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To TiVo or Not to TiVo, Fall 2007, pt.1
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Not sure which of the new fall TV shows you should add to your TiVo's Season Pass list? Let CSP's licensed televisionologists* (each with at least 10,000 career hours of quality TV appreciation under their belts) help you hunt through the network and cable TV swamp to find the rare orchids hidden therein.

don't tivo K-Ville K-Ville
(featuring: Cole Hauser, Anthony Anderson, John Carroll Lynch)

I wanted to like K-Ville. The commercials, to me, looked like the show had the potential to be the little brother The Shield, one of my absolute favorite shows, never had. The bad news is, I've now seen K-Ville, and The Shield remains sadly without siblings (save maybe Damages, its psycho stepsister, which I'll review soon).

That isn't to say that K-Ville's aspirations aren't exactly what I read into the previews; it wants desperately to be The Shield: New Orleans. It is full to the brim with quickly shifting visuals, shaky cameras, simulated changes in filmstock, and relentless action. Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser, the show's leads, are both relatively accomplished actors (Anderson, in fact, has been a frequent guest star on The Shield) and seemed, in theory, good fits for a show like this. The problem: the creators of K-Ville didn't understand that, in addition to cool camerawork and good casting, you also need a strong story, compelling characters, good direction (of the actors, not just the camera) and writers who passed their Creative Writing 101 courses with at least a "C." Instead, K-Ville sports laughably broad leading characters who constantly throw out cringe-worthy platitudes and quippy one-liners with soap-opera style delivery, an E! Entertainment News understanding of the legacy of Katrina, and a plot no doubt rejected two decades ago by both Magnum, PI and Hunter for being too dated and cheesey.

New Orleans, post-Katrina, is a setting ripe for a smart, dark, gritty show which examines of the intersection of poverty and politics in America, and that examination could easily have been shown through the eyes of two weary, scrappy cops. K-Ville is simply too stupid and lazy to be that show.

tivo Life Life
(featuring: Damian Lewis, Sarah Shahi, Brooke Langton, Robin Weigert, Adam Arkin)

Life is one of those rare shows that somehow manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. Clever writing, solid acting and a premise just quirky enough to gain attention all combine to create one of my favorite new cop shows in years (and I love cop shows).

Damian Lewis, brilliant in Band of Brothers, plays Charlie Crews, a homicide detective who spent twelve years in prison (mostly in solitary confinement) for a murder he did not commit. Now exonerated (and millions of dollars richer, thanks to his successful wrongful imprisonment lawsuit), he has returned to the very same police force which abandoned him when he appeared guilty. His quirky, sometimes disruptive appreciation of his still-new freedom, coupled with his lopsided practice of the Zen teachings which helped him get through prison, serve to unnerve his new partner (Sarah Shahi) and camoflage his darker mission: track down and destroy the people who framed him for murder. In the end, it's a bizarre marriage of Monk, NYPD Blue and maybe X-Files, and it works beautifully.

Acting is uniformly strong here, especially from Lewis, Robin Weigert, Shahi, and Adam Arkin as his prison-mate-turned-accountant. Writing and direction are as good as anything on TV. I just hope the show can continue to deliver a fresh, smart and often funny take on the omnipresent cop drama.

tivo Journeyman Journeyman
(featuring: Kevin McKidd, Brian Howe, Gretchen Egolf, Moon Bloodgood, Reed Diamond)

As an aspiring actor and writer who knows a bit (a very little bit) about the television business, I am in awe of the creators of Journeyman, who somehow managed to successfully pitch a show with a deeply complex plot starring an actor who, while brilliant on HBO's Rome, was virtually unknown. I'm glad they attempted (and succeeded) the seemingly impossible, because I enjoyed the pilot of Journeyman very, very much.

Kevin McKidd plays Dan Vassar, a newspaper reporter in San Francisco who simultaneously mourns his lost wife (who seemingly died in a plane crash years ago) and maintains a strained but loving relationship with his second wife (who happens to be his brother's ex-wife). Then he starts disappearing. For hours, and sometimes days. To his friends, family and employer, he's simply gone -- no where to be found. But Vassar experiences something different. He's sucked into the past, dropped in his same city but decades before the present, bewildered and without instructions or context of any kind. After flailing around (again sometimes for hours, sometimes for days), sometimes interacting with younger versions of his friends (and his dead wife), he's deposited back in the present, without explanation. After a harrowing week of this, he discovers that one of the people with whom he's inexplicably interacted in the past has (in the present) saved a busload of school kids. He decides that, however it is happening, he's being sent to the past to protect people who will do good in the future. He even manages to cleverly convince his wife that he's not crazy or cheating -- he's really being sent back to the past.

McKidd is an intense, compelling actor, and carries this show on his capable shoulders. While I worry that the journey through time to save people premise may get repetative after a while, there were hints of a mysterious, darker undertone to his vacations in the past (I won't share so it doesn't spoil anyone's viewing) that will hopefully serve to keep the show moving steadily forward.

do not tivo Bionic Woman Bionic Woman
(featuring: Michelle Ryan, Lucy Hale, Miguel Ferrer, Will Yun Lee, Katee Sackhoff)

Bionic Woman was not as bad as it might have been, but still far short of anything I'd watch on a regular basis. The plot is basically the same as what you know and would expect, with two almost interesting twists: the first is that the new Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) does not want to be a bionic supersoldier (she's a grad student taking care of her younger sister), despite the insistence of the sinister government organization which is responsible for her transformation. The second is that the government already has a bionic woman (Katee Sackhoff), but she's unfortunately decided to betray her masters and become a bionic menace to society (or at least the people who trained her).

I say "almost interesting" because everything potentially intriguing the pilot attempts is either badly bungled (the frequent CGI effects are almost uniformly horrible, and the dialogue sounds like it was written not on a computer, but by a computer) or inexplicably boring (I almost fell asleep during the "climactic" battle at the end). Even Sackhoff, who I love on Battlestar Galactica, is unable to save this lurching, boring mess.

Re-runs of the original series have at least kitsch value -- this new series, despite a decent cast, just makes you wonder what you missed on all the other channels.

tivo Californication Californication
(featuring: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Madeline Zima, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon)

Californication is damn near a perfect show. Every actor, every line of dialogue, every shot in this half-hour Showtime series is a master class in how TV could be if Hollywood could just get the stick out of its ass, and let artists, not bean-counters and focus groups and the Christian Coalition, dictate content. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but Californication just makes me gush. Okay, the show might be the liberal male narcissist's Sex in the City, as some critics have called it. If so, I'm apparently the target audience. Those of you who know me may not be surprised.

David Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a reckless jackass of a writer from New York City who, after his dark best-selling novel, God Hates Us All, is turned into a cheesey Hollywood romantic comedy starring Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, finds himself lost in Los Angeles and unable to write. He's self-destructed, and in the process he's driven away his long-time lover (Natascha McElhone) and their daughter (Madeleine Martin). When he realizes what a douche he's been, he begins to try to get his life back on track. But, despite his rouguish charm and the fact that most everyone around him, including his daughter, his ex, Evan Handler and Pamela Adlon (his agent and his agent's wife) seem to actually love his scruffy, sarcastic ass, no one is really interested in babysitting a forty-something, self-destructive man-boy anymore.

My description hardly does this show justice -- no mere paragraph could. But Duchovny has never been more appealing, the supporting cast is basically flawless, and the writing and direction are dynamite. If you like TV, you should be watching this show.

*not a real title

end of essay
David Nett Portrait David is an actor, writer and producer in Los Angeles. He's the founder and editor-in-chief of CSP, and a founding producer of the acclaimed Lucid by Proxy theater company. Despite all this, he still has to hold down a day job in the dot-com world, where he does product and interaction design. His acting has been called "committed," "detailed," "fearless," "hilarious" and "heart-rending" by the LA Times and Backstage West. His writing has been called "articulate and commanding" and "eminently readable" by Flak Magazine. His tenth grade Geometry teacher said he "does not work well in groups." | more essays by David
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