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Fall '06: "Runaway"

The CW's new family drama Runaway premieres tonight. A copy of the show's second episode just arrived at my house, so I'm going to withhold a full review until I watch it. (It's always better to judge by more than a pilot episode, if you can get away with it.)

But here's my thumbnail sketch: When I first watched the Runaway pilot, I thought it was destined for CBS. I don't know why -- it just felt sort of like a CBS show. A generic CBS drama that tries to combine a family drama with a tense, serialized people-on-the-run action show. And by that score, it didn't fare well: Runaway is not a very good CBS show.

When I found out that Runaway is actually a CW show, I found myself feeling more charitable toward it. When I started thinking of it as 7th Heaven on the lam, it seemed to make more sense. I guess this says more about my feelings about the CW than it does about Runaway, but there you have it.

In any event, Runaway is about a family that's on the run because the dad is accused of a crime he didn't commit. The Dad is Donnie Wahlberg, who was so great in Boomtown and is okay here. My problem with the show is simply its premise: as we see the family settle into their new house and the kids start making friends at their new school, it's hard to believe that the series is ready to pull up stakes the moment that the family is found out.

That realization deflated all the tense scenes and makes me reluctant to believe this show will work for the long haul; after all, if you don't believe that the family will ever really leave their new small town, the family-on-the-run metaphor just becomes a clever conceit for another drama about high-school kids and their parents' problematic marriage. At which point it's, what, One Tree Hill? Everwood? Dawson's Creek? Something I don't want to watch, that's for sure.

After watching the Runaway pilot, this is what I can say: it's not a bad show. But neither is it among the best of the year. And it's got a premise, so far as I can tell, that isn't built to last.


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