What Worked and What Sucked:
ABC’s 2007-2008 Fall Season Edition
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
So, I’m back. In what has quickly become G-POP tradition, I am converting the useless hours I spend ingesting television shows on a daily basis into useful guides for those of you that let the season pass you by – or for those of you who share my need to pick apart everything that has happened on a series to decide what clicked, what ticked, and what tanked. How’s that for alliteration? Anyway, it’s time for me to systematically tear every television station’s network season to pieces as the start of the new season has you returning your TV from its summer vacation. Enjoy!
Just a quick disclaimer before I begin: If I went over every televisions show that crossed our airwaves, I would not have time to breath, and I will have taken over G-POP’s entire article load for a month. This being said, those television shows that are covered in this series are merely those that crossed my path, those that I tried and that either hit the scrap heap or became a part of my weekly fair. So, if you know of a show that I didn’t catch, or if you disagree with my brilliant assessment, check out our Submissions Page and send us your own point of view. We’d love to publish you!
And now, on to the festivities. First, we begin my dissecting ABC’s season. Enjoy!
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Pushing Daisies: Behind the scenes, television was an adventurous endeavor with the 3 ½ month long writer’s strike taking place right smack in the middle of the season. This was a tough thing for established shows to overcome, but for new shows, this was one doozy of a hurdle to jump. Pushing Daisies took this trauma in stride, producing a half season that could have competed with most full season shows. Daisies follows Ned (Lee Pace, Wonderfalls, The Good Shepherd), a pie maker with an unusual ability – if he touches something dead, it comes back to life. This unusual ability has one unusual pitfall – if he touches the thing he has brought back to life again, it will die again and if he doesn’t, something else will die in its place. This pitfall is the most difficult when Ned discovers that his childhood love, Chuck (Anna Friel) has died. Together with the detective he assists with his power, Emerson Cod (Chi McBride, The Nine, Boston Public), Ned wakes Chuck up, but doesn’t have the heart to let her die again. This sets off a chain of events that leads Ned, Chuck, Emerson and Olive Snook (Kristen Chenoweth, Space Chimps, The West Wing) – a co-worker of Ned’s who is in love with him, unrequitedly – to become a crime fighting team, Chuck to hide from her loving aunts Lily (Swoozie Kurtz, Sisters, Huff) and Vivian (Ellen Greene, Little Shop of Horrors) to hide Ned’s secret from them and Olive, and Ned and Chuck to have a love story in which they can’t touch each other or she will die. Produced with a quirky off-beat story time style narration, bright, crisp, colorful outfits and scenery, fairytale style direction and brilliant acting, Pushing Daisies creates a world where magic is real, everything is possible and it is not quite surprising for people to randomly burst into song. A tragic love story with a ‘Once Upon a Time’ feel, Pushing Daisies still manages to maintains its brightness. At the end of the season, we were left waiting to discover if Chuck could forgive Ned for inadvertently killing her father when he first discovered his power and if recurring character Oscar Vibenius (Paul Reubens) would be able to uncover the truth about Ned with his powerful sense of smell. The break out hit of the season, Daisies is fun and emotional and its survival is surprising – it’s about time the networks started recognizing things that are a little more offbeat.
Grey’s Anatomy: So, whodda thunk it? After 3 years and an ever changing cast, one would expect Grey’s 4th Season to have tanked completely – but, though it did run out of steam for a short burst in the middle there, it definitely proved itself. The series once followed 5 interns, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Christina Yang (Sandra Oh, Sideways, Under the Tuscan Sun), Izzy Stevens (Katherine Heigl, Roswell), George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) and Alex Karev (Justin Chambers, The Wedding Planner, The Musketeer) as they struggled through and dealt with the differing personalities of the residents, attending doctors and the chief of medicine, Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr., The X-Files). This year, things changed. All of the interns, except for George, passed their exam and are now residents with their own set of interns, including the tortured George and Meredith’s half-sister, Lexie (Chyler Leigh, Reunion, Not Another Teen Movie) thus bringing a lot of new drama to the mix. Resident Callie (Sara Ramirez) struggles with her new position as Chief Resident and begs Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) for help in the job Bailey thinks she deserves. Attending Doctors Derek Shephard (Patrick Dempsey, Enchanted) and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane, Feist, X-Men III) remain, but gone are Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) who left because of slurs and went to Bionic Woman (to be discussed in a coming week) and Addison Shepherd (Kate Walsh) who moved on to spin-off Private Practice (we’ll discuss this one later on in this article). In Burke’s place is rival heart surgeon Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith, Crossing Jordan, Silence of the Lambs). Walsh gets no replacement, a point that she herself makes on a return visit to the series. So, some storylines hit this season – Dr. Shepherd and Meredith’s neurosurgery test experiments left us weeping and brought out a series of amazing performances by guest actors, Alex’s romance with his mysterious Jane Doe (Elizabeth Reaser, The Family Stone) and her subsequent mental breakdown, Lexie’s fight for Meredith’s approval and their father’s alcohol problems and George’s struggle to bring himself back from his failure. Others missed – Christina just bugged me, Izzy and her relationship with George went nowhere although the resulting romance between Callie and Hahn was an exciting surprise. An intriguing season to say the least although Heigl’s complaints about having nothing to do were well-founded. Hopefully we’ll see a little more of her this year.
Desperate Housewives: This seasons the housewives, Susan Meyer (Teri Hatcher, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross, Melrose Place), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman, Sports Night) and Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria) continued to liven up the every day run-of the mill town of Wisteria Lane. Storylines that worked were Lynette’s battle with cancer and her creepy as hell step-daughter, Kayla (Rachel G. Fox), Bree’s question of whether or not to forgive her husband, Orson (Kyle Maclachlan, In Justice, Sex and the City) for running down Susan’s husband, Mike (James Denton, Threat Matrix) with his car, and the town’s new mystery involving the return of Susan’s old friend Katherine (Dana Delaney, Kidnapped) and her daughter Dylan (Lyndsy Fonseca, How I Met Your Mother), the absence of Dylan’s father (Gary Cole, Wanted, American Gothic) and the past of her current husband (Nathan Fillion, Firefly, Serenity). Also fun was the tornado that turned the entire town on its ear. Storylines that sucked included anything that involved Edie (Nicolette Sheridan, Knots Landing) as she should have been written off a couple of years ago, Gabrielle’s ridiculous reaction to her husband, Carlos’ (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) blindness was way cold, even for her, and the season’s ending, which jumped them into the future a few years felt like a ridiculous plot device. They may be able to save it, but for now, next year, with its jump forward, looks like a very bleak year for this fan favorite series.
Brothers and Sisters: This family drama follows the politically charged and well-off family, The Walkers, and all of the incredible controversy that comes along with them. This season was choc full of fun as matriarch Nora (Sally Field, Soap Dish) pursued her first serious relationship with political advisor Isaac (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon) unsuccessfully. Isaac was brought in to work on the political campaign of Robert McCallister (Rob Lowe, The West Wing), who married Kitty Walker (Calista Flockhart, Ally McBeal). Robert ran for president and Kitty got pregnant, and they both, unfortunately, lost – leaving Kitty to struggle to get pregnant once again, a feat that proves to be much more difficult than expected. Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) took the plunge and married his boyfriend Scotty (Luke Macfarlane, Over There), inspiring his uncle Saul (Ron Rifkin, Alias) to also come out, surprising the entire family. Sarah (Rachel Griffiths, Six Feet Under) separated from her husband and moved on to a new man, but only for a little, while Tommy (Balthazar Getty, recently of making out on a beach naked with Sienna Miller fame) cheated on his wife during a separation (funny how art imitates life) but the pair recovered, Justin (Dave Annabale, Reunion) returned from the war in Iraq with a knee injury, which led to a brand new addiction to pain killers and a awkward relationship with Rebecca (Emily Van Camp, Everwood) who they had believed was their long lost sister, only to find out that she wasn’t related to them at all, thus opening up possibilities for a relationship with Justin and a new sibling search. Through a fun and emotionally complex season, Brothers and Sisters really hit its stride this season and had no problem crossing boundaries in the way it handled the drug addiction storyline, the gay marriage story and the idea of a man dating a woman he once believed to be his sister – all are touchy subjects to some, only the last one is touchy to me. But the series made the odd turn work. The true test will be in the series return next season, where we will see if the writers boxed themselves into a repetitive pattern with the discovery of yet another illicit affair that the father had and yet another bonus Walker. Only time will tell.
Lost: One would say that it was a risky gamble for the producers of Lost to do every one of the following things: 1) State that they would be ending the show in three condensed but shorter seasons; 2) Begin airing the episodes in the mid-season where they could easily get…well…LOST in the shuffle, but could air all of the season’s episodes straight; and 3) Change the pattern of flashbacks in the new season, beginning to show future flashes instead, where some of the survivors were off of the island and we were left wondering what was to happen to the rest of them. All risky gambles – all paid off big time. For one, we don’t have to worry about the drag of a never-ending mystery. We know that the series will end shortly, and that takes the weight off of the viewer to figure things out, or question the writer’s abilities. For two, the writer’s strike meant that nobody had anything to watch BUT Lost, which didn’t hurt the ratings, I’m sure. Plus, having all of the episodes in a row helped shield the viewer from the profound LOSS of interest that happened in between the first and second halves of the season, as occurred last season. And last, the flash forwards have injected a new and more interesting air of mystery than had occurred in seasons before. The series was flagging last season, but now, thanks to the new and interesting addition of future flashes and a helicopter full of mysterious people claiming to be something they are not, we are left wondering which of the castaways will survive, knowing that some won’t and wondering – how the HELL did they move the island. Can’t wait for next season and a little explanation.
My guess: Ben (Michael Emerson) is playing a hunting game against millionaire Charles Widmore (Alan Dale, Ugly Betty) for the lives of the castaways (ala’ “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. If you don’t know the short story, YOU SHOULD). I won’t even try to guess at the move the island stuff, but I’m pretty sure that Locke and his new alter ego, Jeremy Benthem are not quite as dead as the finale’s flash forward led you to believe.
Private Practice: For every Pushing Daisies this season, there was one of these – a show that didn’t seem to have a lot of oomph, but somehow still managed to survive the writer’s strike. Private Practice followed Grey’s neo-natal surgeon Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) from Seattle to Los Angeles where she joins old friends Naomi (Audra McDonald) and Sam (Taye Diggs, Daybreak, Rent) who are recently divorced, in their private practice (gee - where did the show’s title come from?). Also working in their building is neurotic psychologist Violet (Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy), pediatrician / womanizer (an inadvertently creepy combination) Cooper (Paul Adelstein, Prison Break), Dell, the midwife-in-training (Chris Lowell, Veronica Mars) and Addison’s love interest, tortured eastern-medicine practicing Pete (Tim Daly, The Nine, Wings). The show looks like it should work, but from the very beginning it seemed to be trying to hard. Walsh’s confident and secretly neurotic Addison has been dumbed down to a poor man’s Susan Meyer (a fine role, if that was the original design for it.) The characters don’t feel like real friends, but merely like they are being forced to act like friends. The stories were mostly okay, but post-writer’s strike, I find I don’t really care what happens to them. I expect this one to have a dramatic ratings drop in Season 2.
Big Shots: This male version of Housewives didn’t quite survive the strike. The series followed the lives of four business men buddies: There’s Duncan (Dylan McDermott, The Practice), who is in love with his ex-wife Lisbeth (Paige Turco, American Gothic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and 3), trying to re-establish his relationship with his daughter Cameron (Peyton List, Windfall), trying to get to know his surprise son Zack (Ryan Devlin) and trying to defend his cosmetics business from his arch-rival, businessman Terrence (Paul Blackthorne, The Dresden Files). There’s James (Michael Vartan, Alias, Monster-in-Law), who struggles with the death of his boss and his subsequent promotion, his impending divorce from his wife (Wendy Moniz, Guiding Light) over her affair with said boss, and his newfound romance with best friend Katie (Nia Long, Are We There Yet, Are We Done Yet). There’s Karl (Joshua Malina, The West Wing) who struggles to keep his wife (Amy Sloan, Gilmore Girls) from finding out about his mistress (Jessica Collins, Tru Calling) and later, to keep them from becoming best friends. And, finally, there’s Brody (Christopher Titus, Titus) who struggles with keeping his ball-busting wife (Charisma Carpenter, Angel – who isn’t actually seen until the end of the season, in a surprising turn that keeps her identity hidden – she pretends to be his mistress for his birthday) from stealing away all his masculinity. The series was not bad – its soapy operatic storylines were interesting but not quite grabby enough to keep you thinking until next week. It boasted itself as a male Desperate Housewives but lacked its flair. Still, if there had not been a strike, who knows what would have happened? It could have picked up the pace, hit its stride, bettered its soap stories and heightened its already comic edge – or it could have tumbled further into the mediocrity-tinged watchability it had already found. Alas, we will never know. This series never made it back post-strike, leaving it to become nothing more than a half-decent waste of talented actors.
Women’s Murder Club: New series’ in this strike-filled year got canceled – it was a fact of life. But this one kinda hurt the most. Based on the crime thriller book series by James Patterson, the series followed Homicide Detective Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon, Law & Order), a woman whose life is her job. Her main focus for years was a serial killer deemed “The Kiss Me Not Killer,” a murderer who sewed his victims mouths shut, among other pretty terrible things. This obsession she has with catching the killer has, in the past, cost her her marriage with Captain Tom Hogan (Rob Estes, Silk Stalkings, Melrose Place). The series starts at a point when “Kiss Me Not” has been quiet for awhile and Tom has just returned to Lindsay’s life – as the Captain of HER department. Working with her partner Warren Jacobi (Tyrees Allen), Lindsay works many homicide cases with the help of her contacts in other fields – all of which are women. There’s Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris, Dead Like Me, 24), Medical Examiner Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome, The Lyon’s Den) and newcomer crime reporter Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar, Point Pleasant). Together, the group solves vicious murders especially with the return of “Kiss Me Not”. This series, while it had a little too much procedural stuff and not as much personality stuff, was an interesting show, and it’s surprise turn at the end of the season finale – where Lindsay catches “Kiss Me Not” and it’s NOT the mysterious new guy she has just hooked up with – made it that much sadder that the series had ended. This was definitely one that could have stuck around a little longer.
Eli Stone: Rarely do I find myself enjoying mid-season replacements, but this one contained the perfect combination of weirdness, comedy, and perfect timing (airing just as the strike began) to land it a spot in this year’s fall season. The series follows it’s titular character (Jonny Lee Miller, Hackers) through startling visions that he begins having – the catch is that he lives through these visions, acting them out in his regular life as a high-powered, successful attorney, and often gets caught in ridiculous positions because of them. At first, Eli thinks these visions are the result of a brain tumor that his brother, Dr. Nathan Stone (Matt Letscher, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Joey) discovers and that they both believe debilitated their father. However, when Eli follows the hints his visions give him, they usually lead him to helping people. So, are the visions a result of the tumor in his head or missions from God? Add that conflict to the cast of characters: fiancée Taylor (Natasha Henstridge, The Whole Nine Yards, The Whole Ten Yards) who doesn’t know what is wrong with Eli, her father, Jordan (Victor Garber, Alias), the primary partner at Eli’s firm, Patti (Loretta Devine, Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Public), Eli’s no-nonsense secretary, Matt (Sam Jaeger), the attorney out to take away his cases…and Taylor, Dr. Chen (James Saito), Eli’s acupuncturist who is trying to cure the visions, and who has a past with his father, and Maggie (Julie Gonzalo, Veronica Mars, Christmas with the Cranks), the idealistic 1st year attorney who pulls Eli to work on the pro-bono cases rather than the big time corporate cases. Eli Stone is a quippy series – funny, dramatic and touching, while producing plenty of cringe-worthy, hilarious moments. Next season should be interesting as Eli had the tumor removed in the season finale, and everyone seems to know what’s going on. This could be a very good development, leading to a wealth of new stories, or it could sap out all of the fun conflict involved in the first season. At least we will know, thanks to the rare second season renewal of this mid-season replacement. Here’s hoping Season 2 will be just as interesting as Season 1.
Ok – that’s it for ABC. Next time we will recap CBS and the CW and see what they had in store for us this season to prepare for this new season.