Tuesday: Think ‘Sopranos’ with a rum chaser

[4 September 2007]

By Jamie Gumbrecht

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Oh, how we mourned The Sopranos.

Never again, we whined, would we have a family so odd yet so relatable. Never again would we see conspiracy with the morning cappuccino and crime with the family business.

Time to wake up and smell the cafe Cubano.

CBS takes a giant leap from its usual crime procedural, solved-in-an-hour lawyer routine with Cane.

The family drama, featuring an experienced cast led by Jimmy Smits, follows a colorful Cuban-American family in charge of a vast rum and sugar empire.

Their long, dark tale bounces between two countries and among three generations, several families and millions of dollars.

Aside from shady history, the show follows current news. Sugar isn’t just about alcohol and sweets anymore; it’s ethanol.

A Cuban-American child doesn’t just join the family business; he joins the military.

And depending on what happens in Cuba in the coming years, this family’s business could change dramatically.

Tony who?

NEW SHOWS

ABC: Cavemen, 8 p.m.; premieres Oct. 2

What: Cavemen—the sensitive, underappreciated Neanderthals from the Geico commercials—get their own show.

Who: Bill English, Nick Kroll, Sam Huntington, Kaitlin Doubleday, Stephanie Lemelin, Julie White.

Why: I just can’t explain this one.

How: Cavemen, yes, the guys from the commercials, try to exist in the modern world as a population .oppressed for 750,000 years. They wear cardigans and own iPods and go to country clubs with their fiances. But they’re still fuzzy and flat-faced and fighting the negative stereotype that comes with being a caveman. Western-themed barbecues and golfing? Not so great for them, when everyone around them is looking for a scapegoat or a reason to blame them for their troubles.

It’s a weird commentary on racism, stereotypes and cultural differences. Possibly too weird. Even more weird than having a show based on characters from a commercial. (In the pilot, there was no obvious hawking of insurance.) And unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem that funny.

ABC: Carpoolers, 8:30 p.m., Oct. 2

What: Four guys survive on the strength of their carpool.

Who: Faith Ford, Fred Goss, T.J. Miller, Jerry O’Connell, Allison Munn, Jerry Minor, Tim Peper.

Why: Desperate Housewives gets a lot of viewers. Let’s make it for men!

How: A new guy (Peper) enters the carpool, and his fellow road warriors aren’t so sure he fits in. He’s always talking about a partnership with his wife and seems reluctant to throw himself in front of another carpool when it’s about to steal their pool’s rightful parking space. Jeez. And the rest of the pool members have their own problems, including wives who make more money than they do, wives who are bleeding their bank accounts after divorce, and wives and children who won’t give them any peace. (Noticing a theme?)

Funny moments abound, but the show needs more personality to keep propelling it forward. In the pilot, it’s just four funny guys in a carpool. Four women who live in the `burbs seemed like relatable fantasy. This just might be too real.

CBS: Cane, 10 p.m., Sept. 25

What: A Cuban-American family of rum makers and sugar producers tries to survive with business and politics intact.

Who: Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell, Rita Moreno, Paola Turbay, Eddie Matos, Michael Trevino, Lina Esco, Sam Carman, Alona Tal, Polly Walker.

Why: The Sopranos is gone. Smits was looking for work. Why not create a new family drama and attach a big star to it?

How: Alex Vega (Smits) inherits the Duque family sugar and rum empire, and all the historic scandals, shady deals and family feuding that comes with it. In this colorful drama, there are generations trying to balance their history and heritage with their tremendous fortune and modern business. It takes place in today’s Florida, which means we can expect news out of Cuba to play a huge role in the show’s trajectory. Even in the pilot, major plot points hinge on the use of sugar in fuel production.

This is one of the better dramas of the season, putting together a truly stunning cast in a story line thick with possibility. It’s also one of the more diverse casts on television, sometimes relying on subtitles for scenes spoken in Spanish. This makes it stand out in a season filled with stories of wealthy white men.

CW: Reaper, 9 p.m., Sept. 25

What: A 21-year-old guy discovers he’s the reaper, as in the devil’s indentured servant. Rough life.

Who: Bret Harrison, Tyler Labine, Ray Wise, Missy Peregrym, Rick Gonzalez, Valarie Rae Mills.

Why: It’s a delicate balance between Supernatural and Veronica Mars.

How: A long time ago, Sam’s dad was sick. So before Sam (Harrison) was born, his parents sold the soul of their firstborn to the devil, thinking they’d never have kids. Oops. Twenty-one years later, the devil (Wise) comes to collect on Sam’s parents’ debt. Sam becomes the devil’s bounty hunter, recapturing, with the help of a hyper-powered Dirt Devil hand vacuum, evil souls that escaped from Hell. With the help of his overzealous friends and the surprisingly motivational dark lord, he manages to get the job done in an anti-hero kind of way.

This is surprisingly funny, if a little twisted. Because really, if a guy is the devil’s bounty hunter, how is he ever supposed to get the girl?

SELECT RETURNING SHOWS

NCIS, 8 p.m.; premieres Sept. 25, CBS: As all the “NCIS”-ers’ secrets were about to be revealed through Homeland Security polygraph tests, there was a particularly gruesome scene involving cocaine being sniffed out of a dead man’s intestines. There might have been other plot points in the fourth-season finale, but that’s the dominant image. Yum.

House, 9 p.m., Sept. 25, Fox: In the third-season finale, the brilliant-but-crabby doctor saved a Cuban woman but fired or alienated his entire team. The question now is whether he can get them back or whether a new team of young docs will help him out.

Law & Order: SVU, 10 p.m., Sept. 25, NBC: During a rape-murder trial, several old story lines came back to haunt the characters. Now, the jobs of the main characters are on the line. It’s resolution time.

VIEWING STRATEGY

Suggestions for how to plan your night of couch potato-ing:

Watch: Bones, House, Cane.

Record: NCIS, Reaper, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Forget: Cavemen, Carpoolers, The Singing Bee.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/tuesday-think-sopranos-with-a-rum-chaser/