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TV Notebook

By admin Published: September 22, 2011

The DVRs are set tonight for "Big Bang Theory," "Grey's Anatomy," "The Mentalist," "The Office," "Community" and some other stuff I cannot remember without an onscreen guide to sort through. (Is "Whitney" on tonight? No matter. I couldn't even get through the pilot.) No "Parks and Rec" recording because NBC sent out a disc of that one (and it's funny). No watching "Charlie's Angels" because I have, and there's no need to view it again. Or ever. I have also seen the premiere of "Prime Suspect," which I like, and which I wrote about it at greater length in a Sunday column; I have posted that review at the end of this post.

I have been slowly cleaning previous telecasts from the DVR, or watching things in real time, including "X Factor" and the season premieres of "Glee," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Modern Family." More about those shows after the jump.

After one "X Factor," I am already feeling worn down by the idea of watching a second. The two-hour premiere was overstuffed with things other than performances, including the attempt to establish a rivalry between Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid, and lots of offstage chatter by contestants. Not only that, one of the worst things about "American Idol" is the way the judges cannot always hear clearly in the performance hall. But where "Idol" at least puts auditioners in a situation where they can be heard (and mostly a cappella at that), "X Factor" parades them in front of a noisy crowd of 4,000 people, thus ensuring the judges can't even hear the auditions all that well. As some of their comments indicated.

Beyond that, we are already getting Crazy Paula. Throwing up after she sees a guy's uncovered junk bounce? Really? Hasn't she been married -- twice? So, where there were some possibly decent singers on the show, "X Factor" is overproduced and unconvincing as a show.

"Glee" disappointed me yet again. The Rachel Overkill is unbearable, for starters, as she is given dominant positions in song after song while other performers barely get a glimpse. And the show is ever more defying even its own internal logic. If the singers fail with an energetic performance of a Go-Gos song, what would make any of them think that a performance of a Tom Jones chestnut would be any more successful? Did no one remember their resounding flop last season with an outdoor performance on the stairs? Why would Blaine's parents go along with his cuckoo idea of changing schools? And did Will seriously think that a little glitter was a good comeuppance to Sue? Bleh, and more bleh. The only thing keeping me watching right now is Heather Morris, who is a musical-performance god.

Mixed notices in my house for Ted Danson's arrival on "CSI." It did not help that he was introduced with an insanely complicated, multi-corpse case. But I was intrigued by the way Danson and the show are using the audience's assumption about his comic side to twist things around -- particularly in the scene where he used his seeming goofiness to firmly establish his authority over Catherine. And the show is even more interesting in the way it is not so much addressing Danson's arrival as dealing with Langston's departure, which has proven surprisingly messy for everyone else. Good stuff there. But let's have better cases.

"Modern Family's" season premiere made me laugh. A lot. Good use of all the characters, as individuals and interacting with others. I especially liked Mitchell and Cameron's adoption issues, Phil getting some one-ups on Claire (and Jay), and the ongoing evolution of the Jay-Manny relationship. Plus the show is so very good at not pushing into very-special-episode territory; after Phil told Jay off, there was no regretful apology from Jay, but Jay's bringing up what was really on his mind. Such a fine show.

Since I did not see it on, here's the text of my "Prime Suspect" review:

Off and on over about 15 years beginning in the early ‘90s, Helen Mirren dazzled British and American audiences by playing Jane Tennison, a detective rising through the ranks of Britain's police in spite of the drawbacks attached to her being a woman in a male-dominated world.

It was an often melancholy show, made more so by Mirren's performance, but in its characters and cases the program remained powerfully watchable — one of the great police series.

Now NBC thinks American audiences will be drawn to a similar dramatic structure — or maybe recognize the brand name — in a new Prime Suspect, which the network premieres at 10 p.m. Thursday. This time around, the detective is called Jane Timoney, of the New York police. Playing her is Maria Bello, a splendid actress whose career has involved a lot of art films (I especially like her in The Cooler, with William H. Macy) and forays into TV, including a stint on an old 10 p.m. Thursday show, ER.

The team behind the series — which includes Friday Night Lights' Peter Berg — pays homage to the British series both in the way Timoney has to battle a close-knit, male squad whose sexism is unabashed, and in plot flourishes. (A big dramatic moment in the premiere is right out of the Mirren Prime Suspect). And Timoney, like Tennison, can be awkward in her dealings with other people, whether they are suspects or co-workers.

But Bello's rendition has a brashness that Mirren's did not, and a more obviously humorous side. Timoney is also, at least based on the pilot, a consistently weird dresser, at times demonstrating confidence in her eccentricities, but other times just underlining her greater social clumsiness.

Yet again like Tennison, Timoney is very good at her job. Better, in fact, than the men she works with. Her ambition is driven by her awareness of how good she is, even as the ambition and the ability make some men resent her all the more. You can see her utter lack of finesse in the way she gets a big case in the premiere, but you may also understand why she is so bold and blunt.

In short, I like Timoney, and Bello's performance. I am less sure of the show as a whole, mainly because the story and the male attitudes seem part of an earlier time. That's even more noticeable in a TV universe laden with women detectives.

But there's enough here to make me watch more than once: not only Timoney and Bello but the people around them, played by fine actors such as Aidan Quinn, Kenny Johnson, Peter Gerety and Brian F. O'Byrne.

Caption: Prime Suspect cast includes from left, Aidan Quinn as Lt. Kevin Sweeney, Damon Gupton as Det. Evrard Velerio, Tim Griffin as Det. Augie Blando, Maria Bello as Det. Jane Timoney, Kirk Acevedo as Det. Luisito Calderon and Brian F. O'Byrne as Det. Reg Duffy. The show premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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