TV Review: 'Cane' entangled in unwieldy plot

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There's a whole spate of dramas about wealthy families joining the prime-time lineup this week -- ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money" tomorrow and "Big Shots" on Thursday -- but the first one, CBS's "Cane" (10 tonight, KDKA) is probably the most traditional of these soaps. Unfortunately, it's also hampered by a muddled pilot episode with ham-fisted character introductions and an ending that's likely to put off some viewers.

There's plenty of potential in "Cane," most notably in its cast that includes Jimmy Smits, Rita Moreno, Hector Elizondo and Nestor Carbonell. And executive producer Jonathan Prince ("American Dreams") is a reliable, veteran showrunner. But the pilot episode's script by Cynthia Cidre tries to cram too much into a single hour, resulting in a scattershot premiere.

Smits stars as Alex Vega, adopted son of the Duque family, purveyors of rum in Florida. Patriarch Pancho (Elizondo) has health problems he hasn't shared with his wife (Moreno) or his other children, including jealous Frank (Carbonell), club promoter Henry (Eddie Matos) and Isabel (Paola Turbay), Alex's wife. Yes, Alex married a woman who was raised as his sister, something "Cane" sort of glosses over in the premiere.

The rival Samuels family offers to buy out the Duque sugar fields, and while Frank supports that move -- in part because he's sleeping with Ellis Samuels (Polly Walker, "Rome") -- Alex won't hear of it. He blames the Samuels clan for the murder of Pancho's youngest daughter back in the '70s.

The youngest Duque generation, Alex's children, also play a part in the story, including hot-to-trot son Jaime (Michael Trevino), who doesn't want to go to college in the fall and decides on another option by the pilot's end.

It's an overstuffed introduction that bursts at the seams with story, character motivation, secrets and plotting.

"Cane" also traffics in a changing tone palette. The show is mostly "Dallas," but then it takes a vengeful, darker "Sopranos"-like turn that may offend some CBS viewers.


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