And the winner is…

Pilot season’s winners and losers (mostly losers)
by Tim Earle

PAN AM – Best New Show about the 1960s (In other words, it was better than The Playboy Club.)
What interests me most about shows about the “good old days” is when they show us what sucked about those time periods. Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire even Game Of Thrones which isn’t set in an actual historical time period, each show us a world we think we know from movies and books but shown to us in the light of complete disclosure, and of course, hindsight. Then we have Pan Am, a show that’s frank Sinatra scored, glossy exterior is really all you get. Underneath it all is just more Sinatra and more gloss. This to me seems like the wrong direction for media to take, revising the past as it goes. But at the same time, swimming in a pool of gloom and social inequality it’s a nice break to see the someone saying “Yeah, but the 60s were so NEAT!”

TERRA NOVA – Biggest Disappointment
You know what my favorite part of Jurassic Park was? All of it. Every part of the movie was awesome. Every silly caricature. The fat hacker, the smoking Sam Jackson, the gruff paleontologist who’s uncomfortable with kids, Jeff Mother Fucking Goldbloom. It was simple and campy and fun. So why does Terra Nova suck so much? I think the simple reason is that the characters are all boring and stupid. I would describe them all but just describing them in snarky ways would still bore you. So I’ll just do the dumb ass son with stupid hair cut. He goes out drinking by the river outside of the compound even though there is a high chance of being murdered by dinosaurs. Because he’s a teenager and teenagers like drinking, right? This is all played totally straight faced by the way. Speaking as someone who was only a few years ago a teenager, this is fucking stupid. Kids usually drink because they are bored. If there had been dinosaurs when I was 16, I would have been sober as fuck. It’s like showing up in a world populated by pink elephants and purple trees and thinking, “Man, I could do with some acid right now.”

HART OF DIXIE – Worst Cliché
I wish people who wrote TV did their research sometimes. We begin with a med school student who wants to be a heart surgeon. She does really well but her superior says that she isn’t connected enough to the patients to be a doctor, which is funny because training to become a surgeon begins with thinking of a body not as a person. So then little med school bimbo moves to the south where some old dude really wanted her to take over his practice. And in the south they don’t have any “new fangled” coffee places so med school bimbo is lost and out of place. The show steadily lost more and more credibility, convincing me the writer had never lived in New York or the south. By the end I was having a hard time believing the writer had ever even talked to another person before.

SUBURGATORY – Most Surprising Success
There are certain things that everyone loves to hate. So much so that you just sort of get sick of hearing about them. Like Nazis, or the suburbs. Ever since Edward Scissorhands it’s become really hip to diss the suburbs. So while this show certainly began on that obvious note, I really like the direction it decided to take. Instead of turning it into a Juno-fest of sarcastic remarks and loathing, the show took what worked from Edward Scissorhands, the surrealism. There were a couple moments that had me dying of laughter such as the pink clad soccer mom singing along to gangsta rap or the woman grilling a pair of children’s sneakers on the Bar-b. But then in the end the show managed to turn round an unexpected corner. It decided not to hate the suburbs. Or at least not to hate the Cheryl Hines, who sort of represents the suburbs in this show. In the end they made a point to show us that while she is creepy and weird, she really means well. And maybe she’s something that a teenage girl needs in her life.

HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN – Worst Gender (part 1)
I’ll admit I was curious about this show. I thought the dissection of the male gender by deconstructing its two counter parts, gentlemanliness and brute oafishness, would be rather interesting. But at the end of the day this is just a show about Johnny Drama and a pansy. It reinforces every stupid male stereotype without a hint of self irony.

HOMELAND – Best Pilot
I initially wanted this to be another list about how every show this pilot season sucks, but then I saw this show. And, putting my huge crush on Claire Danes aside, this was a great pilot. With as ambitious a premise as this show has I was really surprised that it was so even paced and consistently toned, even with the gratuitous sex scenes that every Showtime show feels it’s obliged to insert. The thing I like the most was how it played with the audience, making us watch with Danes through the hidden cameras searching for any clue that this Marine is secretly a terrorist. And while doing this I found myself thinking some awful thoughts, like “Oh, that means he’s a terrorist. He’s totally a terrorist. Wait, why am I thinking this? I do that. Oh god. I’m turning into the patriot act!”

In a lot of ways this show was successful. It had some really superb acting from Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott. It was well directed, and certainly peculiar. But the problem was that at the end of the day, it wasn’t scary. Like, not at all. It was weird, yes, creepy, a little, sexy in a really ugly way, sure, but not even a little scary.

ENLIGHTENED – Worst Marketing
I thought this was going to be a comedy. I think so did everyone else. It wasn’t. But that’s OK. I enjoyed it regardless, but as an honest portrayal of someone trying to recover from a nervous breakdown. This isn’t to say that the show didn’t have its funny moments. Just, none of them were really "Haha" funny.

LAST MAN STANDING – Worst Gender (part 2)
I think this show is about a Psychopath. A man so uncomfortable with the gay guys running his grandchild’s day care that he decides to bring his grandchild to work with him, at a hunting store. But unlike shows like Better Off Ted or South Park, the show is completely without irony. At the end of the day all he gets is a mild slap on the wrist or some eye rolling. It all reminded me of a great scene in Louie where he flips out on the set of a sit com because when his character does something awful his wife says “I love you.” And when asked, “What do you think she should say” he says, “We should get a divorce.” I’m not suggesting that every show have a totally downer ending. I’m just saying that you have to earn a loving supportive family. You must prove to the audience that there is a perfectly good reason this family loves the dopey dad. And just being Tim Allen isn’t enough of a reason.

MAN UP! – Worst Gender (part 3)
Yes, another show about a bunch of middle aged guys figuring out how their gender works. And thankfully it was not as morally repugnant as Last Man Standing. Honestly, if it weren't for all the other gender questioning/affirming bullshit this season I would have called it solidly middling. But I'm just so fucking sick of what TV shows seem to think manliness is (and I know, every woman reading this has been dealing with this for their entire life). It's being uncomfortable with gays or having proclivity towards violence. It’s not crying, singing, caring about how you smell or other people’s feelings. Why can't being a man just mean being a reasonable, decent guy who doesn't constantly try to prove how manly he is?

BOSS – Silliest Show
I always wondered what The West Wing would have been with a darker, less romantic view of American politics. Unfortunately Boss loses not only the romantic notions but basically all semblance of realism. Kesley Grammer spends this pilot beating up people in his office, drugging people, buying drugs, putting someone’s ears in a garbage disposal. Nothing in this show seemed even remotely believable. So in the end it becomes ineffectual at displaying the inherent corruption of power and just reads like a farce.

ONCE UPON A TIME – Worst use of those creepy growing violin sounds they always used in Lost
“Rumpelstiltskin knows your daughter’s name!”

GRIMM – Worst Premise
Despite David Greenwalt’s nice use of camp and humor, this show has the dumbest fucking premise. I guy can see people for what they really are… fairytale characters. Honestly, if it was deemed that American audiences really needed more Grimm fairytales, then why not just make a show about the actual fairytales instead of all this hodgepodge shit.

ALLEN GREGORY – Most Disturbing
The final scene of this pilot shows us Allen Gregory hitting on his sixty year old principle in a rather sinister way. It’s obvious she wants out but is somehow trapped with this creepy seven-year-old. This is after the superintendent basically told the principle that she was supposed to date him. Nothing about this is funny. The main character is beyond annoying. He’s despicable. And him being seven doesn’t really make up for this. In fact, it just makes it worse because I spent the whole episode wishing someone would just fucking smack him. So then, in the end he walks into the sunset while the principle looks down in shame. Are we supposed to find this funny?

HELL ON WHEELS – Least Informed View of the 1860s
This show was created by a guy whose last film’s tag line was “Slow Justice is No Justice.” That’s all you need to know, really, but I’ll go on. I imagine the writer’s room for this show went something like this.
“What’s awesome about the wild west?”
“Indians, gun slingers, trains, drinking, fighting, whores, open frontiers.”
“Okay. I wrote down all the things you just said. I’m now going to put those things in our show.”
“Good. Let’s get paid now.”
The problem is if you just show us one “Western” image after another without the proper frame work, it winds up seeming jumbled and a little racist. So, while my eyes kept saying “This is a western” my brain kept saying “No, this isn’t even a plot.”

So that’s it. No more pilots. I could make some broad sweeping statements about how this season represents the cultural standing of our country. About how feminism is dying or how we’ve entered a state of self destructive nostalgia. I could talk about how our political frustration has grown to the point where we need to completely deface authority figures on TV, or how all the good comedians already got TV shows so now we’re stuck with Whitney. Instead I’m just going to pretend I Hate My Teenage Daughter doesn’t exist because I only have so much hair left to pull out and I want to get back to watching The Walking Dead.

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