Thursday, September 15, 2005

Not A Review of Head Cases

So here's the thing. I was going to write a review of Head Cases for the blog, seeing as how it was the only new series to debut on Wednesday night, but I decided not to do it. I've got the notes and I'll write up something next week when I hopefully (given the disruptions created by coverage of a George W. Bush speech tonight this may in fact be a forlorn hope) I'll be able to see the second episode. The trouble is, you see, that watching the first episode of Head Cases isn't going to let me review the series just that first episode.

Let me explain. For a lot of TV series the very first episode is reflective of what the show will be like next week or ten weeks from now. Details might change but the basic ideas and basic concepts, and the basic qualities will remain the same. The War At Home will be as putrid an example of television comedy in thirteen weeks - if the Vox Dei in the form of the Nielsen ratings allows it to last that long - as it was in the very first episode. Similarly, unless Bones undergoes some retooling to strengthen the supporting characters - or eliminate some or all of them - it probably won't change that much over the length of its run. That's not exactly the case with Head Cases. The first episode is not representative of what is to come in the series.

In Head Cases Chris O'Donnell plays Jason Payne a hot shot lawyer whose personal life is going down the sewer and who is suffering anxiety attacks as a result. After his wife throws him out for missing an appointment with their son's school psychologist Jason suffers a nervous breakdown sending him to a very posh asylum for a couple of months. When he gets out, not only doesn't his wife want him around but the law firm where he was a rising star fires him, essentially because he went nuts. There's part of a scene where they explain why he was fired where I'm not sure if what we're seeing and hearing is real or part of Jason's illness. Jason has been paired by his psychiatrist with another patient - a low rent lawyer named Russell Schultz, although everyone just calls him Schultz. In simple terms Schultz, played by Adam Goldberg, has a serious anger management problem - he likes to hit people who make him mad and just about everyone makes him mad. A major focus in the first episode is Payne getting his revenge on his former law firm by trying and winning a big case against them - with the help of Schultz. At the end of the episode they become partners with an office near the beach.

This is fine. I like O'Donnell, an actor who was riding high before he did the two Batman movies although apparently his absence from film was at least partially voluntary. I like Goldberg - he looks like he should be a low rent lawyer. The problem is that the series isn't going to be about Jason Payne getting his revenge on his old firm, it's going to be about the partnership of Payne and Schultz and how the two of them work together and we only saw hints of what that's going to be like. I think I'm fairly justified in wanting to see a more typical episode before telling people whether I think the show is worth watching. I mean sure, I'm not a professional critic (for one thing my audience is quite frankly tiny) but I'd like to get it right.

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