Some TV programmes are worth great big long reviews. Some just aren’t. Four shiny new US shows missed out on being included in yesterday’s WHYBW since I hadn’t got round to watching them. I have now, but rather than do individual reviews, I’m going to review them en masse, because honestly, there’s not much to say about them. Oh well.
So, for what it’s worth, join me after the jump where I’ll review the first episodes of Charmed (US: The CW; UK: E4), Camping (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic), The Rookie (US: ABC; UK: Sky Witness) and The Kids Are Alright (US: ABC).
Charmed (US: The CW; UK: E4)
Remake of the ‘classic’ TV show that saw three sisters discover they’re witches and have inherited their mother’s responsibility to protect the world from demons and the like using ‘the power of three’ and ‘The Book of Shadows’. This is something of a hodgepodge of the original’s mythos, with the eldest sister now a half-sister (as per Rose McGowan’s replacement for Shannen Doherty) and sexy protective ‘whitelighter’ Leo now an unsexy bookish Brit called Harry (Rupert Evans).
Otherwise, it’s more or less the same, with each of the three sisters having her own personality-determined power. It’s perhaps a little scarier and the feminism is more forced, with one sister now a strident feminist who’s annoyed by ‘cis-male’ Harry heading up the women’s studies department at the university (fair enough), and eldest sister is a scientist. All very aspirational and perhaps better than the original’s slightly less aspirational club manager/newspaper agony aunt/photojournalist trio. But it’s just rammed home so heavily, it feels more like a defensive shield against criticism of the show, rather than useful plotting.
The first half of the episode is a real dirge that lacks any of the charms of the original; however, once the three sisters are united in the second half, it does at least discover a sense of humour. The effects are, of course, better than the original’s, but it’s still not exactly frightening and the sisters aren’t really that endearing.
I’ll stick to our boxsets, thank you.
Camping (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Lena Durham’s remake of the Sky Atlantic Julia Davis comedy about a group of city friends going off camping together to celebrate a birthday has a pretty stellar cast. David Tennant, trialling his inadvisable American accent again, is the lucky man in question, Jennifer Garner his controlling wife, Juliette Lewis their flaky friend along for the trip.
However, it’s all quite unfunny stuff. The whole thing plays on American-wide cultural stereotypes, particularly about city v country folk, New Yorkers v Californians, etc, as well as cosseted liberals who won’t even carry a BB gun to protect themselves against bears and are shocked at the lack of decent shower facilities. No one is likeable and everyone will probably learn a valuable lesson as the series goes on. But jokes? No.
I never saw the original, but I can well imagine Davis pulling off this kind of egomaniacal character. Here, though, everyone simply deserves to be shot with something stronger than a BB gun. I hope the bears win.
The Rookie (US: ABC; UK: Sky Witness)
Nathan Fillion is a freshly divorced construction worker with no idea what to do with his life anymore until he’s caught up in a bank robbery. Feeling all brave and manly, he decides he can make a difference as a 40-something cop. Something, nine months later, his new cop boss (Richard T Jones) is less than convinced by once he starts training in the real world.
Fillion and two other recruits get assigned training officers and the rest of the first episode is then more or less just a series of comedic outtakes from Southland, with our various heroes and heroines learning the hard way that scaling wire fences is harder than it looks and that an unconscious crim might be anything but.
Its aimlessness and general lack of tension could almost be excusable were it not also an obvious vehicle for Fillion’s ego. It’s slightly unedifying watching Fillion chasing down streets, belly wobbling, but the audience expected to believe he can catch fit twentysomethings. Far less edifying is that wobbly Fillion appears to be a twentysomething babe magnet as well. That’s just nasty. He was doing it in Modern Family all last season, too, so this is starting to look like a trend. Icky.
Watch your Southland boxsets instead.
The Kids Are Alright (US: ABC)
Talking of Southland, here’s Michael Cudlitz. This time, though, he’s in a 1970s style Wonder Years, playing the conservative head of a large (think eight kids, all boys) Irish Catholic family. Eldest son is supposed to become a priest but is having second thoughts, much to Cudlitz and wife Mary McCormack’s chagrin; meanwhile, narrator and middle kid wants to become an actor, much to Cudlitz and wife Mary McCormack’s chagrin.
The show works best when it’s reflecting on just how unconcerned by safety everyone was in the 70s. (As Alan Davis put it, you know you’re a 70s kid if your parents ever asked you to get into the oven to light the gas pilot light with a match). There are a lot of fun moments on that score, such as when middle kid suggests he’ll take the bus or hitch hike by himself to Hollywood. “No… You know I hate to waste money on buses!” says McCormack.
Otherwise, though, bar a really groovy soundtrack and great recreation of period detail, it’s basically identical to every other slightly nostalgic/middle-class US TV show (eg The Middle, Malcolm in the Middle).