[08/22/07 - 09:15 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Man, The" (CBS)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

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!

(TBA at midseason)

The network's description: No official description has been released.

What did they leave out: The screened pilot was actually shot as a "presentation," meaning it's more of a selection of key scenes (just under 33 minutes by my count) rather than a full blown first episode. Now that it has been picked up to series, the footage will be expanded into a full - and reportedly totally revamped - pilot. To that end, LL Cool J (obviously) and Domenick Lombardozzi's characters are the only ones expected to survive the transition.

The plot in a nutshell: Manny Baxter (LL Cool J), like all good undercover cops on TV, isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Whether it be holding a drug dealer over a building ledge or headbutting a cop to protect his cover, Manny is well... I'd say "The Man" but those words are never actually spoken. Anyway, he's the head of a Special Investigations Unit in the L.A.P.D. There his boss (Melinda Clarke) feeds him cases that require Manny's (and his team's) services as a UC. The pilot then concerns itself with taking down the supplier behind "khat," a new street drug that's responsible for the death of teen girl... or as Manny puts it, "Oh, a white girl died." And so, using his high-tech briefing screen, he assigns his crew their respective roles for his cover as a drug dealer trying to get in on the "khat" supply - Cue Ball (Domenick Lombardozzi) will pose as a plainclothes cop who roughs up some low level dealers so that Manny can come in and save the day while Constance (Jessica Collins) will play his hooker girlfriend who's designed to help sell the part. Not surprisingly it's not long before they move up the food chain to a mid-level dealer and from there to the actual supplier, a kiddie porn kingpin who uses "khat" to loosen up his subjects. Along the way Manny bonds with an emergency room nurse/soon-to-be-doctor (Mia Maestro) as well as Kiko (David Castro), the son of one of the dealers who's forced to live in squalor. And thus when said boy's dad (along with everyone else involved) winds up in jail and leaves him with no where else to go, Manny decides to offer his help as he was adopted from the streets and sees a lot of himself in Kiko. He's got bigger problems though as when he arrives home a red laser sight appears on his forehead just as we... cut to black.

What works: The screened version is probably the least complete of any of the presentations I've seen thus far, meaning it's somewhat difficult to really get a sense of what the show will be like. That being said, the footage here just seems like...

What doesn't: ...an excuse to see LL Cool J lift weights, hold his gun sideways, beat up thugs without messing up his bling and walk in slow motion while hip-hop music plays. Not surprisingly then the premise feels as flimsy as it sounds - Manny beats up bad guys/works out/wash/rinse/repeat - with the only new "angles" being that occasionally the screen jumps into "Manny Vision" to examine small details "C.S.I." style (after all, this is from Anthony Zuiker) and that he'll apparently adopt Kiko. (The initial press indicated that he already has adopted three kids - "an abused boy with an aggression problem, a former streetwalker girl he put in community college and a skateboarder boy who is a recovering drug addict" - however that aspect was either dropped or meant to be filmed as part of the full pilot when it was picked up. Like the laser sight is from one of the kids' toys maybe?) In any case, the former feels like unnecessary flair while the latter certainly has potential - as it is one of the few times LL Cool J isn't lifting weights, holding his gun sideways, beating up thugs without messing up his bling and walking in slow motion while hip-hop music plays - but obviously isn't given enough time to be fully explored. The same feeling also applies to the supporting cast as they essentially wave and say hello, a shame considering how fun Clarke and Lombardozzi were/are on "The O.C." and "The Wire," respectively. In the end, it's hard to really come to a consensus about the current version, especially considering it's being tabled for an as-yet-unspecified version.

The bottom line: We'll have to wait and see.

  [august 2007]  


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