by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & The Black Donnellys (Mondays, 10 pm, NBC) & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & ou could tell Studio 60 was destined for hiatus by how quickly creator Aaron Sorkin took the unspoken romantic energy between Jordan and Danny and turned it into a hesitant, conflicted (and ultimately boring) relationship. Rule No. 1 when your drama's in trouble: You make love happen. You'll get a short-term ratings spike and a seasons-long headache trying to fill the void left by that tension (assuming the show survives, which it usually doesn't). The West Wing, Sorkin's only long-term success, milked the tension between characters Donna and Josh for six-plus seasons.
Though it's hardly central to The Black Donnellys (which replaces Studio 60 in Monday's 10 pm time slot), the way romance is treated explains a lot. Creators Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (Crash) are stuck on big-screen time. In the pilot episode alone, we're given four brothers, their love interests, their personalities, their childhood traumas, their current mob flirtations, their enemies, a double-cross or two, a handful of murders, a Michael Corleone moment and one very -- very -- premature "I love you." I can understand the desire to get a solid start out of the gates, but slow your roll, Haggis, damn. That "I love you" should have been the season finale, not the series premiere.
Television and cinema are similar media. Their chief storytelling differences, though -- time and scope -- are vitally important. In a movie theater, you have two hours to tell a story. On TV, you often have years. Good dramas build tension around a handful of events. They make you suffer through innumerable climaxes of tension that never resolve themselves. They get you invested. They keep you watching. It's a ratings ploy, sure, but also the best way to present those beautifully human qualities of melancholy, impatience, indecision and regret. These are things the big screen doesn't have the time to flesh out. By nature, television milks time. Call it a rookie mistake, then, that the only characteristic on display in the pilot was haste.
By the end, each brother has become an all-out mobster. Forty minutes before, they were an aspiring artist, a playboy, a problem gambler and a petty crook, respectively. There were a season's worth of baby steps toward crime, redemption and, yeah, love in last Monday's premiere. Let's hope the writers saved enough ideas for Week Two.
For fans of Dashiell Hammett and pre-Christian-conversion Anne Rice (all three of you), Blood Ties is a chronicle of passion between a private investigator and a romance novelist who's a 450-year-old vampire and (as if that isn't enough) the son of Henry VIII. Sex has never been this bloody. Which is to say, blood has never been this sexy. (Sunday, 3/11, 9 pm, Lifetime)
England's funniest cross-dressing comedian (Eddie Izzard) and Britain's most mannish-looking and humorless actress (Minnie Driver) play drug-addled gypsies. Tired of living the life of nomadic grifters, they and their three children impersonate a wealthy family and move into an upscale neighborhood. (Monday 3/12, 10 pm, FX)
Search for the Next Doll
If we suspected that the Pussycat Dolls were composed of totally disposable hot chicks, the CW is being kind enough to remove all doubt. Nine girls (all painfully hot, unbelievably daft, and with wildly varying vocal and dance talent) will compete to become an actual member of the multi-platinum group. (Tuesday, 3/13, 9 pm, CW)
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.