Oh yes it’s ladies night, and the feeling’s right, it’s ladies night, oh what a night! That’s right folks, women dominated Thursday’s slate of new shows and we’ve got your reviews right here. Scott Malchus looks at the reboot of a 70’s favorite, Charlie’s Angels, then Brian Boone checks in with Whitney, the new NBC sitcom starring Whitney Cummings. Finally, Mr. Malchus returns to review NBC’s adaptation of the classic British series, Prime Suspect. Can Maria Bello and her Fedora live up to Dame Helen Mirren? Read on to find out. Oh, and leave comments.
Charlie’s Angels is the latest 70’s TV show to get a 21st century makeover and like last year’s Hawaii Five-O, this new show slicker, faster, younger and full of action. It’s also dumber than the original series, if that’s possible. By dumb I don’t mean the set up, I mean the cliché ridden script and the wooden acting. I’m shocked that Minka Kelly, so strong during her tenure on Friday Night Lights is so unbelievable in this role. This was one of the most tortuous hours of TV I sat through so far this season; so that means the show is destined to be a hit. Awesome!
Just like its predecessor and the two Charlie’s Angels movies (which starred Drew Barrymore, one of the new show’s executive producers), the premise for this series still follows the adventures of three beautiful women who ran into trouble with the law and were given a chance to redeem themselves by coming to work as private investigators for the Townsend Agency.
The women this time around are Abby (Rachael Taylor), a Park Avenue princess who got bored and became a jewel thief, Kate (Annie Ilonzeh), a dirty cop, and Gloria (Nadine Velazquez), a soldier who was dishonorably discharged from the military. The Angels are assisted by Bosley, Charlie’s right hand man. In this reboot, Bosley isn’t a goofy, round man (like the original Boz, David Doyle), but a hot Latino played by Ramón Rodriguez.
After an action packed opening, Gloria is blown to pieces when her muscle car goes up in flames. The Angels want revenge and their first suspect is the sexy motorcyclist who sped from the scene of the crime. When they find her, they also find their future partner. She’s Eve (Minka Kelly), a childhood friend of Gloria’s. Eve has a dark past, including some time in the slammer, so she’s obviously going to fit right in with the Angels. The three ladies track down a Miami billionaire who is also trafficking young girls for the sex trade. Once they dispatch him, all that’s left to do is gather on one of Charlie’s yachts and drink some bubbly. Whoppee!
Look, I like silly adventure shows as much as the next guy, but this show was a waste of time and money. Predictable, poorly written and full of the same old jerky, hand held camera work that has become the hallmark of just about every show on television. Worse, Victor Garber, the great Broadway and Hollywood actor, portrays Charlie with no life. Maybe it’s because this was the pilot, but Garber sounded so disconnected with the rest of the show it was distracting.
Charlie’s Angels will probably be a hit. The pilot had girl power, sexy women in skimpy clothes, and a generic plot that made it easy to swallow. That is, unless you like quality television. Then, it’s just another piece of nostalgia junk being sold as entertainment.
It’s the new fall season, and in 1995, NBC is the place to be with its unstoppable Must See TV lineup. Thursday nights, check out the hot new sitcom Oh, Whitney, created by and starring America’s sassy and spunky grrrlllfriend Whitney Cummings. Cummings is a popular stand-up comedian, and Oh, Whitney is based in part on her act, and she’s the show’s creator. But look out, because she is not afraid to tell it like it is or make a silly face! She speaks her mind, points out the myriad differences between men and women, and does what she wants to do, because she’s a liberated ’90s kinda lady! She’s like a cooler, newer, edgier Jenny McCarthy, guys! Phat!
Check this: Whitney (played by Whitney, on Oh, Whitney) plays by her own rules. Check this: she lives with her boyfriend (Chris D’Elia), a boyfriend she’s not even married to! That’s pretty unconventional, here in enlightened Clinton-era America, as is Whitney herself! But it’s cool, because they’re totally like a married couple in that the lady doesn’t like to have sex, and other fresh and hilarious gender stereotypes. Whitney still cracks plenty of non-contrived and totally witty sex jokes, because Whitney’s just gotta be Whitney and she’s living her life out loud! No diggity!
I especially enjoy how this is so clearly based on the standup comedy act Whitney Cummings has honed for years in comedy clubs and on MTV’s Half Hour Comedy Hour and Comedy Central’s The A List. Every few minutes or so, the action will stop while Whitney recites a piece of dialogue pointing out the foibles of human behavior and social conventions while her long-suffering, but loving and patient boyfriend, politely listens, bemused, shaking his head a little bit as if to say, “Oh, Whitney, what are we to do with you!” The boyfriend character is totally new in TV land—he’s like Tim Allen’s wife on ABC’s unstoppable Home Improvement or Jeff Foxworthy’s wife on the great new The Jeff Foxworthy Show, except he’s, like, a dude! Da bomb!
Oh, Whitney airs Thursday nights on NBC at 9:30 p.m., right after Seinfeld and just before ER.
I must admit, I didn’t want to like Prime Suspect. I’m a huge fan of the original ITV series that aired in the early 1990’s and I was certain that no one could bring anything to the role of DI Jane Tennison like Helen Mirren did. If you’ve never seen any of the original great Prime Suspect series, Acorn Video has the entire collection available on DVD, including series 1 and 2 individually. Despite the presence of Maria Bello, a wonderful actress as the lead, I had very, very low expectations for NBC’s Prime Suspect. And yes, I was cranky after having sat through Charlie’s Angels.
Good news. Prime Suspect is excellent. The pilot wasn’t perfect (one two many of those all too convenient newscaster voiceovers to push the story along), but it was strong enough to demonstrate that it has the potential to become one of the best shows of the fall season. Last night’s episode drew heavily from the original 1991 Prime Suspect series, with Bello’s Detective Jane Timony (not sure why the name change was necessary) a tough NYPD homicide detective. Timony is constantly passed over when calls come in for cases and she lacks the respect of her fellow detectives, a group of men who think she slept her way into her position. Despite complaining to her lieutenant (an excellent Aidan Quinn), Timony is stuck doing paperwork and trying to create work on her own.
When the lead detective on a high profile murder suffers a fatal heart attack, Timony is assigned the case. She leaps at the opportunity, even though it pisses off every detective in her squad room. Obviously she’s going to find the real killer by the end of the episode, but getting there proves a challenge. Worse, Timony gets the shit kicked out of her in the process. I mean it; a scene at the end of the hour in which Timony has cornered the killer and he does his best to kill her was brutal.
Besides tracking down the murderer and struggling to gain the support of her squad, Timony has domestic issues stemming from her boyfriend (Kenny Johnson) trying to get his ex-wife to let his son spend some nights in the apartment he shares with Timony. These scenes were brief and acted as a nice respite from the blood and tension of the manhunt.
Overall, the pace of the pilot kept things moving along at a nice clip. Peter Berg, who knows a thing or two about action directing, helmed the pilot and serves as a producer. Since Berg also helped shepherd Friday Night Lights, I have high hopes that the character development will be strengthened as the season progresses. Despite my criticisms, Alexandra Cunningham’s script was very even and pretty seamless in the way it incorporated the elements from the original show. Finally, the supporting cast was outstanding across the board. Besides Quinn, standouts included Kirk Acevedo (Fringe), Bryan F. O’Byrne (Flash Forward) and Peter Gerety (The Wire).
However, it’s Bello who’s the reason to watch the show. She’s fearless in the way she attacks the part of Timony, a character who is often abrasive and unlikable. Bello has always been a gutsy performer, just check out The Cooler or A History of Violence, and she brings the same intensity to this role as she did in those fine movies. If the writing of this show catches up with Bello’s acting, this will be one hell of a show.
I didn’t want to like the new Prime Suspect because I’m such a fan of the original. By the end of the hour last night, I was no longer comparing the two (except now) and looked forward to next week’s episode.