Sitting through pretty much any hit CBS drama and there are plenty, to be sure its tough to shake the feeling that the network would be just as happy producing widgets.
For too long now, the top-rated broadcaster has been run like an assembly line: Follow the blueprint in this case, a murder, a disparate team of crime solvers and some awkward attempts at humor and reap the rewards.
But whatever happened to the passion?
Granted, during the past few years, you could have said the same about NBC. Only any widgets it would have produced would have blown up in its face. Or been stolen by Jay Leno.
ABC, though, loves cranking out new shows. Cant get enough of it. Heck, ABC goes through new series the way Lindsay Lohan burns through second chances.
This week alone, the network is launching three dramas Scoundrels (9 p.m. today, KTNV-TV, Channel 13), The Gates (10 p.m. today) and Rookie Blue (9 p.m. Thursday) and the documentary series Boston Med (10 p.m. Thursday).
Its also bringing back Wipeout (8 p.m. Tuesday) and introducing the game show Downfall (9 p.m. Tuesday), in which wrong answers can lead to a contestants potential prizes, personal belongings and even family members being thrown off a 10-story building.
And thats in addition to the current seasons of The Bachelorette (8 p.m. Mondays) and the made-in-Vegas True Beauty (10 p.m. Mondays), as well as the upcoming Shaq Vs. (9 p.m. Aug. 3), Bachelor Pad (8 p.m. Aug. 9) and Dating in the Dark (10 p.m. Aug. 9).
By comparison, CBS summer plans involve only the execrable Big Brother (8 p.m. July 8, KLAS-TV, Channel 8) and the Canadian police dramas Flashpoint (9 p.m. Fridays) and The Bridge (8 p.m. July 10).
So how are ABCs three new dramas? Well, at least the network is trying.
First up is Scoundrels, a remake of the New Zealand series Outrageous Fortune, which focuses on a family of small-time crooks trying to go straight.
ABC has been attempting to get the series on the air for two years now, including a failed pilot starring Gary Cole and Catherine OHara that filmed in Las Vegas. But I cant envision a scenario in which that version, written by Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down), could have been worse than this one.
Despite the presence of Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott, almost nothing in Scoundrels works. The pacing feels sluggish, you never get the sense that these characters are actual criminals, and when one of them flees a home invasion and leaves behind a ski mask with his full name sewn into it, its not funny stupid, just stupid stupid.
Honestly, Im pretty sure Thomas could have chewed up the current script that was penned by a couple of Nip/Tuck writers, swallowed it, then passed the individual words and phrases in a more appealing order.
The Gates, meanwhile, fares somewhat better.
The series follows a Chicago cop (Frank Grillo) and his family once he becomes police chief of an exclusive suburban community. Its one of those settings in which the surroundings are so perfect, you know immediately that something is amiss.
But with the recent glut of supernatural-themed entertainment, when one of the neighborhoods desperate housewives (Rhona Mitra) bares her fangs and is revealed to be a vampire, it packs as much of a wallop as if shed been outed as a mortgage broker. (Come to think of it, the latter scenario would be more timely.)
The gated enclave, it turns out, also is home to werewolves and witches. But no zombies. Why are there never any zombies? Or mummies, for that matter?
Anyway, theres an inkling of a good idea here, in that when Mitras Claire complains to her vampire husband, You dont know how hard this is for me, shes not talking about the bloodlust. Its about the car pools and the school committees and the dinner parties and the book clubs. As far as The Gates is concerned, suburbia is a bigger curse than the whole undead thing.
Then theres the Canadian police drama Rookie Blue, which follows young officers starting with their first day on the job. Its a pretty standard cop show that Ill only be watching because most of the action revolves around the newbie played by the painfully adorable Missy Peregrym.
But, really. First Flashpoint, then The Bridge, now this? I know the networks are getting these series from the Great White North on the cheap, but is there really such a shortage of cop shows that we need to start importing them?
Then again, theyre all going to be better than CBS other summer alternative, Big Brother.
But thats a bar so low that even Scoundrels could clear it with ease.
Christopher Lawrences Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at clawrence@ reviewjournal.com.