Catching up on pilot reviews

As it comes to the end of the televisual year, I realised there were a fair few pilots that I’d not written reviews for. The ones I’ve managed to catch up on in the last couple of weeks all have one thing in common – all the shows have been cancelled. So really, there’s no winning here, either they’re rubbish and no fun to watch, or they’re great but doomed, so sad to watch. Fortunately, most of them ended up in the former category, so the only loss was my time.

666 Park Avenue666parkavenue
A young couple move into a luxurious New York apartment building as the new resident managers. But the building’s owners have some creepy hold over the tenants, manipulating them to do their will and gifting them with supernatural rewards in return.
This felt rather like ‘American Horror Story Lite’, trying to play up the creepy elements, but only really succeeding in coming across as rather camp and cheesy. The plot also looked as if it were going to play out rather like a Supernatural episode each week (or stretched over multiple weeks), which made it rather predictable and tired for anyone who’s been watching that series for the last 8 years. The cast is likeable and high name enough – with Terry O’Quinn (Lost) and Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty) hamming it up and Dave Annable (Brothers and Sisters) and Rachael Taylor (Um.. Charlie’s Angels?) playing it straight. It’s not terrible, and I might actually have given it a few more episodes as a change from ‘yet another procedural’, but it was cancelled after 7 episodes, by which time its ratings had dropped from 9 million to 5 million viewers (wikipedia).

cultIt’s a show in a show! The television show Cult has a rabid following of fans, and some of them seem to be investing way too much in the show, looking for mysteries and conspiracies. But when weird stuff starts happening in real life is it just constructed paranoia, or is the show’s mysterious creator actually up to something.
The concept is certainly original and intriguing, but I can’t quite decide whether this show was too smart for its own good, or was just a thin veneer of cool over a shallow emptiness. Every line of dialogue is doom laden, and every scene is so packed full of potential clues that you could easily follow the crazy fans down the rabbit hole, but I’ve got no confidence you’d find anything there. I do wonder how many viewers it lost within the first three minutes when it started with an extended scene from the show within the show, distinguishable from reality (or at least the next level of reality up) mostly by its stunningly poor production values.
I suspect Cult fell between two stands, it wasn’t good enough to obsess over and it was too detailed to just watch casually. While I was intrigued by the idea, I didn’t really enjoy watching the episode. I’m not sure whether I would have stuck it out if it hadn’t been cancelled, but it never mustered more than 860,000 viewers, which dropped to just over 500,000 by episode 6 (wikipedia), which is terrible even for The CW, so I don’t have to make that decision .

Red Widow
redwidowMarta seems like a nice lady. Unfortunately for her, her kids have problems, her father is a Russian mobster and her husband is a drug runner who’s just got caught up in a really bad deal. The title kind of gives away the fact that things aren’t going to go well for hubby, and before you know it, Marta’s caught up in the life she never wanted to be part of.
I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed the pilot. The cast are all interesting to watch, no one too familiar but no one too inexperienced either, all playing their roles with an unexpected depth and subtlety. The family dynamics all have a lot of potential as well, the shared secrets that no one talks about and the bubbling anger from the more innocent parties that they’ve been dragged into this situation. The plot I’m less sure about, it plays a little too close to Weeds or Breaking Bad, and there’s that familiar sense of dread that everything is only ever going to get worse, making it hard to want to watch. It seems this show was a bit doomed from the start, it debuted at an odd time of the year and only 8 episodes were commissioned. The ratings dropped off pretty fast and it wasn’t so much cancelled as just quietly put down (wikipedia). If it managed to avoid becoming too depressing, this might actually have been interesting.

Zero Hour
zerohourI have to be honest and confess that I didn’t watch this all the way through. I was continually interrupted while watching it, and when it came to restart for the third time I just couldn’t face it. This show was terrible! It opens with a flashback to Nazi Germany, where some extremely cheap actors deliver doom laden dialogue in a cheap period setting. Then we jump forward to present day and after a quick (although it felt interminable) scene showing us how very much in love Mark Green (sorry, Hank Galliston played by Anthony Edwards who deserves so much better since he left ER) with his wife we’re launched into a DaVinci Code esque romp with kidnappings, over-the-top villains, be-suited FBI, conspiracy theories and a deeply irritating ticking clock motif. It’s just bad. The plot is uninteresting and unoriginal, the script is terrible and most of the acting is phoned in. The idea of sitting through the pilot, let alone a whole series filled me with apathy. The American viewers agreed, it was cancelled after just three episodes and apparently holds the record “lowest rated in-season debut for a scripted show ever on [ABC]” (wikipedia).

The Mob Doctor
mobdoctorGrace is a kick-ass surgeon who owes a debt to the mob.
It’s not a particularly complicated set-up and it’s not a particularly complicated show. Neither is it a particularly well put together one, the only real depth to either the characters or plot are the holes in them and while it wasn’t offensively awful or anything, it just felt very constructed and soul-less. It may have got better, but there really wasn’t anything in the pilot that made me want to watch more of it and apparently the rest of the audience felt the same. It debuted with mediocre ratings, lost about a third of them by the second episode was cancelled by the eighth (wikipedia).

Made in Jersey
madeinjerseyMartina Garretti is a a ‘normal’ girl from New Jersey, the first of her family to go to college and she’s made it to a top flight New York law firm where she confounds everyone’s expectations.
It’s a pretty tired concept, but then the reason it’s so familiar is that it does actually work, everyone loves routing for an underdog and there’s immense satisfaction in not only seeing her succeed, but also in seeing those around her supporting and respecting her, even those who were initially prejudiced against her. Unfortunately the extremes she contends with are rather overplayed, the New Jersey-ness of her family was too shriek and big haired, and the bitchiness of her snobby female colleague was a bit tiresome. But in between the two extremes are some potentially more nuanced and fun characters. I was all prepared to roll my eyes at this, but I found myself really quite charmed by it, particularly by lead Janet Montgomery. The plot isn’t up to the quality of The Good Wife, but there was something really pleasing about seeing a lawyer adjusting her own clothes rather than just turning up in knock out suits. Sadly though it was the season record holder for least number of episodes, cancelled after just 2 (wikipedia).

The Upfronts 2012 – ABC

The halfway mark of the Upfronts sees ABC announcing its new line up. Housewives swap for Mistresses, Shonda Rhimes continues to rule and I think a submarine has found itself on the wrong network.

What’s out
Just like House for Fox, ABC retired one of the shows that’s defined its character for a long time – Desperate Housewives. I gave up on the series after only a couple of seasons and from what I’ve heard the quality continued to gradually die away, so no one was that devastated when it drew to a close. Sadly for ABC they don’t really have much going on to replace it, GCB seemed to be trying to find the same magic and I didn’t hate the pilot as much as I wanted to, but the ratings just didn’t work out for it.

Another freshman show that failed to take off was Pan Am (pun intended) – “all a bit Barbie and Ken, pretty and plastic, all having their little melodramas with perfect hair.” Although at least it was more watchable than the utterly dire Charlie’s Angels. The River was a horror/mystery thing that I haven’t actually watched the pilot of yet and saw almost no critical comment on. Even that though is better than Missing which I’d never even heard of until I saw it on the cancelled list. ABC did manage to win the prize for most offensively awful comedy with Work It which was not so much cancelled as obliterated to the atomic level.

What’s Back
While ABC might be losing the housewives they’ve still got plenty of cheesy emotional melodrama for their schedules, with Grey’s Anatomy (which I can’t help loving), Private Practice (which I avoided getting hooked on), Revenge (which I didn’t like at all) and Once Upon a Time (which I liked the pilot of but haven’t got round to watching further). Easy going procedurals Body of Proof and Castle are also renewed alongside the new Shonda Rhimes series Scandal (which has a pretty good pilot, although I haven’t reviewed it here yet).

Freshman comedies Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Suburgatory and Last Man Standing are all renewed alongside The Middle, Modern Family and Happy Endings. Cougar Town meanwhile managed to be both cancelled and renewed – it will air on cable channel TBS instead.

What’s New
666 Park Avenue – a nice couple move into an apartment building that may be built on the Hellmouth, or some such. Terry O’Quinn (Lost) stars which is always a good start and it looks deliciously creepy.

The Family Tools (mid season) – the least handy son in history returns to town to take over the family handyman business, hilarity with nail guns ensues. What is Adam Arkin doing in this crap?

How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life (midseason) – Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) moves back in with her parents, who are sort of horrific. I chuckled. I kind of hate myself but I did chuckle. What’s with the ridiculously long title though?!

Last Resort – A US nuclear submarine goes rogue, or was it the US government that went rogue and the submarine actually stayed true? I’m really not sure whether this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen or the most intriguing. It’s created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Shield) though so it’s got a good pedigree.

Malibu Country – three generations of Tennessee women head to California and the middle one tries to launch a country music career. it’s hard to get past how awful the narration and the laughter track are on this, but if you fight through it you’ll eventually uncover something desperately unfunny.

Nashville – the cut-throat Country Music business. Nothing in the description appeals to me but the trailer really works, Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Hayden Panettier (Heroes) have a great spark and at least it’s something different.

The Neighbours – a family moves to the suburbs and turns out the neighbours are not just quirky, they’re also aliens. I don’t mind the aliens bit, it’s the quirky I couldn’t stand.

Zero Hour – Life’s gone downhill for Anthony Edwards, he used to be Mark Greene, hero of the ER now he’s stuck in this rubbish. it’s like Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code, there’s Nazis and conspiracies and secrets and clocks and a lot of running around and peering at things. It looks terrible!

Mistresses – having just dispatched of a gaggle of desperate housewives, the next step I guess is desperate mistresses. There’s only a poor quality trailer which didn’t do a very good job of establishing characters but it seems to be a bunch of people cheating on their spouses. That doesn’t really chime with the ‘inspiring tale of life and love’ type thing the music and voiceover is telling me about.

Red Widow – like NBC’s The Mob Doctor this is another story of a woman being pulled into a ‘family business’ that she doesn’t want to be in. Being ABC though, there’s a lot more sobbing. I was just left completely meh from the trailer (which again is poor quality, because ABC region lock their trailers).

The Futon Critic
ABC’s website
The Guardian (I promise I wrote all the above before reading this, we’re so in synch it’s a bit scary!