Sunday, March 16, 2008

Catching up with TV

These days, I seem to watch most of my television on the Internet. I doubt that that makes me unusual. Sarah Connor Chronicles ended its first season on a high note—well, specifically a low note sung by Johnny Cash—and Medium recovered from a few weak episodes with a cliffhanger that landed Alison in a moral dilemma.

This weekend, however, I decided to end my post-Oscar hiatus by responding to two new shows for you.

Canterbury's Law, the new Juliana Margulies vehicle, debuted on Fox last week. There's very little here that we haven't seen before—aside from the fact that in our post 9-11 America, making your protagonist a public defender represents at least a small risk. Other than that, we have a driven career woman who's personal life is falling apart, a wan, hapless, young male defendant, a unisex bathroom scene (without the laughs of Ally McBeal), and dramatic confrontations culminating in courtroom pandemonium. In the end, I had to agree with Canterbury's associate, who warns her that her less ethical tactics may backfire on her clients. I also found it a cheap gimmick not to reveal until the finish that she has lost a child. The best I can say about it is that Margulies and Aidan Quinn are always very watchable, and it is still probably a better way to spend an evening than any given “reality” show.

The next new thing I checked out was Quarterlife. This is a web series created my Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Swick, the creators of Thirtysomething and producers of My So-Called Life. The first online “season”--thirty-six episodes of eight minutes each—were recently combined into six hour-long episodes for NBC. The pilot got such poor ratings against a Democratic presidential debate that it was moved over to NBC's partner channel, Bravo, to finish it's run. (All episodes are now available on

To be honest, I wondered at first if I would make it through the first episode; but I didn't want to be like a recently infamous Rolling Stones critic. The characters were just introduced very abruptly, and the dialog felt painfully contrived. We've seen much of this before, too—a cast of pretty young friends, both indie and yuppie, complete with one of their youthful-looking, immature mothers. As the episode progressed, however, some strong performances emerged, and I started to care about the characters. The story also dealt realistically with some very important themes—specifically, fear of success, and the often complicated connections between young adults and their parents.

The one thing that still gets me about Quarterlife is the fact that we didn't actually see the band make music until their concert. I'm around enough musical people to know that music—and not necessarily their own--oozes out of them steadily, especially when they're around each other, just for the pure joy if it. This past December, I saw a group of Nashville musicians on an independent movie set do a much better depiction of a band partying on their off hours. (Yes, you'll read more about that film eventually—MUCH more.)

In summary, neither of these shows is likely to become regular viewing for me, but I enjoyed Quarterlife better. It probably comes down to whether you prefer—or are in the mood for--Thirtysomething” or The Practice.

No comments: