The Week In TV: Outlaw Thrown Out of Court

Smits: Disbarred by fickle ratings
Smits: Disbarred by fickle ratings

Jimmy Smits is out, Justin Bieber won't die, and I'm not allowed to use the name Jerry Bananaseed. This was the week in TV Land:

• I think I'm done with The Office for a while, or at least the type of comedy that manifests itself in hateful extended pauses. It was great for a while, and even novel when the original Office became a hit. But it just feels tiring and unoriginal now, mainly because there are only so many ways a story can be constructed to set up those 15 awkward seconds when no one speaks and everyone on the show and at home has to just suffer. Last week's Office, "Andy's Play," was a cute enough half-hour that got lost every time Michael had to make some big dumb gesture. I'm not at all writing off comedy based on discomfort. I'm just weary of those series or stories that revolve around the endless silences and cringe-inducing gaffes. There's no laughter there, just sorrow. I'll take Community any day.

• Speaking of no laughter: I watched my first episode of Outsourced last week. I'd avoided it for fear it would turn out exactly as it did. More jarring than the predictable and unfunny jokes was the longish stretch in which two characters talked for a minute or two in which no punch lines were even attempted. It was a scene suited for an amateur drama, not a sitcom (even a bad one). The series' biggest mistake is, in every way, not bringing the funny.

• We're a few weeks into the fall season, which means the networks are handing out death sentences or extensions to their new series based on the viewing habits of the fickle public. NBC has stopped production on Outlaw, in which Jimmy Smits plays a Supreme Court justice who resigns the bench to be a lawyer again, because fighting for his beliefs on a national stage would presumably have been too easy. Three episodes have aired so far, and there are five more ready to go, but if the ratings don't improve, there won't be any more coming. On the survivor's side, though, Fox's Raising Hope has earned a full-season order, adding a back nine to bring it to 22 for the year. No word on the others yet.

• This week in Hollywood Is Out of Ideas: Hot on the heels of the previously announced remake of The Munsters, word came down last week that two major TV producers are working on new versions of classic TV shows. First up, it's Ronald D. Moore, the creator of the modern reboot of Battlestar Galactica, and his reported new take on The Wild Wild West. The 1960s TV show is best known to today's audiences as inspiring a deeply flawed movie starring Will Smith and a giant mechanical spider. I hasten to add that this news is coming from Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello, whose news should be taken with choking grains of salt, and who will soon be taking his mix of quasi-reportage and breathless hyperbole to MMC. Anyway, if Moore's show does take off, expect it to start with a bang and then offer progressively worse stories until dying an ugly death after four seasons.

The other remake in the works is Wonder Woman, this one spearheaded by David E. Kelley. This could wind up making for an interesting take on the character. Superhero stories now tend to be thickly coated with existential angst, but Kelley's got a track record of mixing plenty of irreverence with his dramas, which might be just the thing to set the show apart from the pack. I'm not saying the thing has to be a cartoonish take on the story, but it might be nice to mix some self-aware humor with the heroism.

• This makes me happy:


• James Hibberd at The Hollywood Reporter reported last week that ABC has decided to make a TV series out of the blog Awkward Family Photos. The site is a solid collection of, well, awkward family photos, but that's it. There's not even the hint of a narrative, as with Dollar Sign Hashtag Asterisk Exclamation Point My Dad Says, which could at least be framed around the father-son interaction. This site is just pictures. Despite that, ABC wants to turn it into a series, hoping like hell that people will be tricked into tuning in every week for nine months to see how the writers yanked a story out of their asses to go with that week's photo. Hibberd, in what is either the best bit of deadpan sarcasm ever recorded in the trades or just a guileless statement of fact, says, "How the concept will translate to series TV is still unclear." What is clear is that the show will be canceled after two episodes.

• MTV is apparently closing in on a deal to bring back Punk'd, this time with Justin Bieber as the host and star prankster. Ashton Kutcher's practical joke project debuted in 2003 but was retired in 2007, though MTV never quite gave up hope in bringing it back. Installing Bieber as host makes a certain amount of desperate sense, since that kid's not getting any younger and the network's rightly eager to exploit him while they can. But a lot has happened since the show originally went off the air, namely the rise of social media and the installation of Funny or Die as the king of this sort of thing, at least in terms of funny, maybe-fake clips involving celebrities. Do we really need Punk'd? Haven't we all moved on?

• I'll leave you with the couch gag from last night's The Simpsons. The bit was storyboarded by Banksy and is thoroughly depressing, so much so that it's a wonder Fox let it air. If you've ever wondered if unicorns and dolphins are killed to make the show happen, Banksy has an answer:

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