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Four New Series Premiere Tonight, But the Returnees Are Better
September 22, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Four new series are added to the 2011 Fall TV lineup Thursday night: Person of Interest on CBS, Whitney and Prime Suspect on NBC, and, last but least, Charlie's Angels on ABC. You won't find any of them in Thursday's Best Bets, though -- and here, briefly, is why not...


Person of Interest. Premiering at 9 p.m. ET, this CBS drama series has the best pedigree of the bunch, and behind-the-scenes people I'd like to see succeed going in. Its producer is J.J. Abrams, the inventive storyteller who helped craft such pliable TV structures as Alias and Lost, and its creator is Jonathan Nolan, who gave us the memorably inventive story structure of the film Memento.

But Abrams was the marquee name attached last season to Undercovers, which never lived up to, much less surpassed, its glossy spy-couple premise. In Person of Interest, the cast is strong, the premise weak. Michael Emerson from Lost plays a rich computer programmer who built a super-computer capable of synthesizing randomly collected information into leads about crimes yet to be committed, and James Caviezel plays an ex-CIA agent recruited to follow these ambiguous leads.

However, the Minority Report-type stop-the-crime-before-it-happens gimmick isn't sold well enough, or believable enough -- and without it, the rest of Person of Interest feels like just another CBS procedural, and holds little Interest.


Whitney. This NBC comedy stars Whitney Cummings, who tries a little too hard -- a LOT too hard -- in this 9:30 p.m. ET NBC addition to its Thursday lineup. She's a writer and the show's creator as well as its star, and the general danger, when hyphenates star in their own comedies, is that no one around them dares to speak up when the script, or the performance, isn't what it should be.

In this comedy, though it has moments where both the writing and Cummings shine through, there's way too much of not-quite, and a lot of not-even-close.


Prime Suspect. I've gotten in loud, long, vocal arguments with Mike Donovan, another TVWW contributor, about this 10 p.m. NBC series, which he likes, and by which I'm very disappointed. I dislike it because it's based on, and using the same name as, the brilliant British series starring Helen Mirren, yet either ignores, dilutes or ruins just about every element that made that drama such a groundbreaking, captivating cop show. And I love Maria Bello, so this rant excludes her.

Call this new series anything BUT Prime Suspect -- call it Jane, call it Woman With a Badge, call it whatever you like -- and I might enjoy it a little more and resent it a lot less. Mike thinks I'm stupid to take TV that seriously.

But if you're going to remake a show because that show is great, the remake had better be comparable. Otherwise, you've got another Americanized Cracker on your hands. Which, in this case, we do.

Please, please, seek out the original. Acorn Media has just re-released the first two seasons of Mirren's Prime Suspect. Season 1 guest stars Ralph Fiennes and Tom Wilkinson, and that's just for starters. You can also order the entire series in a heavily discounted box set, or order any season individually. Order them HERE.


Charlie's Angels. On the other hand, call this ABC series, which premieres Thursday night at 8 ET on ABC, anything other than Charlie's Angels, and I'd be just as bored. What a horrible mess this is.

Everything done in the name of deepening or refreshing or updating this series has made it worse. The three leading ladies don't even seem right for their roles, but their roles aren't right to begin with. If this isn't the worst new scripted series of the fall, I'd hate to see what is.

And I mean that literally.

I'd HATE to see whatever's worse than this new Charlie's Angels.

For a full rundown of these and other new fall TV series, from myself and our merry band of TVWW writers (some of whom just threw in their two cents today), click HERE.

And be patient. When it comes to the new fall TV series, the best IS yet to come.





Grassy Noel Holston said:

Along with the expectations the use of the title Prime Suspect sets up, Bello's show suffers from the disconnect between its portrait of overt, almost caricatured sexism in the police workplace and what prime-time viewers have come to expect. Women detectives in real life may indeed have to put up with male cohorts stuck in a piggish 1960s (or '50s) mindset. But in the television series world, women cops earned their stars ages ago. Did the people who adapted this never see Cagney & Lacey? Did they never watch a CSI or Without a Trace?

[Glad to hear from you, Noel! But three more paragraphs, and you could have posted this as a column, not a comment.

Let your verbose flag fly! -- DB]

Comment posted on September 28, 2011 11:10 AM

dj derka said:

Breaking Bad
I totally agree with Dave on Breaking Bad and how good a TV series it is. The characters introduced throughout the series are unforgettable. It reminds me of the Rockford Files, which introduced a panoply of interesting characters.
The two speechless assassins, introduced early in the series, communicate visually and are on a mission to eliminate Hank. And of course the absolutely interesting character of Gus is sine qua non. Wow! I love his quiet politeness, yet undertone of control and brutality. He says it all through his mannerisms.
The music and credits are also creative.
Bianculli does fail to mention the stellar cinema-photography. Burning Bad is replete with long vista shots, loaded with tension, that recalls the framing of Sergio Leone in the "spaghetti westerns". And the intense close-ups make this series a must see for budding filmmakers. It is a production course in a TV series and boxed set. Story telling, writing, cinematography are all great.
AND, the pacing and editing are beyond reproach. It has the viewer trying to figure out what is going to happen next.
The two assassins are crawling to a house in their first appearance. What are they doing? That my friends is not only cinema but excellent story telling.
And the opening sequence where Jesse is in the desert with Mike and is not sure if he is going to be eliminated is great tension building and really should be on the big screen. It is if you have a 52" HDTV, I guess.
Characters do things before you know what they are doing. And the artful switching of characters is writing to envy. At first Jesse is totally annoying and irritating, then, through Gus, he is given responsibility and it is Walt who becomes unglued and annoying. At first I wanted to shoot Jesse for his bumbling screw ups, then at the end, shoot Walt for his bumbling and screw ups. That, my friends, is writing.
However, now I feel the series is at an end.
Walt and Jesse have thwarted several bad guys who tried to capture their meth biz, and have eliminated their most formable foe, GUS and the pristine Meth Lab is destroyed. Now we are back to square one. Do Walt and Jesse find another mobile home to cook their brew? Does the annoying Hank get more clues? I am afraid it is downhill and a who cares now kind of series. BUT, Gillian and others are master crafters so it will be interesting to see where they could go to maintain our must see each episode. Where do you go after you see Gus blown apart in the surprise/most fantastic denouement of all TV time.

[Nicely said... And I have to confess, it took another TV critic to point out to me that the season finale's title, "Face Off," was a double meaning I should have gotten -- since it refers not only to the guys vs. Gus, but also to Gus' ultimate explosive fate. - DB]

Comment posted on October 11, 2011 1:03 PM
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