The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: Life on Mars (US)

Time (ho ho) for a third-episode verdict on the US version of Life on Mars. So far, we’ve had a combination of two remake scripts and an original script – on top of the original bland pilot.

The new first episode wasn’t bad at all and ironed out many of the problems of the pilot and episode two did enough jiggering around with the UK script and added enough new elements to the overall set-up that the show started to feel increasingly different – even if it was word-for-word and shot-for-shot the same at times.

Episode three, the first original episode, decided to venture into the treatment of gay men in the early 70s. Although pretty clumsy in places, with none of the regulars revealing any truly horrifying prejudices and Gene Hunt delivering an awesomly bad speech at one point on the subject, it did allow the producers to deliver an episode that focused on truly American concerns, making it a show in its own right, rather than simply a relocation.

Jason O’Mara, previously one of the weak links in the show’s set-up, is proving a reasonable lead, since he’s veering more towards a comedy portrayal of Sam Tyler than John Simm did, something he actually seems quite good at. Oddly, the weakest link is Harvey Keitel who veers between non-comitted, frail and spaced out with no apparent reason. He’s starting to make me wonder whether David Caruso could do a better job, which is something that should never happen.

On balance, it feels like a weaker version of the UK Life on Mars that’s still trying to find its feet. It’s still pretty good and there are aspects of it that are better than the UK’s version, such as Gretchen Mol’s more interesting and brighter Annie. But as of yet, it still hasn’t got the magic of the original.

Predictions
Could limp on for at least another season, but could go on for a whole lot longer if it finally finds its mojo.

Carusometer rating
Two or partial Caruso

US TV

Review: Crusoe 1×1-1×2

Crusoe

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, NBC

Setting’s very important to a story. Stick Crusoe on Saturday evening in a teatime slot in the UK and it would be a whole load of family fun. Sure, the purists would be complaining that this adaptation of Robinson Crusoe plays extremely fast and loose with the book – and indeed starts halfway through it – and seems to have been crossed with Pirates of the Caribbean and The Admirable Crichton along the way.

But this is a post-Merlin age and we’d have been quite happy with a big budget escapist bit of tatt that might at least get a couple of kids reading books and thinking about history and issues.

However, it’s not going out on Saturday night ITV1. It’s Friday night NBC fun in the US. They’re aiming it at adults, the fools. That’s never going to work.

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The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: Valentine

Three always was the charm with the Greek gods, so let’s have a look at Valentine‘s first three episodes to see if it has managed to bewitch us so far. The show’s premise is that at least some of the Greek gods have survived to the present day and in an effort to remain relevant – and therefore immortal – Aphrodite, Eros and others have to work together to bring soulmates together, just like they did in the good old days.

Essentially each show has an A-plot and a B-plot, one for the immortals and one for the mortals they’re trying to match-make. The mortal plot is invariably dreadful, with drippy dork usually falling for woman out of his league and having to woo her somehow with the help of the gods. The immortal plot, however, is usually much better, showing signs of imagination, originality and some actual research (although not an overwhelming amount).

The only problems here are:

  1. the woeful miscasting, with Jaime Murray (Aphrodite) ruining pretty much every scene she’s in (as well as helping to turn the title sequence into one of the most cringeworthy in history) and most of the other gods failing to convince, with perhaps the exception of Eros. Indeed, Ares, god of savage war, is played by a weeny English bloke. What’s going on there?
  2. the tedious mortal romance-writer the producers have partnered the gods with

The general expectation given to us by the really rather bad first episode was that mortal romance would be A-plot, god-squabbling the B-plot – indeed that’s how episode three worked. That would have been an almost unbearable show.

But episode two was almost revelatory. Not only was it an arranged marriage episode that wasn’t totally insensitive and insulting, but the two plot strands swapped places in priority. And as predicted, it was a whole lot more interesting than the first episode as a result, even if there was an absolutely dire Bollywood dance sequence that cost it nearly a full mark on the Carusometer.

Now whether it’s Kevin Murphy’s background on shows like Reaper, but episode two felt like Pride and Prejudice would have done if the bloke from Saw had turned up. Suddenly, instead of the pink-tinged fluffy wuffiness of the first episode, suddenly we had an episode where if the gods fail, the wife-to-be ends up topping herself with sleeping pills, with her body being discovered by her youngest son. WTF? Where did that come from?

Better still, we had an ending of prophecied vicious bloodletting, Ares talking about a threat to the gods from outside and the suggestion that mortal hanger-on might be behind it all. So now we have a nice dark underbelly to the fluff that actually makes it worth watching and which will, at least, be an arc that carries on through future episodes.

There are still obvious problems, Jaime Murray being one the most obvious. But if the writers can slowly ditch the mortal sub-plots – just as Charmed did before it – in favour of the gods and their issues, it could actually turn out to be a pretty entertaining show.

Predictions
Could last a whole season at least, provides it stays off the tedious mortals and focuses on the gods.

Carusometer rating
Two or Partial Caruso

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: The Ex-List

We’re three episodes into The Ex-List now so it must be time to decide whether to keep watching or not. As you might recall, it’s the story of a quite boring woman who gets told by a psychic that she has to get married within the year to someone she once dated or else she’ll doomed to end up alone. So dull woman starts checking out all her old boyfriends to see what they’ve become over the last 0-20 years, while her far more interesting friends go off and have far more interesting B-plots.

Like No Heroics, this is a show which if the main character were removed completely from the proceedings and the whole thing left to the supporting characters (especially her foxy history teacher friend and her boyfriend, who have quite an interesting relationship), it would actually be quite fun. Unfortunately, it’s not and things have only got more boring since the initial episode, with dull woman’s mountain-biking and cop boyfriends not even as interesting as the rock-star boyfriend of the pilot.If she, both actress and character, had perhaps just a bit more spark, the show would seem less interminable. But I’m not sure her vacillations and constant psychic consultations are appealing to anyone at all at the moment.

Not badly put together, and it has a nice sense of place (although San Diego struck me as having a few more Latinos when I was there) but hampered by the original Israeli format into being something less than it could be.

Predictions
Will get cancelled in the not too distant future

Carusometer rating
Three or Minor Caruso

US TV

Review: Eli Stone 2×1

Eli Stone

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: SciFi, probably (season 1 now airing)

Eli Stone was a show I really disliked at first sight. A high-flying lawyer gets a brain aneurism and starts to have visions of the future, usually involving singing, dancing and/or George Michael, that enable him to save people or fix problems in their life. Where are these visions from? God? Somewhere else? Eli Stone didn’t seem to want to make an actual decision on that one because then it would, you know, have to be saying something.

But it improved slightly and by the third episode had started to have a few moderate things going for it, even if it had got both wishier and washier. By the sixth episode, the producers seemed to have worked out that the format needed a bit of tweaking and by the season finale, the show was actually pretty good and occasionally moving as the producers got progressively bolder.

Now it’s back, just as fluffy as before, but willing to lay down a few hard “this is what we stand for”s, along with a few properly tear jerking moments – and Sigourney Weaver.

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