Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What Lies Under the 'Surface'? Plus 'Prison Break'

When Desperate Housewives stormed out of the gate last season and helped ABC finish tied for second for the season, a lot of people thought that there would be a bunch of copycat shows on the fall schedule. Imagine everyone's surprise when the show's premise barely made a blip on the new shows' radar. So, why aren't there more copycats of a show that almost toppled CSI's number one ranking? Because everyone was too busy writing shows about the supernatural. It seems that Lost's mysterious ripples reached much further than Desperate Housewives' satiric soapy ones. Lost is a huge hit, especially for a network that, just one year ago, was circling the bottom of the barrel, but it's not as big of a hit as Desperate Housewives. So, why are show runners choosing to develop their own supernatural dramas and not satirical soaps? Most likely because there is a lot more room to be creative with the supernatural theme than the satirical soap theme. Housewives has been done, and done quite well, so followers would be held up to the standard it set. Creatively, there isn't a lot more that can be done to make a new show distinguishable from the original. But with the supernatural theme, there is a lot of room for creativity, and a lot of different premises that are completely different from Lost, but can still attract the show's large audience. In other words, there's a better chance of getting a good audience with the supernatural dramas. Like everything else, there is the fear of saturation, so show runners will have to be careful, but supernatural shows as mainstream hits is still a new concept.

One of the shows hoping to achieve Lost's success is the NBC drama Surface. Besides the supernatural themes, the two shows have very little in common. Instead of an island, Surface revolves around people from all over, including the South Antartic Sea, San Diego, Monterey, and the Gulf of Mexico. There isn't an unseen monster lurking in the jungle, but mysterious sea creatures. Series co-creator Jonas Pate tells TVGuide.com that he understands the comparison to Lost, but he promises his show won't leave viewers hanging as much, despite the impression the pilot gives us. "Believe it or not, we're not going to be as coy with revealing things as you might expect, because there are many layers to the mystery [of the sea creatures]." He adds that "what you see in the pilot is only the opening salvo." But if the show comes off more in the style of an action/adventure show and less supernatural, that's because co-creators (and brothers) Jonas and Josh Pate designed the show more in the James Cameron's Abyss fashion and less in the Lost one.

The show has undergone some changes over the summer, most notable a name change from Fathom to Surface because of some legal tie-ups. But the premise has remained, and so do the over arching questions: What exactly are these new creatures? Are they good, bad, or a little bit of both? And how will the lives change for the people who come in contact with these creatures? The show stars Lake Bell (Boston Legal) and Leighton Meester (Tarzan). You can start finding the answers to the show's questions when it premieres September 19th on NBC.

Anyone catch Prison Break last night? The show seems to be off to a decent start. One thing I found difficult about the show is the leap of faith it requires the viewer to take in order to buy the premise. First, we have to overlook the fact that Michael (Wentworth Miller) would be placed into the same prison as his brother, and no one would realize this mistake. Second, we have to buy the whole Michael doesn't have Type I diabetes, but he's able to convince the prison doctor that he does. Wouldn't they do a medical history check? And then there's the over arching leap of faith that Michael studied the prison's blueprints well enough to know exactly what he needs to know (or check his body covering tattoo to find what he forgets), and the prison is exactly the same as the blueprints originally had it - right down to the screw used to bolt together the bleachers in the prison yard. But, I'm willing to take the leap because the show caught my attention. Is there some sort of Government conspiracy to make sure Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) is executed on May 11th? Or, is the Secret Service just making sure justice is served for the assassination of the Vice President's brother? And who shot the Bishop? Plus, Robin Tunney is fabulous as Lincoln's ex-girlfriend and Michael's help on the outside.


*Charlize Theron will guest star on Fox's Arrested Development. She'll play a British woman who dates Michael (Jason Batemen). She's signed on for five episodes, with the first episode airing on September 26th.

*It looks like Fox has another big hit on its hands. Prison Break opened to huge numbers last night and propelled Fox to the top finish in total viewers. The show also did well in the advertiser coveted 18-49 year old group.

*And finally, Rachel Bilson, Patrick Dempsey, Craig Ferguson, Jason Lee, Kyra Sedgwick, and James Spader have been added to the list of presenters for The 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The awards air live from Los Angeles on September 18th on CBS.

That's all for today. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for a special "throwback" edition. Plus, all of today's latest television news.


suekola44 said...

I was unable to watch prison Break last night due to many scheduling conflicts on monday nights. Was wondering if they are going to replay it?

TVFan said...

Yes, check it out tomorrow night (9/1) from 8-10pm on Fox.