Monday, March 22, 2010

Mini Pilot Reviews: Sons of Tucson, Justified, Life, Jerseylicious

Sons of Tucson (Sundays at 9:30 on Fox)

What a terrible, terrible show. This sitcom tries so hard to make you laugh, but it's just painful. Three young boys are in need of a father figure, as their real father has just been sent to prison and their mother is MIA. So they ask the desperate loser working at the local sporting goods store to pose as their father so they can enroll in school. Oh, and they pay him.

What the hell? You need a father, so you go enlist the help of the biggest douche you can find? The guy lives out of his car and works 20 minutes a day selling balls. Sure, that's a great idea! To top it all off, this guy has money problems and owes some dangerous people a few grand... great paternal role model! Seriously though, sitcoms don't have to make sense. They just have to be funny. Unfortunately, this one doesn't make sense and it's not funny. Tyler Labine is playing the same character as he did on Reaper, except he's much more annoying when he's the constant center of attention. Actually, annoying is the perfect word to describe this entire show. Hopefully Fox will do better next season, because Sons of Tucson is a turd.

Justified (Tuesdays @ 10:00 on FX)

This isn't typically the kind of show that I gravitate toward, but I had room on my TiVo to record so I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did, because this intense little show is great. Timothy Olyphant is so powerful on screen; as Raylan Givens, he doesn't even need to speak to let you know he means business, and that opening scene at a Miami restaurant was proof of it. Olyphant spoke maybe 6 lines in the entire scene, but just seeing him stare at his victim like an animal about to attack its prey was perfect. And without Olyphant, I don't Justified would be as successful as it is.

It's a fairly simple plot: a US Marshall gets into trouble for killing a criminal at a crowded restaurant and is punished by being assigned to a small town in Kentucky, which just happens to be near his backwoods hometown. I fear that this series may become a bit boring over time, especially if it falls into the trap of being a basic procedural. The writers did plant some seeds that bear further scrutiny as the series progresses (Raylan's relationship with his father, his relationship with his old friends, etc) , and I hope they turn into a serialized arc rather than elements of continuity in a season full of otherwise stand-alone episodes. Because there is definitely something special boiling here. The pilot was exciting... hopefully there is more to come.

Life (Sundays at 9:00 on Discovery)

Having never seen Planet Earth, I didn't really know what to expect from this series other than pretty pictures. What it actually is... is BREATHTAKING pictures. But there is also a very clever throughline to each episode; the first episode touched upon the challenges of life that every creature faces, both big and small. Sure, it helps that the camera work is impeccable and the baby goats are cute; but at its heart this show really is about life: the beautiful, the ugly, the heartbreaking, the challenging, the strange. Everything on earth is connected, and seeing these amazing creatures face adversity and adapt to their surroundings gives Life a feeling of importance beyond the pretty pictures.

Jerseylicious (Sundays at 10:00 on Style)

I like my reality shows real. I don't want to feel like I'm watching a giant setup or a bunch of terrible actors reciting clearly scripted one-liners. Unfortunately, that's what Jerseylicious is. Obviously meant to capitalize on the success of Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, this show continues to exploit my home state by introducing us to a group of women working at a hair salon. The setup is obvious as the main cast member, Olivia, interviews for a makeup artist position at the Gatsby Salon and receives a callback for the night after. She "inadvertently" runs into her arch nemesis in the lobby, who just so happens to be applying for a hairstylist position at the same salon. She also gets a callback for the next night. And guess what? THEY BOTH GET HIRED! I know, you didn't see it coming, right?

The whole thing reeks of falsehood; the setup is as fake as Olivia's tan, and the confessional interviews seem to be more scripted than most sitcoms. Jerseylicious is just trying too hard to fill the void left in viewers' hearts since Jersey Shore went off the air two months ago, but it was the fact that those people had no idea what they were doing and saying was ridiculous; they were just being themselves, living their outrageous lives. But the girls of Jerseylicious are all too conscious of the fact that they are starring on a reality show and are on a mission to become the next Snooki.

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