Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The New TV Show Review Challenge: E-Ring

NBC's E-Ring is a show that could've been very interesting. Like The West Wing, it's a drama that takes place in a government building that most Americans know of but have never entered. While The West Wing found compelling drama inside the walls of The White House, E-Ring finds nothing but cliches and the run-of-the-mill inside The Pentagon.

Benjamin Bratt, who used to be a cast member of NBC's Law & Order, plays Major Jim Tisnewski, a new officer who is working at the Department of Defense after 14 months of working with Special Forces in Afghanistan. He's called to work a week early because of a situation regarding a CIA operative in China. His commanding officer is Colonel McNulty (Dennis Hopper), a man who doesn't appreciate the Major's brash, slightly rebellious approach. Another person who doesn't like the Major's approach is his undersecretary, Sgt. Jocelyn Pierce (Aunjanue Ellis), a woman who constantly has to educate the new officer on the way to do things.

This show didn't engage me at all. Everything about it felt like I had seen done better somewhere else, especially the characters. I could just about predict every move these characters would make. I could deal with lazy characterization if at least the dialogue was well done. However, it was pretty bad. When Bratt's undersecretary said she wasn't his "Stepin Fetchit", I wanted to rip my hair out. All of the actors involved deserved better than this. It's a shame that when Dennis Hopper does television, it's in a role that isn't even half as interesting as anything he's done in his films.

I have to wonder if I expected too much out of E-Ring. I was hoping for a compelling, interesting military drama that would be worthy of the actors involved. I treated this show seriously and was utterly disappointed. This show could have been a great piece of entertainment that had relevance given the current state our country is in. Even with a lot of bad dialogue, there are some snippets here and there that have the idealism seen in early episodes of The West Wing. If this show can last against the Lost juggernaut (which already killed FOX's Head Cases), I hope that it relies less on cliches and archetypes and more on intelligence, insight, and creativity.

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