Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Which I Watch Some 2011 Pilots

This year's new crop of TV shows has been a bit... unexciting. We haven't really had a bumper year for cool new programs since Community, Glee and Modern Family all popped up three years ago. And they're all looking a bit stale now, so maybe Americans should start taking some cues from the Brits - short seasons, a couple of Christmas specials, get out while it's still sharp.

There have been many new programs I haven't even bothered looking at - that Sarah Michelle Gellar one, for example. I'm sorry, but she can't act for shit, and Buffy was over-rated. YES I WENT THERE. Even Ioan Gruffudd isn't enough to tempt me (as pretty as he is to look at, he can't really act either).

Prime Suspect
Yet another American remake of a British show, with Maria Bello taking the place of Helen Mirren. A lead character who is a brilliant, lone-wolf cop. Brash, prickly, angry, moody, socially awkward and with a giant chip on her shoulder, haunted by something that happened in the past. Dad is an ex-cop, so the blood runs blue. And she's quirky because she wears a hat and chews gum all the time in an attempt to give up smoking. Gee, we've never seen any of that before. I may have been able to tolerate all of those tired cliches, but the jerky camera just killed it completely for me.

Loved it. Jeremy Sisto moves his teenage daughter (and you can see the casting meeting now: "Get us an Emma Stone type!") from hip Manhattan to the suburbs. It's like a cross between Awkward and Desperate Housewives. Highlights so far: Cheryl Hines as a warm-hearted but taste-deprived suburban mom, and Allie Grant (Isabelle from Weeds) as a neighbour who doesn't fit into the Stepford Wives environment any more than Tessa, the Manhattan transplant.

Up All Night
Arrested Development excepted, Will Arnett cannot pick a winner. A couple of hard-partying thirty-somethings (Arnett and Christina Applegate) accidentally get pregnant and become suburban parents while trying to cling to their cool, yuppie lives. Christina works for an Oprah-esque TV star played by Maya Rudolph (who for some reason I can't put my finger on always annoys me). There is nothing new here - oh, Oprah (or whatever her name is) turns up in the middle of the night with champagne because she doesn't understand that parents can't party all night. Hilarious! The couple are jealous of the young, artistic hipster neighbours. So original! This is just... crap. I would not be surprised if it has already been cancelled.

2 Broke Girls
Oh, Kat Dennings - you can do better. The laugh track in this show puts the one in The Big Bang Theory to shame. A joke about smooth, luscious chocolate in reference to an octogenarian black man seems to set off gales of hilarity. Every line, no matter how unfunny (and almost all of them are unfunny), follows with HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It's excruciating. The premise is one of those never-ending 'odd couple' plots - poor but sassy waitress is saddled with previously rich girl who has no idea about the real world. And she has a horse! And they keep it in the backyard! Because the poor but sassy waitress' crappy apartment has a back yard. In New York. No, really.

American Horror Story
This show is created by the people behind Glee, so the fear is that the spectacularly effective pilot will degenerate into a soupy, inconsistent mess, and let's face it, previous experience indicates that this is exactly what will happen (see also: Popular). However, I loved this, so I'm willing to go along for the ride. Ostensibly a story of a haunted house, there is nothing original here - it borrows (okay, steals) heavily from any number of horror classics: The Shining, The Amityville Horror, The People Under The Stairs, anything David Lynch has had anything to do with and so on. Even the opening credits look like a Nine Inch Nails video. This is a creepy, sometimes terrifying mystery that is obviously only going to be revealed bit by bit, so settle in. I could live without seeing so much of naked Dylan McDermott, though.

Another one that has some potential. A soldier previously thought to be dead (Damien Lewis) is found alive after years of being held captive in the Middle East. He comes home to a hero's welcome and a wife who had moved on to another guy (awkward!), but a CIA agent (Claire Danes) is obsessed with the idea that he is an enemy operative. I found this interesting enough to get past my general dislike of Danes, so it must have something going for it.

Pan Am
You can see the exec discussion that started this one - "We want something like Mad Men, but with chicks. What did chicks do in the 1960s when they weren't housewives? I know - air hostesses!" I spent most of the show trying to figure out how Christina Ricci's long, beatnik hair in the first scene she was in transformed into a neat bob half an hour later when she was decked out in her hostie's uniform. So far it's all style and no substance. If you're a fan of all things retro, it's a fun 40 minutes looking at The Way Things Were. I actually enjoyed seeing the airport scenes - remember the days when people dressed up to get on a plane? No, me either - I'm not that old. It seemed like a good thing, though.

I can't really give an accurate opinion on this one - I watched 7 minutes and couldn't stand another moment of it. I don't know who this woman is, but I assume she is bonking someone pretty high up to have been given a TV show. She appears to have no discernible talents that are apparent on the screen, that's for sure.


  1. I feel like this is a total "meh" season for new shows. I agree that shorter seasons with tighter storylines would be great, but let's face it: the networks are in it for the money only and they'll drag everything into the ground before they pull the plug on a "popular" show. Sometimes hitching a ride for a 3-season length and then saying voluntary goodbye is the best move as a viewer.

  2. You're right - it's all about money. I can't imagine who looked at "Whitney" and decided that would be a moneymaker, though...

  3. Whitney is the worst. Just bleugh. I couldn't even last 7 minutes!

    I will not hear a bad word said against Sarah Michelle Gellar though, although I won't watcher Ringer cos I just know it'll taint my Buffy worship.

  4. Michaela, you might find out she can't act, AMIRITE? ;-)