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New Shows For Fall: The CW

September 15, 2010

The Paley Center for Media gave sneak peeks at several of the programs that will debut this season. (Keep in mind, the networks themselves selected the programs they wanted to showcase).

The CW presented their two new dramas: “Nikita” and “Hellcats.”

“Nikita” proves that sexy spies have a long shelf-life. We had the French language feature film, “La Femme Nikita,” from 1990, which starred Anne Parillaud. That was followed with an Americanized version, “Point of No Return” in 1993, with Bridget Fonda. Then, television came calling with the 1997 syndicated series “La Femme Nikita,” Aussie Peta Wilson was the star there, and now, back for a fourth go round comes this version with the sultry Maggie Q in the titular role.

Of course, if you know the story (and with three previous chances, you should!), you have a head start on this new version of the series, but if you don’t, here’s your catch-up: Woman accused of murder gets the death penalty. But instead of being killed, a special and deeply covert arm of the government takes her, trains her to be their hired gun. She becomes the best in the business, but falls in love with someone not in the program along the way. When her handlers take him out, she comes back to make them pay.

To the benefit of the show, there is a solid cast, with Shane West running the program that Nikita escaped from, Xander Berkeley is feistier than he ever was on “24,” as the rogue government bureaucrat in charge of the whole operation, and Lyndsy Fonseca is good as the new recruit, freshly captured and about to go through what Nikita has experienced.

There is a question of why Nikita is able to have a full floor sized apartment in a New York City skyscraper to work her ops from, when she’s constantly on the run (and why her former agency wouldn’t know that obvious fact). Also, whether you believe that oil companies (as despised as they are) would be willing to put out hits on world leaders (!), but if you can buy into those minor details, you probably won’t have any trouble buying into the entire series.

Maggie Q proves to be a convincing lead, tough when she needs to be and has a tender side. And the parallel storyline with Fonseca going through her training connects things in a somewhat surprising way.  But the script, at least for this pilot, just felt mechanical. You’d think with all of the previous material they had to draw from along these lines, this would have been a lot better constructed and a lot more captivating. The pilot for “Nikita” may not have been a “paint by numbers” job, but it definitely didn’t blow anyone (except some wannabe gangsta type in a hot tub) out of the water.

“Hellcats” takes the usual examination of cheerleading to a new level: this time, instead of high school, the action takes place at a college in Memphis. A couple of former stars from the Disney Channel (Alyson Michalka from “Phil of the Future” and Ashley Tisdale from “Sweet Life of Zack and Cody” and “High School Musical”) are set to face off, as Michalka’s scholarship money has dried up and she has to scramble to find a way to cover the costs. After some quick investigations, she discovers that there is a scholarship for “cheerleading,” and quickly finds a place to get on the squad. She doesn’t realize her troubles have only just begun, as Tisdale, whom she has already insulted, is the captain of the squad.

The biggest sin this show makes is not having more fun with itself. It’s not going to be soapy like “90210” or more meaningful like “Life Unexpected,” so they should just pull out the stops, have some laughs with the storylines and not try to make this into some sort of “Cheerleader Exposé.” It doesn’t have to be a comedy, and it really shouldn’t, but it also shouldn’t be a straight up drama, and that’s how this pilot played, to a certain extent.

There’s the brilliant excuse to get girls in skimpy outfits, which may help keep the ratings for this show higher than they otherwise might have been (especially with the under 16 and over 40 male demographic), but we still have to deal with the elements of some basic storyline concepts if the program would like viewers to watch with the sound unmuted. Just like a human pyramid, without a good foundation, the whole series could potentially collapse, so maybe the producers and writers better take some tips from their own subject matter.

Also, I don’t mean to say this series is predictable, but there were a lot of elements we’ve seen constantly and you can probably name them all without much effort. Rivalries don’t necessarily make for interesting television, so the characters had better bring it on, and grab some sugar and spice in a hurry. But, to put a positive spin on it: if you just want to turn your brain off and unwind with something that appears brand new, yet is something you feel like you know everything about in just one glance, this series might be for you. Rah! Rah!

Grades for the pilots The CW showed:

Nikita: C+ (Q makes a good heroine, but the plot simply plodded)

Hellcats: C (Not nearly as much fun as it should have been)

Next Up: The New TV Season Overview.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2010 8:03 pm

    …people watch the CW?

  2. September 15, 2010 8:09 pm

    Well at least it’s aptly named, Hellcats.

  3. September 15, 2010 8:11 pm

    Nikita isn’t cutting it for me at all. I agree, with all this previous material they story needed to be much fresher. Also, Xander Berkeley playing another rogue government bureaucrat? Thanks to the uninspired scripting and casting of shows, the appearance of Berkeley is its own spoiler.

  4. September 16, 2010 12:40 am

    I almost accidentally saw Hellcats but managed to avoid it. I don’t watch anything on the CW except ANTM.

  5. September 16, 2010 1:46 am

    It’s pretty clear that the production values on “Nikita” are fairly high, or they have a super genius as their line producer. So, either way, if you go to that much trouble to give the show a great look, you better make certain the script is somewhat interesting. I missed episode two which ran tonight, so no telling if things improved. Hellcats can probably go away in a few more episodes.

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