"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eli Stone: Pilot

"Oh, Did I mention I recently found out I could be a prophet? Yeah, I was shocked too."

What better lead-in could a show about a guy who may be a prophet having visions of the future (or may just be plain crazy) want than the season premiere of Lost? But while I went into it expecting something different and interesting, I instead found a fairly standard legal drama with a gimmick. Sure, I could argue that Pushing Daisies is nothing more than a standard mystery show with a gimmick, but the characters and charm of Daisies can win out over that. So far, Eli is missing that ingredient.

The big controversy of this episode was in the presumption that a woman could successfully argue that a preservative in a vaccine caused her child to have autism, and have this argument stand up in court. And I was floored when at the end of the episode, ABC felt the need to plaster a big disclaimer on the screen.


When I saw this disclaimer I laughed out loud. It's a TV show. Of course, it's fictional.

As for the show itself, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed so far. It has potential, but unless I start to see something more compelling in these visions of Eli's, then it's going to seem more and more like they're just a convenient gimmick to move the story where the writers want it to be. And if I'm going to believe Dr. Chen's assertion that maybe Eli is some sort of prophet, I'm going to need to see a lot more importance in either where his visions are taking him and/or the visions themselves.

The characters themselves have some potential, but too much are just filling roles. For example, by the second time Eli went to see "Dr. Chen," I not only knew that the latter was going to become a principal character, but I also knew that his accent was fake and he wasn't really anything more than a guy with a gimmick to get by. Kind of like the show.

It's great fun to see Victor Garber as both Eli's boss at the firm and his fiance's father, especially since the two seem to be developing a professional rivalry. Now for my money, the girl who plays Taylor is miscast as Eli's fiance as the two share very little chemistry. In fact, there was a lot more chemistry between Eli and Beth Keller. Beth is his client, the mother of the child with autism and the girl to whom he lost his virginity. Coincidences? Of course not, it's prophecy. My guess, and hope, was that this was intentional and he'll eventually leave Taylor for Beth.

Also convenient is having the doctor who diagnoses his brain aneurysm (so maybe they're not prophetic visions?) be his brother. I don't know, it just seems like they're forcing things a bit. I hope the visions become a lot more extravagant.

Standout Moments:

His brother dropping the classic Field of Dreams line "If you build it they will come," when Eli is going in for his MRI.

George Michael actually appearing in the episode singing his signature song "Faith." And can I say that George is looking great for his age.

The autistic kid spelling out "GEORGE MICHAEL" in his wall of blocks, lending to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this prophetic stuff. After all, it's what compels Eli to take up Beth's case, going up against his own firm.

Tom Cavanagh (Ed) as Eli's dad, who may not have been as useless a drunk as his family thought he was; he may have suffered from visions as well.
Eli's mom transporting her husband's ashes in a can labeled "Chock Full o' Nuts."

Dr. Chen's explanation of the whole series in a few lines: "Everything has two explanations, the scientific and the divine. It's up to us to choose which one we buy into. The science explains the enlarged vessel in your head, but does it explain how the girl you lost your virginity to happened to be suing your law firm? How her son happened to spell out a message to you with his blocks? ... Almost all religions believe that there are those who are sent to us to help us find our way. Some people call them prophets. ... God told Moses he'd send send a prophet to every generation. Why not a lawyer?"

Patti his sassy secretary.

Ultimately, while I wasn't blown away with the pilot, I'm still intrigued by the premise and hope there's something more substantial underneath what I've seen so far. There is some potential with the established character dynamics. It'll be interesting to see how long before Eli will lose his job at the law firm. After all, if the changes he wants to make in his life, as told to Beth at the end, involve more standing up for the little guy against big corporations, that stands in direct contrast to what the firm, and his boss and future father-in-law, are all about. I haven't given up on Eli yet, but I was hoping for something more.

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