pilot

Elementary – Pilot

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Network:  CBS
Day/Time: Thursdays 10/9 C
Premiere Date: 9/27

Main Characters:

Johnny Lee Miller – Sherlock Holmes
Lucy Liu – Joan Watson
Aidan Quinn – Captain Gregson

Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes update, with the classic detective now living in New York and solving crimes alongside his sober companion Joan Watson.

For those of you who are fans of BBC’s Sherlock, the announcement of the American update made us all wonder the same thing –  why not just broadcast Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman instead?  A lot of Holmes fans felt that Elementary was just a way Americans could take hold of another franchise and set it in the States.   Not to mention avoiding the licensing fees of importing a show with only three episodes per season.  To an American television audience, only 3 episodes is madness, and to an executive, that just doesn’t make enough money.  Add that they were taking the bromance and turning Watson into a woman, and the internet was abuzz all summer.

After watching the show now, I hate to say that there was nothing really original in it.  Johnny Lee Miller does a great Holmes, but while his manipulation and observations are intriguing, he is nowhere near as captivating as Cumberbatch or even Robert Downey Jr. on the big screen.  Instead, he runs around like mad, always on the hunt for some piece of a puzzle, and no different then the other two incarnations that are running alongside him.  Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes shows perhaps a touch more compassion and a touch less self-control, and yet that doesn’t even make him more appealing.

Lucy Liu, on the other hand, has perhaps the most preconceptions to break.  One of the main draws of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson has always been their deep friendship.  While Watson traditionally stands in awe of Holmes (especially in the books and in BBC’s Sherlock), they have also developed a partnership that puts them on more equal footing.  They compliment each other well, there is chemistry in their interactions.  I felt this was lacking between Liu and Lee Miller.  She seemed put out and annoyed most of the episode, and you do not get a sense that they really connected.  I don’t think making Watson a woman made a ton of difference; men and women can have deep, platonic friendships.  But I don’t think the actors are perhaps the best together.

It is hard to really judge a pilot, because each one is merely the beginning for a format that could be years-long.  However, other than calling the private investigator Holmes, I felt that there was not enough different in Elementary to make it worth viewing every week.  Even Aidan Quinn, playing the New York version of Lestrade, basically stood there and repeated his lines.  After watching the pilot, I find it hard to really view this show as anything other than CBS capitalizing on the popularity of Guy Ritchie’s fantastic film series and the cult following for BBC’s Sherlock.  I am sure that the show will run for awhile.  It has strong bones, a built-in fan base, and it plays up the weekly police procedural format that accounts for about 25% of shows on network television (if I really researched, that number would probably be higher).  Is it a worthy entry into the long-running Holmes cannon?  Not really.

Rating: 6/10 (Mostly because it was simply boring, not bad, just boring.)

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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.

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

Pilot – New Girl

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New GirlNetwork: Fox
Day/Time: Tuesdays, 9 EST/8 CST
Premiere Date: 9/20

Main Cast:

Zooey Deschanel – Jessica Day
Jake M. Johnson – Nick
Max Greenfield – Schmidt
Damon Wayans Jr. – Coach
Hannah Simon – Cece Meyers

You will probably notice that the official premiere date is in the future.  No, I’m not important enough that networks send me DVD screeners.  If only.  Actually, Fox made the pilot for New Girl available about a week ago on iTunes (for FREE), and should be on Hulu soon.  I actually watched it for the first time on Friday and then watched it for the second time tonight.  I think a lot of times it takes another viewing because there is always more to see.

The show for me was good, and has the bones to be very good.  I love Zooey Deschanel, mostly because she’s quirky.  Best known for Elf and 500 Days of Summer, Deschanel shines here as an oddball who has just found out her live-in boyfriend was cheating on her.  She looks for a roommate on Craigslist (scary) and finds Nick, Schmidt, and Coach.  One of the best points was when she explains she thought they were girls because of their word choice.  Schmidt must have written the ad, because the two look at him and he responds by proving his masculinity by way of taking off his shirt.  Classic male overcompensation.

I liked all of the characters.  None of them felt completely fleshed out, but as it is only the first episode of what hopes to be a long-running show, we can forgive that.  I actually liked Coach’s inability to converse normally with women.  Sadly, Damon Wayans, Jr. will only be in the pilot.  He’s actually a series regular on the ABC comedy Happy Endings.  That show was a midseason replacement, and because most actors like to cover their bases in case of cancellation, he did the pilot.  When something like this happens, a lot of networks choose to reshoot the pilot, but for reasons unknown, Fox chose instead to replace Coach in episode 2.  We’ll have to see how that plays out, because honestly, I think it messes up the chemistry of the show far too early.

The second time I watched this, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Big Bang Theory.  Except, in New Girl, the lone girl is weird and socially awkward instead of the guys.  I mean, Coach is awkward around women, a la Raj Koothrapali, but at least he can talk to them without liquor.  Even if he does yell.  Schmidt is simply a nice guy trapped in trying to be a “bro”, which the guys call him out for.  Nick is heartbroken from a six-month old break up, and Jessica’s best friend Cece is a model who is as sharp as she is pretty.  It was nice to see that, actually.  So while they all have their own issues, I just couldn’t help but see this as a concept where Penny moved in with the guys and suddenly they had some more social skills.

I will be watching in a couple of weeks and see how the series handles Coach’s departure (which is sad, because I think I like his character the best), and how they move forward.  I do hope that they don’t just have the foursome settle into some easy rhythm with the guys helping Jess in her dating life.  There needs to be a bit of tension.  All in all, a good pilot and a good premise, but let’s hope they don’t ruin the potential that they have.

Rating: 7.5/10

 

Pilot Season

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I said from the beginning that I would review television and films along with books.  With the fall TV season upon us, I feel like I should explain how that will work.  I do not want to recap or review every episode of a season, no matter how good CHUCK or CASTLE are (really, watch them both, because they are fantastic shows).  It would be boring for you, annoying for me, and rather dull to go week after week when there is so much else out there.  And I do not plan on reviewing just the season premieres either, simply because some of you probably haven’t seen the other seasons.

I guess I’m looking to approach the world of television sort of like I approach a novel.  I know a lot of my readers are largely unfamiliar with the works I post about, and I am going to assume the same for television, too.  Bearing all of this in mind, I plan on reviewing pilots only.  And only those that are current.  I don’t think it would make sense otherwise.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the American TV system, pilots are generally shown in the fall, beginning a regular season.  Some shows are given only a 13 episode order, and if they perform well, are given an additional 9-11 episodes.  Dramas tend to get 22 episodes per season (series for UK readers) and 30 minute comedies get 24.  That’s not exact science, but a rough pattern.  Shows are not just picked up either.  If a network or studio like a concept, they will order the pilot.  If the pilot looks good, they will order a full season, though some get the mini-ones until ratings prove viability.  Some pilots are tweaked and re-shot, but a lot seem to hit the waves in original condition.  Because a pilot is just the beginning of something with a long time span, they can often have a slightly disjointed feeling from the rest of the show.  Most pilots though will tell you what potential a show has, and you can get a good vibe as to how well the show might turn out.

Now, adding up all of these factors will sort of inform how I will look at these new TV shows.  Some may have the bones to be good, but the pilots were not fantastic.  Others will hit the ground running and be great.  We shall just have to see.

To give you an idea of what to expect, I’ve listed the new shows I plan on watching/reviewing.  Most will be airing in the next week or two.  While I am really excited for some returning shows, there are a few new ones I am really looking forward to.

  • 2 Broke Girls – Kat Dennings (Thor) and Beth Behrs.  Dennings is a street smart waitress saddled with an ex-heiress as her roommate.
  • Charlies Angels – Remake of the 70s TV show.  Mostly tuning in out of curiosity rather than an intent to continue watching.
  • Free Agents – Hank Azaria and Anthony Head.  Based on a UK show, this one looks interesting as two coworkers navigate recent romantic losses and a mutual attraction.
  • A Gifted Man – Patrick Wilson (Phantom of the Opera) and Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice, 5 hour version) A surgeon seeing his dead wife and learning from her sounds hokey, but I’ll give it a shot since I like both lead actors.
  • Grimm – No one you’ve heard of.  This one is a high-concept series where the Grimm brothers fought real fairy tale creatures and their tales really were cautionary.  A young man discovers that he is a Grimm and must keep the fantastical at bay.
  • Last Man Standing – Tim Allen.  Don’t judge me, I grew up with Home Improvement and I love Hector Elizondo, so I’ll give it a shot.
  • New Girl – Zooey Deschanel.  Girl gets dumped and moves in with three strangers, who just happen to be guys.  I’ve seen the pilot already and really liked it.  Review tomorrow.
  • Once Upon a Time – Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison.  This is the show I’m most excited for, and which looks like my new addiction. Basically, the Evil Queen forces all of the fairy tale characters into the real world and they all forget their true identities.  Goodwin is Snow White.  Hard to explain, but this show looks amazing.
  • Prime Suspect – Maria Bello.  Another UK adaptation, with Bello in Helen Mirren’s place.  A woman navigates a life as a detective where most of her colleagues are male.  As someone who loves crime fiction and the upswing in female detectives, I’m definitely going to check this out.
  • Up All Night – Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph.  A couple must learn to juggle a new baby with their career and life.

I am also excited for Awake  with Jason Isaacs, but sadly that doesn’t premiere until January.

Of all of these pilots, honestly only 2 or 3 will probably become weekly viewing, but I do like to check out what’s out there.  And these are only a fraction of the new shows (roughly 30 pilots in all this fall).  But don’t worry, my blog will not get taken over by television.  Only once a year generally.  For the most part, I’m all about books.