Will the 2012-13 television season be a success or a snooze? Jace Lacob and Maria Elena Fernandez offer their first impressions of 30-plus network pilots—from The Following and Nashville to The Neighbors and Zero Hour—coming to TV next season.
While some of you may have jetted off on summer vacations in the last few weeks, we’ve spent the first part of the summer wading through pilots for more than 30 new scripted shows that likely will be on the air next TV season. (Sometimes networks change their minds, and, if we’re honest, there are a few shows we’d love to see disappear altogether.)
It was a Herculean feat to make it through the pile of screeners this year—it was not overall the best pilot season—to offer our first takes on the dramas and comedies that are headed to the fall and midseason schedules of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW.
Every year, the networks present their usual takes on the familiar doctor-lawyer-cop tropes, and this year is no exception. But there are also a few bright spots: a fading country music star (played by Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton, y’all!), the crew of a nuclear sub gone rogue, a 1960s cattle rancher turned Vegas sheriff, a romantic comedy-obsessed ob-gyn, a serial killer inducting cult members via social networking, another modern-day Sherlock Holmes, and the beloved Carrie Bradshaw.
So what did we think? First, a few caveats: 1) The opinions below should be considered “first impressions” of the pilots that were made available by the broadcast networks and not reviews. 2) All pilots—from music and dialogue to casting, etc.—are subject to change, so what airs next season may, in fact, be drastically different than what was seen here. 3) We reserve the right to change our initial opinions upon seeing final review copies of these pilots—not to mention a few more episodes. 4) Not all of the midseason pilots were sent out by the networks; some, such as NBC’s Hannibal and Crossbones, to name two, haven’t even been shot yet; CBS again opted not to send out its midseason offerings; while Fox isn’t letting us see The Goodwin Games just yet.
666 Park Avenue (Sunday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: A young couple moves from the Midwest and takes up residence as the live-in managers of a luxury Manhattan apartment building, where not everything is as it seems.
Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Vanessa Williams, Dave Annabel, Rachael Taylor
He Said: Eh. While the showrunners have source material to pull from (it’s based on a novel by Gabriella Pierce), I wasn’t all that thrilled by where the show is going. O’Quinn makes a better villain when he at least seems—on the surface—to be a good guy, but his Gavin Doran is written so overtly devilish that it doesn’t charm or intrigue. He’s Fantasy Island’s Mr. Rourke but with a short temper and a fondness for contracts. The supernatural elements don’t really scare, but I will say this: it did make me nervous to step on an elevator for a day or so… but didn’t make me want to watch another episode.
She Said: I really enjoyed all the spooky fun of this. It’s genius casting to pair Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams as the married owners of a very mysterious fancy schmancy Manhattan building. So far, O’Quinn isn’t doing anything we didn’t see John Locke (Lost) do and Williams has brought her fabulous diva out for the third time, but they have a delicious spark. David Annabel and Rachael Taylor are also very believable as an in-love couple that moves in and are hired to manage the building. I wouldn’t move in to The Drake, but I’d visit.
The Family Tools (Midseason; Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: A perpetual screw-up must take over his ailing father’s handyman business.
Cast: Kyle Bornheimer, J.K. Simmons, Leah Remini, Edi Gathegi, Johnny Pemberton, Danielle Nicolet
He Said: Poor Kyle Bornheimer can’t catch a break, and this lackadaisical sitcom isn’t cutting it either. Based on a British comedy that was canceled after two seasons, The Family Tools strives for laughs but doesn’t cut it, with every joke set-up and physical gag visible from a mile away. They needed to dive deeper into the toolbox with this one.
She Said: You can’t blame Kyle Bornheimer for trying, but this just isn’t going to be the show to give him a permanent gig. There aren’t any laughs here, just a lot of predictable shtick. It’s unfortunate that Leah Remini chose this project to return to comedy.
Verdict: Tear it down.
How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) (Midseason; Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
Logline: A recent divorcée, with a daughter in tow, must move in with her kooky and sexually adventurous parents.
Cast: Sarah Chalke, Brad Garrett, Elizabeth Perkins, Orlando Jones, John Dore, Rachel Eggleston, Rebecca Delgado Smith.
He Said: As the undeclared winner of the award for the longest television show title ever, that’s really all this show has going for it. Perkins is game for just about anything, but her character here is nowhere near as complex or memorable as her Weeds portrayal. Like an unwanted houseguest, rather than charm, this show grates after even just a few minutes.
She Said: Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins sounded good to me on paper as a couple, but the writing here does not help them. As is the case with the protagonists of Malibu Country, Perkins as the mother of Sarah Chalke, the show’s star, is tough to buy. Chalke isn’t doing anything here we haven’t seen her do on Scrubs or How I Met Your Mother. Nothing special here, no laughs.
Last Resort (Thursday at 8 p.m.)
Logline: The captain of a nuclear sub, which fails to fire upon Pakistan when the crew receives an unverified military order, goes rogue and declares itself a sovereign nation at a NATO outpost.
Cast: Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Autumn Reeser, Jessy Schram, Daisy Betts, Camille de Pazzis, Daniel Lissing, Dichen Lachman, Sahr Ngaujau.
He Said: While not perfect, this pilot—from creators Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek—remains one of the strongest contenders among the bunch. I’m not crazy about the banana republic goings-on on the island, which feel a little forced, but I am intrigued by the political thriller aspect (Who ordered them to fire on Pakistan? Who is pulling their strings? How involved is the POTUS?) and the interplay between the characters, particularly between Braugher and Speedman’s captain and XO. I’ll be tuning in to see just where the series is going, as it darts between the newly sovereign nuclear nation, the families the officers left behind, and a savvy military contractor in Washington D.C.
She Said: Exciting from beginning to end, this was one of my favorite drama pilots. Braugher and Speedman have terrific chemistry. If I had to quibble with anything, the island they set up on is a bit disappointing in that it’s trying hard way too hard to be exotic and doesn’t feel real. But overall, it’s a great premise with an underlying government conspiracy that can go many places and I’m in.
Verdict: First resort.
Malibu Country (Friday at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: After a woman discovers her country music legend husband has been cheating on her, she moves her kids and her mother to California to start over.
Cast: Reba McEntire, Lily Tomlin, Sara Rue, Julietta Angelo, Justin Prentice, Jai Rodriguez, Owen Teague, Jeffrey Nordling
He Said: This feels like a throwback comedy in every sense, but the worst part had to be poor Lily Tomlin pretending to get high on marijuana lollipops and doling out stoned-sage advice. Or was it when Sara Rue fluttered in as the family’s vapid new neighbor? It’s a toss-up. Avoid altogether.
She Said: Lily Tomlin and Reba McEntire play mother and daughter, which is a hard sell, even with Tomlin’s gray wig. I just didn’t find this funny or charming at all.
Verdict: Country not-so strong.
Mistresses (Midseason/Summer 2013)
Logline: Four female friends each have their own complicated romantic situations to deal with.
Cast: Alyssa Milano, Yunjin Kim, Rochelle Aytes, Jes Macallan, Jason Winston George, Brett Tucker, Cameron Bender, Erik Stocklin.
He Said: Skip this one entirely. Based on the BBC drama of the same name, it makes little alteration to the original other than dropping the 9/11 references and updating the mobile phones that the foursome use. It feels tired and passionless, despite the presence of much skin throughout. I just don’t care about any of these characters. Naming Milano’s savvy lawyer “Savi” doesn’t help matters either. Just… ugh.
She Said: I am always up for a soap opera and what could be better in summer? But this one just doesn’t cut it for me. I am saddest for Yunjin Kim (Lost), but no one wins here. There’s a lot of melodrama, which you expect, but none of it is even remotely interesting. We’re better off watching Revenge repeats.
Verdict: Don’t leave your wives over this.
Nashville (Wednesday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: A country music legend struggles to remain relevant as she battles against a young upstart who is determined to replace her.
Cast: Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Eric Close, Powers Boothe, Sam Palladio, Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson, Robert Wisdom, Charles Esten
He Said: First off, y’all: I am not a country music fan. Second: I’m not interested in the Nashville music scene. Having said that, I completely fell in love with this fantastic and engaging pilot, one of the strongest entries of the season, from creator Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise). The highs are really high here: Connie Britton is sensational, and her portrayal of the sympathetically flawed Rayna James is flawless; Hayden Panettiere is convincingly oily; Charles Esten is charming; and I defy you not to want to instantly download Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio’s cover of a Civil Wars’ song that marks the end of the pilot. Moving into Revenge’s old timeslot on Wednesdays, Nashville is one show not to be missed.
She Said: This was a flawless pilot. Connie Britton shines brightly in this drama about an aging country music star. The story is more rich and complicated than the trailers give away without any soapy melodrama. The supporting cast is excellent, and what I love the most about it is that there are no bells and whistles. What makes it exceptional is the terrific writing and phenomenal performances.
Verdict: Country STRONG.
The Neighbors (Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.)
Logline: A family moves to the idyllic gated suburban community of Hidden Hills, New Jersey… only to discover that all of their neighbors are aliens.
Cast: Tyler Christopher, Isabella Cramp, Jami Gertz, Tim Jo, Toks Olagundoye, Simon Templeman, Lenny Venito.
He Said: Painful and painfully unfunny. Everything about this show—from the aliens taking names of celebrities to the hokey jokes—feels like it came from another planet, a dull one. It again makes me question the taste level of the comedy development team at ABC and of entertainment president Paul Lee after last year’s dreadful Work It.
She Said: What an odd show! And yes, it is definitely supposed to be quirky. But it feels like a very niche show that maybe only aliens who live in a cookie-cutter development from the 1980s might appreciate. I loved Dan Fogelman’s writing in Crazy Stupid Love, but this goes nowhere near that level. It’s great to see Jami Gertz on TV again, but not like this. Ouch.
Verdict: Don’t unpack.
Red Widow (Midseason TBA)
Logline: After her husband is murdered in the driveway of their family home, a widow must continue her husband’s role in a crime syndicate in order to protect her children.
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Lee Tergesen, Luke Goss, Rade Sherbedzija, Wil Traval, Suleka Mathew, Jaime Ray Newman, Sterling Beaumon, Jakob Salvati, Erin Moriarty, Mido Hamada
He Said: Despite the buzz emanating from the upfronts about this soapy thriller, I didn’t find it all that interesting, to be honest. Mitchell is perfectly fine as Marta, but there’s a strange juxtaposition of tones throughout the pilot, based on a Dutch format and written by Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, that I found distracting. Nor did I come away knowing quite what this show was. Is it a revenge fantasy? A cheesy redemption story? A blood-soaked thriller? Who knows.
She Said: This wasn’t one of my favorites, but it wasn’t bad. Although the premise is predictable, it wasn’t boring. I didn’t find Radha Mitchell in the lead that compelling to watch nor am I curious about where this all goes.
Verdict: No web of intrigue here.
Zero Hour (Midseason TBA)
Logline: The editor of a paranormal magazine must solve a centuries-old mystery, one that has roots in a Doomsday device coveted by the Nazis during World War II and 12 mysterious clocks, and save his kidnapped wife.
Cast: Anthony Edwards, Jacinda Barrett, Michael Nyqvist, Carmen Ejogo, Scott Michael Foster, Addison Timlin
He Said: Zzz. Zzz. Zzz. Oh, sorry. I dozed off twice while watching Zero Hour and kept having to rewind to the beginning to this tepid and snooze-inducing pilot. I spent more time wondering why Jacinda Barrett’s Laila was married to the schlubby guy Edwards was playing than I did contemplating the faux-heady mysteries of the show’s overt mythology. Everyone is reduced to an unbelievable cardboard cutout, and it’s impossible not to think that poor Michael Nyqvist is slumming it here as an Antichrist-like assassin who is searching for twelve clocks that—zzz.
She Said: What exactly is this? It wasn’t for me, despite my appreciation of Anthony Edwards and Michael Nyqvist (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) as actors. It’s a conspiracy thriller that just fails to grab—maybe because it’s so heavy. Not only does it involve the Nazis during World War II and some crazy clocks, there might also be the anti-Christ at play here. This was one of my least favorite shows.
Verdict: Terrible time.
Elementary (Thursday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: In modern day Manhattan, Sherlock Holmes solves crimes with his sober companion, Dr. Joan Watson.
Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn
He Said: While not as stylish or visually daring as its U.K. counterpart (Steven Moffat’s Sherlock), Elementary turns in a watchable and intriguing pilot, with Miller making a compelling Holmes who is perhaps slightly more accessible to the average CBS viewer than Benedict Cumberbatch’s sociopathic consulting detective on the BBC/PBS version. Coming off of a jaw-dropping turn on TNT’s Southland, Liu seems strangely inert here as Watson, though the two have nice chemistry, particularly as the tension doesn’t devolve into the realm of the sexual. Still, this should prove to be a performer for CBS, particularly if the mysteries can be amped up into real puzzles.
She Said: I went into this thinking I’d love it but I just kind of liked it. I still like the fresh take on the Sherlock story, but the pilot felt very slow and long. I think Johnny Lee Miller as a modern-day Sherlock is very good but Lucy Liu as Watson feels a bit half-hearted. Her performance on Southland far outshines this. I do think there’s potential here, and I’d tune in to see if gets stronger.
Verdict: Investigate this.
Made in Jersey (Friday at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A young New-Jersey-born lawyer competes with her wealthier colleagues at a white-shoe Manhattan law firm.
Cast: Janet Montgomery, Erin Cummings, Kyle MacLachlan, Stephanie March, Pablo Schreiber, Toni Trucks
He Said: Painful, and not just because of the screeching and overemphasized Jersey accent that Montgomery’s Martina Garretti embraces. The show desperately tries to be as clever and intelligent as fellow CBS drama The Good Wife and fails on all counts, from the vapidness of the characters to the flimsiness of the legal case. And don’t even mention Martina’s one-dimensional brawling Jersey tribe. Ugh.
She Said: This is another show that I wanted to like more than I do. My biggest problem is that I just don’t buy newcomer Janet Montgomery in this role. Her accent changes from scene to scene and she comes across as extremely overdone. The legal stuff also was not in any way engaging which is a problem for the network with the best legal drama on TV.
Verdict: Send back to the factory.
Partners (Monday at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: Two life-long best friends—one gay, one straight—work together as architects and struggle to make their romantic relationships as important as their friendship.
Cast: Michael Urie, David Krumholtz, Brandon Routh, Molly Shannon, Sophia Bush, Tracy Vilar
He Said: Creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, best known for Will & Grace, have been trying for years to get this show off the ground, and it shows: it seems hopelessly dated and trapped in the late 1990s/early 2000s, with flat jokes, tepid characters, and a scenario that’s neither daring nor inventive anymore. Watching this humorless pilot, I felt bad for all of the actors involved.
She Said: I really like Michael Urie and David Krumholtz, but I don’t think they do themselves any favors here. It’s predictable and feels old. It’s not the worst of the comedy offerings but not something to cheer about either.
Verdict: Break up.
Vegas (Tuesday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: Based on the true story of the rancher who became the “cowboy sheriff” of 1960s Las Vegas.
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jason O’Mara, Carrie-Anne Moss, Michael Chiklis, Taylor Handley, James Russo, Michael Reilly Burke, Michael O’Neill
He Said: Based on the strength of the pilot script, I had really high expectations for this pilot and while they failed to match those heights entirely, the finished pilot is itself strong. Quaid turns in a superb performance as a man straddling two time periods, trapped between the ranching yesterday and the future and modernity offered by Las Vegas. He’s surrounded by an equally talented cast, though the procedural mysteries will need to be thought-provoking on a weekly basis if the show is going to go beyond its period trappings. Still, I’ll be watching to see where it goes.
She Said: Of course, Dennis Quaid on TV is a draw, and he doesn’t disappoint. Neither does Michael Chiklis in his first meaty role since The Shield ended. The story of a real Las Vegas sheriff in the ’60s is very compelling. Well-written and well performed, this was one of my favorite dramas and could be a solid hit for CBS.
Verdict: What happens in Vegas, you should watch on your TV.
Ben & Kate (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: An uptight single mother—who works as a waitress at a bar—must deal with her hapless but well-intentioned older brother, who moves in with her to help raise her five-year-old daughter.
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Nat Faxon, Lucy Punch, Maggie Jones, Echo Kellum, Austin Stowell
He Said: Surprisingly endearing and sweet. I didn’t expect to like this pilot but was taken in by its oddball charm and the quirky cast of characters surrounding the titular siblings. Lucy Punch’s depiction of oral fixation remains a high point for pilot season, and this could develop—now that showrunners Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan have come on board—into an addictive and offbeat comedy.
She Said: Dakota Johnson and Nat Faxon are appealing and very believable as a sister and brother who start living together so that he can help her raise her 5-year-old daughter. It reminds me a little of Raising Hope in that it centers on well-intentioned but aimless people who love each other a lot. Baby Hope has a sister to hang with in the Fox comedy line-up and it feels right.
Verdict: Ben and Kate plus 2.
The Following (Midseason; Monday TBA)
Logline: An alcoholic former FBI agent is pulled back into the fold when the sadistic serial killer he caught years before embarks on a killing spree, aided by followers he indoctrinated via the Internet.
Cast: Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Natalie Zea, Shawn Ashmore, Maggie Grace, Jeananne Goossen, Nico Tortorella, Adan Canto, Valorie Curry
He Said: One of the strongest and creepiest pilot entries, this is a disturbing psychological thriller that preys on our vulnerabilities in unexpected ways. While creator Kevin Williamson is heavy-handed with certain operatic flourishes here, such as the Edgar Allen Poe obsession that Purefoy’s Joe Carroll utilizes on his victims (the painting of “Nevermore” in blood on a wall made me groan aloud), there’s enough potential within to make me want to watch another episode straightaway. Unnerving doesn’t begin to describe it.
She Said: Kevin Bacon on television! Do we need to say more? Well, it turns out we do because he’s not alone in shining in this. James Purefoy as the serial killer he’s chasing scares me to death. It’s a thriller through and through. Natalie Zea (is there a show she’s not on?) is another bonus. Fox has been looking for its new 24 for a while. I think it’s here.
Verdict: We’re joining this cult.
The Mindy Project (Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.)
Logline: A single ob/gyn attempts to juggle her personal and professional lives and undo the damage that countless romantic comedies have done to her psyche.
Cast: Mindy Kaling, Anna Camp, Ed Weeks, Dana DeLorenzo, Chris Messina, Zoe Jarmon
He Said: Charming and quirky, this is hands-down the most accomplished comedy pilot of the season, though it could do with a little fine-tuning. Kaling is at her best when she’s embracing the flaws of the title character and mining Mindy’s eccentric tendencies—shouting “racist!” at a swerving car as she drunkenly drives a bicycle before falling in a stranger’s swimming pool and tearfully confronting a chatty Barbie doll—though Camp’s character needs more to do here. Still, this will pair well with New Girl and I’ll definitely be watching.
She Said: Mindy Kaling proves she’s as smart as she is funny by creating a terrific new comedy for herself. She plays an insecure and very relatable single doctor who compares her whole life to her favorite romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally. Since the show will forever be compared to New Girl, I will say I’d rather watch Mindy any day over Jess, but Jess has a stronger supporting cast. Definitely looking forward to more.
Verdict: We would date you.
The Mob Doctor (Monday at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A female thoracic surgeon moonlights as a mob doctor, working off her ne’er-do-well brother’s debt to a local organized crime syndicate.
Cast: Jordana Spiro, Jaime Lee Kirchner, William Forsythe, Zach Gilford, James Carpinello, Jesse Lee Soffer
He Said: Yes, this pilot is just as obvious and unimaginative as its title. Despite the presence of car chases and guns, clear efforts to make this “edgy” and “action packed,” it feels tired and soft, more suited for a Lifetime made-for-television film than a weekly drama. Everyone feels spectacularly miscast here and I was left scratching my head, wondering just who would want to watch this.
She Said: This is the other new drama that involves a woman having to work with the mob to protect her family. Although I like Jordana Spiro as an actress, I don’t think this role works for her. The premise comes off as ridiculous and it’s a story that just never takes off or makes me care. Michael Rappaport serves only to annoy further.
Verdict: Do not resuscitate.
1600 Penn (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A perpetual screw-up returns to his dysfunctional clan, the First Family of the United States.
Cast: Bill Pullman, Josh Gad, Jenna Elfman, Martha MacIsaac, Andre Holland, Amara Miller
He Said: One of the sharpest comedy scripts of the year has become… an oddly flat comedy pilot. While this, with some help, could develop into a winning blend of political humor, familial banter, and oddball comedy, the pilot turns on the cuteness at the expense of being incisive. Still, I retain hope that—given its midseason berth—NBC can tweak this enough to improve on an underwhelming first showing.
She Said: They’re basically throwing everything they could think of at the White House and seeking if it sticks: a step mommy, a son who’s a mess, one pregnant daughter and one lesbian. I’ve never disliked politics less.
Verdict: Might not get a full term.
Animal Practice (Wednesday at 8 p.m.)
Logline: A misanthropic veterinarian cares more for his animal patients than he does their owners.
Cast: Justin Kirk, Bobby Lee, Kym Whitley, Tyler Labine. (Joanna Garcia will replace the original pilot’s Amy Huberman)
He Said: When the best part of a pilot is a chimpanzee doctor character named Dr. Zaius who is played by an actual chimpanzee, you know you have problems. Add to this the complete lack of chemistry between Justin Kirk and Huberman (who has seen been recast), the forced nature of the comedy, and the presence of Tyler Labine, and it’s hard to root for this sitcom, even with Kirk doing his darnedest to please.
She Said: No. (But yes to the monkey. May he get his own show.)
Verdict: Monkey don’t.
Chicago Fire (Wednesday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: The men and women of Chicago Firehouse 51’s firefighters, rescue squad, and paramedics brave danger each and every day.
Cast: Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Monica Raymund, Lauren German, David Eigenberg, Eamonn Walker, Merle Dandridge, Teri Reeves
He Said: I found absolutely nothing compelling whatsoever about this pilot. Dullsville.
She Said: Nothing is on fire here. Is it awful? No. But in a TV world where Third Watch and Rescue Me have existed, there just isn’t much to get excited about here. Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney are good, although their characters’ rivalry gets tiring. I can see procedural-leaning viewers giving it a shot.
Verdict: Where there is smoke, there is no fire.
Do No Harm (Midseason; Sunday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: A gifted neurosurgeon tries to contain his violent and maniacal alter ego, who threatens to emerge after five years and destroy the life he has built for himself.
Cast: Steven Pasquale, Alana De La Garza, Phylicia Rashad, Michael Esper, Ruta Gedmintas, Mousa Kraish.
He Said: Despite the potential of the script and the Jekyll/Hyde concept, this pilot is a dud, only because Steven Pasquale is horribly miscast here. While he’s able to somewhat pull off the straightforward doctor role, he’s unable entirely to capture the rage, charisma, and danger of the Ian Price (Hyde) persona. Without him to anchor the pilot, everything goes horribly off-kilter and the result is a muddled mess with very little in its favor.
She Said: I wanted this to be better for Steven Pasquale, whom I admire from Rescue Me. But it’s a mystery that picks up a tiny bit of intrigue as it goes along, but not enough to make me want to keep watching the series. Pasquale is not convincing when he’s in evil mode, which is the most important part of the role.
Verdict: Harm done. Say you’re sorry.
Go On (Tuesday at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A cocky sportscaster tries to regain his balance after the unexpected death of his wife, encountering support from the members of a therapy group.
Cast: Matthew Perry, Allison Miller, Tyler James Williams, Laura Benanti, Suzy Nakamura, Khary Payton, Julie White
He Said: Here’s an equation for you: Go On = Community + Dear John – humor.
She Said: Matthew Perry is doing a version of Chandler here and you don’t ever crack up, but I found it somewhat charming largely due to the supporting cast. NBC has a track record now of growing comedies creatively, so maybe this has a shot. The story attracted me. I will like it a lot more if Perry settles down and leaves Chandler at home with Monica.
Verdict: Go on? No, thanks.
Guys With Kids (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.)
Logline: Three 30-something guys—a divorced lawyer, a married computer programmer, and a sad-sack stay-at-home dad—struggle with taking care of themselves… and their children.
Cast: Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger, Anthony Anderson, Jaime-Lynn Sigler, Tempestt Bledsoe
He Said: This seems like a stale leftover from last year’s manxiety crop of comedy pilots. Nothing funny here, please move on.
She Said: The latest addition to the “Men are Idiots” TV anthology features men raising babies. Imagine that, men actually helping to rear their children. Is it the worst comedy of the season? No. The cast has some chemistry, but this is boring. (Note to Hollywood: I offer my dad up for an interview if you’re looking to meet a man who is a capable husband and father).
Infamous (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A female detective, who grew up among a wealthy clan as the maid’s daughter, must go undercover within the family to determine to killed her party girl former best friend.
Cast: Meagan Good, Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, Neil Jackson, Katherine LaNasa, Laz Alonso, Ella Rae Peck
He Said: Clearly NBC’s answer to ABC’s Revenge, this lacks the tongue-in-cheek humor of the latter as well as its ambitions. In comparison, Infamous feels shoddy and predictable, its mystery not all that engaging and its final act reveal painfully obvious. Thanks, but no thanks.
She Said: If this is NBC’s answer to Revenge, I kindly ask ABC to share the first season DVDs with their competitor. There’s no delicious fun here, no protagonist to cheer for, no beautiful rich people to envy. Dialogue such as “You have any proof, tabloid reporter?” made me cringe.
Verdict: Emily Thorne, please add this show to your cross-off list.
The New Normal (Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.)
Logline: A modern blended family is formed when a gay couple hires a surrogate mother to carry the child, only to end up with her, her eight-year-old daughter, and her bigoted grandmother joining the clan.
Cast: Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Jayson Blair, Ellen Barkin, NeNe Leakes, Bebe Wood, Georgia King
He Said: Overflowing with stock Ryan Murphy tropes, this felt oddly preachy and off-putting rather than endearing. The presence of Real Housewives of Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes is another strike against the pilot, her character strident and unrealistically rendered. Barkin plays the role of the outspoken female bigot that Murphy loves so dearly. The result is nothing extraordinary, but feels awkward and stilted.
She Said: I thought I would like this more than I did, but the preachy dialogue, “Family is family. Love is love,” got tiresome. Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha are well cast as a gay couple wanting to become parents, but the material they’re given has been done and seen before on other Ryan Murphy-produced shows.
Verdict: Not so new.
Next Caller (Midseason TBA)
Logline: An alpha male satellite radio host must share air time with a feminist blogger/podcaster.
Cast: Dane Cook, Collette Wolf, Jeffrey Tambor, Joy Osmanski, Ryan Devlin, Wole Parks
He Said: If time travel actually existed, someone would have traveled back from the future and erased Dane Cook. That said, he’s not the worst thing about this offensively awful pilot: the shrill female lead, Collette Wolf, is even worse. Look for NBC to burn this off or shelve it forever.
She Said: When you expect Dane Cook to be the worst part of a show and he’s not, there’s a problem. Getting through this half-hour mess was truly an exercise in endurance. Cook has no chemistry with Wolf, who is overdone and annoying all on her own. I say “next” indeed.
Verdict: Hang up.
Revolution (Monday at 10 p.m.)
Logline: After an unexplained incident causes all forms of energy to cease to exist, a group of survivors sets out to solve a global mystery: what caused the blackout and who was responsible?
Cast: Billy Burke, Giancarlo Esposito, Andrea Roth, Tim Guinee, David Lyons, Anna Lise Phillips, J.D. Pardo, Maria Howell, Tracy Spiradakos, Zak Orth
He Said: I’m sitting this revolution out. I found the pilot to cheesy and predictable, full of “twists” that were telegraphed minutes ahead of time and characters that I wanted to strangle. There’s an odd lack of darkness for such a dystopian concept and in its place there’s an unexpected hokey quality that’s startling. Despite the big-budget production values and Hunger Games-like motifs, this is likely this year’s Terra Nova: bombastic publicity and promotion, high production values, and empty at its core. It tries way too hard to reach for the mythology and drive of Lost and comes up lacking any real energy.
She Said: There is no revolution here in terms of creativity. Life as we know it has ended on many shows now, and this brings nothing new to the table. Its ancestors, Jericho, The Walking Dead and Falling Skies, explored this territory so much better. With the exception of Giancarlo Esposito (who needs to return to Breaking Bad as a ghost in a bad way), all of the actors phoned it in here. I don’t care about any of the characters.
Verdict: Creative blackout.
Save Me (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A suburban housewife has a near-death experience and awakens believing that she is a prophet of God, setting out to improve her life as well as those around her.
Cast: Anne Heche, Michael Landes, Alexandra Breckinridge, Heather Burns, Madison Davenport, Lamman Rucker
He Said: I’m not quite sure what to make of this oddball comedy, its unsympathetic characters, and its attempts to play with theology and self-help aphorisms. What I do know is I have zero interest in watching more.
She Said: Something happened on my way to hating this: it turned into a sort of heartwarming tale. It’s ridiculous to begin with—a woman chokes, thinks she died and becomes a messenger of God. But by the end, it seemed like there could be more to it, especially if Anne Heche steps it up and does something more than being kooky.
Verdict: Save us?
Arrow (Wednesday at 8 p.m.)
Logline: A millionaire playboy, thought to be dead after a boating accident, returns from the dead—the deserted island he’s been marooned on for years—to become a vigilante in order to save his city.
Cast: Steven Amell, Katie Cassidy, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Salmon, Willa Holland, David Ramsey, Susanna Thompson
He Said: It’s better than most CW shows, but that sounds a little bit like damning with faint praise. Still, the stuntwork and fighting sequences are top-notch but the show’s attempts to inject levity—such as Oliver Queen’s immature BFF—backfire spectacularly. But some obvious reveals rob the pilot of any real suspense or tension, something they’ll have to resolve before the show becomes a formulaic takedown per week.
She Said: It’s a very dark superhero story, and it just never grabbed me. Steven Amell as the titular character doesn’t do anything for me. His performance feels very one-note and I just didn’t care.
Verdict: Not quite a bullseye.
Beauty and the Beast (Thursday at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A police detective encounters a genetically engineered Afghanistan war vet who can change into a beastly creature capable of speed and strength.
Cast: Kristin Kreuk, Jay Ryan, Austin Basis, Bryan White, Max Brown, Nicole Gale Anderson, Nina Lisandrello
He Said: Laughably bad. So loosely based on CBS’ 1980s Beauty and the Beast that it may as well have been based on a whispered plotline during a game of telephone, this update is beastly, featuring what might be the very worst portrayal of NYPD detectives ever to be put on film. There are drinking games with more substance.
She Said: This loose adaptation of the old CBS series doesn’t disappoint. Kristin Kreuk, a familiar face to CW viewers from Smallville, is strong as the lead beauty and Jay Ryan works well as the beast. The story of their connection is interesting and seems to be just the beginning of what could be a compelling mystery.
Verdict: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The Carrie Diaries (Midseason; Monday at 9 p.m.)
Logline: Reeling from the death of her mother, a young Carrie Bradshaw, then a suburban high schooler, gets her first taste of Manhattan.
Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Austin Butler, Brendan Dooling, Freema Agyeman, Stefania Owen, Katie Findlay, Ellen Wong, Matt Letscher, Chloe Bridges
He Said: I had very low expectations for this pilot, but I have to say that it wasn’t all that bad in the end. AnnaSophia Robb has just the right amount of wide-eyed charm and innocence to pull off the self-awareness of Carrie Bradshaw, there is a sense of loss and wonder at play, and the soundtrack is 80s-tastic. Plus, look: it’s The Killing’s Rosie Larsen (Katie Findlay), alive!
She Said: If you love Carrie Bradshaw, you will probably love this. Set in the 80s when the Sex and the City heroine was in her teens, it gives you all the backstory you ever wanted about Carrie and more. AnnaSophia Robb does our favorite shoe shopper justice as a teenager trying to find herself after her mother’s death. The clothes and the music are a bonus. I really enjoyed it.
Verdict: Dear Diary: The 80s are back.
Cult (Midseason TBA)
Logline: A cult favorite show, about a dangerous cult leader, may be responsible for the deaths and disappearances of several of its viewers, including the brother of a journalist/blogger who finds himself pulled into the orbit of the show.
Cast: Matthew Davis, Jessica Lucas, Alona Tal, Robert Knepper
He Said: Oh, Cult. You are trying way too hard to grab onto the quicksilver success of Lost’s mythology and the show-within-a-show format feels overwrought and unbelievable: after nine episodes on the air, would the CW’s Cult really engender its own cult of followers who engage in LARPing, conspiracy theory sessions, and the like? Painful acting (both in the framework narrative and in the intentionally-cheesy show-within-a-show), plodding writing, and formulaic characters do not help the tediousness of the pilot.
She Said: Oh my God, Tea Bag is back. OK, he’s not Tea Bag and he’s playing it very differently than he did on Prison Break, but Robert Knepper is scary good as an actor playing a cult leader on TV. Or is he? That’s just one of the many unexpected twists and turns here. If the writers can keep the intrigue going, the CW could have something here.
Verdict: Join this cult if you dare (and can stay awake).
Emily Owens, M.D. (Tuesday at 9 p.m.)
Logline: A nerdy and lovelorn medical intern discovers that working at a hospital is just like being in high school all over again.
Cast: Mamie Gummer, Justin Hartley, Michael Rady, Jack Coleman, Kelly J. McCreary, Aja Naomi King, Necar Zadegan
He Said: While it’s not as terrible as many pilots this season, it is terribly obvious, and the mawkishness of some of the more on the nose sequences (such as the bookended scenes with a haughty high schooler) are squirm inducing and there’s a preciousness to some of it that’s off-putting. Mamie Gummer, so fantastic on The Good Wife, is perfectly fine as the title character and commits to the awkwardness of Emily, but one can’t shake the feeling that she’s slumming it here.
She Said: Young women will probably love Mamie Gummer as a neurotic medical resident just embarking on the career she’s been preparing for her entire life. It’s not completely fresh but it’s got heart. Although I’m not the target audience for this, I found myself rooting for Emily.
Verdict: Teens, fill your prescription.