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September 24, 2015

Review: Rosewood 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted on September 24, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Rosewood

In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox

I can't tell whether to be charitable to Fox or not when it comes to Rosewood. On the one hand, Rosewood is a big budget, primetime crime drama, filmed on location in Miami, and starring a predominantly black and Latino cast, including two lesbians about to embark on an inter-racial marriage.

On the other, it feels like someone fired up a 1995 version of Final Draft, opened the 'crime procedural' template and then got it to add a few random names. Because apart from its diversity and setting, Rosewood is about as generic as it comes. And filled with very irritating people.

It stars the marvellously named and frequently topless Morris Chestnut (V, Legends) as a go-getting, high-achieving forensic pathologist who rather than being a public sector employee, hires out his services to both the police department and private individuals who want a second opinion. He does this through a company he runs with his toxicologist sister and her scientist fiancée (I honestly couldn't tell you what kind of scientist she is, but she does look through a microscope occasionally, so I'm assuming she is one).

It's pretty lucrative, lucrative enough it seems that he can afford a nice car, a nice house and billboards advertising his services all over Miami. Who wants to bet there's some drugs money in there that Fox is never going to show us?

So far, so acceptable, and joking aside, it's good to have a strong, black, male action lead in a TV show who isn't a hyper-masculine, gun-wielding rapper, sports star and/or drug dealer, but a middle-class guy from a happy family who made all his money by going to college, starting his own business and helping people.

It would be so great if Rosewood were great.

All the same, wishes aren't horses and a show can't get anywhere just on happy thoughts. It needs a decent plot, characters, etc. And unfortunately, this is written by Todd Harthan, one of the individuals who gave us the world's worst TV show: Dominion.

This is where it gets bad. As it stands, the show would basically be private sector CSI but without government-endorsed access to crime scenes. That wouldn't work as an episodic format, so the twist that's actually a straighten is that Rosewood quickly shows his family firm's worth to equally high-achieving, go-getting police detective Jaina Lee Ortiz (The After), so she takes him with her on cases.

Theirs is the sort of relationship that probably looks good on paper, as you congratulate yourself on how economical you're being with your 40 minutes of run-time, getting all that character establishment and background over and done with in half the time of other shows. But performed by two living, breathing human beings and then smeared onto people's screens, it's actually intensely irritating.

Chestnut and Ortiz spend a lot of their time telling each other how accomplished they are - sometimes they talk about how awesome they themselves are, sometimes they just tell each other how awesome the other person is ("What's the youngest ever foot patrolman to become a detective in NYPD history doing transferring back to her home town of Miami?"). They analyse each other ("I saw drugs and chemicals all over your house. You have a love affair with death."). They flirt a bit ("I'll tell you why if you tell me why you're so obsessed with death…" "Maybe later"). They philosophise at each other ("I learnt then not to be obsessed with death, but with living, because every day is precious.").

So intent are they with being clever at each other that they won't have noticed that the audience worked out what was actually blindingly obvious about each of their secrets halfway through the episode and is merely waiting for the characters to 'reveal' what they think is marvellously important and deep - except it honestly wasn't worth waiting for (spoiler alert: she's not married, she's a widow), and in Rosewood's case, it's edging towards the "Really guys? You went with that?" (spoiler alert: he was a premature baby). It's also in the trailer.

Unfortunately, as much as Chestnut's perky, suave Rosewood is fun to watch, Ortiz is even more miserable, duller and superfluous to the plot's requirements than the similarly charactered Alana De La Garza was in Forever. While there may be romance in the show's future - and for once, couldn't a show just start off with the two main characters just hitting it off and liking each other from the beginning rather than waiting four to five years for the inevitable? - it'll be a bit like George Clooney dating a teflon casserole pan (with perhaps a bit of dancing, given Ortiz's background) so is anyone really going to be looking forward to that?

The supporting cast are even more unnecessary and rather than having any real characters or interesting qualities of their own, Rosewood's co-workers/relatives really just seem to be there to show how right-on the programme is and how two women can have a loving and incredibly, blandly normal relationship together.

If you've seen any episodes of CSI or Bones you'll have already seen better cases, so don't expect to be wowed by the mystery in this first episode at least. But to be honest, you probably won't want to be tuning in, unless you simply want to artificially inflate the ratings to make it look like Fox's diversity experiment is working.

September 23, 2015

Review: Scream Queens 1x1-1x2 (US: Fox; UK: E4)

Posted on September 23, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Scream Queens

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by E4 for autumn for broadcast

The list of evil was long, my foreboding great:

  • Created by Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, American Horror Story, The New Normal, Nip/Tuck and Pretty Handsome
  • Teen heroes and heroines
  • Guest stars from Glee
  • A spoof of slasher horror movies, particularly from the 1980s
  • Pop star Nick Jonas
  • Sororities
  • Rich kids
  • The Fox network
  • No female writers

How could it go right, I wondered? Even with the possible saving grace of Jamie Lee Curtis starring in it, Scream Queens was going to be wretched.

I picked at my nails. I watched 800 Words. I even contemplated sitting down to struggle with The Bastard Executioner or re-evaluate The Muppets.

But no, this is a blog with a cast iron guarantee that it will cover every new, scripted US TV show for adults, provided they don't feature too much music, appear on some obscure network I've never heard of or start in August. Could there be any stronger bond of trust with you, dear reader? 

And gods damn it, it's September.

So I sat down and braved myself to watch two full hours of Scream Queens. And waddayaknow? After an initially bumpy start, Scream Queens turned out to be the first new show of the Fall 2015-16 that I've actually enjoyed.

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Scream Queens 1x1-1x2 (US: Fox; UK: E4)"

September 21, 2015

Preview: Limitless 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on September 21, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Limitless

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, CBS

One of the best things about Dexter, Showtime's little-known show about a serial killer who only kills bad people, was Jennifer Carpenter. A foul-mouthed force of nature, she was both fun and clearly having fun in the show - for the first few seasons at least.

Post-Dexter, her career hasn't taken off, unfortunately. An attempted USA Network pilot, Stanistan, failed to make it to series, meaning she had to pin her hopes this year on CBS's Limitless spin-off.

Park that thought for a second because the progress of Limitless from book to TV series is instructive. It originally started life as The Dark Fields, a novel by Irish novellist Alan Glynn about a down-and-out writer who takes a new drug, NZT, that can expand his mental powers. Effectively a metaphor for how people on cocaine feel, it sees the hero turn his life round, become rich and powerful, and ultimately completely dependent on the drug, which turns out to have horrific side effects for those who stop taking it. Unusually for a European writer, though, the moral of the book was 'don't do drugs' and 'Eddie Spinola’ (spoiler alert) ends up dying alone in a motel room.

The book was eventually adapted by Leslie Dixon of all people. Until Limitless, Dixon was best known as the screenplay writer of Outrageous Fortune, Overboard, Mrs. Doubtfire, Freaky Friday and Hairspray. However, for Limitless, although largely faithful to the original, Dixon actually improved on it in several ways: she added action scenes, a new female character (Abbie Cornish) and changed the ending. In her hands, hero Bradley Cooper also discovers the good side of drugs, solves NZT’s side-effects and ends up running for senator, thanks to the power of NZT. Director Neil Burger and cinematographer Jo Willems also gave the movie a unique visual appearance.

And now we have the TV version, which is both a sequel and an adaptation of the movie. In a script by Elementary producer Craig Sweeny, we get Jake McDorman of you'll-have-forgotten-it-existed-until-I-mentioned-it-again Manhattan Love Story as a down-and-out singer who ends up taking NZT and with the help of Bradley Cooper, becomes a vital FBI asset, using his vast mental powers to solve crimes no one else can. His helper and biggest support? Jennifer Carpenter.

And two things are clear:

  1. Although adaptations can improve on the originals, they can also make them worse
  2. You can be too slavish too the original when you adapt it

Why do I say that? Because although Limitless isn't all that bad and is actually quite fun, mainly thanks to all the things it lifts straight from the movie's script and direction, it lifts too much - by having a Bradley Cooper-esque hero, it overlooks the fact the show would have been about 1,000 times smarter and better if Jennifer Carpenter were the heroine on NZT, McDorman the straight-laced FBI helper.

Here's the trailer.

Continue reading "Preview: Limitless 1x1 (US: CBS)"

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