Pleased to meet you — but you don’t have to guess my name.
I’m Kate O’Hare, the new social-media manager here at Family Theater Productions, but my background is in entertainment journalism. I covered television for the syndicate arm of Tribune Company (appearing in such papers as The Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun) and as a freelancer for the venerable entertainment-industry trade publication Variety.
So, now I’m joining my fellow FTP compatriots on this blog to talk about entertainment news and my first love, TV.
Let’s start with some good news and some bad news.
First the bad news:
If the Devil really has a stranglehold on Hollywood, then he should have ensured that his name got put on a better show.
(WARNING: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)
Fox’s “Lucifer,” loosely based on the comic book of the same name, bowed to good ratings on Monday, Jan. 25 — “good” in this day and age being a 2.4 in the 18-49 demographic, and 7.2M viewers in the overnight ratings (by way of contrast, the canceled “A.D.: The Bible Continues” on NBC averaged 6.5M viewers, but was lower in the desirable demo, while NBC’s “Dolly Parton: Coat of Many Colors” movie drew nearly 13M viewers in the overnights in early December, upped to over 15M when the DVR viewing numbers came in).
And critically speaking, “Lucifer” won few converts. The New York Times called it “terrible”; while USA Today sort of liked the premiere, but after viewing the two other episodes Fox made available to reporters, said, “it all pretty much falls apart.”
Played with maximum camp by tall, dark and smarmily charming Welsh actor Tom Ellis, Lucifer Morningstar is a cranky, petulant rebel who’s abandoned the Netherworld to run an L.A. nightclub. He becomes a “civilian consultant” for LAPD detective and single mom Chloe (Lauren German) who’s mysteriously immune to his ability to ferret out people’s deepest desires (and being the Devil, urging them to act upon them, while disavowing any responsibility himself).
Ellis’ Lucifer is apparently going soft after being around humans, maybe developing a conscience and a sensitive side, to the consternation of his demonic bartender (Lesley-Ann Brandt). And, D.B. Woodside plays Amenadiel, an angel sent from Heaven to figure out a way to get Lucifer to go back to Hell.
Also, this being L.A., Lucifer is working all this out with his therapist (Rachael Harris).
There’s some sort of a mythology percolating under all the crimesolving and quips, involving Lucifer’s wings, and there are even some Biblical references from Amenadiel. It could get interesting, but it’s hard to tell at this point.
It’s not a scary show, and it’s too silly to actually be sacrilegious. The comic, though, is a much darker matter. But the show and the comic are related, thematically. At the recent TV Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, executive producer Joe Henderson described Lucifer this way:
“The Devil is the fallen son of God. He’s not evil. He’s just a rebellious son, who decided that he wanted what his dad had, and he doesn’t understand why he didn’t get it. He is mischievous; he’s playful; he’s also honest, and he embraces his desires. … ‘Lucifer’ is all about exploring humanity and exploring desires.”
He continues, “In the comics, you have basically Lucifer creating his own heavens so he can be God there, but do it right. Well, that’s not going to happen here. It’s about freedom. It’s about Lucifer trying to get away from his dad. So we took that idea and brought it to L.A.”
Obviously, this is not the Catholic concept of Satan, who is not only a fallen angel but evil incarnate. Fox’s “Lucifer” doesn’t come anywhere near that level of intensity. It’s essentially a buddy-cop drama with a supernatural twist.
Even without the devilish themes, the mild profanity and sexual innuendo would make “Lucifer” family-unsuitable. Anyone who takes this seriously as propaganda for Satan is giving the writers way too much credit. And, by the way, The CW’s “Supernatural” has been paddling in this same angels/demons/Heaven/Hell pond for 11 seasons now.
The real miracle would be if “Lucifer” makes it past season one.
Now, the good news:
Airing across from “Lucifer” on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET, is something that is actually a family-suitable alternative — CBS’ “Scorpion.”
The sophomore drama stars Elyes Gabel as Walter O’Brien, the leader of a small band of socially awkward geniuses working as an emergency-response team of sorts for Homeland Security, under the supervision of federal agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick).
There’s one “normal” member of the team, single mom Paige (Katharine McPhee), who has an awkward-genius preteen son, Ralph (Riley B. Smith).
There’s plenty of action but little real violence, and the good guys use their brains rather than a lot of brawn to save lives and solve problems. What romance there is, is PG, and the scripts are refreshingly free of double entendres and questionable language.
While none of the characters is overtly religious, there have even been a few references to prayer, and they’ve been positive.
Of all the scripted dramas on network TV, this is the only one I’d consider family-suitable — along with being very entertaining.
So if you’re not interested in giving the Devil his due, give the brainy derring-do of “Scorpion” a look instead. In its last airing on Jan. 25, across from “Lucifer,” it had 10.5M viewers, so odds are pretty good right now that it’ll stick around for season three.
Images: Courtesy Fox, CBS