Here's a suggestion: if the title of your new show contains any word or phrase that can easily be twisted into an ironic review title, either 1) think very seriously about changing said title or 2) make sure that your show is really, really good.
Witness the case of Fox's new crime drama JONNY ZERO, which sadly fails on both counts.
JONNY ZERO follows freshly released convict Jonnny (some actor named Franky G, who was apparently in THE ITALIAN JOB; I think he was one of the Mini Coopers) as he returns to his old neighborhood and attempts to start a new life. His exploration of more legal pursuits is hampered by the determined attentions of his old boss, crooked club owner Joseph Garret. And, as is wont to happen with ex-cons with hearts of gold, Jonny manages to get involved in helping lost souls in trouble: a father in search of his newly stripping daughter; a kid who's on his way into the Big House Jonny just left, who's in dire need of protection on the inside, lest his skinny self wind up either shanked or engaged to his burly cellmate, Large. Presumably, Jonny will manage similar encounters on roughly a weekly basis, at least until the show gets cancelled. Which, if there's any justice in the world, will be just before the pilot's first commercial break.
For lo, "Zero" is all too accurate a descriptor for this show. Lines of memorable or non-clichéd dialogue? Zero. Plots we haven't seen dozens of times on any given 1980s action show currently rerunning on basic cable? Zero. Acting chops demonstrated by Mr. G? You guessed it.
One major problem is the aforementioned Mr. G himself. Time and again, we are reminded by characters of what a badass Jonny supposedly was before he went to jail. A pair of bouncers recount his legendarily violent exploits to their boss as an excuse for admitting him into an exclusive nightclub. To hear folks tell it, Jonny was equal parts Bruce Lee and the Punisher, a fearsome and brutal thug perfectly content to roll over, under, around, or through anyone in his or his employer's way.
So then, perhaps it would be appropriate for us to see some hint of his former prowess. Even given his attempts to remain on the straight-and-narrow, we should still be able to mentally connect the Jonny we see
And I haven't even touched on the "comical hip-hop sidekick."
It's bad, people. So very, very bad. Avert your eyes, head for the exits, and let us never speak of this again.
And now for the week in review:
The "God I Miss Frank Black" Award for Psychic Criminal Profilers goes to: MEDIUM, an interesting if unremarkable pilot that mainly just made me remember how damn good MILLENNIUM was at its best.
The Gob Bluth Award for Referencing or Use of Breakaway Pants goes to: VERONICA MARS. Sadly, however, said breakaway pants were not being broken away from Ms. Mars herself.
The Inequality of the Sexes Award goes to: LOST, whose scene featuring Kate swimming bottomless and Sawyer swimming topless inspired both my wife and I to argue that the situation was unfair, though for completely different reasons.
The Let Bygones Be Bygones, Nevermind Character Consistency Award goes to: ALIAS's Agent Dixon, who selflessly puts God and Country first and proves himself the bigger man by gracefully accepting the fact that he is now once again taking orders from the man who killed his wife.
Best Guest Casting: Peter Dinklage as LIFE AS WE KNOW IT's guidance counselor. May his appearances be frequent and prosperous.
Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks...
MONDAY, JANUARY 10
24 (7 PM CST, Fox)
MISSING IN ACTION (7 PM CST, WGN) Which also describes the current status of Chuck Norris' career, and I think we're all the poorer for it.
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (7 PM CST, TCM) A married Manhattan executive's wandering eye wanders in the general direction of Marilyn Monroe in Billy Wilder's 1955 comedy.
EZ STREETS (7 PM CST, Trio) "Pilot." The saddest loss if Trio goes under will be the disappearance of Brilliant But Cancelled, which showcases amusing oddities and even great but short-lived shows like this gritty cops-and-crooks drama starring Ken Olin and Joey Pants.
LAS VEGAS (8 PM CST, NBC) "Sperm Whales and Spearmint Rhinos." A suicide that wasn't, an old flame back in town, and an obsessively clean high roller, just another night in Sin City.
MEDIUM (9 PM CST, NBC) "Suspicions and Certainties." NBC had planned to air this episode last week, but ended up repeating the pilot instead. Allison intercedes in the case of a man she may have mistakenly helped put on death row.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11
REBEL BILLIONAIRE: BRANSON'S QUEST FOR THE BEST (7 PM CST, Fox) The contest winds down on someplace called "Necker Island," where the natives presumably spend a lot of time making out. (Season finale)
NCIS (7 PM CST, CBS) "Black Water." A famous private investigator butts into Gibb's investigation of the death of a Naval officer. It's not Magnum P.I.
EZ STREETS (7 PM CST, Trio) "Every Picture Tells a Story." Quinn investigates the circumstances leading up to his pop being crammed into a barrel.
NOVA (PBS, check local listings) "The Boldest Hoax." Looking back at the discovery that fossil hunter Charles Dawson's Piltdown Man "missing link" was a big, stinky fraud.
VERONICA MARS (8 PM CST, UPN) "Clash of the Tritons." Veronica's set-up for selling fake IDs, and her search for the real culprit uncovers a secret society at the school. Because what high school is complete without a secret society?
BLUE CRUSH (8 PM CST, USA) See Bryan Singer's newly crowned Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) surf while scantily clad.
COMMITTED (8:30 PM CST, NBC) "The Apartment Episode." Quirky Marni visits Quirky Nate's quirky apartment, and at some point the quirky clown that lives in her quirky closet will probably show up (quirkily).
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12
THAT '70S SHOW (7 PM CST, Fox) "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?" Kelso calls the White House and Red and Kitty go ice fishing. In other news, this show is well on its way to pulling a M*A*S*H and outlasting the time period its chronicling.
LOST (7 PM CST, ABC) "Hearts and Minds." Tonight we find out 1) what Locke and Boone unearthed in jungle and 2) Boone and sister Shannon's backstory. Plus, everybody's favorite giant, unseen monster makes a reappearance (so to speak).
SMALLVILLE (7 PM CST, WB) "Run."
EZ STREETS (7 PM CST, Trio) "A Terrible Beauty." If you've got Trio, just watch it already. Trust me. It's on all week.
THE WEST WING (8 PM CST, NBC) "Opposition Research." Jimmy Smits begins his campaign for leadership of Alderaan...er, the White House.
ALIAS (8 PM CST, ABC) "The Awful Truth." Syd goes undercover to try and track down a code-breaking computer.
CSI: NY (9 PM CST, CBS) "ReCycling." A bike messenger gets stabbed on his route and a dog handler gets a foot-long knitting needle jammed through her. That's what she gets for crossing her heart and hoping to die.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13
THE O.C. (7 PM CST, Fox) "The Power of Love." The Cohens celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, but shenanigans on the kids' parts interfere with their happy little date.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (7 PM CST, ABC) "Breaking Away." How cool is this show for having THE STATION AGENT's Peter Dinklage guest-starring as a diminutive guidance counselor? Very, that's how cool.
COMMITTED (7:30 PM CST, NBC) "The Tea Episode." Not to be confused with the teabagging episode, which would result in all sorts of FCC fines.
CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (8 PM CST, CBS) "Snakes." Tired of procedural shows that trot out the same old generic murders week-in, week-out? CSI to the rescue: tonight a severed human head with a baby rattlesnake shoved in its mouth is found in a newspaper dispenser.
WITHOUT A TRACE (9 PM CST, CBS) "Penitence." I can't ever heard that word anymore without thinking of LAST CRUSADE. "A penitent man is humble...a penitent man kneels before God...KNEELS!"
FRIDAY, JANUARY 14
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE SERIES LOWDOWN (7:30 PM CST, Sci-Fi) If you happened to miss the miniseries during its 12 million airings since last year, this special should get you up to speed before tonight's premiere.
JONNY ZERO (8 PM CST, Fox) "Pilot." You were warned.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "33."
MAKING OF 'ELEKTRA' (8:45 PM CST, HBO) A detailed look into the intricate process the film's crew used to excise any references to DAREDEVIL from the upcoming sequel-they'd-just-as-soon-no-one-know-is-a-sequel.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (9 PM CST, Sci-Fi) "Water." The fleet's water supply is sabotaged--and Boomer thinks she may be responsible.
STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (10 PM CST, UPN) "Daedalus." Continuing Manny Coto's Prime Directive of increasing the show's connections to the 30-odd years of continuity that came before (or after, depending on your point of view), tonight we meet the inventor of the transporter. If only the poor sot knew how many plotlines his creation would provide TREK writing staffs...
SATURDAY, JANUARY 15
MOULIN ROUGE (7 PM CST, Oxygen) If you can't make it past this film's hyperactive opening five minutes, it's probably not for you. If you can, then chuckle at the Narcoleptic Argentinian and dive into a tale of True Love (capitalized, naturally).
TEEN TITANS (7 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Titans East, Part 1." Part one of the two-part third-season finale sees a final confrontation between the Titans and Brother Blood, as well as the creation of a new Titans team, manned in part by Aqualad (voiced by Wil "Wesley Crusher" Wheaton!), Speedy, and Bumblebee.
CANTERBURY TALES (7 PM CST, BBC America) "The Sea Captain's Tale." Last week's modern spin on "The Wife of Bath" was quite good, so I'll be following this miniseries for the duration.
FAHRENHEIT 451 (8:15 PM CST, TCM) When I used to work at a bookstore, one year in celebration of Banned Books Week, we put together a display near the register that included a TV with a looped scene from this film. As a result, I can now claim to have watched the old woman burn to death atop the pile of books more times than any human being not directly involved with the production.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 16
MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (6:30 PM CST, Fox) "Hal Sleepwalks." But the real question is why...why does he sleepwalk? And therein, my friends, lies the magic.
THE SIMPSONS (7 PM CST, Fox) "Midnight Rx." Homer and Grandpa head to Canada to scoop up cheap prescription drugs.
CHARMED (7 PM CST, WB) "Ordinary Witches." Yep, this show's still on.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Switch Hitter." Continuing AD's ridiculously cool string of guest appearances, tonight J. Jonah Jameson (that's J.K. Simmons to you) checks in.
FAMILY GUY (8 PM CST, Fox) "Fifteen Minutes of Shame." Sorry, no new episodes yet, but an hour's worth of repeats is the next best thing.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (8 PM CST, ABC) "Every Day a Little Death." The discovery of Mrs. Huber's body and private journals stirs up all sorts of trouble on Wisteria Lane.
CARNIVALE (8 PM CST, HBO) "Alamogordo, NM." Ben has an unnerving visit with a disturbed priest who once knew Scudder.
BOSTON LEGAL (9 PM CST, ABC) "From Whence We Came." Denny Crane and company inherit the wind during a case focusing on the teaching of creationism to an eighth-grade class.
UNSCRIPTED (9 PM CST, HBO) It's probably wrong to take such enjoyment from the suffering of struggling actors, but since writers get even less respect in Hollywood than actors do, I'm not going to feel too guilty about it.
This concludes our broadcast.
TV Wasteland is our weekly Television column, while Evangeline Lilly is the column's guiding light.