Monday, October 20, 2008

The Weekend's New Shows

Presented from Worst to First

he Losers

Episodes: None
Clips: Five clips, about 3 min each
Studio: Taste
Rank: D- (Worst New Show)
This is just some more fashion show porn, in yet another packaging of fashion clips on Hulu. The clips all focus on a kilt-themed fashion event, so there are beautiful people of both sexes strutting their stuff in little plaid numbers. There's also a brief interview clip with comedian Paul Rodriguez, who was in attendance. I've derided this kind of programming in the past, but here I'll pick a new bone: assuming that you wanted to spotlight a fashion show catwalk, wouldn't you want some commentary that let you know what the hell you were looking at? Right now, the catwalks are all hooked up to crappy techno background music (in one, the quality is so bad that the model's faces are all washed out and high-contrasty). I think the least they could do would be to have someone telling us something specific about the outfits we're looking at. It's like they're not even selling the culture-- they just want us to look at the pretty people and shut up.

Late Night With Conan O'Brien...?
Episodes: One 42 minutes episode
Clips: None
Studio: NBC
Rank: na
Ok, this is weird. Hulu's been offering Conan shows and clips for a while, but now it's showing up as a recently added show, with all of the original content stripped away. I get that they're not actually billing it as a new show-- but will they repopulate it with all of that content they built up over the last few months? Hope so. I include it here to mark the event.

The Winners

Gimme My Reality Show
Episodes: Right now, just the 44 minute series premiere
Clips: None
Studio: Fox Reality
Rank: B-
Well, now that Kathy Griffin has defined the D-list, we're forced to go further. The 7 (G-list? P-list?) celebs compete to get their own reality show. They are AJ Benza (co-host of High Stakes Poker), former Baywatcher Traci Bingham, Gretchen (Mrs. Danny) Bonaduce, O.J. Simpson associate Kato Kaelin, Susan "Cindy Brady" Olsen, American Idol hottie Ryan Starr, and, last but not least, Bobby Trendy. I'm just kidding. He's totally least. He was Anna Nicole Smith's fashion designer or some such nonsense. My favorite thing about the show is how much these celebs care about the competition. None of them have solid careers, and so the prize, a potential hit reality show, is really, really valuable to them in a way that a charity donation isn't. The challenge in the opener was really genius-- they turned the celebs loose with production crews and an order to come up with a hit viral video in a few hours. The celebs mostly came up with interesting and funny videos, and were judged in part by how many hits their video generated. But the biggest failing? In 44 minutes of programming, they couldn't even show us the 90 second videos of 7 celebs. We only got excerpts and a plug to go to the network site, which is total bullshit. I mean, the videos were supposed to be the payoff. At any rate, the premise is interesting enough, and the prospect of semi-stars humiliating themselves for fame is always a draw, so I'll be subscribing to this, at least for the short term.

Episodes: The 2 hour (1:26 in Hulu-time) series premiere
Clips: Two short clips
Studio: NBC
Rank: B
This has had some clips up for a while, but I'm counting it as new since the first episode just hit Hulu. The biggest names in this classic novel adaptation are Sean Bean and Sam Neill, but both of them have relatively small roles (at least in the beginning). Everyone else, including Robinson Crusoe himself (Philip Winchester), is played by a relatively unknown actor.

Coincidentally, I just reread the Defoe novel last year, and I have to say that this adaptation is drastically unfaithful to the source material. Major storylines have been introduced, which I suppose is as it should be-- not enough happens in the book to sustain an ongoing tv series. In the novel, the most famous castaway in the world is all on his lonesome for about 30 years, killing cats and praising God, which isn't going to fly on the small screen.

The tv show premiere was pretty good, but I was a little turned off by the simplistic and heavy-handed anti-stereotypes. Friday has been transformed from a simple savage into the smartest man on the island, while the main female character, Olivia, has to be shown as the roughest, toughest pirate of them all, besting Crusoe in a swordfight in the first half hour. I don't want them to have her screaming at mice and making sandwiches for the other pirates; I just wish they could be a little more subtle. Anyhow, the show is very cinematic and also very modern-- the blueprint of several major story arcs that interweave over the course of a season gives it the feel of "Lost" or "The Sopranos," or something like that. I don't know if I'm going to be able to fit this into my crowded tv schedule, but it looks like it might be a winner. For now, it's the best new show of the weekend.


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