Screen Savors: Visions of San Francisco

Strange and quirky is the best way to describe the opening of this mostly entertaining program.

elie stone 88 (photo credit: )
elie stone 88
(photo credit: )
Singer George Michael's been known to cause some havoc before. When corporate lawyer Eli Stone starts hearing Michael's song "Faith," in all its glory, inside his own head, it's only the first sign that there's something's wrong with his brain. Sure, there are other signs - hearing organ music while preparing for a big case or when Michael "performs live" in the lobby of his law office. Neither of which does anybody else notice, as they do not see the myriad other apparitions that turn up in Stone's own hallucinations. Indeed, strange and quirky is the best way to describe the opening of this mostly entertaining program: Stone on a mountain top in India, his father's ashes in hand, asking his Sherpa guides to take his picture. Then he tells us his background: he's a lawyer from San Francisco working for a greedy company and, he adds, "Oh - did I mention I recently found out I could be a prophet?" So far so good - we thought. Stone's got a brother who's a doctor, a take-no-prisoners boss (Victor Garber of Alias) who's also about to become his father-in-law and who's not quite adjusted to the idea, and a case involving a young divorcée and her son who became autistic after the boy was given a tainted vaccine - made by one of Stone's clients. Then the coincidence cave-in strikes, dramatically undercutting what till then seemed like a great show. The boy's mom, it happens, is Stone's old flame and first sexual partner as revealed in a cute flashback to Stone's teen days, when he was, as she describes it just moments before their big moment, "cute in a geeky, late bloomish kind of way." Convenient, no? Unsure of what's causing him to see things, Eli seeks the help of acupuncturist Dr. Chin, at the urging of his wonderfully spunky if not cliché secretary Patty (Loretta Devine of Grey's Anatomy and The PJs). The treatment sends him back to his childhood ('Dead parent? Different needle. Dr. Chin help ungrateful son.") with a flashback to his father. Until now, Stone has always remembered him as a drunken ne'er-do-well. But now here's dad telling him, "You're meant to do great things. You're going to help people." Dad even hands him a picture of the same Indian mountains we saw in the opening, promising his now-adult son, "We'll go there someday." It only gets worse from here. Stone, seeing the error of his corporate ways, takes on his virginal lover's case, even at the risk of losing his job. Even the fun element of his visions is undercut when his brother discovers their real cause: a brain aneurysm. Turns out that dad had had one too. At least all the negative thoughts of him are removed now that the real cause of the old man's frequent disappearances have been tearfully worked out. Even his bitchy fiancée Beth admits, "For the first time, I feel sorrier for you than I do for me." Sigh. Still when it's not overtly sentimental, the show has a lot to love. For example, there's James Saito, outstanding as Stone's acupuncturist Dr. Chin, not the stereotype we're initially led to believe. "No one wants an acupuncturist called Frank Lebokowski," he tells Stone while breaking his faux-Chinese accent. But, he explains to Stone over a couple of beers, "There are those who are sent to us to lead us on our way. Some people call them prophets." Heeding such possibilities, Stone takes up the pro-bono mantle with a promise of job security from his boss. "I believe in people - most people want to do what's right," says Stone in one of many Frank Capra-like moments. Groan. Too bad the producers couldn't stick to the fun stuff. Once it meanders off in search of striking emotional chords or focusing on forced courtroom drama, the show immediately fizzles. And let it not be said that the fates are unresponsive. ABC, the American network on which the show airs, recently pulled the plug at the start of the second season. Unlike Stone - or his amicable apparition George Michael - they lacked faith. Eli Stone airs on YES 1 on Tuesday nights at 10:40 p.m.