[07/22/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "South Beach" (UPN)
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:

(TBA at midseason)

The network's description: "SOUTH BEACH (Day/Time TBD) revolves around Matt and Vince, best friends filled with aspirations of a better future, as they abandon their world as they know it and head to the alluring paradise of sandy beaches, beautiful people and hot spots in glamorous South Beach. Matt's preoccupation with his old, fashion-model girlfriend has him diving head first into her thrilling new life, even though she has moved on, and Vince, willing to do anything to get ahead, uncovers the dangerous and possibly seedy underbelly of SOUTH BEACH. The series stars Marcus Coloma ("Point Pleasant") as Matt, Chris Johnson ("xXx: State of the Union") as Vincent, Lee Thompson Young ("Friday Night Lights") as Ian, and Vanessa L. Williams ("Johnson Family Vacation") as Elizabeth."

What did they leave out: It's better than "Sex, Love & Secrets," but that's a lot like saying you prefer a punch in the stomach instead of a punch in the mouth. Also, Sara Foster has exited her role of Ariel, the ex-girlfriend of Coloma's character, for unspecified reasons.

The plot in a nutshell: Matt (Marcus Coloma) is a smart, good-looking, working class kid who's been saving everything he can from his construction job in order to go to college in the fall and finally get out of Brooklyn. But after his father tells him he's gambled away his savings, Matt takes up his slightly-shady friend Vincent's (Chris Johnson) offer to accompany him to Miami Beach for a few weeks. Helping make his decision easier: Miami Beach is exactly where Matt's ex-girlfriend (Sara Foster) took off to in order to pursue her modeling dreams. A brief music montage later (one of many the show utilizes), Matt and Vincent are hip-deep in bikinis and sand. There they get invited to a local hot spot where (because it's television folks) Matt runs into his ex, who apparently has taken up with the club/hotel's manager Ian (Lee Thompson Young). But she's not too happy as she finds her modeling career has hit a wall (that is it seems unless she's willing to go nude) and is hoping Ian's connections will get her a big break. In spite of the awkwardness, Ian offers to hook Matt and Vincent up with jobs at the club/hotel. But that's not all folks! Ian's business mogul mother Elizabeth (a slumming Vanessa L. Williams), who in one of the show's numerous subplots is at odds with the local thug lord (Giancarlo Esposito, also slumming), takes a liking to Matt and proceeds to take him under her wing. And... well, there's plenty of other intrigue (which I won't spoil here) but suffice it to say things get even more convoluted and ridiculous.

What works: See "what did they leave out."

What doesn't: The show is basically one extremely long music video as characters can't walk from one place to another without the latest club hit as the soundtrack. And when the music does die town, we're "treated" to the painfully convoluted plot which only gets more ridiculous with each act. (There's really no point in picking it apart.) This is simply a show that builds on outlandish coincidence after outlandish coincidence with no attempt to ground itself in reality. Nevertheless, that fact actually works to its advantage as if you love cheesy, soapy intrigue (think FOX's short-lived "North Shore") - you'll get a buffet's worth here. I unfortunately don't, so it all falls on deaf ears.

The challenges ahead: With "Sex, Love & Secrets" doomed to fail, does this show have any better a chance? We'll find out next year on UPN.

  [july 2005]  


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