Fall 2010 New Show Roundup

Having watched a number of the new shows that debut this fall, here are some thoughts:

My Generation: I was interested in this show in no small part due to the fact that the main characters, nine students from the class of 2000 at an Austin high school, are nearly my age-peers.  I graduated in the class of 2001 (we did not play Space Odyssey, I’m sad to say), and am far away from where I thought I would be at that time.

This show takes the mocumentary style and applies it to a drama, where filmmakers followed nine students throughout their senior year, and is now checking in with them ten years later.  The characters are introduced with their High School clique labels, such as “The Nerd,” “The Brains,” “The Jock,” etc.  and then shown in their current lives, often very far away from where they’d expected to be.  Circumstances in the characters’ lives bring many of them back to Austin, re-connecting with those who had never left or already returned.

The pilot clearly set the stakes, established the characters and their current trajectories vs. their self-professed worlds that they had imagined for themselves in 2000.  It’s not fantastic, but it’s compelling so far and I’m likely to keep watching for a little while, if for no reason than the degree to which it makes me think about what has been happening in my own life vs. what I expected when I was a senior in HS.

The Event — This is the new The New LOST.  The Event uses mosaic-style storytelling, jumping between characters and time frames in a fairly jarring manner, though over the episode, the rhythm became less distracting for me.  The focus on Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) in the first episode brings the audience into the middle of The titular Event, balanced with POV sections from President Martinez (played by Blair Underwood — no relation) and others.

For me, much of my level of ongoing interest will depend on the truth of the Mt. Inostranka facility.  Who are these people, and how are they connected to The Event?  Once we know more about that, it’ll be easier to decide how much I care.  There are several options that are yawn-worthy, and some others that could prove quite compelling.

Undercovers — The new sexy spy offering from Alias-creator J.J. Abrams is cute and fun.  It’s not fantastic, but it does show a happily-married african-american couple as series leads, which is still noteworthy for network TV.   It’s Sexy People Doing Sexy Spy Things, but it’s pretty well-done, and the leads are both gorgeous and likeable.  I won’t stay home for this one, but I’ll probably catch up via Hulu every so often.

No Ordinary Family — The Pilot of this one hasn’t actually aired, but I got to watch a preview last month when they had it in limited availability.  No Ordinary Family is very nearly a Live Action The Incredibles, with an origin closer to the Fantastic Four, who were an obvious inspiration for the Pixar film.

Michael Chiklis is Jim Powell, police sketch artist and under-appreciated dad.  He feels fairly powerless and disconnected from his family, including his Bigwig Scientist Wife, Stephanie Powell (Julie Benz).  Their children are Just-Trying-To-Fit-In Daphne (Kay Panabaker) and Undiagnosed Learning Disability Kid Brother JJ (Jimmy Bennett).

Jim convinces the family to take a vacation, which leads to their plane crashing into the Amazon — their trip is ruined, but shortly after their return, the members of the family begin manifesting super-powers.  Jim gains incredible strength and toughness, Stephanie gets super-speed, Daphne becomes telepathic and JJ gets a massive intelligence boost.

The show’s formula seems like it will include Jim using his powers and police connections to fight crime while the rest of the family goes about their lives trying to deal with their powers — there are also hints of a larger super-world which will likely play a role as the show goes forward.

Of the new shows this season, I’m probably most excited about No Ordinary Family — it’s fun, doesn’t take itself to seriously, and seems to be respectful of its genre roots.

Hawaii Five-O — The joys of remakes.  I didn’t really watch much of the original, as it was mostly before my time.  However, the new show keeps what some say is the best part of the original show — the opening theme.

Alex O’Laughlin plays Steve McGarrett, who is brought out of the Middle East and offered a position heading a new state police unit in Hawaii, with no red tape and vast resources, tasked with bringing down TV-worthy criminals across the state.

He crosses paths with Danny “Danno” Williams, a divorced father who moved to Hawaii to be near his daughter (who primarily lives with her mother and step-dad), and also recruits Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), a disgraced cop who worked with McGarrett’s father.  Rounding out the cast is Grace Park, playing Chin Ho’s cousin Kona “Kono” Kalakaua, a hotshot rookie policewoman.  McGarrett recruits her right out of the academy, as she’d have trouble getting respect in the normal force due to her familial connection to the disgraced Chin Ho.

The exotic locale, nostalgia, and charming cast are likely to be the show’s best assets, at least to begin with.  I admit that if the show finds a way to highlight Grace “Boomer” Park’s gorgeousness on a regular basis, that will help by willingness to watch.

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