TV SEASON PREVIEWS: FRIDAYSome debuts too sweet, others are too sour
By Rob Owen Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
September 23, 2005
Two sappy feel-good shows debut tonight, and though neither is good for much, both have the potential to elicit a good cry from viewers who like to wallow.'Three Wishes'
Of the two, NBC's "Three Wishes" (9 tonight, WPXI) is at least an upbeat, positive reality show. It's also a rip-off of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Amy Grant and a crew of wish fulfillers travel the country seeking out stories of people who need help. Then the show helps them.
Tonight that means building a play/rehab room for a little girl who was disfigured in an automobile accident, helping a boy get legally adopted by his stepfather and installing a new football field for the Sonora, Calif., high school.
There's a lot of slow-motion cheering, tears, declarations ("I would say this is the best moment of my life!"), rushing to complete tasks, etc.
To be fair, "Three Wishes" is touching. It is heartwarming to see nice things done for people in need. But it also feels like the show manipulates viewers.
When a camera follows a boy on a bike riding up to the "Three Wishes" tent before he's chosen to have a wish granted, you have to wonder, how did they know to film him then? Would the CEO of the company that installs the new football field allow cameras in his office without already having made the decision to donate his company's services? Is it really believable that, when building the rehab house for the little girl, "all of a sudden" her friends come running up the road to help? And there just happened to be a camera there to capture their approach?
"I've traveled the last 48 hours here for you guys," Carter Oosterhouse tells the throng assembled in the football stadium for the announcement of the new field. But as one of the show's contributors, isn't travel part of his job? It's not like he's doing it for free.
It's great that "Three Wishes" does good for people, but the way it goes about these good deeds is contrived.'Ghost Whisperer'
An hour earlier, another rip-off show premieres, this one seemingly scheduled after CBS executives saw NBC's success with "Medium."
"Ghost Whisperer" (8 p.m., KDKA) isn't good drama (too saccharine for my taste), but it will provide a warm fuzzy for viewers who like to see the dead make peace with the living.
Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Melinda Gordon, who's the conduit between the living and the ghosts waiting to cross over to the afterlife. Pittsburgher David Conrad plays her husband, Jim, a paramedic who thinks by saving lives on the job he can spare his wife some work.
Conrad's steady presence works well as a counterpoint to Hewitt's always-about-to-cry dewy-eyed nature.
Wentworth Miller ("Prison Break"), a 1990 graduate of Quaker Valley High School, has a guest spot in tonight's premiere as a soldier who died in Vietnam whom Melinda must help connect with the now-grown son he never knew.
It's all a bunch of mush, but I suspect it's mush that will find a receptive audience.'Killer Instinct'
The women-as-victims trend, a lowlight of the fall 2005 TV season, continues in Fox's "Killer Instinct" (9 tonight, WPGH). Troubled cop Jack Hale (bland Johnny Messner) returns to head San Francisco's deviant crime unit after his former partner (and lover) was killed in the line of duty.
Tonight he gets a new partner (Marguerite Moreau), but don't get too attached; she's replaced in next week's episode. Chi McBride ("Boston Public") plays Hale's boss, and Jessica Steen ("Homefront," "Earth 2"), a personal favorite, has a recurring role as a coroner, although next week she's given a terrible red dye job.
Tonight's creepy crime involves a killer who uses spiders to incapacitate his female victims before he rapes and kills them. The rape and murder are not shown on screen, but the story gruesomely complements the butchering and/or terrorizing of women in pilots for The WB's "Supernatural," CBS's "Criminal Minds" and "Close to Home" and ABC's "Night Stalker."
TV critics made network executives and producers uncomfortable by asking about this development at press conferences this summer, so it's a little surprising to see the trend didn't end with the pilots. In subsequent episodes of "Killer Instinct" and "Night Stalker," women continue to have, um, short-lived roles. On "Night Stalker," a father takes a metal baseball bat to his wife's head; on "Killer Instinct" a psycho incapacitates a blind woman, cuts her eyes out and then kills her.
Even though I wasn't wild about the warm and fuzzy shows I mentioned earlier, I'd still recommend a lousy sappy show over a sadistic series that, underneath its ghastly veneer, is just a dull, unoriginal crime drama.'Inconceivable'
An often lighthearted medical show set in a Los Angeles fertility clinic, NBC's "Inconceivable" (10 tonight, WPXI) lacks the grit of "ER," the heart of "Scrubs" and the soapy shenanigans of "Grey's Anatomy," leaving an empty husk of a series. Tonight's premiere is also pretty boring, filled with medical cases meant to touch the heart but which miss the mark.
Former Pittsburgher Ming-Na plays clinic founder Rachel, who tussles with Dr. Malcolm Bowers (Jonathan Cake), who, in typical TV fashion, is brilliant but arrogant. They work with counselor Lydia (guest star Alfre Woodard), who takes the fall when a Caucasian surrogate to two white patients delivers an African-American child.
A scene featuring newest cast member Angie Harmon, as Dr. Nora Campbell, has been shoe-horned into tonight's premiere. Her confident, Bowers-baiting character offers hope that "Inconceivable" might improve, but next week's episode, despite a semi-intriguing mystery plot and murder, does little to deliver on that.http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05266/576231.stm