Screen Savors: Mommy for the prosecution

TV wunderkind Jerry Bruckheimer temporarily traded in all the gore of CSI-dom for a look at a new, even scarier area: new moms with raging hormones.

close to home 88 (photo credit: )
close to home 88
(photo credit: )
Having trouble getting junior to sleep through the night? Wondering whether snookums misses you while you try to earn enough to keep the little brat in diapers? Ever thinking about strangling the little darling when she wakes you up for the eighth time in three hours? Yes, new mothers, we hear you - and so, apparently, does TV wunderkind Jerry Bruckheimer, who's temporarily traded in all the gore of CSI-dom for a look at a new, even scarier area: new moms with raging hormones, as per the star of his new Close to Home, Annabeth Chase (Jennifer Finnegan from The Bold and the Beautiful), prosecutor and guilty mother. OK, we've never been a mother, but we've assisted in four births - well, more like cheered from the sidelines - and fought the good fight against the dreaded colicky baby, a beast far more evil than the Jabberwocky, my son. Thing of it is, no one made a TV series out of our life, and judging by the opening episode of this dreadful legal drama, no one should have. Sympathetic as we might be to Annabeth's struggle to be a working mom, it creates about as much television tension as washing out a sink full of one-sies. For a moment there, we thought we were onto something. First we got a glimpse of Annabeth at home with baby Haley, but soon the camera panned out, giving us a glimpse of darker things going on in what seems like a charming street on Suburban Town, USA. Down the block, it turns out, there's a fire going on, and the bike-riding, ball-playing utopia is soon shocked to see firemen bringing a woman and her two children out of the home, where it turns out they'd been locked up by the woman's husband. We know they're firemen because they say firemen-like stuff, such as: "We got people in there!" And yes, sadly, Herman the Hamster buys the farm. Wouldn't you just know it, but this becomes the first case on the plate of returning-to-work Annabeth, who's looking for some important perks on her return, particularly a fridge in which to store her breast milk. Indeed, this may be one of the first shows ever to feature a breast pump as a prop. Poor Annabeth's conflicted. "I want to be a mommy and I want work. I want everything," she says to her hunky husband as they try to wait out their baby's midnight screaming. Restrained by hubby from running back to baby, she says: "This is torture. This is torture." Well, no - that would be this show, my dear. Everyone's a stereotype, for starters: there's her supervisor, Maureen, the tight-ass black career woman with the heart of stone who has a secret; Steve, her buffoonish office manager (played by The Drew Carey Show's John Carroll Lynch, where he played.... er, Steve); and a few other colorless coworkers. Mainly, however, there is Annabeth, blubbering her way through attacks of raging hormones while trying to keep her case together. "God," she sobs at one point, "I didn't even know it was possible to miss someone this much." Seeking out the one safe place in the office - the ladies' room - she tells herself: "I can do it. I can do it." We're not sure if she is referring to acting or changing a diaper. Abusive husband is, of course, at first meeting Mr. Wonderful, although his wife warns Annabeth: "You have to protect my kids!" We know it's a warning because of the wild drumbeats that accompany that statement - part of a musical background that's about as subtle as a tornado. Annabeth's tough, though, and she knows about suburban crime. "The creeps don't scare me. The so-called 'decent guys' who go to church and join the Rotary Club while they hide in plain sight - they're the ones who scare me." And we're scared of the cretins who pen such cliches. It gets worse. There are jokes about jockstraps, for instance. Finally, Annabeth gets a break: the little boy agrees to testify, but here the show broke out in an absolute rash of hokum. "If I tell you what really happened the day of the fire, will you put my daddy in jail - please?" asks the tearful kid. "You bet I will," comes Annabeth's answer. Next scene: Annabeth stroking Haley in her crib, cooing: I'll keep you safe, Haley." Honestly, some of this stuff smells worse than a diaper pail, especially when the violins soar as the boy testifies. "You'll burn in hell for this," the kid's father warns Annabeth. "I've already been there," she snaps, obviously referring to this lousy program, which somehow survived for another year. While that may be, it's certainly not an adequate replacement for Lost on Xtra HOT's Saturday night schedule. Perhaps this is the price CBS makes one pay to keep showing CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, whose second season is due on Xtra HOT soon. Still, if this is what's Close to Home Saturday nights, we're going out on the town, even if the baby is crying.