Category Archives: david e. kelley

The Newsroom

I love HBO. I think that they, along with the folks at Showtime, AMC, and Starz among others, just make the best television out there. Looking at ratings and award nominations, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that belief. I guess that’s why “The Newsroom” is such a hard pill for me to swallow.

I tried to watch the first season of “The Newsroom” when it aired. I just couldn’t get into it, and once the episodes started to pile up in the DVR, I gave up and resolved to catch up later. It’s hard to start watching a new show. Some things like “Dexter,” “Treme,” and “The Walking Dead” grabbed me immediately from the first moments. Others like “Rome,” “The Wire,” and “Homeland,” all of which I loved/love, took some time to warm up to. “The Newsroom” falls solidly in the latter category, but maybe without so much of the love part.

There’s a lot to like about “The Newsroom.” Jeff Daniels, in the lead as a on-his-way-out newscaster trying something new to stay relevant, is spectacularly selfish. He’s been given something few actors get – a platform on which to act over the top. His supporting cast is amongst one of the best ensembles in television. Dev Patel is someone to watch, and Alison Pill is the real star of the show, definitely watch her. Most of the performances are high caliber, a hallmark of HBO.

The show is a little bit Network, a little bit Broadcast News, with just a touch of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as well. The problem I have lies behind the scenes, in its creator, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin belongs to an era and style of television I particularly dislike. Much like David E. Kelley, Sorkin doesn’t just want to entertain audiences, he wants to teach, to preach, to ultimately force feed his opinions into the viewers, whether they like it or not.

Here, in “The Newsroom,” it gets so bad sometimes as though it literally feels as though characters are merely taking turns on an imaginary soapbox than actually having a conversation or debate. It always takes me out of the show, and sometimes it’s painful in its execution. Shame.

Except for that, “The Newsroom” is definitely worth watching, especially for Jeff Daniels, Alison Pill. Dev Patel, and also genre favorite, Oliva Munn. The Bin Laden episode made me cry, and that’s saying a lot. The show is very very good, despite its preachiness, but it is, after all, HBO. Check it out.

What Happened to Harry’s Law?

I am not a fan of either David E. Kelley or TV law shows. The first part is a matter of liking good writing and not liking where the author puts his opinions inappropriately into the mouths of his characters. Kelley also gets very preachy and overly topical in forums where it’s supposed to be entertainment, not op-ed. The second part is first because it usually bores me, and also, The Bride, being an attorney herself, has a very low tolerance for such crap in her off-work life.

When The Bride showed interest in “Harry’s Law,” which also starred Stephen King favorite Kathy Bates at her acerbic best, I went easily along for the ride, despite it being a David E. Kelley law drama. Disenfranchised and disillusioned lawyer Harriet “Harry” Korn finds new life as a neighborhood attorney based out of a shoe store in a bad section of Cincinnati. She was surrounded by a cast of well-meaning folks who equally believe in helping their neighborhood. It was a different kind of law show, more about community than court, and it was also critically acclaimed, and one of the few new series to survive what has lately been a rather nasty television season of canceled programs.

When it returned this season, things were different. The kind of lawyers she fought against in the first season, she seemed to turn into. The kind of cases she would never have taken in the first season, she takes in every episode. And the very law firm she opposed in most episodes in the first season, she merges with! What the hell happened?

Basically all of the charm, wit and humanity that brought both The Bride and myself in to this series is gone. “Harry’s Law” is just another law show now. Is David E. Kelly just recycling old “The Practice” scripts now? Is he getting even with NBC for not picking up his “Wonder Woman“? What the hell?

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New Season Fail?

I hate to say it, but other than the “Wonder Woman” pilot from David E. Kelley that NBC did not buy, I haven’t really seen anything from this newest TV season that has impressed me, nothing.

I love Zooey Dechandel, so I checked out her sitcom, “New Girl,” on Fox. First I was curious what someone like her who has been so successful in movies would want with television. I mean, this had to either be a great show, or a lot of money, right? Well, it turns out it might just be money. She’s fun and hilarious, but her three male co-stars were unwatchable. The problem – there’s three of them and just one of her. Awful.

Also on Fox, I tried the much anticipated “X-Factor” from Simon Cowell, and again, I was unimpressed. For someone who wanted to make a show that wasn’t like “American Idol,” it sure seemed a lot like “American Idol,” and not in a good way. Here’s hoping that Simon, along with Paula Abdul, return to “AI” next season. It will be better for everyone.

As long as we’re beating dead horses, the show I most was interested in this new season was “Terra Nova,” which at first glance kinda looked like an American version of “Primeval.” If only it was. I’d take another rip-off of a mediocre British scifi series over this dreck any day. Where were the freaking dinosaurs? Damn tease.

Look, don’t show dinosaurs in your thirty-second previews of the show for the last four months and not put any damn dinosaurs in the pilot for over an hour. To quote Millhouse in one of my favorite “Simpsons” episodes – When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?”

There were other series that were disappointments. “Unforgettable,” “A Gifted Man” and “Person of Interest” all had intriguing concepts, and quickly displayed with second episodes that they were all three simply formula shows. I don’t think we will ever see any progress on the main plot that got us hooked on the show, but will just be case of the week series. Damn shame too.

I was even disappointed by “Homeland.” It reeked of predictability for me. Again, a fine concept that just didn’t do it for me on the screen. Wow. When the pay cable shows aren’t good, you know it’s a bad season.

“Pan Am” was a pilot that has to be seen to be believed, so if you didn’t catch it, check OnDemand and see it. Not just for the now anorexic Christina Ricci, you need to see this decidedly confused show. First it’s kinda “Mad Men,” then it wants to be a comedy, then it’s an Airport movie and finally at the end it’s a spy thriller. See it while it lasts, it could be the quirky fun hit of the bunch, so bad, it’s good.

The only show I thought had promise, was canceled before I actually got to see it, which shows you just how on the mark I am with these things. Like “Pan Am,” it’s a period piece, same time frame, but this one’s deadly serious. “The Playboy Club” is/was about a mob murder in, you guessed it, a Playboy club. It had much promise, but, unfortunately, dead on arrival.

It looks like we’ll have new replacement shows coming up quickly as I think many of these are headed to the same fate as “The Playboy Club.” Hmmm… maybe NBC should take another look at “Wonder Woman”…

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Wonder Woman 2011

When this was being made, there was a lot of negative buzz about David E. Kelley’s pilot for a new “Wonder Woman” TV series. Much of the controversy came from absurd things like Kelley (of “Ally McBeal” and “Harry’s Law” fame, among others) calling it an ‘office romance and drama,’ not words usually associated with the Amazon Princess. And then there was the costume controversy – she was wearing long pants instead of her decades traditional star-spangled hot pants. I don’t like any of the new variations on Diana’s costume personally, but let’s face it, that’s not that much of a big deal.

As things turned out, NBC (or any of the other networks either) did not pick up the pilot and there won’t be a “Wonder Woman” TV series, at least not this year, and not by David E. Kelley. But I did get the chance to take a look at this notorious pilot recently, and I have to tell you – it wasn’t half bad, and what was wrong with it, really really wrong with it – had nothing to do with costumes or office romance drama. It was just stupid.

The things that I thought I would have a problem with – the office setting, actress Adrienne Palicki as Wonder Woman, and yes, to an extent, the costume(s) – were all very good. She was terrific, and she, and writer Kelley, actually do get the character. I didn’t mind the office stuff, it’s actually quite good and mirrors the Wonder Woman Foundation from the George Perez era of the comics. In fact, one scene, in which Diana says the T word which probably put off the networks who wanted to run this in the family hour as a kids show, is one of the best written in the pilot.

The costumes, and there are more than a few, look good, and that’s all on Adrienne Palicki who looks darn good as the Amazon Princess, and unlike many recent superhero film incarnations, the colors are bright primary colors that stand out, the way superhero colors are supposed to. I like the costumes, I like the variations, and I like Palicki. She did, and would have made a terrific Wonder Woman.

The special effects, while incomplete in the pilot copy I saw, were very good. I like the jets, even though they were not invisible. I like the action scenes, Palicki can kick serious ass! And the thing I liked most, effects-wise, was the way Diana would whip out her lasso at super speed. It almost seems to fly from her wrists a la Spider-Man, and it looks great. And the bullets and bracelets trick is the best I’ve seen live action.

And there are many things to like here. Cary Elwes is as good as he’s been in years, this could have been his comeback. Elizabeth Hurley works well with what she has to work with in cardboard villain Veronica Cale, too bad they didn’t use the VC from the comics who has a bit more personality. The Dr. Phil and Nancy Grace cameos are fun too. Even the parts I had heard about like frumpy Diana Prince, old maid and cat lady, were nowhere near as bad as I thought they would be. That actually works.

The stupid that ruins this pilot is in the writing. David E. Kelley is a veteran of legal TV series, with stuff like “Boston Legal,” “L.A. Law,” “The Practice” and the film From the Hip, as well as the aforementioned “Ally McBeal” and “Harry’s Law” under his belt, I am astounded how he can produce a script with so many holes in it when it comes to simple procedure.

Sure, Veronica is a super-villain and an evil drug dealer, but she could have easily had Wonder Woman up as many charges if not more that she herself was arrested for. Wonder Woman violated civil rights, committed slander, and even murdered one or two people. She’d better have some good lawyers, because if there are any other superheroes in this world, they’re coming after her.

It’s even worse because Diana is surrounded by people who are paid to counsel her on such matters, and none of them seem to have any problems with her behavior. For example, you do not call a press conference and call someone a drug dealer with no evidence whatsoever. That’s just one of the stupidities that ruined this for me. I wanted to like it, I really did, but the script made it impossible.

Above, a fan made opening for the pilot, using actual footage and the 1970s theme, from YouTube.

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