Saturday, May 08, 2010

Review of a new TV pilot: True Blue

I had the opportunity to view the pilot for a new ABC TV show, True Blue. This might actually be the first review of the show. Warning: I give a way a lot of spoilers. If you plan to watch the show, you might want to stop reading now. But don't say I didn't try to warn you, both about the show and the spoilers (you can probably guess where I come down on the thumbs up or thumbs down scale).

I got to see the episode through eRewards, the online opinion survey site. You are sent a survey, for which you get eRewards dollars that you can spend on a list of rewards (the best is $15 from Borders book store, but you can only get that once a year; mostly it's free game or movie rentals, or a bunch of magazine subscriptions). If you qualify for the full survey you get the full reward amount. If you don't qualify — you don't fit the survey's demographics — you get a fraction of the points as a "sorry but no thank you" gift.

eRewards sent me a survey dealing with a new TV pilot, a cop show called True Blue. The rewards were $20 in reward "bucks" if you filled in the survey, $2.50 if you didn't qualify. Given that you have to watch a 44 minute pilot, it's a fair amount of time expenditure. I filled in the demographic information and they said I qualified. Then, I had to download a plug-in. I watched the pilot, and clicked the "Next" button, expecting to get to the actual survey. No dice: I got the message that said, "We already received enough responses" message. Normally this happens after the demographics part. I didn't expect it after wasting an hour of my life watching the show. So now they'll presumably pay me the small reward amount and not the $20. I wrote to complain to eRewards, but I doubt I'll get a response.

So that it's not a total waste, I thought I'd post a review in case the show makes it to air.

The premise: a group of seven close friends, who rose through the ranks of the San Francisco Police Department, drifted apart over the years, but are brought together when one of them is killed.

It could have been an interesting basis for a show, if it didn't try so hard to be "Grey's Police Academy". It's obvious from the get go that we're supposed to care more about the relationships of the friends than the actual cases they solve. This might have worked, if it hadn't been for the rotten writing and the inept casting.

The pilot begins with Kevin shot to death with that favorite of TV cliches, a single gunshot. Apparently if you are going to knock on someone's door late at night and shoot him in the chest, you only want to use one bullet. Kev dies in a pool of blood. TV pistols never miss in cases like this.

Next we meet JD, played by Marc Blucas (Riley Finn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He's having an erotic dream about his ex-wife when we meet him. There's a knock on the door, spoiling the good part. Irony of ironies, it's his ex-wife! Of course we already know she's there to tell him about dearly departed Kevin. Oh, but there's more: the ex-wife, Katherine, is now a police captain. They broke up because JD couldn't handle her promotions, and he was incapable of sharing his feelings. They'd been divorced for two years.

She wants JD to head up the case to find Kevin's killer. JD agrees, but only if he gets his friend Walker to join in the investigation. Walker is a member of this group, but he was recently suspended due to a drinking problem. JD also wants Peter, who used to be a cop but is now an Assistant District Attorney, to prosecute the case. TV cop departments have never heard of the term "conflict of interest". Sure, the dead guy happens to die in the jurisdiction where a friend was the captain, and she calls in her ex-husband and friend of the deceased to investigate, and he calls in a friend of the deceased to help, and a friend of the deceased to prosecute. Any ambulance chaser could get any suspect off on the technicalities this would present, alone.

We meet two other characters, Malcolm and Maureen. Malcolm makes a dark joke about the deceased, showing that he's unconventional and crusty. He used to be Kevin's partner. I think Maureen is now an administrative clerk or something. I don't think she is a detective. She's there because she's one of the friends, she works at the department, and she used to sleep with Kevin. Later we find out that Malcolm "settled" for his wife, while he really loved Maureen. Maureen, on the other hand, never settled down and doesn't have a regular boyfriend or anything. It's during this reunion phase (even though they see each other daily) that Malcolm expresses his love for Maureen, just before he heads home for the woman he settled on (who would do well to kick his sorry butt to the curb).

Now, JD and Katherine have been divorced for 2 years. JD regrets their breakup, and Katherine even admits that part of her still loves him. So, of course it's at the funeral that we, and JD, learn that Katherine has been going out with Peter for several months. Neither of them had found the right time to tell JD. Instead, it comes out at the funeral in an incredibly cliched scene that has JD asking who the boyfriend is while Peter stands in the background, followed by JD slowly turning around and staring at Peter in realization.

Cliche. That's the best description for the entire episode. It's just one cliche after another. When JD and Walker interview a suspect, the suspect makes a passing remark about the deceased Kevin, and JD throws the guy up against a wall. Saw that one coming a mile away. When Peter and JD meet at the pub where the wake was held, you knew one of them was going to slug the other.

Malcolm, the crusty detective, is given a new female partner. The show breaks for a commercial after he learns his partner is, "A woman?!?" You know, that sort of thing would have worked in, oh, 1983. It's the 21st century. We're supposed to believe this guy is going to freak out about a female partner when his own captain is a friend and a woman? The new partner has to prove herself to him, when she should have said, "I earned this detective badge, jerk. Deal with it!" Malcolm makes a couple of snide, unprofessional remarks. Instead of telling him to stop being a jerk then, she waits until near the end of the episode to tell him off and call him a "douche". The use of this word is to show how "edgy" and contemporary the show is, and not saddled with writing that was worn when Hill Street Blues was airing. Anyway, upon hearing this Malcolm smirks with a new found respect for his new partner. "It normally takes them weeks to figure that out," he says. Yep, it's the old, "Ah, she realizes I'm a jerk. Now I'm beginning to like her," ploy. It was old when Star Wars used it in 1979.

The dialog was awful. The story was no better. The cops focused on two murders, Kevin's and the death of a woman found by her "dog walker". The woman ran a "sex and the city" type blog. She had a pillow underneath her head, proving the killer knew and cared for her. This kind of profiling plot was a big deal in the early 90s, so it must have seemed revolutionary to the 80s throwbacks who wrote this drivel.

Both plots are wrapped up in the episode, not with CSI's Scooby Doo ending ("I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling crime scene investigators!") but with something pretty close. And neither case was solved with much brain power, or much evidence. The dead woman's killer would have been found in 10 minutes if the woman's gay friend (inserted, I'm sure, simply because the show is set in San Francisco) had bothered to let them know one crucial piece of information. I mean, really, you don't think if someone is found dead you might say, "Did you talk to her neighbor, who was also her lesbian lover?" Oh, God, lesbian lovers! That's real edgy... again, in the early 90s. Nah, probably the 80s. When was The Crying Game, again? Don't expect any GLBT respect here (it's ABC, after all).

At least the gay killer lawyered up before she could give the Scooby Doo confession. Kevin's killer is found in just as stupid a way, and with no physical evidence other than the fact he smoked a cigar. He was obviously guilty, though, because he pulled out a gun and shot at JD. This guy killed Kevin with a single shot at night but couldn't even wing JD in a brightly lit room. Chase ensues, bad guy gets caught. This ended the last interesting tendril of a plot. They could have done something with the show if the first season was about tracking down Kevin's killer. Now, it's just about the relationships.

The relationships might be worth sticking around for if the casting wasn't so horrible. None of the actors is all that interesting. Worse, there is no chemistry among any of them. No wonder these losers drifted apart, they had nothing to keep them together in the first place. JD seems more like a creepy stalker ex-husband than a potential suitor. It would be a better show if he was supposed to be a creepy stalker, though that wouldn't explain why he stays at the precinct after Kevin's death is solved. Apparently JD's actual superior has no time for him, as you don't get even a whiff of there being a problem with the transfer. There's no clue what any of these losers saw in each other. Maureen slept with Kevin and Peter. Peter had the hots for Katherine, who was married to JD. Malcolm pined for Maureen. The only one who comes out looking the least bit like an adult is Walker, which is odd since it is painfully obvious that he's the token African-American in the series.

The only thing the show had going for it was that it was set in San Francisco, a seriously pretty city for a TV show, what with all the hills and the old street cars and stuff. Even then, the city looked listful, as the episode was filmed when the sky was overcast.

I hope that those people who managed to make it to the actual survey savage the hell out of the show. With luck, no one else will have to see this drek.

1 comment:

edward2962 said...

Of course I haven't seen the show,but your comment made me laugh."It might've worked,if it weren't so rotten."