So its that time of the year again. The primetime schedule has been restarted/renewed/rejuvenated and every night is choc-a-bloc with choices. Before watching any of my returning favorites I sat through the pilot episode of every new show. Follow me after the jump for some random ramblings ..
Full Length Shows
Boardwalk Empire : Starring Steve Buscemi and a host of others this epic period piece; set against the 1920;s prohibition America immediatly engages. A cocktail of two parts Sopranos and one part Deadwood, HBO seems to have struck liquid gold yet again in the form of Boardwalk Empire. Expect complex storylines filled with corrupt politicians, violent gangsters and dogged federals agents presented in the typically slick way that only HBO can. Watch this program.
The Event : Appropriately named, this is the latest in Event TV (ala Lost/Flash Forward), featuring a large ensemble cast recounting events in the leadup to some mysterious event. The heavy use of overlapping timelines and quick switches between subplots works well, though as always with shows like this makes me hope that the showrunners remember that for the average american audience answers (and not just questions) must be provided on a regular basis. Hugely compelling pilot.
Hellcats : Following the adventures of Aly Michalka (Bandslam) who uses her gymnastics skills to win a cheerleading scholarship after losing her other scholarship. Lots of good looking (and flexible) girls on display in whats certain to be mindless fun. Quickly falls into the category of guilty pleasure.
Nikita : The second TV serialization of the movie Le Femme Nikita about ordinary people trained to be assassins for a shadowy organisation. Maggie Q (Balls of Fury) is very hot in this Alias’eque action series. Maggie deserves my attention.
Hawaii 5-0 : An action packed pilot featuring Alex o’Laughlin (from a bunch of failed programs) as a Hawaiian native returning home to form a special unit of crimebusters. Also starring Grace Park, Jiin out of lost and Scott Caan from entourage. Entertaining 42 mins of tv if a tad mindless.
Undercovers : J.J. Abrams’ latest spy series follows the lives of a married couple who come out of retirement to join the CIA. Think Mr & Mrs Smith meets errm something else.. The Pilots jumps around the place zippity-quick, brimming with the usual spy action palarve. Enjoyable if derivitive.
Chase : From the evidence of the pilot, this show about federal marshals hunting dangerous fugitives lives up to its premise quite squarely: It’s a procedural with a lot of chases, a lead reminiscent of Mary McCormack in In Plain Sight, only better looking. Formulaic as you’d expect from a Bruckheimer show, with hints of Justified in the telling, the pilot was pretty watchable .. if little more.
Terriers : Shawn Ryan’s new FX show is about two down on their luck bargain basement detectives. the leads are likeable, the tone measured, and despite struggling to know why, this felt right. Easy viewing.
Lost Girl : Showcase (a canadian network I’d never heard of) brings us the story of Bo, a succubus unaware that creatures of the Fae surround us all. Sporting some dodgy CGI and a general “made for a tenner” feel this is low-budget attempt to cash in the success of True blood. Despite the production values, i’ll likely check out another episode of two to see if it degenerates into monster-of-the-week fare, or if they can turn the pilots plot into a seasonwide arc.
No Ordinary Family : Starring Michael Chiklis (Shield) and Julie Benz (Buffy/Dexter) this comedy/action/ drama follows a somewhat dysfunctional family who after an airplane accident all develop super powers. A sort of Heroes-Lite meets The incredibles, the pilot is easy watching though containing little to pull you from your comfort zone. Will watch more. Probably.
Blue Bloods : Cop drama starring Tom Selleck, Donny Wahlberg & Bridget Moynahan about a New York family of Police, Detectives & Laywers etc. A mixed brew of family melodrama, crime-thriller tension and conspiratorial intrigue. Solid.
Detroit 1-8-7 : Starring Michael Imperioli (Sopranos), this is a faux-documentary style cop series set in Detroit. Pitching for tough and gritty, the shakey camera work teeters on annoying, though overall a reasonable pilot in an already well served genre.
The Defenders : Legal drama starring Jerry OConnell and Jim Belushi as two slick Las Vegas defense attorneys who go all out for their clients. Its an enjoyable enough 42 mins that doesn’t take itself very seriously.
The Whole Truth : Legal drama (this time from the Bruckheimer stable) starring Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow (Numb3rs). Here we have good honest folk on both side of the courtroom battling to win cases in which the viewer has not been spoonfed the guilt of innocence of the accused. Not terrible but a goner it seems.
Outlaw : Hammered by the critics and already suffering in the ratings this legal drama starring Jimmy Smits about a high court justice who steps down to defend the little guy, is another who’s almost certainly not long for this world.
Lone Star : Cancelled.
My Generation : Cancelled.
Mike & Molly : New from Chuck Lorre is this sitcom about an overweight couple who meet at OA, and fall for each other. Queue lots of fat gags, which were pretty damn funny. Will definitely check out another episode.
Outsourced : Sitcom about a dude sent to India to manage the companies call center there. Q lots of gags based on racial stereotypes. I laughed a few times. Will try for more.
Shit my dad says : Based on the twitter feed, this sitcom with The Shat as a grumpy father … is emm meah.
Running Wildge : From the creator of Arrested Development, this sitcom about billionaire Steve Wilde (Will Arnett) seeking to woo his childhood crush, Emmy an activist with a 12-year-old daughter. Quirky. Not for Everyone.
Raising Hope : This made me laugh. The pilot features a serial killer, state execution, a baby being vomited on (twice) and various other slapstick. Following a downwardly mobile family as they gets to grips with having a new baby to take care of. Funny.
Better with You : Sitcom with Joanna Garcia (privileged) about 3 couples at different stages of blah de blah. Pass.
I know there’s lot of people who don’t like to start watching a new show until they have some idea of its prospects (i.e. that its not gonna get cancelled) so here’s the early indicators from tvbythenumbers.com.
Certain to be cancelled by May, 2011 : The Whole Truth, Outlaw.
Likely to be cancelled by May, 2011 : Detroit 1-8-7, Undercovers, Running Wilde.
Toss up between renewal or cancellation by May, 2011 : Better with you, The Defenders, Chase.
Likely to be renewed by May, 2011 : Blue Bloods, Hellcats, Nikita, Outsourced, The Event.
Certain to be renewed by May, 2011 : No Ordinary Family, Shit my Dad Says, Hawaii 5-0, Mike & Molly, Raising Hope.
Looking back over the list there were only two standouts for me in full length dramas, which were Boardwalk Empire and The Event. BE drips class from the get-go, has already been renewed and so gets an unreserved two thumbs up. I really liked the pilot for The Event but was quite worried at the same time (as has become nessecery with anything approaching high-concept television). I’ve since watched the second episode and remain hopeful but by no means certain that it’ll remain on track. Its ratings (depite a post pilot slide) are in safe territory which is good at least.
As for the rest of the full-lengths there’s plenty of watchably-average in there. Nikita, Hellcats, No Ordinary Family and possibly Hawaii 5-0 will get my attention on a weekly basis for a while at least.
On the comedy front Raising Hope seems like the standout, with M&M and Outsourced likely to get more of my time as well.
Overall the fall schedule has been bolstered by plenty thats watchable, but having sat through 21 pilots I’d have hoped for a little more WOW and a little less Hmmmm.