Saturday, September 7, 2013

DROP THE PILOT:  Courtesy of the Paley Center's Preview event, I spent almost 7 hours today watching pilots--seeing almost all the NBC, CBS, and CW pilots (two exceptions--Dracula, which screened at the same time as the CW pilots, and The Originals, the last pilot shown, which I skipped).  I believe all were final for broadcast versions, lacking only credits.  My (somewhat lengthy) thoughts follow:

The Best
  •  The Michael J. Fox Show--Like its leading man, it's just so goshdarn likable that you can't help but smile.  There are real questions about what the show looks like going forward (is it a workplace comedy or a family comedy? can the supporting cast generate interesting stories?), but I'm in on this one without question, and today's casting news suggests there's interesting stuff ahead.
  • The Blacklist--In my view, the Alias pilot is one of the best of all time.  This pilot reminded me a lot of a lesser version of that one, though without the visual and structural inventiveness of Alias.  Young woman gets brought into a shady operation, and in the process, secrets are revealed about the operation, the man who brought her in, and herself.  In addition, the twist about her relationship with Spader that the trailers seem to suggest isn't revealed in the pilot, and the pilot's ending suggests that we're going in a different direction.  Most importantly, more than any other pilot I saw, I understand exactly what the show is week to week after watching this--each week, they hunt down another criminal from Spader's "Blacklist," and we also have mythology bits sprinkled in.  Yeah, I'll watch.
  • The Tomorrow People--Young, pretty, people with superpowers on the run from an EEEEVIL government agency that wants to capture them?  Yeah, we've seen this before, but it's well executed, makes good use of NYC location filming, and has fun with it.  It's a perfect leadout for Arrow.
(More after the break)

 The Worst
  • We Are Men--This was the first pilot of the day, and it was an ugly way to start.  Guy is left at altar by his college sweetheart girlfriend and moves into "furnished temporary housing," where he meets three other men all recently leaving a marriage.  They teach him how to be single again.  Basically, imagine three Barney Stinsons teaching one Ted Mosby how to pick up chicks--without any female presence or NPH's winking charm.  All the more loathsome for a running joke about how Tony Shalhoub's character has a thing for young Asian women.  Ugh.
  • Sean Saves The World--Sean Hayes dialed up to 11, with an accompanying laugh track dialed up to 12.  Includes a lengthy run of jokes involving a cockatiel repeating inappropriate things and a two minute physical comedy bit of Sean Hayes trying to climb out a window.  This may not be the final final version, since it still featured Lindsay Sloane, who's leaving the show to be replaced by Megan Hilty, but I can't imagine Hilty or Vik Sahay (who's also joining the show) saving it.  I may tune in for the inevitable "Sean's ex" episode, which is clearly set up for sweeps, and which will be played by a name Hayes has a history with (likely suspects include Debra Messing and Kristin Chenoweth), but I can't imagine looking back.
 The Rest
  • Mom--There is an awful lot of tremendously hacky stuff in this pilot.  Fortunately, it's elevated by a whole bunch of really good performers (Anna Faris, Allison Janney, and Nate Corddry--particularly Faris).  It's also oddly depressing, with a long scene at an AA meeting.  Very much in the vein of Roseanne or Grace Under Fire, it gets a long rope just for my love of Janney, but it is exactly what you'd think it would be.
  • The Millers--Based on early reviews, I was expecting to hate this.  The audience in the Paley auditorium LOVED it--biggest laughs of the day.  I was more lukewarm.  Yes, Margo Martindale is doing fine (albeit VERY BROAD) comic work here, particularly a dance sequence involving her and Will Arnett, but both her character and Beau Bridges' need to be toned down at least 3-4 notches to not wear thin quite quickly.  With news that Eliza Coupe will recur as Will Arnett's ex, I may give it some rope.  (Note we saw a revised pilot, including Jayma Mays, which was recast from the versions critics saw.)
  • The Crazy Ones--This is just a weird show.  David E. Kelley's never written for a half hour before, and you can see--there aren't a ton of jokes, and the episode feels like it's been cut down from a longer length--I'd actually be interested in seeing this same cast and same premise as an hour show, which would give the comic and dramatic notes a little more room to breathe.  That said, James Wolk is PRETTY GREAT, BOB!, and Robin Williams does his thing--YMMV on whether that thing works for you (and Kelly Clarkson has some very nice self-parody in a guest role).  Sarah Michelle Gellar is miscast, with her big scene neither hitting the dramatic or comedic notes that it could.  It feels significantly off-brand for CBS, which has had huge success with a more traditional sitcom lineup.  We'll see how it fares.
  • Hostages--It's 24: CBS Style.  Very professionally executed, but you're left with the very real question of how this sustains 13 episodes.  Most notably, the hostage takers (despite their alleged meticulous preparation) keep being surprised by secrets the hostages are keeping from each other, and coincidence piles upon coincidence.  That said, a sizzle reel at the end of the pilot gives up some of the twists/explanations down the road, and one moment in the sizzle reel had the auditorium gasping.  I'm not dropping Castle for this, but I'll be interested to see if CBS's audience embraces it.
  • Ironside--NBC's effort at doing a CBS procedural, with just a hint of House.  In this version, Ironside is a tough cop paralyzed after a shooting, who as part of a settlement with the NYPD, is given his own "elite team" (made up of a plucky young woman, a trust fund kid who left it behind to become a cop, and a guy with a chip on his shoulder) to solve crimes.  The case of the week in the pilot is utterly generic (young banker kills herself--or did she?!?) and the couple of "clever" devices used (incorporating flashbacks to pre-shooting Ironside, and a shaky first-person camera) aren't clever enough to take the show beyond that level.  I'll stick with Nashville.
  • Welcome To The Family--Smart, straight A, Hispanic boy from the wrong side of the tracks knocks up air-headed girl from an upper middle class white family, and their families meet and clash.  Comedy ensues!  At least in theory.  The culture clash stuff is the weakest part of the pilot, not helped along by the young "romantic" leads being bores.  That said, the stuff with Mike O'Malley and Mary McCormack as the girl's parents, who were looking forward to being empty nesters and get thrust in a different direction, is quite funny, and those two have good chemistry.  I'd watch a show about the two of them.  This one?  Not so much.
  • Reign--I like Game of Thrones and I (mostly) liked Gossip Girl, but was lukewarm about this weird mixture of the two, which aims to turn Mary, Queen of Scots into a teen soap with mild supernatural elements and odd scoring choices.  (A lengthy royal ball sequence is scored to Phillip Phillips' "Gone, Gone, Gone.")  There would be an interesting show there focused on Mary's handmaidens, showing courtly life from their perspective, but that's clearly not where the creatives' hearts lie.  In a murderous timeslot, this isn't really going to get a second look from me, but it's at least something very different for the CW.


  1. Adam B.9:27 PM

    Please tell me they used the Ziggy Marley song for the credits of "The Tomorrow People."

    Great recap.

  2. Eric J.9:54 PM

    I loved The Tomorrow People in it's original incarnation, back when Nickelodeon showed it (and didn't show commercials!) From what I've seen, they're leaving out a lot of the deep weirdness that made the show great, and just giving us an X-Men ripoff.

  3. Joseph Finn10:32 PM

    And I assume will never have them fighting a cult of the reincarnated Hitler.

  4. Joseph Finn10:34 PM

    Fox, Mom and the Millers are pretty much the ones getting more than one episode to prove themselves. I'll give Tomorrow People one episode.

    (And god, someone give Mike O'Malley a lead role.)

  5. Here's the obligatory "Nice tagline." And good coverage of some shows I might not watch unless recommended.

  6. Oliver10:20 AM

    The version that aired on Nickelodeon was a remake that had virtually nothing to do with the original series, so there is precedent.

  7. Eric J.10:24 AM

    No, back in the 1980s, Nickelodeon showed the originals, which is what I watched.

  8. Governor Squid5:41 PM

    I'm pretty sure that the original Tomorrow People was the trigger for my dad explaining to me how to pronounce Thames. (And my not believing a bit of it. Sure, Dad, it's pronounced "tems." Tell me another one.)

  9. Nigel from Cameroon7:19 PM

    I'll try The Blacklist and the Samberg comedy on Fox. I think that's it. No interest in Michael J Fox.