Taking the Hit: Pilot Season Part 2-This Time It’s Garbage

Last year I brought you an unfiltered live journal as I suffered through the horrendous 2014-15 premiere season.  It was really hard, I watched not one, not two, but every single shitty multi-camera sitcom released last year because I love you all and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.  But here’s the best part about it, I’m back to do it again.  This season’s pilot season looks to be even worse than before, which I never thought possible.  Somehow they gave stars shows that I literally didn’t even know were still alive.

But let’s get down to business; I will watch the shows below, hopefully I will enjoy them, I will tell you whether or not it is at all worth your time to bother.  The dream is that I find you some shows to get hooked on, to DVR, and to talk to your friends about week-to-week.  But it looks like yet another bleak year in TV land, The Knick is coming back soon though so that’s fantastic news.

ABC

The Comedies

Dr. Ken

So ABC made a show where the entire joke seems to be Ken Jeong is an actual doctor.  It is as boringly mundane as every other laugh track sitcom staring a talented charismatic comedian who would have been much better off taking his talents to a cable network.  It’s nothing different than you’ve seen a million times before, its a lot of race humor and a few actual laughs.  If you’re anything other than a die hard fan of Dr. Jeong than I would give this show a pass.  Not even ABC thinks it’s any good, which is why its on Friday night in the “comedy” block headlined by the actual completely shit Last Man Standing.

Verdict: The same as it always is.

Grade: C-

The Muppets

The Muppets

The Muppets is the latest show that is trying to be The Office; this time its just also trying to be 30 Rock.  It’s a mocumentary style workplace comedy starring everyone’s favorite Muppets.  Kermit and the crew are working on the set of Ms. Piggy’s late night show–a Ms. Piggy who oddly seems to resemble Jenna Maroney.  It does seem like this show is pure gimmick one episode in.  They did make some pretty clever references to the mockumentary style in the pilot but a better way to mock the mockumentary would maybe be to just not do it.  I didn’t grow up with the Muppets so it is possible the true allure of this show is lost on me, but one episode in it seems perfectly fine but lacking any real memorable elements.  The Muppets certainly has its moments and not everything needs to be a revelation.  If you’re looking for nothing but some decent laughs then this is a perfect show for you.

Verdict: It is at best an unimaginative hodgepodge of things that worked before this. And at worst a series of gimmicks that will lose their magic five episodes in.  But as it stands now it has some good laughs if nothing else.

Grade: B-

The Dramas

Quantico

Last year ABC primed its audience for the premiere of the fantastic Black-ish with some of the worst marketing spots I’ve seen in my short time on earth.  Not to mention that that title, like Selfie (another actually pretty good show… sorry about that), really shot it in the foot before it could get off the ground.  This year we had Quantico whose absolutely horrendous promos somehow topped that of last year’s Black-ish.  Like last year however, Quantico is much better than those promos would suggest.

Quantico is actually two shows in one, which is unfortunate for it, because one of those two shows is set at Quantico before the events that turn Agent Parrish into the FBI’s most wanted.  It follows her recruitment class and there’s lots of intrigue and lying and spy shit and its a great character piece.  This Quantico is exceedingly interesting and has be coming back to see whats happened to its characters week after week which is the goal of any good show.  The issue is that there is a second show, it follows the events after the attack with Agent Parrish on the run.  The mystery of, who set up Agent Parrish and how will she get out of this is unimaginative and a real let down comparatively.  It has none of the shows interesting characters which might make an appearance but for the time being we leave them at Quantico and it does the irritating Lost show running technique of simply asking question after question without any real narrative drive like suspense is all that makes up a good serial.

Verdict: If the “after” story line begins to look more like the “before” story line this could be a good show, for the time being it continues to shoot itself in the foot every ten minutes.

Grade: B-

Wicked City

Coming: October 27, 2015

Amazon

I’m doing this again despite the fact that I watched all the pilots a year ago and none of them were actually made into a show, for whatever reason.  Even though supposedly two of them (and kinda The Cosmopolitans) got picked up.

The Comedies

Mad Dogs

I thought this was going to be a goofy comedy much like something you would expect to see Romany Malco and Steve Zahn in.  Admittedly I had never seen the British show this is based on so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when it turned out to be more of a thriller than a goofy comedy–a thriller that was wrapped up in a nice brain splattering bow.  This Amazon Prime pilot season I’m going to try and not get too excited because last year I got my hopes up about Red Oaks and that still hasn’t seen the light of day but the less practical side of me is really enjoying Mad Dogs.  The addition of Malco and Zahn in an otherwise pretty serious and disconcerting show are welcome additions.  The mystery is gripping thus far and without spoiling too much I would like to see what the boys have gotten themselves into in Belize.

Verdict: Just the right amount of suspense, humor, and violence–a little bit of sex, and a lot of bad decisions.  If Amazon picks it up it’ll be a welcome addition to it’s growing library.

Grade: A-

The Dramas

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

This will be the second year in a row that Amazon picks up its least impressive show the fastest.  If you were at all familiar with my thoughts on last year’s pilot season you know that in general I was impressed with Amazon’s offerings barring a select few, one of which was Hand of God which has recently made its premiere on Prime video.

The Man in the High Castle has been picked up and will premiere on November 20th so this review is probably more important than the other ones for Amazon at the moment.

The show is based on Philip K. Dick book of the same title, which I have not yet read so this will be spoiler free don’t worry.  The concept of the story is that the Axis won World War II and the story takes place fifteen years in the future.  As with any future or alternate history story the fun is really in the details, America has been split into three areas, the Nazi run east coast, the Japanese run west coast, and a neutral midlands.  There are some interesting moments in the first episode that make you go, “oh yeah I guess if San Francisco was run by the Japanese Empire that would be a thing.”  The problem though is that most of the fun moments from the show are likely more to do with Philip K. Dick than Frank Spotnitz of X-Files fame to be honest.  The Man in the High Castle suffers from a lack of direction, the acting is all over the place and the directing seems to lack a tone. The show has some interestingly shot moments but even those seem out of place like when the San Francisco skyline is sometimes shot in an artist haze and sometimes it isn’t, seemingly at random.  The mystery that is introduced near the end of the pilot episode is interesting enough, but it might be better to just read the book.

Verdict: The story seems interesting, the cast and directing so far detract from that.

Grade: C+

Sneaky Pete

As far as high concept television goes–conman steals the identity of his cellmate and returns to his childhood home only to discover that his cellmate’s family are bounty hunters and he gets sucked into the family business–is a pretty damn good concept for a show.  It doesn’t hurt the show’s cause at all that the man that is responsible for the majority of its success, Giovanni Ribisi, is pretty great in everything he does you just don’t think about him that often because often times the casting choices he makes tend to be a mistake.  He’s basically the quirky Sam Rockwell.

Verdict: The show is unlikely to be a revelation.  It is unlikely to be much more than another take on the buddy cop 45 minute drama.  But with a talented cast and a more interesting twist on the concept than most maybe this will hold up.  If Amazon does ever make it.

Grade: B

Casanova

Coming: Maybe Never

CBS

The Comedies

Angel From Hell

Coming: November 5, 2015

Life in Pieces

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from CBS.  CBS, the home of 75 NCIS’s, 126 CSI’s, the reboot of Hawaii Five-O, and Sherlock with less handsome Bennedict Cumberbatch and Asian female Martin Freeman.  What I didn’t expect however, was just Modern Family only worse and with less character.  The show has Jordan Peele, and instead has relegated him to the least interesting situation comedy role in the show–the ex-husband who still lives with his wife as she brings strangers back to their home to fuck–hilarious.  Life in Pieces is a bunch of characters who don’t resemble real people that have ever existed, being pretty unfunny.

Honestly I watched the Pilot twice hoping that I would enjoy it.  I really do like this cast I have always like Colin Hanks despite myself and as a hopeless romantic of course I am a fan of Thomas Sadoski for his run on my beloved The Newsroom.  The issue is that unfortunately Justin Adler’s newest excursion into television is poorly executed which is sad because he played a big part in Better Off Ted another show I truly loved.

Verdict: The cast could carry the poor concept but it could also easily get too cluttered but the pilot did not manage its ensemble cast well.

Grade: C-

The Dramas

Code Black

It’s just another hospital drama.  That is all.

Verdict: Do you enjoy Grey’s Anatomy?  How about Luis Guzman and Marcia Harden?

Grade: C= (exceedingly average)

Limitless

Limitless

Limitless has become the butt of the joke in the 2015 pilot season, “people have no ideas anymore, see their making a Limitless TV show.”  You also may have heard, “A Limitless TV show? Doesn’t even have Bradley Cooper,” obviously, Bradley Cooper has better shit to do than star in a TV show (ignore the fact that he will be in the first few episodes it seems).  I was actually pleasantly surprised by Limitless’s pilot episode.  Admittedly the big plot points are taken all from the movie but it does take an interesting turn in its second act.

The success of this show will rest solely on its cast.  The concept is proven, Limitless is a movie that lends itself to an extended story easily. Craig Sweeny has proved that if nothing else he is a good enough television writer.  The problem with Limitless will be that its cast is lacking–at their very best.  Jennifer Carpenter was actually pretty horrendous in the Pilot episode and even Jake McDorman was far from a revelation.  I don’t know what to expect from this show going forward but I know it will live and die by its main cast.

Verdict: Ironically the people that haven’t seen the movie will enjoy the pilot episode far more, less ironically McDorman’s shortcomings are shown in a bright bright floodlight in the scene that he has with Cooper.

Grade: B-

Supergirl

Coming: October 27, 2015

The CW

The Comedies

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Every year there is a show I cannot stand that everyone else on the planet seems to love.  Last year it was ironically CW’s Jane the Virgin the pilot of which I barely survived.  I am fully prepared for this to be the show this year.

Rachel Bloom seems talented, very much in fact.  She has a real Iliza Shlesinger vibe, but I actually like her for some reason.  The problem here is that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, while a bold attempt is little more than a misguided, sexist, sing-a-long.  I’m not sure why women are the ones that tend to make the most loathsome depictions of their peers–I’m looking at you June Diane Raphel and Casey Wilson.  I am no great writer, but I have been known to dabble in some screenplays and I can say from personal experience it is a real challenge to make every female character hateful and stupid while making every male character a savior.

It should come as no surprise that in a show whose concept is: beautiful, successful, lawyer leaves New York City and a $560,000 annual salary to chase her middle school summer camp boyfriend to West Covina.  Spoiler Alert: It then of course turns out that the first man she meets wants to take her out on a date–because… Rachel Bloom, the boy she followed halfway across the country for no reason at all has a girlfriend because–obviously, and all the women at her office are the worst because–why the hell not.  The only real moments of charm in the episode come from some admittedly okay musical numbers and the very odd and clearly not meant for this show’s audience appearance of Nipsey Hussle.

Verdict: While Rachel Bloom is good, and the show might even have some potential, unless it can find some way to infuse this show with some decent female characters and backtrack from its establishing concept entirely than its in real trouble.

Grade: D

Significant Mother

I made is five minutes in and just couldn’t.  So even though I promised I’d give you an impartial opinion on all of this years new shows, it looks like its a no go on this CW shit show.

FOX

The Comedies

Grandfathered

A rich playboy restaurateur played by John Stamos is living the rich playboy life from every television show ever.  Then all of a sudden Josh Peck shows up with a baby and tells the rich playboy he has not only a terrible actor for a son but a grand-daughter on top of it all.  No that isn’t a meta joke from the evil genius Dan Harmon, its an actual show from the mind of Denial Chun.

I would have been far more interested in the show that was the first 2 minutes of the pilot than the rest of the show.  I don’t care about watching the rich playboy become a better man because of his granddaughter and I care even less about watching the buffoonish son grow as a man at the age of far-too-old because he reunited with his father.

All that being said, Stamos is pretty great and with less Peck and more Stamos and even less Josh Peck this show could have some real potential because at the end of the day, a sitcom is only as good as its lead.  I mean, and the “situation” in the comedy but that’s already fucked.

Verdict: Bundle of cliches that have been not only done before, but done far better at least the first season of About a Boy had a handful of original laughs.  But Stamos could carry this show on his very handsome shoulders and that is what it would take.

Grade: C

The Grinder

The Grinder

Fox’s entire Monday comedy block is just “let’s throw high concept shows at TV stars from the late 80s.” I don’t know what the magic dust is, but for some reason this show has it even though The Grandfather really doesn’t.  Maybe the key to success in 2015 television is two 80’s TV stars instead of one (I know West Wing was in the aughts I just like symmetry).

Rob Lowe and Fred Savage star as the Sanderson brothers, one is a real lawyer the other played a lawyer on television.  The show opens on an almost too aware shot of the family watching the overly stylized, very ridiculous series finale of The Grinder the show that  Dean Sanderson (Rob Lowe) stars on.  In a season of sitcom premieres that has been lacking in genuine laughs and decent TV performances–I’m looking at you Loretta Devine–The Grinder manages to have both.  Fred Savage is surprisingly good as a full grown human especially since most people watching this show will not have even heard of The Wonder Years.  It doesn’t hurt that Lowe is reprising the goofy, overly-ambitious character we all loved in Parks & Recreation.

Verdict: A solid cast and what appears to be a decent script.  The show has strong potential especially once it really gets a chance to dig into its secondary characters.

Grade: A-

Scream Queens

Scream Queens

So if you’ve been paying any attention at all you know this is the show of the pilot season so far.  The critics love it, the people love it, there’s even a Jonas brother in it–its basically the dream.  It may be the only network show on this list that actually isn’t like some other network show they cancelled in the last three years which might explain why it is actually fun unlike most of the shows on this list.  Scream Queens is quirky, at times to a fault but hey I’m not going to complain.  The costuming is ridiculous, the characters absurd, and the plot of the show is unclear.  I will say that I am curious, I am looking forward to the next episode and the one after that which has been very very rare this year and it has come as a pleasant surprise.

Verdict: It’s fun, it’s got a mystery interesting enough to keep you coming back, and if it doesn’t go the way of Glee and drop way off after its pilot this will be a great show.

Grade: A

The Dramas

Minority Report

First Limitless now this.  There isn’t much to say about Minority Report to be completely honest.  The concept is an interesting take on the movie’s plot and there are some cute references to the “past” made in this show.  It was nice to hear that “in my day we had a thing called Tinder” will be a thing people will say, pigeons go extinct, but best of all the fucking Redskins do eventually change their name.  Other than that though there isn’t much to enjoy about this show. Meagan Good is as bad an actor as you remember but don’t worry, the show is willing to put her body all in your face if you get bored of actually paying attention to the story–which I definitely appreciated.

The show is a slightly more ambitious take on the episodic buddy cop drama-comedy that we’ve gotten a trillion and a half times before.  The problem is the leap of faith falls pretty flat at the feet of Good and Sands.  What is Wilmer Valderrama doing here by the way?

Verdict: I’m pretty interested to see what the mystery with the three siblings is, not interested enough to sit through the show.

Grade: C-

Rosewood

I liked Rosewood.  It’s going to get cancelled in its first season and it’ll deserve it because it won’t even be that good.  But it currently sits at 5.5 on IMDb compared to Minority Report’s 6.2 and Blindspot’s 8.2 which is just unacceptable comparatively.  It’s unoriginal, it’s unimaginative, it’s barely different from CSI: Miami but Morris Chestnut is pretty great.  I wouldn’t give Rosewood any awards but as a charismatic character piece it is a fun watch if nothing else.

Verdict: It’s like everything else but a little better.  And Chestnut and Ortiz’s chemistry in itself is a fun watch.

Grade: B-

NBC

The Comedies

The Carmichael Show

This one should be short.  Not only is “The Carmichael Show” a horrible multi-camera sitcom stuck in the wrong decade.  It is both unfunny and its only claim to fame is that it tries at every turn to be subversive.  The cast is full of people you either didn’t realize you hated or knew you didn’t care about.  David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine are as bad as they are in everything they are bad in.  “The Carmichael Show” has already been renewed for a second season–so enjoy.

Verdict: It’s bad, very very very bad.  I didn’t know something could be both derivative so original with the variety of terrible it is, it’s a little amazing actually.

Grade: F

Mr. Robinson

Mr Robinson

They gave Craig Robinson, Meagan Good, Brandon Jackson, and Kelsey Grammer’s daughter a TV show.  It should come as no surprise that the show lacks imagination with a cast like that.  While in their own right some of the actors in Mr. Robinson have some comedic prowess they are hindered from the start by the horribly written script, the ridiculous concept, the 1960s laugh track, and the lack of focus.  The show has no idea who it’s for: it’s too vulgar for children and too childish for adults.  It’s only jokes through the double episode premiere were either racist, sexual, or the overdone gag of children do things they shouldn’t like cursing badly or smoking weed.

I like Craig Robinson, and if you know me you know I love me some Brandon T. Jackson.  This show has let them down, but if it continues to go the way it is it won’t make it to January so that shouldn’t really matter much.  The most exciting thing about this show is that Kelsey Grammer’s daughter (I don’t care enough about this show to look up her name) plays a stripper who is a teacher by day and if they decide to jump the shark in the first 13 episodes we could see some primetime network TV risque-ness.  Not that it would make this terrible show worth your time.

Verdict: Unimaginative, unoriginal, unfunny.  It makes no sense that NBC cancelled that huge batch of sitcoms last year–including every single new sitcom they premiered–just to try the same exact shit again.  This time just bigger and blacker.

Grade: D

People Are Talking

Coming: October 16, 2015

The Dramas

Blind Spot

Do you want to see the girl from Thor tastefully naked on primetime television?  No not the famous one.  No not the one who’s on that show on CBS where they exclusively make boob jokes.  The other one.  Do you want to see her almost but not really naked basically all the damn time?  Then this is the show for you.

It appears Blind Spot will rely mostly on its cheap mystery than anything else.  It will be about three season before you find out who put all the tattoos are her and between then and now we’ll figure out some stuff about her life because she has “permanent amnesia” but it only effected her memory, not her speech or understanding of cultural norm so don’t worry about that little detail.  In between little pieces of her identity being teased out they will strip her naked every episode at least once to solve another crime.  I’m not saying this isn’t a model that could work for a successful and fun TV show by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m also not suggesting that this show is particularly bad in the buddy cop paired with not a cop genre that has become almost literally 90% of television.  I’m just saying it doesn’t seem like NBC is trying at all this pilot season to make anything of real substance.  At least try, please, because every new piece of shit they add and then subsequently cancel makes me remember they once had Community on its roster.

Verdict: Perfectly adequate, nothing special, a few gimmicks, a few twists on things you’ve seen 1000 times before.  If you would like a darker, naked-er version of Castle without any of the fun of Nathan Fillion or Stana Katic than this is the show for you.

Grade: C-

The Player

The Player

Ugh, we get it NBC.  We fucking get it, you literally have no ideas anymore.  The Player is literally just Person of Interest if it had gambling.  I will point out that the show would have been infinitely better Wesley Snipes was the Player instead of a weird villain character.  It is entirely possible that once this show hits its stride it could be pretty good honestly.  The problem is the pilot episode is so cluttered and rushed that you don’t even get to see what it could be.  Even the action sequences are poor choreographed and thus very boring to watch.

What to expect from this show in all honesty: more than likely just a worse version Human Target with hopefully one joke about tax evasion in episode 6 of the first season.

What not to expect: anything new, at all.

With a machine that predicts crime you would think a bunch of rich people would find something more interesting to do with it than bet on whether one man whose also on a vendetta to avenge his wife’s murder (not even remotely a spoiler if you’ve seen a television show ever… trust), but that couldn’t.

Verdict: I liked Blade; I’m rooting for this show because of that if for no other reason.

Grade: C-

Other Important Stuff

The Comedies

Blunt Talk

This will be the second year in a row that Starz has premiered a thirty minute sitcom with a huge name attached.  Last year it was the Lebron James produced Survivor’s Remorse which I was not a fan of at all.  This year it is the Patrick Stewart led Blunt Talk which I’m not sure about yet.  This is the one show this premiere season that has truly baffled me, I enjoy moments of it, I think Stewart is great as always, and a great deal of the supporting cast is pretty fantastic as well.  I’m just not sure the writing is any good.

Blunt Talk is about the absurdly insane crew at a newsroom, the incredibly insane crew follows after their somehow more insane leader Walter Blunt (Patrick Stewart).  Who has both a homoerotic and and strangely father-son-esque relationship with his vallet, Harry Chandler (Adrian Scarborough).  Despite the fact that the plot and characters are ridiculous to a fault, I still think the cast is talented.  None of this really matters though because since it’s on Starz its not going to get cancelled, I mean Survivor’s Remorse got a second season.  So if you enjoy it it’ll be around, if you don’t, it’s on Starz a channel you literally never think about anyway.  It’s a win-win.

Verdict: Stewart is great, Dolly Wells and Jackie Weaver equally so.  For now, that’s enough for me.

Grade: C+

The Dramas

Fear the Walking Dead

Coming: August 23, 2015

Public Morals

Public Morals

Since I am a man, of some form or another I am genetically programmed to love Martin Scorsese movies.  Public Morals is basically a Scorsese movie without all the masterful film-making skill.  Corrupt cops, prostitution, gambling, white dudes succeeding because they’re white, its everything I’ve always wanted from my 1960s period dramas.  This will not replace the whole that Mad Men left in your heart but for the moment the absolute chaos of the 60s New York City streets are fun.  It has a massive ensemble cast and most of them have good showings so far.  Ed Burns is one of those guys in Hollywood that once you go to his IMDb page you realize how good he actually is at his job, he’s not DiCaprio nor is he David Fincher but he has been putting out consistently good product since the 90s.

Verdict: The show is good at what it does, if you like cop period pieces with a lot of black and white characters and a few grey ones then this is the place to find it on TV at the moment.

Grade: B

1 Comment

  1. […] work.  Which is why I was weary of Scream Queens originally.  But it had one of the more impressive pilot episodes this season so I kept watching.  I was not disappointed, if it wasn’t the over the top […]

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