Chenoweth Snarls in ‘GCB’; ‘Awake’ Has Death Wish: Greg Evans

Jason Isaacs stars in "Awake." The show airs Thursday on NBC at 10 p.m. New York time. Photographer: Lewis Jacobs/NBC via Bloomberg

NBC’s new crime drama “Awake” doubled its chances for intrigue by offering two parallel storylines per episode -- one’s a dream, one isn’t -- and still is only half compelling.

Craggy-faced British actor Jason Isaacs plays Michael Britten, a detective back on the job after surviving a horrific car crash that killed either his teenage son or his wife.

Britten wakes up each morning to one of two realities -- his wife is alive, or his son. He (along with the audience) is unsure which universe is real, which is a dream.

In the Mom’s-dead world, he struggles to connect with his devastated son (Dylan Minnette), confides his troubles to a sympathetic therapist (Cherry Jones) and investigates crimes with a veteran cop (Steve Harris).

In the kid’s-dead world, Britten grieves with his wife (Laura Allen), blabs to a sterner therapist (B.D. Wong) and solves cases with his rookie partner (Wilmer Valderrama).

To avoid confusion, creator/writer Kyle Killen has Isaacs wear a color-coded wristband for each reality.

Dismissing advice to recover his sanity by consigning either son or wife to the hereafter, Britten tells one therapist, “I have no desire to ever make progress.” Probably true.

“Awake” airs tonight on NBC at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: **


Until its last-minute title change to the pointless “GCB,” ABC’s desperately sassy new comedy was called “Good Christian Belles,” amended from the comic novel “Good Christian Bitches.”

ABC might want to keep whittling away.

“Ladies!” sniffs the ring-leading GCB (Kristin Chenoweth) as her clique of backstabbing harpies gossip about an old nemesis. “It is not appropriate to speak of such things on the phone -- I’ll see you in church.”

Southern Sniping

Based on Kim Gatlin’s novel and developed by Robert Harding, whose play “Steel Magnolias” was the godmother of such Southern-fried sniping, “GCB” is an over-the-top camp fest.

Leslie Bibb plays Amanda Vaughn, a transplanted Los Angelena returning to Dallas with two children after a tawdry sex-and-money scandal leaves her broke and husbandless.

Her old high-school gang -- mean girls aged into church-going, honey-tongued shrews -- carries ancient grudges and ill intent.

Chenoweth’s Carlene, who drives a car stenciled “John: 3:16,” welcomes Amanda to a church service by sweetly reminding parishioners that a lack of moral decency is no one’s job to judge.

“GCB” drips poison molasses thicker than any comedy since “Designing Women,” the 1980s sitcom that costarred Annie Potts, featured here as Amanda’s judgmental mother.

Comparing Dallas to Los Angeles, Potts’s big-haired socialite snorts, “We got the same weather, without the liberals.”

To be charitable, that’s as graceful as “GCB” ever gets.

“GCB” airs Sunday on ABC at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: *1/2

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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