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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.
There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:
(Sundays at 10:00/9:00c at midseason)
The network's description: "Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Graham Yost ("Band of Brothers," "Boomtown"), acclaimed director-writer-producer Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption," "Green Mile") and star Jeff Goldblum ("The Lost World: Jurassic Park") combine creative forces in this inventive police drama, which blends traditional noir storytelling with humor and intrigue. Eccentric LAPD detective Michael Raines' unique ability to have detailed conversations with deceased crime victims allows him to re-trace their lives leading up to their murder and helps him to solve their cases. Unfortunately, it also causes increasing friction with his boss, Captain Daniel Lewis (Matt Craven, "From the Earth to the Moon"), fellow officers Remy Boyer (Dov Davidoff, "Third Watch") and Sally Lance (Linda Park, "Star Trek: Enterprise"), as well as civilian employee Carolyn (Nicole Sullivan, "MADtv"). Aided by Charlie (Luis Guzman, "Boogie Nights"), his ex-LAPD partner and conscience, Raines struggles to accept his peculiar gift -- or burden -- as it often forces him at times to confront his own past and internal demons."
What did they leave out: Considering the pedigree of Graham Yost ("Boomtown") and Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption"), the end result is a big disappointment.
The plot in a nutshell: Noirish narration by L.A. detective Michael Raines (Jeff Goldblum) tells us that crimes aren't like they are in Raymond Chandler books. Case in point: a pretty girl named Sandy Boudreau ("Reunion's" Alexa Davalos) has been shot to death in a parking lot off the 101 (like "Boomtown," "Raines" makes fine use of L.A.). Initially thought to be a college student trying to get by working a catering job, Raines discovers she was far from innocent. Her catering job turns out to be a front for a high priced call girl ring with the usual sinister elements. Oh, and helping him discover all this - Sandy herself, who appears to Raines as a figment of his imagination. And by "her," I mean Raines's interpretation of her. At first she appears as more or less a blank slate, only able to offer cryptic statements about herself. But as Raines's investigation deepens, so does his picture of her - after learning she's a hooker, she appears more sultry; after listening to her CD collection, she appears more happy; after learning she was saving money for her mom to leave her abusive dad, she's the hooker with a heart of gold. Intermixed between all this we learn more about Raines himself, more specifically that he and his partner Charlie (Luis Guzman) were both shot - leaving Charlie disabled - during a recent showdown with a drug dealer. Since then Raines has been slightly "off," as his boss - Capt. Lewis (Matt Craven) - questions his actions while his co-workers (Nicole Sullivan, Dov Davidoff and Linda Park, all of whom unfortunately aren't given much to do) walk on eggshells around him and talk behind his back. Inevitably though, the pilot follows your typical procedural routes with sure things leading to dead ends and innocuous details leading to the big breaks. And once the case is solved, Sandy (and future "visitors") will disappear from his subconscious.
What works: The idea that Raines's image of Sandy changes the more he knows about her is actually pretty interesting and unique. After all, we certainly picture people we've never "met" in certain ways with the gaps being filled in over time the more we learn about them. It's a refreshing aspect that makes the show's more ho-hum aspects - this is after all a by-the-numbers procedural at its core - almost bearable. As for Goldblum (who's unfortunately playing the same "Jeff Goldblum" role he always does), considering that he's in nearly ever scene, your enjoyment of the show will undoubtedly hang on whether you dig him or not.
What doesn't: First and foremost, the noirish aspects of the show are decidedly hokey. While we're told that Raines is a lifelong noir fan - hence things appearing to him vaguely noirish - in execution it's very anachronistic. And when held up against Yost's previous creation, one can't help but be underwhelmed. "Boomtown" played with the concept of the procedural to give us unique windows into not only the cases but the characters themselves. "Raines" just feels like your average procedural injected with goofy noirish undertones. A "twist" ending aims to add a new angle to the show, however if you've seen "The Sixth Sense" (or any of its kind) you can see it coming from miles away. Like I said, considering Yost and Darabont's pedigree, the end result is a big disappointment.
The challenges ahead: Can "Raines" hold up the anchor spot on NBC's Sunday lineup once football ends?