Watching Showtime's new drama Street Time (Sundays, 10 pm/ET), a bleak, rather dreary look inside the federal parole system, you can sense the network's aching desperation to score a gritty word-of-mouth hit like rival HBO's The Sopranos or even Oz.
Better luck next time. I watched the first three episodes of Street Time during what amounted to a mini crime wave of programming, and it paled in comparison to the last few hours of FX's bolder, more entertaining The Shield.
What both of these shows share is a toughness of spirit, an unwillingness to provide easy solutions to society's criminal ills.
Street Time is good at conveying the quiet terror and dislocation of new parolee Kevin Hunter (Northern Exposure's
I've received several recent queries from readers about the fate of some reality-TV participants whose low-rated shows were canceled midstream: the campers of WB's No Boundaries and CBS's gung-ho American Fighter Pilots. Unlike when a fictional series is jettisoned, the failure of a reality show seems to leave fans unsettled, wondering about outcomes involving actual people. So how thoughtful of ABC to revive The Mole II: The Next Betrayal for a summer run (Tuesdays at 8 pm/ET), following a brief fall underexposure on Fridays one of the network's many bungles. At last, those who care can see how it turned out.
His name sells books, films and miniseries, so why not a Stephen King series? Or, given TV's copycat nature, why not several?
Sure enough, here's USA Network's The Dead Zone (Sundays, 10 P.M./ET). Sci Fi Channel plans a show based on its Firestarter: Rekindled miniseries. And NBC is remaking Carrie as a three-hour TV movie that could also become a series.
Judging from the first two Dead Zone episodes, an ingenious King premise is not enough to sustain suspenseful intensity on a weekly basis. This disappointingly routine series, starring an affable Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles), lacks the haunting fatalism of
Hope dies hard. So I was reminded as I walked past protesters gathered on a Manhattan street outside ABC's recent fall-season presentation to advertisers. Their demand: for Once and Again, the much-loved but little-watched romantic family drama, to return.
Bless their frustrated hearts. Surely they knew that ship sailed (or, rather, sunk) months ago, a victim of ABC's neglect and abuse. Judging from clips of new series screened by the networks, little on the horizon will fill the emotional void. I'm willing to be surprised, but not counting on it.
The focus for fall will be on retro, schmaltzy family warm-fuzzies and high-concept crime or medical dramas. A few gems may yet emerge from this ordinary-looking pile. We can always (gulp) hope.
But first, a survey of the year's ups and downs as the cycle of TV seasons claims fresh victims and shuffles the deck for the survivors.
Rest in peace,
Simply put, The Wire is the most intriguing and filling dramatic appetizer HBO has yet provided during our long national fast as we hunger for new episodes of The Sopranos.
This 13-episode series (Sundays, 10 pm/ET) returns us to the grim realities of writer-producer David Simon's Baltimore.
It plays like a complex mix of Homicide: Life on the Street (inspired by Simon's reporting) and his HBO miniseries The Corner, which also used the dehumanizing drug trade as a source for searing drama.
The Wire is engrossing and unpredictable after three hours, I have no idea how or even whether this politically charged investigation into a drug kingpin's operations will achieve its aims. Refreshingly adult and richly layered, it's free of the smug archness that typifies HBO's overrated (though brilliantly acted)
Since few outside New York City care whether Thoroughly Modern Millie or Urinetown will win the Tony for best musical in a lackluster Broadway season, wouldn't it make more sense for this consistently classy but low-rated prizefest (PBS, June 2, 8 pm/ET; CBS, 9 pm/ET) to underplay the awards say, issuing most of them on PBS and instead concentrate on presenting a great show? How fitting if the broadcast were to be devoted to a nightlong celebration of Richard Rodgers's centennial (his Oklahoma! is currently on Broadway). Wouldn't that result in the sort of valentine to the theater that the Tony Awards are supposed to represent?
"I can't believe it's all ending this way," said young and beautiful alien Isabel (Katherine Heigl) as she and her beleaguered pals planned to ditch Roswell for good in the UPN drama's May 14 series finale.
Frankly, I find it hard to believe as well, watching one series after another go out with a whimper, mere shadows of their formerly enjoyable selves.
Roswell's demise wasn't much of a surprise. Having collapsed creatively even before its transfer from WB, this teen thriller was unable to sustain its intoxicating romantic premise (alien Romeo loves earthly Juliet) against increasingly ludicrous sci-fi subplots.
It has been far more painful watching the slow dissolution this season of Fox's once-essential signature shows: Ally McBeal and
Are we to be relieved that The Bachelor (aka Alex Michel) didn't immediately propose to his made-for-TV soulmate, Amanda Marsh, in the finale? ABC's cringe-inducing reality romance was for some a guilty pleasure, but it still seemed a creepy, excruciatingly voyeuristic dating game. Is there anything people won't do to be on TV? Watching this serial make-out artist dangle several women for weeks with the promise of a lasting relationship, I have my doubts. While less overtly grotesque than Fox's Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, this sordid time-waster cheapens once-heralded ideals of courtship, compatibility and love.
I would watch Scrubs just for the janitor.
I laugh nearly every time this lurking, scowling custodian (Neil Flynn) appears. He's a prankish thorn in the side of J.D. (Zach Braff), the show's adorably well-meaning medical intern hero. In the May 14 episode, we learned that this mischievous brute reads the poor kid's secret journal to replenish his ammunition of scorn and abuse.
And yet J.D. has survived a transformative and terrifically enjoyable first year of rounds, patients, small victories and huge-seeming failures. Scrubs (NBC, Tuesdays, 9:30 pm/ET) has also beaten steep odds, especially considering that it airs in TV's most competitive hour, to emerge as the network's brightest new comedic hope.
Braff, so puppylike in his eagerness to please, leads this outstanding
Dinotopia is perfect for anyone who thought Jar Jar Binks was the best thing about the last Star Wars movie. In other words, this is for the kids although they'd better have highly developed attention spans.
A lavish, family-oriented fantasy miniseries is a swell idea, but this lumbering white elephant put me to sleep three different times, averaging a nap a night. (It airs May 12, 13 and 14 on ABC.)
There are some exciting moments, but this is less Jurassic Park than a leisurely stroll through a Dino-Oprah-topia theme park. The preaching never stops on this isle, where humans and prehistoric creatures co-exist in relative harmony. Quaint and precious, it's like Lost Horizon with big lizards.
The long and predictable story begins as half brothers Karl and David (Tyron Leitso