Friday, March 14, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'Jezebel James' review

Today's column reviews "The Return of Jezebel James," which was a big disappointment:

When it debuts tonight, "The Return of Jezebel James" won't be the worst comedy on television. It won't even be the worst comedy on Fox. But it's a very special, frustrating kind of bad, one with the power to actually change history. Not only does it make me wonder how so many talented people could create such a lousy show, it makes me question whether I was wrong for liking what these people did in the past.

Specifically, it's dumped all over my memories of "Gilmore Girls," the previous series from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and husband/partner Daniel Palladino. So much of "Jezebel James" feels like a continuation or spin-off of "Gilmore," particularly the snappy dialogue and the central relationship between two female relatives (on "Gilmore," it was a mother and daughter who were more like sisters; here, it's the opposite), yet almost none of it works.
To read the full thing, click here.


Anonymous said...

Two questions:

Is the show at least bad in an interesting enough way that I'll want to watch it just to see what went wrong (ala Studio 60) or just so bad I'll immediately want to delete my season pass?

And people have been complaining about the format since the screener went out last summer. Why didn't Fox allow them to switch to single camera? And do you really think that would have made it a good show or just not quite as painfully bad?

jcpbmg said...

So what's more of a let down/drop in quality, Sorkin's TWW (the first 4 years) to S60 or ASP's GG to Jezebel James?

I'd argue it's Sorkin because, at least based on the review's I've been reading about Jezebel James, it's not ASP that comes out looking as bad as it is Grahm and Bledel looking that good for being able to handle ASP's dialogue.

Also I think ASP really wanted to do mulit-camera (in the recent times profile she spoke about how she hated the slow pace that GG shot at).

Tui Snider said...

How sad is that! I have yet to hear a good review of this show. I hope Amy Sherman-Palladino can find a way to salvage her new creation. How much do you think is due to the 1/2 hour format?

afoglia said...

I just saw both episodes, and you really nailed it in your review. I just kept thinking how bad Parker Posey was delivering the lines compared to Lauren Graham. Graham's Lorelai would say things (like defending ABBA) in a way that wasn't serious on the surface, but you knew was serious to her, but you knew she knew it wasn't really important. Think of how she would have delivered the "sensible bra" line, or tried to cover up the "Hello Kitty" phone.

I always thought Lorelai Gilmore was a great character to watch, but would be annoying in real life. Posey's Sarah is annoying all the time. (Weist and Ambrose did a much better job, but they're not the center.)

BTW, that apartment was huge even for TV standards.

@jcpbmg: This is much worse than "Studio 60." "Studio 60" was an interesting mess, an attempt to do something big and intelligent. "Jezebel James" is a failed attempt at a traditional sitcom. "Studio 60" was very well written, but focused on trying to be bigger than it could. "Jezebel James" has nothing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know - I mean it wasn't good, but somehow I felt that if they were to get to episode 12 or 15, they might just get this show actually running properly and it might be decent.
Of course, that will never happen as this is just a dump-off - notice how they didn't promo upcoming scenes for next week (if it even makes it to next week) or even that a second episode was following the first, instead Fox showed a promo for a repeat of The Simpsons. That's always a bad sign - if your network is unwilling to mention your show is coming up next between back to back episodes.

j said...

Hi, long time reader, first time poster.

I just watched both episodes, and I totally agree with your review. Further, I thought Ambrose did a lovely job, in part because she seemed to try to ground the character in reality; whereas Posey seemed to be - more so in the first than the second episode, so hopefully this will change - to be a caricature, or to be making fun of the character she was playing. And, as someone said in the comments, not at all likeable.

I didn't think the writing could compare to the best of Gilmore Girls, but, it was still better than the worst of the Gilmore Girls (cause when that show got bad, hoo-boy, it got BAD.) That said, I definitely think there were some genuinely funny lines in there. Has there ever been a show with a laugh track that cut the laugh track after a few episodes? Or is the show pretty much stuck with with the laugh track?

I've got to compare the insane-for-NYC apartment (esp on a book children's salary) to Lorelai and Rory's clothing budget. (TV-money is so awesome, and stretches so far. I wish it were real money.) Seriously, if they stopped spending $100/pyjamas, they wouldn't have had to borrow money to send Rory to Chilton.

The Alden said...

The first episode was intensely awkward, but I enjoyed the second a bit more. Posey is indeed the biggest problem, but I'm hoping by the end of S1, everything will have settled down. There was a marked improvement between 1x01 and1x02, which is heartening. I'm a firm believer that you can't tell a show by even its first four episodes. The pilot for 'The Big Bang Theory', for example, was awfully mediocre, but I checked it out a couple episodes later and everything was gelling much better. I'm betting Jezebel will improve as everyone gets their sea legs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the review too.... I really do think this might have made a decent hourlong dramedy. But the laugh track (especially over lines that are about serious topics, even if they're said in a joking way) completely ruins it.

Both of actresses have played virtually the same roles better elsewhere. In the case of Posey, almost literally, since she also played a hard-headed children's-book editor in the film "You've Got Mail." But there, her character was intended to show that the book industry, even the children's part of it, is a business for businesspeople, as opposed to artsy literary types. Here, her being a kids'-book editor is supposed to soften her, but the job is really at odds with her character.

Likewise, Ambrose's role is a much shallower version of her part on "Six Feet Under." There, you got to see both the soulfulness and the selfishness behind the flighty wild child.

Even the oddball-pregnancy subject matter suffers by comparison at a time when movies like "Knocked Up" and "Juno" show how that sort of thing can be done well.

What's really sad is that such good actors and producers are wasting their time on a program that isn't enjoyable and probably won't last. Now that the writer's strike is over, maybe they'll all go out and make some films that are actually worth seeing.

Bill C said...

Just wanted to add that I felt the show was not just badly written but also, perhaps more detrimentally, very poorly directed. There's a scene in the second episode where Lauren Ambrose storms off in a huff and walks like two feet away, standing with her back to Parker Posey while PP shrieks out a snappy retort that reminded me of those old milk commercials where people just stood there getting lectured while some ugly-duckling blossomed into a swan. I mean, it's rare that I observe bad blocking, but there was such a high-school-play choreography to it all.

Anonymous said...

Has there ever been a show with a
laugh track that cut the laugh track after a few episodes?

"Sports Night" ditched the laugh track midway through the first season.

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

Admittedly, I'm no fan of the Gilmore Girls, but that was much worse than I expected it to be. Why was Parker Posey over-enunciating every word she spoke? If that was someone's first exposure to her, they'd never guess her to be the critical darling that she is. The only redeeming quality was Lauren Ambrose's performance. Still, I don't know if it's enough for me to return. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Unhitched (gasp) is actually more watchable.

Antid Oto said...

Just wanted to add that I felt the show was not just badly written but also, perhaps more detrimentally, very poorly directed.

I didn't think it was so badly written, but atrociously directed and mostly very badly acted. The laugh track, the multiple cameras...I really felt like I was watching a bad sitcom from about 20 years ago, not even a modern bad sitcom.