I tried out pilots for 32 new shows this year, 9 British, 1 French and 23 American. I tried to get through all the pilots for the major dramas from network and cable in the US, and did a better job hunting out British shows this year. I covered the British stuff in my yearly round-up, so here’s the summary of the American shows.
US Shows I stuck with (8/23)
The Americans – Homeland LIte. easily the best new show of the year, and one of top three most enjoyable shows of the year.
Chicago Fire – Rescue Me Lite. I’m ashamed, but I somehow watched 20 odd episodes of this mediocre soap opera about fireman. I have no justification really, it was just mindless entertainment.
Defiance – Farscape Lite. Yay, aliens! It all got a bit wibbly at the end for my tastes, but I’m so happy to see ‘proper’ science fiction that I don’t care.
The Following – really rather rubbish, but also thoroughly entertaining, carried along by enthusiastic actors and relentless pacing.
Hannibal – Criminal Minds Heavy. I was dubious from the very start, but I gave it the whole season to fill in the plot holes and reveal its true intelligence. It didn’t. It just got stuper.
House of Cards – West Wing Heavy. One of the three best shows of the year. Smart, stylish and absolutely gripping from start to finish.
Nashville – Glee Heavy. More cheesy fun, with country music and superb performances from the two leading ladies.
Vegas – CSI/Mad Men Lite.Yet more cheesy fun. Mostly I liked the actors and the period setting, the plots were all a bit meh, but I was disappointed that it was cancelled.
So, just like last year, I picked up 8 new shows. But actually of those eight, I only watched Hannibal to confirm it was rubbish and although I’d watch more Vegas, it was cancelled. So that’s 6 successes. Even in that 6 Nashville, Chicago Fire and The Following are far more on the guilty end of pleasure.
US Shows I might’ve stuck with if not cancelled
666 Park Avenue – American Horror Story Lite. It wasn’t awful, and I may have watched more, but it was cancelled before I got to it.
Made in Jersey – The Good Wife Lite. This was pretty cheesy and overdone in places, but I felt oddly warmed by it. But it was cancelled before I even got to it so I didn’t bother watching more.
Red Widow – Weeds Heavy. That’s another slightly harsh label but I have a joke I’m running with. Another show I might have given a longer run if it hadn’t been cancelled. Interesting set up and charismatic actors.
I can’t say I was devastated that any of these were cancelled, they just weren’t anywhere near as awful as the following section of the list.
US Shows I Didn’t Stick with (15/23)
Arrow – Batman Lite, without the talent of Nolan writing and directing or Christian Bale staring. Terrible.
Banshee – Fight Club Lite. I gave this a couple of episodes, but I found myself actually repulsed by the violence. I don’t inherently object to violence on screen, but here it felt entirely unnecessary and the lack of reaction to it from the apparently ‘normal’ people made me depressed.
Beauty and the Beast – Incredible Hulk Lite. flimsy, insubstantial, and cheap
Cult – Lost Lite. A complicated interweaving plot, but I nothing in the pilot gave me confidence the writers could pull it off.
Do No Harm – Jeckyl and Hyde Lite. Actually its was just Jeckyl and Hyde and it was all over the place.
Elementary – Sherlock Lite. Probably the biggest success of the year, the pilot was ok, but I just couldn’t get over the fact I’d rather be watching Sherlock.
Emily Owens, MD – Grey’s Anatomy Lite. Terrible voiceover, weak characters, predictable plot.
Last Resort – Oh, I actually have no comparison for this one! The first original one on the list… and it was absolutely awful. Plot was rushed and characters were clichéd. I gave the second episode a chance to level it out, it didn’t. I left.
Low Winter Sun – The Shield Lite. I haven’t reviewed this yet (only watched it yesterday) but I was astronomically bored.
The Mob Doctor – The Sopranos/Grey’s Anatomy Lite. A soulless show constructed by bolting two things together. It wasn’t even a very solid construction, full of stupid plots and dull characters.
Ray Donovan – The Sopranos Lite? Too many unpleasant people.
Under the Dome – I can’t actually think of a comparison for this one either, but that doesn’t make it original, I just can’t think of anything. I just found it dull. And ridiculous.
Zero Hour – DaVinci Code Lite. I couldn’t actually bring myself to finish watching the pilot. It was that tiresome.
I don’t think it was a great year for new series. As you can see from my attempt at humour, every show can be linked to another one on the air without too much of a stretch and for the most part they just came off as cheap knockoffs. Elementary was a weaker version of Sherlock, Arrow was Batman with youth, 666 Park Avenue was American Horror Story meets Supernatural, and then you’ve got three medical shows chasing Grey’s Anatomy and a legal one chasing The Good Wife. There are a couple of examples of hybrid ideas, or of shows actually adding additional depth to an existing idea, but they’re pretty few and far between.
Mind you, there was a bit of an under-representation of the usually popular genre of police procedurals. Vegas was pretty much the only one and did an amiable enough job with it, but in the land of CBS, even being the top rated new show of the year doesn’t save you from being axed.
Having made that complaint though, the shows that actually had something original going for them made something of a hash of it. The Last Resort, Cult, Zero Hour and Under the Dome had terrible pilots, each of which I struggled to sit through.
I don’t actually remember being particularly excited going into the 2012-13 year. There were a few things I was curious about and a few actors I was excited to see again, but nothing seemed especially buzz worthy. 2013-14 is a bit different though, there were a number of things at the upfronts that grabbed me and a few trailers that surprised me.
Interesting ideas but could still suck – Hostages, Tomorrow People, Intelligence, Sleepy Hollow, Wayward Pines, Resurrection, Crisis
I’ll give it a try because of the cast – Rake (Greg Kinnear), Crazy Ones (Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar), Legends (Sean Bean), True Detective (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson)
Actually pretty exciting – Almost Human, Blacklist, Masters of Sex
In a category all by itself – Joss Whedon’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the name is troubling. Other than that… I couldn’t be much more excited if I tried.