Sunday, February 19, 2006

TV Review: Close To Home (and floating in the toilet)

CBS Friday nights, Close To Home is more of the same crap from the ass of Jerry Bruckheimer. What some have the common sense to flush, Bruckheimer tosses on the (small) screen. It's another of his, "The big, bad world is out to get you!"

The "modern" angle here isn't sex and violence with the sinners being "punished." That he breaks from his standard "concept" may be seen as "original." If so it's the only thing about this show that will be.

Let's do set up.

Jennifer Finnigan plays Annabeth. Annabeth is alien from another plant who lands on earth and finds her only marketable skill is to present judgemental looks. Not being able to land a job right away on the bench and being unsuited for the tele-evanglist profession, she does the next best thing and becomes a lawyer.

No, Annabeth's not from outerspace, Finnigan's acting just makes it seem that way. Finnigan's either a nervous kind of actress (we'd be nervous too after the flop that was Cursed) or she's just really eager. She's the Girl Scout screaming, "Give me more! I can sell them! Give me more!" at the den mother. She is not, however, convincing as a prosecutor.

Neither is Kimberly Elise as Annabeth's boss Maureen. Elise and Bruckheimer obviously see Maureen as the descendent to Nicole Kidman's career gal role in Days of Thunder. That certainly explains the ringlet hair. It also explains why Maureen wears not a lipstick but apparently some sort of cake frosting on her lips. Heavy on the makeup and light on the talent, Elise poses for the camera. It's like watching a video . . . of a photo shoot. She has a jerky kind of movement and can't sit still even when, in fact, sitting. She's always pushing her head around at odd angles until finding the rest spot. Mad TV should take a pass on the parody, there's no way they could send the show up better than it sends itself up.

But two women and leads! Surely that must have something to offer. In case you're not familiar with Elise's work, she's also African-American. With so little for women to do onscreen (check out The Unit when it debuts -- on second thought, don't) and so few people of color, we were hoping against hope that this show wouldn't bear all the hallmarks of a Bruckhiemer series but we hoped in vain.

Elise shimmies her hair wonderfully . . . in the court room, while seated at the prosecution's table. In her worst moment (a crowded field, granted) Elise's Maureen says of a dead child, "Oh, he must have been horrorified, locked in the dark. Do you think they'll ever pass mandatory release levers for the back of the trunk?"

Believe it or not there is a connection between the two sentences. You can't tell it by Elise's delivery which comes off as though she's playing a random association game. We also questioned whether Elise got the line correctly? "Do you think they'll ever pass mandatory release levers . . .?"

Ah yes, Mandatory Release Levers. We used to tell Mandatory, "Man, you got to study or they are going to keep your ass in the sixth grade for-ev-er." But did Mandatory listen? No.

We believe she means to say "Do you think they'll ever pass manadtory release lever laws . . ." or something similar. But why put the time into memorizing lousy dialogue. For example, this passes for banter:

Man: I'll hunt down a realtor.
Annabeth: See if you can hunt me down a motive while you're at it.

Are your sides aching yet? (Our's weren't either.) Finnigan's really awful in this part. Everyone seems to grasp that. She can't act at regular speed and she can't act in slow-mo. That's probably why, when the body of a dead child is found, Finnigan's grasping her mouth, jerking her head back and when it's time to deliver her line ("Oh . . . he's dead."), the camera's focused on her shoulder.

Acting's not a requirement on Bruckheimer shows. The "feel good" about yourself and sneer at everyone else attitude is. Finnigan has that down with her pursed lips and her fondness for staring down her nose at characters on the show.

But what's the message Bruckheimer's sending us? A child is murdered. Kidnapped and then murdered. By who? Oh please, this is about as suspenseful as an episode of Hart to Hart.
It's the only other guest actor, of course. She plays the neighbor who is divorced so, of course, she's bonkers. Being childless, of course she looks around and decides what she wants most is her neighbor's child. (Empty womb syndrome?) She's a mess. She's popping every pill you can imagine, she tries to seduce her best friend's husband . . . She's so obessed with the lives her friends have, she starts pretending that Bailey is her son. She takes around his photo and writes a letter about her "son."

The crazed divorcee. Does it all seem so very 50s? (To us, too.) She's friends with the couple for years, the couple she snatches the baby from. We're not remembering that as the profile of a kidnapper but this is Bruckheimer land where the single women get slammed or neutered. Which means her friend, the married mother, has lighter hair and gets to be so "kind" that in the midst of the search for her missing son, she can stop and check in with Annabeth about whether she has children, and how old is her child and, do you know, that you never tell your child what you really mean to? Her missing child is five-years-old so we'll assume that she's referring to "I love you" and not regretting failing to explain to him the new tax code or something really helpful like: "Your daddy's a stoner!" Which, by the way, he is.

Recovering alcoholic who "slips" with pot. Since this isn't a cop show, they can't use the "Book 'em, Dano" phrase. Apparently "Nail 'em, Annabeth" was their second choice?

By the way, the crimes she prosecutes? All in her own suburban neighborhood. We sort of picture Sally down the street crying out, "Oh crap, it's Annabeth! Hide everything! You know how she's always going after the neighbors!"

Sometimes she goes home. Where bed talk includes the heart warming term of "selfish." That's spoken by her husband, modeled by Christian Kane. Because she wants the baby to sleep in their bed that night. (They have a six month old.) See Annabeth's one of those women torn by . . . having it all. She's got her glamor job (though she leaves the high glamor to Elise) that allows her to overdress for the office. (Seriously is Nolan Miller doing the women's work attire on this show?) She also has her 'understanding' husband. Kane has one scene this episode, in bed, but he's not shirtless. Give it time. We're willing to bet he'll start doffing the shirts and showing off his pecs the way Mary Tyler Moore showed off her legs as Sam on Richard Diamond.

We'll give the show credit for casting a good looking male as the husband. Kane's no standard issue TV dad in the looks department. He's not really an actor either unless someone mistakes making cute with David Boreanaz in front of the camera on Angel as acting. Kane's from Texas, by the way. Water cooler critics, there is a trend story here on all the Texans in prime time, seriously. Call it "The W Factor" and we're sure it will write itself (or read that way).

The show's perfect for dusting to. You don't have to watch the screen. Anything that happens is narrated. No, they don't have a narrator per se, but nothing happens without the characters noting it in a "Can you believe I just walked across the room? I did, you know. I walked across the room" kind of way. Besides verbalizing the details of everything that happens in every scene, the dialogue's not just bad but flat. It has a ripped from something look. We're not sure it's the paper, but it's ripped from something.

Bruckheimer's hit rock botton. Having exhausted every possibility in crime scene investigations, he obviously woke up one day deciding to be the next David E. Kelley. An ambitious goal and the lack of talent doesn't stop Bruckheimer from dreaming. Years ago, Mrs. Bruckheimer may have had to fuss and squeal with delight, "Did little Jerry make pooh-pooh? What a big boy! What a big boy!"; however, you don't have to. Flush his latest "creation" down, flush it down.
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