Third-episode verdict: Raines

Raines Carusometer1-Caruso-Free

It’s been a long time coming, but here’s the third-episode verdict of Raines. The pilot episode started off well enough, with a Chandleresque take on modern crime investigations. At the time, I thought the show was a bit gimmicky.

Since then, a hefty supporting cast has been added – not for the better – but a more promising central tenet for the show has emerged, turning it into quite a smart piece of work.

Essentially, the show is a liberal’s wet dream: it’s an exploration and refutation of prejudice, using homicide as a device for providing the truth behind society’s pre-suppositions about people.

Imagine you knew nothing about a person. Then slowly you were given more and more facts about them and asked – in fact required – by your job to make conclusions about the sort of person they were. They’re young and male and Latino and found shot dead in the street, so were they a criminal? They’re young and female and found dead in a cheap motel, so were they a prostitute? What kind of person is a prostitute? What does she drink? What’s her relationship like with her parents? Was a homeless woman mad, godless or simply a loser? As more and more facts are added, so the picture changes.

The gimmick, of course, is that Raines, the detective played by Jeff Goldblum, talks to an imagined version of the victim during the course of the show, so we get to see how his impression of the victim changes as he finds out more about them. There are no car chases, no gun fights in Raines. With the likes of CSI: Miami proclaiming themselves to be victim-focused, when in fact they’re all about revenge against the perpetrator of the crime, Raines is actually carving out a new niche for itself as the most victim-focused of the current crop of cop shows, with the successful conclusion of each episode not so much about having found the criminal but about having finally achieved a rounded view of the victim.

How much you like the show depends a great deal on how much you like Jeff Goldblum, although not necessarily in the way you’d expect. I could happily watch anything he’s in, but others may have the usual objections against his somewhat idiosyncratic style. It’s clear that executives somewhere at NBC have come to the same conclusion, because the extra supporting cast, including Linda Park from Enterprise and Madeleine Stowe from 12 Monkeys et al, are clearly there to make Raines less of a one-man show.

This is a touch disappointing, since the supporting cast are a largely uninvolving bunch, with only Stowe offering a hint of personality. I’d have been much happier with Goldblum by himself and the victim of the week; it may well be that even though you may not like Goldblum, you might like the rest of the cast even less.

It’s a somewhat worthy show, too. There’s an overtone of “prejudice of the week” to the show and how well each episode fares dramatically is somewhat determined by how well that prejudice is explored. The second, which explored prejudice against illegal immigration, was a fine piece of work, with a subtlety you’re just not used to in mainstream television. But the third, which looked at homelessness, went for most of the same buttons as every other show on the subject, even if it did have a few original points.

Then there’s the overall theme, of course, which is the nature of madness. Why is Raines seeing dead people? Does it make him a better cop? What does it say about him as a person? It’s not being looked at in any real detail or with any degree of psychological rigour, but it’s still an unusual strand in an unusual show. And when the average cop show’s idea of characterisation is to give a character a hobby or a no-good friend, it’s good to see long portions of the show being used to give Raines back story, interests, and friends.

So despite being a little plodding and worthy, for its interesting character study of Michael Raines, loony detective, and its intelligent analysis of prejudice, The Medium is Not Enough declares Raines to be 1 or “Caruso free”on The Carusometer quality scale. A one on The Carusometer corresponds to a show in which David Caruso might try to appear, claiming to be the best choice of actor for the lead of any police drama. However, when faced with the very real possibility of having to appear opposite top calibre actors, he would pull out at the last minute, claiming a scheduling conflict or that the other actors had once slighted him in a game of triominos and could therefore not be relied upon.

Review: Doctor Who – 3×1 – Smith and Jones

Smith and Jones

So here it is. Series three has hit us at last. Expectations are high. We’ve a new companion to meet, an established Doctor – the coolest character in the universe apparently – to touch base with again and the horrible scar tissue left over from Torchwood to deal with. That really squandered some good will.

Despite the fact Russell T Davies was writing it and it was a series premiere, I thought Smith and Jones wasn’t that bad, even with all those factors to deal with.

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Is it just me or is Top Gear fantastic?

Top Gear

I hate cars. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 21 because I hated them so much. I’ve owned two cars in my life, which was a bit of an aberration, and they were both rubbish and nothing but trouble. Cars are evil. They suck up money and destroy the planet. Use public transport instead if you can.

But I love Top Gear. It’s one of the best hours of television around and I’m not sure why. Obviously, it has something to do with the chemistry of the presenters. There’s also something about the way it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the way it mixes genres, one moment being the standard car review show, the next veering into scripted comedy, the next into reality TV. One moment it’ll be a chat show, the next moment it’ll be shot like a movie.

It’s terribly blokey, and not desperately informative for the average car driver, but it’s wonderful fun. If you’ve not tried it because you’re put off by Jeremy Clarkson or cars, I suggest you give it a whirl, since it’s still great.

Third-episode verdict: The Riches

The Carusometer for The Riches1-Caruso-Free

First, apologies for not blogging so much for the last fortnight or so. Instead of bumbling around at home, I’ve been out and about so I’ve scarcely had a chance to watch any tele, let alone write about it (despite my shiny new iPod). So, to catch up with the backlog, I’m going to break with policy and blog a bit at weekends.

The Riches is first in the queue to be cleared. As you may recall, the first episode was actually pretty good, despite Eddie Izzard’s fluctuating Southern accent. Since then, Wayne Malloy and his family have settled down and are continuing to try to steal the American dream.

With Izzard as exec producer, it’s no surprise that Wayne Malloy, despite being “the world’s greatest con man”, is pretty rubbish at being a con man, eventually ad libbing his way into the successful conclusion of a scam rather than using careful planning. His attempts to convince the world he’s a high-flying lawyer wouldn’t work anywhere except in a TV show, but they’re entertaining, particularly if you enjoy Izzard’s style of comedy. The Izzard influence even extends to Malloy’s younger son, whose transvestite tendencies are an interesting background to an already weird family. Minnie Driver continues to impress, as do the rest of the cast.

While the second episode lacked the punch of the wonderfully dark first episode, the third managed to create a new style for the show as a slightly dramatic dark comedy, rather than a slightly comedic dark drama. It’s not necessarily comfortable viewing – something that appears to be a trademark style for FX (“the dark network”) – and there are more than a few flaws in the whole set-up, but it is head and shoulders above the average piece of rubbish that hits our screens.

So it’s a pleasure to declare The Riches scored a 1 or “Caruso free” rating on The Carusometer. A “Caruso free” rating corresponds to a show that David Caruso might accidentally get sent a script for, but which he’d be unable to see a part for which his talents would be suitable. If he did ring the producers to ask for an audition, they would pretend to be a Chinese laundry rather than meet him and confess their mistake. Caruso would then dine out on the tale of how he turned down a part in the show for a minimum of seven months.