A cop in Newfoundland pulls over a pickup truck speeding on the highway. He says to the driver, “Got any ID?”
The driver asks, “‘Bout what?”
NBC has a new show called Manifest i.e., a small play on words for both a passenger manifest on a plane and a supernatural phenomenon manifesting itself in the real world. In the opening episode, you have a plane from Montego Bay to JFK that takes off normally, hits some pretty rough turbulence in the air, recovers, and tries to land at JFK. But the air traffic controllers re-route it to a small airport outside the city instead. Why? Because the plane has been missing for over five years, with everyone assumed to be missing and presumed dead.
It is a pretty great premise, not the least of which is that unlike Lost being out in the deserted wilderness, everyone is back to their regular lives in NYC. Except their old lives don’t exist anymore for some. For others, it’ll be a bit, well, different.
I also love the main character. A police officer dealing with guilt from the death of someone in a car crash (she was driving, the other person died), had a boyfriend / near fiancé when she left for the trip, and five years later, he’s married to her old best friend. Melissa Roxburgh plays Michaela, and I have seen Roxburgh over the years in a few guest star roles (Arrow, The Tomorrow People, DC Legends of Tomorrow, Travelers) and last year’s Valor. I knew she looked familiar, but had trouble placing her. But what I love about her character i.e., police officer, is that the writers have a natural hook for her to investigate, well, things. And while a lot of shows struggle in pilots for actors to find their character, she inhabits the role perfectly.
Equally, her brother, Ben, is played by Josh Dallas just coming off of 7 years as Prince Charming on Once Upon A Time. He can rock the odd side of scripts and just go with it, and he seems to have no trouble adjusting to his new character. Not even when Michaela and him start hearing their own voice in their head telling them to go to a specific building in NYC and “set them free”. They think the voice means the dogs guarding the building site; spoiler alert, it means set two little girls free who were abducted and are being kept in the building. Michaela frees them, they realize these voices are not simple hallucinations, and this sh** is starting to get real.
There are other stories going on too, mostly to do with Ben and Michaela’s extended family. Ben’s son has leukemia, and was given just six months to live before the flight. Now, there’s a new protocol available to treat it that looks pretty promising, and it is based on research from a doctor that was on the flight too. Ben’s daughter is now five years older, Ben’s wife has some sort of secret person texting her (I’m betting it’s a woman lover, not a man), and the son is connected to all of it.
And then at the end of the episode, they realize they’re not the only two people on the plane who were affected.
When I read the description, I thought it sounded too much like Lost, not to mention too many links to shows like The Returned. Lost went long, others usually don’t. It is so hard to get enough weird to hook people and keep them coming back but not so much weird that they can’t suspend their disbelief or they give up completely. So I predicted CANCELLED, sight unseen.
Now that I have watched the pilot, I’m going to upgrade it to RENEWED, primarily based on Michaela and Ben’s characters. It’s a nice hook. I’m not entirely convinced it will catch fire, but I’m watching whether it does or not.
CBS has their new show called God Friended Me, and if you think it is like Facebook giving you past memories in your feed, you might not be that far off. Joan of Arcadia tried it with Amber Tamblyn back in 2003 and she kicked ass for a whopping two seasons. And then got cancelled.
Last year, they tried to up the comedy with Jason Ritter (yep, John Ritter’s son and oddly enough, also an alumni of Joan of Arcadia where he played the brother) in Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. It was a bit more Touched By An Angel than the hinted worlds of Arcadia, but it wasn’t enough to find an audience.
So CBS is trying with God Friended Me, where a podcaster who talks about science and that God doesn’t exist, gets a friend request on FB from, you guessed it, an account named God. He ignores it, of course. No need to be punked. Then it shows up again. And again. And then he sees a burning bush. And he ignores it again. Then finally he says Confirm just to see what’s going on and God immediately sends him a friend suggestion. Of a guy who he literally bumps into 3 seconds later who is having a bad day, and podcaster boy ends up *spoiler alert* saving the guy’s life from jumping in front of a subway. Wow, mind blown, right?
Nope, he thinks he’s being punked. Next name suggested is a woman named Cara Bloom, he tracks her down, finds out she’s a reporter for an online magazine, and finally confronts her to see what the deal is with the fake account. Except she knows nothing about his deal, nor does she want to…he’s acting a bit crazy.
Eventually, they get interacting, work together, find out there’s some weird family connection from 15 years before (his mom had her mom as a nurse) and bob’s your uncle, they work together to help her meet her long-absent mother. When it doesn’t go well, Cara runs away, gets hit by a car, and mind blown, she’s saved by the guy that the podcaster saved from the subway. Say what?
Yep, it sounds like a really weird loop. And yet, somehow, some way, it works. I fully predicted CANCELLATION, and I’m going to go with that anyway. I just don’t know if there’s a market for the show’s premise. Which is a shame. Because whether it was “fate” in Early Edition, or Seven Days using time travel to fix things, or God handing out tips in Arcadia or to Kevin, it creates a nice “help someone each week” storyline. A bit lighter than most things out there, and that’s not a bad thing for a change of pace.
So I’m going to watch. Whether it lasts or not, and I suspect it won’t. But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the cast. Brandon Michael Hall who was terrible in last year’s really terrible The Mayor as the podcaster…Violett Beane as the reporter, looking even better than she did as Jesse Quick on Flash and much more meat for her to work with…and Joe Morton as the Reverend who is the podcaster’s father (ironic, right?). I liked Morton on Eureka, way back on Smallville, and dozens of weekly roles on other shows over the years. He’s awesome as the dad, partly because he has instant presence when you see him.
I’ll be watching. I just won’t be too surprised when it’s cancelled.
One of the things I like to do when I’m making my prediction is simply rely on the descriptions of the shows. I don’t care if the lead is someone famous or not, because that is sometimes a hindrance as much as a help. Executives may be swayed by it, but I am a lover of stories, not single actors, when predicting the likelihood of success. For FBI, the descriptions were pretty basic. Hey, look, a story about the FBI. And based on that little info, my reaction was that there was no hook. And if the best they could do was “something something FBI something something”, I predicted CANCELLED.
If I had dug deeper, I would have seen some of the cast’s pedigree. The lead actress is Missy Peregrym, of Rookie Blue fame. I thought she was fine as a rookie cop, but she has almost no presence to me. And she was Serious Missy for this first episode, with little range or anything to offer worth watching.
She’s partnered with Zeeko Zaki, who is, well, nobody. A few roles, nothing outstanding to co-anchor a show. But in the episode, he has serious presence. More than Missy, that’s for sure. Ebonee Noel plays a hot CSI-type technical analyst / field operator (hard to pin down her role), but not much for her to do.
But the bosses have presence. Jeremy Sisto plays the assistant SAC for the NYC office, and I really liked him as Lupo on Law and Order back in the day. His boss is played by Connie Nielsen in the pilot, and she too has a L&O:SVU background for at least a partial season. From the looks of IMDB though, it appears she might have been recast for episode 2, and replaced with Sela Ward (Sisters, CSI:NY). A good supporting cast, but not enough to draw me in and keep me watching.
So remember how I said above that it was “something something FBI something something”? Well, now I’ve watched the episode, and I still have NO IDEA what the show is about. Is it about the FBI field office in NYC? Is it going to be simple case of the week? Will they really be able to have HIGH INTENSITY CRISIS EVERY WEEK? I don’t know, because the show never bothers to tell me what the show is about.
Cancelled? Absolutely. The real question is, “What the hell was the pitch?”
Hank, Sid, and Charlie are friends in a retirement home, and they’ve just lost their friend Jerry. They want to celebrate his life, and throw a party, because they’re the “cool kids” in the home, but the rules say no. Enter Margaret, a feisty redhead who wants to take Jerry’s chair, against Hank’s wishes. He wants the chair to remain empty to honour Jerry, but Margaret doesn’t give a diddly whoop about his wishes, she’s taking the chair. Even more so once Hank tries to tell her no. Hilarity ensues.
Or, well, to be honest, a cute series of one liners ensues. The show is trying REALLY hard to be The Golden Girls with three guys and a girl, and the cast isn’t bad. Hank is played by David Alan Grier, and it is hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years since he got his big step up as a relatively young looking black man on In Living Colour at the age of 34. He was on the show for 10 years, and nailed his comic timing and presence in the opening episode. Leslie Jordan, a short character actor, has played small parts in tons of shows over the last 30+ years, and he is a bit odd here as a gay Blanche Dubois clone. When he’s understated on his sexual jokes, he’s great; when he’s freaking out, he’s annoying.
But while David and Leslie are somewhere from good to okay, I am pleased as punch by the other two. Martin Mull plays Charlie (aka Sophia) and has a story about everything from hearts exploding to getting arrested to being discharged from the Navy. It’s hard to believe he is 25+ years past playing Leon on Roseanne, and a whopping 40+ years from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Fernwood Tonight. He looks pretty damn good for being 75 and his delivery is sharp.
However, the real star for the show is Vicki Lawrence as Margaret. For the first 10-15 minutes, she’s an outsider, and doesn’t have much to do other than react to Hank’s stupidity. But then she starts to come into her own, and she’s got the best one-liner of the night (“Did that work? No, so I gave her a sleeping pill and knocked that bitch out.”).
Is the show amazing, best thing ever, Golden Guys and a Girl? No, at least not yet. But we’ll see. I originally predicted RENEWAL, and I’m going to stick with that prediction. It might not gel over the next 8 episodes, but if they can work out some kinks, the show might sing. And there is certainly no end of old stars who could cameo for an episode. Jamie Farr was a nice addition for the pilot, albeit brief.
I really want to love this show. The original Magnum was part of my youth, a fun show to watch where sex was hinted at but rarely on display, bad guys were slick and destined for nothing, and the good guys always won. And there was a bond between the guys, often joking around and teasing each other. But Magnum seemed like just a cool average Joe, despite his surroundings. And he often worked alone, figured out the case, and shot people. What’s not to love?
But for the reboot, there would of course be changes. Higgins is no longer a stiff upper-lip British man judging Magnum, but an attractive woman who, as it turns out, is a stiff upper-lip British woman judging Magnum. With dogs that chase Magnum regularly. Tom Selleck wouldn’t be there, nor his mustache, and I wasn’t sure about the rest of the characters. But it might have some magic, right? Probably not, which is why I predicted CANCELLED sight unseen.
Now that I’ve watched the first episode, I’m going to go out on a limb and upgrade it to RENEWED. But not because it is that good. It’s not Magnum, that much is clear. And it wasn’t an auspicious opening scene. When the show opened, there was a beyond ridiculous scene of him jumping from a space balloon launch site and parachuting into North Korea to rescue a cryptographer. Even Bond fans would have said, “Really?”. And this was supposed to be a flashback scene and I thought, “OMG. This is TERRIBLE.” Except it is supposed to be — it’s a scene from one of Robin Masters’ books. Oh, okay, I can live with that then.
Yet one of the selling features of the original show was that while Magnum was a bit of a doofus, he had a heart of gold, and a large imposing frame. He was a big guy, in good shape, and through sheer force of will and knocking on doors, he would figure stuff out. An extremely quiet confidence with some boyish antics around him. He’s now being played by Jay Hernandez, and while I’d like to give him a chance, he’s no Tom Selleck. He has a more modern lithe physique, but he spends most of the first episode getting his ass kicked by multiple people. Hell, Matt Damon made it work for Jason Bourne, so the physique won’t get in the way of some action scenes, but the lack of imposing frame does change the interactions with every other character. You could see someone hiring the original Magnum as a bodyguard, but why would anyone hire this one for security? PI work maybe, but a lot of the previous cases — and a frequent staple of many PI shows — is security work for someone in town for some event. Anyway, I see nothing in Jay’s resume that says he can carry a show to renewal, but I’m optimistic for two reasons.
First and foremost, there aren’t many PI shows to compete with. I have a small theory that the networks can host one or two PI shows at a time of the old case-of-the-week style, kind of along the lines of Castle, Magnum, Moonlighting, Remington Steele. And there isn’t a lot to compete against right now. So it might find an audience.
Second, Higgins’ conversion to a hot female potential friend and partner for Magnum is, well, brilliant. She gets involved in his case, helps out, is revealed to be ex-MI6, and kicks ass with two bad guys. Not a wallflower at all, and if they can find a will they or won’t they groove along the way, the show could go 3 seasons before anything has to happen…I feel bad suggesting that relationship, rather than just friends, but outside of Elementary, there aren’t many shows that have mixed male and female investigators and made it to renewal without a spark of romance to keep it interesting. And, hey, Elementary just ended, so one more detective show off the air! Anyway, I haven’t seen Perdita Weeks in much, she’s done a lot of TV mini-series, but Ready Player One was a big break for her earlier this year. I loved her in the episode and if they upgrade her role considerably, it might work.
Zachary Knighton plays the smooth-talking Rick, the guy who has the island wired for anything and everything, and everyone. He can get anything and knows who is doing what to whom. And I always felt the previous Rick was a bit too defensive, too harsh, so fun-loving Rick is great. Stephen Hill plays TC, the helicopter pilot, but he didn’t have a big role in the first episode so hard to get a handle on his character yet. Seems good though. I thought they were adding a new friend, Sebastien, who is present in the first episode, played by Domenick Lombardozzi, and I was all excited. I loved him in Rosewood. Alas, he was the victim of the week. Too bad, would have been great to have him around.
And of course, let’s not forget the other three main characters — Hawaii is great, as always, plus Apollo and Zeus as the dobermans guarding the estate. Well cast.
But there is one thing that I like about the show that reflects 2018 more than 1980…spoiler alert, the good guys are allowed to kill people now. Back in the 80s, a lot of the shows couldn’t kill people without running afoul of the censors and the various parental guilds. So, someone would shoot a bad guy, frequently in the arm, and the guy would drop the gun. Or in the leg and his buddy would help him hobble away. Once in awhile, someone would die, but it was almost always after driving off a cliff or something. They weren’t executed. In 2018, while it is not done graphically or anything, Rick shoots one of the bad guys as a sniper from the helicopter, and it’s a head shot. The guy is dead, no question. And when the truck goes off a cliff, nobody jumps out at the last minute and is lying around injured at the top of the hill waiting to be arrested.
Small tweaks, but it gives me hope the show won’t be all nostalgia. And I miss having a weekly PI show to kick around. I’m going to give it a chance at RENEWAL. I just wish it was better.