“DEBRIS” FALLS TO EARTH ON NBC; “SIMPSONS” REIGN ON FOX
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“DEBRIS” ON NBC In New Orleans, the culinary capital of America, “debris” is a very tasty shredded roast beef that’s been moistened with pan drippings, resulting in tender, falling-apart meat with lots of juicy flavors. When visiting the Crescent City, have lunch at Mother’s Restaurant, a veritable institution dishing out the gustatory delights of the most delicious debris Po’boy sandwich. “Debris,” the new series on NBC, is nothing at all about food, but the mere hint of that New Orleans specialty is making me hungry. The show’s title refers to a traditional understanding of the word, in this case being the detritus from a spaceship. Similar in a few ways to “The X-Files,” this science-fiction series features two agents investigating the unexplained phenomena of shards of a wrecked spacecraft passing through our solar system that get scattered across the Western Hemisphere. CIA operative Brian Beneventi (Jonathan Tucker) and British MI6 agent Finola Jones (Riann Steele) are teamed in a top-secret mission to track down the alien wreckage before it falls into the wrong hands. The opening scene takes place in a high-end New York hotel where a black market deal involving a piece of metal is about to be closed with Anson Ash (Scroobius Pip) and his henchman when the American and British agents arrive in time to give chase. Contact with the debris poses dangerous risks. When a maid touches a shard, she plummets through the interior of the hotel to her death on the ground floor ballroom. Others may bleed through their eyes or have visions of a dead relative. Though Brian and Finola engage in the type of banter to be expected of their disparate backgrounds, they bring dissimilar approaches to their investigative work, ostensibly designed to draw the audience deeper into a supernatural drama.
Strange happenings are convoluted and puzzling. A woman’s body levitates off the ground and floats away. A young boy possessed by an alien convinces women he’s their son before they meet a terrible fate. Early on, it seems evident that catching up with the black marketeer Anson Ash and his crew will be no easy task. After all, they elude capture very easily by popping pills that allow them to vanish into thin air. With only the pilot episode available for review, the jury is out on whether the mysteries that unfold in “Debris” will be sustained over time. On another level, interest in this series may hinge on one’s proclivity for alien intrigue. During the NBC press tour, Jonathan Tucker revealed that each week a piece of debris is discovered, and “it allows us, as partners and the audience, to discover the capabilities….that this debris has to offer.” We’ll see how this goes.
“THE SIMPSONS” LONG REIGN ON FOX
During the winter press tour for television critics came the announcement from the FOX network that it has renewed its animated program “The Simpsons” for its 33rd and 34th seasons. Even now, “The Simpsons” is already the longest-running primetime scripted show in television history, and Homer Simpson weighed in with the observation that “with any luck, the show will soon be older than I am.” This brings up the interesting point of what this series would be like if the characters had aged according to the number of years that series has been on the air. For one thing, instead of being a 10-year-old kid, Bart Simpson would be a middle-aged man, presumably married and very likely to have kids of his own that turned to be juvenile delinquents. Homer would be collecting Social Security and either living in a rest home and annoying the other residents or he may have contracted coronavirus, which would be worrisome, given that his lifestyle would likely have resulted in dreaded comorbidities.
Exploding into the popular culture in 1990, “The Simpsons” remains not only groundbreaking entertainment but recognizable throughout the world. One has to marvel at the talent to keep a franchise going this long. The voice actors are immediately identifiable television icons. Who doesn’t know the voices of family members Homer (Dan Castellaneta), Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and Marge (Julie Kavner)? In-person, you wouldn’t recognize them. Creator and executive producer Matt Groening added his perspective by noting that “Everyone at ‘The Simpsons’ is thrilled to be renewed once more, and we are planning lots of big surprises. The home will lose a hair and Bart will celebrate his 10th birthday for the thirty-third time.”
It’s also reassuring to know that beloved Springfield residents like Hank Azaria’s tavern proprietor Moe Szyslak and Harry Shearer’s nuclear power plant owner Mr. Burns still remain comic foils. As Bart would say, “Don’t Have a Cow, Man!” if you don’t appreciate the show’s satirical parody of everyday life and cultural references. The ratings prove that “The Simpsons” has incredible staying power. “It’s a sincere pleasure to announce the Season 33 and 34 pick-ups for ‘The Simpsons.’ We keep hoping that eventually, they’ll get it right,” said Charlie Collier, CEO, FOX Entertainment. For devoted fans, it’s safe to say mission accomplished.