Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Just one day after ABC announced its surprising fall 2001 lineup, CBS followed suit Wednesday with some curveballs of its own.
The Eye Network will bring back 16 primetime programs, CBS President Les Moonves announced Wednesday - including Survivor, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Everybody Loves Raymond and Judging Amy - and also will introduce eight new series starring some of Hollywood's heavyweights.
Survivor and CSI will remain Thursday's double-threat, and the Monday lineup of strong sitcoms, including King of Queens, Yes, Dear, Raymond and Becker, also will stay untouched.
New blood, however, will shake up CBS' remaining primetime schedule. The network's offering of rookie shows is as follows:
Thursdays, 10 p.m. EST
Set in Washington, D.C., this drama follows a brave group of CIA agents who risk life and limb in the name of national security. The series stars Gil Bellows (Ally McBeal), as a no-holds-barred agent who's haunted by the mysterious death of his brother, and Will Patton (Remember the Titans), as the veteran agent who knows the truth about Bellows' sibling. Also stars David Clennon (thirtysomething) as a fraud expert and Paige Turco (Party of Five) as the determined rookie. Produced by Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm).
"The Amazing Race"
Wednesdays, 9 p.m. EST
Think of it as Survivor unrestrained. Eleven teams, each comprised of two members, traverse the globe in a month-long competition to be the first to reach the final destination. The winning team nabs $1 million. But, alas, here's the catch: all team members must have a pre-existing personal relationship - be it family, friend or foe - adding some tension to the overall scheme. Executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Armageddon) and Bertram van Munster (Cops).
Fridays, 8:30 p.m. EST
In one of only two new sitcoms debuting on CBS in the fall, Daniel Stern (City Slickers) stars as a single father who operates a run-down community center populated with a diverse group of people. As the neighborhood ruffians learn lessons in life at the center - receiving guidance, playing sports and seeing tutors - Stern's character also learns what is important in life. Produced by Stern, Howard J. Morris (Home Improvement) and Michael Hanel (Titus).
Saturdays, 9 p.m. EST
James Cromwell (Babe) stars as a man who has spent his entire life as a success in the political arena - having served three terms in the Senate - until, in a shocking defeat, he loses his seat on Capitol Hill and is forced to return to civilian life. His three daughters timidly attempt to make the transition a smooth one, yet their own personal conflicts with other family members render the former senator's homecoming a nerve-racking affair. Produced by John Wells (ER), Lydia Woodward (China Beach) and Christopher Chulack (The West Wing).
"The Education of Max Bickford"
Sundays, 8 p.m. EST
Possibly the most creative of CBS' new dramas, Bickford delves into the bizarre life of college professor Max Bickford (Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss). Max is denied a promotion at work, is regularly stabbed in the back by the college president (Regina Taylor) and is forced to deal with the fact that his former best friend, Steve, is now a woman (Helen Shaver) named Erica. Executive produced by Nicole Yorkin (Judging Amy).
"The Ellen Show"
Fridays, 8 p.m. EST
Ellen DeGeneres returns to primetime TV as an overworked Internet executive who realizes that life in the slow lane is the way to go. Her solution? She moves back to her small hometown to live with her peculiar mother (Cloris Leachman) and sister (Emily Rutherfurd) - but will the pressures of living back at home outweigh the stresses of her previous life on the fast track? And is her former high school sweetheart moving back in on her? Produced by DeGeneres, Carol Leifer (Seinfeld) and Mitchell Hurwitz (The Golden Girls).
Tuesdays, 9 p.m. EST
Half legal drama, half a journey of self-discovery, Simon Baker (L.A. Confidential) plays Nick, a high-powered lawyer who, following a drug bust, is forced by the courts to work in a child advocacy office to set him straight. Though Nick is still determined to please his former legal clients, he slowly warms up to the children he's ordered to assist, shedding his cold exterior. Dabney Coleman (9 to 5) stars as Nick's stern father. Executive produced by Mark Johnson (Donnie Brasco) and Michael Pressman (Chicago Hope).
Wednesdays, 10 p.m. EST
This bizarre drama follows the investigation of a Bureau of Wildlife Management agent (Lou Diamond Phillips) obsessed with unlocking the mystery behind a rash of human disappearances in a Seattle suburb. His investigation centers upon a pack of wild wolves that can morph into human beings at will. Only one man-a Native American biology professor (Graham Greene)--knows the truth behind the supernatural creatures. Executive produced by John Leekley (Kindred: The Embraced) and Bernard Lechowick (Hyperion Bay).
As for returning shows with new time slots, four programs are being shuffled around. 60 Minutes II stays on Wednesdays, but will shown at 8 p.m. EST, not 9 p.m. EST, its current time slot. Another news magazine show, 48 Hours, will be shown on Fridays at 10 p.m. EST, a day later than its current home at 10 p.m. EST Thursdays. That's Life will jump back from Saturdays at 8 p.m. EST to Fridays at 9 p.m. EST. Finally, the family hit Touched by an Angel moves from Sundays at 8 p.m. EST to Saturdays at 8 p.m. EST.
Fox is expected to release its fall schedule sometime Thursday.