Saturday, March 17, 2007

The name on the blog was Salieri, Private Investigator. The gun on my desk was a .44 Magnum.

Somebody over at NBC is on a noir kick, and two series they're debuting this spring reflect it.

Raines stars Jeff Goldblum as a police officer with a gift. Well, sort of. His gift is that he's bonkers. He has an overactive imagination and finds himself talking to dead people. Unlike other "cop talks to dead guys" shows, though, this one makes it clear that Raines isn't communicating with ghosts: he's talking with figments of his own imagination. They only know what he knows, and he bounces ideas off of them.

The pilot was fairly strong for a pilot: it showed off the cinematography tricks that will probably recur a lot (example: Raines speculates about the victim being involved in blackmail, there's a pan across his body, and suddenly the victim is there, dressed like Kathleen Turner in Body Heat), there were a few good laughs (I know you've always wanted to hear Jeff Goldblum say "hot monkey love") and the initial victim did a good job of adapting acting styles as Raines discovered more about her. On the other hand, some of the plot twists were heavily telegraphed, the fast-talking noir style requires you to pay close attention to the dialogue, and there were two egregious CSI-style "zoom and enhance" moments. (Of course, since this show has an unreliable narrator, there's always the possibility that Raines just saw a normal, grainy picture and imagined the better picture.)

Overall, I'm reserving judgment until I see a few more episodes. It's on Fridays at 9/8 central, so if you don't have anything else to do on Friday nights, it's worth a look.

On the other hand, you can watch Andy Barker, P.I. any time you want: NBC put the first eight episodes online for free download. Starring Andy Richter and written by much of the Conan O'Brian staff, Andy is an accountant who finds himself working as a private eye. The cast also features Tony "Buster" Hale. Another non-laugh-track-sitcom, this one will slide into the slot after Scrubs on Thursday nights. The humor here is based on the old fish-out-of-water premise with a dose of awkward situations and bizarre characters. It picks up around episode 3, and I'm giving it my tentative approval.

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