Monday, May 10, 2010

Rex will not be on your TV for long

Temp X recently went to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun and frivolity.  I did not gamble, but I did make $15 dollars along the way.  Now I will tell you how.

Before any show goes on the tube (or flat screen or whatever you're watching it on these days) it goes through a series of focus groups.  This is where networks pay to find out what people outside the Hollywood bubble think of their show.  On my recent trip I was one of these people.  The show was the NBC pilot REX IS NOT YOUR LAWYER.

Trust me.  It's a really big sign.
To be fair, no one is supposed to know it's an NBC program.  But I was tipped off by the series of 20-foot high posters promoting shows like 30 Rock, Law and Order and Biggest Loser guarding the entrance.  So after telling them I don't work for a network (I don't) or an ad agency (nope), I was ushered into a room that was so distinctly Vegas.  For it was a meeting room in the Excalibur that looked like the inside of a German Beer Hall.  But instead of mammoth steins of beer awaiting me, each seat had a computer.  It is here those like me would watch a lengthy tutorial on holding down the Green Button if we liked what happened or the Red Button if we didn't.  They also asked questions like "What shows do you watch?" and "How much money do you make?"  After about 15 minutes of interminable questions, the show began.  I only wish it hadn't.

REX IS NOT YOUR LAWYER is a show about a hard-charging attorney who suffers from paralyzing panic attacks.  His doctor tells him he better stop practicing before these attacks kill him.  But rather than quit lawyering, Rex decides to use his legal skills to help those who choose to defend themselves.  It's basically Cyrano de Bergerac as a lawyer.  And frankly, it's as shitty as it sounds.

The show stars David Tennant as Rex, the aforementioned angst-filled barrister, Jeffrey Tambor as his psychiatrist, Jane Curtin as his mom and Jerry O'Connell as his soon-to-be ex friend.  It's basically a cast filled with second-choice talent to complement the second-rate idea.

I slogged through the show depressing the Red Button probably with 10 times the frequency of the my activity on the Green Button.  When the show got to the point of unwatchability, I took advantage of what I call the "nuclear option" -- that is hitting the Space Bar indicating when I would have changed the channel.  For the record I think I waited about 12 minutes to do that.

At the end of the show, they asked even more market research questions about viewing habits, rating characters on a scale of 1-10, etc.  But the fun part was the essay portion where I just got to tell them what exactly I liked or didn't like about the show.  Following are my answers to those questions.

There are only two decent actors on the show -- Jeffrey Tambor and the ex-fiancee (I don't know her name).  The main character is an odd combination of a young Martin Sheen and Jim Carrey and frankly it's just really distracting.  His female assistant doesn't have a well-defined role.  She' just sort of eye candy.  And Mabel couldn't look more like Aretha Franklin if she tried.  But the biggest problem goes beyond the casting, the basic premise is just kinda dopey.  I don't have any attachment to Rex.  I don't find myself rooting for him.  And I don't really understand his motivations -- including why he remains friends with Jerry O'Connell (who begins dating Rex's ex-fiancee).


It was boring.  The product placements for Apple (at least 5) and the Westin (at least 2) were too noticeable and distracting.  There were one too many coincidences (therapist dating the mother, best friend dating ex-fiancee), plus Rex's constant over acting and prancing around seemed inconsistent with the type of character he was.  High-powered lawyers aren't the type of people who (at least stereotypically) prance around and decided to lay in the swimming pool in a $1000 suit.  It's almost like they decided to see how absurd they could make the character.  In Ally McBeal the writers and directors got the joke.  Not the same thing here.

As you can tell, I gave it a POOR rating.  I was in no way influenced by the guy in front of me who also gave it a POOR.

The irony of the whole thing is I drove six hours (stupid traffic) to do what I wanted to do here -- help networks develop shows.  To add insult to injury, I made more there for an hour's work than I do here.  Time to move.


Devon Ellington said...

I was part of a focus group once, before I worked in the industry. I don't even remember the show, except that I hated it. It never made it to air, thank goodness.

whenever I go in to watch a new show or review a book or whatever, I want to fall in love with it I WANT it to be good. It's such a disappointment when my response is, "well, that's a chunk of my life I can never get back."

Hope the rest of the Vegas trip was more fun.

Anonymous said...

Just to say as a fan of David Tennant (the actor who plays Rex) -this guy is a serious actor with many RSC roles to his name ..David is also Royal Scottish academy of music and drama trained.He knows his acting and knows his characters and if he wants to play Rex -as a fan thats good enough for me .. :)
Latest I believe from the tv gossip websites is that Rex has had three standby scripts commissioned -but thats it's a close call for the remaining pilots because all the pilots in contention have had mostly positive responses at their focus groups .. so time will tell :).

Are you a fan of hospital/legal drama? -one review from the Rex focus group compared it to trying to be too like 'House'.I got the impression they found Rex too mainstream ..but yet it's mainstream that gets the viewers ..
Anyway just thought i'd post my thoughts about your review -best wishes ..
Jessica from Belfast,Northern Ireland :)

Donnaj said...

Seems to me that Rex Is Not Your Lawyer has the ingredients (David Tennant and Rex Tambor) but the writing is lacking. That is a disappointment as David Tennant is a very talented actor.
I for one would like to see David Tennant in something that would be enjoyable and critically acclaimed. If that means RINYL goes to jail, so be it.
Donna from St Louis

Anonymous said...

Just another Tennant fan piping up to say he's really a wonderful actor. Though what I've heard of his American accent was hideous. So, I would imagine that accounts for his "overacting" to compensate. Many a British actors has fallen under the compensating for the accent ax. *Looks pointedly at Life and Moonlight. I do think that the premise of this show sounds horrible though and I can see them casting David to "prance around" as he was recently The Doctor and that character certainly pranced. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the pilot, but glad you cast your vote for no series. Much as I would love to see more David, I don't want to see him squandered on drivel.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. As someone who has enjoyed David Tennant's stage work, and especially his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, for many years, he is a fine actor and deserves quality scripts, and from what I've heard about Rex this is not the best showcase for him.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that you didn't enjoy the pilot of 'Rex is not your lawyer' but I've to say you're very wrong in judging David Tennant as a 2. class actor. He is not only a professional trained actor he also as a acclaimed stage and TV career (and not only as 'the doctor in Dr. Who'!)His work is not only highly praised by audiance and fans but also by press and critics alike. I personally think he's actually too good to be wasted in an second class American show.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that viewers either love David Tennant or hate him. For actors like that, who hit different people very different ways, I'm almost always on the side of the haters. My standards are impossibly high. This time I'm on the side of the fans. I adore DT's work -- all of it, not just as the Doctor but Hamlet, of course, and Campbell Bain (Takin' Over the Asylum), and D.I. Carlisle (Blackpool) and Alan Hamilton (Recovery) and Chris (Learners) and Ginger(Bright Young Things) and on and on, even the psychotic Brendan Block(Secret Smile). And then there's his audio work, which is extraordinary. David Tennant is the only actor whose work I've ever actively pursued. Even with actors I like very much, like Jeff Bridges or Robert Downey Jr. I let their stuff come to me, and watch it, or not, depending on what else I'm doing that weekend. But for DT I bought a region free DVD player, purchased DVD's from Amazon UK, and now lend both the player and the DVD's to my friends and co-workers, who also fall in love with his shows and characters. But, having said all that, I will also agree that the premise of this show sounds stupid and if it's no good, then I'd rather he did something more worthy of him!

tlsmith1963 said...

I also think that Tennant is a wonderful actor, & I am another person who has searched out other things that he has done. I usually don't do this. I hope that Rex gets a pickup, but if not I hope that David will be considered for another US show, & soon! I miss seeing him on TV.

Anonymous said...

I think the people who dislike Tennant are mostly those who are only familiar with him from Doctor Who, and/or dislike the massive hype around him, being unaware he has been one of Britain's most acclaimed stage actors for 15 years and has proven himself far more than just the Doctor.
(Sorry to the poster that Tennant fans have invaded your blog a bit! No one is criticising your opinion, the show does not sound great.)

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that the people who dislike David Tennant are males who seem to need traditionally macho personalities in their stars. The word "prancing" is a bit of a red flag here. But some of us like all the different varieties of male and female balance in a man. Me, (a hetero woman) I like the entire spectrum from macho to transgender and everything in between if the acting's good. A hetero male like David Tennant who has a female element in him and who's a terrific actor is particularly fascinating. It gives him such a range.

Anonymous said...

This was an interesting review to read. I've read the script and loved it, but your dislike of Tennant cements my feelings: the show lives and dies with Rex, and Rex lives and dies by the actor. Being a huge fan of Tennant, I'm sure I'll like the show just fine, should NBC pick it up.

I will agree though, the mother/therapist storyline is somewhat of a bust. Fixable, but the drag of the storyline.

Anonymous said...

I've read the script too and it didn't sound interesting BUT with Tennant's name on it I would give it a chance.

Anonymous said...

I have heard about this TV show, and have anxiously waited for its debut, and am really sad at the thought of it being axed before any real people actually see it. I love David Tennant's work as the Doctor, and I will embrace anything he is in. Jane Curtain is also a favorite from her SNL days. Jerry O'Connor is fabulous and I have been a fan since Sliders. I think this is a great cast with several experienced actors and deserves an opportunity. And, isn't prancing apart physical comedy?

Anonymous said...

I am one of those who has seen David Tennant in other programs--Dr Who, Casanova, Hamlet, Blackpool, Einstein & Eddington, Takin' over the Asylum, etc. and know what an exceptional actor he is. I hope that "Rex" is picked up, because I would love to see David Tennant on US television.

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