Hey, look, it's a new year...and you know what that means, don't you?
That's right. Mid-Season Replacements. A slew of shows our beloved networks held back in reserve on the off-chance that their initial volley of shows didn't quite work out. And since the 2011 Fall Season was, well, one of the lousiest in recent memory, those new entries are rolling out in droves.
So, just as with the last round of Brave Viewed World (which you can find here and here, I will be looking at the pilots of the few new shows that interests me and giving my short (well, short-ish) impressions. As more and more of these things roll out, I'll also be letting you know how long I will keep up with the shows. Fair warning, though--back in September I sampled a slew of shows, and I ended up watching exactly two of them beyond their second week...and one of those, the schizophrenic adaptation of Prime Suspect that starred Maria Bello, got cancelled.
So let's start the Cavalcade of Pain!
ROB: Technically, this is called 'Rob' with those upside down and rightside up exclamation point....because, you see, CBS has wrung everything out of convincing the flyover states that hipsters, geeks, fatties and rich people are their lessers...so it's time to start convinicing them foreign people are their lessers!
|One of these people is funny...the other is Rob Schnieder.|
(Okay, I admit...the main reason I watched this was for the train-wreck potential of Rob Schnieder trying to carry a sitcom).
Rob plays a guy named....well, Rob...who marries Maggie, a woman who is a) taller, b) younger c) Mexican and d) waaaaaaaay out of his league. And while Maggie is the ideal mate in that she seems to have abandoned her business in Las Vegas so she can hang around in Rob's pricey home and beg to have sex with him, her massive Chicano family--headed by Cheech Marin's Fernando and his wife, Diana Maria Riva's Rosa--are not happy their little girl has married a schlubby white guy who couldn't carry a joke in a bucket with biiiiig handles.
To be fair, there are a sparse few lines of this pilot that I found funny, and they were all lines delivered by characters who aren't Rob Schnieder. Cheech Marin may be playing a one-dimensional character (he's the Henpecked Father Type that was perfected by Jerry Stiller in Seinfeld and The King Of Queens, only, you know, Chicano), but so masterful is his craft that he manages to squeeze laughs out of some really godawful lines. And I'll admit to really enjoying Eugenio Derbez' Hector. Hector is obviously designed to be the series' analog to The Wacky Neighbor, but there's a combination of how he delivers his lines and his physicality is hilarious; at one point he explains to Rob that he's just visiting, then add with the same style of intonation 'I'm neeever leaving,' and I couldn't stop laughing. If the show was solely about this Chicano family, I might be compelled to watch.
But, you know, it's a sitcom designed to showcase Rob Schnieder, and on that level it's not funny. I don't get any feeling that he and Claudia Bassols, playing Maggie have even had tea together, let alone that they are Meant For Each Other--and to be fair, Bassols isn't playing a character, she's playing an idealized woman for Rob to have. And Rob himself is such a sucking black hole of lack of funny that it's painful to watch him suffer through this half-hour gauntlet. I shall not be back.
The Finder: 'Hey, you know, Bones is going off the air, but we really don't want to give up that audience...what if we did something a whole lot like Bones, but not...maybe with a little of Monk thrown in...okay, a lot of Monk thrown in. Maybe a little Burn Notice, too."
|...and then Michael Clarke Duncan snapped his neck out|
of pity, and no one talked about the quirky detective again...
And, before I get into the show proper, I should give props to producer Hart Hansen for going very old school in setting this show up. Apparently, the program--based on a pair of books by Richard Greener--was given a defacto trailer by having the characters recur during the sixth season. That's the kind of thing we haven't seen since the 70's, and I'm all for more of it.
As for the show itself...Walter (Geoff Stults) is a former government man who suffered brain damage while serving his country. The results of this damage is that he's compelled to find things, and will go to great lengths to find what he seeks. He operates out of a disused bar in Key West, aided by Leo Knox (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Willa (Maddie Hansson)...and sometimes by U.S. Marshall Isabella Zambada (Mercedes Masohn), who is obviously meant to be the David Boreanez character, judging from the way we see her having dinner with Walter at one point, and shows up minutes later in her underwear trying to arrest some goons.
And it's...quirky. Maybe too quirky. I really don't find any of the characters charming, and there's this whole mythology rushing at us in hints and references which would be okay if there wasn't a mythology for each damn character. I want to focus on our main character, not get distracted by the teenage closet gypsy or the Marshall who's been suspended for reasons we don't get at. Hansen is so intent on every character being colorful and distinct and odd--the main villain takes trumpet lessons while wearing a succession of slutty swimwear, her henchpeople wear bright orange (and I mean bright orange) track suits, and Hell, if that's not enough John Fogerty shows up to cameo and wax rhapsodic about a guitar--that nobody is colorful and distinct. The mystery of the pilot, where Walter helps a young man discover what happened to his father, downed in the Florida swamps while transporting drugs, has its potential, but isn't all that compelling because Hansen wants us to love his characters, damnit, and nothing's going to stop him. And the dialogue is equally so intent on making us fall in love with the quirkiness that it ceases to be realistic; the lines given Masohn are particularly winge-worthy, particularly because she doesn't have the acting chops to deliver them effectively. The line where she claims she can't go into a secret cock-fighting den because she's too hot, in particular, falls flat with a thud.
Not surprisingly, the one actor who comes off the best is Michael Clarke Duncan, but that's like saying rain is wet.
I am still not sure if I want to give this a second try or not. I have this nagging feeling it is going to seriously piss me off....but it hasn't done so yet. So the jury is out on this one for the moment.
Napoleon Dynamite: This, however...ick. Just ick.