Monday, September 19, 2005

New Shows "Invasion" and "Out of Practice"

Review of "Invasion" directed by Tommy Schlamme:
"The special effects are cool, director Thomas Schlamme (who created the visual template for ``The West Wing'') gives the show a rich atmosphere, and the ``gotchas'' are genuine jolts. But it all takes a back seat to making us care about Groves, park ranger Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian from ``Third Watch''), Varon's kids (Ariel Gade from ``Dark Water'' is particularly good as Rose Varon) and Grove's sister, Larkin, who is a TV reporter (Lisa Sheridan of ``FreakyLinks'')."

"Wichita Eagle:
On "Out of Practice," the fun begins as Gorham's never-seen wife leaves him (by phone message) just after his 30th birthday. This news comes in the midst of a family dinner party involving the usual misunderstood overheard conversations and farcical entrances, exits and near collisions.Each character's medical specialty has clearly been chosen to reflect his or her character. Couples counselor Gorham is trying to bring them all together. Brother Ty Burrell is a plastic surgeon on the continual (usually unsuccessful) make; he plays his feckless swinger as a kind of innocent, and is a minor master of humorous deadpan non-reaction. Sister Marshall, an ER doctor, is gay, hip, a little aggressive. Mom Channing, a cardiac surgeon, is all about keeping things moving and in order; and father Winkler is a gastroenterologist, which is to say, a little dull. ("I've forgotten how meekly you enter the room," are nearly Channing's first words to him.) This is unfortunate, since Winkler is an actor who can fade into the scenery in such roles."

"Meanwhile, "Out of Practice" is backed by TV royalty - Kelsey Grammer, as an executive producer, along with "Frasier" scribes Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan - which makes the leaden debut all the more mystifying. Christopher Gorham ("Jake 2.0") is Ben Barnes, a couples counselor and the only member of his family who's not an MD. He also seems to be the only one of them in a fulfilling relationship. There's his caustic sister, Dr. Regina Barnes (Paula Marshall), an ER doc, a lesbian who just broke up with her girlfriend. Brother Oliver (Ty Burrell), a playboy and plastic surgeon, has a taste for bimbos that he surgically remodels. Cardiologist mom Lydia (Stockard Channing, who will also appear in a few more episodes of "The West Wing" as the first lady) and a gastroenterologist dad, Stewart (Henry Winkler), are divorced.

Unfortunately, this all becomes fertile ground for lots of wrenchingly bad jokes about lesbians and large breasts. It seems as if CBS is making an attempt yet again to attract young adult urban viewers, a strategy that backfired in the early '90s (and would later be abandoned when "Raymond" came along in 1996)."

Boston Globe
"Stockard Channing clearly enjoys doing comedy in CBS's ''Out of Practice." After years on ''The West Wing," she enters the new sitcom's set with great gusto, reveling in showy diva lines such as ''Mama needs a big, fat martini before the symphony." She's a zesty actress playing a garish character, delivering her gags to the gratitude of a clamorous laugh track.

But instead of laughing along, you may find yourself wanting to say ''Shhh." Too much about this sitcom, which premieres tonight at 9:30 on Channel 4, is too loud, too obvious. Channing, the characters, their relationships, the jokes, the applause, they're all dangerously close to seeming vaudevillian. And that's particularly disappointing given the talent involved. The show was created by Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan, producers of sitcom's onetime model of subtlety, ''Frasier." And tonight's episode was directed by Kelsey Grammer. Have they all forgotten the value of dimensional characters and scripts that don't go for the jugular?

Still, if someone turns down the volume, ''Out of Practice" has the potential to become a likable, if conventional, sitcom."

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