Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Half woman, half machine, little direction

“Bionic Woman”

Wednesdays at 9 p.m.


For a drama based on an extravagantly campy ’70s TV show, “Bionic Woman” shows much more promise than it might have. That’s not to say the show isn’t silly. This expensive NBC sci-fi drama borrows a loose and potentially interesting concept, runs with it for about 20 minutes and then gets lost in action-fueled gimmickry.

Newcomer Michelle Ryan is Jaime Sommers, a pretty, hip bartender in love with Will Anthros (Chris Bowers, “Rescue Me”), a college professor of bioethics and secret consultant on government-electronic testing. Only on television could a professor of bioethics find true love with a bartender, but whatever. More to the point: After a not-so-accidental car crash, Jaime’s body becomes the subject of electronic experiments.

What if a woman defied gender roles to be much more than a hero? What if after enduring confusing techno-babble, we could get a weekly action show in which the lead character’s adventures are actually kinda cool? There’s the promise of “Bionic Woman,” and it could produce decent episodes eventually. But now the show has the overbaked melodrama of a CW show, coupled some of the worst trends in modern television: the shaky cam, the faux-governmental realism and pace of a “24” episode. The worst comes when hyper-bodily-motion fight effects from the “The Matrix” movies appear.

That said, “Bionic Woman” isn’t terrible, it’s just not off to a great start. A lack of ’70s irony and transparent female-empowerment schlock could make it a mainstay. But the show is going to have to come around quickly if it’s to say on the air.

Blake Goble

NBC breathes new ‘Life’ into cop dramas

Rating: 3 and one half stars out of 5


Wednesdays at 10 p.m.


Twelve years in prison will mess anyone up. Twelve years in prison as a former cop who was framed for a crime, nearly beaten to death in jail and then miraculously acquitted is, well, different. Still, Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis, “Band of Brothers”) wanted to go back to work.

What makes NBC’s new police drama “Life” so refreshing is that the writers use the thickly layered character development of Crews to remove us from the easy, conventional trap of stuffy, true-to-reality police dramas. The writers create a unique and believable back story for Crews that’s critical to his seemingly erratic behavior, lending itself to more undefined and original circumstances.

Crews’s atypical detective work also breaks the standard police-drama mold. He isn’t presented as the by-the-book cop forced to make tough, moral decisions. Instead we get Charlie Crews: ex-cop, ex-con and aberrant detective. In a world of endless cop dramas, Charlie Crews sets himself apart.

Alex Erikson

The TV culinary formula turns into a ‘Nightmare’

“Kitchen Nightmares”

Wednesdays at 9 p.m.


In his grating new reality show “Kitchen Nightmares,” host and guru restaurateur Gordon Ramsay swears often and uncontrollably. His expletory sentences are practically incomprehensible and push the show into an obnoxious monotony of bleeps.

Still, as annoying as they are, those bleeps probably aren’t making us miss out on much. In the show, Ramsay attempts to salvage a different underperforming restaurant each week, transforming not only the menu and decoration but the management. He has a week to complete this makeover, and if past reality series are any indication, he’ll succeed every time.

Ramsay’s brash style of dictatorial rule is undeniably entertaining, but it’s not enough to support an entire series. While Ramsay’s other reality show, “Hell’s Kitchen,” allowed for a continued emotional attachment to the contestants, the non-serialized style of “Kitchen Nightmares” never allows the viewer to connect with the struggling businesses. Instead the show is left to rely solely on Ramsay’s overbearing rants and faux-motivational pep talks.

With just Ramsay’s over-the-top antics to anchor the show, watching “Kitchen Nightmares” isn’t worth the effort.

Ben Megargel

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