"HawthoRNe," premiering tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on TNT, is a mediocre show full of predictable plots and clichéd story line. Most new TV shows fall somewhere on the bad to slightly above mediocre spectrum (it is the rare show that actually pops), but this one surprised me. As we had previously discussed, it was one of the summer shows I was really looking forward to.
Jada Pinkett Smith stars as Christina Hawthorne, the Chief Nursing Officer at the busy Richmond Trinity Hospital. She has a bratty teenage daughter, nurses and patients who always need her and a hospital administration she constantly outsmarts.
Michael Vartan co-stars as Thomas Wakefield, the Chief of Surgery. In the three episodes available for review, Vartan has little to do. He walks around in a buttoned up doctor coat spouting medical advise but the role is definitely not tapping into the charm we saw on display in "Alias" and even "Big Shots." (You know things are bad when I'm complimenting "Big Shots") Even his verbal spars with Christina lack bite. I am hopeful that as the show progresses, Vartan will have much more to do. The series could definitely use some of his spark.
"HawthoRNe" is a parade of familiar TV faces including Christina Moore (Naomi’s mom on "90210") as a nurse with perhaps questionable treatment methods and Vanessa Lengies (Roxy on "American Dreams") as a novice, nervous nurse. Suleka Mathew (Sara on "Men in Trees"), Rebecca Field (Janet on "October Road"), and Jillian Armenante (Donna on "Judging Amy") round out the cast.
The series also has some great guest stars. Aisha Hinds (Miss Jeanette on "True Blood" and Loomis on "Dollhouse") shows up as a patient in the pilot and next week you’ll see both Cloris Leachman and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. In addition to Pinkett Smith, John Masius ("St. Elsewehere," "Dead Like Me"), Glen Mazzara ("The Shield," "Life") and Jamie Tarses ("My Boys") are the executive producers.
All this is to say that there are many reasons this show should be better than it is. A good cast with creative people behind the scenes, and an interesting premise should amount to more than this.
The big problem is with the title character herself. Pinkett Smith is an actress who shines on screen. I want to know what she’s up to and what she’ll do next. But the series has saddled her with milquetoast storylines and Christina is almost too good to be true. In a future episode, she turns a crowded supply closet into a room for a patient so that her family will have the appropriate time to say goodbye. It’s hard to imagine the Chief Nursing Officer would have time for this. She doesn't have to be like Nurse Jackie who seeks out "quiet and mean" people, but right now Christina is a little personality free as far as TV characters go.
The other concern that I have is that the show didn’t get better after the pilot, it got worse. I still think there could be a good show in here somewhere. But right now this is a two and a half stars (out of five stars) show.
Amy Awards 2009 Update
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Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Time for June 15-21
"Greek" has its finale Monday at 9 p.m. on ABC Family. That clears the way for the return of "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (the premiere is more bizarre than usual with a big twist at the end, more on that in a future column) and the premiere of the new show "Make It or Break It" next Monday (June 22). And "Greek" will return with new episodes at the end of August. It was a smart move to bust up the Cappie/Evan/Casey love triangle when it became evident that no on thought Casey belonged with Evan. But it did kind of strand Evan without a purpose this season. Well, a purpose besides struggling with his inheritance. The poor little rich boy story line didn’t quite work for me. And I thought he and Frannie were a lot of fun to watch together (read I'm not so interested in seeing Evan and Rebecca together). But everything else "Greek" did this season really did work for me. "Greek" remains one of my favorite shows on TV because of its consistently clever dialogue and pop culture references and its ability to really make me care about the characters. This week Max returns as Cappie and Casey come to terms with their feelings for each other. I like Max but I do think Cappie is the one for Casey. Sure I'm a little biased, but I wouldn’t get too attached to Max. Michael Rady stars in the new "Melrose Place" this fall.
Holly Hunter is back for the third season of "Saving Grace" (Tuesday at 10 p.m. on TNT). As you know, I haven’t been the biggest fan of the show. I’ve found Grace just to be too much. She’s not my cup of larger than life character. In the past, I have kind of found the show exhausting to watch. But I have to say I liked the season premiere. The show is starting to take Grace on a more specific journey which I think suits her character. Also, the practical jokes the department plays on each other are kicked up to a whole new level. It’s quite fun secondary storyline.
Two episodes in, how are you feeling about "Royal Pains" (Thursday, USA, 10 p.m.). I’m feeling like it’s one of those shows that’s good to exercise too. Like you could be on the treadmill watching the episode and not have to worry about concentrating too hard to keep up with the plot. (See I think if I talk about being on the treadmill I will eventually end up on the treadmill. It’s the power of positive thinking.) And I always enjoy Andrew McCarthy showing up to play a snobby wealthy jerk. It really is a role he’s perfected. This week, Dr. Hank tries to help a senator’s son.
I am so excited that "Eli Stone" is back on the schedule this Saturday. Even if it’s only for a little while. Better to have loved and watched "Eli Stone," than to never have watched at all. Plus, as you may or may not recall since the episode aired on December 30, when we last left Eli and Nathan were in a huge fight over Beth. Nathan accused Eli of being "worse than dad." And Eli was getting a nose bleed as the screen went to black. I'm happy we are going to get some kind of resolution to that story line. This week Eli and Maggie head to Sonoma for their latest case.
Now that you’ve seen the premiere of "True Blood" (Sunday, HBO, 9 p.m.), we must discuss. What did you think? Was it more graphic than last season? Did any of it disturb you? Now many of you have written to me that you like everything about the show but Anna Paquin’s accent. The accent doesn’t bother me — it seems to suit her character and it is consistent. This week, Jason arrives at his leadership conference and we get a real sense of Maryann’s powers. Also Sookie is fairly gullible when it comes to Jessica.
That is all for today. I’ll be back on Wednesday with this week’s familiar faces and a review of "Merlin" (because obviously I must discuss any show that involves Anthony Stewart Head) . Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to vote in the 2009 Amy Awards.