by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Eli Stone & r & & r & (ABC, Thursdays, 10pm) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & li Stone's a good lawyer and a good guy. He's a winner, one of his massive firm's rising stars. Then one day, Eli finds pop star George Michael in his apartment singing "Faith," and things start going downhill.
Turns out Eli has an inoperable brain tumor. Doctors think the George Michael visions are a symptom. His acupuncturist Dr. Chen (James Saito), who pretends to have a thick, vaguely Asiatic accent to get more money from whiteys, thinks Stone gets visions because he's a prophet. Given the fairly conclusive CT scans on the one hand and the visions' ability to lead Eli to pro-bono casework on the other, both diagnoses carry weight.
The arc of each episode, thus far, has Stone expressing surprise or exasperation at his visions, then trying to ignore their commands for charity and altruism, only to eventually take a loser case and make it a winner.
For a show so tied to the possibility of a demonstrative G/god, though, Eli Stone has curiously little magic. Rather than being imbued with the stuff -- pulsing with it -- the way Angels in America was and Pushing Daisies often is, Eli Stone's supernaturalism feels tacked on or, like the bi-plane that chased him around downtown San Francisco in Week Two, rendered in. That's symbolic of its creators' dancing around the central theme: Eli Stone is a show about faith that doesn't want to tackle any of faith's issues.
Dude has a tumor, for God's sake, and it's making him see visions. Maybe he's a prophet; maybe he's a man condemned to death by dumb, fickle nature. Maybe he's both. The show's premise speaks to the fundamental crux in faith: the not knowing. In these times fraught with religiosity and terror, there's an opportunity here to explore the nature of humanity's relationship to God, or the lack of a god -- but certainly the desire in most people to follow God's will. What, though, if God's just a brain tumor? Does that make the experience any less powerful? Less real? Eli Stone doesn't offer any such insights, at least not yet.
Cute and simple is clearly in this year as fluff and kitsch continue their improbable partnership in mainstream media, but damn, I want just one show to actually explore the implications of its existence. Can I get an amen?
Given the squad room cursing, the copious amounts of blood and gore and the occasional nudity, you'd think a series like Showtime's awesome -- really, truly great -- Dexter would be just about the last choice to bring from pay cable to a broadcast network. A serial killer who only kills other serial killers, Dex is an anti-hero who wishes he were a proper hero. Season One is showing in its entirety. (CBS, Sunday, 10 pm)
Flavor of Love 3
I'll only say this once, so listen good: Flava's is back and I refuse to watch it. I can't take getting sucked into another season. (VH-1, Mondays, 9 pm)
How To Look Good Naked
The name certainly sounds trashy, as do the promo photos, showing cable image queen Carson Kressley surrounded by plus-sized women in their underwear. The idea, though, is pretty damn humane. Kressley's mission in the show is to forgo the plastic surgery of the long-dead Extreme Makeover and the intense dieting of about a million other shows in favor of a little sensible exercise, nutrition help and -- shockingly -- rehabilitation of the women's self-image issues. (Lifetime, Fridays, 9 pm)
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.