The Fall Season Begins

You can tell fall has rapidly descended on us. The temperatures have moderated, the kids are back in school and the new prime time series have begun to debut.

Deb and I have sampled the two new Fox entries, Vanished and Justice and so far the, ahem, jury is still out on them.

Two episodes in, Vanished seems to be a nest of mysteries in search of compelling characters. While filled with attractive and familiar performers, including Ming-Na, Esai Morales, and Rebecca Gayheart, to them, it’s all about the work. We really don’t have anything more than a surface feel for the characters they play thus depriving us from getting to feel for them. Without that appeal, all we’re left is the mystery.

Or mysteries. The pilot was packed with so many threads it felt overdone. Every single character, it seemed, had a mystery of their own, making you wonder if anyone led an honest life. And from the teasers we know there remains one more big mystery, the red-cloaked men who seem to be behind some major political conspiracy.

Our protagonist is Agent Graham Kelton, put on a high profile case six months after blowing a high profile case. So of course he’s filled with doubts and anxieties and in the real world would never have been given this case. But the plotters of the crime seem to know he was going to get the case since some of the clues seem personal, which is yet another mystery to be solved.

From what we can tell, this will be a season-long mystery, which is the storyline du jour. After being pioneered more or less by 24, so many series are using it that it has rapidly become cliché. It will all come down to execution.

Same with Justice, from Jerry Bruckheimer. I was first attracted to it since the series stars Victor Garber, whose work I enjoy. But it sounded like an intriguing premise so we tried the first episode this week. We have the four lawyers, all of whom have their assigned roles, the defendant, and the search for the truth. Or at least the search for the case to be presented, truth optional. The nice touch here is that we’ll see the actual reality of the crime in question at the end of each episode so we, not the jury, will know how effective the lawyers at Trott, Nicholson, Tuller & Graves truly are.

But it also seems like a straight-jacket of a premise so every week we’ll see Victor Garber spin before the media, Kerr Smith earnestly address the jury, Rebecca Mader look attractive while coaching witnesses and Eamonn Walker oversee the associates who do the real digging. Thus it falls to the crime of the week and the guest cast to make us come back time and again, which is a burden for the writing staff.

The first case seemed interesting enough and the story moved along at a lightning pace (too jumpy if you ask Deb). Still, we didn’t fall instantly in love with the show or its characters.

In both cases, as the end credits rolled, we agreed we’ll give both a chance until the schedule fills and we have to make choices. We’re both savvy enough viewers to know the first episodes are a shakedown period it’s not until the fourth or fifth shows you get a real feel for what the series will be long time. There are rare instances you fall in love with a show from the outset – it’s more likely you come to hate a first episode and never come back than it is to instantly fall in love with a series.