Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Decent Options: "Privileged" and "Fringe" premiere
Thanks to last night's FOX Eco-Casino party, which now has my apartment well-stocked with enviro-friendly lightbulbs, and my "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" set visit today, I'm behind on my TV viewing for the week. I haven't watched "Mad Men," "Weeds," "Skinz," "One Tree Hill," "Weeds" or "Prison Break." I'm so far behind on "Big Brother" that I've quit entirely and started deleting the episodes piling up on my DVR, a decision that became a lot easier when I tried to think if I would possibly be rooting for anybody to win and came to the conclusion that I'm not.
Fortunately, I saw FOX's "Fringe" a while back. I was more enthusiastic after my first viewing during the summer, perhaps because I enjoy seeing things early, or maybe because seeing TV on the big screen -- a screening room on the FOX lot -- is ideal. Dunno. It's also possible that after reading the script and watching the pilot twice, I've burnt out a bit. My bottom line, as discussed in my Zap2it review, is that expectations are a problem after FOX's Summer of Unceasing Promotion. "Fringe" isn't "Lost" or "Alias" or "The X-Files." But that doesn't make it bad.
The night's other new show is The CW's "Privileged," a dramedy that I don't love, but that I feel a certain amount of warmth towards. A full review is after the bump.
"Privileged" isn't quite "Gilmore Girls." Actually, it isn't anywhere near "Gilmore Girls." But it mines a similar vein of chick lit semi-empowerment wherein cute young women attempt to inspire cute younger women to be strong and smart and perky, while also aspiring to a level of level of beauty and class held by an older woman. The generational estrocentricity would normally be unsteady footing for male viewers, but as with "Gilmore Girls," I have reason to hope that there will be enough eye candy and sparkling dialogue to keep us involved.
There are two key elements to "Privileged" to give cause for optimism.
The first is producer/showrunner Rina Mimoun. Now I didn't like the last season of "Gilmore Girls" either. But Mimoun's work on "Pushing Daisies" and particularly "Everwood" gives me a general hope that as long as she's involved, the writing on "Privileged" will continue to have just a little sparkle, or enough sparkle to keep me watching. The show is a little instantly dated in its popular culture references and its grasp on more literary references -- particularly a clunky pilot parallel with "The Great Gatsby" -- isn't graceful. In fact, I'd have an easier time telling you the things that don't work with the script of "Privileged" than the things that do. I know that's not very critic-y, but I know that the overall sensibility of the show is effective, but I also know that any writer who uses the the word "vajayjay" should be shot.
But with "Privileged" that sensibility means a lot. The pilot has to establish the premise and the premise is kinda silly and more-than-kinda contrived. But we have to take the journey, set things up and we can move on next week and I look forward to it, because I have some confidence in Mimoun.
I may have even more confidence in star Joanna Garcia. She wasn't reason enough for me to watch "Reba." And she wasn't reason enough for me to watch more than two episodes of "Welcome to the Captain." But she's given off a Small Screen Amy Adams vibe, combining wide-eyed enthusiasm, chipper resourcefulness and an awful lot of cuteness. I think her problem may be that she's a sitcom star in an age that doesn't create very many good sitcoms and that often squanders the leading roles in the bad ones on un-funny actresses. It's always good to see a Christina Applegate land in something as solid as "Samantha Who," for example, but Garcia has generally been placed in less sturdy vehicles. Even here, she plays just a smidge too much to the camera, pushes her laugh-lines just a bit too hard. But I think that's the result of going to an hour-long hybrid format after too many network sitcoms. If "Privileged" is likeable, it's in good part because Garcia is likeable.
There are other fine pieces to the supporting cast. TV's favorite younger sister Lucy Hale and Ashley Newbrough make for the rare TV siblings you utterly buy as kin. It's also great to see Anne Archer
working a solid role, since I've always thought she deserved a more substantial career. The men are less well-defined. Several are pretty, young and interchangeable, while one is gay, which at least means he isn't going to be a potential love interest for the main character.
Anyway. Brain fried. Time to post this, watch "90210" and pass out.