Pilot Season 2019: October Shows
Pilot season this year got off to a very rough start in September. With basically nothing worth watching premiering the month was quite the slog. Emergence, the only slightly watchable show, has taken a dip in quality even if Allison Tolman is still a joy to watch. And the shows that were bad to begin with like Stumptown and Sunnyside have somehow gotten even worse. Evil is still hysterical and I’ve yet to figure out if it’s intentional or not. Really hoping that October has something better to offer but looking at the lineup, that isn’t very likely.
Almost Family (Fox Drama, 10/2)
So many gorgeous people in one television show. I didn’t realize you were legally allowed to have a show with Brittany Snow, Mustafa Elzein, Victoria Cartagena, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Mo McRae on a non-premium cable channel. The show is bad sure, but look at all those symmetrical faces.
The show is about the aftermath of the realization that a fertility doctor, Leon Bechley played by Timothy Hutton, has been using his own semen to impregnate his patients. When a group of very different women find out they’re all half sisters their lives change forever… or something like that. I’ve never understood this narrative. I cannot see me caring at all if I found out that my parents weren’t my biological parents. I’d be confused since I look exactly like my mother but it certainly wouldn’t drive me to make some big life altering decisions like it does everyone in Almost Family. It certainly doesn’t help me connect to the story that the writing is a mess and a half, the line of dialogue, “I’m sorry you picked such a broken person to be married to,” is uttered without any irony at all. On top of that, the only convincing moment of acting is when Cartegena tries to seduce both straight and married Edie Palmer at an ill-advised work lunch. I can’t possibly see how this could be a 20+ episode a year network show, there’s barely enough plot here for a solid mini-series. This should’ve been a Modern Family-esque zany family sitcom; that is a show that could be worth watching.
Should you watch: God, they’re just so fucking pretty. But no, unfortunately you’re better off finding a show with more talented less attractive people.
Batwoman (The CW Drama, 10/6)
Batwoman is a familiar formula. The CW has spent many years cultivating an aesthetic with its Arrowverse shows. If, like many, you’ve been a long time fan of The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl then at this point you know what you’re getting into. Ruby Rose is fine as she is in all of her roles and especially for The CW Batwoman’s production quality is decent. The CW and DC partnership long ago beat me into submission. Batwing is in the show though so that’ll be a fun development in 2-3 years when they need a ratings boost.
Should you watch: Sure, whatever.
Nancy Drew (The CW Drama, 10/9)
Should you watch:
Treadstone (USA Drama, 10/15)
There is a lot happening in this pilot episode; four different story lines are introduced in the first 20 minutes and there are more to come in the rest of the episode. Not that there’s anything wrong with many concurrent story lines in the same show. It’s proved a successful formula for many shows. But through the first episode of Treadstone you learn a little about a lot but not enough about anything to get attached to. There are two different nondescript white boys (I think, I’m not actually 100% they’re different people), a North Korean spy/mother/assassin, an ex-journalist now taxi driver, a Russian couple with a impotent bull and a secret in their barn, there’s a lot of very creepy women very creepily singing, and there’s a lot of jumping from heights that would shatter all the bones in your legs.
The action is shot and choreographed well even if the sound editing is really bad and quite distracting at times. Treadstone is fun if a bit scattered, it does enough stuff well to give it time to figure out its plot. If it does manage to tie enough of the threads together to produce a coherent narrative this could be USA best show since Mr. Robot, a low bar to clear sure but a bar nonetheless. But since Tim Kring also brought us Heroes you may only have about one year before this all goes to shit.
Should you watch: It’s possible I’m grading on a curve because this has been such a terrible pilot season. But Treadstone was pretty fun, it is both on the precipice of disaster and greatness. This show could turn completely terrible very quickly, I’m hoping it ends up best case scenario though.
Watchmen (HBO Drama, 10/20)
More to come on Watchmen so I’ll keep it brief. The show looks incredible, the cast is fantastic, it’s violent and stylized and very funny at times. But after the first episode I remain dubious. Damon Lindelof has proved over a long career that he is quite good at asking tantalizing questions and not as good at answering those questions or wrapping up a coherent plot. If this works out there is a lot to like in HBO’s new flagship drama. If it goes the way of Lost, Watchmen will be more fun as a topic for reddit theorizing than it is as an actual TV show. And HBO already has one of those, I can’t see it needing another.
Should you watch: There is still a lot to like here, especially for fans of the Watchmen comic. It is afterall HBO, they don’t ever make bad TV; except for that one Jack Black show but we don’t talk about that.
Sistas (BET Drama, 10/23)
Tyler Perry’s Sistas, as I’m sure Perry would like me to call it, is fascinatingly terrible. It seems to be made by people who only have a vague idea of what TV is. Since Perry seems to have directed, written, and is the showrunner for all the episodes isn’t not much of a surprise that it looks the way it does. But you would think after making what seems like 50 some movies at this point he would have an idea about how to edit film. This show isn’t really interested in being “good” in any traditional sense of the word so it really doesn’t seem like a good use of anyone’s time to write critically about it. Perry has sought to make something that is disposable and forgettable with nothing of value and he has succeeded. Sistas is a show that takes no risks and is made for dirt cheap, it seems to be shot in a multi-camera format on poorly constructed sound stages so that every episode can be shoveled out at the fastest rate possible so that Perry can slap his name on it and funnel whatever is left of the profits back into his “production company” for minimal effort.
Should you watch: There is nothing and no one of value involved in this show. The fact that it is taking up gigabytes of space on some server somewhere is tragedy enough, do not let it waste 43 minutes of your life as well.
The Oval (BET Drama, 10/23)
At the barbershop this past week a man said, without a tinge of irony, “Power is better than Game of Thrones.” Of course, people are entitled to their opinion; a bad opinion does not hurt anyone. But even with the blindspot that the black community seems to have for art that celebrates them a take as bad as “Power is better than Game of Thrones,” is baffling. Much of the celebrated aspects of black culture baffle me; the fact that there are people that have watched Power and Empire and have seen Madea Goes to Jail and have thought, “boy, that was swell,” confounds me. But even compared to Empire and Power or even the disastrous The Last O.G. this is reprehensible.
Should you watch: Tyler Perry fans long ago drank the kool-aid, they are somehow convinced The Have and the Have Nots is a good television show. Everyone else not indoctrinated into the cult will be at a loss as to why this even exists.