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9:00-9:30 (ABC) THE KNIGHTS OF PROSPERITY

The original title of this unbelievably bad comedy was “Let’s Rob…” and I’m assuming it was so named, at least as far as the ellipsis implied, because each week there would be a victim that this group of village idiots would….well…rob. In the pilot, it is Mick Jagger. And why would these guys come up with a plot to rob Mick Jagger? Uh, how about this for the single most creatively bereft reason in recent TV history? Jagger is one of the executive producers behind this mess; hence, the cameo. Beware of comedies that network press releases refer to as “hilarious.” They never are.

Helpful Hint: Go with the very brilliant Hugh Laurie in HOUSE on FOX

9:30- 10 pm (ABC) HELP ME HELP YOU

The original title of this was “What Was Ted Danson Thinking?” I’m just kidding, but really, here is one of the most likeable, talented people to ever work in television, in the middle of a bitter, mean little comedy that might make you pine for the small screen shrinks of yore – Bob Newhart and Frasier Crane. Sadly, crazy isn’t always funny.

10:00 pm (CBS) SMITH

When Ray Liotta stars in anything, I’m always interested. And when a one-hour drama looks and feels like a feature film, I’m also very happy. But this time I’m also a little concerned because I worry that it may be too good, require too much work on the part of the viewer (it is a serial drama), and therefore wither and die on the vine. And with all due respect to CBS, that could very easily happen to this effort from heavyweight producer John Wells.

But a superlative cast headed by riveting Ray Liotta and the luminescent Virginia Madsen deserves your attention. This Mr. and Mrs. Smith is just another married couple hiding behind a plain name in plain sight, but the trick here is you are so intrigued, you actually care about them. She seems to be the good wife, he seems to be the crooked husband – but “seems” is the operative word here. And as far as the heist that Liotta masterminds in the pilot is concerned – it’s movie quality, edge-of-your-seat stuff with more than a surprise or two coming at you before the hour ends. Written by YA

WEDNESDAY

8:00 pm (NBC) TWENTY GOOD YEARS

If you want to know why NBC is in deep trouble in the comedy department, look no further than this loud, unfunny comedy about two friends who decide to go for it in the time they have left. If this is the best they can do with John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor, who go into overdrive to try and sell this, well…

8:00 pm (NBC) 30 ROCK

If this is the best that NBC can do with Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin…okay, okay, I know I sound harsh, but when there is honest-to-goodness talent on the screen, you want more, and you can’t understand why you can’t have it. There are moments -- as a life-long New Yorker, the hot dog bit almost made it worth hanging around for the remaining 20 more minutes – but I needed more than a few moments. You can’t help twinging with disappointment that this should be smarter and funnier than it is.

The uneven quality makes you feel the same way you do when you stay up later than you should to watch a “Weekend Update.” You wind up wanting to laugh a lot harder than you do, and wishing you had opted for the extra zzzzzzzzs. And by the way, I’m not even asking NBC here what makes them think viewers will embrace two inside the TV biz, Saturday Night Live-type shows, on the same network, in the same season. I don’t ask, but I sure do wonder.

9:00 pm (FOX) JUSTICE

Sometime around Hour 500 of watching pilots, you go numb, so the fact that this show literally made me want to throw things at the TV set is quite an accomplishment. This is a phony-baloney, unoriginal Jerry Bruckheimer legal show, trumpeting as original the big twist that comes before the credits -- you get to see who really dunnit and how. (Excuse me, JB, isn’t that the point of CSI?) By the time you get to the end of this big shot trial lawyer show, you could care less about the crime and the accused criminal.

For the same reason that I admire Aaron Sorkin, I despise this kind of hollow writing, with lines spouted by the most actor-y actors around (I know “actor-y” is not a word, but you know what I mean), as slick as the shiny suits they’re wearing. The only good thing about their ridiculously coifed hair is that it actually distracts you from how horrible the acting is. Victor Garber should not be standing anywhere near the rest of this cast, and Jerry Bruckheimer should be happy that his success in television is measured by the “CSI” franchise, “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace.” “Lost” need not fear.

10:00 pm (ABC) THE NINE

This may be my favorite show of the new season. If you saw and appreciated the Spike Lee-Denzel Washington-Clive Owen thriller “Inside Man,” this one is for you. I should go on record and admit that if Tim Daly is starring in something, I’m predisposed to like it. Meaning even if I don’t like it, I try really really hard to like it anyway. But there’s no forced effort here. The premise – nine disparate people are held hostage during a bank robbery. We are allowed to see the set-up, and then we flash forward to the resolution of the crisis. Week by week, we will come to understand why these people are inextricably bound by what they shared. Smart, smart, smart – and it also gives us a truly stunning performance by Chi McBride as the bank manager.

10:00 pm (NBC) KIDNAPPED

This has all the bells and whistles, plus the added attraction of stars Dana Delaney, Jeremy Sisto and Timothy Hutton (whose character is named Conrad, a coincidence, or more likely, a tip of the hat to his remarkable debut performance in Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People.”) But the storyline – the teenage son (Will Denton) of a very wealthy and very mysterious couple (Delaney and Hutton) is nabbed in a particularly bloody kidnapping sequence – seems oddly uninspired. The bad guys want $20 million in ransom and Mom and Dad can’t bring the FBI into it…gee, we’ve never seen that before. I can only hope that as family secrets are revealed, there might be a surprise or two to warrant our continued involvement…I’m guessing that’s what the advertising tagline “suspect everything” is alluding to.

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www.Dishmag.com / Issue 60 - September 5590
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