September 27, 2002
'Hack' features fine acting, but
is plagued with bad writing
O By Jim Schiff
Daily Arts Writer
The cast of "The West Wing" was right about one
thing at last Sunday's Emmy awards: without quality
writing, there is no quality show. Apparently, the produc-
ers of CBS' new drama "Hack" weren't listening. Even
with the acting pedigree of David Morse, Andre Braugh-
er and Tony-winner Donna Murphy on board, the show
suffers from misguided direction and a lifeless script.
It's a shame, really, because "Hack" has a lot of
potential, especially in its premise. Morse plays Mike
Olshansky, a Philadelphia cop-turned-cabbie who was
abruptly kicked off the force for stealing
stature doesn't hurt, either, especially since he single-
handedly beats up a trio of hoodlums in the pilot
episode. But Mike is too much brawn and not enough
brains. Later in the episode, when he tries to rescue a
teenage girl from a sexual predator, he concocts a need-
lessly complicated scheme to do so. It seems that the
show's writers either know little about police work or
are just stretching for material.
Unfortunately, "Hack" is also a snooze-fest. The show
starts off at a moderate pace, and then drops off gradu-
ally until it slows to a crawl. And without any plot
twists, the script comes across as cliched and stale.
There's little suspense leading up to the conclusion, and
as a result, we're almost relieved to see the
money from a crime scene. In an effort to S
redeem himself, Mike helps his passengers
out of sticky situations. Using police work
and a little help from his old partner, Mar-
cellus Washington (Braugher), Mike tries HE
to get his life back on track. Fridays
The viewer gets the sense that Olshan- F
sky is a bruised man early on; nearly
everything in his life in shambles. His
estranged wife, Heather (Murphy) and son, Mike Jr.
(Matthew Borish) won't speak to him, he has few
friends, and he can't make money as a cab driver
because he drives too slowly. Helping strangers fills this
void for Mike - he feels a sense of duty to society
because he wronged it, yet at the same time, popping
caffeine pills to stay awake driving a taxi is far from
Mike sounds brooding and complex on paper, but he
comes across as simply annoying onscreen. To his cred-
it, Morse does what he can with the role: Like in "The
Green Mile," he brings a physicality and rough-around-
the-edges demeanor to his character. His towering
at 9 p.m.
episode end. Additionally, the relationships
Mike establishes with his passengers seem
contrived; the show doesn't thoroughly
explain why they would trust a cab driver
with their problems. "Hack's" writers
assume viewers will ignore small details
like this, except they stick out like a sore
The most pressing concern with "Hack"
is the underdevelopment of its supporting players. Com-
bined, Braugher and Murphy are onscreen for a total of
five minutes. If CBS is going to recruit high-caliber tal-
ents like these two, it might as well use them. Other cast
members, like Mike's boss Nicolai Zosimov (Mark Mar-
golis) and Father Tom Grzelak (George Dzundza) have
relatively more screen time, but are so stereotyped that
viewers will wish they were written out of the show.
Even will all these problems, "Hack" isn't beyond
repair. If the show can generate some fresh story ideas
and quicken its pacing, there's a chance it will at least
make it through the season. As it stands, viewers have
another reason to go out on Friday nights.
Courtesy of CBS
Tom Sizemore explains "You suck LaRusso."
'Robbery Hom1cide Division is
just another TV cop drama
By Jaya Soni
For the Daily
Set in the raw urban culture of inner city Los Ange-
les, "Robbery Homicide Division" is the latest of crime
dramas to make its way onto the CBS fall lineup.
Among shows such as "C.S.I.," "The District" and other
newcomer "C.S.I.: Miami" "Robbery Homicide Divi-
sion" adds the intensity of high-profile crimes while
depicting the struggles of the ethnically diverse and
socially segregated west coast city.
Unique to its genre of television programming, "Rob-
bery Homicide Division" manages to
incorporate an artistic flair of film produc-
tion as each episode introduces the story
line with an extended series of slow mov-
ing shots intermingled among the trendy ROBE
music of Los Angeles's ethnic community.
As local conflicts, such as gang warfare, HOMI
disperse onto the inner city streets, the DIVIS
intensity of high power weaponry causes Fridays at
some engaging cat and mouse action
sequences. Guaranteed, every episode CB;
promises a street combat sequence fused
with the forceful sounds of heavy artillery and realistic
imagery of bystander "bloodshed."
If visual and auditory stimulation doesn't satisfy your
taste for evening drama, then "Robbery Homicide Divi-
sion" may not be the program for you. Though the show
places emphasis on creativity within plot presentation,
the storylines seem simple and lack any substantial sus-
pense. Most characters appear one dimensional as a
main focus of the show is placed upon depicting Lieu-
tenant Cole's remarkable detective skills. Lt. Cole's
assistant Archie "Dr. Death" Simms (Barry Henley,
"Providence") may say 10 lines at the most within this
first episode, well balanced indeed.
The premiere of "Robbery Homicide Division" is
engaging until the first commercial break. The storyline
commences as two Korean teenage girls exit a popular
night club adjacent to a seemingly average, unknown
male bystander. As they exit, one woman and the
unknown bystander are killed by two suspected Hispan-
ic gang members driving in a gold sedan. Seemingly
cool and collected throughout the program, Lieutenant
Cole (Tom Sizemore, "The Relic") confidently struts
onto the site and quickly analyzes the possible crime
scenario. With his vast knowledge of weaponry, he posi-
tions himself around the victims and instantaneously
configures the order of shots fired. Without any other
evidence, Lt. Cole and his assistant set on a trail to find
the connection of the male bystander, as he was the tar-
get of the shooting.
The crime trail is neither long or difficult: In the next
scene a Hispanic family is shamelessly gunned down in
their home by a group of white suprema-
cists. As promised, the scene spares no
innocent bystanders except that of the
housemaid who was flexible enough to fit
within the confines of the kitchen cabinets.
Her role is obvious as she is the identify-
Cut to a couple scenes later, Lt. Cole
and his assistants coincidentally;work in
front of a glass wall overlooking the
panoramic view of Los Angeles and the
surrounding hills. With a brief overview of
the "concrete" evidence suggested by his assistants,
Cole recognizes that the crimes are connected.
Moments later, the suspect is identified as a former Los
Angeles Police officer and Lt. Cole enters the next
scene questioning the suspect's former partner who
coincidentally works nights at the club in which the first
shooting took place.
The majority of the remaining episode follows Lt. Cole
and his LAPD coworkers as they try and coerce the former
partner to speak. Shots eventually break out between the
men, and the final scenes are visually comparable to the
"Robbery Homicide Division" may have potential if
the other detectives get a chance to develop their roles.
And hopefully, they have the abilities to participate dra-
matically rather than as flat-line onlookers. As for sto-
rylines, the audience should be given more credit as we
may actually care about a consistent theme throughout
the run of this show.
Courtesy of CBS
"Do you remember Afghanistan? I'm trying to forget it." Guess the movie, win a prize.
'That Was Then' fails to please
By Douglas Wernert
For The Daily
Travis' birthday wish is to go back
in time and change his miserable life.
While listening to music, his house
gets hit by lightening, and lo and
behold, he's back in high school.
Now the young Travis (James
Thirty-year-old Travis Glass has
something we all want. He is able to
go back to when he was 16-years-
old and live his life over again with
the knowledge of what
will happen in the S
future. We've all
dreamt of getting the'
chance to change cer-
tain unfavorable out- THAT X
comes from our past Fridays
and improve our situa-
tion for today. Most of A
us would leap at this
opportunity. However, if you also
had to be stuck in the new ABC
show "That Was Then," you would
probably let your girlfriend from
senior year break up with you, if
you catch my drift.
The show begins with the intro-
duction of its characters, one after
another with a pause in the action
and a "Wonder Years"-like
voiceover from Travis explaining
who these people are. Travis is,
quite frankly, a loser. He works for a
door company and is still kicking
himself over how he let the girl of
his dreams marry his brother, Gregg
(Gregg's name has two 'g's because
it looks "less Jewish").
at 9 p.m.
Week, where he
messed up his big
speech and lost his
chance with his love,
Sanchez). Not only
that, but Travis has to
deal with a now-alive
gambling father (Jef-
frey Tambor), a cheat-
program together. High school sen-
iors aren't supposed to look twenty-
two-years-old, and winning a bet
isn't supposed to fix a troubled mar-
riage. Characters don't have any
depth, with Pinkus stuck as the
goofy best friend, and Gregg (Brad
Raider) as the cocky older brother.
In a completely unrealistic scene,
Travis once again screws up his
Homecoming speech, but tries to
compensate with an all-too-pre-
dictable "I am from the future ... let
go of your past" rant. He somehow
gets an auditorium to say in unison
his saying, "Fix it on the way."
Unfortunately, ABC didn't follow its
"That Was Then" might work in
an era of bad dramas. But that was
then, this is now, and the show is
destined to fail.
ing mother (Bess Armstrong) and
Danny Pinkus (Tyler Labine), his
off-the-wall best friend. Travis tries
to fix everything by "predicting"
victories in the World Series to help
his father, as well as trying to save
an intoxicated friend's life. But
some things don't go according to
plan, and at the cliff-hanger ending,
Travis realizes that going back in
time wasn't such a good idea, as he
actually screwed up his own life
even more while helping others sal-
The concepts have some potential,
but apparently someone forgot to
consider what happens in the real
world when putting this hour-long
Fr D FOTH UGHT
RICH OR POOR?