Tonight brings the season premieres of "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles,"The Biggest Loser" and -- of the most significance for me -- "Glee," along with the series premieres of "Raising Hope," "Running Wilde," "Detroit 1-8-7." Also: the first results show for "Dancing With the Stars" and the season finale of "Warehouse 13." Notes follow the jump about "Glee," "Raising Hope," "Running Wilde," "Detroit 1-8-7," "DWTS" and "Warehouse 13."
"Glee" gets off to an odd start, offering an episode which comments a lot on the series itself and coverage of same, while essentially trying to get back to where it began. The commentary involves an opening sequence where the school's gossip gatherer asks various characters to comment on his opinions of them, including about whether Rachel is a diva (as has also been claimed of Lea Michele, who plays her) and whether Shue should rap.
The larger matter, though, is the way the show acknowledges that, by the end of the first season, New Directions had formed a happy, empowered family of one-time outsiders. Not so fast, says the second season; these are still outsiders in the larger social structure of McKinley. Songs have not ended their despair. Even Finn, accorded some social standing as a quarterback, is in for some rough rides.
And, in addition to the students, Sue and Shue are also essentially outside the mainstream, even if the show neglected to acknowledge it. As the new football Coach Beiste (played by Dot Marie Jones) notes, why should the cheerleaders have a bigger budget than the team they supposedly cheer for? But the coach is herself an outsider, too, as is underlined repeatedly. With big, thick lines. Much as I like "Glee," subtlety is not one of its strong points.
The episode has its merits, among them the addition of singer Charice as new student -- and Rachel foil -- Sunshine Corazon. Chord Overstreet also arrives, as new student Sam Evans although his place in the "Glee" universe has only partly been established by the end of the season premiere. But there are also clunks in this one -- almost a sketch-comedy quality to some scenes, and a big musical number which, for me at least, doesn't work half as well as the show seems to think.
I can excuse some of the narrative problems based on the show wanting to reset the tone -- and then we can move on to better stories in ensuing episodes. But that musical number worries me. Although there have been some missteps, for the most part the show has been very smart about the way it uses music. And this scene isn't.
On to the new shows:
I can't give a full endorsement to Fox comedies "Raising Hope" and "Running Wilde," but I am far more interested in seeing "Hope" a second time than in seeing more of "Wilde." "Hope" comes from Greg Garcia and has the same offbeat, trailer-park-loving sensibility as his "My Name Is Earl." The humor here -- built around the young main character trying to bring up a baby amid his oddball family -- is erratic at best. But it has possibilities, including from Martha Plimpton, who is fully committed to her sometimes harsh, indifferent character. "Wilde" stars Will Arnett, always better served by supporting roles, as a rich guy who tries to change his life to win his dream woman; like "Hope," it has an absurdist tone, but it wasn't funny. In fact, after a bit, it began to give me a headache.
I had a far more positive reaction to "Detroit 1-8-7," ABC's new police drama. It does not, let us be clear, reinvent the form. I can't even say it updates it much; the first-season finale would have fit in perfectly on TV in 1981 (when "Hill Street Blues" premiered), and loses a lot of its dramatic kick because we've seen this kind of thing many times before. The saving grace, then, has to be in the characters and in that respect "Detroit 1-8-7" made me want more. Michael Imperioli -- who has followed his gangland stint on "The Sopranos" with cop roles on "Life on Mars," "Law & Order" and now this -- does very well as a detective with great skills and possibly even greater quirks. I liked him, and so the show.
"Warehouse 13" wraps up its second season tonight on Syfy, and it's a good episode. There are some very funny parts with Pete really cutting loose, and more than a little melancholy. I hope that there will be a third season.
As for "Dancing With the Stars," it will have a results show tonight and, if I had to hazard a guess, I would think either Margaret Cho or The Situation is going home. They, along with David Hasselhoff, had the lowest scores from the judges, although I am already primed for an inconsistent-judges/show-bias rant.
Jennifer Grey was a capable dancer, but she, the show and Carrie Ann certainly pushed the friend-of-Swayze issue hard -- especially considering all the reports that they did get along during their film work. Besides, she was not the best of the night. That has to be Kyle Massey. Bristol Palin also had it easy with the judges, which was not surprising; heavily political performers tend to get gentler treatment, and the show surely sees benefit in keeping Palin around.
I thought Cho was more entertaining than The Situation, the Hasselhoff train wreck or Palin, but I am not sure if she has a "DWTS" constituency. (One thing that may save her: a loyal gay following.) Nor do I know how many "Jersey Shore" followers will sit through "DWTS" just because of the Sitch. We shall see tonight.