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.

Pilot Review: Nikita

The Division is a training ground for assassins and spies run by some organisation which may or may not be connected to the US government. Nikita was one of their operatives, she escaped, and now wants to destroy them.

I haven’t seen any of the previous versions of this story, not the 1990 film, 1993 remake or the 1997-2001 TV series. But, it still all feels painfully familiar thanks to the half dozen episodes of Alias I’ve seen.

The pilot is pretty slick, all shiny sets, fancy clothes, gadgets, weaponry and plots. Personally I prefer the Burn Notice style of spying – Macgyvering what you can find and being a bit more creative with a corresponding lack of polish from behind the scenes as well. Nikita just felt like any other spy show or film that’s ever been out there – big budget, ultra shiny and extremely smug.

Looked at in isolation, there’s some interesting ideas being set up. While the characters as presented in the pilot aren’t that exciting, there are a couple of relationships that have potential, playing about with the tried and tested spy issues of who’s a single agent, who’s a double and who’s just all over the shop and only really in it for themselves. I’m always encouraged when characters seem to have actual strengths and weaknesses and that’s acknowledged and appreciated by the other characters around them, it makes for actual realistic team dynamics.

One of the problems I had with the show however is that Nikita herself was NOT interesting, and was presented as a bit of a superhero. She’s beautiful (45 minutes and they managed to get her in her underwear, a bikini AND an evening dress – subtle guys, really subtle), smart, fast, strong and scary. She’s also got that whole emotionally shut down “I was deeply in love but then he died, and now my heart is stone” thing going on, which makes her somewhat tricky to actually connect with.

I guess my issue with this show is that I’ve only seen half a dozen episodes of Alias and therefore couldn’t really come up with a reason of why I should watch Nikita rather than just working my way through the dvds of that. Maybe if I’d not seen any Alias, I wouldn’t have made the connection, or if I’d seen all of Alias, I would be looking for more of the same. But as it stands, I can’t think of a reason to take a chance that this show will be any good (or even last long enough to resolve its storylines) when I know there’s a highly recommended complete series alternative out there.

Living will be showing Nikita in the UK, starting in October

TVSquad – “when it comes to espionage stories or action-adventure in general, originality isn’t as crucial as a good execution of the basics, and in that regard, the first hour of ‘Nikita’ delivers.”
CliqueClack – “While I enjoyed the good parts, I do see where the acting, writing, and directing need more development.”

Links: wikipedia, imdb,

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