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The Globe and Mail

John Doyle: Notorious is the worst show in the history of worst shows

Perhaps you were watching the Emmy Awards on Sunday and noted the ceaseless promotion for Notorious (Thursday, ABC, CTV, 9 p.m.)? Perhaps you wondered if it was any good?

Well, wonder no longer. It's a crock. It is, possibly, the worst network show in the history of the worst network shows. And even worse, it isn't even funny-bad. It's just atrocious. Also, you haven't met such hideously awful characters, ever.

The gist is this: Lawyer Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata) and Julia George (Piper Perabo), a producer for the fictional Louise Herrick Live (the No. 1 cable-news program, we are informed), have the hots for each other and spend their entire time manipulating high-profile scandals through the medium of the show.

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If this sounds like a stretch, even as the premise for a cheesy network TV show, it is. It is ludicrous. The fact that it is "derived" from the real friendship between defence lawyer Mark Geragos and former Larry King Live producer Wendy Walker doesn't make it any less ludicrous.

This is the sort of unspeakably inane show about the TV-news business which posits that a storyline about "new paparazzi laws" will have the world talking. It also offers us a TV-host character – the anchor of the No. 1 cable-news program – who is a woman whose main interest in life is not the news but sitting around in lingerie while a handsome, shirtless fella cooks for her. Oh, that Louise Herrick, she's no Larry King!

We first meet Louise when Julia enters her office to find that shirtless chap performing the culinary arts. He looks at Julia and drawls, "How do you like your meat?" Later, though not much later, Julia receives a call from Louise, who commands, "Bring me some condoms and a bottle of Baileys." If those shenanigans were presented with humour and the camp quality they demand, that wouldn't be so bad. But they're not. This show takes itself very, very seriously.

Everybody is sleeping with everybody. The lawyer guy is sleeping with his client's wife. (There's a back story about how they jumped off a train in Spain together, back in the day. But, still.) Julia's fiancé is sleeping with hookers. Devastated by the latter revelation about her betrothed, Julia is, of course, more drawn to the lawyer guy who's sleeping with the client's wife. In the context of Notorious, this makes perfect sense. Calling all of the characters ethically challenged would be an understatement, in the way that calling Notorious garbage would be an understatement.

There is, of course, a way to present the flotsam and jetsam of high-stakes media coverage of celebrities and politicians in an entertaining manner. Shonda Rhimes has done it in Scandal and other shows. It's about humour, and a strong sense of the ridiculous being attached to superheightened, fast-paced drama. Notorious is no Scandal. It's simply vile.

Pitch (Thursday, Fox, Global, 9 p.m.) is a much more satisfying new network series, also making its debut. A fantasy, really, or speculative fiction, it imagines what happens when the first woman to play in Major League Baseball actually turns up to do the job. She's Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), an ace pitcher coached to greatness by a demanding father (Michael Beach). There's a showbizzy element in Ginny having a diva of an agent (Ali Larter), who understands exactly what impact her client can have, not just in baseball.

The show is no masterpiece of subtlety or insight, but it manages to be intriguing. After all, the core of the drama is the insertion of a woman into a macho culture. And that resonates somewhat, given the political climate in the United States and other countries. We are watching a woman, highly skilled in her job, carefully manoeuvre her way through a world in which she will always be looked upon with suspicion. Oddly, Major League Baseball is fully behind Pitch, allowing the use of team logos and other fully authentic aspects of the game. That doesn't mean Pitch is highly realistic. It's speculative, and sometimes clichés enter the scenario with thudding force. Yet it has genuine charm, which is more than can be said of the worst of them all, Notorious.

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