Share this article

print logo

Time for networks to trot out new shows, kill the duds

My daughter and I were browsing toy stores when I was last in Los Angeles. It's one of the more delightful things that life encourages grandfathers to do.

My daughter had a tip on a good one, so we went.

Outside, a crowd was gathered around the parked cars in front.

What's this? I thought. A crime scene? A major celebrity sighting? My daughter instantly knew what was going on. Angelenos just know these things. She took one quick look inside the crowd, saw the camera and muttered, "They're shooting something. Honestly, you can't go anywhere in L.A. without... "

She didn't need to finish the sentence.

Los Angeles, as the residents know, is just one big film set. You never know when or where you're going to encounter somebody shooting something, complete with police cordon and lots and lots of looky-loos hoping for a glimpse of whatever.

What are they filming? we asked people in the crowd. "A TV show called 'Awake.' " It hadn't gone on the air quite yet.

We looked at the scene being shot. A guy was standing next to a fire hydrant supposedly knocked over in an accident. A geyser of precious L.A. water (see "Chinatown") was shooting picturesquely into the air and drenching a familiar-looking character actor. A little bit of that on a warm day might be welcome, but over the long haul in front of cameras, it's soggy, annoying, chilly work -- with the public footing the water bill. (Hey -- it's the cost of keeping "the industry" in town.)

"Awake" will almost certainly be put to sleep next week. For good. It was a mildly interesting show, but not interesting enough. Mostly, as one person pointed out during the weekly chats Jeff Miers and I usually do with readers, it was an excuse to combine two mediocre cop shows into one (the premise is a sort of "which life is real, which is a dream?" number that sounds interesting in theory but becomes tedious to watch weekly).

Next week is the networks' Up Front Week. It's when networks present their next season wares in New York to potential advertisers, hoping to sell as many as possible on early buys of their fall shows.

It also means, of course, they have to announce which current shows are kaput.

Hence, the likelihood of kissing "Awake" goodbye soon after its first season allotment.

Expected to go along with it (according to the smarter and more fanatic coastal TV bloggers) are: "Unforgettable," "CSI: NY," "A Gifted Man," "NYC 22," "Body of Proof," "GCB," "Missing," "Harry's Law," "Whitney," "Up All Night," "Nikita," "Hart of Dixie," "Rock Center" and "Bent." Fox has already canceled "The Finder" and "Alcatraz."

A lot of them are old news and long-foregone conclusions. On the other hand, some may yet be reprieved, as ABC's "Cougar Town" just was by TBS, which announced it will pick up the show in early 2013.

Some shows have staunch fans fervently hoping they are up in the air and ready for a comeback like "Parenthood" and "CSI: Miami."

Tonight's "CSI: NY" -- wherein Mac (Gary Sinise) takes a bullet (naturally) -- is likely to be the show's last stand, according to the busier oddsmakers in the world of prime-time mortality. If so, I'll miss the show -- but not all that much.

It's another matter with the show's older sibling, "CSI: Miami." The very idea that David Caruso might no longer have a weekly place on prime-time television in one of the more bizarre lead performances in television history greatly disturbs my sense of propriety.

The world needs its raving, drooling eccentrics, and Caruso -- with his ever-portentous line readings full of weird pauses and odd emphases and hand-on-hips stances 45 degrees away from the camera lens (If I don't say so myself, I do a fair David Caruso impression) -- is the leading on-camera eccentric of all current TV stars. It makes me happy just knowing he has a job. I don't want him voted off the island just yet. I want him to decide himself when to pick up his sunglasses and walk into the South Beach sunset.

What I am going to miss fiercely is Poppy Montgomery in "Unforgettable," and not just because of her red hair and the huskiest and mostly heavenly voice of any actress now on TV (Julianna Margulies of the renewed "The Good Wife" is certainly in the running).

What other show would have been likely to set its final show ever in Syracuse? That was what "Unforgettable" did on Wednesday, when our heroine discovered that the fellow she dimly remembered as her little sister's murderer was actually her tormented personal savior.

I'm going to miss Fox's "The Finder" a little, because of Geoff Stults' lead performance, but in the annals of prime-time eccentricity, it's not even close to Caruso on "CSI." (Stults is supposed to be a bit wacko; he's not just throwing melodramatic shtick around gratuitously a la Caruso, but it's askew enough for me to enjoy it weekly.)

Among those shows (besides the doomed sitcoms) I'm not going to miss at all are: "NYC 22" (a weekly disappointment with a fancy cast and pedigree), "A Gifted Man" (my nomination for last fall's worst), "Missing" (whose continuing plot got annoying in its second episode) and "Alcatraz" (ditto).

I feel bad for all those "Parenthood" fans who are hoping against hope for their favorite's survival. And I feel bad that Brian Williams and "Rock Center" couldn't secure a prime-time berth as handily as so many had hoped.

Two ailing shows that I seldom put on my DVR but that I found watchable whenever I did were "Body of Proof" and "Harry's Law." The latter was, on occasion, a favorite of the 11-year-old son of one of my colleagues, which I found, at first, a bit puzzling.

What, I thought, could a hip 11-year-old boy find to like in a David E. Kelley series starring Kathy Bates as the resident Oscar-winning tank rolling through a fantasy combination law firm and shoe store?

When I finally watched the show, it was simple to figure out. If you're 11, "Harry" -- which, somewhat incredibly, goes on at 8 p.m. -- is as topical and liberal as can be, and full of all sorts of racy subjects that haven't exactly presented themselves in life to most sixth-graders.

There was, for instance, a lot of extraordinarily frank sexual testimony about one male client's claim of being raped by an extremely beautiful barroom pickup.

Add people acting childishly about the presentation of a lot of grown-up subjects and it wasn't all that hard to watch "Harry's Law." The show turns us all into very hip 11-year-olds.

It was, I'll bet, a lot easier than it would be to watch NBC executives try to sell it in New York City "upfronts."

But then, who knows? If you happen to know C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, you might suggest broadcasting the upfront presentations to America on C-SPAN. You can't give the pols and intellectuals all your free airtime, after all.

Inquiring minds need to know some things, right?