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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.
And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
BONUS FIRST LOOK: THE APOSTLES (FOX)
(pilot not ordered to series)
The network's description: "When you live every day knowing it could be your last, you live that much more intensely. THE APOSTLES is a series about the private lives of cops who share side-by-side dwellings at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Simi Valley, a suburban enclave just north of Los Angeles. It's about their dreams and passions, their lies and secrets. Young officer JOHN "PREACHER" CALHOUN (Keith Robinson, "Dreamgirls," "Over There") is a committed Christian in a godless world, fighting to protect his belief system and madly in love with new bride KELLY (Meghan Markle, "CSI: NY"), a former dancer he "saved" from the mean streets. Living next door to the Calhouns is a couple who've been married forever, colorful "IRON MIKE" BRINJAK (Grayson McCouch, "As the World Turns") and his wife DEE (Leslie Hope, "Commander in Chief," "24"). Mike's a dinosaur in an evolving police department, loved by everyone in the department but feeling increasingly unloved at home as Dee finishes law school and reenters the workplace after years as a devoted wife and mother. The split-level next door is home to young married cops PETER (Shawn Hatosy, "Factory Girl") and ERIN (Yara Martinez, "The Hitcher") McBRIDE. A new baby in the house only adds to the fragility of their eggshell-thin relationship. Peter, on the edge, is harboring deep secrets. Meanwhile, Erin's career is skyrocketing; promoted over her husband, she's now a detective. The job is a dream-come-true for Erin until her lieutenant and mentor, CHRISTINE RYDELL (Jessalyn Gilsig, "Heroes", "Nip/Tuck"), stirs up trouble in the neighborhood by using the police investigation into the death of her own ex-husband to force Erin into questioning her friends, neighbors and even her husband, Peter. As viewers will quickly learn, something terrifying is brewing behind this peaceful facade. It seems the deadly danger of the streets has followed the heroes home. Written and executive-produced by Chuck Pratt ("Desperate Housewives," "Melrose Place") and directed by David McNally ("Justice," "Coyote Ugly"), THE APOSTLES comes from 20th Century Fox Television."
What did they leave out: Keep reading.
The plot in a nutshell: Narration by "Iron Mike" Brinjak (Grayson McCouch, complete with buzz cut) introduces us to the members of the surrounding cul-de-sac, all cops in the Valley by day who live next door to each other by night. There's John "Preacher" Calhoun (Keith Robinson), a born again Christian who recently married Kelly (Meghan Markle), a former stripper he saved from the streets; Erin (Yara Martinez) and Peter McBride (Shawn Hatosy), married cops with a newborn son who constantly fight about work and money; "Iron Mike" himself, a self-described street cop for life; his wife Dee (Leslie Hope), whose new law degree has added some friction to their generally strong marriage; and Frank Rydell (Joe Bucaro III), a divorced cop with a teen daughter (Lucy Hale) who's mysteriously murdered in his home at the end of the teaser. Said event causes the arrival of Frank's ex, Christine Rydell (Jessalyn Gilsig), an Internal Affairs investigator who's pegged him as a dirty cop. And since all of the members of the cul-de-sac partnered with Frank at some point, they're all suspects too. Making matters worse - each has their own problems they can barely handle - Mike thinks Dee's new career will leave him behind, causing him to literally stalk her while on duty; Dee asks for bedroom tips from Kelly to reignite her marriage; Peter is hitting the bottle hard and gets himself suspended for using excessive force; Erin secretly hates her new promotion, a job which Peter secretly resents; Kelly finds that Preacher won't stop holding her previous life over her; and Preacher himself is miraculously spared by a psychopath who cuts out the eyes of sinners (no, you didn't read that wrong). And if that wasn't enough - Mike makes a drunken pass at Erin, Peter is revealed to be the one in cahoots with Frank (not to mention kills the only witness who can connect them) and the aforementioned psycho calls Preacher on his cell phone to tell him he's going to strike again.
What works: Say it with me - "Whaaaaaaaaa???"
What doesn't: A Herculean mess if there ever was one, "The Apostles" hits the trifecta of bad television - inconsistent characterization, a hodgepodge of tones and jaw droppingly silly plotting. As you've undoubtedly figured out, the show feebly tries to graft the "Desperate Housewives" setup (knowing narration, characters with secrets who live next door to each other, etc.) onto a police drama. And truth be told, for the first act or so it kind of works - lots of domestic foibles with a hint of secrets under the surface. But it's not long before things fly off the rails. All of the various characters subplots - especially the out-of-nowhere serial mamer - feel like they belong in different shows. I mean to go from the girls on the block drunkenly getting stripping tips from Kelly to Preacher being held hostage by a guy who cuts out peoples eyes to Frank's maudlin funeral is bizarrely inconsistent at best and pointlessly weird at worst. Even the actors themselves don't seem to know what to do - McCouch's Mike is painted as a grizzled veteran who's not exactly thrilled with his wife's new job. So sure we'll buy he's willing to run the plates of her new boss and maybe even let his passive aggressive treatment of him at a barbeque slide, but somehow Chuck Pratt's script works in time for him to make a drunken pass at Erin. Um, what? Where did that come from? The same goes for the other characters - each is eventually pushed to the edge of believability only to be sent off the cliff by a bizarre twist or turn. Even ignoring those elements, and that's a major stretch, nobody is really that interesting or compelling. Even the show's central mystery comes off as only Christine and Peter's problem as the rest of the cast simply name checks the issue. I guess I just don't get what the end result is supposed to be.
The bottom line: All in all, the "what works" part says it all.