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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Promising Fall Shows: Whimsy, Anyone?

Whimsical fantasy shows appear to be gaining steam lately. Of course, Ugly Betty continues to be its whimsical, bubbly self, but there is a whole new generation of shows entertaining us with their oddly fanciful plots and characters. First up is Samantha Who?, a fantasy that brings an entirely new twist to transformation fairytales. Instead of Cinderella changing into a princess or the Ugly Duckling changing into a swan, Sam (Christina Applegate) is a bitch trying to turn into a decent person after a car accident renders her with retrograde amnesia. Listen, I made that face too when I read the plot on imdb, but Samantha Who? is much funnier than it sounds, mostly because Christina Applegate, Melissa McCarthy and Jennifer Esposito have enough talent to take the material and run with it.

Even higher on the whimsy scale is Cavemen, a show that totally fails simply because it assumes its premise will be enough to keep us laughing. Okay, so a bunch of Cavemen live in an apartment in San Diego and deal with everyday human problems. The plot is borrowed from the Geico commercials, who unabashadly stole it from Saturday Night Live's "Caveman Lawyer" sketches. Frankly, I thought it sounded like a great idea upon first pitch; after all, what better way to illustrate modern day racism and discrimination than to use such extreme satirical subject as neanderthals? Well, it's way too heavy handed and obviously aimed at the dim-bulb demographic, so all the possible social commentary is crushed.

Of course, no new show can begin to compete with Pushing Daisies for pure whimsy. The hero, a pie-maker named Ned, has the power to touch dead people and bring them back to life, but if he touches them again, they die. He works with a PI, touching people in the morgue to find out who killed them. Awesome. Predictably, he touches the woman he loves after she is killed and then he can't touch her again. I assumed I would love Pushing Daisies after reading the description (and after finding out that it stars both Ellen Green AND Kristin Chenowith of Broadway and occasional primetime fame) but I just haven't been able to stay interested. That's right, it's just a little too whimsical for me. Maybe if it were a film (like Big FIsh or I Heart Huckabees) it would have been right for me. But I have the strong sense that I will like it in very small doses later on, and that anyone who appreciates fine comic acting and glorious cinematography should give Pushing Daisies a chance.

Hey, I just realized that these are all ABC shows! ABC is not paying me to write about its shows, I swear. I think I shall christen ABC the "Whimsy Channel." Wow, that used to be Showtime's title. Get back on your toes, Showtime, you're losing steam!


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