TEACHABLE MOMENTS

In Reviews on February 4, 2010 at 4:30 am

Leverage — The Future Job

In the often-depressing genre of books promising to teach aspiring airport writers How to Write Bestselling Fiction there is an impressive body of work that forbids people from doing the exact expository tricks upon which TV procedurals are increasingly reliant. Much of the advice to be found in eighty year-old books that explain how to write fiction for the Slick periodicals is probably no longer valid—the slush pile address of the Saturday Evening Post, at least, can be removed from the aspiring writer’s rolodex—but for everyone except the writers of any TV show produced or influenced by Jerry Bruckheimer the following maxim remains as fresh today as it’s ever been: Don’t shove expository dialogue where it doesn’t belong. Just don’t!

This rule is so old it was originally aimed at the perennially well-informed chambermaid of British theater, the one who is always willing, in conversation with other chambermaids, to use full names and proper nouns for people and events they’ve both been familiar with for years. (“Why, the Parson’s own wife is coming today? After having left us twenty years ago, on the young master John’s fifth birthday?”) But if the people who write Leverage have heard it, it was ironically enough, not explained very well.

FOX’S LATEST GENIUS

In Reviews on January 19, 2010 at 1:48 am

Human Target — Pilot

Is there a more evocative name on TV than Human Target, recently packaged with 24 for its series premiere? The premise, taken from a comic book of the same name—I wonder when it cedes its wikipedia namespace to the TV version?—is delivered pretty thoroughly in those two words, and its preview commercials removed all doubt as to this neo-procedural hour-long’s formula: Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) takes cases as a bodyguard in-plain-sight, luring potential assassins out by putting only himself, under some innocuous cover, between them and their man.

The pilot betrays its comic book roots in Chance’s first adventure, which takes place aboard a near-future bullet train in California. There’s a hideout, dark but somehow over-ornamented, like the walls of a TGI Friday’s, with things designed to achieve a moody-layer effect;  there’s a business plan, in which Chance and assistant Winston (Chi McBride) run this quasi-legal bodyguard outfit, that seems unmoored to any notion of reality. Even its shots seem, at times, composed more for the panel than the flat panel.

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