Monday introduced my favorite new drama of the season: Fox's Lone Star. Tuesday night brings us my favorite new comedy of the fall, also on Fox: Raising Hope (9/8c). It's a highlight of another very busy night.
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From our Fall Preview issue, my take: "Oh, baby, this one's a hoot. The fall's boldest and wackiest new comedy makes up in raucous energy what it lacks in sophistication. Martha Plimpton is ferociously funny while bringing a warm, wise grit to this rollicking white-trash family circus."
To elaborate: Raising Hope is not a polite sitcom. From My Name Is Earl's Greg Garcia, Hope leans heavily on outrageous and rude sight gags — think a topless Cloris Leachman as a senile grannyto tell the story of pool-skimming slacker Jimmy (likable newcomer Lucas Neff) who finds himself, thanks to unsavory circumstances best discovered by the viewer, in charge of raising an infant daughter. (Original birth name: Princess Beyonce, but that will soon change.) Young Jimmy turns for help to his family, who make the harried Hecks of The Middle look like aristocrats, and while we may fear for baby Hope's survival, Hope's survival will rest on whether we accept this broad mash-up of slapstick and sentiment. I'm already sold. Plimpton is sensational as Jimmy's tough-as-nails mom, who'd just as soon drop the baby at the fire station, but we soon learn she has a way with a lullaby. Leachman is a riot, Garret Dillahunt scores as Jimmy's proudly immature dad, and special props go to the stunt babies.
Following Hope is Running Wilde (9:30/8:30c), a new comedy from the Arrested Development twisted-brain trust that many handicappers are already classifying as hopeless. My Fall Preview take: "Can a romantic comedy work if you're not in love with anybody on screen? Extreme absurdism is the guiding principle of this off-putting curiosity, which delivers more smarm than charm."
To elaborate: Will Arnett can play a self-absorbed misanthrope (not unlike Arrested's Gob) with the best of them. As a scene-stealer, that's a good thing. As a series lead, maybe not so much. He's the Wilde running amok here: Steve Wilde, a trust-fund creep with, yes, arrested-adolescent tendencies, tended to by a grotesque fawning "manny" and a chauffeur whose catty insults go unnoticed. Cocooned from the world, he has no sense of reality or responsibility — unlike the unrequited love of his life, Emmy (Keri Russell, her glowing serenity an odd fit for a screwball heroine), a crusading do-gooder who raised a daughter named Puddle in the Amazonian rain forest. (The pilot is narrated by Puddle, who otherwise doesn't speak.) David Cross, another Arrested alum and a late addition to the cast, has some funny moments as Emmy's fiancé, a bumbling eco-terrorist, and Peter Serafinowicz as Wilde's competitive neighbor is appealing enough that you wonder if the show shouldn't have been built around him. When Steve and Emmy reconnect in the mansion where they grew up, sparks are meant to fly. But the chemistry is lacking, maybe because the creators are too busy loading up so many elements of the bizarre around them.
The night's other new contender — No Ordinary Family doesn't premiere until next Tuesday — is ABC's Detroit 1-8-7 (10/9c), and its arrival in the time period that belonged for more than a decade to the classic NYPD Blue is no accident. (The title is code for "homicide.") My Fall Preview take: "Detroit doesn't reinvent the wheel but promises to be a mighty fine ride. Though we have yet to see the revised pilot, the intrusive TV cameras were always secondary to this smartly cast urban crime drama's gutsy, gritty allure."
To elaborate: Since the Fall Preview issue went to press, I have seen the reworked Detroit pilot (plus a second episode), which excised a faux-documentary talk-to-the-camera gimmick that ABC seems to be inordinately fond of (the Modern Family effect?). If you miss it here, it's on very prominent display later this week (and how I wish it weren't) in ABC's woeful My Generation. With Detroit, the device was an unnecessary distraction to a solid police drama using the mean streets of economically depressed Detroit as a backdrop. (The show is filmed on location.)
With an emphasis on process, the episodes I've seen split the hour between separate cases (each given a subtitle to guide you from scene to scene) being investigated by different teams and detectives — the most fascinating character being Louis Fitch (The Sopranos' Michael Imperioli), a brilliant closer who unnerves perps with his intense stare and eerie sustained silences. He also rankles his co-workers with his anti-social eccentricities, like talking to them by phone even if he's standing right next to them. When one of his associates tells him, "You're not such a bad guy when you don't want to be," his honestly perplexed response is: "I never want to be." His most notable co-stars in a necessarily diverse cast include NYPD's James McDaniel as a veteran detective pining to retire to Tuscany, Jon Michael Hill as Fitch's overeager new partner and Aisha Hinds as their boss. Besides the location, there's little about Detroit that is particularly new or groundbreaking, but it should easily satisfy the millions who seem to have a bottomless appetite for this genre. There are plenty that do it worse.
Among Tuesday's returning shows, none are making a bigger noise than Fox's Glee (8/7c), going head-to-head in its second season with CBS behemoth NCIS. CBS didn't make any of its returning shows available for preview, but I've seen the first Glee, and while it's far from my favorite episode — a little too heavy on the cruelty and dirty tricks, from the usual suspects and at least one that's unexpected — the moments that soar remind us why this is a genuine pop-culture phenom. (A few of those moments belong to pop star Charice, including one that had me going gaga, so to speak.)
So what are you most eager to see on Tuesday nights?
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