[07/08/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Close to Home" (CBS)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.

There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:

(Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00c this fall)

The network's description: "CLOSE TO HOME (Tuesday, 10:00 PM) stars Jennifer Finnigan ("The Bold and the Beautiful") in a legal drama that tears away the facade of suburbia to reveal that sometimes quiet and tranquil streets can hide the darkest of crimes. Annabeth Chase (Finnigan) is a young, aggressive prosecutor with a perfect conviction record who tries the cases that take place in her own backyard. Returning to work after having her first child, Annabeth is ready to take on the most difficult cases, fueled by her passion to protect her community and her family. Kimberly Elise ("Diary of a Mad Black Woman"), John Carroll Lynch ("The Drew Carey Show") and Christian Kane ("Friday Night Lights") also star."

What did they leave out: That description more or less covers it.

The plot in a nutshell: We track talented prosecutor Annabeth Chase (Jennifer Finnigan) as she begins her first day back at work following maternity leave. Her first case: a woman is charged with setting fire to her home (just 10 blocks from Chase's own house) with herself and her two children inside. As you might expect, there's plenty of twists and turns, all of which go to show that crimes in the suburbs can be just as twisted as in the big city. In addition, Chase struggles with a colleague (Kimberly Elise) being promoted over her due to her absence, getting a mini-fridge for breast milk from her boss (John Carroll Lynch) and desperately missing her new child and husband (Christian Kane).

What works: Jennifer Finnigan is a real surprise here. This is not the quirky, flighty girl from last season's "Committed" in the least. There's various moments where you find yourself jumping back as she transforms from doe-eyed young mother to vicious attack dog prosecutor in a nanosecond. It's very cool stuff. The rest of the cast also works well but it's obvious this is the Jennifer Finnigan Show and they all orbit around her. And as you might expect, nobody brings it to the table like Jerry Bruckheimer and co. He brings the same level of technical quality here as he does to "C.S.I.," "Without a Trace," etc.

What doesn't: Despite the above, I honestly can't find myself wanting to go out of my way to watch this show every week. It's obviously a well-made and well-produced series, but there's nothing here that feeds me like a "Lost" or "24" or so on will. After all, putting aside the "new mom" slant/Bruckheimer bells and whistles, this is still very much a legal procedural and will mostly live and die by that aspect. Nevertheless, Finnigan's charm may be enough to warrant making the effort.

The challenges ahead: Is America willing to embrace yet another Bruckheimer show? And a de facto legal procedural at that? We'll find out this fall on CBS.

  [july 2005]  


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