Monday, June 06, 2005

The Summer T.V. Season Kicks Into High Gear

Tonight we were blessed with the second season premiere's of "The 4400" and "Entourage," and Lisa Kudrow's new series, "Comeback," made it's debut on HBO. All times listed are central.

THE 4400
(Sundays at 8:00, USA)

It's been a year since "The 4400"'s first season, and the only complaint about it I had was that it only lasted for six episodes. Thankfully, the second season has been bumped up to 14 episodes, and the first two premiered tonight.

The series set-up for you newcomers goes a little something like this. Since the forties, 4400 people have been abducted. It's now the present and every single one of them has been brought back near a lake in Seattle. Everyone is the exact same age they were when they were initially abducted (the oldest of the bunch is a nine year old girl who was abducted over sixty years ago). They each also possess some very unique powers; telepathic, healing, etc.

The first season set-up the FBI's incarceration and investigation of all 4400 survivors. They were finally released back into society when the government felt they had no right to keep them, but an investigative team was set-up to keep track of them and make sure there transition to everyday life has as few problems as possible. They all entered society with a lot of curiosity from the general public; most people were flat out scared. One of the survivors, Jordan Collier (Bill Campbell) feared their fates to a point where he set up his own gated community where any of the 4400 could come and live in private without the outside world causing them any problems.

By the end of the first season we learned that Collier might not be the nice guy that he appeared to be, and he might have some fairly uncoventional plans in mind for the survivors. We also learned that they were not abducted by aliens but actually people from the future who sent them back with various powers and abilities to keep the human race from destroying itself in the years to come.

The first season, while not groundbreaking, took us on an interesting ride. There's nothing too deep here; I like to call it "X-Files" lite. However, it was still a solid show. The only annoying pattern I felt the show might fall into was the equivalent of a "Serial Killer" a week type scenario we've seen on so many cop shows. Each episode basically had two FBI agents (Joel Gretsch and Jaqueline McKenzie) tracking down a survivor who was having some sort of problem and trying to help them out or stop them from hurting other people. However, thrown throughout each episode were also clues and hints leading toward the season finale where we would learn some anwsers to the show's main storyline.

In the first two episodes of the second season, it starts according to the subtitle six months later. Although, a couple of characters keep talking about how it's been a year; maybe I missed something in there, but it takes place sometime in that period. Collier is now opening up new communtities all along the west coast, and the FBI is trying to figure out if he is a friend or foe. A woman who was abducted and returned pregnant is on the run with her new husband (also a survivor) and baby from some crazy redneck preacher and his cronies; they're also on the lam from Collier who thinks there baby is some kind of saving grace for all of the survivors. The FBI are hot on the trail of another survivor who is a mental hospital resident who has some kind of mind control over everyone at the hospital and has them constructing a tower for some secret purpose. The purpose of the tower is revealed, but I won't give it away in case you're able to catch the episodes later this week in reruns. But the answer provides a great set-up to the direction I would assume this season is going.

Simply put, "The 4400" in its first season was a decent show that was more fun to watch than reruns all summer. But if the second season premiere is any indication, the show is quickly becoming quite a bit better. This might not have the pull of other mythology shows like "Lost" and "The X-Files," but how many shows really are that good? "The 4400" is definately worth watching and seeing how it unfolds. If you do want to watch the first season, it did just come out on DVD, and with only six episodes I can't imagine that it's too expensive.


If I were too make a list of my top ten shows from the 2004/2005 season, the first season of "Entourage" would have been second after "24." This was a show I had no desire to watch, but after everyone and their mother praised it, I watched the first season on On-Demand, and dammit if everyone wasn't right.

The show follows the Hollywood career of Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), an up and coming star. The first season followed his first huge sucess and how instead of going into an obvious big budget studio picture he chose to go away for three months and film an indie making next to nothing. Chase is joined by his brother played wonderfully by Kevin Dillon, Matt's brother, who knows what it's like to live in the shadow of a more talented sibling. His two best buds, Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), also help him out in various ways and enjoy living off their friend's fame.

The second season opens with Vince coming back from his indie shoot to find that his heat in Hollywood as definately cooled off. When his agent, a hillarious turn by Jeremy Piven, explains to him how he was offered a role in an Olsen Twins movie he says, "This would be quite amusing if it wasn't for the fact that the producer thinks he has a decent shot at getting you." Vince wants to do a movie based on the life of Pablo Escobar, the studio wants Tom Cruise, but Warner Brothers really wants him to make a movie based on the comic, "Aquaman." So, Vince has to figure out if he can get himself psyched up enough to do "Aquaman," or if he needs to leave the business altogether.

What I really like about this show, as opposed to terrible Hollywood themed shows like HBO's "Unscripted," is that it seems fairly realistic. Casting Kevin Dillon as the brother is something I already mentioned, but casting Grenier points out an interesting reality check in its own right. In 1998, Grenier got his indie cred after making "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole." His next film was a studio picture, 1999's "Drive Me Crazy," one of a dozen or so teenage comedies released that year. It tanked, and now Grenier is finding a lot of success in television. You could almost see how this show turns out; Vince does "Aquaman," it's a huge bomb. And in the third season Vince finds success on a television series.

While the show sounds like it would be full of itself and chock full of Hollywood in-jokes and a lot of nudges and winks, the show is so self aware that it manages to be clever as hell and funny to boot. As much as I like "Deadwood" and "The Sopranos," "Entourage" might very well be, in the end, the best show that HBO has ever made. It's really that good.


Lisa Kudrow is back on television playing former sitcom star, Valerie Cherish. She's being filmed in a new reality show called, "The Comeback," after she gets a role in a new sitcom, "Room and Bored." The new sitcom starts off with her playing a roomate to three much younger girls, and after the producers decide the set-up isn't working, they change Valerie's role to Aunt Sassy and move her in an upstairs apartment from the girls. All the while, Valerie's attempt at getting back into the spotlight is being filmed in real life as she goes through her daily routines.

The show is supposed to show the trials and tribulations of a former T.V. queen dealing with getting older and having to relegate herself to ridiculous roles on much worse sitcoms. James Burrows, playing himself, tells her at one point that she needs to realize she's not the "It" girl anymore and she's lucky as hell to have a job. Valerie, of course, still thinks she's the shit, and her naivete is supposed to be the show's driving force.

Where "Entourage" is clever and funny, "The Comeback" is dull and at times uncomfortable to watch. This is everything that "Entourage" somehow is able to avoid. It's full of the dreaded arrogance and ridiculousness that a plot like this usually has attatched to it. It's insulting that we're actually supposed to feel bad for Kudrow's stupid character. She lives in a freaking mansion. Boo hoo. While, I can understand one wanting to attain her previous highs in life, at least make a character that we care enough about to see go through all of this crap. If you have TIVO or DVR, I would reccomend using that for "Entourage," so you can watch "The 4400." If you don't have that capability just watch one of them on Sunday and watch the other one later in the week; they rerun these shows like three times a week. But avoid, and I mean avoid "The Comeback" at all costs.


THE 4400 - B


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