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.

intelligenceIntelligence
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

rakeRake
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.

crisisCrisis
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.

legendsLegends
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 – Fox

Fox network logoUpfront week has rolled around surprisingly quickly this year. Over the span of just four days the five major US network channels will introduce their schedules for the 2013-14 season, delivering last rights to those that have failed to bring in the ratings, offering another year to the select few and introducing those that are lucky enough to win a coveted new slot.

First up, Fox. Much of their schedule is dominated by reality shows (American Idol and X-Factor mostly) which I don’t even mention, so they have less stuff than CBS, NBC and ABC.

What’s out
fringeJust four comedy/drama cancellations from Fox this year, which is joint lowest with CW. Fringe held out longer than anyone expected and came to a very well managed end, so I can’t say I’m that sad to see it go, particularly as the last season was not its strongest. Keifer Sutherland’s Touch made it to a second season, but never seemed to get much attention either from the ratings or critics. The Mob Doctor and Ben and Kate were freshman series that never really got off the ground, and while the latter received some critical praise, it doesn’t look like anyone will really miss either of them.

What’s returning
bonesMost of Fox’s renewals are comedies (New Girl, The Mindy Project, Raising Hope and Glee) or animations (The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad). The only drama renewals are Bones and new show The Following (all be it mid-season). It would seem in a slightly desperate attempt to add some established drama to its schedules they’ve taken the rather bizarre route in renewing 24 for some sort of special run. I never liked the original, so am not particularly fussed, but it certainly drew the attention of the media.

What’s new
Almost Human – Set in 2048, police officers are partnered with ‘synthetics’. Detective Kennex (Karl Urban, Star Trek) is about as unstable a human as you get and Dorian (Michael Ealy, Sleeper Cell) is about as unstable an android as you get. The sci-fi elements look interesting and impressive and the unlikely buddy cop motif is generally a pretty reliable way to drive story. The cast is full of familiar names (Lili Taylor of Six Feet Under, Mackenzie Crook of Pirates of the Caribbean, Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights and Michael Irby of The Unit and has JJ. Abrams (Star Trek, Fringe, Lost) as creator and Exec Producer, so expectations are high, but the trailer left me intrigued.

Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane comes back from a couple of hundred years ago, comes back from the dead to continue his search for the headless horseman. Part supernatural DaVinci Code thriller and part buddy cop action comedy this could be both fun and interesting, although it’s best to ignore the ridiculous voice over on the trailer.

Dads – I’m not sure I’ve ever really found anything by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) funny, and this trailer is no different. Seth Green (Oz from Buffy, And other stuff) and Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother from Friends, and other stuff) are best friends both of who’s fathers decide to come live with them. Chaos ensues. It wasn’t intolerable, I just didn’t find it funny enough.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – This however was intolerable. A comedy about a dysfunctional New York detective squad. Andre Braugher used to be in Homicide: Life on the Street and now he’s in this?!

Enlisted – Geoff Stults (The Finder), returns home from war and is put in charge of turning a bunch of incompetent soldiers, including his two brothers, into something less embarrassing. I hated this from the second the music started.

Us & Them – Gavin and Stacey (yes, like the UK series) seem a nice enough couple who come from New York and Pennsylvania respectively, it’s just that they’re surrounded by well meaning but slightly horrific friends and family. Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls!) and Jason Ritter (Parenthood) are both charismatic and sort of lovely in the trailer, but the others may be unbearable. I didn’t hate it though.

Surviving Jack – based on Justin Halpern’s book I Suck at Girls, a comedy set in 90s California about a no-nonsense semi-absent father (Christopher Meloni, Law and Order: SVU) who’s suddenly forced to be the full time parent to a pair of teenagers. I chuckled a couple of times at the trailer, but also rolled my eyes a couple of times, so it averages out to a ‘meh’. Starts midseason.

Rake – a fairly standard set up, the central character is a complete disaster in his personal life but a pretty good lawyer. It’s the kind of show that lives and dies with its star, and in Greg Kinnear they have someone who is instantly likeable and left me feeling optimistic for the show. Starts midseason.

Gang Related – Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez, The Wire) is on the LA Gang Task Force but also has ties to a local gang and is torn back and forth between the two. The trailer looks very impressive, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve seen this film several times before and at best have come away impressed, but not that interested.

Wayward Pines – Wayward Pines is an idyllically perfect American town, but you can never leave. Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a Secret Service Agent sent to the town to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. But he soon finds himself trapped as well. The idea sounds intriguing, but with the Press Release laying the similarity to Twin Peaks on a little too much, and the dubious talents of M. Night Shyamalan attached, there’s the potential for this to go very wrong. Starts midseason, no trailer yet.

Murder Police – animated comedy about a group of inept, corrupt and lazy police officers. Sounds like the animated equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I’m even less enthusiastic about this than I am about that. Midseason

Links
Trailers collated by The TV Addict and TV Line and schedule summaries from The Futon Critic.