To Watch: Eli Stone

August 6th, 2008

There’s one thing I hate about summer: all my favourite TV shows goes on hiatus. What I most of the time do, is find series I haven’t seen yet and watch them all in one go. In this recurring ‘To Watch’ post, I’ll recommend some series that have been going on for some time (or have at least one season and have been renewed), that aren’t that popular or well-known, but are well worth watching. 

To start this series off: Eli Stone. It’s a part comedy, part musical, part legal drama (intrigued yet?) that runs on ABC. So far there is one season of 13 episodes, but the series has been renewed for the fall season (returning on Tuesday’s 10pm). 

Eli Stone is a thirty-something attorney, who works for a big law firm, representing big important companies. He’s an arrogant jackass, who doesn’t care about the people who he comes up against in court. That all changes when he finds out he has a brain aneurysm that starts giving him hallucinations (of people singing, mythical creatures). The hallucinations all relate to cases he’s working on and slowly he starts believing that maybe they’re not just hallucinations…

The premise of the show is unique. What other series can claim it’s a comedy/musical/legal drama combined? And that’s what makes it so great. It’s just so different than all other series out there; it’s a nice breath of fresh air. The musical sequences are fantastic; because they’re hallucinations, anything can happen, while not feeling too silly.

Jonny Lee Miller is likable as Eli. You’re supposed to find him arrogant and non-likable at the start, but you quickly start feeling for him. Mark my words, by the end of the first episode you’ll be rooting for his character. 

Besides Eli, there’s a nice cast of other characters and all of them make the show work. For starters, there’s Loretta Devine (Boston Public, Grey’s Anatomy) as Eli’s secretary Patti. Wow, she’s got a voice! Then there’s Natasha Henstridge as Eli’s fiancée, Taylor Wethersby, and Victor Garber as Jordan Wethersby, Taylor’s father and Eli’s boss. I knew Garber had done musicals before Alias and it’s great seeing him in these musical routines, yet still remaining a pretty tough and strict character. Add to that, the characters Maggie Dekker (played by Julie Gonzalo) and Matt Dowd (played by Sam Jaeger) who both are lawyers at the Wethersby law firm. Rounding off the cast is Eli’s brother Nate (Matt Letscher) and Eli’s acupuncturist and friend, Dr Chen (James Saito). 

I’m curious to see what season 2 will bring us. I loved the first season and I think it’s slipped under a lot of people’s radar. Give it a try; wanna bet you like it as I do?

It’s that time of the year again, where studios are warming up for next year’s TV season, producing pilots they hope will become the next big hit. Somehow some of these pilot always turns up on the internetz, be it intentionally or not. I’ll try to review the ones I come across, giving feedback if it’s worth watching next fall or not.

The first is The Mentalist, a CBS produced police drama, starring Simon Baker (The Guardian). He plays Patrick Jane, a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who uses his remarkable skills of observation to help solve cases. Five years ago Jane was a TV celebrity psychic, who was involved in the hunt for the serial killer Red John. On TV he (falsely) claimed he could feel Red John with his paranormal abilities and Red John responded by killing Jane’s family. Since then he’s stopped with the psychic angle, admitting his powers were fake, and started working as a crime consultant. Jane is known for his lack of protocol and his unusual method of solving cases, infuriating his senior agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and the other members of the team (Owain Yeoman, Amanda Righetti and Tim Kang).

When I heard the premise of this series, I thought it would be a Psych/Monk rip-off. It’s not though, not at all. Where Psych and Monk are both pretty upbeat and funny, The Mentalist is more darker and serious than those two series. It has a bit of the same base story, but in the execution they’re nothing alike. The character of Patrick Jane can be funny at times, but his circumstances and background are painted more seriously, giving him a rougher, more realistic edge.

Patrick Jane is the type of person who knows he’s the smartest person in the room and will remind you of that very fact. He’s arrogant and slightly annoying to most of the people he shares the screen with. In another actor’s hands this could have turned out bad, but Simon Baker makes it work; you actually start liking him. He’s a great lead and you’re straight away rooting for his character. 

Robin Tunney, who I typically find quite annoying, is decent enough as Jane’s supervisor. The other supporting characters are all okay, even though we don’t get to see much of them in this pilot. It’s great to see Owain Yeoman again on TV, but his track records with new series haven’t fared that well (both The Nine and Kitchen Confidential were cancelled after 13 episodes). And the same counts for Amanda Righetti (Reunion got cancelled after 13 episodes too). Fingers crossed The Mentalist doesn’t go down that same road.

The Mentalist is an interesting new series that doesn’t require too much effort to get into. Most episodes will be stand-alone and I’m guessing the light season story arch of Red John will not frighten off the occasional viewer. Additionally, it’s an easy series to commit to; there’s no real mystery and mythology to get hooked by, and if the series does get cancelled, there won’t be too many never-to-be-solved loose ends. I’m not sure if they’ll stick to this pilot; there’s always the chance they’ll recast, rewrite and reshoot certain stuff. I liked it though, and it’s going on my to-watch for this fall.

Pilot Watch: No Heroics

July 19th, 2008

This post has been written by Cristiano Betta and cross-posted on his blog

Because Melinda’s family was in town this week, I was able to attend an exclusive screening of a new ITV sitcom No Heroics. Although there is no trailer or footage that I can actually show you, I can give you my thoughts on what is to become ITV2’s first ever sitcom.

The setup of No Heroics is simple – a group of British off-duty superheroes living their day-to-day life, which for supposed saviours of the world is actually rather normal, as they just can’t be arsed. Instead, this group of b-listers would rather get drunk in their local superheroes-only pub and commiserate at their lack of superiority.

The series follows the lives of a group of four superhero friends. First off there is The Hotness (Nicholas Burns), who controls heat but isn’t that much of a hottie in real life. His ex-girlfriend Electroclash (Claire Keelan), daughter of two famous A-list superheroes, but honestly not that much interested in saving the world as she is in getting a pack of cigarettes. Then there is She-Force (Rebekah Staton), the third strongest women in the world, with probably the lowest self esteem of all. And finally, my favorite, Timebomb (James Lance) is a homosexual Spanish retired superhero that can look 60 seconds into the future. They are supplemented by Excelsor (Patrick Baladi), a rival superhero with Superman-like powers who is a real prick and wouldn’t let a moment go by to humiliate The Hotness and flirt with Electroclash.

No Heroics

It is quite understandable where the idea behind No Heroics comes from. In a world where almost every super hero comic ever is being turned into a feature film, it is understandable for a TV station to hop onto that same bandwagon. Add to that the success of a series like Heroes and you got every TV studios executive hooked to the idea. Still, I feel that although I laughed my ass off due to some of the jokes, No Heroics is not all that it seems to be. To understand this one must understand that there is a good reason why some of the latest superhero productions have worked out so well. There is a great fan base for existing comic book heroes and their stories (which fans don’t like studios to mess with too much) and people love new, original, intelligently written newcomers like Heroes.

No Heroics though seems to be lacking on a few of these parts. To start off, as it is not based on any known characters there is no fan base, so to create one the writers need to compel the audience to bond with the characters. Classic ways of doing this would be something like an origin story, or a personal struggle with their super power responsibilities. None of this though seems to be in there as the writers have decided to stay away from the heroic part of the characters for most part and focus as much as possible on the heroes’ sex lives or need for cigarettes.

And this is probably the biggest problem I personally had with this show. Although this show seems to be written for (comic) geeks, most of the jokes seem to have been brought back to a nights-out-in-the-pub-humour-level of a 16-year old boy. Though occasionally funny, the amount of sex jokes in the two episodes that I saw were not really representative for the average comic book geek’s humour. Maybe I can explain this better when we look at a show like The IT Crowd which is obviously also written for (in this case IT) geeks. In this show, the characters are geeks, the situations they end up in are geeky, and the amount of geek culture references has not been limited to decorative items as is in No Heroics. As a result The IT Crowd is a much more representative kind of humour for the kind of people that might identify with the settings, than can be said for No Heroics.

That said, all this complaining might just go on the records as a personal whine by me as I have to admit that I have laughed loudly quite a few times, and the fact that I already picked my favorite hero of the show (Timebomb) can’t be ignored either. We have to see where the story goes and how in time the jokes and characters will grow in the hearts of the true comic book fanatics.

Rewind: Brimstone

October 8th, 2007

In the next couple of days I’ll be introducing some returning blog topics to (hopefully) get me more motivated to write more regularly. The first of these new topics is Rewind where I’ll reminisce about some old obscure cancelled tv-serie. I’m starting with a series that I’ve mentioned before on this blog: Brimstone (I compared Reaper to it here).

Number of Episodes: 13
Original Run: October 23, 1998 – February 12, 1999
Original Channel: Fox
You Might Know Them Now: Peter Horton (producer and director for Dirty Sexy Money and Grey’s Anatomy), John Glover (Lionel Luthor in Smallville)


Brimstone was about Ezekiel “Zeke” Stone (Horton), an undead ex-New York City Police detective who tracks down escapees of Hell. Fifteen years ago when his wife was raped and the rapist was cleared of all charges, Stone tracked the rapist down and murdered him. A couple of months after that, Stone died in an unrelated incident and was sent to Hell for killing the rapist. Now, though, 113 spirits have escaped from Hell and, because the Devil (Glover) has no power on earth, he makes a deal with Stone: Stone must hunt down all 113 spirits and will get a second chance on earth, if he succeeds and survives.


If you thought Michael Scolfield (Prison Break) was the first to have tattoos all over his body, you’re seriously mistaken. Stone is covered with tattoos, one for every escapee. Every time he kills an escapee (and thus sending it back to hell), the corresponding tattoo burns itself off. He also can’t just kill the spirit in any manner; no, he has to take out the eyes, cause “the eyes are the windows to the soul”. Every episode Stone would track the spirit down, who in most cases was stirring up quite some trouble, there would be a boss-battle and Stone would send the spirit back to Hell. Add to that, his wife that thinks he’s been dead for 15 years and you’ve got the basis of the whole show.


How I described it, the show doesn’t really sound that good, but there were a couple of things working for them. It certainly didn’t deserve the cancellation at that time, but then again we’re talking about the notorious Fox here. For starters, Peter Horton was good as the tortured, brooding hero. The series was in my opinion quite dark for that time, especially because the protagonists were (albeit in various degrees) basically evil. Which brings me to the next good element of the show: the Devil. John Glover had some brilliant one-liners and his portrayal as the Devil will always stick with me.


I’m not in any means saying this was a great show, but it’s certainly one that was original and funny. So does anybody else remember this show? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Fall 2007 Pilots

July 29th, 2007

I always used to hate summers; all my beloved TV-series would be on hiatus, leaving me with exasperating cliffhangers and endless reruns of the shows I just didn’t watch. I’ve found two ways to deal with these empty months, so that I still get a healthy dose of tv-goodness. The first is to try out new shows and (if you like them) to catch up on all the seasons you’ve missed. I’ve watched quite a couple of series like this: 8 seasons of Friends, 4 seasons of Gilmore Girls, 5 seasons of CSI, 1 season of The O.C., 1 season of Kyle XY and a couple of others.

The second anti-tv-withdrawal scheme is to try out all the new pilots for the Fall season. Two years ago I did this and got hooked on all the pilots/series, only to be disappointed when they got cancelled (truth is though, they did have it coming). Last year I watched all the pilots and chose only to continue with the ones with the most potential, Heroes and Ugly Betty. Good decision, right?

Well, this year’s new offerings all seem to be very interesting. After reading the descriptions, all the series sounded to have a lot of potential. After watching the pilots, however, some seem much less promising than others. Here’s a short review of each pilot I’ve seen (beware: minor spoilers):

This is about a guy Sam who finds out on his 21st birthday that before he was born his parents sold his soul to the devil and that he now has to serve as the devil’s bounty hunter, tracking down escaped souls from Hell. It’s not the most original premise for a show (anyone remember Brimstone?), but it stands apart by it’s funny execution. There’s a brilliant moment where Sam gets a chest containing a “vessel” from Satan with which he can capture one of the lost souls. Expecting some glorious, frightening artifact, he and his friends gather around the chest, open it and discover… a mini vaccuum cleaner. The actors are all well cast, especially Ray Wise as Satan (supportive, yet scary in that mafia-grandfather sort of way). It won’t be a breakout hit, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye on this one.

Pushing Daisies
There’s been a lot of buzz around this pilot and I understand why. Ned the Piemaker can bring dead people back to life by touching them once. Catch 1: Touch them again and they’re dead again. Catch 2: Keep them alive for more then 1 minute and somebody random in the vicinity dies instead. These catches show the ground rules of a structured mythology for this slightly otherworldy show. Add to that the beautiful way it’s been shot and fairy tale like narration, you get something completely new and invigorating. I got the same vibe from it as with Amelie; vivid colours and vivid imagination. The show is created and written by Bryan Fuller, the genius behind Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls. I really hope this turns out to be a hit; there’s never been a tv-serie quite like this and I want to see what it’s writers will come up with.

The premise of this show sounded okay on paper: geek (Chuck) accidently downloads government secrets into his brain and Adam Baldwin plays a snarly NSA agent. It’s not a completely original idea (everyday guy gets to work for secret agency: Jake 2.0, Now and Again), although in this show the guy doesn’t have any real superpowers: he just knows a lot.

The problem I had with this pilot, was that there were a lot of small (technical) things that just annoyed me. For starters, how was Chuck able to download all the information into his brain? I know, you should try to be ignorant and embrace whatever the writers throw at you, but this show is set in our world with our rules and the unlikeliness of this happening just ticked me off. Further, why would they have only one computer where all the data is together? Shouldn’t there be like backups or something? And, okay, Chuck saved the day by noticing the pattern in the data in his head, but what happens when the serie continues? This data was fresh and new with schematics of buildings and travel times of some important general. Eventually though, his data will be outdated; you can’t predict patterns, if you don’t have the newest data.

There were also a couple of nerd blunders in this pilot: at one point the computer is dropped and falls apart. The hard disk is supposedly “damaged beyond repair”. I mean, come on! That shouldn’t have been possible. Another “great” moment was the bomb laptop with the DOS override. Excuse me?? DOS override?? There were a couple of funny geek moments in it, but I really feel as if the writers tried to make it for geeks/nerds, yet in trying to do so put off most of their target audience by their ignorance. Maybe once the show gets going it will make more sense, but at the moment I don’t have much faith in it.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Terminator movies are great, if you want gunfights, explosions and indestructible robots. But if you’re looking for a good story? Not really the right place to be. The time travel plot was confusing and head ache inducing, as is usual with time travel antics. For big action blockbusters this doesn’t mind that much; you go mainly for the action. For a good TV-series, however, a good plot and story line is essential.

After watching this pilot I wasn’t even sure where to place it within the movie story line. Does it take place between movies 2 and 3? Or is it after 3, but in an alternate history preceding the events of 3? As I said, time travel is tricky and a dangerous story element if not handled properly. For those of you, who don’t know what the pilot’s about: after two years of reasonable quietness, Sarah Connor (Lena Headey, Queen Gorgo in 300) and her destined-to-be-last-hope-of-mankind son John (Thomas Dekker, Claire’s friend Zach in Heroes) are once again tracked down and chased by both the Terminators and the government. This time though help (read: a good Terminator) has the form of psychic brainwashed soldier River Tam a teenage girl played by Summer Glau.

What might be the downfall of this show is that transaction from movie to TV. What works for a movie doesn’t necessarily work for TV. The pilot contained a lot of action, a bit of failed, awkward emotional mother/son moments and a very thin story line. I’m just not sure how this will translate to an entire season. I’ll be watching this show, but I won’t be surprised if it fails miserably. I guess, it largely depends if it finds it’s groove in the next couple of episodes.

Bionic Woman
This show had me intrigued from the very beginning: a modernized remake of The Bionic Woman with Lindsay Wagner, a strong female lead and best of all created by David Eick, one of the masterminds behind Battlestar Galactica. Add Katee Sackhoff as evil villain and you’ve got a recipe for a potential hit. After seeing the pilot the words “best show evah” don’t spring straight in my mind; it has a lot potential, but it’s not quite there yet. The plot is straightforward. Jaime Sommers is a surrogate mother for her deaf teenage sister, having to drop out of college and work as a bartender to make ends meet. College professor boyfriend Will is secretly working for a government laboratory and when Jaime is almost killed in a car crash, he (of course, out of love) operates on her and gives her bionic limbs to save her. The rest of the episode shows Jaime dealing with her newfound powers, enemies and allies, setting up the basic mythology. The pilot was interesting, but it gave no real indication on how further episodes would be. Does she go on missions for the secret agency or something like that? The main thing that bugged me was the deaf sister; she was just too irritating and the fact that she was deaf didn’t really contribute to the story. I’ve heard that they’ve recast and rewrote that character, though, so I guess the real first episode will be better. I’ll continue watching this series and I predict that with the right amount of tweaking and twirling it could turn out to be great show.