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September 28, 2015

Review: Quantico 1x1 (US: ABC; UK: Alibi)

Posted on September 28, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Acquired by Alibi

The TV business can be risky, particularly the US broadcast TV business where a show can be cancelled after just a few episodes and lose millions of dollars in the process.

As a result, broadcast networks tend to want to play safe. If they find something that does well in the ratings, something that usually hasn't strayed too far from the previous year's not especially adventurous offerings, they'll try to create something relatively similar the next year to capitalise upon it.

This isn't a good idea, but if you're a TV exec, you're not likely to lose your job over it, since you can always say: "It was a safe bet. Hell, the last one did well and this was pretty similar. Who could have predicted it would tank?"

Last year's "something quite close to lots of things you've already seen but which is a bit different" on ABC was How To Get Away With Murder, which was basically a remake of the 1970s law school show Paper Chase except with a more diverse cast and added murder. That was popular enough that it got renewed by the network. That, of course, means that this year we need something that's quite close to How To Get Away With Murder but which is a bit different.

The setting and general structure of How To Get Away With Murder is this: a team of diverse recruits to a prestigious school, all competing with one another to be the best, with the action running in two timelines, one before, one after a crime. What Quantico stupidly does is think you can transfer that from a law school to Quantico and have more or less the same kinds of people and principles. 

You'll probably have heard of Quantico: it trains the FBI, the DEA and the Marines. When you hear the name 'Quantico', you probably think of something like this:

What you probably don't think of is Muslims in hijab climbing assault courses; people with lots of deep, dark, borderline felony secrets; mean girls picking on their teachers for not being sexy and marriagable enough; and an Indian superstar trying to make it big in the US as an FBI recruit accused of committing a 9/11-level atrocity and trying to prove it was actually one of her classmates.

Here's a trailer. Be warned - the show's single redeeming feature, Dougray Scott, has been replaced by Josh Hopkins from Cougar Town

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September 25, 2015

Review: The Player 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on September 25, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Player

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

I'm sure a lot of you will have seen CBS's Person of Interest. In case you haven't, let me précis: a genius programmer creates the ultimate surveillance computer, able to predict crimes before they happen, and he recruits an ex-special forces soldier to help him stop those crimes. Initially content simply to be 'crime of the week', the show evolves over the seasons to partly become about a war for control of that computer.

Imagine then an NBC show in which someone had wrested control away of that computer from CBS and was using it to… gamble. What you'll have then is The Player.

Returning to his old Crusoe stomping ground to join his former Strike Back pal Sullivan Stapleton (Blindspot) on NBC, Philip Winchester is an ex-terrorist hunter FBI agent turned Las Vegas security consultant. While helping to secure some foreign dignitaries, things all get a bit personal and before you know it, he's on the run from police.

Little does he know that he's attracted the attention of a group of very wealthy people who have been tapped into the world's information networks for years and can now predict when certain crimes are about to occur. They'd quite like him to help the dignitaries and stop further crime. 

But they're not that bothered. See, what they really like to do is gamble on what's going to happen. It's all a big game to them. A game in which Winchester is The Player. Providing help but also supervising the game and making sure no rules are broken are The Dealer (Charity Wakefield from Any Human Heart, Wolf Hall, and Mockingbird Lane) and The Pit Boss, played by none other than tax-dodging action hero Wesley Snipes.

And as you might expect from a show set in sunny Las Vegas, rather than chilly grey old New York, as well as making you feel like you've taken something and lost big chunks of time, it's a lot more explosive, a lot more funny and a whole lot more ludicrous than Person of Interest

It's also loads of fun.

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September 24, 2015

Review: Rosewood 1x1 (US: Fox)

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


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.

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