2010-2011 – New Shows

I watched 30ish pilots this year, most of which I gave full reviews of. Last year I did 27 and this year most of the extra ones come from some random British series that I watched but didn’t pick up. Even with giving up on comedy pilots for the most part it was still a bit of a slog frankly with an awful lot of mediocrity out there.

Things I watched:

  • Blue Bloods – Frankly not very good – an interesting concept, but badly written. Just saved by the wonderful Tom Selleck
  • Downton Abbey – excellent fun, perfect for Sunday evening family viewing
  • Game of Thrones – Very entertaining and an impressive production
  • Mad Dogs – A great cast in a relatively mediocre production, thankfully very short
  • Outcasts – Entertaining, but massively flawed writing and plot holes. Not massively disappointed that it was cancelled.
  • Terriers – Charming, hilarious, interesting, entertaining and criminally cancelled
  • The Big C – hilarious and moving
  • The Walking Dead – The novelty made me watch it, but it was horribly cliché and flat

Two things jump out at me from that list. The fist thing is that genre shows get a bit of a free pass from me in that they only have to be not awful to get me to watch them. The second thing is there’s only one network show on the list, and even that one wasn’t very good. Other than that everything is either British, or on cable in the US; and they’re all short seasons. That’s not good, not good at all.

Might watch

  • Harry’s Law – the worrying preachiness of the pilot put me off, but given it survived a season, Kathy Bates might lure me back again
  • Hawaii Five-O – bright and entertaining popcorn action, I meant to watch it but I failed to catch it as it went past. I do intend to catch up though
  • Falling Skies – I enjoyed the pilot, but haven’t actually got around to watching the rest of it yet
  • Bedlam – Terrible Sky drama where Will Young was the best thing about it. I still have the last two episodes on the Sky box but haven’t quite got desperate enough to watch them.

Might’ve watched if they hadn’t been cancelled, might pick them up on dvd at some point

  • Chicago Code – OK, unremarkable, and then cancelled
  • Detroit 1-8-7 – solidly entertaining police procedural in a sea of mediocrity. Cancelled anyway
  • Hellcats – The pilot at least was entertaining in an awful Glee kind of way, it aired on MTV over here which was deeply annoying. Then it was cancelled.
  • Off the Map – It wasn’t as good as it wanted to be, but I enjoyed the pilot. It never seemed to make it to the UK at all due to its early cancellation I guess.

Not my thing

  • Being Human – not as good as the UK version, and I’m already 2 years behind on that
  • Boardwalk Empire – beautifully shot and acted and all that, but too slow
  • Exile – well acted and intriguing, I meant to watch the rest of the series but it disappeared from iplayer too fast and I wasn’t devastated
  • Nikita – felt like it was trying very hard (and maybe even succeeding) at being the next Alias, but given I never got round to watching that series I didn’t feel like committing to this one.

Just not very good

Body of Proof
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour
Law & Order: Los Angeles
Lone Star
My Generation
No Ordinary Family
The Cape
The Event
The Shadowline
The Whole Truth

Not a great year
I just don’t think this was a very good year for new television. Looking back at last year’s freshman there are a lot of stand-outs, both critical successes like Justified, The Good Wife and Treme and ratings hits like Glee, NCIS: LA and The Vampire Diaries. There are a few direct comparisons this year (Boardwalk Empire is this year’s Treme, Hawaii Five-O this year’s NCIS:LA), but overall there’s an awful lot of mediocre going on.

Where’s the creativity? Even things that television executives hail as new and exciting aren’t really. The Walking Dead is a remake of just about every zombie film out there, Game of Thrones is a bog standard fantasy epic – Lord of the Rings for the smaller screen with less pointy ears. Next year’s most hotly anticipated show seems set to follow the trend with Terra Nova bringing Jurassic Park to the TV.

Superheroes are out – there was a flurry of superhero shows and none of them were any good. People keep trying to find the magic of the early season of Heroes and the massive success that’s being found by Marvel and DC Comics at the cinema, but no one’s managed it yet. Here’s an idea, stop pissing off Joss Whedon and get him to do one, after he’s done making millions with The Avengers that is.

Procedurals ain’t doing so well either. I enjoy procedurals but it’s been a while since a good one came along. Maybe the market is still too saturated, because even the ones that had potential and critical praise couldn’t find enough viewers to make a go of it.

Finally, they’re still all desperately trying to find the next Lost – people keep trying, but the high concept stuff just doesn’t seem to catch. High concept is something that can be explained in a sentence (“Lost: a plane crashes on island”, “Inception: you can enter and control people’s dreams”). This year’s main attempt, The Event, was a little too high concept I think “Something happens” really is a bit too high, I gave up after about four episodes – for a show called The Event – something should bloody well happen.

Hellcats: Pilot Review

Marti Perkins is desperate to escape Memphis and her high maintenance mother. To do this she makes the most of a college scholarship to study law and dream of her escape. Ten minutes in through a series of contrived catastrophes she has lost her scholarship and is about to get thrown out until she finds out that there are cheerleading scholarships going begging.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this show is desperately jumping on the bandwagon of Glee, in fact it steals the “you have to place at Nationals or get shut down” plot directly from Glee and for a while was apparently called Cheer. It’s like Glee meets Gossip Girl, it’s got the same tendencies to burst spontaneously into dance numbers and the same brightness and energy of Glee, but partnered with Gossip Girl’s bitchy dialogue and complete lack of shame when it comes to costuming.

I was really happy when scheduling made it my first pilot review of the new year. I was all settled in to start off with a massive rant, bemoaning the fact that the best a network could come up with as an offering to the younger demographic was a show about cheerleaders. But then I liked it.

I really do hate myself for this, but I LIKED it. I was frustrated when it finished and wanted more. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a GOOD show, but then neither is Glee or Gossip Girl and both have been big successes that I find them disturbingly addictive. The creators of Hellcats have clearly done their research and committed to making a show that perfectly fits in the ‘shameless entertainment’ genre.

The biggest problem the pilot had is one that can be levelled against many pilots that are cramming a lot of introductions into 45 minutes – the characters were almost all stereotypes. Marti herself manages to pack two stereotypes into one, starting off as a grungy cynic dismissing the perky people but then in a whiplash inducing turnaround, by the end of the episode she’s an out and proud cheerleader leading the strutting gaggle of ridiculously costumed pep squad down a corridor Right Stuff style.

The majority of the rest of the characters are exactly what you’d expect from an American high school/college show – the bitch, the sarcastic outsider, the confident potential love interest, the inspiring coach, a money-grabbing principle, the ditzy mother, the slimy football coach blah blah blah. The only ray of light was the Captain of the squad, played by Ashley Tisdale of High School Musical fame who has a character who seems to have some heart and spirit. Yes, she’s an annoying peppy person with matching bedspreads, but she isn’t a pushover and actually seems to engage her brain and act like a responsible human being sometimes.

As I sat down to watch I was practically rubbing my hands in delight at the cynical vitriolic diatribe I would be able to launch at the show. But then, it somehow suckered me in, I felt happier after I’d watched it than I felt before. I think it’s like some kind of drug, I feel wrong and dirty and confused, but I think I might just watch the next episode.

TVSquad – “Hellcats will not change the face of television as we know it, but the execution of the core concept is knowing and competent, and this show understands its limitations and wisely stays inside those narrow parameters.”

CliqueClack – “I won’t lie. I like the show’s warmth and will probably watch it a couple more times before finally turning it off, but as with Nikita this is a show that has a lot of wrinkles to iron straight.”

Links: Official site, imdb, wikipedia

The upfronts: The CW

What’s Out
The reinvention of Melrose Place apparently didn’t work so it’s gone. The Beautiful Life: TBL was cancelled so long ago that it seems to have completely been wiped from everyone’s memories which is probably for the best. Also cancelled apparently were High Society and Fly Girls, neither of which I’ve heard of, so I suspect they might have been reality shows.

What’s Back
The answer to that question is, almost everything! Life Unexpected was on the bubble for a long time, but eventually made the cut. Supernatural returns for a slightly unexpected 6th season, but it will be with a new show runner and on Friday nights where it will be partnering Smallville, returning for its tenth an final season. The Vampire Diaries, which I mocked for being terrible has been a big hit and a no brainer for renewal. 90210 and Gossip Girl round out the renewals with cheesy teenage fun.

What’s New

  • Hellcats: When you look at the rest of the schedule it seems obvious that what it’s missing is something featuring cheerleaders. The clip looks absolutely terrible, no humour, no personality just gratuitious. I was hoping for the spark of Gossip Girl, but if this is the best clip they could find to advertise their show, I’m not optimistic.
  • Nikita: A new adaptation of La Femme Nikita. The clip is nothing special at all, looks like Alias and any number of similar things. Again, if this is the best clip they could find, I don’t foresee this show lasting long.

Links: The CW, TV Squad, The Futon Critic, TV Addict