Tuned In: New ABC, CBS offerings don't get any points for originality
January 5, 2014 12:00 AM
"Killer Women" stars Tricia Helfer as Molly Parker.
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A new year, new shows from the networks but these first two are old, recycled concepts. And still network executives wonder why cable programs get all the attention.
ABC and CBS introduce dramas that premiere back-to-back Tuesday night. The ABC series is marginally better so let's start with it.
From its opening scene of a woman (guest star Nadine Velazquez, "My Name Is Earl") in a tight red dress and heels who pulls out a gun and marches into a church where a wedding is underway, "Killer Women" (10 p.m. Tuesday, WTAE) tries way too hard to be cool.
The self-conscious attempt at a Quentin Tarantino-style mix of sex and violence -- Hot woman murders a hot bride! A bunch of guys in the congregation chase after her, (they just happen to be packing heat), and open fire as she races away! -- makes "Killer Women" more wannabe than successful cable knockoff.
Tricia Helfer (Six on Syfy's "Battlestar Galactica") stars as Molly Parker, one of the first women to become a Texas Ranger, a law enforcement arm that pitches in when local police don't have the resources to solve a criminal case.
In the premiere, Molly butts heads with a San Antonio cop who resents her promotion from state trooper to the Rangers
Ms. Helfer makes an entertaining, tough Ranger but there's almost nothing believable about the characters. At least "Killer Women" is an equal-opportunity stereotype generator:
A cop's theory on a murder suspect's motivation: "If you couldn't have him, no one could!"
A retired Texas Ranger on the presence of Molly: "I keep forgetting they let ladyfolk into the ranks."
The Latina murder suspect to Molly, the only person who thinks she's innocent: "You're just a spoiled, beautiful gringa."
And then there's Molly's messy personal life. She's separated from her politician husband (Jeffrey Nordling), who refuses to sign divorce papers. When the premiere finally explains their separation -- a key moment between Molly and the murder suspect -- the rationale seems suspect given that Molly works in law enforcement.
No matter, she has moved on and is sleeping with a DEA agent (Marc Blucas, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") when she's not hanging out with her sister's family.
"Killer Women" is executive produced by Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family") and was created by Hanna Shakespeare ("The Raven") and yet it plays like a male fantasy of how women think and behave (see: that sex and violence opening scene).
At heart, "Killer Women" is a procedural drama with a surface-strong female protagonist; scratch the surface and it's the same easy, familiar programming.
Every so often networks try to remake shows without officially remaking them. 1970s stalwart "The Six Million Dollar Man" is such a show.
The concept of humans improved by technology has a short but memorable history on TV. In 2003, UPN tried to build a better bionic man with the Christopher Gorham-starring "Jake 2.0" and NBC's "Chuck" featured a lead character who gets U.S. spy secrets embedded in his brain.
Now CBS's "Intelligence" (previews at 9 p.m. Tuesday; time slot premiere 10 p.m. Jan. 13, KDKA-TV) not-so-boldly goes where these other series have gone before. It does not live up to its title.
Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on "Lost," stars as Gabriel, an intelligence operative with a microchip in his brain.
"While other agencies have been busy trying to make artificial intelligence more human, we gave a human a power that had previously been found in a machine," brags boss Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, "CSI"), who explains that Gabriel is connected "to the information grid," aka, the Internet.
The plot of the pilot has Gabriel teamed with a new protector, Riley (Meghan Ory), a Secret Service agent, hired to keep the government's technology investment alive.
As Gabriel, Mr. Holloway is in full Sawyer mode, cracking wise as a "charming devil with a microchip in his brain." He's a smarty-pants who, when he meets Riley, immediately accesses all the files he can find on her -- SAT scores, sealed juvenile record -- just so he can tease her.
"That photo you emailed your boyfriend in college, whoa," he says. "You've gotta be careful what you send out there. It's called digital permanence."
"Don't worry, he can't print," adds Gabriel's tech.
When Gabriel goes into accessing video footage of a crime scene, he's able to walk through frozen, ghostly images that are a mix of fact and imagination. This includes a terrorist bombing five years earlier in which his CIA wife was either killed or compromised. He hasn't seen her since and "Intelligence" sets up this back story as a recurring thread through at least the first two episodes.
For Ms. Helgenberger, "Intelligence" offers a thankless, exposition-spouting boss role that's defined by one epic, walk-and-talk scene in the pilot that explains all of Gabriel's particulars.
The plot of the pilot also seems rushed. Most shows of this type wait a few episodes before introducing a possible evil version of the high-tech lead character, but "Intelligence" goes after that expected plot turn with full force right away.
Networks want their shows to look like movies these days, but the "Intelligence" pilot makes the border of Pakistan and Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., both look like Vancouver, where the pilot was filmed. It's a minor but telling detail in this unimaginative rehash.
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.
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