We’re about a month into the TV season and I’ve had time to sample some of the new shows. Nothing has blown me away so far but there are a couple I found promising and two that disappointed.
Life on Mars (ABC, Thursdays, 10 p.m.) is the American remake of a BBC show starring Jason O’Mara, Harvey Keitel (in his TV series debut), Michael Imperioli and Gretchen Mol. It’s about NYPD detective Sam Tyler (O’Mara), who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Did he time-travel or is he really in a coma and all the events we see are only in his subconscious? It’s unclear, as it was in the original British version. Sam continues to solve cases in 1973, some of which might be related to the serial killer he’s tracking back in the present. He’s seriously hampered in his job by the lack of a computer, cell phone and use of DNA science. His colleagues also seem to be renegade types who don’t necessarily play by the rules (Keitel’s character, Lt. Hunt, prepares to rough up a suspect already in custody. “Is that necessary? Tyler asks. “No, it is not,” replies Hunt, as he punches the suspect). The look of the show is gritty and sepia-toned and Imperioli sports a ’70s-porn-mustache from hell. But the fashion and soundtrack are groovy (The Who, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, whose song is the show’s title) and the cast makes it all compelling. This might be a cop show but it looks and feels different than any other currently on the air. Rating: Good
The Mentalist (CBS, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.) is a more conventional police procedural but Simon Baker keeps it interesting. So far the cases are unexceptional but Baker’s laid-back charm as Patrick Jane pulls the show along. Patrick is a man who used to pretend he was a psychic to bilk money from people, but then a serial killer slaughtered his family (the killer didn’t like the fake psychic pretending he could predict the man’s next move) and now Patrick works as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation. He says psychic powers don’t exist; he solves cases by being very, very observant. Robin Tunney plays the agent who works with him and unfortunately, her performance is as flat as Baker’s is cool. She’s completely unconvincing as a tough investigator and has no authoritative presence whatsoever. The rest of the agents haven’t been given much to do but Owain Yeoman and Tim Kang are talented actors so hopefully their roles will be beefed up in the future. Rating: Good
CBS debuted another hour-long this season that involves a psychic but has nothing to do with crime-solving. The Ex List stars Elizabeth Reaser as a woman told by a psychic she has to marry within the year to someone she’s already dated or else she will end up alone. So Bella Bloom sets out to locate and re-date her exes (awkward much?). Reaser is very winning as Bella but the scripts so far haven’t supported her. Her friends are underused (Amir Talai is usually very funny, even in commercials, but only as about two lines per episode) and Rachel Boston is annoying, useless, and unbelievable as Bella’s sister (they look nothing alike). I really wanted to like Ex since Reaser is such a talented actress but if the show doesn’t stop being so cutesy and ridiculous (someone puts a toupee on her privates after she over-waxed!), I’ll have to put this on my Nix List. Rating: Okay
Another female-centric show is Kath & Kim (NBC, Thurdays, 8:30 p.m.), starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair. I don’t have to tell you much about this show because if you watched any of the Olympics, you’ve already seen the clips a thousand times. So what’s a whole episode like? I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t get through it. The jokes were so stale and outdated I thought I‘d traveled back to 1973. Selma Blair, whose career I’ve never understood (she does seem like a smart girl in interviews and looks cute on red carpets), rolls her eyes so furiously you’d think the eyeballs might tumble out her ears. Molly Shannon didn’t have one funny line in the 17 minutes I watched the show. And poor John Michael Higgins, so funny in the Christopher Guest movies, is completely wasted here as the straight man (he plays Kath’s suitor) to the ladies’ antics. If you’re gonna cast Higgins, you’ve got to let him run wild. Rating: Sucks Dirt