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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Valentine' gods are, alas, created by mere mortals

October 04, 2008|Mary McNamara | Times Television Critic

"Valentine" is a show that springs like Athena from the head of Zeus every time some poor screenwriter, trapped and penniless on Laurel Canyon, looks up and says, "Oh wow, there's an actual community called Mount Olympus. Wouldn't it be funny if some of the Greek gods actually lived there? You know, modern versions, but with all the sex and bickering and power plays?"

I swear this happens six or seven times a week, depending on traffic. Mercifully, the idea doesn't usually make it past Sunset much less a studio exec. To say "Valentine," which premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday, is terrible does not do justice to either the show or the word "terrible." I suggest we just go ahead and make it a drinking game right now. Everyone pick a character, and whenever that character says the world "love," you drink. Or leave the room. Whichever works for you.

Here at Mount Olympus in Hollywood live the Valentines. There's Grace (Jaime Murray), commonly known as Aphrodite; Danny (Kristoffer Polaha) a.k.a. Eros; Phoebe (Autumn Reeser), the family Sibyl; and their friend Hercules (Robert Baker), going by his middle name, Leo. Grace's ex, Ray (Patrick Fabian), is also on premises, though often in his workshop because he is Hephaestus, god of blacksmiths.

Not surprisingly, the Valentines are in the business of love -- their mission is to find thwarted soul mates and get them together.

To be fair, this is an almost impossible situation in which to put an actor. Matchmaking shows are dangerous enough, but the only person who can play a reasonably believable Higher Power is Morgan Freeman, and he's monotheistic, which changes everything. The Greek gods were humans writ large -- they pouted and quarreled, boasted and stole, raped and then turned their victims into swans. As Grace, Murray certainly looks the part, all alabaster skin, raven hair and knowing eyes. Anyone who saw her turn as the psycho arsonist Lila on last season's "Dexter" knows she can act, but here she is forced to vamp in a way that is simply excruciating. Also, way too many hot-tub scenes.

With a dwindling clientele too immersed in online hook-ups to even think of finding a soul mate, Grace decides that the Valentines require reinvention. Enter Kate Providence (Providence, get it?), a romance-challenged romance writer (played by Christine Lakin) who is recruited to join the team and offer . . . I'm not sure what.

High jinks ensue, but they are flat and predictable, which is pretty unforgivable considering they're gods and all.

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mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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'Valentine'

Where: the CW

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-14-L (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with an advisory for coarse language)

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