The fall television line up is an interesting gauntlet. It is survival of the fittest. Some shows may find critical success but stumble in finding viewers. Others may have the reverse–terrible show with a solid audience. Having watched two new series, Nashville and 666 Park Avenue, I have a complaint I would like to file with the networks.
I’m over bland handsome brunette men. On both of these shows, the leading men look so similar that I can not keep them straight. Eric Close, Charles Easten, Sam Palladio? Really similar. Like unclear for the first half of the pilot if Connie Britton’s husband and band manager are, in fact, separate people. Yes, I figured it out eventually, but the characters and the actors are not memorable.
The same is true of 666 Park Avenue, which is even more guilty of favoring good looks over talent or charisma–Dave Annable and Robert Buckley are distinguishable because one wears glasses. It’s as if once they signed Terry O’Quinn they figured the rest of the cast could ride on his talents. (Vanessa Williams also pulls her weight amid the vague blondes.)
The contrast between these two shows is interesting: Nashville is a critical darling with 666 Park Avenue has received mixed to poor reviews. My fault with both of them is that they are in essence try to build complicated character webs around dynamic central characters (Connie Britton/Hayden Panetierre and Quinn/Williams) but their supporting casts just don’t seem up to the task. Yes, shows like Mad Men center around John Hamm, but think of the memorable characters and acting that surrounds him–Christina Hendricks, Elizabeth Moss, John Slattery . . . so many in fact I can’t list them all. Last season’s American Horror Story, which is obviously an influence for 666, had the sparkle Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Dennis O’Hare.
Style will only get things so far. There must be substance behind the mask.