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Friday, October 4, 2013

Pilot Predictions

A new season of TV is upon us and with it comes new television series. I've actually watched a bunch of pilots this season so why not blog about it? Here is my analysis of the pilots I saw and my predictions on how well the series will perform.

The Blacklist: The Blacklist is...OK? This is the type of show I'd be very excited about 3 to 5 years. You've got an overall mystery in what Raymond Reddington's motives are, intrigue as to what's so important about Elizabeth Keen and questions on what the hell is up with her husband. But this is 2013 and my belief that series long mysteries end with a satisfying conclusion has been completely destroyed. So I'm very skeptical that this series' story will result in something worth watching. It is possible some individual episodes will be fun, though.

Prediction: As the season unfolds there will be ridiculous plot twists, giant conspiracies, Reddington's omnipotence will reach ludicrous levels, viewers will get impatient about not getting answers so they'll be served unsatisfying, plot-hole-filled half answers and the whole show will become a parody of itself. But it's NBC and they still believe themselves to be a television network. They need SOMETHING to show so The Blacklist will get at least two seasons.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: It made me smile a few times. It's tough to rate comedies after their first episode. I've never seen a comedy pilot that has been particularly good. Maybe Modern Family. Most comedies take a few episodes or even half a season to hit their stride (if they're going to hit a stride). This series showed some promise. There were some good one liners ("OK, I'll just find a movie better...than...Citizen Kane...") and the Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher pairing has potential.

Prediction: I think this show will have some amusing episodes and some bad ones. But it just doesn't feel like Brooklyn Nine-Nine will make it past one season.

The Crazy Ones: Simply setting this show in an ad agency doesn't make this a ripoff of Mad Men. (Heck, it takes place in a completely different time period from Mad Men.) At the same time, because it is set in an ad agency, it's main character is supposed to be an expert on the creative side and since he even does pitches to clients it's hard not to think of Mad Men. Once you're being compared to Mad Men you're already behind the 8-ball.

I know this is a sitcom and Mad Men is a drama but I'm perfectly serious when I say I've seen many Mad Men episodes that were funnier than this pilot. The whole show seemed lost from the start. It wasn't even sure what it wanted to be. The Crazy Ones had to just rely on the humor of Robin Williams and that's no place you want to end up. He wasn't funny and trying to sell his jokes by having other characters laugh just reflected poorly on those characters.

Oh, and having your pilot feature the agency in peril and possibly losing its biggest client is putting the cart before the horse. I just started watching this show. I'm not invested in anything that's going on. Why should I care if this ad agency goes under?

Prediction: I would say this show wouldn't even get a mid-season pickup but this is CBS so maybe it'll get boffo ratings because, as Teebore would say, old people don't know how to change the channel after "The Wheel."
 
Back in the Game: I had barely heard anything about this show. I ended up watching this pilot because I decided I was going to do this post and happened to be home when it was on and it's not like have a life or anything. I didn't even know what it was about. I was actually rather pleasantly surprised.

This is a show about a woman and her child having to move in with her crass, drunken, ex-minor league baseball player\manager father. Her child isn't very athletic and doesn't make the little league baseball team so the mom, a softball player in her own right, decides to start a new Bad News Bears-esque team and ends up, reluctantly, accepting the help of her father.

This show has some promise and I did laugh a few times so I'll give it a chance. However, I couldn't help but feel I was watching a watered down version of Eastbound and Down.

Prediction: I think this show will find a groove and be reliable entertainment a third of the way into its first season. However, it'll probably be too tame for the premium channel/FX sitcom show crowd but not tame enough for the more family orientated crowds. The end result will be a respectable sitcom that gets cancelled after one season. (Pretty much another Go On.)

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Probably the most anticipated premier of the season; Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a mixed bag. The scuttlebutt is that there's a lot of cooks in this show's proverbial kitchen. If that's the case it shows.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. felt pulled in many different directions. Can a show be about S.H.I.E.L.D. helping people with special powers, the mysteries of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself (Coulson's revival, presumably other government secrets), the ethics of an all powerful government organization and the affects a world filled with super powered humans and aliens capable of leveling cities has on average citizens? I guess we'll find out.

Prediction: I think the show will start out very episodic. Every episode will focus on a human that needs S.H.I.E.L.D.'s help. Halfway though the first season one of the seemingly one-off episodes will end with a twist that brings a plot arc lasting the rest of the season. After that, being more serialized will be the norm for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Essentially, Person of Interest's evolution.) I think a lot of people will be very forgiving of this show and keep watching. Beyond that, the Marvel movies will keep Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. relevant so I see Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. getting at least three years. Probably more.

Masters of Sex: This was an interesting pilot looking at the juxtaposition of two people trying to study sex in the relatively prudish 1950's. But it also explores how performing these studies affects Doctor Masters and his assistant's personal life and vice versa. At the end of the day I put this show in Mad Men territory. It holds my interests but I don't exactly know why. This typically isn't my kind of show. (Although, in Masters of Sex's case, boobs certainly don't hurt.)

Prediction: This series will go on for 3 to 5 seasons. There will be a few fans and critics talking about how great it is. There will be more people who nod and smile along acting like they're in the know but actually don't watch this series. Then there will be even more of people who, when the show is mentioned, say "I heard about that show and have been meaning to check it out but haven't gotten around to it." They will never get around to it. The rest of the people are disgusted by its premise and the fact they show bare boobs on TV. They will then go back to watching kids getting molested and murdered on CSI or Criminal Minds or something.

Michael J. Fox Show: I'll say this, Michael J. Fox is charming and it's tough not root for him. But, his charisma aside, there wasn't much to this sitcom except some metatextual humor about being on TV with Parkinson's disease and jokes about Parkinson's disease. This show has the possibility of being funny but it could also land itself straight into one trick pony territory.

Prediction: I think this show will go three seasons based on Michael J. Fox's name value. The feel good story of him simply being on TV will be a boon. Whether it'll actually deserves to be renewed twice is a different story.

Sleepy Hollow: Going into this show all I knew was it was about Ichabod Crane ending up in modern times, teaming with a cop and dealing with the headless horsemen. What I didn't know was there would be Crane's magical ghost wife, a priest with the ability to magically propel chains, the headless horsemen being one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse trying to regain his head to trigger said apocalypse, the headless horsemen having a penchant for assault rifles and shotguns, Satan nearly punching people's heads off nor did I know George Washington would turn out to have been actively trying to avert the apocalypse and, thus, used British soldier turned American patriot Ichabod Crane to battle the Headless Horseman.

My point is this show is 10 times more insane than I expected and I expected it to be pretty insane. But it's awesomely insane. This show jumped straight into the deep end into a zany world steeped in Christian mythology and doesn't apologize. I appreciate a show that just goes for it. Now, if we can get the actors to start calling the final book in the Bible "Revelation" instead of "Revelations" then we'll really be in business.

Prediction: I think this show will get crazier and crazier and will ultimately collapse under the sheer weight of its own insanity. It will be awesome. I'm not sure enough people will appreciate the awesomeness, though. I think it's cancelled after one season.

Dads: Ugh...

Prediction: Unless people are watching this based on the antiquated "shock" value of racist/sexist jokes then this show won't last 4 episodes.

7 comments:

  1. " Unless people are watching this based on the antiquated "shock" value of racist/sexist jokes then this show won't last 4 episodes."

    Sadly, I think that's what Seth McFarlane's fans actually like, so it'll probably run forever.

    And Teebore's explanation of why CBS shows always get good ratings is the only logical reason I can find as to why Two & A Half Men is still on the air.

    I'm glad to hear you were largely positive & optimistic about S.H.I.E.L.D. I enjoyed both episodes so far (the pilot was, well, a pilot), but so far all I've heard from others online is about how boring it is. I find it to be a pretty enjoyable action show devoid of the forced drama & mysteries the genre has been saddled with recently.

    And finally, I HAVE to start watching Sleepy Hollow. Everything I've heard makes it sound awesome.

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  2. Fun Fact! Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for Season 2!

    Also, i love your mention of Person of Interest, because we love that show and not enough people watch it


    Dads was terrible. We gave it a watch because we like Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green and want them to, you know, do well. But damn it was so utterly, utterly terrible. I mean, i consider myself a Seth McFarlan fan and there just was no humor in those jokes.

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  3. @Dr. Bitz: But it just doesn't feel like Brooklyn Nine-Nine will make it past one season.

    The early ratings would seem to agree with you. Unless Fox kills or moves the dead weight that is Dads and gets it a better lead-in, it may not even make it through this season. Which is a shame. I like it. Not perfect, but it has potential.

    I would say this show wouldn't even get a mid-season pickup but this is CBS so maybe it'll get boffo ratings because, as Teebore would say, old people don't know how to change the channel after "The Wheel."

    Seriously. This got boffo ratings. I think SHIELD can only claim the title of most watched new show because it did better in the demo.

    I've heard good things about Masters of Sex (I think Alan Sepinwall called it the best new show of the seasons), but alas, I don't have Showtime, so like Homeland, it'll go unwatched by me.

    Unless people are watching this based on the antiquated "shock" value of racist/sexist jokes then this show won't last 4 episodes.

    You might be spot on about this. It's fourth episode airs next week, and then it'll go off the air for a few weeks due to baseball, and there's scuttlebutt that Fox may not even bring it back after that due to the low ratings.

    @Sarah: Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for Season 2!

    Though it won't be on in the spring. It's first season order was for 13 episodes, and then The Following is slated to take over it's timeslot after the holidays.

    Now that it's a success, rather than order a back nine and try to find a spot for it on their schedule, they just decided to renew it for another 13 episode season next fall.

    Still, that's pretty sweet. I'm glad it'll be coming back, and that Fox is willing not to run it into the ground just because it's doing well.

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  4. @Mela: I'm constantly amazed that Two and Half Men is still on the air. Then again, I've only seen like 1/2 of an episode. So maybe I'm missing out?

    And I am optimistic about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nothing about it said it can't be good.

    @Sarah: Yeah, Person of Interest rules. Although I haven't seen any of the new episodes yet. I have to get on that!

    And I did hear Sleepy Hollow got picked up for another season. But I didn't modify my post so as to keep its integrity.

    @Teebore: The Crazy Ones did boffo ratings? Maybe it's not just old people don't know how to change the channel. I think old people like Robin William's shtick as well.

    Also, I am excited that Sleepy Hollow is getting a second season but I wouldn't be surprised if it burns itself before the second season even hits.

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  5. I am excited that Sleepy Hollow is getting a second season but I wouldn't be surprised if it burns itself before the second season even hits.

    Six seasons and a movie!

    Seriously though, you're totally right. As much as I'm enjoying the show, it's walking a really thin tight rope, and it wouldn't take much to make it fall.

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  6. I haven't seen The Blacklist. My tolerance for James Spader is not high and there's plenty of other stuff to keep me occupied, so it's just one of those things that may be really good but I'm fine without.

    Brooklyn Nine-Nine's pilot was okay, although I haven't gone back for more. I also watched the pilots of The Crazy Ones and The Michael J. Fox Show, and I could see catching up on them during a lull in new TV. Dads was an active pass from me; Back in the Game I just didn't care about.

    I'm almost pathologically averse to traditional multi-camera, laugh-track sitcoms anymore, much as I loved them as a kid, yet at the same time the now-in-vogue drier, single-camera comedies often tend to just sort-of sit there for me and/or wallow too much in discomfort humor. Modern Family, Parks and Rec, Community, and somewhat inexplicably How I Met Your Mother* hit my sweet spot. [*Okay, I can't explain how the laugh track doesn't drive me away, unless there's a little paradox in the show not being filmed before a live studio audience — the laughs are taken from screenings (and then sweetened as usual) — that makes the rhythm less artificial, but the crazy-inventive storytelling is my explanation for what hooked me about it.]

    // I just started watching this show. I'm not invested in anything that's going on. Why should I care if this ad agency goes under? //

    Excellent point. And the failure could be the series concept for all we know (well, if we didn't know otherwise).

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  7. Agents of SHIELD I'd watch just out of curiosity and being able to discuss it with friends unless it was terrible. That reason + that caveat = why I kept dropping and then periodically coming back to the crazy-making Smallville and to a lesser extent why I watch Arrow. SHIELD is thankfully more than good enough to not mind watching, but if weren't set in a familiar universe — or, really, a variation on a familiar universe, although that itself is also familiar thanks to the movies and of course that experiment is part of the fascination — I don't think it would be nearly as compelling. Half the main cast totally holds my interest and the other half is forgettable, while the plot and even camera work at times have a chintzy, "first-run syndication" feel, for which there is absolutely no excuse given this show's potential in the grand Disney/Marvel/ABC corporate firmament.

    I checked out the Masters of Sex pilot during its free YouTube preview but to see more I'd need to get a friend's passcode to watch online (assuming Showtime has a viewing option that way like HBOGo) or stream it illegally. While it was certainly good enough to keep up with, I'm not feeling any, uh, burning desire to leapfrog it over the stuff I consider must-see for the purposes of conversation or just pure enjoyment.

    Sleepy Hollow came barreling out of the gate firing on all cylinders, firing in fact as you suggest on perhaps a surfeit of cylinders. I've fallen behind on it the last couple of weeks due to various distractions but it's definitely high on my aforementioned list of ASAP TV; friends, strangers, and the network all seem to be on the same page here. Other than a potential overload of mythology my only real gripe with it is that the actual story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" doesn't exist in the show's universe and for no good reason, when it could easily have been written in that Washington Irving was passing off as fiction either rumors he'd heard or instructions for Ichabod Crane himself when he was revived or something.

    I never understood the inertia of lead-ins as a genuine factor in viewership, probably because I'm a very active, "destination" TV watcher. Wheel of Fortune airs here in Philly on the ABC station, though, and has for ages; NBC and CBS have back-to-back entertainment-news shows in the 7 o'clock hour. So you can't blame specifically Wheel for specifically Two and Half Men, at least.

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