A whole bunch of new tv shows are upon us. Perennially in the need for new entertainment, I’ve been viewing various pilots, seeing how they are, what they could work on, or whether or not they would succeed. Here’s the verdict so far (only what I have seen):
Red Band Society: Great premise but way too mawkish. Although the kids are all great, Leo, has lush, thick eyebrows while undergoing chemotherapy. How? Clearly, research needs to be done there. Post TFIOS, sick children is sort of becoming a tearjerker way of pandering, but such subject matter needs to be dealt with carefully. Octavia Spencer is brilliant but both she and Dave Annable need more material, they sort of get relegated to B-storyline status amid all the teen drama. It needs a few quick fixes,but definitely worth coming back for more episodes.
The Mysteries Of Laura: I’m all for a different tone, but this show doesn’t pull it off. In fact, it seems confused about what tone it wants to project, is it a quirky comedy or a dark one? Relies too heavily on Debra Messing and her “Woman in a Rom Com” antics. Actually, a lot of this show seems like a rom com, complete with that career woman balancing love, children, and work while being pined for by rom com-ready guys.
Madam Secretary: Finally, Tea Leoni front and center in something! You want it to go The Good Wife route, charged with intrigue and drama. Leoni definitely has the chops to pull it off. However, it gets too dry at moments, some scenes linger for too long without a build-up. Overall, it’s pretty good, just needs to not get too stagnant. Barbara Hall is a brilliant writer so I’m sure she’ll figure a way out of it.
Scorpion: A procedural for the tech generation, that’s clearly how they pitched this one. But it doesn’t work. The characters are too cardboard cutout, at times trying too hard with the “Look, I’m a hacker” vibe. Elyes Gabel is a commanding lead though, to the point that you feel he deserves better, and so does poor Katharine McPhee.
Gotham: WOW! This could’ve been so misguided, so boring, so cluttered. It’s none of that. Bruno Heller & Co. have done a great job with the pace and the dark tone that never comes across as trying to ape Christopher Nolan’s film franchise. The performances are spectacular, Ben McKenzie is at a career best, Robin Lord Taylor and David Mazouz are stars in the making, and Jada Pinkett-Smith is simply a force of nature, stealing every scene she’s in. Danny Cannon’s highly experienced in the action/adventure. He directed some of Nikita’s best episodes and he definitely doesn’t disappoint here either. A possible breakout hit.
How To Get Away With Murder: This one’s the surefire breakout hit. It has the easy position of boasting the Shondaland label and having THE Viola Davis as a lead, but luckily, it never rests on those laurels. Davis is very much a showstealer with her presence and performance, but the rest of the younger cast is equally endearing and each one holds their own excellently. The plot, oh the plot, you’re hooked from the get-go. Like previous Shondaland hits Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, this show combines overarching season-long plot with a case-of-the-week on the side. Creator Peter Nowalk is an experienced member of Shonda Rhimes’ writing staff, so it’s no surprise he used this device perfectly when making his own show. The pilot’s director Michael Offer needs to be the next in-demand name for future pilot seasons because he seems to have a gift.
NCIS: New Orleans: Was another one really necessary? This brings nothing great to the table. Yes there’s New Orleans imagery, and Scott Bakula, and an underused CCH Pounder, but nothing else.
Black-ish: I wasn’t sure if this would be something a post-racial audience wants to see. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It has a very clever take on institutionalized racism and how cultural appropriation changes from generation to generation. It handles its subject matter in a way that’s never heavy-handed. It does fall prey to one tired sitcom trope though: The obnoxious man-child husband and his nagging high-strung wife. That’s not to say that Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross don’t do a great job because they do.
Selfie: That name alone is cringeworthy. So is the Pygmalion-inspired premise. This could easily be dismissed for being another instance of an older man telling a younger woman how to live her life but there’s more. You know those annoying articles about Millennials, the ones that are all “Look at these young people” as if we’re a weird alien species that’s too self-absorbed and doesn’t play by their rules? This is the comedy version of that. Everything is soooooooo exaggerated in a “This is what kids are doing nowadays” manner. Do any of us Millennials with a functioning brain (the vast majority) not realize that our thousands of Instagram followers are not the same as our few close friends? It breaks my heart because of how much I love both John Cho and Karen Gillan, but this does nothing for them.
Manhattan Love Story: At least 10 years too late to the small screen. Every cliche character trope from the countless romantic comedies about young singles living where else but in Manhattan, is rolled into one show. The gender differences don’t seem humorous here, they just seem pigeonholing and at times even offensive. Women are always too emotional, men are always too horny.The two worlds don’t understand each other. Let’s have another piece of entertainment indoctrinate the same set of stereotypes in our minds yet again. Who thought this was a good idea? Did they come via time machine from 1989? (The year Harry met Sally).
A to Z: Read the above. Swap the internal monologues with whirlwind sexual encounters. This one does feature voiceover from the flawless Katey Sagal, but the novelty ends there.
Marry Me: Read the above yet again, because that couple is now in their mid-late 30’s and is trying to get married, how else but one mishap at a time.
Stalker: When Kevin Williamson tried crime procedurals with The Following, it was a huge letdown (but still worth watching from time to time for a Kevin Bacon dose). He redeems himself with Stalker! Very well executed, and Liz Friedlander is beyond underrated as a director. It refreshingly captures the West Coast setting far better than most shows, and stars my future wife Maggie Q and my dude crush Dylan McDermott as co-leads with chemistry so good, it’s Fillion/Katic intense!
Bad Judge: Much like “Laura” above, this show seems confused about its tone. It’s actually a disappointment for the most part. You really really want it to be good but it just isn’t. There are some redeeming points, the story arc with Kate Walsh and the kid is quite touching, but then it feels out of place with where the rest of the show is going. Hopefully the writers can pull together the structure in time.
More new shows will be reviewed as they air.