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January 12, 2016

Review: Angel from Hell 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on January 12, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Angel From Hell

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, CBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how good your cast is if your script sucks. Sometimes, even if your script doesn't totally suck, it doesn't matter since you'll be airing on CBS - the network that likes to make comedies that leave the viewer feeling they've just been licked by a random stranger on a subway train.

Angel From Hell has a good cast. A good cast. It's got Maggie Lawson from Psych and Back In the Game, as a workaholic dematologist who lives to help everyone else but whose own life is a mess. It's got Jane Lynch from Glee and Party Down as a crazy stalker woman who claims to be - and might actually be - Lawson's (foul-mouthed, sinning) guardian angel, breaking the rules by directly intervening to help Lawson fix her life. It's got Kyle Bornheimer (Worst Week, Family Tools, Perfect Couples) as Lawson's recently divorced brother, who now lives in her garage. And it's got Kevin Pollack (The Lost Room, Family Tree) as Lawson's widowed dad.

So, good cast. But not a great or original concept - someone ambiguously claiming to be a guardian angel/deity and trying to do their good (or evil) works on Earth is the grist of Cupid, Mr Frost, The Muse et al, while the angel who's no angel, sometimes comedically so, has been worked to death everywhere from The Prophecy through to Supernatural.

The show doesn't give either Lawson or Lynch much to work with either. Everything's incredibly predictable. Lynch, doing her normal schtick, isn't that sinning, usually just stealing things, drinking and having to go to the toilet after a bad taco. The ambiguity about whether her character is an angel or not, which arises from her spooky knowledge about Lawson's life, is constantly explained away by her ability to hack computers and social media, which is funny the first time, less the fifth or sixth time. Lawson, in turn, is sweet yet still surprisingly manages to hold her own against Lynch, but her character is thanklessly dull. Bornheimer's funny when flirting with Lynch, underserved the rest of the time, while Pollak's pretty much only there so that the cast list has 'with Kevin Pollak' in it.

So good cast, the occasionally funny joke and some obvious intelligence in the writing. But by contrast, there's plenty to offend anyone moderately Christian and nothing that makes Angel From Hell anything but exceedingly average. I'm pretty sure it's going to die a death in the ratings. Whether that's because it's just no good or because of God's wrath I suspect will turn out be less than ambiguous.

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January 11, 2016

Preview: Colony 1x1 (US: USA Network)

Posted on January 11, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Colony

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, USA Network
In the UK: Not yet acquired

They say the secret of comedy is timing. I think the same is true of TV. A bit over a year ago, I was asked on Radio 5 why I thought zombie shows were so popular. I went for the glib Zoolander quote "they're so hot right now", but also mentioned that there was an obvious subtext - just in case you weren't listening, I was talking about rich versus poor, fear of diseases and the other, with an enemy that can't be understood and negotiated with, only fought, and yet which keeps on coming, no matter what you do.

That, of course, was two years ago and was at the back end of the zombie/disease/Occupy Wall Street trend. Now the big fear is that immigrants are going to come in, swamp us, and take over our countries. They're going to invade us.

TV, of course, can take a long time to get made, with years sometimes passing between genesis, gestation and eventual realisation of a show. Had Colony come out a year or so ago, back when I was doing that radio show, it would have looked prophetic and pioneering. Had it come out say two or even three months ago, it would have been riding a wave. Coming out now? It's missed the boat.

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January 11, 2016

Preview: Second Chance 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted on January 11, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Second Chance

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, Fox. Starts January 13
In the UK: Not yet acquired

What's in a name, you might ask. Quite a lot, it seems, in the case of Second Chance, given the contortions it's gone through in its brief life.

The show stars Robert Kazinsky (Dream Team, EastEnders, Pacific Rim) and Philip Michael Hall (The Loop) as Jimmy Pritchard, a retired disgraced sheriff who consorts with prostitutes and has a 'problematic' relationship with his FBI son widower Tim DeKay (White Collar) and granddaughter Ciara Bravo (Red Band Society).

You might have noticed that I said that both Hall and Kazinsky play Jimmy Pritchard. For a change, that's not a grammatical mistake on my part. You see, there's a brilliant pair of rich twins (Dilshad Vadsaria from Greek and Adhir Kalyan from Rules of Engagement). Vadsaria is dying of a rare form of cancer and so Kalyan invents a process that could save her, provided they find someone genetically compatible and a bit dead. Because Kalyan can bring the right person back from the dead and in considerably improved condition - as a better version of themselves, stronger, faster and even younger. And then they can milk him for his curative white blood cells.

When the 70-something Hall finds DeKay's office being broken into, the perps end up throwing him off a bridge. Kalyan brings him back as Kazinsky, who's offered not just a second chance at stopping the perps, but also doing good and perhaps even improving his relationship with his family.

Now, originally, this was called The Frankenstein Code. Whether it's because it had almost nothing to do with Mary Shelley's original book or whether it was because ITV had The Frankenstein Chronicles coming out at roughly the same time, I don't know. But the show soon got renamed Looking Glass - the name of Vadsaria and Kalyan's social media company - and the only vestige of the original name is now Vadsaria's name, 'Mary Godwin' (Godwin being Shelley's maiden name). Apparently, though, Looking Glass was too cryptic and perhaps even too suggestive of Lewis Carroll, because the show was soon renamed Second Chance, which at least is a bit closer to what the show's about.

However, I wonder how much of this name-changing is to distract us all from the fact that Second Chance is basically Now and Again, in which Eric Close plays a genetically perfect reincarnation of the dead John Goodman who's created to solve crimes and do espionage, but spends all his time wanting to fix things with his family, now he can't be with them.

Second Chance has rather a lot in common with Now and Again - a similar plot, similar concerns, better when dealing with family matters than with cops and spies. It's different enough that lawsuits probably won't be flying, but similar enough that you'll feel like you're watching a rerun when you watch it.

It's not without a few saving graces. The idea that youth is wasted on the youthful and the idea of a 'do over' are timelessly appealing. This also isn't 'single point' sci-fi, with the twin's ability to resurrect the dead coming ex nihilo and everything else remaining the same. Instead, it's set in the near future, where everyone's house has computer displays in the windows and a portable of army of UAVs is available when you need it. The show also channels 'superbeing shows' of the 70s and 80s, such as The Gemini Man and Northstar, by giving our hero a time limit each day before he has to be returned to a tank to stop his super-powerful new body rejecting his enhancements and dying permanently.

But it's still not great. Hall's a more interesting character than Kazinsky, just as Goodman was better than Close, inviting his frequent return, I suspect. DeKay is either studiously doing serious acting or has lost the will to live, knowing he's always going to be playing the FBI straight man to someone more interesting - I can't tell which. The rest of the cast aren't great shakes and the cop plots are pretty perfunctory and solved with a couple of punches.

Nevertheless, there's at least potential here and the chance for the show to grow in interesting directions, since there's no obvious fixed format for it. Maybe he'll go off solving crimes; maybe he'll try to bond with his family; maybe he'll be the subject of scientific research every week.

At best, it'll probably be easy viewing on an unchallenging Monday. But that's still better than pretty much any other recent Fox sci-fi show.

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