[08/09/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Pros & Cons" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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As of this writing, 49 new scripted series will debut during the 2005-06 season on the six major broadcast networks. Those 49 projects were culled from the 120 or so pilots shot during the past development season. So what happens to those 70 or so pilots that didn't get picked up? Most likely nothing at all. A few like NBC's "noTORIous" and FOX's "Windfall" found homes elsewhere (VH1 and NBC respectively) while others may get a midseason order later this year. The overwhelming majority however will simply collect dust on their respective studio's shelves.

So are there any hidden gems that are being stored away? We've been lucky enough to get our hands on a couple of the pilots that didn't make the cut and will review one each day until our stock runs out (which unfortunately will be sooner rather than later).

As always there's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:

(one-hour drama)

The network's description: "They say there's a sucker born every minute ...At 36, charming Jack Fallon is the best in the game. He sees the angles between the angles, spins a story better than anyone, and there isn't a trick in the book that he hasn't played and gotten away with. That is, until six months ago...when someone finally dropped the dime on him and he landed in the pen. Now he's back on the streets, assembling another team of expert scam-artists, including an all-too-eager nephew and a feisty ex-girlfriend who longs to go straight. The major difference between six months ago and today? This go-around Jack and his team are working with the FBI to expose fraud from the inside out. And they've got a babysitter in the form of federal agent Chris Van Horn, who refuses to believe that Jack has actually seen the light and is now on the up and up. From the creator of Lost and Alias comes a fun, fast-paced Ocean's Eleven-like romp through the colorful world of the big con."

What's its current status: Natasha Henstridge has already moved on to a recurring role on fellow ABC newcomer "Commander-In-Chief."

The plot in a nutshell: After his latest stint in the pokey, Jack Fallon (Paul Blackthorne) really wants to go straight. But dammit, conning people is just too easy. Case in point: his latest mark, a financial planner who's in the market for counterfeit money. And so, he assembles his old team, which includes the owlish Murph (Eric Bogosian) and the charming Eddie (Dorian Missick). The fourth, his ex Charlie (Natasha Henstridge), however wants nothing to do with Jack, having since moved on to the non-criminal life and a non-criminal boyfriend. Also thrown into the mix is Jack's nephew Cooper (Ryan Donowho), who's all too willing to follow in his uncle's footsteps. The plan: have Eddie pose as a recent lotto winner looking to invest in the mark's company, have him get caught paying with fake (albeit real looking to most people) money and entice said mark to meet with Jack and Murph, posing as counterfeiters. The idea: get the mark to pay real money for their fakes. The problem: he doesn't buy Eddie's story for one second, that is until a surprise visit by Charlie (posing as Eddie's high-strung wife), who decides to play along to keep Jack out of jail. Also not helping matters is Special Agent Chris Van Horn (a doughier than usual Billy Baldwin), your typical "I'm just waiting for you to slip" F.B.I. agent that frequently pops in on Jack. From here, it all plays out as you'd expect, complete with all the close saves and coincidences you've come to expect in heist movies and TV shows. The twist that's revealed at the end (or in the PR above) however is that Jack isn't off the wagon, he's actually working for the F.B.I. as part of Van Horn's "Mod Squad"-esque unit, using his criminal knowledge and instincts to bring down con men like himself (not to mention commute his sentence). Now in on his secret, Charlie confesses her own: she was the one who dropped the dime on him six months ago.

What works: Paul Blackthorne is a genuine surprise here. Probably best known as "24's" season three baddie Stephen Saunders, he most definitely works better on the side of the angels. Operating with a half-smirk at all times, Blackthorne's Jack Fallon is always the smartest man in the room, but he's also constantly in way over his head and has trouble keeping all his plates spinning. This is especially clear in his guilt-ridden relationship with Cooper, whom he's inadvertently dragged into the criminal world. He also has great chemistry with Henstridge as they have a great back-and-forth in their relationship (there's a great scene in which he breaks into her house and calls her, asking pointed questions about what he finds). The rest of the cast is also a lot of fun, with each well defined and having their own unique quirks. If anything, overall "Pros & Cons" reminds me of the sadly short-lived John Stamos series "Thieves" (also on ABC) from a few years back.

What doesn't: Unfortunately because you already know "the twist" going into the show, all the drama surrounding it evaporates rather quickly. You know Jack isn't back to his old ways despite all of the plot's efforts to make you think he has. That's not the fault of the producers, it's just a fact of life in today's fishbowled TV world. Nevertheless, they do a great job selling the lie as a few times I wondered if I just heard the premise wrong.

Should you be sad it wasn't picked up: Yes and no. Yes in that considering some of ABC's other drama pickups ("Commander-In-Chief," "In Justice" and "The Evidence" we're looking at you), one wonders why it was passed on. No in that "Pros & Cons" isn't anything earth-shatteringly new. It's just a fun and catchy show, something that now that I think about it - more of TV should be nowadays.

  [august 2005]  


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