Fall TV Pilots: The Good, The DVR Worthy & The Ugly. (CBS, NBC, AND THE CW)

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     Every year my friends and I venture to the Paley Center for their annual Fall TV Pilots Screenings which they hold both in LA and NY. I normally go both days, in NY they space it out between the weekend usually and in LA they go for the whole week, because they always have to be special in Los Angeles, don’t they? All of the broadcast networks brought some pilots for us to view, and I mean, most of them were okay, if you’re really looking for something new to watch. There were only a couple of stand outs in the crowd, other wise some stuff bordered between DVR and +7 viewing and everything else was abysmal, and I’m just trying to be nice here, I am rarely ever nice.

Before I even begin, I just want to say I hate when people just despise everything because they seem to think that it’s unoriginal. There is a rude awakening in the world TV and that’s is originality itself is rare. Everything seems to be a copy of a copy of a copy. You can’t find something these days without it having source material in something else. So there is that. I’m not saying none of these pilots had originality but they aren’t exactly new or free of some sort of gimmick.

Let’s make life just a bit easier and start with something pleasant and work our way down, because there is no reason why I should spoil peoples moods from the beginning, and of course they will be broken down by Network so you can skip whatever the heck you don’t care about, or you know, the whole thing. No hard feelings, guys. Seriously. ::Cries into pillow::

CBS 

The Good: 

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  • Hostages 

Hostages features Oscar Nominee Toni Collete (who everyone will attribute to the United States of Tara but she will always be Muriel of Muriel’s Wedding to me) as a star surgeon in a prominent DC hospital who is charged with operating on an ailing POTUS. She has a loving husband and standard nuclear family kids.  Just when you think everything is going to be alright she and her entire family get, you guessed it, HELD HOSTAGE.

While Hostages wasn’t exactly the greatest thing I’ve ever seen,the pilot did keep me hostage for the 45 minutes that it was on. This is definitely attributed to Collete and Dylan McDermott  who both show off their acting chops here. The story is interesting enough to be entertaining, but I do see where it can go sour. The fact is this family can not be held hostage forever and the story lines could run out. However, Hostages made sure it had an out with an overlapping arc of government conspiracy’s and promises of angst and secrets for our characters in the future. If Hostages follows the formula of having a character driven story rather than letting the plot dig them into holes they can’t dig themselves out of, I think this might do well for the CBS crime drama crowd.

  • The Millers 

The Millers is a comedy with a whole lot of heart with a great cast and some pretty funny writing. Which makes me believe that something definitely has to go wrong. The Millers is a show about a brother and sister who have to deal with their parents when they come back to town and start causing havoc on their lives. Will Arnett is in this one and judging his streak of cancelled shows I am really nervous, because show killers can’t seem to be tamed. However, the strategic placement of The Millers right after ratings juggernaut The Big Bang Theory might give it some hope as it is definitely one of the more promising CBS offerings.

 

The DVR Worthy: 

  • We Are Men 

We Are Men is a male buddy comedy with a great cast, some interesting choice of humor and no canned laughter which is very weird for old school CBS. The beginning of the pilot will give you Happy Endings cancellation PTSD because it starts almost exactly the same way. If that’s a spoiler, I am seriously sorry. We Are Men has the same qualities The Millers doe; a great cast, great writing and a show killer (Jerry O’Connell) but it lacks something I can’t quite put my finger on. Although I am considering DVRing Men, I am just not sure it’s something I am going to rush home from the gym to see. However, the potential for the show to become something is there, let’s just see if it’s given the ratings and time by CBS to  tell.

 

  • Mom:  

Mom almost made it into my ugly list because it just wasn’t that that good and quick for a cheap joke on drug abuse and alcoholism, however upon further introspection I did realize the show had some of a marshmallow center in it it’s concept of of mothers and daughters. Allison Janney and Anna Faris have a great chemistry with each other, not to mention both have brilliant comedic timing. I  think CBS putting Mom on right after 2 Broke Girls is a super idea considering they both have similar humor, in that some of it just comes off as tasteless. I wont lose hope on Mom as I hope that it finds its stride due to the strength of the cast.

The Ugly 

  • The Crazy Ones: 

Okay, so The Crazy Ones wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. It centers around Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as a father and daughter duo working in an advertising agency that is about to go under because William’s character has lost all of his crazy charm that made the company so successful in the first place. SMG plays an uptight, business oriented women so clearly she is all over the place and trying to keep herself grounded. There is a stunt casting in the pilot, (YES ALREADY) \with Kelly Clarkson as herself. (Fun fact: I walked by Justin Guarini in the train station the other day.)  Bottom line is I think The Crazy Ones might have a chance, but it’s going to take some work.  There is only so much of Robin Williams  doing his shtick you can take before you get tired of it.

NBC

The Good: 

  • The Blacklist

The Backlist features James Spader as a criminal mastermind who decides to help The FBI with catching criminals they didn’t even know existed using a list he created himself called, can you guess? CAN YOU? CAN YOU? The Blackslist. There is only one catch though; he’ll only talk to one particular agent;  Elizabeth Keen. Liz comes with her own baggage, mostly issues with her criminal, absentee father (my mind immediately assumes that Reddington is secretly her father) and her current attempts to build a family with her husband by adopting a child.

The Blacklist is everything a series should be made of. There are twists and turns that caught me completely off guard. Just as soon as you think you got everything figured out something new happens that pushes the story into a different direction. It’s definitely a case of the week kind of series which makes it somewhat easy to follow, but the character mysteries aren’t resolved with a bow and ribbon in the pilot, there’s more to it and I can definitely see a lot of longevity in the series. Not to mention the fact that Reddington is such a dynamic antihero. Everyone out there is doing Sherlock shows, but The Blacklist almost feels like a show about Moriarty. A criminal mastermind that you can’t help but love because he is just as smart as your hero. This is a must watch show for me.

The Blacklist premieres Monday Sept. 23rd at 10/9p

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  • Welcome to the Family 

Welcome to the Family is a sitcom that many will find familiar. Two different cultures trying to come together for the sake of their children who are in some sort of predicament together. Welcome to the Family could have easily gone the route of being plain old offensive and stereotypical, but instead the pilot was subtle with it’s jabs. It’s a funny, family centered series about two kids:  One on the right track (HE’S GOING TO STANDFORD, Y’ALL!) and the other a complete ditz who ends up getting pregnant. Their parents clash even before realizing their children are dating and everything hits the fan. In the vain of Look Who’s Coming To Dinner with a slight mix of West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet, Welcome to the Family has a fun story and Mike O’Malley who has played one of the best TV Dads of all time,  (Burt Hummel on Glee. Shitty show, but Burt and Kurt were a great family.)  In conclusion I will be watching Welcome to the Family and hoping for the best. (While knowing in my heart that most shows I enjoy usually get cancelled.)

Welcome to the Family premieres Thursday, Oct. 3rd at 8:30/7:30c

The DVR Worthy: 

  • Ironside 

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Ironside is a procedural. It’s a typical cop show. It’s also a remake of the original 60’s series.

Ironside is alright. It’s not good, it’s just alright. It’s an atypical cop show where the hero is full of “demons” and he’s extraordinary at what he does. Ironside lacks imagination, you can name at least ten other shows like it and nothing about it really sticks out except for the fact that our main protagonist is confined to a wheel chair.

However, what Ironside does have that makes it at least a DVR worthy show is that it can be quite clever. Although the pilot didn’t really sell me I have a feeling it might pick up at some point with some interesting new twists and turns. It didn’t leave me wowed, I wouldn’t run home to watch it or care to watch it week to week or even on the same night. But I can see the series picking up eventually. What it needs to build on is the mystery behind who our main protagonist is. The brilliant, but wounded jackass thing worked for Dr House because he was such an interesting character. If Ironside could be half as intriguing as House in the future I could see the series working out its kinks.

  • The Michael J. Fox Show 

When I first heard about the Michael J. Fox Show I short of rolled my eyes, mostly because how gimmicky it sounded. The show is about Mike, an ex newscaster who is now a stay at home husband and father due to his Parkinsons.

I’ve read a lot of reviews for this series which spoke about how amazing the pilot was. I didn’t find it all that astounding or awe worthy. It was alright. It feels like the series centers less around Fox’s family life and instead feeds off the issue of the Parkinson’s. A lot of the laughs were taken on behalf of Parkinson’s, which were a lot like a hooker: cheap and easy. The show itself was entertaining, the family background was okay. It’s just not as brilliant as I had hoped considering this is a vehicle for Michael J. Fox ‘s return. Perhaps making this into a drama would have worked, but the microscope needs to be taken off of Fox’s illness and onto other aspects of the show and characters.

The Ugly: 

  • Sean Saves the World 

Sean Saves the World has a lot of problems, I think the biggest one has to be the really important fact that it’s just super, super, unfunny. The only redeemable thing about Sean Saves the World is that Thomas Lennon is hilarious and a wonderful comedian. Otherwise, the jokes are stale and Sean Hayes, while excellent on Will and Grace falls short on comedic timing and his acting comes off as stiff at best. The canned laughter is also too much for the show. I can say that about 75% of the canned laughter scenes during the pilot elicited no laughter from an ACTUAL audience. I’d skip Sean Saves the World and do something more entertaining like watch a cactus grow or a snail cross the street.

The CW 

Note: I only watched two shows from The CW at Paley Fest. I did not stay for The Originals, so I have no opinion on that, but I wont be breaking them apart either. Instead here mini reviews of The Tomorrow People and Reign. 

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The Tomorrow People features Robbie Amell (you might have heard of his brother, stars on this little show called Arrow.) The Tomorrow People is about a group of individuals who have a specific gene that makes them “Homosuperior”, or super humans if you will. Amell’s character Stephen goes through most of his life thinking he is crazy because he sleep walks, has crazy dreams and hears the voice of a mysterious girl in his head. Turns out he’s not as mentally insane as he imagines himself to be when he finds out he is part of The Tomorrow People and he wasn’t sleep walking, he was teleporting, and the voice of the mysterious girl was actually a real person reaching out to him. The Tomorrow People posses the question all super power shows do; “what would you do if you found out you were extraordinary.

The Tomorrow People  is a lot of fun and even somewhat adult for a CW show (considering it is a remake of an old children’s British series of the same name.} The pilot throws out a lot of unanswered questions and even the ones that we might think are closed seem to have a lot of more to them then we think. It’s definitely a show that has a lot of potential to grow on the network and is within the realm of something The CW seems to slowly coming to understand it is good at delivering, the genre of young adult paranormal and science fiction serials.

The Tomorrow People could easily become one of those can’t wait for the next episode shows if it keeps going in the right direction and follows the footing that the pilot gave it. Plus Mark Pellegrino is on it and he is amazing in his role as someone you’re not quite sure is entirely evil. Basically, the moral of the story is Mark Pellegrino could play a shoe on a show about a shoe tree and I would watch it and love it.

ImageReign  stars Teen Wolf’s Adelaide Kane as a young Mary Queen of Scots in a The CW’s take on the iconic historical figure.

The problem I had with Reign is that I wasn’t sure what the show was trying to be. It had supernatural elements to it, but they weren’t explicit enough for me to catch on to it and I’d like to think I paid enough attention to the episode. Reign’s problem was the identity crisis, the moment I started to jive with the period piece aspect of it something “supernatural” happened and when I was finally into that part of it the series decided it wanted to be Gossip Girl. 

That’s when I officially started tuning out. When a show has no real direction it confuses the viewer and tangles itself. I understand that period pieces can contain a lot of sex in them, but I feel like some of it was just added in to add in some of that OMFG that Gossip Girl brought that has been missing from The CW for a while. It felt like it was catering to the network and not to what the script demanded.

The story seems interesting enough but the series needs to find itself before it can move forward, and sadly I don’t see it having enough time to do so. Selfishly I also wouldn’t mind Kane coming back to Teen Wolf as Derek’s feisty sister Cora. I believe she did that role more justice than this, but I blame it on the inconstant writing in Reign’s pilot.

Well guys that’s all I have for today. Listen to me, don’t listen to me, make up your own minds about these pilots. I can’t say I’m all too excited about anything other than The Blacklist and The Tomorrow People but I love to dive into some good stories, so hopefully some of these just okay or ugly shows will pick up steam and get better. Or continue to suck but mysteriously get ratings, that happens too.

Tomorrow I’ll round up my favorite and not so favorite pilots from Fox and NBC.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m being foolish and silly. Hit me up in the comments below or on twitter at @toobaddiane!

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