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FIRST MONDAY!! Talk Back!!

I am – Hercules!!

Don Bellisario, the talentless writer-producer behind “Magnum P.I.,” “Quantum Leap” and “JAG,” and the embodiment of all that is wrong with modern TV drama, tries to help rip off genius dramatist Aaron Sorkin with a CBS series about the Supreme Court titled “First Monday.”

Few reading AICN will see tonight’s pilot, of course, as it airs opposite “Smallville,” “24” and “Buffy” (to say nothing of “NYPD Blue” and “Frasier”) so here’s some review excerpts:

The Hollywood Reporter says:

Given the success of "The West Wing," it's easy to understand the impulse that gave rise to this series (and to ABC's "The Court," which premieres in March). In capturing the admiration of viewers, critics and Emmy voters alike, "West Wing" proved there is a thirst for shows that dramatize critical public issues with actors and dialogue convincing enough to make us believe we are watching an accurate reflection of what transpires at the highest levels of government.

The biggest problem with "First" is that it is nowhere near that convincing. Too many books and news reports have been written in recent years to make it possible to swallow this portrayal of the Supreme Court as a back-slapping group of mutually respectful justices. Forget that some of the details aren't right (for example, the newest justice always sits on one end): The whole tenor of the show lacks the ring of truth.

… The script for the premiere, written by exec producer/director Donald P. Bellisario, isn't afraid to raise controversial issues, but it wants to go at them with more emotion than intellect. Not trusting viewers to appreciate the clash of issues on their own terms, Bellisario often trivializes them.

Variety says:

It's absurdly oversimplified and miseducates aplenty if viewed as a civics lesson, but it identifies the fault lines of important social issues and has a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" meets "Father Knows Best" purity that's hokey and appealing.

… The Supreme Court, long off-limits to dramatic interpretation, has taken enough hits to its reputation of late that it could use this bit of well-packaged Hollywood mythologizing.

USA Today says:

… a preposterously misguided attempt to reach The West Wing by way of Matlock.

… where [West] Wing is credible within its own TV universe, Monday is absurd on its face; and where Wing protects the dignity of its public servants, Monday turns its justices into codger comic relief. It even gives them a goofy catchphrase: Before entering the court, the justices huddle as the chief justice cheers, "Let's go make history!"

Better you should go make good TV.

I am – Hercules!!

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