Fall TV Preview Part 1 – Fox

     September 6, 2005

Posted by Frosty

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In this roundup of new and returning FOX television shows, some hit the ball out of the park, while others just struck out.;Today is a look at Reunion, the first two episodes of The Simpsons, and The War at Home. Tomorrow we will have;take a;look at American Dad, Bones, the first two episodes of House and Head Cases.

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Reunion – Series Premiere September 8th

Review by Mr. Beaks

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Fox’s post-O.C. time slot woes will doubtless continue this fall when the network’s aggressively promoted Reunion reveals itself as a vacuous, poorly written sudser armed with a gimmick that poses odd logistical problems while inviting horrifically contrived plotting.; The hook has five friends coming together twenty years later to mourn the death, and possible murder, of the sixth in their tight-knit clique. ;Each episode will be set in the present day and flashback to a significant event from one year, beginning with the group’s high school graduation in 1986, which means that, if the show gets a full order, certain years will likely receive the “Very Special” two-part treatment.;

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Not to worry.; Comprised of unreasonably attractive actors from previously failed shows (e.g. Chyler Leigh of That 80’s Show and Amanda Righetti of North Shore), Reunion is so completely uninvolving it’s hard to imagine anyone, even the dunces currently keeping pap like Las Vegas on the air, would bother to come back for a second episode.; The pilot establishes its six core characters as instantly recognizable types:; Aaron (Dave Annable) is the likeable goofball, Craig (Sean Faris) is the spoiled rich kid whose powerful father keeps his troublemaking out of the papers, Jenna (Righetti) is the unattainable beauty on whom Aaron harbors a wicked crush, Carla (Leigh) is the ugly duckling who wants her some Aaron, Will (Will Estes) is poor, and Samantha (Alexa Davalos) is Craig’s girlfriend who, of course, gets knocked up by Will because he’s poor and therefore genetically predisposed to not avail himself of contraception.;

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The big to-do in the pilot centers on a drunk driving accident for which Will takes the fall so his rich best friend Craig won’t have his (I’m guessing) burgeoning political career derailed.; Written by Jon Harmon Feldman, who gave us Tru Calling, and directed by Jon Amiel, who, a seeming lifetime ago, helmed The Singing Detective, the episode fails to elicit any sympathy for its crudely drawn characters.; Leigh, whose Carla provides framing narration via an interrogation conducted by Detective Marjorino (Mathew St. Patrick), comes closest to pulling off a portrayal suggesting more than one dimension, but the trite writing frustrates her efforts at every turn.; Everyone else seems to recognize that their job is to look attractive, which they do to great, stupefying effect.;

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While it’s true that pilots are often an inconclusive measure of a show’s potential, there still has to be some discernable glimmer of quality to bring us back for a second or third episode.; Unfortunately, there’s nothing going on beneath the surface of Reunion.; It’s a failure on every conceivable level.

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The Simpsons – Season Premiere Sunday September 11th 8pm

Bonfire Of The Manatees

Review by John Martin

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Homer owes Fat Tony money so in order to repay him, Homer allows them to shoot an adult film in their house.; Coming home early, Marge finds out what Homer was really up to.; She leaves Homer and meets a man who works with manatees and decides to go off with him.; Now Homer and the kids are on the hunt to find her.

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Being a fan of the show since its beginning, I’m glad to see that they’re getting back to good story lines and not just doing random things.; The season opener for the Simpson’s is in classic style, opening with a classic chalkboard and couch gag.; This episode is all about Homer.; He has some great classic lines and gestures, especially a scene where he talks like country bumpkin.; However the episode relies too much on Homer’s antics too carry it thru to the end and it gets a little trite.; But the last little clip at the end is a random great scene and brings it back.; The one odd thing in the show though, is that Maggie pretty much disappears after the beginning, Homer doesn’t even bring her with them on the hunt…and they never mention what they do with her.; Overall, the episode gives me hope that the rest of the season is going to be a good one.

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BONUS REVIEW

Milhouse Of Sand and FogThe 2nd Episode - September 25th 8pm

Review by John Martin

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Milhouse’s parents get back together but much to his dismay they aren’t competing for his love anymore.; So, Bart and Milhouse devise a plan to break his parents up again by planting one of Marge’s bras in the Van Houten’s bed.; When Milhouse’s mother finds it, she marches over and shows it to Homer.; Homer confronts Marge about it and completely offends her as usual and she kicks him out of house…so it’s up to Bart to get them back together.

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I thought this episode was better than the season opener.; They get more of the townspeople involved which always make for a great show.; The jokes are more thought out and witty in this episode and they don’t rely on Homer’s stupidity to drive them forward.; One of the best scenes in the show though, involves a spoof of the “The O.C.” and a man in a Snoopy outfit.; Again the story in this episode is hilarious and the characters give us some unforgettable lines…looks like this season is shaping to be a very good one, hopefully getting back to the way it used to be in the classic years.

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The War at Home – Series Premiere September 11th 8:30

“Pilot”

Review by Ben Lauter

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Back in the day, parents had it so much easier.; They had no idea what their kids were doing, which led to a much happier family unit.; Sometimes, when it comes to raising kids in an increasingly adult world, especially curious kids, it’s actually better not to know.; Yearning for simpler times, Dave (Michael Rapaport) and Vicky (Anita Barone) are having a heck of a time trying to ignore what their own three teenagers, perennial outcast Larry (Kyle Sullivan), romantically-curious Hillary (Kaylee Defer) and video-game addicted Mike (Dean Collins), are up to.; As former wild teens, themselves, Dave and Vicky know how crazy it can get when parents aren’t watching, which is why they watch meticulously.; If the process of raising a family is a constant battle between kids trying to learn about life and parents trying to shield them from its more unsavory aspects, then home is the ultimate battleground, one on which all sides refuse to lose.;

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The pilot episode of The War at Home finds freaked-out dad Dave talking to the camera in the show’s empty, white confessional space about how hard things are for today’s parents.; Dave is not a man who lacks for thoughts on the subject.; As a father, he is driven to imagined, stress-induced heart attacks, and, as a husband, is hampered by a loving wife that sometimes acts more like a verbal sparring partner than a marriage partner.; The couple is in the midst of one of a never-ending series of crises.; Larry, the oldest, might be gay, or so Mom and Dad think, and also seems to like dressing in ladies’ clothing, Hillary wants to date a college freshman, and has taken to dating a black classmate in order to make her college crush more palatable to her high-strung parents, and Mike, the spiky-haired youngest at 13, just wants a Sony Playstation.; Dave and Vicky are not exactly taking all of this very well, but they’ll have to figure out how to handle their kids’ wants and needs if they hope to maintain their rule over the household.

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Copping elements from other shows such as All in the Family and Fox’s own Married with Children and Malcolm and the Middle, The War at Home tries to emulate a tone of provocation and dysfunction, but fails to live up to the well-earned benchmarks of those predecessors.; The pilot presents cardboard cutout examples of the headstrong, crude dad, the sassy, wisecracking wife and precocious and slightly-horny kids.; Even the enclosed space in which characters address their points directly to the camera owes a debt to the recent, and far-superior, Fox casualty, Titus.; While the kids’ behavior seems at least congruous with the longings of teens, the parents are off-putting and insensitive, and not at all worthy of respect, considering how little they appear to offer in return.; Vicky points out to Dave that her son isn’t gay, he’s “normal,” while Dave asks his wife if her liaisons with black men amount to a number akin to the Million Man March.; Rapaport’s Dave is essentially the show’s dominant mouthpiece and, with his knee-jerk reactions to both the situations of his son’s possible homosexuality and his wife and daughter’s relationships with black men, seems less a wizened parent than one appallingly unable to handle the complexities of modern life.; He reinforces a current trend of bullheaded sitcom dads who refuse to listen to others’ viewpoints and are confounded by the ability to master nuanced thinking (who knew it was so tough?).; In this case, rash judgments are meant to be interpreted as the correct ones because, well, that’s apparently how good dads are supposed to react.; In the end, the pilot doesn’t entertain, it reiterates the idea that clever, provocative humor works only when there is a dissection of its extreme viewpoints.; Though it borrows liberally from previous shows, The War at Home, as lazily crafted by sitcom veteran Rob Lotterstein, fails to pay back its influences by not presenting its scenarios in a format that could have otherwise intelligently critiqued its subject, the accelerated pace of society which legitimately serves as obstacles to families and torments parents.; For a network often so groundbreaking in its concepts, it’s disheartening to see a Fox comedy that is both offensive and lacking in wit.; The show holds the potent and somewhat exaggerated belief that family life is an angry form of combat; if we’re lucky, the War will be brief, provided this family, in particular, can somehow quickly manage to end its occupation of not only this home, but ours as well.

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Here is our part 2 where we look at American Dad, Bones, the first two episodes of House and Head Cases.

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