Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Save Studio 60! I just don’t think The Black Donnellys are up to the job.

Watching The West Wing via Netflix aside, I haven’t been hooked on an NBC drama since the heyday of ER, the years before the show started wearing its emotional manipulation on its sleeve, its bloodied hands reaching out from the television set, not merely to tug on my heart strings, but to wrench them violently out from behind my lungs and stretch them taught across my living room. And with the sitcom so near death that it needs to be rushed to Chicago General’s emergency room and intubated, I’ve been waiting for something exciting and enthralling to come along.

And then along came Studio 60. I had my concerns at the beginning, despite my great love of comedy and the likelihood of my loving a show about producing a comedy show. The first three episodes seemed to be nothing more than a forum for Aaron Sorkin’s ongoing crisis of faith and conflict with the religious right, no matter how great it was to see Matthew Perry back on the air, and no matter how in love with Bradley Whitford I had fallen (the result of said West Wing watching). I gave up after three episodes but returned spontaneously one night to find Danny professing his undying love for pregnant Jordan, Matt spontaneously kissing Harriet in between live sketches, and Aaron Sorkin’s trademark dialogue thriving in every scene. So, of course, now that I’m totally addicted, the folks at NBC are about to yank the needle from my arm. Officially, NBC is claiming indefinite hiatus, but that cat my parents told me was “going back to the pet store for a little while” has yet to return.

But, as devastated as I am by the likely loss, since I’m on some sort of post-Departed-Oscar-win high, I thought I’d give The Black Donnellys’ Irish mob tale a try and see what the execs in programming deemed a suitable and potentially more profitable replacement.

Using the Donnellys childhood pal Joey Ice Cream as a narrator being questioned by the NYPD about the whereabouts of some missing bodies, the pilot tells of the four Irish brothers and their progression from petty dessert theft to truck stealing and ultimately murder and Mob-dom. Jimmy is the eldest sibling who cannot recover from two events from his youth: a reckless driver shattering his leg and several years later, inadvertently leading Italian gangsters to beat his father to death. Kevin is the hapless one who spends his days gambling but has never, ever won a bet in his life. Tommy is the earnest one, the only brother making his way through college. Unlike his brothers, Tommy seems to have never done anything wrong in his life. Sean is the youngest and allegedly irresistible to any woman who comes within a mile of him. And then there’s Jenny Reilley, the girl next door who grew up with the boys and has a soft spot for Tommy who has been crushing on her for years. Unfortunately, she believes herself to be a married woman, unaware that her husband has been dumped in a dumpster, which no one has the heart to break to her.

Highly stylized with edgy edits, freeze frames, rewinds, fast forwards and Joey Ice Cream’s fast talking story telling, the first episode lays the show’s foundations, illustrating that the brothers will do anything for one another and that Tommy will do anything for Jimmy. Turns out, Tommy was the reckless driver who ran over Jimmy’s leg. Tommy never stole a car or anything else again and swore he would never let anything bad happen to Jimmy (Based on Jimmy’s existence thus far, Tommy’s not doing such a great job.). In Joey’s confession to the police, he recounts Tommy’s most recent effort to save Jimmy’s life when it was in jeopardy as a result of Kevin’s owing a bookie upwards of $5K. Tommy manages not only to thwart Jimmy’s ass kicking, but, with Kevin’s help, kill a principal Italian mobster along with all of his henchman, rendering Tommy the newest leader of the pack.

Oh, the humanity and irony of it all. The always-upstanding Tommy must now enter a life of organized crime. Lob off one head, and another one will always take its place. Thus, the rest of the season will follow as the boys defend their territory and each other in probably every episode.

Will I tune in for such affairs of the brethren? I might if the characters weren’t entirely one dimensional: Jimmy: chip-on-his-shoulder screw up (Tommy told him to jump off a bridge if he was in that much pain.), Kevin: loser (As of the pilot, this character is so poorly developed that I can’t even come up with an entertaining parenthetical for him), Tommy: saint turned sinner (But still so damn sincere that you can’t help but wish him well in his new mob-leader endeavors), Sean: cute-as-a-puppy-dog ladies man (I actually don’t find him cute at all but the ladies are supposed to adore him. Although, right now he’s in the hospital after getting the crap kicked out of him so he might be off the market for a while.). I also might tune in if the story lines weren’t riddled with contrivances: Of course virtuous Tommy was the driver of the stolen car that shattered Jimmy’s leg and ultimately his entire life! Of course there’s a cop who’s always looking out for the boys! Of course Jenny has been pining away for Tommy after years of being one of the boys, and of course Tommy harbors feelings for the tomboy turned hottie!

And I might tune in if the premise of the show was at all plausible (i.e. it’s hard to watch The Hand that Rocks the Cradle knowing the entire situation could have been avoided if Annabella Sciorra hadn’t hired Rebecca DeMornay off the street without checking references). Can we really believe that Tommy and Kevin blindsided several thugs on their home turf and then took down the feared Italian mobster who’s been running the hood from the same restaurant booth for decades? And now the Donnellys are going to run the business?

Frankly, I don’t think they’re up to it. Nor are they up for saving NBC’s Monday night 10pm time slight.



dean said...

so what you're saying is that it isn't worth watching tv on a school night if this is the offering? no witty repartee. no gratuitous necking. no utterly unrealistic hook-ups like the two stars of a show getting together with the only two female characters on said show? don't get me wrong, I am a Studio 60 fan, but where is Sport's Night when you need it.

gigi said...

I couldn't have said it better myself!!

Philip Shaw said...

Man, I LOVE reading your blog! It's a bit of an odd antidote, in fact. I don't watch TV, so I have no idea exactly what you are saying but it sorts of feeds me as I miss the TV that I no longer watch. To steal your metaphor, you are like methadone. Not quite the same thing but a good enough replacement for me to still walk around sipping my orange juice and living a junky lifestyle. Is this a suitable cure or social program... no one knows but I have stopped shaking and sweating in the night since you started this.

gigi said...

Well, my goodness, Philip, I gotta say my goal was really just to write about TV and make some people chortle along the way, but if I can replace what replaces heroin, than I have exceeded my own expectations! Just wait until Top Model starts tonight. Forget the end of shaking a sweating, you might be ready for a marathon! Of course that would cause you to sweat again...

Cowbelle said...

We seem to suffer the same addictions . After watching West Wing so many times I can recite it in my sleep, I have returned to the early years of ER via Netflix. It's hard to beat the classics. And Bradley Whitford has a guest spot!

Also: Must.TiVo.Next.Top.Model.

gigi said...

OMG-cowbelle, you cannot miss a moment of Top Model! It will likely be RIDICULOUS as Tyra's narcissism is growing at an exponential rate these days, but all the more TV fun and all the more to blog about.
And so nice to meet a kindred TV spirit/addict. No methadone for us--however, my dependence on TIVO might be of concern...