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TV Reviews: Goofy 'Spies,' unsettling 'Folks' keep it light

Saturday, July 20, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

A couple of summer series make their debuts tonight and Monday:

'She Spies'

The new hourlong caper "She Spies," premiering at 10 tonight on NBC before segueing into syndication this fall, is a bit unexpected. Existing in the same jokey-pow-pow realm as the canceled "VIP," it's an action show with humor. Well, alleged humor.

 
 
TV Reviews

"She Spies"

WHEN: 10 tonight on NBC.

STARRING: Natasha Henstridge, Kristen Miller and Natashia Williams.


"Meet My Folks"

WHEN: 10 p.m. Monday on NBC.

FEATURING: Senta Blankenship and three would-be suitors.

   
 

Perhaps never before has a series tried so hard to be funny, lapsing into fantasy sequences, flights of imagination and pop-up descriptions on screen. It does everything short of inserting a laugh track.

What's most odd, the pilot is filled with self-referential jokes about the TV business, which seems out-of-step for a show with the title "She Spies."

In the opening scene, three cons turned spies for the government -- Cassie (Natasha Henstridge), D.D. (Kristen Miller) and Shane (Natashia Williams) -- try to disarm a bomb by deciding which wire to cut.

"Guys, this isn't a movie," D.D. says.

"You're right. If it was, we'd have better sets," Cassie replies.

Just like that, the fourth wall tumbles down and jokes about the cliches of pilot episodes and corporate media synergy begin to fly. "She Spies" wants to be "Airplane!," but it's too clumsy in its attempts.

The strange combination of media insider jokes and spy stunts makes more sense when looking at the show's creators, Joe Livecchi and Vince Manze, who were previously NBC advertising gurus. Jeff Reno and Ron Osborn, executive producers of ABC's late, lamented "Cupid," serve as head writers, but they clearly have their marching orders.

"I can't believe what people would do for ratings and attention," one of the spies says at the end of the episode as she starts to pull off her top.

"She Spies" wants to be a lark, but it's lumbering and entirely too self-conscious.

'Meet My Folks'

If you can get past the show's unsettling premise -- parents pick the guy who might just have sex with their daughter during a weekend in Hawaii -- NBC's "reality" game show "Meet My Folks" (previews at 10 p.m. Monday; moves to regular time slot 8 p.m. Wednesday) is pretty entertaining.

In the debut, three twentysomething guys spend the weekend in the home of Senta Blankenship and her parents, Rhoda and high school football coach Randy, who judge their every move and utterance.

The guys are blond boxer Christopher, Tom Cruise look-alike Jason and student Kory. They attempt to woo Senta on dates, but they also receive faxed instructions to do embarrassing things, like burp at the dinner table and steal food from Randy's plate.

The parents make pretty funny comments about the three men who have moved in, but they also get concerned when the guys' ex-girlfriends show up to air their dirty laundry (it seems one likes to be spanked, another may have slept with his ex-girlfriend's mother). The parents get to kick out one guy and must choose between the remaining two.

The show's piece de resistance -- clearly inspired by the movie "Meet the Parents" -- comes at the end when Randy takes the guys into the garage and hooks them up to a polygraph machine.

"Did you bring condoms with you this weekend?"

"Would you like me as your father-in-law?"

"If I asked you not to try to sleep with my daughter in Hawaii, would you respect my wishes?"

But that does bring us back to the show's concept, which is just incredibly unnerving. What kind of a family would willingly submit themselves to this, particularly given what they learn from the lie detector? One of the guys tells the truth only 38 percent of the time. The parents choose the guy who is truthful 58 percent of the time, which still seems like a pretty low percentage if I'm a parent choosing a potential mate for my child.

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