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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot - or in this new post-strike/straight-to-series world, reading the pilot script. We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.
With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
ELEVENTH HOUR (CBS)
(written by Mick Davis; directed by Danny Cannon; TRT: 44:51)
The network's description: "ELEVENTH HOUR from acclaimed producer Jerry Bruckheimer follows Dr. Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell, "The Illusionist"), a brilliant biophysicist and special science advisor to the government, as he investigates scientific crises and oddities. His jurisdiction is absolute and Hood is dogged in his pursuit of those who would abuse and misuse scientific discoveries and breakthroughs for their own gain. His passion and crusade is to protect the substance of science from those with nefarious motives. He is called in at the eleventh hour and he represents the last line of defense. Based on the British miniseries by acclaimed science-fiction writer Stephen Gallagher, the series is executive produced by Bruckheimer ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Pirates of the Caribbean"), Jonathan Littman ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Cold Case"), Danny Cannon ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "CSI: Miami"), Cyrus Voris ("Bulletproof Monk"), Ethan Reiff ("Sleeper Cell"), Mick Davis ("Wake of Death"), and Paul Buccieri ("Fashion House") for Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Bros. Television."
What did they leave out: The pilot is more or less a redo of "Resurrection," the first part of the U.K. series. In addition, there are rumblings that one of the two lead roles - Rachel Young, played by Marley Shelton - may be recast.
The plot in a nutshell: Title cards inform us that: "In 2007, the FBI appointed a special science advisor to investigate the growing number of crimes and crises of a scientific nature. His jurisdiction is absolute. He is called in at the Eleventh Hour." And so we jump to Seattle, where the police are chasing an unemployed security guard (Jimmi Simpson) who's been caught disposing of 19 medical waste canisters - each of which is wrapped in a crucifix and contains the remains of a fetus. Said event has drawn the attention of Dr. Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell), the aforementioned special science advisor who's prone to going off on tangents only he can understand, and his bodyguard Rachel Young (Marley Shelton) - "He's a brilliant biophysicist but he spends most of his time in his head so I have to watch his back," she explains. It seems that the 19 fetuses are actually identical clones, which Hood in turn believes are the result of experiments done by a mysterious figure named "Gepetto" (Kate Nelligan). From there it's not long before they cross paths with a local business magnate (Michael O'Keefe), who's obsessed with the loss of his son; and Kelly Frost (Lindsay Pulsipher), a troubled local girl who's being paid by Gepetto's minions to carry fetus #20. Unfortunately for Kelly, she's also suffering from placenta previa, which will kill her if she doesn't receive the proper medical attention. And with that we take the usual twists and turns through the procedural machine with a few pauses to get some backstory on both Hood and Young (he's got a tragic past, she's a control freak). In the end, there are plenty more crimes against science out there - and our heroes will be on the front lines.
What works: The show's dark-edged take on the "Monk" dynamic - he's a little eccentric, she protects him (literally) - has some potential but...
What doesn't: ...wow is this a mess. From dialogue that would make Horatio Caine blush (all the closing moments are missing is a pair of sunglasses) to plotting that defies all reason - Hood and Young literally thumb through stacks of three-year-old newspapers at the library in the hopes of finding examples of local rich guys who've lost a child (I'm not sure what blows my mind more: that apparently Google or whatever just-type-a-few-words-and-click-a-button-on-the-computer-that's-on-every-TV-or-movie must have been down that day or that they "just happen" to find the perfect suspect via this method) - to inconsistent characterization (Hood can give a mini-lecture on how clones are created using grapes and a pair of tweezers but also thinks it's a good idea to run in front of a bad guy's speeding car and wave his hands thinking it'll stop) to general whaaaaa???-ness (just wait and see how Gepetto escapes), there's a jaw-dropping amount of problems to go around. And those are just the nuts and bolts. Personally, I'm not eager to sign up for a show that features 19 dead fetuses before the opening credits roll. As for Sewell and Shelton, both seem more than capable of carrying a project, it's just unfortunate they're saddled with this one.
The bottom line: Bruckheimer has struck out on the drama front before - "Justice," "Just Legal," "E-Ring," "Skin" - but this is in a league of its own.