ABC unveiled its newest midseason replacement show “Eli Stone” last Thursday and I must admit I was less than impressed. Really the only reason I taped the show in the first place was because “Alias” alumn Victor Garber had a role. What attempts to combine elements from such shows as “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies” (both produced by Bryan Fuller, maybe that’s who this show needs) it all ends up falling flat on its face.
Eli Stone (Johnny Lee Miller) is a successful attorney at a prestigious law firm. He’s set to marry the beautiful Taylor Wethersby (Natasha Henstridge) who happens to be the daughter to Eli’s boss Jordan Wethersby (Victor Garber). When Eli starts hearing strange music (predominately George Michael’s “Faith”) he comes to learn he’s a prophet to God who sends him signs that determines the cases he takes.
Immediately this show reminded me of the little-seen “Wonderfalls” which dealt with a young girl having inanimate objects tell her things which led to her helping people. This show does take that concept, along with the procedural of shows like “The Practice” and a bit of whimsy from “Pushing Daisies” and creates “Eli Stone.” With a pedigree like that there are some quirky moments. I adored every time Eli heard “Faith” and instead of just playing the music you actually see George Michael singing the song which was hilarious. There are also a few song and dance sequences that were funny. The whole concept of Eli being a prophet isn’t stuffed down your throat; there are hardly any God references at all so it doesn’t try to beat a message into you. The first case Eli takes, dealing with a mother who is fighting to have a vaccine taken off the market since it gave her son autism, was interesting and they deal with it well so maybe if they stick with dealing in more real-life situations it might become a good lawyer show.
Overall though I did not enjoy watching this show, on the sheer basis that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. At one time it’s a show about lawyers and cases much like “The Practice,” then there’s elements of disbelief and comedy so I was very confused by what we’re supposed to look at this as. The story dealing with Eli’s drunken father wasn’t interesting and took me out of the courtroom drama and Eli’s relationship with Taylor shows up when there’s nothing else to do. I can’t see this being anything more than a rehash of something like “Pushing Daisies” or even something like “Joan of Arcadia.”
I think where “Eli Stone” ultimately fails is the cast. Johnny Lee Miller is just not compelling as the compassionate Eli. When he tries to be funny it looks painful for him and the dramatic moments just seem forced. I never connected with him and just didn’t consider him right for the role. Not to mention the physical comedy just wasn’t his thing. Victor Garber just seems to be playing the same role he’s been in for years which is great to watch but he’s only in about 10 minutes of the show and just doesn’t have enough to do. The lone female name, Natasha Henstridge is also wasted in the typical “semi-supportive snotty girlfriend role.”
As much as I wanted to enjoy “Eli Stone” for Garber, I don’t see myself sticking with it. The premise is nothing new, the cast is simply tolerable and there’s nothing to keep audiences coming back. I’d say wait for the season on DVD.