Is Chris Lilley the next Ricky Gervais? Or is he the next Tracey Ullman? Would you settle for both?
In HBO's addictive import Summer Heights High (Sundays at 10:30 pm/ET), a funny/sad Office-style mockumentary depicting a year in the life of an Australian public high school, this wildly talented writer-star loves making you squirm (à la Gervais) while submerging himself inside the skin of characters so diverse (à la Ullman) you can hardly believe it's the same guy.
No child is left behind, or teacher spared, in Lilley's outrageously crass classroom ...
Tina Fey and Megan Mullally
As this year's Emmy champs pass like ships in the night — AMC's best-drama winner, Mad Men, wrapping its brilliant second season October 26, less than a week before NBC's best comedy, 30 Rock, launched its wacky third year I can't help reflecting that while more awards surely lie in their future, neither show is likely to win a popularity contest.
Mad Men, which filters its '60s nostalgia through a glass (of scotch) darkly, is seen by many as too subtly ambiguous, too grim: the disturbing rape of sex-bomb secretary Joan by her fiancé one of many examples. It's a show that feels more high art (Don's surreal lost weekend in Palm Springs) than mass-market. Whereas 30 Rock revels in such a twisted world of zany absurdism, it will never be to everyone's taste. Too bad for those unwilling to embrace these shows' strange and wondrous ways.
More on the Mad Men finale and 30 Rock premiere after the jump.
Katie Holmes and Jonny Lee Miller, Eli Stone
Eli Stone (Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET)
Risk factor: Moderate.This fanciful charmer about a modern-day prophet (the adorable Jonny Lee Miller) in corporate lawyer's guise was a bit of a surprise renewal.
Worth the risk? As leaps of faith go, yes. And faith — in visions both magical and musical — has everything to do with Eli Stone's divine appeal. Everyone whose life Eli touches, he inspires, including scene-stealing colleagues like Victor Garber and Loretta Devine, and the same goes for the lucky viewer. Guest stars Sigourney Weaver (as a spectral shrink) and Katie Holmes (as a klutzy fellow do-gooder) have boosted Eli's visibility. Let's hope it sticks.
My grade (on an A-B-C scale): A-
See Roush's take on Pushing Daisies, Housewives and more after the jump.
Brian Tee and Arlene Tur, Crash
Seems every movie channel wants its own Mad Men–style prestige project. Which could explain why pay-cable upstart Starz has raided the Oscar vault to turn the 2006 best-picture winner, Crash, into an ambitious, if not immediately convincing, weekly series.
With all new characters, so this isn't exactly a sequel, TV's Crash resembles the movie in being less about car wrecks than about disparate cultures colliding within the ethnic melting pot of Los Angeles. Still, there is one fateful smashup in the opening hour, and pivotal moments often occur on wheels — in a limo, an ambulance, a patrol car.
Read the full review after the jump.
Christian Slater, My Own Worst Enemy
The question, and it's a fair one, nags at many of this season's new series: How long can they keep it going? It applies mostly to shows adapted from limited-run overseas hits (Life on Mars, Worst Week, The Ex List, Eleventh Hour, Kath & Kim), but is especially pertinent to NBC's nonsensical spy thriller My Own Worst Enemy.
Reminiscent at times of The Bourne Identity or Face/Off, to name a few movie influences it does not improve upon, the beyond-high-concept Enemy asks us to believe Christian Slater as a cold-blooded assassin named Edward who doubles, when a switch in his brain is flipped, as a milquetoast family man named Henry.
More on Worst Enemy and a look at Harry Connick Jr.'s Lifetime movie Living Proof after the jump`
The question, and it’s a fair one, nags at many of this season’s new series: How long can they keep it going? It applies mostly to shows adapted from limited-run overseas hits (Life on Mars, Worst Week, The Ex List, Eleventh Hour, Kath & Kim), but is especially pertinent to NBC’s nonsensical spy thriller My Own Worst Enemy.
Reminiscent at times of “The Bourne Identity” or “Face/Off,” to name a few movie influences it does not improve upon, the beyond-high-concept Enemy asks us to believe Christian Slater as a cold-blooded assassin named Edward who doubles, when a switch in his brain is flipped, as a milquetoast family man named Henry. For the record, he’s more credible as Edward.
But credibility has little to do with Enemy, which calls upon Edward’s boss lady, Alfre Woodard, to spout this exposition: “We manifested a divergent identity, dormant in a sealed-off portion of the medial tem
And the wannabe hits just keep on coming. The fall rollout continues in full force this week, especially on Thursday night, where three new network series based on shows from England and Australia finally arrive after months of retooling—in the case of Life on Mars, involving a complete reshoot. But network TV isn’t all that’s keeping us busy. USA Network has molded its beach-book miniseries The Starter Wife into a weekly page-turner, while PBS’ Masterpiece continues on its yearlong roll with a terrific political thriller.
Life on Mars
Airs Thursdays, 10/9c, ABC (also online via video.tvguide.com)
Previously on: BBC America. How’s the remake? Surprisingly good, considering the buzz after the show switched producers. This captures the original series’ vibe nicely, as modern-day detective Sam Tyler (the appealing Jason O’Mara) is hit by a car and wakes up in ultragritty “Serpico
As if Sundays weren’t busy enough, with ABC’s splendidly re-energized Desperate Housewives leading the network pack and AMC’s Mad Men firing on all cylinders through late October, HBO and Showtime are now locked in a fierce showdown for pay-cable dominance. The one thing their shows tend to have in common—including HBO’s sexy-funny vampire mystery drama True Blood, which I’ve already flipped over—is a risk factor. These are bold, edgy works I’d mostly hate to miss. Thank heavens for On Demand.
Season: 3 Worth the price of admission? Without doubt. This saga of a vigilante killer (the chillingly charismatic Michael C. Hall) who works for the Miami police is TV’s most perversely clever twist on crime drama. This season isn’t as sharply, scarily plotted as the near-perfect second year, when we kept fearing Dexter’s dark secrets would be exposed. Bu
It’s premiere week, and now is the time for all good TV fans to come off the ledge, having been left dangling all summer (or longer) by cliff-hangers. Here’s a quick look at how well a few notable shows are restarting the clock.
House (Tuesdays, 8/7c, Fox) My favorite sort of cliff-hanger is the emotional crisis, and House delivered a whopper in the shattered bromance of doctors House and Wilson. Wilson still blames House for the tragedy of his bitchy girlfriend Amber’s death, and in the first episodes, he’s in a fleeing, not forgiving, mood. “There’s a world beyond you,” says a liberated Wilson. Meanwhile, House is already shopping for a new mate. The situation is comic yet dramatic, as House is almost dangerously distracted from his medical-sleuth work. Some powerful stuff, but many of us are even more impatient for House to reunite his old team (the marginalized Cameron and Chase). The newbies just aren’t cutting it.
Do the CW’s call letters now stand for Conspicuously Wealthy? You might think so, considering the network’s most hyped buzz magnets: the decadent, sophomore cult fave Gossip Girl and the new-but-familiar 90210 (paired on Tuesdays with the tragically bland Privileged).
When unspoiled 90210 ingenue Annie Wilson (Shenae Grimes of the wide, gorgeous grin) had a first date in a beau’s private jet, I couldn’t help thinking: Take that, Gossip brat Blair Waldorf! But wait. Blair (pouty Leighton Meester) came back from summer break in Europe with a British lord in tow. Everywhere you look, it’s Clearasil Dynasty.
Times have changed at 90210’s West Beverly High, though some of the faces (Kelly! Brenda!) haven’t much. Annie doesn’t even make it to her first homeroom before she sees a former summer crush being sexually serviced in the parking lot. Sandy and Danny this isn’t—just l