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A promising 'Shark'
Another fall television season, another new legal drama.
Yet CBS' "Shark," premiering tonight at 10, is something different. Not because of its premise or plots, which aren't particularly original. Rather, it's the sheer force of James Woods' magnetic persona that lifts the new show out of otherwise murky waters.
Mr. Woods, in his series television debut, stars as Los Angeles lawyer Sebastian Stark, better known in legal circles as Shark. He's one of those high-powered criminal defense attorneys who often attract questionable clients, such as O.J. Simpson. You wonder how they sleep at night. However, Stark actually has a crisis of conscience after one of the clients he has saved from a guilty verdict goes on to murder the wife he had been charged with attempting to kill.
The district attorney's office offers Stark a chance to do penance: help convict the criminals he once defended. At first, Stark resists: "I eat prosecutors for breakfast; they're my main source of fiber," he protests. Soon, though, he's persuaded to switch sides -- and it probably doesn't hurt that DA Jessica Devlin is played by the voluptuous, blond Jeri Ryan ("Star Trek: Voyager," "Boston Public").
Mr. Woods, an Oscar nominee for his roles in "Salvador" and "Ghosts of Mississippi," brings his trademark intensity and seriousness to "Shark" -- a seriousness without irony or camp, traits not often seen on network television. Dialogue such as, "Your job is to win. Justice is God's problem" might seem silly spoken by a lesser talent.
Tonight's pilot was directed by Spike Lee, another talent known primarily for feature films. His fluid camera work provides "Shark" with a great deal of energy. Jousting scenes between Mr. Woods and Miss Ryan are particularly engaging.
"Well, this should be fun," Miss Ryan's district attorney says to Stark at one point.
So far, it certainly looks that way.
Kelly Jane Torrance
New season for 'Earl'
Last year's shock hit "My Name Is Earl," returns at 8 tonight with nearly all its peculiar giggles intact.
The minds behind the NBC sitcom must realize the comic firecracker they have in co-star Jaime Pressly-- as Earl's ex-wife, Joy -- so the doe-eyed actress is front and center in the season's first fresh episode.
Joy gets ripped off by a Best Buy-like chain and gets revenge by swiping one of the store's trucks. Earl (Jason Lee) thinks she's overreacting, but one of the things mentioned on his list of wrongs to right is that he never backed up Joy during their marriage.
Given that, he tries to help Joy when her plan backfires. The truck, along with its wealth of electronic goodies, also contains a store employee who's napping inside. Madcap antics ensue, but few are as impressive as the unexpected comic asides tossed our way. Better still, they don't overwhelm Miss Pressly's daffy performance, one of 2005's nicest surprises.
As Earl, Mr. Lee remains the redneck center of this comedy, but its stalwart supporting cast only enhances the humor.
"My Name Is Earl" is rarely a riot, but it's consistently amusing, and there's nothing else quite like it on the dial.
Following "Earl's" season premiere, fans of "The Office" (tonight at 8:30) hopefully will learn the answer to that sitcom's cliffhanger from last season's finale: Will Pam (Jenna Fischer) -- who's already engaged -- and Jim (John Krasinski), her lovelorn co-worker and best friend, finally become a couple after sharing that passionate kiss? Of course, there's more on the agenda for the third-season premiere of the Emmy-winning comedy. The episode, titled "Gay Witch Hunt," picks up another storyline from the season finale when ostentatious and dimwitted company boss Michael Scott (show star Steve Carell) accidentally "outs" a homosexual employee.
Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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