TV Reviews: Two for the Road
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Starring: Jeff Goldblum
Starring: Andy Richter
NBC had a banner start, creatively speaking, to the 2006-07 TV season, unveiling a critical and ratings hit in "Heroes" and earning good reviews, if not plentiful eyeballs, for "Friday Night Lights" and "30 Rock."
Midseason may not be as fruitful a time for the Peacock, but neither is there anything to be hugely embarrassed about. This week, NBC unveils two more series that, though unlikely to be critical home runs and ratings smashes, are at least solid doubles.
With his jittery eyes and off-kilter speaking cadence, Pittsburgh native Jeff Goldblum may be the least believable casting for a police detective ever. Thank goodness "Raines" creator Graham Yost ("Boomtown") cast Goldblum as a damaged cop who sees and carries on conversations with the hallucinations of the murder victims whose deaths he's tasked with investigating.
These apparitions begin to appear to Goldblum's Michael Raines after his former partner, Charlie (Malik Yoba), is shot and Raines is forced to kill the shooter. In his first case back since that incident, Raines investigates the murder of a young woman who appears to him as he digs into her background. They converse and she poses questions but never tells him anything he couldn't deduce on his own. She's really more of a sounding board, a purpose also served by Raines' former partner, who teases and cajoles Raines and is the only one Raines tells about his dead victim sightings.
It is interesting to see how the victim's appearance and personality change as Raines' suspicions about her and the case evolve.
"It's like you just turned into Kathleen Turner in 'Body Heat,' " he tells her after she takes on a more sultry, femme fatale appearance.
At the outset, Raines tells viewers he's a fan of '40s-era detective stories, so it's no surprise the show is awash in noirish tropes, from the music to aspects of the title character's imagination.
As close-ended procedurals go, "Raines" certainly offers an intriguing hook, but I'm not sure it's one with much staying power. Because the victim is a hallucination, not a ghost, there's the danger of them all starting to sound alike, always returning Raines' questions with more questions. That could get old quick.
NBC's faith in the series also appears minimal: After two airings at 10 p.m. Thursday this week and next, "Raines" moves to the dead zone of Friday night where Raines' apparitions will be in good company, airing at 9 p.m. opposite CBS's "The Ghost Whisperer."
'Andy Barker, P.I.'
Temporarily taking the spot of "30 Rock" at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, "Andy Barker, P.I." stars ever-likable Andy Richter, who regains some of the critical footing he earned in "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" and then squandered in the pedestrian "Quintuplets."
Like "30 Rock," "Barker" is more absurd and goofy than it is broadly funny, but it's definitely not as mainstream. If "30 Rock" is a series created by people who were the smartest, coolest kids in Honors English, "Barker" is its sillier cousin dreamed up by the intelligent, nerdy outcasts in the A/V club.
Richter stars as Andy Barker, a suburban accountant who sets up shop on his own in an office above a strip mall. The same space was once occupied by a private detective, Lew Staziak (Harve Presnell). Andy is at a loss for clients, so when a woman shows up in Thursday's premiere believing her recently deceased husband is not dead and asks Andy to prove it, well, he's got nothing better to do.
Andy bounces his theories off video store proprietor Simon (Tony Hale, "Arrested Development") and restaurant owner Wally (Marshall Manesh), a native of Afghanistan who tries a little too hard to show his allegiance to America: A sign in his restaurant's window reads, "MSG No! USA Yes!"
This sort of humor can be found throughout "Andy Barker," and it's definitely smart and knowing, but it's also an example of Quiet Comedy -- also on display in ABC's "Knights of Prosperity" -- jokes or lines of dialogue that don't so much land hard to produce a belly laugh as they do mosey into your consciousness, provoke a fleeting smile at their cleverness and then just as quickly disappear
First Published March 11, 2007 12:00 am