The September pilots

I previously wrote about Up All Night, The Secret Circle, and The Playboy Club, but a lot of shows debuted in September and I watched almost all of them, so here are two sentences about damn near every show from the fall:

  • Ringer (CW, drama). Summary: Sarah Michelle Gellar is a twin who messed up her life in the upper midwest and visits the good (well, rich, anyway) twin in NYC, only for the good twin to promptly disappear from a boat in the Long Island Sound. Mystery ensues. Review: laughable graphics work in the boat scene in the pilot was an immediate turn-off, but more importantly, the execution of the mystery aspect of the story pushed me away: people in real life don’t talk to each other vaguely about “the plan” or “the thing” — that’s an affectation of a TV show that’s trying to keep its audience in the dark. Also, while I know that the whole point is that Siobhan, the good twin, and her husband are distant and having trouble, I just don’t buy that a twin could come into his life and he’d have no idea. Status: erased from the DVR.
  • 2 Broke Girls (CBS, multicam sitcom). Summary: Kat Dennings works in a diner in a bizarro 1980’s Brooklyn that has 2000’s hipsters but also nasty scary subways. Bernie Madoff’s daughter comes to work in the diner because her family has had its assets seized, and moves in with Dennings. Review: the multicam aesthetic and tone are just not for me, I think. Kat Dennings is game and tries her best to punch up lame material, but the weird proliferation of ethnic stereotypes fits right into the even weirder idea that Brooklyn is the scariest place alive. Status: erased from the DVR.
  • A Gifted Man (CBS, procedural). Summary: Patrick Wilson is a gifted neurosurgeon whose recently dead ex-wife haunts him (literally) into being more selfless and becoming a better human being. Review: Jonathan Demme’s direction in the pilot was frequently baffling (why so many straight-on POV shots during conversation? What did that even mean?), but didn’t do much to mask the fact that I would be completely bored watching House Part 2. Even Margo Martindale as Wilson’s bitchy office manager / scheduler / whatever couldn’t draw me in. Status: erased from the DVR.
  • Unforgettable (CBS, procedural). Summary: Poppy Montgomery used to be a cop in upstate New York but now uses her hyperthymesia (she can’t forget things) to win money in underground card games in NYC. She gets drawn back into the policing life. Review: Not awful, but it’s just another crime procedural, and Poppy Montgomery would have to be exceptional, or have excellent chemistry with ex-partner (in many senses) Dylan Walsh, to justify me watching. Given that she can’t even manage a decent American accent, I’ll pass. Status: erased from the DVR.
  • Revenge (ABC, drama). Summary: The Count of Monte Cristo, except that Emily VanCamp (from Everwood, remember? Isn’t that exciting?) infiltrates Hamptons society to exact revenge on those who took her father from her and ruined his life. Review: Enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would, and not just because of the hilarious preppy outfits the dot.com billionaire wears. Should be a solid soap with a side of murder and mayhem. Status: still watching.
  • Person of Interest (CBS, procedural). Summary: That creepy dude from Lost has a backdoor into a computer system he built that links up all of NYC’s surveillance devices to predict terrorist/criminal activity. He recruits Jim Caviezel to track down what is going to happen to the person who belongs to the Social Security Number the system spits out and prevent it from happening. Review: The surveillance state aspect of things makes for an intriguing premise, but Jonathan Nolan decided to to create a procedural on top of it rather than an honest-to-god drama. I like The Equalizer as much as anybody, but I didn’t catch a single nod to John Le Carre in Person of Interest, so I can’t say it measures up. Status: deleted from the DVR.
  • Prime Suspect (NBC, procedural). Summary: based on the British series starring Helen Mirren, Maria Bello is the only woman in homicide and has to fight the men in her department (including Brian F. O’Byrne) on the way to solving cases. Much more procedural than the source material, which spread a single case out over six hours — this is American TV, though, so that won’t fly. Review: A solid second place behind Revenge on the favorite new shows list. I can’t take overly serious crime drama (Person of Interest, Unforgettable, take a bow), but Bello is funny and sassy. Bonus points (and a bonus sentence) for Lem from The Shield as Bello’s boyfriend (husband?). Status: still watching.
  • Pan Am (ABC, drama). Summary: ’60s Pan Am stewardesses fly around the world and deal with their issues. One of them is a spy. Review: Everyone and their mother has referred to this show as “fantasy” and “revisionist history” — I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for, me. I don’t have quite the level of fond feelings for the show that I do for Prime Suspect and Revenge, but it’s held my interest so far, and there’s always the prospect that the rest of the show can carry the action even if the spy stuff falls flat, a la The Hour. Status: still watching.
  • Free Agents (NBC, single-cam comedy). Summary: Hank Azaria is recently divorced and Kathryn Hahn’s fiancee died a year ago, so they have sex sometimes and generally try to navigate their single lives as middle-aged people. Based on a British comedy, and Anthony Stewart Head has been imported as a weird boss (corporate PR firm is the setting) along with the concept. Review: the ratings have been awful, so this won’t last, but I actually liked it. The humor is geared toward adults, for once (i.e. it’s not a magical “four quadrant” show — neither was Men of a Certain Age, which I adored), and while the jokes didn’t all land perfectly, there’s enough fresh humor here to keep me going. Status: watching until canceled.
  • Hart of Dixie (CW, drama). Summary: Rachel Bilson moves to small-town Alabama to take over the medical practice of a mysterious old man. (Spoiler (no, seriously): it’s her dad.) She tries to become a better person by focusing on being a good doctor for people. Review: the voiceover, the cornball sentiment, the echoes of Everwood, Northern Exposure, and every other misplaced-city-dweller show ever should add up to my least favorite thing ever. But I have a Dixie fetish, and the way Scott Porter says “Tribeca” in the pilot sent me over the edge — I’m watching this for damn sure, and just hoping that Porter, Vince’s Dad From Friday Night Lights (as an ex-NFL player who’s now mayor), and other supporting cast steal the show from Bilson over time. (I really liked Nancy Travis as the nurse, but she only shot the first two episodes because her commitment to Last Man Standing won out.) Status: watching for the next six seasons.
  • Terra Nova (FOX, drama). Summary: an overpopulated Earth has figured out a way to send people back in time into a (supposedly!) different time stream to get a new chance on not screwing up their home. Ex-cop Jason O’Mara breaks out of prison (he attacked some cops who were searching his home for the extra kid he and his wife had) to go with his family. Review: the dinosaurs look like crap. I love Jason O’Mara and want him to be on a show I like, but this isn’t it: the family is mostly a collection of cliches and I’m not intrigued by the bigger mysteries (what are those crazy equations drawn on the rocks outside the settlement? What do the rebels want? Who’s pulling the strings?) at all. Status: deleted from the DVR.
  • Suburgatory (ABC, single-cam comedy). Summary: Single father Jeremy Sisto finds condoms in his teen daughter’s room, so he picks them up and moves them from NYC to the ‘burbs. He’s a hip architect and Tessa is a city girl through and through, so they struggle to make their way in this weird new world. Review: weird is right — the pilot included a woman walking into the pool while texting, a mom throwing baby shoes on a grill, and Sisto telling his daughter, “I think this is the Fellini movie.” The father-daughter chemistry is better than I expected, and Alan Tudyk is hilarious in a supporting role. Status: still watching, favorite new comedy.

American Horror Story, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and Homeland (which started last night) are still to come. There are about five or six other shows that I have not watched or will not watch, all comedies except for Charlie’s Angels. Sorry, Tim Allen, but Last Man Standing just isn’t for me.

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About Jason Wojciechowski

I do law
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