Primetime Television battles to kick off a new fall season –

  • The big jump. Fox. Monday September 20, 9 p.m.
  • NCIS: Hawaii. CBS. Monday September 20, 10 p.m.
  • Ordinary joe. NBC. Monday September 20, 10 p.m.

Like a vampire in the night, COVID-19 is draining the blood of the television industry. (Hey, that could be a new pilot! Count Nielsen, vampire! Wait while I call my agent.) Outbreaks and public health orders are eating into production schedules, while reruns are on the rise with television alternatives like podcasts. The result is that TV ratings – to stay on the vampire theme – fade like David Bowie at the end of Hunger. Some weeks during the 2020-21 television season, ratings have dropped by 15% or more. Can the dreaded return of print be far behind?

Let the times really be that dire, there is no doubt that the fall TV season is in tatters. Excluding reality and competition shows — and a remake of Fantastic island which I’ll thank you for never mentioning in my presence again – there are only a dozen new shows this fall, including a bunch of spinoffs, sequels, and reboots. This is the lowest number for some time in the early 1950s TV slime.

Unsurprisingly, there is little in this batch of new shows to turn the tide. There’s a pretty good comedy, a police procedural clone that will no doubt find fans precisely because it looks like every other police procedural, and a complete dud in which NBC ripped off the format, but none of the quality. , from one of his own dramas.

The failure is Ordinary joe, a soapy drama in which James Wolk (zoo) plays a guy in three alternate timelines. The concept is clearly taken from NBC’s massive five-season success It’s us, in which the story of a single struggling family is traced through constant flashbacks. Sadly, distraught NBC programmers failed to notice what a viewer might have told them: the success of It’s us is not due to a fanciful timeline but to an exceptional cast and pungent storyboarding, none of which Ordinary joe To.

Ordinary joe begins with Wolk’s character, Joe Kimbreau, an aspiring musician, showing up late for his graduation ceremony in Syracuse 10 years ago and literally stumbling upon a comely political science classmate named Amy (Natalie Martinez , The stall). Meanwhile, somewhere in the crowd of caps and dresses is Joe’s best friend with casual perks, Jenny (Elizabeth Lail, Freeform’s) Death of summer). Now Joe has a choice: ask for a date with the apparently receptive Amy; accept a casual dinner invitation from Jenny; or have a drink with his uncle, who wants Joe to carry on the family police tradition.

What follows are tales of three lives Joe could have lived – cop, nurse, rock star – as he chose, with Amy and Jenny connected in various configurations, which I’d be happy to share with you if I understood them from a distance. Ordinary joe does an appallingly poor job of differentiating its timelines (Is it the one with the crippled baby or the twins? Marriage or divorce?) And the problem is only exacerbated by the bland generic performance of the top three. (I can’t bring myself to use the word stars.) “Have you ever felt that one choice could change your whole life? Joe asks at the start of the pilot episode. I do, and I tell you for sure that to choose to watch Ordinary joe will leave you tormented with boredom, boredom and the vague but insistent urge to tear your eyes out.

NCIS: Hawaii is not as mind-numbing as Ordinary joe, but as they say in horseshoes and hand grenades, close enough to count. Ordered, apparently, because CBS was canceling Hawaii Five-O rather give a big raise to his stars out of contract, the new NCIS (the, God help us, fourth edition) offers the same mixture of magnificent landscapes, cardboard characters and insane violence. The only differences between Five O’s and NCIS the versions are the awakened spelling of Hawai’i in the latter, arguably CBS’s idea of ​​a blow to US imperialism and ethnic oppression, and the regrettable absence of the Ventures.

NCIS cops include Vanessa Lachey (BH90210) as a dark-faced commander, Yasmine Al-Bustami (The chosen) as a sinister-faced young lackey, Tori Anderson (Not tomorrow) like his grim-faced rival DIA, and Alex Tarrant (800 words) and Noah Mills (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) as various grim-faced interchangeable minions. A nod to diversity, Antoon (Claws) plays a cyber intelligence who rolls his eyes because he’s crazy.

There are a lot of growls of things like “I’m not implying anything!” I only go where the business takes me! and “Let me worry! —All said very quickly in the hope that you won’t notice how the script is meaningless jargon, procedural masterpiece, or scraps of other stuff. NCIS shows. By the way, if you insist on watching NCIS: Hawaii in order to get rid of those excess brain cells that are blocking your neural pathways, do not already miss the first 10 seconds because that’s when things explode. The series may not have the money to play or chat, but the DTT budget never seems to go down.

I really expected Fox’s The big jump to be at least as stupid as Ordinary joe and NCIS: Hawaii. Some kind of show within the show, this is a collection of has-beens, never-were and oh-god-what-were-they-they-they-thought? on trial for a reality TV show in which the winning contestants will stage a live production of Swan Lake. And, to my amazement, it’s funny, a little silly, and wonderfully dismissive of not just the reality genre but the whole of television. Where else would you see twin siblings kissing during a try-out dance as a producer yells at his assistant, “Call up research and see how incest plays out in the Midwest!”

The big jump was created and written by Liz Heldens, whose awesome screenwriting credits cover everything from football drama to high school Texas Friday night lights to the underrated modern vampire tale The passage. His new show is based on, or inspired by, or maliciously influenced by an actual UK reality TV show, Grand Ballet, in which amateur dancers whose height can be deduced from the title actually perform ballets. If you are wondering who could watch such a show and why, keep in mind that a few years ago the British flocked to a BBC show called Fat men can’t hunt in which pig competitors were thrown into an African desert and left to chase emus and the like.

There are no real people – nor emus either – in The big jump, and not all of the competitors are overweight. Many of them are just people who for one reason or another have been left behind by life and would like to catch up. Gabby (newcomer Simon Recasner) and Justin (TV character actor Raymond Cham Jr.) were high school hip-hop dance champions before their careers were cut short by her pregnancy. Julia (Teri Polo, West wing) is a former ballerina who quit the craft and is now doing a podcast about the joy of not being young. (“We don’t use the word o in this house,” she warns the children. “Growing old is a wonderful, wonderful journey,” she insists to her listeners. She might feel differently if she knew her husband was locked in his office all day immersed in the site.

Then there’s Mike (Jon Rudnitsky, Socket-22), a laid-off auto worker whose wife just left him for another guy — and Paula (Piper Perabo, Secret affairs), an auto maker who, unbeknownst to one of them, sent Mike’s work to Mexico. Others include the twincesters, a plus-size S&M pole dancer and a former Detroit Lions tight end whose retirement was hastened by the propensity to drink and show up naked in training. Contestants are continually whipped online by Monica Sullivan (Mallory Jansen, SHIED agents) one of the judges of the show, who is clearly inspired by American Idolthe wasp Simon Fuller, except Fuller, off camera, is a nice guy, and Monica isn’t. “If I had a car accident, do you think I could cancel my contract? She whispers to a producer after a particularly excruciating audition.

Always funny and with a keen sense of humor about it – the cast themselves reflect aloud on the surrealism of the elaborate song and dance numbers that erupt in bowling alleys and fire escapes –The big jump is above all a comedy, and a good comedy. But it’s also a nice pat on the back for everyone who feels beaten by COVID, the recession and the O word. “It’s a tough time to be alive,” one of the friends whispers to him. of Mike after an angry confrontation with his wife. In The big jump, at least for a few minutes, it is not.

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