Miscellaneous Pilots

nightshiftThe Night Shift
The night shift in the Emergency Room at San Antonio Memorial is full of Characters, with a most definite capital C.
The show has some potential – reliable premise, solid characters and cast members who’ve been reliable (if not spectacular) in their supporting roles on other shows (Eoin Macken of Merlin, Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under, Brendan Fehr of Roswell). But the pilot at least is very by-the-numbers and is painfully lacking in subtlety. They try to establish backgrounds and future stories for at least 8 characters and there’s not much room left for elegance. The stories, both medical and otherwise have been done to death in other shows with infinitely more accuracy and attention to detail and I was particularly bored by the conflict between the penny pinching administrator and the sanctimonious medics working around him, isn’t it time for a more nuanced discussion of this? The potential is good enough that I may give the other 7 episodes of the season a try as something to accompany cooking or tidying but that will be despite of, not because of, the pilot.
No UK broadcaster has announced they’ve purchased it, but it has been picked up for a second season by NBC in the US.

Dr Phlox from Enterprise has implanted a chip into Sawyer from Lost which turns him into a super-agent with Google, satellites and all sorts of ‘apps’ in his head. Catherine from CSI runs the agency and brings in Ruby from Once Upon a Time to try and keep Sawyer from either getting himself killed, or falling down the rabbit hole searching for his supposedly dead CIA wife.
The pilot ain’t bad. The magic chip idea is good but doesn’t seem to have been entirely nailed down as to what it can and cannot do, so there’s a great danger of it turning into a magic mcguffin that can solve all problems at just the most dramatic moment. The side story of investigating the death (or disappearance?) of Sawyer’s wife is a little tedious, but at least it means that there’s no immediate question of will-they-won’t-they between the new partners. I did like that they opted to not have the pilot be an origin story, but instead have a new member join the team as means to deliver all the exposition.
I think this was solid, but not remarkable. There wasn’t anything that made me want to see the next episode. Despite Holloway’s obvious charm it was a bit superficial, lacking in emotional connection.
Sky 1 broadcast Intelligence earlier in the year, but it’s been cancelled by CBS after finishing its 13 episode first season. Presumably it just didn’t generate the massive ratings that CBS requires from its prime time dramas.

chicagopdChicago PD
A spin off from Chicago Fire. Detective Voight is to all appearances a dirty cop, violent and on the take. But there seems to be something else going on as he’s been given a free pass and is now heading up his own team.
Just like Chicago Fire, this is a show that knows exactly what it is and delivers it very effectively. The pilot is very well put together and introduces each of the characters pretty slickly giving each a moment to show they’re distinct and have depth, but not overloading the audience with exposition or heavy handed hints. Occasionally it’s a little too on-the-nose, Voight’s growling tone, carefully showing us the cops’ families and hazing the junior officers but it also plays some of the stereotypes quite effectively (I particularly liked the grumpy female desk sergeant). Just like Chicago Fire, this is an incredibly watchable show. The pilot ends on a cliffhanger and I could cheerfully have gone straight into the next episode.
Chicago PD has been picked up for a second season, and aired on 5USA earlier this year

Greg Kinnear plays a defence lawyer who’s basically screwed up almost everything in his life.
Rake plays things pretty much for the laughs, which is both a welcome relief from some of the other doom and gloom on television and a bit jarring when you realise that you’re supposed to be smiling about a guy getting beaten up by his bookie due to his inability to pay his debts. Kinnear however ladles on the charm and carries it off. The supporting characters of his friends and colleagues find a nice balance between supportive caring and exasperated irritation. Even the legal case was one that I didn’t immediately recognise from several other series. All in all, I found this series quite refreshing and engaging enough that I’d be tempted by the rest of the series.
Rake hasn’t been picked up by a UK broadcaster and was cancelled mid season, although Fox did later air the rest of the 13 episodes.

blacksailsBlack Sails
Pirates, doing the full on pirate thing in the West Indies; a prequel to Treasure Island.
I had pretty low expectations of this, and that probably helped a lot, but I really enjoyed this pilot. It does exactly what you’d expect and hope a period Pirate show to do, there’s sailing, swordplay, secret treasures and shady dealings. It’s not exactly got the big budget production values of Pirates of the Caribbean or Master and Commander, but they do a pretty good job hiding the cheaper corners and the only really noticeable place the reduced cost shows is in the lack of big names in the cast. It is on Starz network in the US and that too shows through in the complete lack of subtlety when it comes to adding in nudity and violence. All things considered though, this made quite a pleasing diversion from endless procedural shows.
Black Sails is available exclusively on Amazon Instant Video in the UK and has been renewed for a second season.

A bus load of the children of some of America’s most rich and powerful are abducted, and their parents start getting demanding phone calls.
It’s a very good premise and it’s a very well put together pilot that elegantly introduces a load of characters and sets up various connections and conflicts and establishes that nothing is really as it seems. The cast and characters are all solid, and surprisingly the group of teenagers were not instantly hateable. My only real concern was over how the story would be drawn out over a season, and/or into multiple seasons. It seems like the first season formed a complete story, but the show was cancelled, so I guess further plans don’t really matter.
No UK broadcast information available.

Sean Bean plays an FBI agent who’s an expert at going undercover, creating elaborate characters and backgrounds. But is he immersing- himself in his covers, or is he losing himself?
This sadly felt rather cheap, which is a real shame because Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, LOTR), Ali Larter (Heroes) and Tina Majorino (Grey’s Anatomy, Veronica Mars) really deserve better. The building blocks are there, but it just didn’t really feel substantial. The science/investigating elements felt unrealistic, the jeopardy manufactured, the characters unoriginal and the relationships tired. The moment where the female agent ‘has’ to go in as a lap dancer just had me groaning out loud and I hate to say it, but I’m not sure that Bean has it in him to play all these different characters.
Legends starts in September on Sky 1 in the UK and is still broadcasting its first season in the US and no pick-up has been announced.

haltandcatchHalt and Catch Fire
In 1983 in Texas a former IBM salesman is manipulating people left-right-and-centre to engineer a new computer which will revolutionise the pc industry.
The title alone was enough to lure me in to this, and Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, amongst other more huge things like Guardians of the Galaxy) was a nice bonus. I guess to be cynical it’s one of the many shows still trying to jump on the Mad Men bandwagon of looking at under-represented industries and periods, but just because it’s cynical doesn’t make it any less interesting. Unfortunately though the pilot left me a bit cold; it’s not bad in any way, but I’m also not certain that it’s either good or entertaining. I didn’t come away desperately wanting to spend more time with the characters or find out where the story is going to go, which means it rather failed in the key aims of a pilot. I may give it a bit more time, but it disappointingly didn’t set my world alight.
Halt and Catch Fire has been renewed for a second season, but there’s no information on a UK air date.


The Upfronts – CBS

cbsCBS, home of the procedural. Looking at the list of renewals, although its portfolio is aging, they are still some of the most popular shows on television. The bad news is with so many slots taken, that doesn’t leave much space for new things.

What’s out
csinyThe biggest cancellation for CBS was surely CSI: NY, which having held off the executioner for the last couple of its nine year run, finally succumbed. Rules of Engagement is a sitcom I know nothing about but has apparently had seven seasons! Freshman series struggled to deliver the high ratings CBS demands, comedies Made in Jersey and Partners didn’t make much impact and while I quite enjoyed Vegas, even I would admit it wasn’t as good as it should have been or needed to be. Golden Boy meanwhile is a police drama that seems to have come and gone with almost no comment from anyone.

What’s returning
The Big Bang TheorySome of the most popular shows on American television are on CBS and their pick up is no surprise. CSI and NCIS may be heading into their fourteenth and eleventh seasons respectively but show little signs of stopping. NCIS: Los Angeles goes into season 5, although its own spin off series (NCIS: Red) was surprisingly absent from the pick-up list. The schedule is packed out with the rest of the procedurals – Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Hawaii Five-0, Person of Interest and Criminal Minds, going into season 9 after last minute contract negotiations as the female co-stars sought pay equity. Despite relatively poor ratings, it’s also no surprise that The Good Wife, easily the most critically acclaimed network drama is also picked up. CBS also somehow manages to have some of the best performing comedies – The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother return, although it will only be Two Men without the Half and it will be the final season for Mother. Mike and Molly and 2 Broke Girls round it out. The only new show with a pick up is Elementary.

What’s New
The Crazy Ones – Father/daughter ad agency. That’s as much of the blurb as you need to know because the pairing of Robin Williams (Mork!) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!) is what either sells this show to you in a heartbeat, or has you changing channel. I thought it looked one of the most promising comedies so far.

Friends with Better Lives – Six friends are each jealous of their friends lives, be they young parents dreaming of less responsibility, professionally successful but lonely or recently divorced but pining for the ex. Sounds like Friends with more bitterness. Arrives midseason.

Hostages – the night before she’s due to operate on the president Ellen Sanders’ (Toni Collete, United States of Tara) family is taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story). If she doesn’t kill the president, her family will die. The performances all fell a bit flat for more and although it sounds like a great concept for a film, I’m not sure how it would be drawn out to a series.

Intelligence – Gabriel (Josh Holloway, Lost) is the guinea pig and centre piece for a government agency, led by Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, CSI). He has some kind of magic technology implanted into his brain which basically gives him access to all the information ever which he presumably uses to fight crime. This looks like it could be fun, with some cool special effects and a solid cast, it’s like NCIS meets the future. Starts midseason.

The Millers – Nathan Miller (Will Arnett) is recently divorced, his dad (Beau Bridges) sees how happy he is and ditches his wife of 43 years (Margo Martindale, Justified). Mum ends up living with son, Dad with daughter. There was not a single thing in this trailer that made me smile and more than one thing that made me want to crawl under a rock.

Mom – three generations of dysfunctional women try to connect with each other. Remember yesterday’s reaction to Bradley Whitford in Trophy Wife, well there was an identical one to Allison Janney in this. Seriously, did their mortgage plans all fall through at the same time or something?! Making a comedy about recovering drug addicts and how they destroyed their family’s lives they’ve had on their families is a brave choice, and one that they should have run away screaming from.

Reckless – “a sultry legal drama set in Charleston, South Carolina, where a gorgeous Yankee litigator (Anna Wood) and a charming Southern attorney (Cam Gigendet) must hide their intense mutual attraction as a police sex scandal threatens to tear the city apart.” Genuinely that’s what the blurb in the press release says. It really does. Starts midseason.

We are Men – Chris Smith, Kal Penn (House), Terry Shalhoub (Monk) and Jerry O’Connell (Sliders) all live in the same apartment complex and are single following various divorces and dumpings. They share a common bond of seeking women and being idiots. It’s a terrible title and it accurately represents the show.

Links: CBS insist on doing those weird behind the scenes trailers which infuriate me and, particularly with the comedies, seem to be trying to show us how much fun the cast is, rather than how fun the show is. The press release and schedule summary are at the Futon Critic.