By Curtis Caesar John | Shadow and Act May 25, 2012 at 2:46PM
Let’s start with a review for the new USA Network series Common Law which stars an actor that the ladies swoon for, Jack McGee. Um, just kidding, unless the ladies have blue hair. I’m talking about Michael Ealy, most recently the co-star of Think Like A Man and best known as Ricky in the Barbershop movies, as well as for his charming looks and rugged (yet oddly often boyish) personality. In Common he plays Travis Marks, a Los Angeles cop (yes, ANOTHER cop show) whose police captain (the aforementioned Jack McGee) forces him into couples therapy with his longtime partner Wes (Warren Kole) that he no longer gets along with to the point that it’s affecting their cases. The two do indeed bicker like an old married couple, quick to expose each other’s insecurities and such. Sorta like The Odd Couple if they were cops, with Ealy being Oscar Madison if Oscar could really get those attractive women he was always seen with. So after two episodes how does the show stand up?
Well, for me it’s mixed. Michael Ealy is okay in it, and actually more relaxed that he usually appears – perhaps because he’s always wanted to headline something and has gotten his wish. He also gets to be shown with a lot of women, so I’m sure that makes his job easier. There are a number of humorous moments to the show and the chemistry between the two leads feels natural. Yet the show runs slow at times, with bits of action thrown in between the plot for the ‘case of the week.’ The therapy sessions with Dr. Emma Ryan (Sonya Walger from LOST – and I so wanted to make a ‘Not Penny’s Boat’ reference) are definitely the best parts of the show, with veteran character actor Gary Grubbs and my girl Indigo (Weeds, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), among others, playing spouses of other couples in therapy.
But then that makes sense. USA is all about characters, not plots or sheer accuracy – and Common is definitely more about the two leads than anything else. When you watch a show on this network, you have to know to expect that even though there are shows like Monk and Suits that excel past that. The Wibberleys, creators of Common and real-life spouses – as well as Hollywood vets who penned National Treasure, I, Spy and more – understand that concept and run with it, and there’s a place for shows or even networks that aren’t trying to be more than it is. Some may see that as lazy, but all entertainment doesn’t have to be multilayered or complex, it can just be what it is. A film like RestlessCity didn’t have as much story as I would have liked, but the feel and look of the film is hypnotic. It’s a similar argument made by commenters on this week’s ‘The Trouble With Scandal’ article by S&A’s own Tanya Steele: a Shonda Rhimes show follows a certain formula and her numerous fans love that. All that said, there is room for improvement with this show but don’t expect Common Law to change the world. It’s not built for that. Last week’s second episode actually had an uptick in the ratings. It usually comes on Fridays at 10pm but no episode shows tonight because of the Memorial Day weekend.
The Game was interesting this week, living up to its double entendre title. Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson) finds after reading one of his text messages that her new boyfriend Pookie (Rockmand Dunbar) has a woman in love with him, one who happens to be living in his house in Richmond, CA. Pookie tries putting his foot down, but is left in a precarious situation and explains that the woman Rasheida was a friend, and while she stayed with him things got intimate between them, but never serious. Well Tasha calls Rasheida out and confronts both her and Pookie demanding that he tell Rasheida that it’s over, which he does, but Tasha regrets the pain the young lady is going through after the let down – after all she’s been there many times. Meanwhile, Melanie (Tia Mowry) comes back home and breaks the news to Derwin (Pooch Hall) that she wants to do research at Johns Hopkins, and brings home former VJ Free (from BET) to help soften the news. Now if she brought home Free for something else, maybe it would’ve actually made him feel better. Nonetheless, Derwin calls his agent Irv to tell him that he’s unhappy in San Diego and they want to explore taking his career to Washington. Irv instead comes back with an offer from the Sabres for $50,000,000 – yes, all those zeroes are correct. Not able to pass up that solid amount of moolah, Derwin brings in Screech from Melanie’s favorite show Saved By The Bell to break the news to her that he’s staying in San Diego. That doesn’t quite work out well – and Melanie prefers Mr. Belding to Screech anyway since the latter used to be trying to get with Lark Vorhees, the sister on that show.
Let’s Stay Together isn’t getting much better, with this week’s episode being highly disjointed and ending rather oddly. Honestly, it’s not worth even getting into, but the best aspect to it this week was having Kali Hawk as a guest star.
The long running medical mystery of the week show House M.D. ended this past Monday with co-star Omar Epps having a significant part in the finale, though naturally it was all about the titular character Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) and how he’s dealing with having to go back to jail and not being able to see his best friend, Dr. Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) die from untreatable cancer. No spoilers on this one folks, if you’re a fan you should see for yourself how things play out. I dug it, and it was definitely time for House to end. As I mentioned last week, it’ll be good to see Epps get more into his producing work and putting out different types of films with Black talent as he did last year with You, Me and The Circus.
Moving onto next Fall’s group of shows, starting this week with the ABC network, I’ll highlight shows with Black talent that are worth investing your precious TV watching into. Seems like during the next year most of ABC’s shows will have a Best Black Friend or Old Wise Black Man character on shows like How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest of Your Life (sheesh!), Malibu Country, The Family Tools,and Nashville. Oh joy. Among those, Family Tools looks like it can be funny and it co-stars Edi Gathegi, who was a recurring character on House for one season and co-starred in X-Men: First Class, though not for long; Danielle Nicolet from the horrible Nicole Ari Parker/Boris Kodjoe 2004 sticom Second Time Around also co-stars as his sister. I'm a fan of series star Kyle Bornheimer too - his short-lived CBS sitcom Worst Week was hilarious.
One exception to the BBF/OWBM slate of shows is Last Resort with actor supreme Andre Braugher. I’m somewhat biased since I’m the number one Andre Braugher fan on the planet. I often stayed home on Friday nights to watch Homicide (did I just say that out loud?). Regardless, this trailer is exciting with Braugher as the commander of the Navy’s most powerful nuclear sub who is given orders to nuke Pakistan. When he refuses, his sub is fired upon and left for dead. They ship somehow survives and they take over a small island (inhabited by mostly Black folks – why Andre, why?!?) and declare it their new home and a no man’s land to the US – with enough firepower to back up his claims. Exciting…but how long can they ride out this concept? Hopefully for an entire season at the least. Since Men of a Certain Age is no longer on, I’m glad Braugher is in this.
Then there’s 666 Park Avenue, a thriller show co-starring ABC’s resident queen of mean, the otherwise lovely Vanessa L. Williams. Fresh off of her role in Desperate Housewives, and prior to that Ugly Betty, she plays the wife of ominous building’s owner Gavin Doran (Terry O'Quinn). At 666, anything you desire can be yours, all your needs, desires and ambition will be met, but every Faustian contract comes with a price. Ooohhh. I don’t know about this one, but I was wrong about LOST until after the pilot aired so I say it’s at least worth checking out, though you may be turned off by Rachel Taylor, late of the botched Charlie’s Angels television remake.
The Neighbors is an odd comedy that ABC seems to specialize in lately. It does however co-star an actress I’ve seen around before, but never by name: Toks Olagundoye, a Nigerian actress that’s guest-starred in a number of television shows and co-stars in Jeffrey W. Byrd’s upcoming film A Beautiful Soul alongside Harry Lennix, Golden Brooks, and The Game’s Barry Floyd (you may have seen the trailer during AFFRM’s Restless City screenings) . Here’s the synopsis of The Neighbors: Meet the Weavers, Debbie (Jami Gertz) and Marty (Lenny Venito). Marty, in hopes of providing a better life for his wife and three kids, recently bought a home in Hidden Hills, a gated New Jersey townhome community with its own golf course. Hidden Hills is so exclusive that a house hasn't come on the market in 10 years. But one finally did and the Weavers got it! It's clear from day one that the residents of Hidden Hills are a little different. For starters, their new neighbors all have pro-athlete names like Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Olagundoye), Dick Butkis (Ian Patrick) and Larry Bird (Simon Templeman). Over dinner, Marty and his family discover that their neighbors receive nourishment through their eyes by reading books, rather than eating. The Weavers soon learn that the entire community is comprised of aliens from Zabvron, where the men bear children and everyone cries green goo from their ears. See, that’s some odd stuff.
Either next Spring or Summer we’ll see Mistresses which brings Alyssa Milano is back on network TV, this time as a working woman, an attorney working hard to make partner at her firm and get pregnant for her husband. But it looks like she won’t be able to keep her libido in check as she’s fantasizing about fellow attorney Jason George, who some here speculated would become a regular on Grey’s Anatomy but it more looks like will be a regular on this show. Rochelle Aytes, a favorite of ABC (perhaps she has a deal with them) co-stars as best friend, April, a recent widow and mother of two who is rebuilding her life after the death of her husband and learning to move forward, with the support and guidance of her closest girlfriends that include Yunjin Kim (Sun from LOST). What’s the skinny on this aside from the dresses? Eh, looks like ABC is concentrating on even more soapy dramas. People may tune in for Alyssa Milano, heck I would, but it seems pretty trashy – but then so did the recently ended Desperate Housewives and that was a huge success.
So that wraps up things for this week. Next week I’ll highlight which summer shows you should be watching, including animated series and continue my focus on the Fall tv lineup. Have a great Memorial Day!