Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Poll - Outstanding Comedy Series

I had planned to do this poll of undeserved nominations, and came upon a sudden realization that this year at least it isn’t as easy to find undeserved nominations. Oh they’re there. They always are. Here’s the thing though; they aren’t as easy to find (this year at least) as the Emmy snubs. More to the point the egregious and obvious ones are pretty obvious. I mean I think we can all agree that when an actress appears in every episode of the first season of a show, the way that Cloris Leachman did in Raising Hope, she shouldn’t be nominated as the Outstanding Guest Star in a Comedy no matter what the rules in the category allow. That’s about as “undeserved” as they get. As a result, what I’m going to do is expand the two series categories to ten days rather than one week.

First up is the Outstanding Comedy Series. As always the rules are simple: vote for the show that you think should win not necessarily the show you think will win. I will be running and answering any comments that I might receive in this category so long as those comments aren’t comment spam. Deadline for this poll is Wednesday September 7 at Noon (approximately).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poll Results - The Biggest Emmy Snub

Last week I switched up the Emmy polls by asking what people felt was the biggest Emmy snub this year. I offered ten possibilities and we had three votes cast. The polls haven’t exactly been popular this year…sigh.

But on to the results. The following got no votes: Fringe, Community, Survivor: Redemption Island, John Noble, Mayim Bialik, and Delroy Lindo. And the winners – it was a three-way tie – are Anna Torv, Nick Offerman, and Kyra Sedgwick with one vote each (33.3%)

If this were the sort of poll where I’d cast a tie breaking vote, though it pains me to say it – because I am a huge fan of what Anna Torv has done on Fringe – I would have to cast my vote for Kyra Sedgwick. I think it was nearly criminal that Sedgwick, who was nominated and won in this category last year didn’t receive a nomination, while Mariska Hargitay has earned her eighth nomination (and won once) for Law & Order: SVU and Kathy Bates was nominated for Harry’s Law. I’m sorry but this just doesn’t seem right to me.

We had two comments about this category. Tim Tipton wrote the following:
Here's a great show that is always snubbed by the emmys and I never hear anyone speak in it's defense: it's always sunny in philadelphia. I think because it's low brow humor, it is overlooked. But Danny DeVito should at least get an emmy. He's funny.
I know that there are a lot of fans of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia although it’s not a show that I have seen, and not one that, from the descriptions, particularly appeals to me. Still, it’s hard to argue against Danny DeVito in just about anything that he does. He is invariably funny. That being said, I think that he and the show have two things running against them. The first is that the show is a very dark comedy and to a large degree the characters are not particularly likable. The Emmys are not kind to dark comedies and to characters that appear to have few redeeming qualities. In other words it’s too dark to get the approval of the Academy.

The other comment came from Ben who wrote:
There are a lot of deserving should-be candidates here. As I commented earlier in the year, it reflects badly on the ATAS that neither Community nor Fringe get any nominations at all. Nick Offerman deserves recognition, but at least P&R has Amy Poehler.

I voted for Anna Torv. In Fringe's first season she played Olivia Dunham as a tightly controlled, unemotional cop, and many people thought she just couldn't act. Cut to season 3 and not only has Olivia gone through amazing development, but Torv plays a different version of the character with a whole other arc. Critics start to sit up and take notice, but the Emmys remain oblivious.

I happen to agree on both points. As I mentioned, I love what Anna Torv has done on Fringe, and cast my “non-vote” for Kyra Sedgwick only because the failure to recognize here work on The Closer this year is particularly magnified because she won the Emmy in her category last year. That being said, I can offer an explanation why Fringe – and by extension Torv – didn’t get nominations. Fringe is, to be frank, a low rated genre (aka Science Fiction) show on a broadcast network, and those three things combined are anathema to the Television Academy (I don’t consider Lost a genre show in this sense, although it increasingly became one as it went on). Despite some amazing groundbreaking work, neither Sarah Michelle Gellar nor Buffy The Vampire Slayer were ever nominated in the acting or series categories (and Joss Whedon was only nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Drama once…for the episode Hush, which was essentially a silent movie). I think you have to go back to 1997 when Gillian Anderson won for The X-Files to find the Emmy giving an award to a “genre” series in one of the major categories.Even if you include Lost, it only won as Outstanding Drama Series in its first season, only had one nominee in the Actor in a Drama Category, and won two Emmys in the Supporting Actor category. No actresses were even nominated for the show. But of course Lost had the advantage of being a highly rated show. If Game Of Thrones manages to win a major Emmy – and I think it’s possible – one of the biggest reasons for its success will be that it was on HBO and got a reasonably good audience for that premium network. Being on HBO gave it prestige, while being on FOX (on Friday night no less) does nothing to help Fringe.

As for Community, the big problem is probably that it is the lowest rated of the NBC Thursday comedies. When you look at the ratings, you find that Community had a lower number of total viewers and a lower 18-49 rating than the cancelled Outsourced (Community 4.475 million viewers (115) and 2.0/6 in 18-49 (81); Outsourced 5.187 million (99) and 2.4/6 in 18-49 (59)). And while the Emmys aren’t supposed to be influenced by ratings, the fact is that to a degree they are. I don’t think the voters felt they could justify having two thirds of the nominees in the category coming from NBC and so decided to ignore the lowest rated one.

New poll – the flip side of the Snubbed Poll – up in a couple of hours. Right now I need a nap.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The PTC Hates The Playboy Club - Big Surprise, Right?

Playboy_club_promoMy summer has been filled with unfulfilled promise. I promised to recap Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – unfulfilled. I bought a small notebook to take notes when I had thoughts on stuff to write when I’m not near the computer – unfulfilled. I haven’t had any real thoughts that desperately needed to record. But then the PTC came out with their latest campaign and suddenly I have something to sink my teeth into. You see, the PTC has – sight unseen of course, except for some promo clips – demanded that NBC affiliates follow the lead of KSL in Salt Lake City and refuse to air NBC’s new series The Playboy Club. Given the organizations’ attitude to anyone even peripherally associated with Playboy the magazine or Playboy the Corporation, this is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east. Of course this could have been a little bit more timely and would have been had it not been for my recent illness and the subsequent necessity to catch up with other things that I had let slip during that period.

The PTC’s letter to affiliates is a long and meandering one filled with the PTC’s usual mixture of hyperbole and not well veiled threats. Just to add to the mix they have statements from Shelley Lubben’s faith based Pink Cross Foundation, an organization dedicated to “helping victims of the pornography industry.” The statements have a particularly weird disconnect when you remember that the series is about the Playboy Club in Chicago in the 1960s and not Playboy Magazine in the 2010, or indeed in any era.

The letter begins with a number of statistics about the damage that porn addiction – defined as watching more than 11 hours or pornography per week – does to the addict and to society in general. While I won’t go into the actual percentages, I will say that the total number of “porn addicts” is less than two tenths of the American population. Which may explain why the rest of the paragraph refers to percentages rather than actual numbers. But the next paragraph is firmly tied to those figures.
I call these statistics to your attention because I assume you must be unaware of how damaging the pornography industry is to our society, to our families, and to individuals. Otherwise, how on earth could you, in good conscience, agree to broadcast in your community a program that glorifies and glamorizes this insidious industry?
I am referring, of course, to NBC's plans to air "The Playboy Club" this fall and am writing to urge you, on behalf of the Parents Television Council's 1.3 million members, to preempt the program in your community.

The PTC has received correspondence from NBC affiliates that describe the series is “a sophisticated series about the transitional times of the early 1960s and the complex lives of a group of working-class women.” These are dismissed as “canned responses,” which is laughable coming from an organization that provides its members with form letters to send to the FCC over every real or imagined violation of what it thinks is the broadcasting law. Nevertheless the PTC carries on with its assumption that The Playboy Club is about the pornography industry.

Putting a veneer of sophistication on an industry that exploits women and destroys families is not laudable, it is disgraceful. In what manner does such the airing of such material reconcile with your public interest obligations as a broadcast licensee? Whatever positive spin you may wish to put on the series, it is undeniably a betrayal of the trust you have built over the years with America 's families - the owners of the broadcast airwaves that you will be using to force this content into the living rooms of every family in your community.

Where the PTC letter really got “good” (in a strange definition of good it must be admitted) was when they introduced the statement from Shelley Lubben of the Pink Cross Foundation, an organization “dedicated to helping the victims of the pornography industry” (they don’t happen to mention that the organization is a “faith based initiative”). Lubben, a former actress in pornography stated:
"What's shown in The Playboy Club is not real...The series looks like it's all cute, taking place back in the old days. It seems harmless, but then they show a quick clip of three people going at it in the bathroom. NBC is breaking the law with this show. They're not meeting FCC standards."

Strong words, and they’re coming for someone who not only doesn’t understand the very basics about the show that she’s complaining about but also seems to have only such understanding of FCC standards as she has been fed by organizations like the PTC.

Much of the rest of the PTC letter is the same old stuff that the organization peddles. They promise that the organization will be “carefully reviewing every episode, and will urge its members to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission about any content that may be in violation of broadcast decency laws.” Then they add this little threat to affiliates:
Please be mindful that it is the affiliate, not the network, that will ultimately bear the financial burden of an FCC fine should any of the content be found to violate broadcast decency laws.

First of all let’s address the specific claim of “three people going at it in the bathroom.” I actually found this scene in the promo clip provided by NBC (which I’m including below) – it happens around 1:58 – and beyond the fact that it is apparent that Ms. Lubben needs glasses (I see a man and a woman and a reflection in a mirror, not three people), it is also clear that this scene is little more than something that you could see in a soap opera most days…when there were soap operas. There is nothing here that the FCC could possibly object to: no bare breasts, no exposed excretory organs, no visible genitalia. The scene is benign, and shows far less than what can be seen on TV in most countries of the world, including Canada. Now that by no means guarantees that the PTC would not rise in righteous indignation over this scene, but there’s no there there.

Here’s the real issue. The PTC has had – dare I say it – a hard-on about anything even peripherally connected to the Playboy organization. When they were attacking the show My Name Is Earl, they inevitably mentioned the presence of Jamie Pressly (who played Earl’s ex-wife Joy), but every time they mentioned her, they took pains to mention that she had appeared nude in Playboy –I seem to recall that they referred to her as a Playmate, though she never was. What they rarely if ever mentioned was her work as an actress. It was a strategy designed to diminish and denigrate her as an actress and by extension the show, creating the impression that the only reason she was hired was because she had appeared in Playboy and was only on the show to titillate younger viewers.

Now here are the facts about The Playboy Club; not the tales that the PTC and its fellow travellers want you to believe about the show and not the salacious impressions that Shelley Lubben wants to see that aren’t really there. The show deals with the Playboy Club in Chicago in the early 1960s. It does not appear to deal with the magazine except peripherally (in the preview clip one Bunny says she’s going to be the first “chocolate” Playmate), or with photos of some Playmates from the 1950s that often didn’t show actual nudity. While there is more than a little criticism about the Clubs from a feminist point of view – notably the Gloria Steinhem article when she went undercover as a Bunny – the fact is that the aspects that the PTC claims will be seen on the show were never a part of what happened at the Playboy Clubs. There was no nudity at the clubs, and the rules about contact in the clubs between clients and Bunnies were quite explicit. Indeed a certain amount of what is shown in the clip – the two people making out in a bathroom, and the clients groping one of the Bunnies – would never have happened in the actual Playboy Club. The truth is that the real Playboy Clubs were high class private night clubs (the private nature being assured by the $25.00 annual membership fee – apparently only about 21% of the people who had memberships actually visited one of the clubs), that offered some of the biggest names in jazz and other entertainment.

Were the Bunnies sex objects? Undoubtedly, even if they were chaste “look but don’t touch” sex objects. Was it demeaning? Certainly Steinhem thought so. The question that Steinhem didn’t address was whether she would have found working another night club that didn’t bear the name Playboy equally demeaning. Was the association with the name “Playboy” the reason why she wrote her critical article? I have to think that the fact that the link with Playboy Magazine was a motivator in her decision to go undercover as a Bunny. She might well have found conditions at other nightclubs of the period equally demeaning (if not more so in many cases), but without the name recognition that the Playboy Clubs had.

And this of course is equally the point in the current situation in which the PTC is threatening NBC affiliates to try to get them to drop the TV show The Playboy Club from their stations. If the show was called something else and was about waitresses in a different nightclub, but maintained the storylines and the scenes shown in the preview clip, would the PTC be as outraged as it is by the show? The most likely answer is, no they would not. They might regard it as salacious after they saw an episode but I sincerely doubt that they had the same “pre-debut” fixation on the show. In this particular case, “a Rose by any other name” would not get nearly the attention, either from the PTC or for the PTC

I have no idea of whether or not The Playboy Club is a good show or not. I’m not privy to any more information than most of you are, and in fact because I’m Canadian it might even be less information, depending on whether or not NBC will allow Canadians to view clips of the show. I fully expect it to be a poor knock-off of Mad Men, lacking the qualities that make Mad Men first rate TV, like good writing, compelling characters and a vision that is more than just skin deep (an expression that undoubtedly fits in more than the obvious way). However I am willing to give the show a chance to at least present itself before I judge it, and I refuse to pass judgement based entirely on the name, and then look for proof wherever I can find it… or manufacture it. This is more than the PTC, with its vendetta against anything that is associated – even at second or third hand – with the word “Playboy” is able to say.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Poll - Emmy Snubs

This is a totally new concept on my part for an Emmy Poll. Basically it’s intended to partially fill the extra two weeks before the awards ceremony. I could find two other categories to use – the Reality Host and Miniseries or Movies categories spring to mind – but those categories tend not to draw the votes. The other acting categories are both paired Male/Female and Comedy/Drama, so you’d need four weeks to do something like the Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Drama/Comedy properly.

Instead I want to look at what I regard as mistakes made by the Emmy nomination process. The first poll is about snubs – nominations that weren’t made for people that are deemed deserving. Mostly by me, I must confess, although there are some cases that I’ve been influenced by what others have said.

So here’s the list of snubs and the categories they should be nominated in:
  • Fringe – Drama Series
  • Community – Comedy Series
  • John Noble – Fringe – Supporting Actor In A Drama
  • Anna Torv – Fringe – Lead Actress In A Drama
  • Mayim Bialik – Big Bang Theory – Supporting Actress In A Comedy
  • Nick Offerman – Parks And Recreation – Supporting Actor In A Comedy
  • Survivor: Redemption Island – Reality-Competition Series
  • Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer – Lead Actress In A Drama
  • Delroy Lindo – The Chicago Code – Supporting Actor In A Drama
  • Kunal Nayyar – The Big Bang Theory – Supporting Actor In A Comedy

The rules – such as they are – this time around are a little different. Because there’s no category at the Emmys for their biggest snubs, we really can’t vote for who should win. Instead, I want you to vote for the show or actor/actress that you feel was most deserving of the nomination that they didn’t get. And in the comments, please feel free to tell me why you chose who or what you chose. Or feel free to tell me that I’m all wet and that none of these people or shows deserved a nomination. If you have a different candidate for the biggest snub mention that too.

Oh, one more thing I should mention: I recently signed up for a service called which is a system that “lets visitors rate and express opinions about people in the news – politicians, athletes, celebrities, authors and more.” If you see an article on the page with a bunch of other articles you won’t see this, but if you view the article alone on a page you will see some of the names highlighted (in pink I believe). Hovering your mouse over the names will bring up a ratings box where you can “vote up” or “vote down” that person, and you can also make comments about them. These comments are separate and distinct from the comments on the blog. I’m giving this a try because it seems like a neat idea but I doubt if it will have the sort of effects that the originators of the service have promised. Still it should be fun.

Deadline August 27, 2011 at noon (or sometime around that time).

Poll Results - Outstanding Reality-Competition Series

so-you-think-you-can-dance1We had the most votes cast in this category than any of the others so far this year – six. And those votes were pretty well spread out, but we did have a winner. Lifetime’s Project Runway received no votes at all (and I’m going to drop in an “I’m not surprised” for reasons that I’ll make clear shortly). The Amazing Race, American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, and Top Chef each picked up one vote (16.6%). But the big winner with two votes (33.3%) is So You Think You Can Dance.

This is a bit of a puzzle to me I confess. I don’t watch the show. Indeed of the six nominees I only watch about three, and one of those – last year’s winner the original Top Chef – only sporadically. So You Think You Can Dance is the only one to run during the summer so there’s a part of me that thinks that people could be voting for this summer’s season – which I‘ve heard was great – rather than last season’s. And if there were more voters I’d suspect it even more. As it stands I just have to believe that people like the performance based aspects of So You Think You Can Dance more than I do.

I didn’t vote this year, or – and I’m sure you know this – there would have been a tie between So You Think You Can Dance and my favourite Reality-Competition series, The Amazing Race. That show has so many dimensions beyond what I think you see in the other  shows in this category. I am afraid however that the show could use a bit of “freshening” to keep it on top. I’ve also said that even I would be hard pressed to vote for The Amazing Race or any of the other contenders in this category if the Redemption Island edition of Survivor had been nominated. It is rare when you see a player in any of these Reality-Competition series play as close to a perfect game as Boston Rob Mariano did in that season of Survivor. It was a thing of beauty and it ought to have been recognised.

New poll up shortly. It’ll be a bit different.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Poll - Outstanding Reality-Competition Series

This is the fifth of this year’s Emmy Polls, not that there are very many people participating in them. The question this week is who should win the Emmy in the category  of Outstanding Reality-Competition Series. This category was an upset last year when Top Chef beat the only other show to win in this category The Amazing Race.
Just to remind anyone who is planning to vote of the “rules”: please vote for the actor that you think should win the Emmy in this category, not necessarily the one that you think will win it. Please feel free to comment on why you are voting the way that you are voting. If you comment I will run them.

Deadline for this poll is about noon on Saturday August 20th, although if the pattern holds, I won’t get around to doing anything with the poll results until a few hours later.

Poll Results - Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama

Don_DraperI had some stuff that I planned to get written over the past seven days, including that article on Lucille Ball. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get that accomplished. The reason is – and there really is no synonym that really conveys this nor is there a genteel way to put it – I felt like shit most of this past week. I’m still not fully up to snuff but I feel a lot better right now than I did even 24 hours ago and that was a little better than I felt most of the week.

Enough of that. There were three votes cast in this week’s poll on who should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. Steve Buscemi, Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie and Timothy Oliphant received no votes. Michael C. Hall from Dexter has one vote (33%). But the winner is Jon Hamm with two votes (66.7%).

I think that Jon Hamm is the person who should win it, which is after all the way the poll has been written. Assuming that Hamm submitted the episode called The Suitcase for Hamm (as well as for Elizabeth Moss) then there is definitely some “hi-test” acting in the episode from both. Even if you take the season as a whole rather than a single episode for Hamm though this year has been an outstanding year for him. Don Draper was plunged into the darkest of dark places (including what was in my opinion his nadir – a few drunken moments of fumbling with his secretary) and managed to emerge bent but not broken, and probably no better than he had been before. As I said it was a great season for him.

Having said all of that, I don’t think that even with the absence of Bryan Cranston Hamm is going to win. I think that the likely winner will be Steve Buscemi. I think there are three basic reasons for this. The role of Nucky Thompson is a good one; Buscemi is a movie star, but one best known for his work in smaller, independent movies (which should appeal to the TV Academy’s snobbery) and; his show’s on HBO. Call me a cynic but that adds up to something that a better performance might have trouble trumping.

I had a couple of reader comments that I thought I should get too, both from Ben. First, on this category:
Jon Hamm's mix of cockiness and self-doubt as Don Draper carries it for me. A few years ago Hugh Laurie would be the best in a walk, but the scripts on House have been beyond his saving lately.
I think I agree on both points. As we know, Emmys in the acting categories are based on a single submitted performance so even though an actor’s performances might be superlative – or in the other extreme as you have said, beyond saving by an actor – it is the quality of the single episode submitted for him. At least how they’re supposed to be judging. Laurie’s writers have always produced one or two episodes of “Emmy Bait” for him every season. While I think that House has slipped over years (I still haven’t watched the end of this season, it’s just not a priority. I am also convinced that the writers have managed to give Laurie his two episodes.

Ben also sent this one on his vote in last week’s Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama category:
Since I didn't comment when voting, I'll own up to being the Connie Britton vote. Her performance seems to be a perfect example of invisible acting. You don't see her acting, you see a working woman behaving the way she would in the office and at home.
Moss is always deserving of praise, and I wouldn't be upset if Margulies won. But since this is the last chance to reward Britton, she's who I went with.
I think your view is valid but it’s tinged with a bit of sentimentality. I wouldn’t be unhappy if Connie Britton were win the Emmy – she deserved to be nominated since the first episode of the first season – but as good as she is, I guess I just prefer Moss.

New poll up in a few minutes.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

New Poll - Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama

This is the fourth of this year’s Emmy Polls, not that there are very many people participating in them. The question this week is who should win the Emmy in the category  of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama. This category would seem to be wide open given that last year’s winner, Bryan Cranston is ineligible as his show Breaking Bad did not air a new episode during the period covered by the 2011 Emmys.

Just to remind anyone who is planning to vote of the “rules”: please vote for the actor that you think should win the Emmy in this category, not necessarily the one that you think will win it. Please feel free to comment on why you are voting the way that you are voting. If you comment I will run them.

Deadline for this poll is about noon on Saturday August 13th, although if the pattern wholds, I won’t get around to doing anything with the poll results until a few hours later.

Poll Results - Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama

marguliesI sort of put off posting this until now because I was working on a post about Lucille Ball’s Biggest Mistake (and no, it wasn’t the topless photo) in hopes that I’d finish it in time to post it on her 100th Birthday. I failed, but I should have that article up later today.

For now the subject is the poll for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama. Following this year’s trend we had only three votes cast and no comments. *Sigh* And the results are as follows. Kathy Bates, Mireille Enos, Mariska Hargitay, and Elizabeth Moss received no votes. Connie Britton got one vote (33%). And the winner was Julianna Marguilies from The Good Wife with two votes (66%).

This is actually quite a good category for broadcast TV with half of the nominees coming from broadcast. Regrettably I think it is also a category with a high percentage of poor nominees. I’m thinking specifically of Kathy Bates who has been nominated for Harry’s Law, and Mariska Hargitay who is perpetually nominated for Law & Order: SVU. I have got a ton of Good Wife episodes sitting unwatched on my PVR, and I know that it’s both a strong female role and a showcase for Margulies. This would normally put her the lead for the Emmy, and in most years I don’t think anyone would be surprised or unhappy if she won. I think that Connie Britton is also deserving of the Emmy, and should have been nominated the first year that Friday Night Lights was on. This is a bit late, and the “unique” way in which the series survived in it’s last three seasons might count against the show and its stars.

I wouldn’t see anything wrong with Julianna Margulies winning the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama. I just don’t think she should. I don’t vote in my own polls but if I did, my vote would have gone to Elizabeth Moss for her performance in Mad Men. Moss’s character has grown tremendously during the four years that the show has been on the air. More to the point, the Emmy awards are based on a single episode that the actors (and their agents) submit and Moss had one extremely strong episode in the 2010 season (The Suitcase) which critics at the time it aired called Emmy winning material. Not only do I think that Moss should win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, I think she will win.

New poll up in a few minutes.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Button Button - Adult Style

takethemoneyandrunI’m trying to decide how I feel about the new ABC summer series Take The Money And Run. On the one hand it was created by Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri with Jerry Bruckheimer, who are the the people behind my absolute favourite reality-competition series, The Amazing Race. On the other hand I don’t really think that it’s going to work as a ratings draw for reasons that have nothing to do with the show itself; it follows ABC’s Wipeout which has overexposed this year by airing for most of the winter and into the summer, and it’s on opposite reruns of CBS’s popular NCIS: Los Angeles and FOX’s Masterchef featuring culinary enfant terrible Gordon Ramsay (in a kinder and gentler role), not to mention NBC’s huge hit America’s Got Talent. Regardless, by the time this is finished and posted we’ll know how it did in the ratings. Here’s the thing though: it doesn’t deserve to do well in the ratings. I much prefer the scripted show that follows it, Combat Hospital and not just because it’s produced in Canada by a Canadian network.

The premise of the game is amazingly simple. Two people (the “Crooks” if you will) are given a briefcase with $100,000 and have one hours to hide it. They have a car with GPS, and cell phones. After the time is up they have to wait for two local police officers (the “Cops”) to “arrest” them and take them to “jail” (the arrest isn’t real of course but the jail appears to be a former detention facility). The local detectives do the leg work, tracking down clues based on the cell phone records, GPS logs and any receipts that the “Crooks” have. Meanwhile the show’s two professional interrogator – 35 year veteran LAPD Detective and novelist Paul Bishop, and 25 year veteran LA County Deputy District Attorney and writer Mary Hanlon Stone – try to break down the “Crooks” stories at the jail. If the “Cops” aren’t able to locate the briefcase with the money in 48 hours the “Crooks” get the cash, but if the “Cops” find the money, they get it. The result isn’t really “Hide and Seek” or “Cops and Robbers” but rather a big game of “Button Button, Who’s Got The Button.” Well really “Button, Button, Where Is The Button.”

The idea sounds at least practical but in my mind it’s the execution that lets it down. In the first of six episodes, San Francisco brothers Paul and Raul Bustamante get the briefcase. Driving around the city in an effort to confuse the “Cops” who will be looking at their GPS coordinates, they also make phone calls to their brother, and two friends (Accomplices) to provide them with alibis. A plan to leave the briefcase in a friend’s restaurant falls because they didn’t know that the restaurant wasn’t open at the time they arrived there. Eventually they bury it in Lafayette Park, and after cleaning their hands and finger nails (because dirty fingernails would point to them having buried the case), they continue to drive around until they are told to stop and wait to be “arrested.”

Once arrested the brothers are taken to “the jail,” fingerprinted, dressed in orange jump suits and locked alone in separate cells. Then the “Cops” – San Francisco detectives Cliff Cook and Dean Taylor – and the Interrogators work out their plans. Cliff and Dean will hit the streets to back track along the brothers’ route as provided by the GPS and check out the alibis provided by the cell phone records. Meanwhile Paul and Mary will start questioning the brothers.

The legwork part of the show isn’t overly interesting. Cliff and Dean start out at Golden Gate Park, where they first “arrested” Paul and Raul. They question some bystanders and rapidly decided that the case wasn’t hidden in the park. They call Paul and Raul’s mom and identify themselves as friends of her sons to get the location of their brother (one of the three people Accomplices). Checking this on the map they decide that the case isn’t there because he lives nowhere near the route on the GPS. Another Accomplice is dismissed because he admits to not having seen them during the hour.

Meanwhile Bishop and Hanlon work out a strategy of how to approach the brothers in their questioning. They decide that Raul is the stronger brother, while Paul (who lives at home with their mother) is the less certain brother. This informs their interrogation style. When she questions Raul, Mary is almost friendly gaining his confidence and is able to pick up on his hesitation when talking about his brother Robert (the Accomplice) which is an indication to her that he’s lying. Meanwhile Bishop is working on Paul. His attitude is more confrontational and it yields results as his lies are more easily observed. Giving them some time to rest – and in Paul’s case to become increasingly tense and ill at ease about his surroundings and what he’s involved in – Hanlon and Bishop work out their next steps. They analyze Paul and Raul’s reaction to their interrogation, how to approach each brother and which one to spend the most time with. They also spend time analyzing the GPS material and the phone calls to give Cliff and Dean information on where there were gaps in movement and conversations. They reason that these gaps represent places where the money could have been hidden. While they maintain a rather easy approach to Raul, allowing him to grow increasingly arrogant in his certainty that the “Cops” are nowhere near to finding the case, they increasingly put the squeeze on Paul. They push in on his personal space and on at least one occasion they go into his cell and close in on him so that he has no space to escape. Eventually, as Paul spends more and more time in his cell alone they can see his confidence crumble. Eventually they make him an offer; he can end his discomfort right now if he’ll only let them know where the case is. He let’s them know that the case is in a park, but not Golden Gate Park, and that they buried it although he isn’t clear where the case is. After being called Cliff and Dean search Lafayette Park and after one wrong choice they finally find the case buried in a clump of bushes.

On his blog, producer Jerry Bruckheimer offered an explanation of some of the rules that the players – particularly the “Crooks” had to abide by. The “Crooks” had to use the vehicles provided. They are allowed to park it and walk places. They are also allowed to use pay phones in addition to cell phones. The “Cops” and Interrogators have access to GPS data and Cell Phone Records. Apparently they also had access to any Tweets or Facebook postings the “Crooks” may have made though that isn’t stated in Bruckheimer’s posts. The briefcase has to be hidden in a location that is accessible 24 hours a day. If they use a person to help hide the case – for example in someone’s house or business – that person must be accessible by the detectives. Finally, the “Crooks” are required to answer all questions asked of them by the “Cops” and the Interrogators, however both the “Crooks” and the “Cops/Interrogators” are both permitted to lie. Indeed lying is expected, and both sides are encouraged to attempt to deceive the other.

There are a number of things about this show that don’t really work and in the end one major problem that has to do entirely with a given episode and is a fault in the very conception of the show. One of the problems is the way the show is set up with the three pairs of people involved: the “Crooks,” The “Cops” and the “Interrogators.” The “Crooks” and the “Cops“ are contestants in a game. They aren’t paid by the production but are participating for the chance to win $100,000, while Bishop and Stone are constant participants, paid by the producers. They are, for lack of a better term, the professionals on the show. And yet they had the bulk of the screen time in the premiere episode – more certainly than Cliff Cook and Dean Taylor and arguably more than the Bustamente Brothers. The show becomes a battle of wits between Bishop and Stone and the Bustamentes while Cook and Taylor are at best supporting characters. If this show was a scripted production (like Castle for example – in fact this example) Cook and Taylor would be Ryan and Esposito. To do the show properly the battle of wits should be the two partnerships who are trying to win the money, while the people from the show  would be the ones doing the leg work for them.Of course there’s no guarantee that you’d get real world cops who are strong interrogators let alone photogenic enough and polished enough to be able to split our sympathies between them and the “Crooks.” And yet, for me at least there was a sense that the “Cops” didn’t really do enough to deserve the money.

However for me the overriding problem that the show has is the most basic fault that any show – scripted or reality – can have. The show lacks any real sort of dramatic tension and as a result it is at its root, kind of boring. The development of dramatic tension is something that van Munster and Doganieri seem to do so well in The Amazing Race that I expected to see it here, and I didn’t. Truth be known of course, I’m not really sure where the dramatic tension could have been developed. We know that the “Crooks” will be caught, because it’s built into the structure of the game that they have to hide the briefcase in an hour and then pull over and wait for the “Cops.” This takes the “thrill of the chase” element out of the game. And we really don’t get a confrontation between the two groups who are after the money, the “Crooks” and the “Cops.” They are basically playing to separate games, with the link between them being the “Interrogators.” After they “arrest” the “Crooks” the “Cops” have nothing more to do with them on an interpersonal basis. And they also get much less screen time. What the show eventually devolves into is two people talking (albeit not necessarily the same two people). Such dramatic tension as exists is largely manufactured by Bishop and Hanlon commenting on which person is most likely to crack and the approaches to take. The act (commercial) breaks don’t occur in such a way that they hold our attention by being dramatic “mini-cliffhanger” moments as we see in scripted shows, and indeed in reality competition shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race. These are felt to be necessary in order to bring us back to the show immediately after the commercials. I’m not sure that even the best editors – and for The Amazing Race van Munster and Doganiei employ some of the best editors in the Reality-Competition business – could have built the dramatic tension in this episode. Even the final segment, where Paul and Mary “break” Paul Bustamante and get him to reveal where the location of the briefcase is anticlimactic. The producers “thoughtfully” put up a clock indicating how long remained in the 48 hours. With twenty hours left in the time that the brothers were being held and fifteen minutes left in the show, it wouldn’t take a genius to realize that the “Cops” were going to win the money, and since Bishop and Hanlon had focussed on Paul as the weaker of the two brothers that he would be the one to break. And of course that was exactly what happened.

Take The Money And Run was a series that I was looking forward to because of the people associated with it. I expected van Munster and Doganieri to produce a show as good as their other show, The Amazing Race. If they had produced a show that was even half that good It would be better than most of the summer shows on TV. I thought that Take The Money And Run had potential to be that good. The actual product was far less than what I had expected and hoped that it would be. It is a failure if for no other reason than that it violated the cardinal rule of Television; It’s boring. Worse, it’s boring without the redeeming quality of being smart.

(And as for the ratings, Take The Money And Run finished fourth in total viewers with 5.28 million, and third in the 18-49 demographic with a 1.9/5. the ratings for the other shows in the time period were America’s Got Talent with 11.92 million viewers and a 3.1/9 in the demographic; NCIS: Los Angeles with 8.13 million viewers and a 1.5/4 in the demographic; Masterchef with 5.87 million and 2.4/7 in the demographic; and Shedding For The Wedding with 410,000 viewers and a 0.2/1 in the demographic. Take The Money And Run retained 79.2% of the rating from the new episode of Wipeout that preceded it.)