NBC

Revolution – Pilot

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Network: NBC
Day/Time:  Mondays 10/9C
Premiere Date: Sept 17, 2012

Main Characters:

Tracy Spiridakos – Charlie Matheson
Giancarlo Esposito – Captain Neville
Billy Burke – Miles Matheson

Revolution takes place 15 years in our future, but a future in which all electricity has ceased to exist.  Without power, the world begins to crumble and lives change.  Ben Matheson might know what happened and how to fix it, but it will be up to his daughter and brother to find a way to turn the lights back on – or keep that power out of the wrong hands.

I did wonder why it took so long for the networks to jump on the dystopian bandwagon, and NBC really needs this to be a big hit.  And because they need it to be a hit, and it’s coming after the Hunger Games craziness, Revolution previews make it look very similar to some of the other dystopian fiction out there.  That being said, I also really wanted to love this show.  After all, when you throw J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau together you’re going to get great TV, right?

So so.  There are bones there of a great mythos, some interesting characters, and a good set-up to the show, but I am not sure where it is all going.  The main problem with the pilot, without spoiling it, it amounts to whether or not they would ever want the power turned back on.  If you think about it, that means millions of cars, planes, and other machinery would work again, all of a sudden.  In a world that has been turned over to savage militias, it would be quick, unlimitless power.

As to our central characters, Charlie is the now-grown daughter of Ben and she sets off to Chicago to find her uncle Miles and try and save her young brother.  Predictable things happen in the very short journey, including an introduction to a “complicated” love interest for Charlie and a short run-in with a few bandits.  But even if you can figure out what’s coming, it really is that ending that will draw you in for the series.

The acting in the show could be better, but I was kind of surprised by Tracy Spiridakos.  There was plenty of opportunity for her to take things over the top, and instead she played it low-key.  I really liked the way she interpreted things, and I cannot quite put my finger on what I would call her approach other than portraying the utter disbelief of her young character.  Thrown in a bit of naivete and youthful idealism, and I think you have her acting style.

Giancarlo Esposito was the other standout in this show for me.  Sure, he plays the “bad guy”, but Esposito proves that even the villains can have layers.  Here was another opportunity for an over-the-top performance, but instead Esposito and the writers’ portray Captain Neville with surprising subtlety.  Neville, an insurance adjuster before the blackout, is just a man that found a way to utilize his skills and just wants to get home to his wife and bed.  Or so he would have you believe.  On the face of it, he could prove to be one of the most interesting characters in the series (which would be no surprise because of Esposito’s abilities).

Revolution is a hard one for me to review.  I like pieces of it, but overall it will take a few more episodes for me to determine if the story will start to flesh out.  It is definitely worth giving the show a shot I think, and you can check it out for yourself at NBC.com.

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Pilot – Prime Suspect

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Prime SuspectNetwork: NBC
Day/Time: Thursdays 10/9C
Premiere Date: 9/22

Main Cast:

Maria Bello – Detective Jane Timoney
Kenny Johnson – Matt Webb
Brian F. O’Byrne – Detective Reg Duffy
Aidan Quinn – Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney

I’m a few weeks late watching and reviewing this pilot, but man, it was fantastic.  I think I’ve found my favorite new show this season, as well as the best pilot I’ve seen in a very long time.

Maria Bello stars in “Prime Suspect”, a series that chronicles the tough life of a female detective in the NYPD.  Jane Timoney is not soft nor is she cuddly; she is rough, gruff, and confident.  She has to deal with constant sexist remarks from her coworkers, and is always passed up for cases because of her gender.  When her colleague dies from a heart attack, she is given a high-profile case and a time to shine.  Except Detective Reg Duffy was best friends with the deceased, and would like for nothing more than to see her fail.

Watching this I would have to say this is the best put-together pilot of this season.  I watched it not feeling it was the first episode, but that the series had long been established.  It was probably helped along because “Prime Suspect” is a remake of the British series that starred Helen Mirren.  Having not seen that series, I could not answer for their similarities.  Whatever gave the show its leg up, it certainly worked.

Maria Bello melts into her character, so much so that even her weird penchant for hats and the word yea feel natural.  It didn’t feel like an actress, but rather watching a real person and their own ticks that make them who they are (I felt the same way with Viola Davis’s performance in The Help).  Jane is honest, which gets on many people’s nerves, but her honesty wins over the viewer.  She also does exactly what she needs to do in order to get the job done.  Just in the pilot, she deputizes a shelter security guard to gain his trust and information; she brings up past convictions to help her boyfriend gain custody of his son; and she asks for a dead man’s job the day after he dies.  The last one felt a bit much, but it wasn’t surprising at all that she did it, either.

I do wonder how true this is, whether sexism is still that prevalent for female detectives.  Most other cop shows don’t really touch on it (“Law and Order: SVU” will mention it, but rarely), and most crime fiction has opened up to a lead female detective.  But it doesn’t matter if it’s realistic, because the show is played so well.  You are never fully in Jane’s camp, because the writers let you see the others side’s point of view.  Jane is a carefully crafted character, so you feel sympathy for her, but she’s just annoying enough that you get why her colleagues are miffed by her.

A fantastic start to a hopefully long series, I felt this pilot could hold its own.  I know this show has been struggling a bit in numbers, so check it out, watch it, and then spread the word.  Of all the new shows I’ve watched this season (I haven’t reviewed them all), this one deserves to thrive.

Rating: 9/10

Pilot – Free Agents

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Free AgentsNetwork: NBC
Day/Time: Wednesdays 8:30/7:30C
Premiere Date: 9/14

Main Cast

Hank Azaria – Alex
Kathryn Hahn – Helen
Anthony Head – Stephen

Hank Azaria plays Alex, a recently divorced PR executive who, after a drunken night, falls into bed with his coworker Helen.  Except she’s lost her fiance to heart disease a year before.  Neither of them feel ready for any kind of relationship, and yet they keep feeling drawn towards one another.  Their boss and coworkers pressure Alex to move on and get in the dating scene and have no idea that the relationship is budding between the two.  Based on the UK series of the same name.

Quick judgement – ehhh.  I watched because I like Hank Azaria, but the first five minutes were far cruder than I liked.  It got better, but for me it is frustrating for a TV show relationship to start with sex.  Do people have no morals?  Granted, Hollywood also way over does the will they won’t they thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build the show off of something else.  Now, watching Alex’s nervousness over having to go on a date (set up by a male coworker) and having to change the way he dressed provided some laughs.  Anthony Head (who I really know best as Uther in BBC 1’s Merlin) also said some pretty hilarious things, made even more so by his straight delivery.

The other coworkers were obnoxious.  If you watch the American Office you know that there are some strange people that work there, but they are oddly endearing.  With Free Agents, however, I just wanted them thrown out of the show.  Emma the assistant especially bugged me.  I think she was supposed to be sassy, but really she was simply irritating.

I’ll tune in for episode two to see if the show gains its legs.  Right now though, it’s not my cup of tea.  5/10 (Only because I did laugh a couple times.)

Pilot – Up All Night

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Network: NBC
Day/Time: Wednesdays 8E/7C
Premiere Date: September 14

Main Cast:

Christina Applegate – Reagan
Will Arnett – Chris
Maya Rudolph – Ava

This new sitcom focuses on trials that new parents face, except that it’s reversed a lot of the regular sitcom tropes.  Reagan goes back to work as a producer after her maternity leave ends, with her husband of 7 years Chris staying home with baby daughter Amy.  That’s right, the woman works while the guy stays home.  To give the show a little bit of diversity, Ava is Reagan’s talk-show host boss who has a larger than life personality.  Reagan and Chris must navigate their old lives while having this new little one to take care of.

Let me just start out by saying that I love Will Arnett, and he does not disappoint.  He’s a bit toned down from his normal acting, and his confusion over his new identity as “Dad” is fantastic.    Some of the resenting statements that we are used to, as television watchers, seeing come out of the wife now come out of the husband.  It’s really a simple switch, and yet that alone is striking and feels new.  Plus, Will Arnett has always been a fantastic whiner.

This show definitely has that zany feel to it, helped along by Maya Rudolph.  She was very over-the-top and goofy.  It actually bugged me at first, but her character felt more relaxed by the end of the episode.  Or maybe I just got used to her.

I loved all of the little sleep-deprived bickering scenes, but what gets me is Reagan and Chris’s love for their new baby girl.  They try to be good parents, but you know that they will lose patience in parts because real parents lose their patience.  I suppose this show feels a bit more real to me because Christina Applegate just had her first child, and Will Arnett has two kids with his wife Amy Pohler.  These are actors that know about being new parents, and that dimension just adds a little bit for me.

Overall, I thought it was funny.  Not laugh-out-loud all of the time, but the characters are interesting.  The pilot did feel a little disjointed, but I know they did some reshoots, so that probably lends to the feeling.  We’ll see how the next few episodes turn out before I can make any real judgement on whether the series is worth watching week after week.

Rating: 7/10