Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pilot Review: Chaos

Chaos (CBS)
Premiered April 1 at 8pm

If there was a TV series title that could accurately describe its content, this is it. There have been and currently are more than enough spy shows on television, and most of them contain a fair amount of comedy. Here we have an instance of a premise based around comedy and loosely supported by action, plot, and drama, in that order, and the effects are nothing if not inconsistent. Having characters excitedly declare “highlight of the mission right there” after Rick eats a live scorpion, a silly event in itself, doesn’t mix well with a war lord about to cut off someone’s fingers with a machete just because he isn’t in the mood to negotiate. The whole setup of this one feels wacky, right from the start. Freddy Rodriguez is a great actor who had a spectacular part on “Six Feet Under,” and I’m not sure he’ll find another role that appropriately utilizes his skills. Here, he’s positioned as a hapless, diminutive figure susceptible to gullibility and capable of infrequent strokes of usefulness, mostly in terms of his knowledge of Arabic and ability to diagnose scorpion and determine whether they’re edible or poisonous. Among the cast is Tim Blake Nelson, whose “Human Weapon” isn’t nearly as impressive as, say, the Intersect from “Chuck” or any other spy we’ve seen on the small screen over the years. Alessandro Juliani also seems to be relegated to an uninteresting role, and I’m only really impressed by the smart casting, albeit typecasting, of Kurtwood Smith as the man in charge. A brief cameo by a presumably Greece-bound Margo Martindale never hurts either. This show feels like the kind of thing that might have appeared at the end of the 1990s or the early 2000s and aired on ABC, like “Thieves” or “Eyes,” though hardly as good as the latter. The end of the episode featuring a “not it” game to determine who will draw cover fire sets a rather obnoxious and immature tone for the entire show, and I just don’t find it terribly appealing.

How will it work as a series? A name like “Chaos” practically guarantees amnesty for some out-of-control storylines, and that may be a benefit for the creativity of the show even while it impedes its coherence. The cast is sprightly enough and seems intent on having fun, so there could be some good entertainment amidst the loose plotting of the show.
How long will it last? This doesn’t strike me as a show that will live a long life. It also doesn’t fit in with any of CBS’ other fare, far enough away from a procedural and not close enough to a sitcom, so I don’t see it surviving lone on the eye’s slate. All reports indicate that the pilot ratings were low, so look for this one to limp to the end of the season, at best.

Pilot grade: C

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