Posts Tagged ‘ wayward pines ’

2014-15 Pilot Roundup

I’ve had something of a blitz catching up on pilots from the 2014-15 season, just slightly in advance of the influx of 2015-16 pilots! Fortunately in the UK (I guess) there’s a bit of delay though so there should be a bit of a window.

iZombie
izombieI’d been looking forward to this show from the creators of Veronica Mars, one of my favourite shows, but it hasn’t found a UK broadcaster yet. I chased up the pilot episode through slightly dubious sources just so that I could include it in my end of year round up. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s clearly a relation to Veronica Mars, sharing the same style of sarcastic voiceover and strong yet ‘human’ young woman trying to find her place. The pilot had to deliver a lot of exposition which didn’t always feel entirely natural, and I’m not sure whether having the character find peace with her situation so quickly was brilliant or limiting, but I’m pretty optimistic that the rest of the series will settle down and be thoroughly entertaining. I did like the graphical references back to the comic source as well, it gave it a nice design theme. iZombie has been renewed for a second season in the US on the CW where it fits nicely alongside the superheroes and monsters of the rest of the schedule, so here’s hoping a UK broadcaster (or Netflix or Amazon) picks it up.

Constantine
constantineI know this is based on a long running popular comic book and there’s already been a film adaption, but I’ve somehow managed to pretty much avoid it. The pilot does an efficient job setting up the mythos and the characters powering through with just enough style and energy, intrigue and charm to hold my attention. The only problem really was that even without having seen any of the previous iterations, it all felt a bit ‘been there done that’, it felt a lot like Supernatural season 5 without the same heart and soul. I think it’s probably watchable and might have gone somewhere interesting, but it was not renewed for a second season. You can watch it in the UK on Amazon instant video.

State of Affairs
state_of_affairsI actually like Katherine Heigl, I know she gets a lot of stick but I generally enjoy her performances, and I enjoyed bits of her performance here. The problem wasn’t her, it was the writing which seemed to have no grounding in reality. Basing a series on the writing of the CIA’s Daily Briefing for the President is an interesting one, but not when professionalism gets swallowed up by petty personal politics. Heigl’s character is painted as a rogue in the CIA but close personal friend of the president, while those around her either blindly follow her or are completely incompetent and/or corrupt. If that’s the way the top levels of the CIA work, then the world really is doomed. I found Heigl quite watchable, particularly in the lighter moments and Alfre Woodard as the President is great, but overall it came across as dumb with delusions of thriller. It was cancelled after the thirteen episode first season.

Daredevil
daredevilWhat everyone is saying at the moment is “there just aren’t enough comic book superheroes on the big and small screen”. This one set in the main Marvel cinematic universe I think (it references the events of The Avengers) but aires on Netflix so is independent of SHIELD. That’s about as interesting as it gets. Daredevil is a standard non-super super hero, guy in a costume with some kind of higher mission. Basically Batman. The USP here is that Daredevil is blind and he’s able to fight incredibly well because… well I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I mean, the whole thing was perfectly fine, but there just wasn’t anything particularly great about it. It wasn’t as broody and dark as Batman, but it was nowhere near as smart or funny as Iron Man. There were no gadgets, no super powers, no whizzy special effects. Just some fighting sequences that really did nothing for me. In a crowded genre, Daredevil makes no impression. Season 1 is available on Netflix and season 2 will arrive next year sometime.

Sense8
When you attach names like the Wachowskis and J Michael Straczynski to a show there are two ways things can go. Either you’re hoping for The Matrix meets Babylon 5 or you’re scared of Cloud Atlas meets Crusade. For me, it was more the latter. The pilot was a complete mess, massively over packed with characters most of whom got very little time and therefore very little depth. Most of the limited time available in the pilot was in fact completely wasted in attempting to build tension around the mystery of what was going on and how these threads were connected, but the pilot just dawdles its way towards revealing… well, absolutely nothing. That might just about work if you literally knew NOTHING about the show going in and don’t mind building the tension, but if you’ve read even the one sentence description of the show (and why would you be watching otherwise?) then all the pilot does is tell you “something odd is going on with several seemingly unconnected people”. Multiple times I found myself shouting at the screen “just get on with it!” (not least at the world’s slowest burglars). Also the choice to have all the characters speak in English when they’re spread around the world was cowardly, lazy and makes me think that the writers have little faith in their audience’s intellectual capacity if they think we can’t even manage subtitles. Oh and there was the usual unnecessarily gratuitous sex scene that did nothing other than say “woohoo, we’re not on network, we can show whatever we want, look boobies!”. Really disappointing. Mind you, my housemates really loved it and it’s been renewed for a second season on Netflix, so what do I know?

How to Get Away with Murder
howtogetawayI’m usually a big fan of Shonda Rhimes, but this one just didn’t grab me. In Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes created a set-up, characters and relationships all bigger than reality, full of complexity and shades of grey, occasionally ridiculous but generally somewhere you want to spend more time. But in How to Get Away with Murder I found all the characters irritating and most of the storyline elements tired and predictable. The trick of showing a key development in the storyline and then jumping back in time to show how they got there is potentially interesting, but also a bit risky. In this case it just sort of made me roll my eyes a bit at the thought of spending any significant amount of time watching the inevitable play out over who-knows-how-many episodes. Maybe some subtlety will emerge in future episodes, and things will go in unexpected directions, but the pilot certainly didn’t leave me wanting more. The series has however been picked up for a second season and will be showing on Universal Channel.

Bloodlines
Another Netflix original series, another show that shows you how things are going to end and then flashes back, this time with the addition of a pretentious voice over. It’s about a family in Florida, four grown siblings and their parents all of whom have complicated relationships on top of their own issues. It reminded me most of Brothers and Sisters, although it lacks most of the lightness and a good chunk of the heart. I wasn’t really enjoying it that much by about half way through, but towards the end of the pilot I got more into it as they started to set up the stories. Unlike How to Get Away with Murder I was more intrigued by the future that we’re shown and wondering how they’d get there. I may actually watch a few more episodes of this, not least because I do rather love Kyle Chandler. Bloodlines is available on Netflix and has been renewed for a second season.

Wayward Pines
wayward_pinesJust like the Wachowskis and JMS, a series by M Night Shymalan comes with some baggage attached, is it going to be Sixth Sense or is it going to be Lady in the Water? Wayward Pines has a classic set up – a stranger arrives in an inescapable town full of seemingly happy shiny people. Why are they trapped? Who is controlling the town? Who is part of it, and who is just pretending? It’s a rather by the numbers set-up and it’s slightly lacking in charismatic characters. It is very solidly put together and sticks quite close to the classics, but that means if it’s meant to be surprising, it utterly fails. There is some element of mystery to it, I do want to know what is going on and now that the exposition of the set-up is out of the way, the rest of the series could do something interesting, but it might be a slow burn. Mind you it’s only a ten episode mini-series so it doesn’t have that much time to mess about and will actually come to a managed end, so I may well watch it through. It’s available on Amazon Prime.

Empire
empireThree very different brothers are put in competition to take over their father’s hip hop music empire, and things are further complicated by their mother finally getting out of prison and re-entering their lives after 17 years. It’s sort of like Nashville meets the Sopranos. I’ve no real interest in the type of music they’re making, but that’s part of the appeal I guess. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this show, but I found myself really drawn in. I think that’s because fundamentally when you break the show and characters down it’s a pretty traditional formula. While that means it’s not exactly original (one of the characters even references the fact it’s basically King Lear) those tropes are still used because they work well, and if you add shiny production values and a talented cast, it’s probably going to work, at least for a while. The pilot certainly worked on me and I’ll try to catch up on the series. Empire has had a bundle of critical acclaim and was renewed for a second season.

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The Upfronts 2014: Fox

Fox network logoFox’s schedules are dominated by loads of non-scripted shows like American Idol which doesn’t leave much space for ‘proper’ TV. Even so, I only watch two shows from Fox, and one of them they cancelled.

What’s dead?
Not a good year for new shows on Fox (when is it ever?) as they cancelled six out of seven! Almost Human had great potential, but things got off to a very poor start and even though reviews seem to have got better, the damage was done. Rake, a legal comedy-drama bounced around the schedule with ratings that declined about as close to zero as you’re likely to get on Fox. Dads, Surviving Jack and Enlisted were all sitcoms with horrible ratings and only Enlisted got anything in the way of positive critical responses. The only non-new show that was cancelled was Raising Hope which made it to four seasons, but solid reviews couldn’t overcome low ratings.

What’s Survived?
bonesBones plods into its 10th season, still getting significant ratings despite (imho) failing to do anything new or interesting with its stories or characters for quite some time now. Glee will return for a 6th and final season (and a short one, starting midseason) with apparently a focus on the original character now in New York. If they’d done that when people started graduating, they might not have floundered so badly in the first place. Sleepy Hollow and The Following both return for a third season, both entertaining and slightly ridiculous, ironically it’s not the one about the Headless Horseman that’s the most ridiculous. The Mindy Project and The New Girl are renewed for seasons 3 and 4 respectively. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the only freshman show still standing at the end of the year.

Fox is also the home of animation though and they’re mostly returning – The Simpsons (for season 26), Family Guy (for season 13), and Bob’s Burgers (for season 6); American Dad is renewed for season 11 but will relocate to TBS.

What’s On This Summer?
24: Live Another Day (trailer): After a 4 year gap, 24 is back for a 12 episode mini-series this summer. Yes, 24 is back for 12 episodes. I don’t understand that either. Still, it’s set in London, some of the usual characters are back (of the small number that didn’t end up dead) but I never made it beyond the second episode of the first series before labelling it as too stupid even for me and giving up.

Gang Related (trailer): anti-gang police officer was raised in gangs. Conflict abounds. It reminded me I should really get round to watching The Wire.

What’s New?
Gotham (trailer): The story of Commissioner Gordon when he was just Detective Gordon, when Bruce Wayne is a newly orphaned 12 year old and all the comic book villains are just getting started. If they can pull this off it could be really spectacular, the trailer certainly looks impressive and I’m nervously looking forward to this.

Backstrom (trailer, midseason): Following a long trend of shows named after quirky cops with odd names, this is a comedy drama about a drunk, obnoxious and frustratingly good detective and his misfit team. Same old, same old… but Rainn Wilson is a charismatic lead and I actually kind of liked the trailer.

Wayward Pines (trailer, midseason): A secret service agent is hunting for two of his colleagues in the backend of nowhere when he crashes his car. He wakes up in somewhere that’s Twin Peaks, Stepford and the Truman Show all rolled into one horrific and bizarre place. The cast on this is stunning (Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Toby Jones) and it could be fantastic, but it is also produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and if he struggles to hold plots together over films, imagine the carnage he can inflict on a television series!

Red Band Society (no trailer): Set in the children’s ward of a hospital with the long term teenage patients and their doctors and nurses. It seems like this has the potential to slump into a angst ridden teenage melodrama or a daytime tv movie as they “confront questions of life and death which no one at that age should have to face, a kinship based on these shared experiences is created”. Either way this sounds like a really weird show for Fox.

Gracepoint (trailer): Or as we will come to know it “Broadchurch: The Americans Screw it Up”. David Tennant is crossing the pond for it, with a passable American accent, but nothing in the trailer made me not miss Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker. In fact nothing in the trailer made me want to do anything other than watch Broadchurch again. Apparently they’re going to change the ending so it will be different to Broadchurch, but everything in the trailer looked and sounded familiar to me.

Empire (trailer, midseason): The king of hip-hop is dying and his three sons and ex-wife immediately start vying for his company. I have a horrible feeling that this show will go the way of things like Friday Night Lights and Walking Dead, dismissed because people have no interest in the subject matter, while those who actually watch will find that it’s about more than just hip-hop, football or zombies and is actually a very well written, produced and acted character study. At least that’s what the trailer seems to show… it could just be about hip-hop.

Hieroglyph (trailer, midseason): From the writers of Clash of the Titans and Pacific Rim isn’t necessarily something to boast about. And they’re certainly not the names I would want to see associated with something that looks and sounds like an attempt to make Game of Thrones in ancient Egypt. It looks terrible, and not in a funny way.

Utopia (trailer): This isn’t scripted, so I wouldn’t normally include it, but I saw the trailer by accident and had to share it because it’s so jaw droppingly bad I assumed it was a spoof. Just watch it, words can’t prepare you.

Mulaney (trailer) – John Mulaney (never a good sign when the you see the same name as writer, lead actor, character name AND title) is a bloke who does stand-up, lives with idiots and works for Martin Short. That really seems to be about it. The stand-up was passably amusing (although each joke was really laboured) but the rest of it was hideous.

The Last Man on Earth (trailer, midseason): The plot is in the title, Phil Miller is the last man on Earth. This might actually be amusing and interesting if it were a series of 3 minute clips, but I was getting a bit bored by the end of the 4 minute trailer. So I figure we’ll either get as bored of Miller’s exclusive company as he is, or they’ll chicken out and introduce other characters, thereby breaking the show.

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.

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