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Pilot Inspektor: CBS' "Cane"

Question: what do Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Polly Walker, Nestor Carbonell, Rita Moreno, Paola Turbay, and Alona Tal have in common?

Answer: they all appear in CBS' cracking and taut new drama Cane, which launches this fall. Cane charts the soapy twists and turns in the lives of the Duques, a wealthy family in the lucrative rum business who must fend off takeover advances from the shifty Samuels clan, who'd like nothing better but to put the business started by pater familias Pancho Duque (Hector Elizondo) and now run by adopted son Alex Vegas (an incandescant Jimmy Smits) firmly under their thumb.

The matter at stake in Cane is the titular sugarcane, used in rum-making, which is now being considered by politicians as an ethanol fuel alternative... which means big bucks for who ever gains control of those massive sugarcane fields. Add to this the fact that there's bad blood--as in Shakespearean-scale blood feuds--between the two families (the Samuels may have played a part in the kidnapping and murder of the youngest Duque a few decades back) and you have a series that positively thrums with the beat of conflict.

In Cane, Jimmy Smits is at his most magnetic, playing Alex as a family man deeply divided by conflict; in his case, it's the pull between duty and morality as what's best isn't always what's right. In the pilot episode alone, he must decide whether to step up as the new head of Duque Rum and cast out his jealous brother, focusing his energy on building up their budding empire, or whether to succumb to the tantalizing lure of revenge.

As Alex's parents, Elizondo and Rita Moreno provide a gravitas as well as an emotional pull; Elizondo is all charm and rules his clan with an iron fist in a velvet glove. The rest of the cast is equally luminescent: Rome's Polly Walker does her best Southern black widow here, imbuing Ellis with a lithe energy matched only by her bitter poison; Lost's Nestor Carbonell radiates with the jealousy of an overlooked sibling and an air of self-entitlement that is fueled by years of rage at his family. Together, Carbonell's Frank and Ellis make the perfect pair, blending spite and acidity. Paola Turbay is perfectly cast as Alex's wife Isabel, who turns a blind eye to the conflict within her husband, seeing only the product of his upbringing: the luxury of the Duques family set against his childhood as an orphaned Cuban refugee.

Rounding out the cast is Eddie Matos as youngest son Henry Duque, who'd rather avoid the rum business altogether and focus on his passion: clubs; Michael Trevino as Alex's equally conflicted son (family business and college or the love of his beautiful girlfriend and the military?); Veronica Mars' Alona Tal as Jamie's girlfriend Rebecca; and Lina Esco has Alex and Isabel's deceitful and rather spoiled daughter Katie.

Cane, created by Cynthia Cidre, is a slick, beautifully polished production that sucks you in from the opening scene. It's filled with heat and color and perfectly captures the Cubano scene in South Florida, each scene bursting with a vibrancy rarely seen on network television. CBS will have its hands full convincing a fickle viewing public that it's not a "Latino series," per se, but rather a soap opera that happens to revolve around a Latino family. Those unwilling to open their minds and watch a series populated by minority actors will miss out on a gripping, sensational series about what it means to fight (sometimes tooth and nail) for the ever-elusive American Dream.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The King of Queens/The King of Queens (CBS); Most Outrageous Moments/Most Outrageous Moments (NBC); Hidden Palms (CW); The Next Best Thing: Who is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator? (ABC); So You Think You Can Dance (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS);
Last Comic Standing (NBC); Hidden Palms (CW); American Inventor (ABC)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Dateline (NBC);
Traveler (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8-10 pm: Hidden Palms.

On the sixth episode of this eight-episode teen thriller/relationship drama ("Dangerous Liaisons"), Johnny confronts Greta about the bloody angel costume Liza discovered in Cliff's room, while Nikki catches Cliff kissing Eddie's mom at a party. On the penultimate episode ("Stand By Your Woman"), Johnny tells Greta and Liza about Cliff's affair while Cliff tries to win back Nikki while fending off Maria Nolan.

10 pm:
Top Chef on Bravo.

On tonight's episode of
Top Chef
("Family Favorites"), the chefs are tasked with working with some exotic shellfish, CJ makes a muddy mess out of tuna, and the contestants get themselves into hot water... in the jacuzzi.

10 pm: Traveler.

On tonight's episode ("The Trader"), Tyler and Jay go back to New York to investigate some financial ties to the bombing while Will attempts to avenge his girlfriend's death.


Anonymous said…
This isn't something I'd normally watch but the cast is just so damn good I'm going to have to check it out. Hell, I'd watch anything with Polly Walker in it.
Anonymous said…
i thought it was definitely one of the strongest pilots. I can't wait to see ep 2.
Anonymous said…
Can't wait to see this! I love Smits and I love Polly Walker!
Anonymous said…
A weird bit of trivia, but Jason Lee (star of My Name is Earl) named his son Pilot Inspektor
Jace Lacob said…
Um, yeah, Anon. That was sort of the joke.

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