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FOX 2008 Midseason Show Reviews

By Shawn McKenzie 03/02/2008

Here are my reviews of the new 2008 FOX midseason shows.  More reviews will be added as they premiere and are reviewed (check back to this page for those reviews.)

Go directly to my review of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” “The Moment of Truth,” “Unhitched,” “New Amsterdam,” and “Canterbury’s Law.”

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Review

With the Writer’s Strike at an end, it will be good to get back to some fictional programming again.  This show…highly anticipated and long in development…proves that there was something exciting to watch during the strike.  The show takes place in the period between 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day and 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (actually, they almost completely ignore the existence of T3, because of the events in the show completely erases it.)  Sarah (Lena Headey) and her 15-year-old son, John (Thomas Dekker) have been on the run for four years since they blew up Cyberdyne in 1995 in order to prevent Judgment Day.  They think that they have finally found a place to settle in permanently in West Fork, Nebraska.  Sarah has even gotten herself engaged to a man named Charley Dixon (Dean Winters.)  Sarah has a nightmare though and runs off with John to Red Valley, New Mexico…leaving Charley behind.  One day at school, John meets a pretty and friendly girl named Cameron Phillips (Summer Glau.)  While in class, a substitute teacher named Mr. Cromartie (Owain Yeoman in the pilot; Garret Dillahunt thereafter) shows up, identifies John from the attendance list, and begins to try to assassinate him.  It turns out that Cromartie is a T-888 Terminator model sent back in time from Skynet, the evil computer company who are the enemy of mankind in the future.  Fortunately, Cameron is a Terminator as well…a good TOK715 model from 2027 that was sent back in time by Future John to protect Present John…and she helps John escape.  Cameron tells Sarah and John that they didn’t stop Judgment Day…they just delayed it until 2011.  They visit Tarissa Dyson (Charlayne Woodard), widow of Miles Dyson (Phil Morris, in picture only), the original inventor of the neural-net processor, which would lead to the development of Skynet (he unfortunately died in the Cyberdyne explosion in T2, and was played by Joe Morton in that movie.)  They wanted to know if anyone carried on with Miles’ work.  She didn’t know, so Cameron took them to a safe deposit box containing a time machine.  It takes them to 2007…but unfortunately, it pulls Cromartie in with them (he was chasing them to the bank), beheading him, but keeping him otherwise intact.  Sarah wants to know why they did this when she would have had an extra eight years to train John, and Cameron explains that they would be able to better track down the new person responsible for the formation of Skynet…and Sarah died originally in 2005 of leukemia.  The time leap skipped over her death.  Sarah finds out that Andy Goode (Brendan Hines), a Caltech dropout who interned with Cyberdyne Systems and worked as an assistant to Miles Dyson, was possibly the person responsible for the creation of Skynet with his advanced artificial intelligence chess-playing program called “The Turk” (the arm looks like a Terminator arm.)  Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green), the brother of Kyle Reese, John’s biological father (played by Michael Biehn in the first movie), killed Andy in his mission to stop Skynet from existing.  Meanwhile, an FBI agent named James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) has been tracking down the Connors, with some unintended help from Charley, who is now married to Michelle (Sonya Walger.)  The show is full of action, and the acting is great.  Some people think that no one could replace Linda Hamilton as Sarah, but I think that Headey pulls it off.  Dekker does a decent job replacing Edward Furlong as John, and if anyone was going to sub for Arnold Schwarzenegger…I never thought it would have been Glau.  When I watched her kick major Terminator butt, it reminded me of the ending of the 2005 movie Serenity, when character River Tam went from a timid, weird girl to a bada** fighting chick.  There is an argument amongst the geeks that I’ve talked to about the show that Glau started out seeming normal and is now very robotic.  My argument is that Future John programmed Cameron to attract Present John initially, but really didn’t care about giving her a personality beyond that.  Writer’s Strike or not, this show is worth watching…especially if you are a fan of the Terminator movies (it might be crucial as well, because there is a proposed fourth movie called Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, directed by Charlie’s Angels helmer McG and starring Christian Bale as a 30-year-old John, tentatively slated for release in May of 2009.)

The Moment of Truth” Review

FOX has a habit of producing (or importing in this case) reality shows that are definite guilty pleasures.  You watch them like a car accident on the side of the road.  You’re fascinated, but you feel guilty later for having watched it.  In this show, which is the American version of a Columbian game show “Nothing But the Truth,” contestants are hooked up to a polygraph and asked more than 50 questions before the show starts.  During the show, they have to answer 21 increasingly personal questions honestly, and they don’t know which of the questions they answered beforehand are the 21 being asked now, or the results of their answers.  The questions aren’t exactly, “What is your favorite color?”  They’re more like, “Would you cheat on your spouse if you knew you could get away with it?”  If they lie on the question according to the polygraph test results, or if they refuse to answer after it has been asked, they go home with nothing.  There are six tiers of prize amount levels with a certain number of questions in each tier.  The questions get more personal and harder to answer as the game goes on.  The contestant can stop at any time and collect the cash that person has accumulated so far, but they have to make that decision before the question is asked.  The ultimate prize is $500,000, but so far, no one has gone home with more than $100,000.  They have a panel of friends and family watching them, and at any time, they can press a button to stop the contestant from answering that question, which means that the contestant will have to answer a different question.  They can only press the button once during the game, and there is no guarantee that the new question will be any easier to answer than the one that was stopped.  Mark “I’m not Marky Mark” L. Walberg (FOX’s “Temptation Island”) is the host.  I don’t know why I get some sort of sick pleasure out of seeing the contestants squirm at the embarrassing questions, but I think that it is because I know that they signed up for this torture, so no one is forcing them to do anything that they don’t want to do.  In fact, Mark constantly tells them between almost every question that they can walk away with their money at any time, and he allows them a reasonable amount of time to explain their answers so that they don’t come off looking too appalling (one contestant, who was a cook, was asked, “Have you ever stolen anything from work?”  He said yes, and explained in his truthful answer that he has sometimes made more food than was needed and he would take the leftovers home to his family.)  I don’t think that I would put my loved ones through the exposure of my deep, dark secrets for a chunk of change (unless it was for a few million dollars.)  Watching others do it doesn’t hurt though, even though I feel guilty later (which is pretty much the same feeling I get when I watch almost any other game/reality show on FOX.  I must be sick!)


Unhitched” Review

It’s not like the Farrelly Brothers (Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, The Heartbreak Kid) have never dipped their heels into TV (they executive produced and directed the pilot for a show called “Why Blitt?” in 2004 executive produced a show called “I’m with Stupid” last year), but this is the first one to make it to air.  It’s a about a quartet of single people in their 30s living in Boston who have either gotten divorced or have been dumped.  Certified financial planning advisor Jack “Gator” Gately (Craig Bierko) is the 35-year-old de facto leader of the group.  He hasn’t signed the papers to get officially divorced from his soon-to-be ex Nikki (Erinn Bartlett), though he finally does it in the pilot.  Thrice-divorced Tommy (Johnny Sneed) is the founder and brewmaster of an upstart microbrewery who falls in love with women easily.  Dr. Freddy Sahgal (Shaun Majumder) is a successful heart surgeon who is good at his job, but is very awkward with women (though he has mastered the art of tantric sex.)  His ex-wife Doreep (Sarayu Rao) kicked him out for being too needy.  The fourth friend is Kate (Rashida Jones), a smart, successful divorce attorney who handled all three of the boys’ divorces.  She just turned 30, but she was dumped six months ago after a seven-year engagement to a businessman named Chad (Brady Smith)…who is now engaged to Julia (Becky O’Donohue.)  The four attempt to jump into the dating scene for the first time in a while.  Their escapades are the slightly more risqué version of the types of dates you might see on NBC’s “Seinfeld.”  Gator…the “Jerry” of the group…hooks up with a woman who studies apes, and one in the pilot rapes him; he dates a woman with a skin tag that looks like a shrimp; gets alcohol poisoning partying with a pair of Icelandic nannies; and gets beaten up by a woman in a gym.  Tommy is the “Kramer” of the group, because he constantly crashes at Gator’s place, makes inappropriate comments to women while trying to date/sleep with them, and in one episode, he falls in love with a convicted murderer while serving on jury duty for her trial.  Freddy is a nice guy who does stupid things out of loneliness, like taking a high-priced escort to Atlantic City (he’s not really the “George” of the group, because George was a loud schmuck.)  Kate is very much the “Elaine” of the group.  She dates a short guy who turns out to be the leprechaun mascot of the Boston Celtics; a hot guy who turns out to be an air guitar rock god; and Gator’s wheelchair-bound assistant who turns out to be an arrogant jerk.  A fifth regular is Phil (Pat Finn), a married man with a baby son who wants to live the single life vicariously through them because he is obviously not happy in his own marriage.  He also sucks as a dad, because he does things like licking dip off the baby’s head, and banging the tyke’s head in a doorway…not once, but twice.  I’d like to stress the fact that this show wasn’t created by Peter and Bobby Farrelly…it was created by Kevin Barnett, Mike Bernier, and Chris Pappas actually…but they do executive produce the show and they directed the pilot.  While the show isn’t quite as raunchy or politically incorrect as their movies, there are touches of their influence.  The thing about the ape rape and the baby mistreatment isn’t something you would normally see on “Seinfeld” (maybe on FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” though.)  While this isn’t one of the best FOX sitcoms I’ve ever seen (“Arrested Development”), it isn’t one of the worst (“Life on a Stick.”)  I would welcome a second season (or at least the airing of the rest of the episodes of the network’s original 13 episode order), but I think that they should take it off Sunday nights (maybe after “‘Til Death”?)

New Amsterdam” Review

Johann van der Zee, a.k.a. John Amsterdam (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is a New York homicide detective who is different from most cops…he is immortal.  In 1642, John…then a Dutch solider in the colony of New Amsterdam (which later became New York City)…stepped in front of a sword to save the life of a Native American girl (Tamara Podemski) during a massacre of her indigenous tribe.  The girl in turn saved John by performing an ancient spell that made him immortal.  He won’t age until he finds his one true love.  When he does, he will finally be mortal and ready to die.  She was unfortunately light on the details though, because he has had 609 girlfriends, a few wives, and 63 children throughout the years…and apparently, none of them was his true love.  The spell has been a blessing and a curse though.  He can get into scrapes without the fear of dying, but he has to watch loved ones grow old and die while he remains looking about 35 years old.  The only one who currently knows his secret is his 65-year-old “son,” jazz club owner Omar York (Stephen Henderson.)  He has had several partners throughout the years, but his current partner is Eva Marquez (Zuleikha Robinson.)  Together they work for Sergeant Callie Burnett (Susan Misner), and both women have to put up with John’s unorthodox methods and weird references to past New York historical events.  The event that starts the show and drives the main continuing plotline is when he suffers and then recovers from what appears to be a massive heart attack while chasing a suspect.  Dr. Sara Dillane (Alexie Gilmore) was on the scene when he had the attack and later pronounces him dead in the E.R. of St. Francis Hospital, but he walks away and thinks that Sara may be his true love, since he has never experienced a heat attack before.  He tries to seduce her in the hopes that she really is his true love, but she has been married for four years to a man named Robert Camp (Richard Short), although they are currently separated.  By the end of the season, he has already “done the deed” with her (as Omar puts it), but being shot in a later episode doesn’t end his life, so he questions whether Sara is his true love (or if having sex with her doesn’t kickstart his mortality.  He thinks that perhaps he may have to marry her to get it going.)  They break up (partially because she doesn’t believe his “I’m 400 years old” story), but he still pines for her.  I like high concept, semi-science fiction shows, but this one bored me.  Allan Loeb and Christian Taylor created the show, but the person whose involvement got the most press was executive producer Lasse Hallström, the two-time Oscar-nominated Swedish film director of movies like 1987’s My Life as a Dog, 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and 1999’s The Cider House Rules (he also directed the pilot episode.)  Like another gimmicky (though not science fiction) show on NBC, “Life,” it is just a tale of a quirky cop in yet another procedural show.  The flashbacks to his former professions throughout his life (teacher, physician, portrait painter, grifter, etc.) are interesting, but they don’t make up for the dull present day action.  Coster-Waldau is pleasant enough, but I think that it would take someone like “Bones’” David Boreanaz or “Firefly’s” Nathan Fillion to tackle the role effectively.  I’ve heard rumors that FOX may actually renew this show (it helps that it is doing okay ratings-wise in its Monday slot, and the networks are still reeling over the Writer’s Strike), but if they do, I don’t think that I will tune in to finally see John die.


Canterbury’s Law” Review

Elizabeth Canterbury (Julianna Margulies) is a tough Providence, Rhode Island attorney who uses her instincts to defend who she truly believes is innocent…even when the cases are risky.  She has a small crack team of intelligent attorneys working for her.  Russell Krauss (Ben Shenkman) used to work for the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office under the employ of Deputy Attorney General Zach Williams (Terry Kinney)…but when Russell disagreed with Zach once too often, the two of them parted ways.  Canterbury’s firm was the only firm in Providence willing to take Russell in after his name was smeared throughout the legal community.  One reason why Canterbury needs him is so that he can help her rein her passion for her cases in when they start to become a little out of control.  The two other associates are Chester Grant (Keith Robinson) and Molly McConnell (Trieste Kelly Dunn.)  Chester is the son of councilman Miles Grant (Keith David) who wants nothing to do with his politics.  Anything he achieves in his career he wants to do without Miles’ help.  Molly is still trying to pass the state bar to actually become an attorney (she passes in the season finale), and sometimes she will disagree with a case…even when she is working vigorously on it.  While Canterbury’s firm is slowly growing, her personal life is crumbling.  She and her law professor husband, Matt Furey (Aidan Quinn), are still dealing with the unsolved disappearance of their young son Sam (Jeremy Zorek), which is ruining their marriage.  It also doesn’t help that she is having an affair with a private eye named Frank Angstrom (James McCaffrey), while Matt is having an off-screen affair with one of his students.  The case in the pilot episode became a running plotline throughout the series.  Canterbury got accused child murderer Ethan Foster (Charlie Hofheimer) off the hook by having him falsify his testimony, which put her law license and her freedom in jeopardy.  The show was created by Dave Erickson and executive produced by Denis Leary, Jim Serpico, Walon Green, John Kane, and Mike Figgis (1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, 2003’s Cold Creek Manor), who also directed the pilot.  It was very atypical of a FOX drama (I’m thinking that it would have fit better on CBS.)  Margulies showed that she could play a strong lead character.  She was great in NBC’s “E.R.” as well, but she was only one of a huge ensemble cast.  The other actors are strong also, but, aside from Canterbury being punched in the pilot episode by a witness, the show was a little dry and depressing.  I’m honestly surprised to see Leary’s name attached to the show.  I’m not surprised to see Figgis’ involvement, since his movies tend to be a little dry and depressing.  The show only ran for six episodes (out of an initial order of 13), and now that the Writer’s Strike is over, I don’t see it being renewed for a second season (it’s not a good sign when the show moves from Mondays to the death night of Fridays after the third episode.)  While most other critics liked it, I won’t miss the show.

Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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