Sunday, September 11, 2005

Review: The War at Home

Fox's new Sunday programming thankfully includes another season of Arrested Development, the brightest show on basic cable by far. Not as thankfully, it also includes a brand new program that, by my estimation, will last a total of 6 episodes before it's cancelled. It goes by the name The War at Home.

Reason #1 that I chose to watch this already critically-panned show is its star, Michael Rappaport. Michael, although an enjoyable actor to watch, has not found a niche in the television industry. His notable turn as a teacher on Boston Public, another Fox show, was cut short due to the cancellation of the program. His hysterical apperances as Phoebe's boyfriend Gary on Friends, a Las F favorite, ended when she broke up with him. It's difficult to understand why he has not found a vehicle that lasts, but it may be because the actors the network chose to pair him with were just not believable in any way. I was about 3 minutes into the opening monologue when I noticed that there was - shudder - a laugh track. Folks, I don't think I need to tell you that the laugh track is dead and gone forever as a useful tool. It's firstly insulting because the producers assume you won't know when to laugh. Producers, take it from me - I'll laugh when it's appropriate, and no canned laughter will change that. I am not easily duped. Secondly, it's obvious that it's not real laughing. Don't assume your show sucks right off the bat - give it a chance.

Now, there were a few things that I liked about the show. It employs the aside-as-cutaway method to break the fourth wall, but instead of only the main character getting to do it, all of the characters do, even cameos by family members you never see again. It's an interesting perspective. I didn't like how ignorant Michael's character was in regard to stereotypes of race, sexuality and social pigeonholing. It just doesn't portray a good image - the father is often disgusted by people and ideas that are different, and rather than learning from his experiences and growing, he remains as ignorant the entire time. While I admire trying to bring back the classic Archie Bunker character, it's widely known that, in today's day and age, he would not survive. It's still a sore spot. So, this show will die, and some good ideas (and another Rappaport vehicle) will go down with the ship. It happens all the time.

By the way, I truly resent that the show is one episode old and it already has a fan club. Are these people at Fox serious? I think what's going on here is a pre-emptive strike against cancellation. Arrested Development was kept on the air by the astute grassroots protest of its fans. Perhaps Fox thinks it will be able to gauge precisely how popular the show is by how many people sign up for the fan club. How ostentatious.