Writer's Strike Breeds the Rise of Good Enough TV
Last year, when I saw the initial pilot of the show, I wasn't nearly accommodating. I believe the phrase "stinkier than a roomful of Limburger cheese" came up a few times. But when I watched the show earlier this week, after 10 weeks of the Hollywood writers' strike, I realized my standards had lowered a bit.
I think this is a new phenomenon. And I’d like to call it Good Enough TV. Here's a few more new shows which fit that label:
Debuts: 10 p.m. Sunday on AMC (check the opening sequence here)
Good Enough If You Like: Showtime’s housewife-sells-pot drama Weeds.
It’s not totally fair to call this dark drama a cross between Weeds and Michael Douglas’ middle-class-white-guy-loses-it film Falling Down. But ex-Malcolm in the Middle star Bryan Cranston is typically adept as Walt White, a high school chemistry teacher who turns to making methamphetamine. The series' most affecting moments come in the middle of White’s breakdown, as he and a partner are trying to get rid of two bodies – rivals who have been killed – and we learn Walt’s sad story from asides, character reactions and flashbacks. It takes a bit too long to paint the show’s full scope, but it’s hard not to like Cranston’s everyman gone sour. Especially when you learn why he’s gone off the deep end.
The Moment of Truth
Debuts: at 9 p.m. Wednesday on Fox. (See preview here)
Good Enough If You Like: Who Wants to be a Millionaire and a good game of Truth or Dare.
It’s always dangerous to pass along a critical opinion based on a preview reel. But Fox’s new game show is so scandalous, it’s already marked a new low for reality TV in another country. Contestants are hooked to a lie detector and asked 21 highly personal, embarrassing questions hoping to win $500,000. An overweight person will ask “Do you find fat people repulsive?” or host Mark Walberg might ask “Do you wish you had married another person?” Lie and you lose. It’s so edgy, the Columbia version was shut down when a woman revealed she had once hired a hit man to kill her husband. Talk about Must See TV.
Debuts: at 10 p.m. Jan. 31 on ABC. (See George Michael's appearance here)
Good Enough If You Like: Boston Legal’s morally conflicted yuppies.
This is one show that could have gotten an A-plus review anytime. Jonny Lee Miller shines as a self-obsessed corporate lawyer whose life changes after he starts having visions pushing him to be more altruistic. The catch: these visions may be cause by a brain aneurysm which could rupture at any time, killing him. Add a helping of witty dialog and inspired cameos by everyone from Ed’s Tom Cavanagh to pop star George Michael, and you have a surprisingly affecting comedic drama about a good man trying to stay positive in a complex world.
Debuts: at 10 p.m. Feb. 7 on NBC. (See preview here)
Good Enough if You Like: Sex and the City with a little Suddenly Susan thrown in.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve always felt Brooke Shields was a little smarter than her bombshell image, but I liked this Sex and the City knockoff much more than ABC’s high-powered-women-in-Manhattan series, Cashmere Mafia. In part, I’m onboard because NBC isn’t seeking quite so many laughs, casting Shields as a film studio executive struggling to be a good mother and handle her husband’s bruised ego. Ex-24 co-star Kim Raver is also delicious as a powerful magazine editor whose sexless marriage prompts an affair. There’s even a juicy part for Andrew McCarthy, playing a wealthy ladies man who meets his match in Lindsay Price’s failing clothes designer. Throw in ex-Sopranos castmember Lorraine Bracco as a Judith Regan-style nemesis for Shields (the former Dr. Melfi actually says as a comeback, “tell it to your shrink!”), and you have a tasty diversion for a post-strike TV schedule.