Pilots, twins, bunnies and Van Gogh

Tim Earle watched all of the pilots this season, so you don't have to. This is what he found.

A deeply bitter look at 2011’s fall pilot season so far

So, as a heads up, they’re all bad. Yup. If that’s all you wanted to know, you can stop reading, go back to watching Archer and check in next fall. But, if you’d like an in depth review of all the ways they suck, a rating of how much each one sucks compared to the others, then go on. But, remember, you’re better off just watching Breaking Bad and ignoring the lot of them.

How much it sucked: 10
I’m glad we started the fall season with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s scrunchy little face, her inability to form a cohesive unique character, her sad attempts at expressing complex emotions, her cringe-worthy line delivery. I’m glad we started off with some of the least convincing special effects I’ve seen on TV (and simple ones too, like being on a boat). I’m actually happy this premiered first because it managed to set the bar so low that the rest of the pilots this season actually seemed decent by comparison. Honestly, I wish it were just Gellar’s horrid acting that ruined this perfectly solid concept. But alas, it was actually every single aspect of the show AND Gellar’s horrid acting.

How much it sucked: 4
There isn’t a whole lot wrong with UP ALL NIGHT, to be honest. Maya Rudolph’s deeply inflated role treads water sometimes. Arnett sometimes seems to provide all the energy for a scene while Appelgate just follows him around. But these are just minor bumps that will surely be worked out as the show goes on. But the problem is that there isn’t a lot right with the show. There were very few jokes, way too much karaoke, and the actual relationship with the baby was maybe a grand total of two minutes of screen time. They managed to avoid the usual sit com pilot pit falls but unfortunately they missed the memo about being funny while doing so.

How much it sucked: 2
I imagine it must be awkward to be asked to write a pilot for a TV show when you wrote the pilot for the British version two years ago. The result being that I kept thinking the writer was trying to fix something he'd already gotten perfectly the first time. But as soon as the show starts to sprout its own legs and is no longer a line for line remake it becomes delightful. I'd say the British version is better, only because the American version seems to be wearing the British version's shirt, and it doesn't fit.

Hot much it sucked: 4
The CW certainly doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to impressing me. So, it was a little painful for me to write that 4. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, the pilot wasn’t really that bad. It was well paced and even decently acted (especially by the older cast members). The show’s mystery was established efficiently. The bad guy was certainly the most interesting character in the mix but we all know, sometimes that’s a good thing. The problem was that beneath the passable acting and directing was a deeply stupid concept. Pretty young people use magic. If that sounds like something you’d care about, go ahead and watch the pilot. If that sounds really dumb then you’re lucky because I’m never going get those 45 minutes of my life back.

How much it sucked: 2
I was expecting way more suck from this show. And sure, on paper it had its problems. But regardless of all the contrived plot points and flat acting the show had something that not a single other sit com provided this season: Laughter. The jokes were funny. In the way that you want to be funny when you imagine yourself making fun of people you hate. Sure, a sit com needs to be more than just funny, but that can come later. In the mean time I’m just so thrilled I actually got the chance to laugh.

How much it sucked: 5
The comparison is inevitable. So let’s get this out of the way. It sucked a lot more than MAD MEN. Why? Because Don Draper is a carefully constructed, deeply relatable yet ethereal main character. Eddie Cibrian’s character is a suit with a smile. Beyond that, the show had some good lines and a sort of fun plot involving murder and hot women dressed as bunnies. But, at the very end they ruined everything by trying to make some sort of social statement about how they were ahead of their time or socially progressive or whatever. The problem is that as soon as I was invited to see this work as a social statement I had to ask “so what is your statement?” which was answered by cricket sounds and “Hey, did you notice that Sean Maher was gay?”

How much it sucked: 4
There is no amount of awkward/uncomfortable things you can make Zooey Deschanel do/wear to make her even a little unattractive. It’s a simple fact. Any guy can tell you this. Sure, I have to accept I’m in a TV world where everyone looks like a model and fat people look like Toni Collete, but there are disbelieves I just can’t suspend. That aside, the show failed on other fronts as well. The chemistry between the roommates was strikingly absent. The laughs were mostly just attempts at feeling less awkward. The only thing I was impressed by was Lamorne Morris’s performance.

How much it sucked: 7
You’d think a show about a cop with eidetic memory would be more, well, memorable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how solid your concept is, you’ve got to make your characters shine. Just look at the Mentalist. That show’s concept is paper thin, yet it’s starting its fourth season. You want a fourth season, Unforgettable? Hire Simon Baker, or anyone with character.

How much it sucked: 4
When I heard this show’s premise I got really excited. A procedural where every episode the main character ruins the life of some other person we hate. Not a cop or a vigilante, just some biddy with tons of money and hate. Awesome. Unfortunately I was given more pretty young people arguing with their parents. And that life ruining I was talking about, amounted to, “You can leave, and take your Van Gogh with you!” Yeah, you gave that bitch what was coming.

How much it sucked: 3
Despite how much I enjoy seeing Caviezel run around smacking the shit out of everyone (and there is a whole lot of that) I will be the first to admit that this pilot has little else going for it. When Caviezel isn’t hulking out he looks barely awake, the bad guys are all grimacing stereotypes, and the concept, while intriguing, makes very little sense. I hope they eventually present some reasonable explanation but if J.J.’s previous work is any indication, they likely won’t.

How much it sucked: 5
We all needed another show about pretty white girls getting bored with their relationships. Look at her! She’s single so she’s drunk all the time. Look at him! He’s pussy whipped, so he has a pink tie. There was one funny scene where a couple engage in sexy role playing and the sexy nurse gives her boyfriend a bunch of paper work to fill out, but besides that and a few sporadic funny lines the show suffers from having an ensemble of cardboard characters.

How much it sucked: 3
Most cop shows suck. I admit this, even though I watch them. But there is one cop show that doesn’t. THE CLOSER. I love THE CLOSER, which means I’ve just recently sunken into a deep depression. For one brief moment, I was lifted out of my deep trench of sadness by watching this show. Here we have a tough, savvy leading lady played by an actress of serious caliber, backed by a terrific ensemble of character actors including Kirk Acevedo, whom I love. Maybe this will be my new cop show that doesn’t suck. But, much like THE PLAYBOY CLUB, after a great first few scenes, the show jumps ship in an attempt to find some sort of social relevance. Yes, it’s tough to be a girl cop, but having all your man cops grumble and call her a bitch doesn’t teach me anything. As far as feminist statements go, I would say that this show failed in the precise way THE CLOSER succeeded. In an attempt to make Bello seem strong, they simply made her more masculine. The stupid hat, the scarf, the whole get up just screams sexual ambiguity. So while the show is saying “woman can be just as good as men” it’s showing us that women have to transform into men. Meanwhile THE CLOSER gave us a woman who was feminine as hell, and maybe human, maybe imperfect, never weak. I’m going to miss you Sedgwick, because with your departure so departs the last semblance of popular feminist television. Now, all I have is women trying to be men or women enjoying the lot as dumb girls. For more examples, see below.

How much it sucked: 8
The reason that CHARLIE’S ANGELS was successful back in ’76 is because, back then, people didn’t expect much from their TV. A bunch of hot babes fight crime and obey their charming yet faceless lord. Awesome. It was all steeped in Freudian logic, bringing forth the voyeuristic nature of television. It was a distinctly “empire” (to use an Ellis term) frame of thinking that made it possible. Even CHARLIE’S ANGELS, the movie, managed to make a pretty big splash when it came out less than ten years ago. But a lot has changed in the last ten years, let alone the last forty. Only, no one told these guys. Everything about this pilot just screams “we found this script in a warehouse that’s been locked since 1982, blew off the dust, threw in some cell phones and made it.” But, when it comes down to it, exploitation films and television of the 70s are only cool because of the clothes and the lingo. Take out the afros and the bell bottoms and suddenly it’s just backwards and offensive. Sort of an ouroboros of sexism where men don’t have to put women down, they’ll stand tall in their six inch heels and do it for us.

How much it sucked: 1
Not a whole lot of suck to be found in this pilot. I found myself really enjoying it. It was well acted, fun, detailed, accurate, well paced, and brilliantly directed by Jonathan Demme. But then I tried to explain the pilot to someone else and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t manage to explain it without sounding sort of dumb. It was the part where the goofy, hippy shaman opened Patrick Wilson’s chakra that did it, really. Then I realized that while I liked the pilot a lot, I really didn’t like show.

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