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Amazon Customers Rate 'Chuck' Best of NBC's New Shows

September 21, 2007 3:00 PM

An unexpected byproduct of NBC offering its fall drama slate for free download on Amazon.com’s Unbox video service: The shows are being formally reviewed by customers, just like any other Amazon product, before most critics take their turn next week.

“Chuck” is receiving the highest marks, as of Friday earning four-and-a-half stars out of five. “Life” and “Journeyman” average four stars. The most heavily promoted show of the pack, “Bionic Woman,” is deemed worthy of merely three-and-a-half stars.

Some of the reviews, particularly on “Bionic,” give low marks due to gripes about the Unbox player. But the reviews provide a rough consensus of opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the slate. Though NBC officially takes little notice of fan comments, sources said network executive are aware of the reviews and can’t help but read along as premiere week looms.

Unlike most Amazon products, the free downloads are not ranked by popularity. If the number of reviews are an accurate indication, “Bionic” is the most downloaded, followed by “Chuck,” “Journeyman” and “Life.”

Of course, fans critiquing pilot previews online is nothing new. But the established Amazon.com system of registered customers provides more credibility and organization than your typically chaotic message board.

This isn’t to say the Amazon.com system is anywhere close to foolproof. Though an NBC representative denied using viral marketers to post bogus reviews, some of the comments seem suspect. Take this first-time Amazon.com poster reviewing the upcoming cop drama “Life.”

“This show has something for everyone. Plenty of ‘eye candy’ thanks to Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi. Wonderful performances from Damian (as always!), from Sarah and from everyone in it. A very clever, well-written script that will appeal to people who like television that is intelligent, engaging, entertaining, suspenseful, humorous, ... I am so-o-o-o hooked! I'm looking forward to the official broadcast premiere on September 26, and for the weeks, months and years of Life that follow!”

Hmmm….

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Comments (8)

Ann:

I am the author of that very review, and I can assure you, there is nothing "suspect" about it. It is completely honest and completely legitimate. And for the record, I am in no way affilated with NBC, Life or any person, company or entity involved with this series. I am simply someone who happens to have a high regard for this well-done show.

Vanessa:

I, also, gave "Life" a 5-star review on Amazon - yet, I'm not in anyway affiliated with NBC, the show, etc. Like Ann, I simply enjoyed the show that much! I watched the pilot with a couple of friends and family members who also REALLY enjoyed it. As far as I know, not one of them is a "secret spy" for NBC sent to plant a positive "viral" review of the show amongst our small viewing group, that night. A fan of "Band of Brothers," and, "The Forsyte Saga," I'm also very excited to see Damian Lewis involved, once again, in an american TV project. He's one of the best actors out there, hands down. Judging by many other comments I've read, which have been posted on various websites about "Life", I'm not the only one who feels this way. Perhaps, sir, you should try verifying your suspicions before voicing them, next time?

Chris:

All he said was some of the reviews "sound suspect" and after reading that one about watching "months and years of Life to follow" I can see why. People ARE paid to post fake reviews on the internet. You can't tell which are real and he was just pointing out that you should not trust any board 100%.

Scott:

Anyone else here suspicious that Ann, the Amazon customer, who claims she wrote that phony sounding review, navigated here and posted the first comment in response to a story criticising the review at 8:43 on Saturday morning?

That review and many of the others in that section certainly look like "viral marketing" pump and dump garbage to me.

Ike:

I also don't believe this Ann character for a second. Her whole Amazon.com review reads like cheesy, badly-done advertising copy. If you want to write believable reviews, you have to include SOME kind of actual CRITICISM somewhere. Think like a cynic. Find some kind of flaw, and mention it. A real review is not the same as advertising. Duh.

Kathy:

So, just because someone likes a program or they disagree with you it must mean that they aren't expressing an honest opinion and that the networks must be paying them to post favorable comments? That's sounds like a very self-serving argument to me. Anyone who isn't cynical or disagrees with what you think must be a plant - very convenient (for you anyway!)

I've watched the free NBC pilot downloads and I thought that CHUCK was amusing and well-done but I won't be watching it on a regular basis - the story line and characters just didn't appeal to me - but I absolutely loved LIFE and plan to become a regular viewer. In my opinion it's the best new television drama since HOUSE. The story is intelligent and intriquing and raises many questions that will keep me watching. The acting is great and the chemistry between the leads is terrific. A lot of actors would find it very hard to pull off this strange and complex character without overdoing it (or merely becoming annoying) but Damian Lewis is more than up to the challenge.

And by the way, I don't have any affiliation with the show or the network either - I just have the right to express my honest opinion like any other viewer. Maybe the people who are calling out any favorable posts as "suspect" are the real plants being paid by rival networks to discredit the competition? Hey, that theory isn't any sillier than the original suggestion!

Kathy:

I just came across a new review for LIFE in the LA Times - it doesn't have anything bad to say so I guess that must mean that the LA Times staff writer is really a double agent working for NBC!

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-et-life26sep26,1,1799656.story?coll=la-entnews-tv
(spoilers!)

A sign of 'Life' on NBC: brilliance

Damian Lewis is a quirky cop trying to get his life back together. The result: a potentially great show.

By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 26, 2007

NBC's new drama "Life" is the sort of show that makes a person want to write things that will be picked up for ad copy. Like: "If you only watch one new show this fall, watch 'Life.' " Or: "Terrific cast, terrific writing, and even when simply eating a pear, Damian Lewis sets a whole new standard for the broken hero genre." Not for the ad, but because they're true. And since "Life" has gotten zero buzz, there's a chance it will have a hard time finding an audience. Which would be terrible, since it promises to be such a great show.

This despite its obviously derivative nature: Writer Rand Ravich has created the latest "Monk" by way of "House." "Life" follows the strange and painful tale of LAPD detective Charlie Crews. Twelve years ago, Charlie was convicted of a gruesome triple homicide and sentenced to life. Only he didn't do it, see, as his heroic and lovely attorney Constance (Brooke Langton) proved. So now Crews is a free man, or as free as he can be after all the physical and psychological damage done to him in prison, with a $50-million settlement and a chance to return to the force as a detective.

But that psychological damage is pretty extensive, with the result that Crews is more than a bit strange. Brilliant but strange. "Did you ask the dog?" he asks with an owl-like tilt of his head when officers are looking for a bullet at a crime scene. And, of course, the dog knows.

With the watchful half-smile and soft monotone of a psychopath and the sudden, stilted movements of a space alien, Crews is no sharp-tongued misanthrope or lovable neurotic. He's just Zen to the point of disassociation. "You don't have to understand here to be here," he tells his new partner, Dani (Sarah Shahi), who is teamed with Crews partly as punishment for past drug abuse.

Playing it long and lugubrious but with a tantalizing twinkle, Lewis (last seen in the States as the hateful husband in "The Forsyte Saga") may well wrest the mantle of sexiest troubled American played by a Brit away from Hugh Laurie. Like House, Crews has been damaged by the profession he serves; like House, he sees things that other people miss. But Crews is working toward transformation. His serenity, however, is obviously self-imposed and at times, barely there, a thin mask of hard-won wisdom veiling the pain and anger within.

"Don't you have anything better to do?" asks the husband of Crews' ex-wife after Crews has pulled him over, yet again, for some minor traffic infraction.

"No, sir," Crews says, taking in the glory of a perfect Los Angeles day. "Not at this moment."

L.A. sparkles in "Life," awash in sunshine and possibility, the perfect second chance Crews is doing his best to enjoy. He lives in a gorgeous mansion with Ted, a CEO busted for insider trading whom Crews met in prison. Apparently the gods were smiling on "Life's" casting director because Ted, who now manages Crews' money, is played by Adam Arkin. "And you live in his garage?" he is asked at one point. "I live in an apartment above his garage," he answers.

Along with Ted, Crews also has some pretty terrific quirks to keep him real -- no furniture, a passion for fresh fruit, a penchant for self-help tapes, a string of happy one-night stands, and a nice, dark sense of humor.

"That's a phone," he tells his former partner who wants to take his picture.

"It's got a camera in it. Where have you been?"

"Me, I've been in federal maximum security prison," Charlie answers with ironic good cheer.

As his feisty, smart partner, Shahi ("The L-Word") matches Lewis beat for beat. "Say 'Is it?' one more time and I'll shoot you," she tells Charlie when he lapses into a Zen-like repetition. Dani has her own troubles, mostly in the form of a Lt. Davis (a wonderfully hard-as-nails Robin Weigert) who seems intent on using Dani's drug issues to coerce her into making a case against Crews -- whom Davis clearly wants off the force.

A lot of people don't think Crews should be back on the force. The show opens as if it were a documentary investigating Crews' life -- here is his former partner, his former wife, explaining why they thought he did it -- and that conceit continues through early episodes, so we learn there are some people who still think he's guilty. But Charlie knows that if he's not, someone is, and the arc of the show, along with the various cases he and Dani solve, will be his quest for answers, and possibly vengeance.

Meanwhile, he's got fruit to eat, $50 mil to spend and a new lease on life. As, it seems, do we.


'Life'
Where: NBC

When: 10 to 11 tonight

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14)

Vanessa:

You tell em, Kathy! :) As for turkeys Ike, Scott, and Chris - as Kathy mentions, I believe there are SEVERAL positive reviews of the show "Life" by SEVERAL accredited "reviewers" spread through out the web. So, either ALL of them were paid-off by NBC, or the three of you are wrong (as well as Mr. Hibberd). Hmmmm...which is more likely? That's a tough one. I certainly don't have any extra moolah lining my pockets since my 5-star review on Amazon. It royally pisses me off for ANYone to imply that something I've written (or a friend of mine, Ann, has written) is some "viral" BS simply because it wasn't written in a pre-conceived/approved format. Just because a review doesn't contain a negative remark doesn't mean it was "planted". It might just mean that the show is...*gasp*...good! I happen to know that Ann is a real flesh and blood person who is just as excited as I have been over Damian Lewis finally jumping back on to the American TV band wagon (didn't any of you guys watch "Band of Brothers"?). If "Life" does well, that means several seasons, which, yes, means "months and years". Why does that not make sense? Grrr...now I need my coffee...

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