As a media glutton, I find myself watching all of the new pilots regardless, unless they truly seem awful. Sometimes the pilot puts me off and I don’t watch again, sometimes I give it a chance and then stop after a few episodes, and sometimes a show is good enough to keep me watching long term. As a geeky tv viewer, I find that I’m less forgiving of some new programmes, unless there is something specific or novel about it that means it deserves more of a chance, or I know it is rubbish and watch it to deliberately give my mind a rest, although this is unusual!
The last week or so has seen a glut of new pilots and the question is, are any of them good?
Up all night
Will Arnett and Christina Applegate star as a couple who are adjusting to being parents, as she returns to work. A script with some genuinely well written sections gives this some potential, and is ably played by the leads. A good supporting cast helps the whole ensemble, but the main support role played by Maya Rudolph needs some attention to prevent it from being almost a parody of a sitcom character.
Free Agents is a standard, half hour, single camera comedy about two agents, both of whom have relationships troubles and personal hangups, and stars Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn. A remake of the British series of the same name, which had Stephen Mangan and Sharon Horgan in the main roles, this is not a patch on the original, which executed the material with more style and wit. To compound the problem, is that aside from Anthony Head (reprising his role from the British original), the supporting cast is poor, possibly due to badly outlined and clichéd characters. The best thing about this show is that it has a theme written by Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed’. I can’t imagine this will last that long.
The New Girl
There is a slight feel of a ‘reverse Big Bang Theory’ about this, with a unconventional, nerdy girl moving in with three guys, each of whom is a different male stereotype. Zooey Deschanel plays the nerdy girl (I guess the Americans would say ‘kooky’) and is clearly having some fun, giving the role some spark. Support comes from Max Greenfield (of Veronica Mars) and Jake Johnson, with Damon Wayans appearing in the pilot, but who won’t be in the rest of the series due to other commitments. If the show can stay away from cheap laughs and keep the spark that Deschanel brings alive, without it becoming an annoying schtick, then this could be interesting.
2 Broke Girls
This is a standard US sitcom, set in a diner, with the two main characters being a mismatched pair of stereotypes, played by Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs. It is formulaic, predictable, badly written, and full of canned laughter. It is atrocious. As it’s co-created by Whitney Cummings, who has connections with Chelsea Handler, I should have known better. Kat Dennings deserves better. It is so bad that I’m keeping sentences short so that I don’t start ranting…
The second show created by Whitney Cummings this season, which I’m sure I should have avoided, especially after watching the debacle that is ‘2 Broke Girls’; the supporting cast however, includes Rhea Seehorn (Franklin & Bash), Maulik Pancholy (Weeds) and Jane Kaczmarek (loads of things!), so I gave it a go as those three have good histories. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the time, despite some effort by the actors. Whitney Cummings is clearly a better actress than a writer if this script is anything to go by and the whole thing was serious drudgery, although not as bad as ‘2 Broke Girls’.
One of a few ‘twins who swap places’ stories that have appeared this year, this one centres on a pairing played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, with one sister being a poor, recovering addict on the run from the mob, while the other is a wealthy socialite, who also has problems. After the wealthy sister apparently commits suicide, the ex-addict takes her place. Now on it’s second episode, having debuted last week, this is unfortunately more lightweight than hoped for and has a definite cheesy soap opera feel to it. Although SMG can be great, I’m not sure if the casting is right for this show and is not as convincing as it could be. I also suspect that the plot is going to become increasing labyrinthine, preposterous and convoluted, which will just kill it in the long run.
This years ‘memory and/or deduction’ show, following on from Psych, The Mentalist, and Lie to Me in previous years, this revolves around a woman with ‘perfect memory’ (hyperthymesia) played by Poppy Montgomery. Although having a good cast all round (including Kevin Rankin), this feels like the general crime procedural, ‘with a gimmick’, as expected. Many of the standard things are in place, such as: cop partner is old boyfriend, main character has old unsolved homicide in the family that bubbles under the surface, supporting cast doubt value of main character, and main characters mother is in a nursing home with Alzheimers thus providing lack of memory to counterbalance perfect memory for those poignant moments. It is weak, but may come good, so will need a couple more episodes to know whether it’ll be good; in it’s favour, being shallow for a moment, there is Poppy Montgomery as a redhead. 😉
The Secret Circle
Oh dear. Secret Circle is a CW drama about a girl who, after the death of her mother and moving back to her mother’s old home town, learns she is a witch. Several students at her school have already formed into the eponymous circle and actively recruit her.
Exec. produced by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, who had previously worked on Angel, The Shield, Dollhouse and Lie to Me, this should be better than it is, with the premise seemingly being devised almost by the numbers, and trying to tick off as many clichés as possible. Given the quality of work that the executive producers have been involved in previously, we can only hope that this will come good, but I suspect that it will remain largely targeted at the tween audience and stay hokey and formulaic, never to reach the standard of Buffy, especially as (with the exception of Britt Robertson and Thomas Dekker) the main cast are relatively poor.
The Playboy Club
Set in 1963, The Playboy Club tells the story of Hugh Hefner’s exclusive club for the elite of Chicago, woven around an ongoing plot started by an accidental murder in this pilot. Amber Heard stars as the new ‘Bunny girl’, who becomes linked with a high flying lawyer, played by Eddie Cibrian, that is currently dating Laura Benanti’s ‘mother Bunny’ character; cue lots of cliché new vs old, struggle for dominance plot points. The cast do a good job with the material, but I would have liked to see more of David Krumholtz’ character and some more detail about the back stories; hopefully, this will appear in later episodes.
With Pan Am yet to air, this is the first of the ‘Mad Men’-esque shows to come out and so will come in for some comparison and critical views based on that. For me, it doesn’t feel as authenic as Mad Men does, but while it might actually be authenic in tone, albeit without as much smoking as there must have been, it seems to have a very stylised air to it. Mainly, it just feels more like a conventional gangster based plot, which happens to be set in The Playboy Club, rather than an examination of the times and situation. With more episodes, they’ll be able to explore some of the issues they’ve introduced, such as: race, gender, sexuality and power, so hopefully the following episodes will expand it’s scope and take it in a better direction, away from a simple crime drama.
In other news, several older shows have returned recently or are about to, such as: Sons Of Anarchy, Greys Anatomy, House, CSI, Castle etc.. so if none of the new ones excite you, maybe the return of an old show will! 😉