The optimization of drama and comedy comes in trying to make situations relatable. Whether animated or dictated into an interesting conundrum, the prospect becomes one of seeing the situation through a character’s eyes. Whether it be through the personage of a seething patent attorney or through the bowel movements of a burger joint owner, the reality rests in the intention of the character’s will, whether it be cognicent or simply idealized.
Harry’s Law Having Kathy Bates on your team spewing no-nonsense “bullhockey” always will maintain a tendency of fun. Originally written for an older man, this creation against the mainstream works purely because of Bates’ finesse and rough edges. Created by David E. Kelley (late of “Boston Legal”), he understands blending character study and comedy with social issues which he himself admits is a slow burn. However with meager production requirements which insist that the acting create the focus without melodrama, the show does its job with pinache. The supporting characters do need work in progressing beyond caricature but with Harry at the helm, possibilities exist.
Lights Out Creating a boxing story for the new millenium on television requires some relaxed standards in terms of what one is able to show since the part of the sporting world is dog-eat-dog. The narrative structure revolves around “Lights” Leary whose wife gave him an ultimatum to get out of the ring 5 years prior. Approaching present day, he is schlacking whatever he has to do in appearances to keep his family life running. Because of different elements (his brother’s gambling, his family’s lifestyle, the economy, bad mismanagement), events begin to push the champ back into the possibility of a comeback. While the narrative is nothing if not formulaic, the intensity and modern bent of Leary (which begets much credit to Holden who plays him) gives it the necessity of an old school studio picture with the heart of “The Fighter”. It may not be reinventing television but it does create characters to believe in.
Bob’s Burgers While the mundane aspects that fueled the animated psychologist show on Comedy Central back in the 90s draws comparisons on full display, it is the sheer avoidance nature of Bob, the lead character of this new animated series, which allows the better characters (in this case, his two youngest children) to run rampant. While the series does not boast the sight gags or sharp wit of either “Simpsons” or “Family Guy”, the sheer texture of either Bob trapping himself in his wall when his in-laws come or pooping his pants when taking on his daughter’s karate instructor simply induces laughter all the same. That said though it is Gene and Louise, his kids who steal their show with their shenanigans. Louise is a pathological liar and Gene is a party machine. Between them, the idea of going to poke dead seals and making up house music jams is just funny. At the end of one of the episodes during the credits, Gene even does a jam out with the synth he carries around. Classic.
Off The Map Revolving through the ideas of uses for the island of Oahu post “Lost” (because of the infrastructure inlaid throughout the island) must have been tempting. However the television arena was not ready to handle a mythology based tome after the failure of “Flash Forward”. Placing a doctor show in the jungle with a bit of adventure with the queen of medicinal balance in exec producer Shonda Rhimes seems a good bet. While the show doesn’t blow the doors off with either its drama or comedy, it maintains a steady pace with distinct verve. Whether delivering a baby for a mother after a father becomes wrapped by anaconda or fixing a young woman’s scar with plastic surgery because the town’s medicine man feels “the demons come from there” approaches interesting ideals of Western versus traditional since the show is actually set in South America. The soap opera structure of different female doctors lusting for the uber humanitarian (played with almost detached aplomb by Martin Henderson of “The Ring”) adds to the tension but not overwhelmingly so.
The Cape The creation of a city bent on the path of destruction by a meglomaniacal politician turned villain is not a new idea in the lexicon of superheroes. Taking this structure to an underground crime unit of circus performers led with guston by Keith David has some possibility but the actual inventiveness of a man trying to protect him family while at the samepoint not letting them know that he is alive creates the paradox in question. David Lyons as Vince Farraday (aka The Cape) is not unlikable but his presence doesn’t create any tension or spark. Helping him out is Orwell, played by fanboy favorite Summer Glau, who despite jumping into costumes at various times, plays a computer hacker and lacks the interest of her earlier work, specifically in “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” when her feeling should be more like “Dark Angel”. Creating a texture is about loss and redemption which, while addressed, doesn’t effectively intensify the possibility like “Heroes” did in its earlier pedigree.