Pittsburgh, PA
Friday
August 1, 2014
    News           Sports           Lifestyle           Classifieds           About Us
A & E
 
Tv Listings
The Dining Guide
Movies
Travel
Headlines by E-mail
Home >  A & E >  TV/Radio Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
Columns
TV Reviews: 'First Monday' guilty of mediocrity; 'Glory Days' feels like repeat

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The new Supreme Court drama "First Monday" is what "The West Wing" has wrought.

And it's not pretty.

"West Wing" makes the world of politics sing with idealism. "First Monday," despite a soaring, "West Wing"-like theme song, makes politics mumble with passionless, dull speechifying, obnoxious harangues and bland, rote writing. Plus, it's painfully hokey.

 
 
"First Monday"

When: 9 tonight on CBS.

Starring: Joe Mantegna, James Garner, Charles Durning.

   
 

Tonight's premiere at 9 on CBS is particularly troublesome, as it takes the typical Hollywood route: Liberals are depicted as strident but enlightened, while conservatives are buffoons. That's particularly surprising because the show is executive produced by Donald Bellisario, impresario of the military drama "JAG."

Joe Mantegna stars as Justice Joseph Novelli, a moderate liberal who's frequently the swing vote on a deeply divided Supreme Court. James Garner plays wily conservative Chief Justice Thomas Brankin. He often conspires with fellow conservative Justice Henry Hoskins (Charles Durning), who sometimes speaks in limericks.

But the justices -- and the older actors -- take a back seat to their young clerks, who appear to do all the legwork. Novelli's staff includes the bold obnoxious liberal Ellie (Hedy Burress), moderate liberal Jerry (Christopher Wiehl) and whiny conservative Miguel (Randy Vasquez). Brankin's lapdog is pompous, vaguely evil Julian Lodge (Joe Flanigan). None of these young actors is worthy of sharing the screen with the likes of Garner and Durning.

Tonight,the young'uns research a death penalty case, and Miguel dates a lawyer with a secret that anyone paying the slightest bit of attention will see coming long in advance of its revelation.

Friday at 9 p.m. "First Monday" moves to its regular time slot with a slightly better episode. ("That's Life" moves to 9 p.m. Saturday.) Brankin and Hoskins have a thoughtful, not entirely partisan conversation about the merits of Roe vs. Wade that stems from an abortion case involving parental consent.

The episode turns eye-rollingly maudlin at the end when an estranged mother and daughter reunite in a scene that would happen only on a sappy scripted TV show.

Politics aside, "First Monday" is ridiculous in myriad ways. We admire "The West Wing" for its smart characters and the believable situations we see them in. In "First Monday," the chief justice declares, "Let's go out there and make history" before each session. As he says it, the justices form a circle and each one thrusts an arm out to make a pile of hands in a "Ready! Break!" type move out of "The Bad News Bears."

At Novelli's first case, liberal Justice Esther Weisenberg (Camille Saviola) leans over and reassures him, saying, "I wet my panties my first day on the bench."

With dialogue like that, I'd just as soon see this hallowed institution remain the mystery it's always been to many Americans.


"Glory Days" (9 p.m. tomorrow, The WB)

Executive producer Kevin Williamson, who created "Dawson's Creek," returns with a new one-hour drama that might as well be called "Murder, Dawson Wrote."

Eddie Cahill -- who played Rachel's former squeeze, Tag, on "Friends" -- stars in "Glory Days." He's a soulful mystery writer who returns to his hometown several years after writing a fictional account of his father's death that wasn't fictional enough for the residents of Glory Island in the Pacific Northwest.

 
 
"Glory Days"

When: 9 p.m. tomorrow on The WB.

Starring: Eddie Cahill, Frances Fisher, Theresa Russell.

   
 

Not only does Cahill's Mike Dolan resemble Dawson Leery in terms of personality, he even shares James Van Der Beek's "cereal box-shaped head," as someone once described it. Add to that Mike's precocious, cute little sis who conjures memories of a younger Katie Holmes and a sheriff in his mid-20s with sexual identity issues (just like Deputy Doug on "Dawson's Creek") and "Glory Days" makes me think of "Groundhog Day": We've seen it all before.

Dolan's mother (Frances Fisher) welcomes him home with a rainshower of black ink, his elder sister (Amy Stewart) runs the family-owned town newspaper and resents him, and the spitfire waitress at the local diner (Theresa Russell) is reluctant to serve him.

Only kid sister Sam (Emily VanCamp) stands by Mike, when she's not hanging out with her high school friends, who help lower the median age of the cast to appeal to The WB's core audience.

The show's weekly forays into sleuthing seem a lot less interesting than exploring Mike's relationship with his hometown, but that element looks like it might take a back seat after the premiere.

"It's a work of fiction," Mike says of his best-selling novel.

"If, by 'fiction,' you mean taking the truth and adding some blood and your opinion," Sam replies.

Williamson, who wrote tomorrow's pilot episode, gets in some amusing pop culture references (his specialty since the first "Scream" film), but even they feel oh-so-1996.

Glory is decked out as a charming, homey town, not unlike "Murder She Wrote's" Cabot Cove, Maine. Sometimes "Glory Days" feels so similar, you expect Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher to stroll past at any moment.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

Back to top Back to top E-mail this story E-mail this story
Search | Contact Us |  Site Map | Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy |  Advertise | Help |  Corrections