Continuing the Popdose look at the new fall shows on the four major networks, here’s what we think of the three series that premiered on Tuesday.
Raising Hope (Fox) – As Raising Hope opens, we meet the quirky, trashy Chance family: senile grandmother (played by Cloris Leachman); parents who married too young; slacker son Jimmy; and dirtbag cousin Mike. Jimmy goes out for ice cream, picks up a gorgeous woman who is running away from someone, and ends up having a one-night stand. It turns out that Ms. Too-Good-to-Be-True is a serial killer. She goes to prison; nine months later, she calls Jimmy and asks him to take custody of their baby.
Jimmy’s parents want him to give up the baby, named Princess Beyonce, for adoption. Jimmy wants to keep the baby, partly out of a sense of responsibility, partly in the hope that having that responsibility will help him grow up. As the sitcom name-o-rama title implies, Raising Hope is a comedy, not a drama. There has to be silliness. And so, we have a baby in a shopping cart instead of a stroller, a young father so clueless that he does not strap the car seat to the car, and a bored grocery clerk who flips canned goods upside down so that she can go back and reshelve them.
And the baby isn’t sweet. In a perfect touch of realism, Princess Beyonce is the type of crier who seems hell-bent on being an only child. Her screams keep everyone up; she’s real, not precocious, and not here to make Jimmy’s life easy.
To make the show sitcom-perfect, little Princess Beyonce’s name is changed to Hope. (Awww.) Raising Hope could be predictable, or it could be sweet. The producers are responsible for My Name Is Earl, one of my favorite sitcoms. It took stock characters and put them in genuine and unpredictable situations. I’d have more hope for the new show, no pun intended, if Raising Hope had avoided some gratuitous Alzheimer’s jokes. I”ll watch next week to see which way it goes. — Ann Logue
Running Wilde (Fox) – Will Arnett stars and Mitch Hurwitz of Arrested Development produces, so what’s not to like? Plenty. Along with a generic kooky sitcom title, Running Wilde, the show has a preposterous setup, a precocious child with a secret and a silly name, and pending personality clashes galore. A ridiculous rich man, Steven Wilde (Arnett), realizes he’s unhappy without love, so he comes up with a wacky scheme to impress his childhood girlfriend (Keri Russell) who is now saving the rainforest from a horrible oil company, which in a really crazy coincidence turns out to be Wilde Oil! You know, like Steven Wilde! Hilarity has to ensue, right?
After seeing Cloris Leachman on Raising Hope, it occurred to me that Steven Wilde was a lot like Leachman’s 1970s sitcom character Phyllis Lindstrom, while the preternaturally wise Puddle is much like her daughter Bess. If I had to guess, upcoming episodes will feature Steven doing nutty immature things and learning valuable life lessons from Puddle. Running Wilde has no laugh track, but that’s probably just a production oversight that will be corrected in the next episode.
The bottom line is that an ongoing Facebook discussion with some high school classmates about how much the new football coach on Glee resembled one of our religion teachers was far more interesting to me than Running Wilde. There was a brief glimpse of David Cross, and then, “poof!” back to the wild and crazy mansion! Next week, I think I’ll turn the TV off after Raising Hope. There are smart people associated with Running Wilde: I’m surprised that so much talent would create such a disappointing show. — Ann Logue
Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC) – Right off the bat, the pilot of Detroit 1-8-7 brought to mind ABC’s last great cop series, NYPD Blue. I’m sure the network is hoping that this series will garner the same kind of critical love and viewer loyalty that Steven Bochco’s 1990s groundbreaking series did. I’m not so sure. The pilot was pretty formulaic — in its depiction of a Detroit homicide unit, its procedural drama, and its overly familiar characters.
There is the hardened 10-year veteran who is saddled with a rookie detective (Michael Imperioli’s Det. Fitch). That rookie (Det. Washington, played by Jon Michael Hill), is an expectant father walking around with a cell phone that could go off at any second with the news that his wife is going into labor. It’s his first day on the job. There’s an older, seen-it-all detective facing retirement (James McDaniel’s Det. Longford) and his immigrant partner, Det. Mahajan (Shaun Majumder). The unit also has a pretty Latina woman who grew up on the streets, making this job have deeper meaning to her (Natalie Martinez as Det. Sanchez) and the resident hunk, Det. Stone (D.J. Cotrona), who gets promoted to the homicide unit in the final scenes of the pilot.
Look, I understand that these archetypes are being used to help sell the show, and that the writers plan to develop the characters over the course of a season. However, besides Fitch having some unusual tics and habits (one of which is calling his partner on the phone to offer sage advice, even though they’re standing next to each other), none of the other characters stood out. That leaves you to depend on an inventive plot with a twist to draw you in — and the pilot didn’t have it. In fact, the two homicides being investigated last night came together a little tidily and predictably.
Just about the only thing unpredictable was the very end of the pilot. But when you look back at what the writers did in those final minutes, it was more for shock value and completely unbelievable. I won’t spoil it for those of you still waiting to watch Detroit 1-8-7 on your DVRs.
I suppose I was expecting something completely different. I was expecting the gritty, raw mean streets of Detroit to come to life, affecting the mood and personalities of the detectives on the show, much in the same way that Baltimore really defined the way the characters acted on Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire. Instead, in no way was Detroit a character in this hour of television. In fact, besides the exterior shots, Detroit 1-8-7 could have been shot in Los Angeles and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
This could evolve into a great character/cop drama that pulls television out of the procedural machine it’s been in for years. But the prospects don’t look good to me. Detroit 1-8-7 needs to blow people away if it’s going to siphon viewers from The Good Wife and Parenthood. If the pilot is any indication of what this show will be like, it isn’t going to blow anyone away; it will just be whispering in your ear, “excuse me, please watch our show,” and I doubt anyone will really listen. — Scott Malchus