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3 Show Monte – CBS, NBC Crime Debuts That Could Boom Or Bust
I’m not a huge fan when it comes to network TV crime drama. My sour opinion on mainstream crime TV is inspired by the sad smell of surrender that seems to come off of such shows: A sense that whatever material I’m watching has been watered down, spiced up and sliced into bite-sized portions for the average American intellectual appetite.
Yet two of the networks have shows premiering soon that contain such concentrated quality talent, it’s enough gravity to draw me in. Not surprisingly, they ain’t the two that Disney owns.
NBC and CBS launch these shows with a few sure-fire faces to draw audiences. It’s the folks behind the camera – the ones on the script pages, specifically – that interest me most. Combine both, mix in high-octane marketing campaigns, and these three are sure to spike in the ratings on premiere night.
After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Considering how milquetoast the networks can make a show, and how fickle and facile the mainstream’s viewing habits are, there’s no sign of which will succeed.
I know that the longest shot is NBC’s offering to this slate, Pariah. Kelsey Grammer produces this odd puppy, though there’s no word in the report as to whether he’ll star. I can certainly see him in the role, given that it’s a strange and cerebral concept – a police procedural drama based on the socio-economic principles outlined in the pop non-fiction hit, Freakonomics.
Edge of your seat excitement, right? Yeah, I know. Don’t get me wrong – Freakonomics is a swell book and the concept of Pariah is as intriguing as hell. But see if you can wrap your mind around how this synopsis would work, without being ridiculous:
In Pariah, the Mayor of San Diego appoints a rogue academic with no law enforcement background to run a task force using Freakonomics-inspired alternative methods of policing. This causes an uproar within the police department as the morally conflicted, conspiracy-minded academic solves crimes by conducting his controversial experiments on citizens of the city.
It’s the last line I stick on: “Solves crimes by conducting his controversial experiments.” Are these cultural experiments, like dividing people into groups of fake prisoners and fake guards? Or Curt Conners-style experiments, fusing people with bestial DNA? Or is he just going to fluoridate the water heavily?
In any event, Pariah is a head-scratcher. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the current leader of this pack’s buzz contest, the utterly predictable Elementary from CBS.
If you’ve not heard of Elementary, you’ve either been avoiding all contact with mass media or you’ve just recently escaped capture by the Yanomamo tribe of the upper Amazon. In either case, good for you. Even the Tunisian hell-hole prison from The Dark Knight Rises had TV, and if there’s TV or movie screen near you, you’ve heard of Elementary.
Here’s the trailer, in case you don’t remember it from when you saw it a few hours ago:
There’s not a whole lot to say about Elementary, though: Modern re-telling of Sherlock Holmes. Doctor Watson is a lady in this, and that lady is Lucy Liu. Jonny Lee Miller stars as the master detective, and the whole thing goes down without sexual tension – yeah, right, Elementary PR people – in New York City. It all amounts to another rehash to me, with enough star power to survive at least a few episodes.
In short, I think it’ll be a hit.
Our third show, I’m not so sure.
Vegas is the final entry on today’s list, and the top of the roster when it comes to my favor. For a show that focuses on the origin story of a seamy flyspeck in the middle of nowhere, Vegas has my attention tethered.
It has too much proven talent to ignore, is the thing. And by “proven talent,” I mean marquee names in the industry: Dennis Quaid is at the forefront of this bad boy, playing a sheriff who comes into conflict with the mob’s interests during the establishment of Las Vegas. His rival legitimate businessman is played by Michael Chiklis, The Shield‘s awesome principal actor. This guy carried a furiously powerful show through seven seasons, and now he’s going face to face with a headliner from the silver screen.
Best of all, they’ll be under the command of Nicholas Pileggi. Mafia stories and Pileggi go together like peanut butter and, well, peanut butter. With Goodfellas, Casino and City Hall among the notches on his screenwriting belt, Pileggi is as synonymous with mob drama as Mario Puzo, if not more so.
So how could it go wrong?
Go see any movie out right now, watch the show before the previews that spotlights a “behind the scenes” look at CBS’ Vegas, and you’ll see how it might go wrong. The melodrama looks to be amped to 11. The originality seems less than 0. And both Quaid and Chiklis seem to be delivering stale, canned lines, both in the show and to the interviewer.
I hope that the bland spin on CBS’ Vegas was just tepid marketing. It’d be a shame to see so much talent go to waste.
But then, when it comes to network crime TV, there’s no telling what’ll go down the drain and what’ll clog the pipes.