Disclaimer: For those who do not know what a pilot is; it's basically the first episode of a new television program. A true pilot is where the producers and "creators" of the program receive funding to film an entire episode in an attempt to pitch their show to their network/investors. Other pilots are just the first episode of the series because either A.) It was already greenlit for series before the first episode was even shot or B.) The pilot episode wasn't good enough (via the Network's point of view), so the creators made a second episode either to pitch it again or go ahead and put it live.
No matter what, my intention is to view the first episode of each new show that I'm slightly interested in. Then I'll let you know how I feel within non-spoilery-blurbs followed by a verdict that explain if I'll be tuning in from here on out, maybe the next one or two episodes, or not at all. Venture forth!
Let me start by saying how much I continue to dislike multi-camera sitcoms. If you remember my review from last week's pilot "Dads"; then you'll understand that when it comes to laugh tracks, I want to maim things in a Leatherface like fashion. MOM is yet another one of those sitcoms but this time around I honestly couldn't stop myself from having a good time. I can't understand why. I don't remember the laugh track... or maybe it just didn't distract me from the overall excellent comedic timing that was on display. It's starts off being about a Mom (played by Anna Faris), now 8 months sober trying to take care of her 2 kids who are from different fathers. She works as a waitress at a nice high-end restaurant with some over-the-top caricatures (one awesomely played by French Stewart) and she also attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly where she continues to blame her mother for how she turned out. That's when that character performed by Sadie Calvano becomes introduced into the fold as a Mother looking for forgiveness... or at least in some kind of way from her daughter. And she proves she has the same wit from her West Wing/Aaron Sorkin days. Oh how I've missed her. Also, Anna Faris as the lead on par with all the other CBS prime timers, so any reluctance I may of had with her disappeared as soon as I witnessed her handle very own show. I was blindsided by how much I enjoyed the show and maybe it's because it's part of that Chuck Lorre world of consistently popular content. From 2 And Half Men to The Big Bang Theory; if enough people continue to watch this show, I can easily see it stick around for a long time.
Verdict: Set to record the series. No skepticism here. This show hit every beat with me and I'm not even close to their demographic. I have no shame. Just need to make more time out of my day to watch it.
I try to give some of the "network based dramas" a chance because they have the budget to make something clean. Cable is typically where the story is at because they don't have to appeal to 10 million viewers and a whole mess of big time advertisers. THE BLACKLIST is definitely one of those shows that appeals to the masses. It's very clean, carries a lofty sum of cash, and likes to show it. Now does it have the personality to back it up? I'm afraid it does. The Blacklist is what I like to call, Hannibal by way of Point of Interest. For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, I'll explain it in the simplest of terms. Hannibal Lecter is a criminal who gave tips to a FBI agent to help solve cases. Point of Interest is a TV show that uses a machine to give them characters that are in a lesser extent, points of interest towards a pending doom of some variety. The Blacklist is both except they use a man (James Spader's character, Raymond "Red" Reddington) who turns himself in, simply gives a name, a bit of doom, and asks for a few things in return. James Spader's presence is as you would expect. In the trailer, he just seems like a some masterful villain with too much gravitas, garnished with a side of asshole-ishness. Mind you, all of that is true but the focus of the show is on Megan Boone's character, Elizabeth Keen. In the pilot, you see the complete range of her emotions and motives without actually doing anything out of the ordinary, which is promising for her future ventures. Now a lot happened in the pilot. Lots of twists, lots of plot points, a lot of things no one can understand without just a tad more information. So I'm curious now. Not curious like I was with "Lost" but curious nonetheless.
Verdict: Curiosity prevails - I believer I will be tuning in for at least a few episodes. I'll update you later on. Also, I didn't mention that Joe Carnahan wrote and directed this episode and it shows. You might recognize his work from "The Grey" and "Smokin' Aces" and the action is as good as it could get on TV. There are a few scenes I'm thoroughly impressed with. I hope the following scenes compliment the pilot by following suite.
HOSTAGES is about a highly trained group of individuals taking over a house where a family of 4 live. One of those parents is a Doctor and she'll be operating on the President of the United States of America the following day. I'm going to cut to the chase because the sole premise of this show bothers me. This is simply a case where I couldn't suspend enough belief to think that any of this could ever happen. The sad thing is, if done differently, I believe it could have been a more riveting show. And maybe instead of a President, a Mayor, Attorney General, or just anyone else. Although I enjoyed the darker tone, I enjoyed the actors, some even unconventional but I admired them. If someone was going to preform a possibly life altering surgery on the President, I think that Doctor would have been put under some sort of protection or surveillance to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen. This house... had nothing. Maybe they have a legitimate response for it later on but I couldn't care less at this point. I came into this episode without seeing the trailer and now that I have, the trailer almost seems just as enjoyable. The writing was middling and uninspired. It literally JUST got the job done but with no personality. Maybe some glares... awfully distinctive glares.
Verdict: So close, but nah - Not much happened in 44 minutes so I can't see why the next set would make that much of a difference. Plus, I can't see how this can run on for seasons on end. Maybe it was one of those cases where a creator pitched 3 random things to CBS and a Exec was like, "I like the Hostage idea, go with that then!" Then the creator is all like, "Well, shit. Now I got to write it."
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Premiered Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Time slot: Tuesday @ 8:00 PM
Type / Genre: Single Camera / Action, Sci-Fi Drama
Director(s): Joss Whedon
How does one geek gauge their excitement when viewing a show that's literally built in the same universe as Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and the continuously growing slate of Marvel Studio films yet to come. Not only that, but it was created by Geek God, Joss Whedon, his brother Jed and Jed's amazing life-partner, Maurissa Tancharoen. These are the collective minds behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Just the thought alone was enough for me to cash in my life. To bet big. This is the gold-rush of TV and I want in on it for the long hull. Well let me tell you how I felt. I'm in love this show. I realize some people felt like it was a little heavy on the references but in a world following the events of The Avengers where the "Battle of New York" took place; what else would anyone talk about? Especially if you're in a massive government organization that touts an acronym that stands for the "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division". References are abound good sirs, get use to it. The pilot itself was action packed, fun, and creative as all hell but not as creative as I would like. I was surprised more than once and they brilliantly seed plot elements for future harvesting but they didn't really break the mold of the typical network vibe. Felt very CSI/Law and Order-esque which doesn't displease me, it just didn't "wow" me like every Marvel-movie-fan. Good isn't great but hey, it's what I think and it was really good! The cast was on-point, a little flat story-wise but that'll fix itself in the coming episodes... also a little too white for my taste. That will probably change at some point when the Whedon's decide to kill someone (I'm kidding Joss, I really am). Speaking of which, Clark Gregg's return to the role of Agent Coulson was so welcoming, that it gives me the excuse to revisit the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe just to see his character grow. He's fast, his wit knows no bound, and he's everyone's favorite by a mile. My only real concern with the show fixed itself halfway through the episode. We kept seeing money... money everywhere. Well, how expensive is the show going to be anyway? It was insane! All over the screen! Then they showed where their base of operations is going to be for this "Level 7" crew... then I felt much better. And I will feel even better next week, around 8 o'clock on ABC. Yes... definitely.
Verdict: Are you kidding? WATCH IT! - The only show I had set to record before actually seeing. Like I said, I was cashing everything anyway.
Premiered Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
Time slot: Tuesday @ 9:00 PM
Type / Genre: Half Hour Single Camera / Sitcom
Creator(s): Adam F. Goldberg
Writer(s): Adam F. Goldberg
Director(s): Seth Gordon
The series is based on creator Adam F. Goldberg's real-life family, in which he actually video-taped events when he was growing up, which will be re-enacted throughout the program. Mind you, this video camera is massive because this show takes place in the 80's where Star Wars was revolutionary and Karate Kid was an acceptable movie to reference as good film-making. The family is fun and almost operatic as they always tend to blow things out of control but they're grounded by problems of yesteryear. The program doesn't let you forget that it's a period piece but reminds you that some things can never change. In the pilot, Adam's brother just turned 16 and wants a car and at the same time, his Grandfather is practically getting to old to drive one. So therein lies some details that don't exactly work out the way you think they would. Also, the pilot outlines each character in the family relatively well, focusing mainly on the overbearing mother who doesn't want her 3 kids to grow up, and the language decyfering father who never really means what he says in the way you actually heard it. No worries, it makes sense. All in all, THE GOLDBERGS is an interesting idea for a television show. Though it's more interesting to watch. I can confidently say that if this show continues to go as strong as the pilot, it's this generation's "Wonder Years" except narrated by comedian and genius, Patton Oswalt. I never knew I had such an itch to scratch but man, it feels so much better now that kind of show exists again.
Verdict: Set the series to record - I can't help it... Wonder Years man, Wonder Years.
I'm not sure if I'm the kind of audience ABC is looking for when it comes to TROPHY WIFE but it's almost exactly what you think it is. At first glance, I was sure it was going to be some weird short version of Desperate Housewives and I wasn't too far off. Instead you're mainly following around Malin Akerman's character Kate, as he jumps head first into a marriage with a man (player brilliantly by Bradley Cooper) and his 3 kids from 2 previous marriages. No one really says that Malin is the "trophy wife" but she wears it rather well. She has no clue how to be a mom, she doesn't know how to cook, and she cannot resolve adult-like situations without reacting like a child. The thing that amuses me is that unlike the typically trophy wife troupe we see in TV and film, this character tries to be a Mother and wife and just fails in the best way possible. I can see where this show can be popular and Malin is a terrific and believable actress that flaunts her sexuality without even trying. It's refreshing in that regard. Plus unlike most men who have trophy wives, this husband isn't a raging douche-bag. He's just a guy on his third marriage which isn't too hard to believe in this day in age. My biggest issue with the show is it's best asset. Bradley Cooper is a f***ing fantastic actor and rules every scene with precision. The problem is that there simply isn't enough of him. Maybe future episodes with rectify that or he might share equal time with his title wife. Who knows.
Verdict: Good but skeptical - Yes yes... I will update you later if I made a huge mistake.
LUCKY 7 is American adaption of a British show called "The Syndicate" which will be airing it's 3rd series in 2015. Only 11 episodes have aired thus far so looks like the American version is going to be a tad fluffed. Or it just takes the premise and run with it. Who knows. Lucky 7 is about a group of 7 co-workers with there own blatant money problems, get lucky and win the lottery together. After viewing the pilot, I feel totally empty. Not that it's a bad idea for a show. Not that they're bad actors. Or bad writing. I could just honestly care less about the characters. We've seen all of these types on TV before except now they're all shoved together making the same kind of mistakes other characters make in other dramas. Just add the luxury of cash. And even in that case, we've seen it before. It's awfully crowded, uninteresting, and quite a bore. I can't say it's bad but I've seen a lot of a TV and I'm in interested in more of the same.
Verdict: Check it out if you want, I'm not - Seriously, maybe I'm jaded. It's not bad but I don't see enough star power or premise to keep this show going. I'll probably be wrong but either way, I'm still just not interested.
Back in the Game
Premiered Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Time slot: Wednesday @ 8:30 PM
Type / Genre: Half Hour Single Camera / Sitcom
BACK IN THE GAME is the Little Giants via the ABC 8:30 time slot. A recently divorced Mother and her son move back and into her father's home in hopes to get back on her feet. Her Father, played by James Caan is a huge baseball fan and says and does whatever he wants like he actually played for the Bad News Bears, then grew up into a worthless piece of sh*t who rarely ever admits he's wrong or says anything without the hint of asshole-ishness. The son wants to be able to play baseball to impress a girl at school and doesn't make the team. So a few plot points later, the Mother decides to coach a team of kids who just weren't good enough. A underdog story at it's finest. Now, a review of the pilot wouldn't give this film justice, which is sad because I think something can grow out of this. I'm only worried when that will kick in. The one thing the show does excel at is that the kids are different and often hilarious. Hopefully for Back in the Game's sake, they ride the coattails of those misfits into something more than just a Mother, her forceful old fart of a father that we have to forgive at the end of each episode, because he did something so minute, it moves the plot forward.
Verdict: I simply don't have the time - I've seen how this show goes and while interesting, maybe I'll try to burn through it after the first season. I mean, each episode is only 22 minutes... I've done much worse. Or I'll forget about it.
From the start, I could already tell this show was going to be something special. Though I couldn't tell which kind of special I would be experiencing. THE CRAZY ONES is a hyper surrealistic David E. Kelly workplace comedy about a father (Robin Williams) and his daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar) working at an ad agency in downtown New York. Two things I mentioned in that last sentence should give you a clue why or why not this show is for you. "Surrealistic" and "David E. Kelly". Kelly is known for creating some of the most revolutionary workplace dramedies to date; such as Alley McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal and The Practice (not much of a comedy but you get what I mean). Of course there were a few bumps in the road with the failed Wonder Woman pilot from 2011, and Harry's Law, which I for one, just can't stand. And other thing about surrealism is basically what the show felt like to me. The pilot is about Mork from Ork & Buffy's characters trying not to lose their biggest client, McDonalds. So they make a deal and have to find someone to sing about McDonalds in a new televised ad. Like a jingle of sorts. So they get Kelly Clarkson (by the way, she kind of terrific in this). On top of that, you have a supporting cast of James Wolk of Mad Men fame (super-meta), and Hamish Linklater from the second season of the Newsroom. Seriously, that's a weird mixture things I thought I would ever see together but they pull it off. Big warning though, if you're NOT a Robin Williams fan, you will not like this show. Sure, he has his tangents but the jokes never felt too dry or dragged on too long. Maybe I'm a fan of the editor but the 22 minute format fits him just right in my opinion. What feels fresh about this show is that they all have great chemistry with each other regardless if you can't shake their past acting gigs out of your head.
Verdict: DVR it until I'm over it - CBS went all out with this show and while I'm not a big fan of that network or how they cater y primarily to the older generation, I can see myself enjoying a bit more of the Slayer and Mrs. Doubtfire. I'll watch it for now until I stop liking it. The most middling verdict ever. Seriously so, it's pretty funny.
The Michael J. Fox Show
Premiered Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Time slot: Thursday @ 9:30 PM
Type / Genre: Half Hour Single Camera / Mockumentry Sitcom
Creator(s): Will Gluck, Sam Laybourne
Writer(s): Will Gluck, Sam Laybourne
Director(s): Will Gluck
I mentioned in another review where I never knew I had an itch to scratch until I viewed that particular show. That's because that show presented something to me that has been missing for a long time. THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW creates that same kind of itchy feeling, but it's new, it feels good, and it has a lot of heart. The basic premise of the pilot is that Mike Henry (played by Michael J. Fox) had to quit being an extremely successful news anchorman due to the difficult nature of his Parkinson's disease. So now, he's at home driving his family insane because where he used to put his entire life into his work, now he just redirects it into them. Mike is hilarious and this show isn't forgiving of his illness. I honestly believe all this things he actually has to deal with in the show (being a celebrity with Parkinson's) must happen to him on a daily basis. It feels too real and personal, but he constantly pokes fun at it with perfect timing. Especially when his character contemplates about returning to work after all this time. Indeed, to some people, it might feel a little centrist and simple on the outside, this show has one of the better supporting casts this fall. I'm overjoyed to see Betsy Brandt of Breaking Bad fame play his brilliant wife and Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme) as a co-worker; but most of all, the kids are gold. I'm not sure if I've ever seen them before on anything else but from here on out, they're the kids of Mike Henry.
Verdict: Already set the series to record - I can't help it. I'm a softy when it comes to a strong family show that, in one way or another, is going through the motions and always expecting change. I'm interested in seeing them cope and I want to see more of Michael J. Fox rule the small screen again.