HawthoRNe in My Pride: TNT’s new “sensitive” medical drama kicked off June 16 and appeared, at least at first glance, to be heavily courting — and perhaps even banking on — the erstwhile ER audience. HawthoRNe is centered on the director of nursing at a Richmond, Virginia, hospital and features Jada Pinkett Smith as single mother/chief registered nurse Christina Hawthorne, whose calling card is putting others’ needs before her own.

Hawthorne is fiery, passionate, and strong-willed, dammit, and we find out quickly where some of that tenacity comes from, at least in part: her grief from losing her husband to cancer.

In the pilot episode, the viewer drops in on Hawthorne on the first anniversary of her husband’s death. Still coming to terms with the loss, she carries his ash-filled urn with her around the house and talks to him. In a bit of contrived tension, she has to grudgingly surrender his remains for a whole year to her caustic mother-in-law (!), who just so happens to sit on the hospital’s board (!!) and blames Hawthorne for her son’s death (!?!).

I mean, c’mon, seriously? You had me with the premise of the show. I kept waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out from behind a gurney and tell us we’d all been Punk’d. (Here’s hoping this part of the story gets downplayed or phased out entirely.)

Anyway, we see Hawthorne struggle almost immediately, which in turn makes her a sympathetic protagonist almost immediately. When not butting heads with her crab-in-law (Joanna Cassidy, Six Feet Under), she builds up a fair amount of tension with chief surgeon Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan, Alias). Same goes for her relationship with her daughter, Camille (Hannah Hodson), who seems like a chip off the ol’ renegade block.

So how does Hawthorne regain control when so much of her life seems to be careening out of control? She takes command of the hospital. Pinkett Smith plays the character with her usual intensity, and since she’s one of the show’s executive producers, I expect she’ll continue to do the right thing with HawthoRNe. And when the patient subplots start to pair nicely with the characters being developed, this show will really hit its stride and maybe even persuade a few ER fans to join in. Overall, a lot of great things are happening for HawthoRNe, but some adjustments are necessary.

V Rebooted? I’d rather eat mice. While no one can argue that reboots occasionally work (see this summer’s blockbuster movie Star Trek), most of the ones viewers find on TV and in films are a cheap cash-in and a giant waste of time. In the midst of a stellar rollout of trailers for its fall lineup, ABC appears to be laying a colossal egg with its reboot of V, the ’80s NBC miniseries that eventually became a weekly sci-fi saga.

With no sign of either Marc “Beastmaster” Singer or Jane Badler as “Diana,” even in cameo roles, the new V is still treading old, familiar territory with a boring, sterile spin: alien lizards disguised as humans show up on Earth and pretend to make friends with us while plotting to pillage the planet for human food and drink up all the water. Yawn. One fundamental difference with this reboot: it appears, at least on the surface, to be focused on the humans worshiping and devoting themselves to the alien invaders who’ve come to “share technology” and borrow a cup of water or two.

All of the imagery in the two trailers I’ve seen appears to have massive political undertones. I’m wondering how the Obama administration feels about it all. Has Rahm Emanuel called up ABC and dropped his token F-bombs yet? Have a look and tell me if you see what I’m getting at:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ahjPQjQGdbU" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

Conan O’Boring: Speaking of sterile, is it just me or is new Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien playing it safe and soft? His appeal has long been anchored in his quirkiness, but someone seems to have gotten to him and asked that he tone it down to appeal to a broader audience and compete with David “I Made a Bummer Palin Joke” Letterman (who toned down his quirks somewhat when he moved to CBS and the 11:30 time slot 16 years ago, of course). Frankly, it’s disappointing — especially for longtime viewers — although it’s nice to see Andy Richter back in the fold.

C’mon, Conan! Show us all what got you there, and be brave about it. Stick to your guns. Your target audience is going to skew younger now that Jay Leno went all ten o’clock. Don’t you go all Goo Goo Dolls on us. Please.

The White Bronco: Last Wednesday marked the 15th anniversary of the creation of reality TV. Everyone remember the (in)famous O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase? Al Cowlings at the wheel, the Juice holding a gun to his own head, and a slew of gumballs rolling behind him? Or the crank call to ABC by Howard Stern crony “Captain Janks” during its coverage of the chase, followed by sportscaster Al Michaels informing Peter Jennings that it was a “totally farcical call”? When you see what reality TV is now — I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, and the dozens of other human train wrecks — the Bronco chase seems almost innocent by comparison.

But never mind that — has it really been 15 years? Cripes. Somebody pinch me. At this rate, I’m gonna need a walker for Christmas.

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About the Author

Peter Chakerian

Peter Chakerian is an award-winning writer, reporter and journalist. In over 18 years, his byline has appeared in The Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, Sun Newspapers, Cleveland Magazine, Northern Ohio Live, Scene Magazine, Cleveland Free Times, America Online, Blogcritics.org, and dozens of other publications throughout the Midwest. A lifelong Clevelander, Chakerian is a graduate of Cleveland State University and the Managing Editor of CoolCleveland.com – a subscription-based, "e-blast" electronic newsletter delivered to tens of thousands of Northeast Ohio residents every week. His new book on Cleveland's impact on popular culture arrives this fall. Chakerian lives in Bay Village, Ohio with his wife and two children.

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