Monday, November 11, 2013

Flipping Channels: Mike Tyson One-Man Show a KO on HBO

Posted By on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 5:02 AM

Whatever else one says about Mike Tyson — and there's plenty that can be inserted here — he was heavyweight boxing's last great showman. Can anyone outside of Russia actually claim they are fans of the Klitscho brothers or even know which one is champion of which division? Other than the mercurial Floyd Mayweather, these days most boxers are fighting on pay-per-view (at least those whose bouts even get to television) for small purses in front of even smaller crowds.

You certainly won't find any other boxers who would be the subject of a Broadway play. Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, which comes to HBO 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, proved one of the season's hits. It's directed by Spike Lee, and the one-man show features Tyson totally open about a host of things. The subjects range from his time in prison to various family events, his ongoing battle with drug and alcohol abuse (which he sadly seems to be losing), and many other items.

While he's hardly a candidate for most congenial or likable former champ, Tyson's still arguably the sport's biggest draw. Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is a chance to see him outside the ring, where he proves no less compelling than he was inside that arena.

Cop a look at Almost Human
With network TV hip deep in zombies and vampires, Fox (WZTV-17) is bringing back something that was once a fantasy staple, but has been overrun in recent years due the dominance of undead types; human-like androids. Indeed, hopes are so high for the new action/buddy crime drama Almost Human that Fox is debuting it over two nights. There's a preview episode Sunday, Nov. 17, then it moves to its regular slot Nov. 18 (both nights 7 p.m.).

The show's set in 2048 LA, where things are so dire that all police officers must have androids as partners, for both safety and security reasons. That doesn't please veteran cop John Kennex (Karl Urban) for a couple of reasons — among them that he was attacked and nearly killed by rampaging androids. He's been in a coma for 17 months, and upon awakening he discovers he has lost a leg, since replaced by a synthetic limb.

Kennex's new android partner Dorian (the prolific Michael Ealy, whose lengthy slate of recent projects includes the Nashville-based film Unconditional alongside noted local actors like Reegus Flenory) has his own problems. The biggest is, he's not quite as flawless and unemotional as anticipated. Second, Kennex's contempt for both him and the general concept of sharing time and space with an android couldn't be more obvious. Kennex's unflattering description for androids is the term "synthetics."

These two must work together, and their ongoing relationship (or lack of it) forms the foundation for their adventures. Early reports indicate Urban and Ealy seem a good pairing. The show's already undergone one internal power struggle that eventually saw creator J. H. Wyman emerge as sole showrunner and former executive producer and co-show runner Naren Shanker depart. Fox's decision to delay the previously publicized start date from Nov. 4 to a two-day launch has also raised questions about whether the program could survive its personnel issues. It will also indicate whether it is something more than the "21st century Alien Nation," as one critic dismissed it recently.

Still, the promo trailer (which ran on almost every Fox college and pro football game the last two weeks) looks promising. Also, scheduling the show as the lead-in for the even more preposterous Sleepy Hollow, Fox's lone hit among its new properties, could work. At least audiences should be on the same page. We'll see if viewers transfer their loyalties from zombies to androids, at least for one night.

Workplace comedy punches in
TBS continues its quest to become cable's comedy king in the identical fashion TNT's thrived with drama. Unfortunately, while reruns of The Big Bang Theory have proven nearly as popular as the first-run episodes on CBS, TBS hasn't developed a blockbuster original show in the way The Closer became TNT's signature production.

Chances aren't good Ground Floor, a new show that mixes an unlikely office romance with the chronicles of working stiffs, will be that project. It debuts 8 p.m. Thursday, and two half-hour episodes will precede Conan. The program is the newest from sitcom veteran Bill Lawrence, whose past shows include Scrubs and Cougar Town.

When Brody (Skylar Astin), a youthful finance type, has a one-night stand with a maintenance worker named Jenny (Briga Heelan), neither expects to ever see the other again. Except they soon meet once more, as they discover they work in the same building. There is also fresh attraction, only now the romance is threatened by the reaction from co-workers at both ends of the job hierarchy.

Whether this works or flops — the premise is iffy — depends on the delicate balance of sentimentality and class conflict. TBS operates like most basic cable channels, so don't anticipate any excessive language or nudity. Time will tell whether Ground Floor can help get TBS' original shows out of the comedy ratings basement.

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