Tag Archives: Fox

Fox burns off ghastly police drama Gang Related

'Gang Related' premieres tonight on Fox.

Terry O’Quinn and Ramon Rodriguez (foreground, from left) head the cast of ‘Gang Related,’ premiering tonight on Fox.

After letting it sit on the shelf for a year or so, Fox appears to be burning off Gang Related, a new police drama premiering tonight. The bigger mystery is why they didn’t just torch the pilot script as soon as they read it.
Jam-packed with stereotypes and clichés, Gang Related was created and written by Chris Morgan (Fast Five), so we know in advance it’s probably going to look and sound a lot like a videogame, only not as interesting or sophisticated. Ramon Rodriguez (Battle Los Angeles) stars as Ryan Lopez, a promising member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Gang Task Force. What none of his police colleagues know, however, is that Ryan harbors a Dark Secret: When he was a child, Ryan was informally adopted by Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis, Training Day), the ruthless leader of a Latino gang called Los Angelicos, after Ryan’s father was killed.
Recognizing that Ryan was unusually bright and highly motivated by gratitude, Javier started grooming the boy for an important role in the Acosta crime family, much to the delight of Javier’s own straight-arrow son, Daniel (Jay Hernandez, Last Resort), Ryan’s best friend. Daniel’s older brother, the thuggish Carlos (Rey Gallegos, Sons of Anarchy), hates Ryan, however, seeing him as a threat to his birthright.
It was, in fact, Javier who pulled some strings and got Ryan assigned to his current unit, where Ryan has proven invaluable when it comes to “losing” evidence and tipping off Los Angelicos to police strategy.
After Ryan’s affable police partner is senselessly gunned down by a gang member, however, Ryan’s internal conflict starts to go into overdrive, partly because his mentor, Task Force leader Sam Chapel (Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn, Lost) ALSO has become a surrogate father to Ryan. Chapel’s newly launched hardline attack on Los Angelicos forces Ryan to decide whether he’s ready to stop playing at police work and turn on his childhood friends and family members.
The viewer is left to decide whether life is just too short to watch truly bad television like Gang Related. The dialogue thuds on the ear (“We did good today, partner.” “We do good every day, brother!”), and it’s just painful to watch seasoned pros like O’Quinn and Curtis struggling manfully to make their lines sound vaguely like something a human being might actually say. Loud, violent and ugly, Gang Related is such a mess that it took me three attempts before I could make it through the one-hour pilot.
For the record, I’m glad I finally got to the end, because the climactic shootout is so clumsily choreographed that I found myself laughing helplessly. Or maybe I was just relieved to know I was never going to have to watch Gang Related again.

Meloni mines for laughs in Fox’s Surviving Jack

"Surviving Jack" premieres tonight on Fox.

Dr. Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni, right) shares a rare supportive moment with his teenage son, Frankie (Connor Buckley), in “Surviving Jack,” premiering tonight on Fox.

Surviving Jack, a new sitcom premiering tonight on Fox, gives Christopher Meloni a chance to show off his formidable comedy chops after intense dramatic turns in HBO’s prison saga Oz and NBC’s long-running police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Based on an autobiographical book by Justin Halpern and set in 1991, Surviving Jack stars Meloni as gruff oncologist Dr. Jack Dunlevy, who has decided to cut back his hours at his clinic so he can take over parenting his two teenage kids while his wife, Joanne (Rachael Harris), pursues her long-delayed dream of law school. Their daughter, Rachel (Claudia Lee), is mildly irritated by this household change, but her younger brother, high-school freshman Frankie (Connor Buckley), frets that his dad, an ex-military man, will now have even more opportunities to make his life difficult.
That’s a rational concern, given that Jack has been known to send his son out to run laps in the middle of the night and plants a large box of condoms in Frankie’s booksack to embarrass him at school. And while Jack dotes on his wife, he seems to harbor more ambivalent feelings toward Frankie.
“I love that woman,” Jack sighs, watching Joanne leave for class. “If an asteroid were to hit this Earth, and she and I were the only two people left alive, I’d be OK.”
“What about me?” Frankie asks.
“Well, obviously, there would be a grieving period,” Jack replies. “I’m not an ass.”
Halpern previously adapted another book into the ill-fated CBS sitcom euphemistically called Bleep My Dad Says, which also featured a crusty father figure who was a doctor, played on that show by William Shatner. Surviving Jack is a far more polished sitcom that makes even better use of its time period than ABC’s similarly themed The Goldbergs (there’s a funny running gag about Michael Crichton’s then-red-hot book Jurassic Park recurring in tonight’s pilot episode).
It helps, too, that Meloni has the good sense to underplay Jack’s bluntness. The character never shouts at his children, he just doesn’t mince any words or waste any tact in dealing with them.
My only concern is that tonight’s premiere seems to be too much of a one-trick pony that depends too much on ways that Jack benignly tortures Frankie. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, but I hope Surviving Jack will develop more of an ensemble feel in the weeks to come. Certainly Harris, a sitcom staple who also has a hilarious recurring role on USA Network’s Suits, is far too bright a comedy performer to remain stuck in the role of a largely absent mom. Buckley also is a real find as Frankie, although it’s stretching credibility to buy him as a freshman in high school.
Those minor quibbles aside, the prospects of Jack surviving look pretty good right now.
"Surviving Jack" on Fox.

Rachael Harris stars with Christopher Meloni in “Surviving Jack,” tonight on Fox.

Fox’s Rake is more than just House in a courtoom

Greg Kinnear stars in 'Rake' on Fox.

Greg Kinnear stars as brilliant but screwed-up attorney Keegan Deane in ‘Rake,’ a new character-driven dramedy premiering Thursday on Fox.

Rake, a very promising new character-driven Fox dramedy premiering Thursday night, is being widely touted as “House in a courtroom.” That terse summary applies only superficially, though.
Based on an Australian series, Rake stars Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine) as Keegan Deane, a brilliant defense attorney whose personal life, like that of Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House, is a complete train wreck. Keegan owes $67,000 to his bookie, who occasionally sends guys over to rough Keegan up just to save face. He is so far in arrears to the IRS that 70 percent of his income is being garnished. The closest thing he has to a girlfriend is Mikki Partridge (Bojana Novakovic, Drag Me to Hell), a T.S. Eliot-quoting beauty who is working as a professional escort to pay her way through college. And the therapist who is trying to help Keegan work his way through all this mess is his ex-wife, Maddy (Miranda Otto, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), with whom he has an adolescent son and to whom he owes six months’ alimony.
Partly out of financial desperation and partly out of his own lack of an inner filter, Keegan usually tackles cases most other attorneys would deem radioactive. The episode Fox originally sent out as the series pilot, which has been shuffled to later in the season, finds Keegan defending a brilliant economist and mayoral advisor (guest star Denis O’Hare, American Horror Story: Coven) who is accused of killing and eating a young accountant, for example.
That’s where Rake diverges from House, however. Series creator David Shore based his 2004-12 Fox medical drama on Sherlock Holmes (Holmes … Homes … House … get it?), and each episode contained a very strong procedural element as Greg House and his medical team tried to solve the life-threatening case of the week.
Rake, on the other hand, is far more interested in exploring the messy details of Keegan Deane’s life, with the courtroom proceedings providing only a lesser portion of (most) episodes. That’s fine with me, since Kinnear is one of my favorite actors, and one who I think is criminally underrated. He’s got leading-man good looks – I was stunned to realize that he’s now 50 – yet he always seems to vanish into his characters. If you want to see what I mean, and you have a high tolerance for dark material, check out his performance as porn-obsessed Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane in Paul Schrader’s intense fact-based 2002 drama Auto Focus. It’s grim yet electrifying.
I haven’t seen the episode Fox has elected to air this week in lieu of the original pilot, but tonally, Rake seems to be shooting for a fairly light touch, with frequent laugh-out-loud moments. I’m not ready yet to place any bets on its odds for success – for some reason, producers keep adapting Australian TV hits that immediately tank in this hemisphere – but with Kinnear in the lead and Peter Tolan (Rescue Me) among the executive producers, I’ll definitely be giving Rake a chance.

‘Almost Human’ feels familiar despite futuristic trappings

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy star in J.J. Abrams' futuristic cop drama 'Almost Human' on Fox.

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy (from left) star in ‘Almost Human’ tonight and Monday on Fox.

Almost Human, J.J. Abrams’ new police drama premiering tonight on Fox before moving to its regular Monday timeslot tomorrow, takes place in a very bleak near-future where violent crime is running so rampant that the police force has become heavily augmented by androids, one for each human officer. As the series opens in 2048, we see Los Angeles police detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his team in the middle of a deadly firefight with one of the criminal syndicates that have taken over their city. Kennex emerges as the lone police survivor, but his wounds are grievous enough to send him into a 17-month coma, from which he awakens with an artificial leg.
Now, nearly two years later, Kennex’s captain (Lili Taylor) orders him back to work, although he bristles at her directive that he must be partnered with the latest android model, a soulless officer completely lacking compassion or any other emotion. After Kennex “accidentally” disables his synthetic partner, tech guru Rudy Lom (Mackenzie Crook) reactivates the only other ‘droid currently ready for service: the DRN, an older model that had been designed to be as human-like as possible but was subsequently discontinued.
Dorian (Michael Ealy), as this revived life form is dubbed, takes an almost childlike joy in being reactivated after a four-year nap, but his excitement at being back on the force is dampened by realizing that he has been teamed with a partner who hates “synthetics” so much that his body is trying to reject his artificial limb. Kennex treats Dorian curtly and dismissively, but during the first hour, as this seemingly mismatched duo tries to solve a nightmarish new threat, Dorian repeatedly demonstrates to Kennex that when it comes to droids, newer isn’t always better.
Some viewers with long memories may pick up on similarities between Almost Human and another Fox series from 25 years ago, Alien Nation, which followed a Los Angeles cop reluctantly teamed with an extraterrestrial partner. The visuals for the world of Almost Human also don’t seem very different from a number of other sci-fi TV shows and movies.
It’s the chemistry between the two lead actors that makes this new series look fairly promising. The show’s title is deliberately ambiguous. Dorian, of course, is literally “almost human” since he is a creation of artificial intelligence, yet his buoyant generosity of spirit in many respects makes him more truly lifelike than Kennex, who for all intents and purposes is dead inside. Urban’s edgy performance (think early Bruce Willis) is good enough to make Kennex more than just a generic Damaged Maverick, but it’s Ealy that viewers are likely to fall in love with. His is just a wonderful, absolutely endearing performance.
Almost Human marks the third time this season that Fox – with apparent success – has tried to reboot and/or reinvent a stale TV genre, the cop show. Like this new series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine relies on the odd-couple chemistry between Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg for much of its delightful comedy juice, while the spooky Sleepy Hollow has attracted hordes of loyal fans chiefly through the mercurial relationship between fish-out-of-water Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and his plucky “leftenant,” Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie).
It’s too soon to tell whether Almost Human has real staying power, but for now, I’m more than ready to ride along with Urban and Ealy.
Almost Human Logo

Warning: Mini-Masters at work

Sarah Lane, 9, and Gordon Ramsay
I hadn’t really planned to review, or even watch, Fox’s new Friday night series MasterChef Junior, since I expected it would be a less intense (thus, less interesting) version of host Gordon Ramsay’s grown-up MasterChef series. I caught last night’s premiere this morning on Hulu, however, and boy, was I wrong.
Following an extended talent search, the premiere episode opened with what Ramsay credibly declared to be the 24 best home cooks in America between the ages of 8 and 13. Any skepticism was quickly banished as Ramsay and fellow judges Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot divided these two dozen semi-finalists into three groups of eight, with each octet competing in a different challenge for a shot at making it to the final 12.
These were not, mind you, dumbed-down challenges for small-fry. The first group was tasked with preparing a dish using fresh seafood — something that many adult home cooks find intimidating — and they responded with creations that were both imaginative and sophisticated. The second group was asked to prepare a dish spotlighting pasta that the young cooks prepared from scratch, while the third group was given an assignment that routinely makes grown-up chefs in cooking competitions quake with fear: making dessert.
Obviously, I wasn’t able to sample any of the dishes myself, but the judges were enthusiastic about all of them, while pointing out any minor flaws they noticed. Based on their comments, as well as the appearance of the dishes, it looked to me as if these young cooks — especially the ones that made it into the finals — already are better at their craft than at least half the grown-up competitors we usually see on Top Chef and other such shows. They’re also utterly fearless. The youngest finalist, 9-year-old Sarah Lane, earned her spot by preparing a chocolate lava cake, one of the most difficult desserts to pull off for any pastry chef, and she absolutely nailed it.
In last night’s opener, at least, Ramsay was on his best behavior, watching his language and chatting with the kids as if they were his kitchen peers. I was impressed by how the judges genuinely seemed to be basing their evaluations on the quality of the finished dishes, not the camera-friendly appeal of the kids: In fact, the most adorable moppet didn’t make it into the finals (cue waterworks).
If you missed last night’s premiere, you can catch it online at Fox.com or Hulu.com, as well as the On Demand service of many cable systems. And you should try to catch it, because MasterChef Junior is among the most delightful family shows I’ve seen in a long time.
lava cake

Title search

Trophy Wife, a very promising new sitcom premiering tonight on ABC, is blessed with a strong cast and some sharp writing, but saddled with arguably the worst, most misleading title of the season (more about the latter below).
Malin Akerman (The Comeback) stars as Kate, a beautiful girl who loves nothing more than partying nightly with her best friend, Meg (Natalie Morales, The Middleman) – until one karaoke night when Kate literally falls into the arms of Pete (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing), a slightly older environmental lawyer.
Romance ensues, and Kate soon becomes Pete’s wife – more specifically, his third wife, a position that comes with more baggage than a cruise ship. Pete’s first ex-wife, Diane (Marcia Gay Harden), is a brilliant medical doctor who regards the younger Kate with withering dismissal, an attitude immediately adopted by her teenage daughter, Hillary (Bailee Madison), although Hillary’s twin brother, Warren (Ryan Lee), is instantly smitten by his new stepmom. In fact, Warren’s school essays start to take on a disconcertingly erotic tone and feature a female figure who seems vaguely … familiar.
Pete’s second ex-wife, Jackie (Saturday Night Live alumna Michaela Watkins), is a neurotic, New Age-y mess and has a hyper-intelligent young adopted Asian son (scene-stealer Albert Tsai) who is completely unintimidated by the grown-ups around him.
Tonight’s pilot follows Kate as she tries to establish a meaningful place for herself in Pete’s crowded life, which means trying to make some connection with stepdaughter Hillary, who isn’t having any of it. The episode gives most of the cast members a chance to shine, none more brightly than Akerman, a starlet-pretty actress who also comes across as smart, funny, warm and accessible. Whitford, always a joy to watch, shows us how much Pete genuinely adores Kate, although his character seems to spend much of his screen time reacting to his extended family members (here’s hoping he becomes less passive in future episodes).
As the ex-wives, Harden, an Oscar winner who elevates any scene just by walking into it, makes Diane a formidable adversary for Kate while never crossing the line into stale bitchiness, but frankly I had a very hard time understanding why Peter ever would have married someone as scatterbrained as Watkins’ Jackie (the writers need to fix that, and soon).
In other words, from a creative standpoint, Trophy Wife is a likable enough show, but there’s a very real chance some viewers will never sample it because of its terrible title. Kate isn’t a trophy wife in any sense of the phrase. Pete cherishes everything about her, and she’s a strong, intelligent woman who actively engages with everyone else in his life, instead of just standing around looking decorative. Calling this show Trophy Wife sets up expectations of a sitcom that is far less appealing and engaging than this one is. And if you don’t think a misleading title can hobble a show’s chances, just talk to the creative team behind Cougar Town.
Trophy Wife already has something of an uphill struggle to find an audience in its insanely competitive Tuesday time period, opposite such established hits as The Voice, NCIS: LA, surging sophomore sitcom The Mindy Project and the long-running CW cult hit Supernatural. It doesn’t help that the lead-in to Trophy Wife is one of ABC’s feeblest new shows.
That would be The Goldbergs. Actually, I don’t want to be too hard on this doomed sitcom, because I suspect a lot of love went into it behind the scenes. Its creator, Adam F. Goldberg, based the show on his own upbringing back in the 1980s, when he grew up in a fractious but loving family headed by a blustering dad (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm) who can’t articulate his love for his three kids and a doting mom (the glorious Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bridesmaids) whose love knows no bounds – or, unfortunately for her kids, boundaries.
The obvious template for this show is the Emmy-winning 1988-93 sitcom The Wonder Years. What Goldberg has overlooked, alas, is that we can’t all be the Arnolds from that cherished hit of yesteryear. There isn’t much that’s truly original or noteworthy about the Goldberg family except that most of them SCREAM A LOT FOR NO GOOD REASON. In fact, if the Nielsen ratings were measured in decibels, The Goldbergs probably would be the top-ranked show of the 2013-14 TV season.
Everything else, though, feels fairly generic, including George Segal’s dotty old grandpa character. How generic? The pilot revolves heavily around the father figure’s reluctance to teach his teenage son (Troy Gentile) how to drive. Coincidentally, Fox has a midseason comedy, Surviving Jack, waiting in the wings about an intimidating dad (Chris Meloni, in that case) who has a hard time expressing love to his kids. The pilot for that show has a pivotal scene in which Meloni’s character teaches his teenage son to drive. Did I mention that Surviving Jack is set in a recent past decade (the ‘90s) and based on the true-life teen experiences of its creator?
I suspect The Goldbergs tested through the roof with relatives of Adam F. Goldberg, but there’s not much here for the rest of us. There’s a good chance this show will be gone by Thanksgiving. I’m just hoping it doesn’t take Trophy Wife down with it.

A ‘Hollow Crown’ brimming with wonders

Ben Whishaw
One of the big events of the fall TV season arrives tonight with the PBS premiere of The Hollow Crown, a Great Performances four-week miniseries featuring lavish adaptations of a quartet of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays.
Cast with some of Great Britain’s finest classically trained actors, Crown chronicles the turbulent rise and fall of three English Kings – Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V – and how their reigns helped shape British history.
Tonight’s premiere features Richard II, a lesser-known play here in the States, but absolutely gripping in this film directed by Rupert Goold. Ben Whishaw, who played gadget guru Q in the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall, stars as the vain, capricious and self-centered monarch whose penchant for acting on spiteful whims is revealed almost immediately, as Richard is petitioned by a cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (Rory Kinnear), to settle a dispute with Thomas Mowbray (James Purefoy from Fox’s The Following).
Ultimately, Richard renders a judgment that pleases no one, banishing both men from the kingdom, although he rewards Henry’s past loyalty by sending him away for “only” six years. That’s more than enough, however, to break the heart of Henry’s elderly father, John of Gaunt (Patrick Stewart), who dies soon after his son departs. Wasting no time, Richard seizes the family’s property and possessions that are Henry’s birthright, then heads to Ireland to put down a rebel uprising.
In the king’s absence, a furious Henry defies his banishment, returning to reclaim his inheritance. With the heartfelt support of allies Northumberland (David Morrissey, The Walking Dead) and the Duke of York (David Suchet, Poirot), Henry readily takes Richard prisoner and lays claim to the throne as King Henry IV.
Whishaw, who won a BAFTA Award (the British Emmy) as best actor for his role, gives a fascinating performance as this rather effete and aloof monarch, a portrayal that is mildly off-putting in his early scenes, but builds in intensity and tragic stature as Richard’s destiny takes a series of appalling turns. At two and a half hours, Richard II is the longest of these films, yet it feels the shortest, because Goold keeps things moving at such a nice clip.
H4_080212_JB0020Prince Hal
Tom Hiddleston
On Sept. 27, Henry IV, Part I finds a much older Henry, now played by Jeremy Irons, beset by myriad troubles as his reign moves into its twilight years. What really has him most worried, however, is that Prince Hal (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers) is sowing his wild oats with a drunken old knight named Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale, who won the BAFTA as best supporting actor) at a tavern run by Mistress Quickly (Julie Walters) instead of dutifully preparing to assume the throne. In fact, Hal’s misbehavior is causing such a scandal that a challenger to the throne, Hotspur (Joe Armstrong), is having no trouble building a coalition of supporters.
With rebels threatening the succession, Hal ultimately returns to his father’s side, but not before one of the most unforgettable comic moments in the miniseries, as Hal makes fun of his father, giving Hiddleston an excuse to show off his absolutely pitch-perfect vocal impression of the great rumbling drawl Jeremy Irons seems to favor in most of his roles these days.
In Henry IV, Part II (Oct. 4), the king’s ministers step up their efforts to drive a wedge between Hal and Falstaff, and they get their wish after Hal overhears Falstaff belittling him and catches the boozy knight in a series of lies. After Henry IV dies, Falstaff is convinced his ship finally has come in, but he is in for a rude awakening as Hal ascends the throne as King Henry V. In both films, director Richard Eyre brings to vivid life the uproarious medieval messiness of Falstaff’s world, although every now and then a scene gets so busy that we lose track of the story.
The miniseries concludes on Oct. 11 with director Thea Sharrock’s moving treatment of Henry V, which previously was adapted into critically acclaimed feature films starring Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh. Hiddleston continues in his regal role, looking every inch a king as Henry faces a series of challenges from the French monarch (Lambert Wilson). The first hour or so feels elegiac, including as it does the deaths of both Falstaff and his ne’er-do-well companion Bardolph (Tom Georgeson), but as events lead us inevitably to the high-stakes battle of Agincourt in France, the mood becomes more stirring. In the climactic moments, when Henry and his small, exhausted and bedraggled army must confront a well-rested French force five times its size, Hiddleston delivers his rallying speech to his troops thrillingly, while Sharrock frames the battle action in such a way as to make us believe there are far more soldiers on the battlefield than was actually the case.
Production values are absolutely top-notch, and the supporting cast also includes Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary from Downton Abbey), Maxine Peake and Tom Hughes of Silk, Clemence Poesy (Fleur from the Harry Potter films), Alun Armstrong (New Tricks), Lindsay Duncan (Rome) and Geoffrey Palmer (As Time Goes By), among many others. Needless to say, I highly recommend The Hollow Crown. Be careful, though, to check your local listings, because some PBS affiliates carry their own local programming on Friday nights and will schedule Crown in a different time period.
Julie Walters and Simon Russell Beale