CBS: What’s New for Fall 2010

MONDAY

Mike & Molly (Mon., Sept. 20 @ 9:30 PM, CBS)

* The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC), “The Event” (NBC), “Lonestar” (Fox), “Gossip Girl” (The CW)

Starring: Billy Gardell, Melissa McCarthy, Reno Wilson, Katy Mixon, Nyambi Nyambi, Swoosie Kurtz

Producers: Chuck Lorre and Mark Roberts (“Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory”)

Network’s Description: a comedy about a working class Chicago couple who find love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Officer Mike Biggs is a good-hearted cop who sincerely wants to lose weight. Mike’s partner, Officer Carl McMillan, is a thin, fast-talking wise-guy who, despite his teasing, encourages Mike on his road to slimness and romance. While speaking at an O.A. meeting, Mike meets Molly Flynn, an instantly likeable fourth-grade teacher with a good sense of humor about her curves. For Molly, focusing on smart choices isn’t easy while living with her sexy older sister, Victoria, and their mother, Joyce, both of whom flaunt their effortless figures while indulging their healthy appetites right in front of her. Mike also faces temptation at the diner he and Carl frequent, where they’ve become friends with a Senegalese waiter, Samuel, to whom dieting is a foreign concept. Mike and Molly found each other in the most unexpected of places. Now, they’re about to find out where their quest for companionship will take them.

The Buzz: Even the people who hate the show’s abundance of fat jokes…I’m one of them, and I’m pretty sure I’d still be one of them even if I wasn’t overweight…aren’t arguing with the odds of a Chuck Lorre show becoming a success, especially not on the night of the week that’s spawned his biggest hits.

Pilot Highlight: when Mike speaks to Molly’s class and reveals the origins of his career in law enforcement…or, really, anytime Mike and Molly are together. They’re a ridiculously cute couple.

Bottom Line: If the writers don’t put the show on a low-fat-jokes diet immediately – there are, no weight pun intended, a ton of them – in favor of embracing the great chemistry between Gardell and McCarthy, viewers’ romance with the show will be short-lived, but Lorre’s track record is such that we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll get “Mike & Molly” into shape sooner than later.

Hawaii Five-0 (Mon., Sept. 20 @ 10:00 PM, CBS)

* The competition: “Castle” (ABC), “Chase” (NBC)

Starring: Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Karyn Manning

Producers: Peter Lenkov (“24,” “CSI: NY”), Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (“Alias,” “Fringe”)

Network’s Description: a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated Naval officer-turned-cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s Governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full blanket authority to hunt down the biggest “game” in town. Joining McGarrett is Detective Danny “Danno” Williams, a newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop – a working man in paradise who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline – but who’s committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter; and Chin Ho Kelly, an ex-Honolulu Police Detective, and former protégé of McGarrett’s father, wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol. Chin’s cousin, Kono, is a beautiful and fearless native, fresh out of the academy and eager to establish herself among the department’s elite. McGarrett, repairing his relationship with his estranged sister Mary Ann, vows to bring closure to their father’s case, while the state’s brash new FIVE-0 unit, who may spar and jest among themselves, is determined to eliminate the seedy elements from the 50th state.

The Buzz: If it’s not the strongest of the season, it’s pretty close. CBS is waging a seriously impressive tightrope-walk of an ad campaign, playing up as many of the familiar elements as possible – you’d better believe the theme song remains the same – while also underlining that this is a modernized reboot rather than a continuation of the old show. And how about that cast, huh? Well, I suppose you’ve got to have pretty people to fit in with the gorgeous landscape…

Pilot Highlight: The opening sequence sets up the series – and McGarrett’s tortured past – in seriously kick-ass fashion, confirming that this is not your (grand)parent’s “Hawaii Five-0,” but the more sentimental viewers will giggle with glee when McGarrett finally gets to deliver his signature line, “Book him, Danno.”

Bottom Line: The combination of a familiar title, a solid ensemble, the beautiful backdrop, and O’Laughlin crossing his fingers and putting his faith in the power of the “third time’s the charm” rule should make this into a hit.

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Greetings to the New Show: “Eastbound and Down”

I’ve never actually seen “The Foot Fist Way,” the motion picture which really served to bring Danny McBride to prominence (he wrote and starred in the film), but when a review written by someone whose opinion you trust opens with the lines, “The first 30 minutes of ‘The Foot Fist Way’ are as intolerable as anything released in the last ten years,” it’s the kind of sentiment that keeps a movie from working its way up the hierarchy of your Netflix queue. I have, however, seen and loved “Tropic Thunder,” and I’ve heard a lot of good things about “Pineapple Express,” so I do still have a certain degree of respect for Mr. McBride. Therefore, when I heard that he was going to be starring in a new series for HBO that would be executive-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the duo who have brought us “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” and “Stepbrothers,” there was every reason to believe that the combination would prove to be a successful one.

“Eastbound and Down” certainly starts promisingly, with a flashback laying out the career of Kenny Powers, a major-league baseball player who has seen the highest heights one can reach in the sport, including cover stories for every magazine from Highlights to Cat Fancy to American Woodworker. “Everyone wanted a piece of my shit,” says Powers, in a voiceover, describing himself as a man with “an arm like a fucking cannon.” Unfortunately, as with so many athletes who get a taste of glory and then dive headlong into the trough, Powers’ ego expands to a size far larger than his home state of North Carolina. He begins to blame his failures on his team, so he leaves Atlanta, becomes a free agent, and starts a career freefall which seems him moving from New York (“You mean Jew York?”), Baltimore and San Francisco (“I gotta tell ya, I thought the blacks in Baltimore were bad, but it turns out they’re nothing compared to these fags they got in San Francisco”), Boston, and Seattle.

Seattle, however, proved too much for the man, and after proving directly responsible for the team’s devastating loss against Los Angeles, things fade to black for Powers, and after a caption which reads, “Several shitty years later,” he find that he’s now out of baseball and has carried his remaining belongings back home to the state known as North Kakalaki to work as a middle-school substitute teacher…and it’s at this point that feelings about “Eastbound and Down” will begin to vary wildly.

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