually.

Anonymous said...

How is the Sarah Connor Chronicles? I dont know if I care about Terminator without Cameron or Ah-nuld. Should I? After Heroes and Bionic... ugh.

Bobman said...

Not a lot of Emerson this week, but what there was was choice.

Totally agree, he didn't have as many lines but the few lines he had just KILLED ME this week.

Anonymous said...

The continuing flaw of "Private Practice" is that you can't take the medical stories seriously when the whole thing seems to take place in as much of a magical fairyland as "Pushing Daisies." The parties in everyone's $4-million beach houses, the huge office that's on the most expensive street in Santa Monica (yet still a significant distance from any hospital), the endless time for flirting and discussing and spending hours with each patient, the constant sharing of private medical information, the daylong visits by the cute-grumpy hospital administrator who seems to be the only other doctor in town... it's all just patently ridiculous. And throwing stories about life-or-death conditions in the middle of that just seems kind of distasteful. At least "Grey's Anatomy," for all its soap-opera elements, seems to have some grounding in the way a real hospital might run.

Unknown said...

I like Sarah Shahi on Life. She can act, and plays well off Damian Lewis. Kathryn Erbe might be better at playing snarky or wounded, but Dani Reese seems more damaged.

It is distracting that she is so attractive, but I guess I got over that with NYPD Blue. Even with Sipowicz and Medavoy bringing down the average, that was one unnaturally good-looking squad.

I'm enjoying the show, and hope it continues, strike or no.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that they had The Narrator speaking in verse this week

It definitely made the show feel even more like a fable, which I liked. But less is more in this case, so...I'm watching you, PD writers!

Bix said...

It's annoying me that we're only 6 episodes into Private Practice and Pete has been shown to be good at a zillion different types of alternative medicine. Off the top of my head, he's been shown to be well-versed in:

- Western herbs
- Acupuncture
- Chinese herbs
- Guided visualization
- Magnets
- Musical therapy
- Unnamed pressure point therapy
- Ayurveda

Who knows how much more we'll see over the course of the season, much less the whole series? It's unrealistic; and in an annoying way as opposed to a fun one.

Rickey said...

Yay for whimsy! This is by far the best show on tv right now.

Anonymous said...

Money, marbles, or chalk says Bryan Fuller was the creative force behind "Heroes" last season no matter what anyone says. All you have to do is look at the last 2 seasons of "Heroes" and this current one of "Pushing Daisies" which is quickly turning into my favorite show of the year.

What sets "Pushing Daisies" apart from all the mystery of the week shows is that their mysteries are actually really interesting.

K J Gillenwater said...

This is sort of off-topic, but I'm wondering what the writers' strike might do for the mid-season replacements like "New Amsterdam" and the Terminator tv show among others. Shows that might have been 'on the bubble' before they even aired might have a better chance at staying on if they are the only new shows on the air.

From what I understand "New Amsterdam" already has 7 shows done and ready to go.

Any thoughts on this, Alan?

Stef said...

I've finally caught up with all of PD, and I'm totally in love. The show is just the right balance of fantasy, romance, mystery, and sarcasm. And as everyone has said, the casting is perfect! Ned and Chuck are great, but I really love Emerson, Olive, and the aunts!

Robyn Weisman said...

I think Kathryn Erbe would *not* have worked in this role because I think she has too much gravitas to be a sidekick.

I think Sarah is actually great in this role. I agree she plays damaged well (and I for one don't mind her outrageous attractiveness).

In a fair world, Erbe would simply be the lead in her own show, not playing (an admittedly) excellent straight man for a male lead.