Category Archives: Pilot Reviews

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Grandfathered and The Grinder

FOX seems to largely be promoting these shows together so I figured I may as well review them together too.

Show: Grandfathered

When It Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 8:00 p.m. EST

Do I Want to Watch More? YES.

I am incredibly charmed by this show. John Stamos and babies are a very cute combination and that is one adorable kid they found to play Edie. It’s not the most original show in the world but it feels cozy and lived in. The cast all have great chemistry with each other, particularly Stamos and Paget Brewster. Their sarcastic bickering feels like there is history and at one point, even love behind it and this show sells them as a former couple.

I’m interested to see why Sara broke up with Jimmy long ago and why she never told Gerald that she was the one who initiated the breakup. As much as I enjoy watching Stamos be incredibly charismatic with a baby, it’s Sara and Jimmy’s previous relationship that has me the most intrigued.

The restaurant scenes are less interesting to me and I assume they will fade away at some point or become a tiny background feature but I hope they keep Annelise around. Her interactions with Sara were very brief but I’d like to see them develop at least a casual relationship, as both seem to know how to tame Jimmy’s eternal playboy nature, which is much appreciated.

Nothing about this show is particularly subtle but it was very fun to watch and I can’t wait to see more.

Continue reading Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Grandfathered and The Grinder

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Quantico

Show: Quanitco

When It Airs: Sundays on ABC at 10:00 EST

Do I Want to Watch More? Absolutely

There was a lot of joking before this show aired that it should probably have been called “Grey’s Academy” and they aren’t wrong. This pilot is basically what you would get if you turned a Grey’s Anatomy finale in to a pilot episode but instead of the doctor’s treated patients, you get the FBI responding to the terrorist attack. For those not familiar with a typical Grey’s Anatomy finale, they are dramatic and have a lot going on, both relating to the disaster of the moment and the personal lives of the doctors. They are stressful and they are almost always engaging.

There was a lot going on in this pilot. It introduced the two timelines in which this show will be taking place – the post-attack timeline that is being investigated by the FBI and the flashbacks that will take us through training at Quantico. A lot of characters were introduced (including a few who are already gone) and we got a decent sense of who would be the main characters moving forward. It functioned exactly as a pilot should and made an entertaining episode that has me wanting more already.

I see a lot of potential in these characters and in the larger mystery/thriller portion of the plot, which are both excellent signs. I love a good mystery but it means nothing to me if I can’t connect with the characters. This is an extremely soapy batch of characters, the majority of whom have very big backstories. There’s a girl who lost her parents on 9/11, one from a Zionist family who visited Gaza and is keeping it a secret, one who shot her father and found out he was a special agent with the FBI, one who got a 14-year-old pregnant and forced her into an abortion which killed her, one who is at the Academy pretending to be a trainee but is actually there to spy on Alex, and one who is secretly a twin and are trying to pass themselves off as one person.

However, in addition to their dramatic backstories, they also seemed like they could be actual characters who could be defined by more than their history. We saw some potential friendships forming and the fact that some of them are rooming together should give us lots of opportunity to see them interact.

It was possibly a little too busy and packed with twists and surprises, which concerns me for the future. Some shows deal well with burning through lots of plot very quickly (see Jane the Virgin). Most don’t. In trying to keep up the momentum and energy, I hope they don’t sacrifice actual character development.

This is not going to be a show for everyone. It is very soapy and I’m sure it will be completely ridiculous at times. But I’m so in for it. Even if it crashes and burns, which is very well may do, it’ll be a fun ride until then.

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Heroes Reborn

Show: Heroes Reborn

Airs: Thursdays on NBC at 8 p.m. EST

Do I Want to Watch More: This was never really a question. I’m watching more.

I love the original show, flaws and all. The cast remains one of my favorites and it was the show that got me back into fandom. It was by no means perfect – there was a lot that didn’t make any sense and the characterizations could be all over the place. But it’s my show and I love it.

When this reboot was announced, I said that I’d be in as long as someone from the original cast came back. I was just expecting guest stars, which would have been enough for me, but the announcement that Jack Coleman would be returning as a main character got me even more excited for the show.

With all that in mind, this was the most fun I had watching a new show all week. It’s not completely new, the music cues and the font/unusual surfaces they use to announce where and when we are remain largely the same. But as the promos explored, Heroes Reborn takes place in a very different world than Heroes did, even the one they set up in Five Years Gone (though there were some similarities).

Much of the fun revolved around two different sets of characters. First, Tommy and Emily are adorable and charming. As many have pointed out, they are acting as an inversion of Claire and Zach’s dynamic in season 1 of the original show. Fortunately for them (and me), that was one of my favorite storylines in the original and Robbie Kay and Gatlin have some of the most natural chemistry so far on the show. And as this is a show that requires lots of chemistry between the actors to work properly, that bodes well for their future.

Second, I’m far more intrigued by whatever Noah and Quentin are trying to uncover in the Renautus conspiracy than whatever the black hole is that seems to be threatening humanity. There is no doubt that Coleman is a compelling actor. Just ask any Castle fan who’s gotten to enjoy him recently as Senator Bracken. He is so skilled at playing the shady, desperate man with all the problems that particular combination of traits comes with and it was very rewarding to see him put on his horn-rimmed glasses again. I also like Quentin. He’s Noah’s opposite in many ways. He’s terrible at the shadiness and lacks the grit required to investigate a large conspiracy but he’s going to do it anyway. I’ll look forward to seeing how their differing personalities come together and clash in future episodes.

For a fan of the original Heroes, I think this will be a fun show. Thirteen episodes is probably the right length for it and if it were to continue, the anthology model is always what Tim Kring had in mind. We’re basically watching the first season again, with many characters filling in roles we’re already familiar with and eventually working toward them all coming together to save the world. So that is why I’m in. That is what I love about this show. Not the superpowers (which as always, are a little weird), not the villains, but the way these characters who have been largely isolated and feel alone come together to save the way. It’s in the way they find their connections to each other and the impact that makes on them that made the season one finale so fantastic in my mind and if they want to try to remake that, I will be in for as many seasons as they give us.

I’m less convinced that this is a show that will be appealing to new fans so if you watched this and didn’t watch the original, I want to hear your thoughts!

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: The Muppets

Show: The Muppets

When it Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 8:00 EST

Do I Want to Watch More? Yes

Confession: I watched very few Muppets-related things growing up. I’ve seen a couple of their movies and that may be it. I know who they are through general pop culture osmosis but I have much less of an attachment to these characters than many who tuned in to watch. So I went in to this with very few expectations of how these characters should behave.

I didn’t love the episode but I did enjoy watching it. Some of this is due to the fact that the Muppets are inherently a cute group of characters. There is a nostalgia that is comforting, even with as few memories of them as I have.

There are characters who I would like to see more of in future episodes. I’ve always been a fan of Gonzo and he wasn’t used a lot. I would also watch an entire show of Statler and Waldorf being cranky about everything because it suits my personal tastes, but I recognize that they work better in small doses. I’d also like more of Beaker because he just makes me smile.

As a whole, this isn’t a show I want to ask a lot of. I like the idea of exploring the emotional lives of these characters who have largely come as a big package over the years but even that’s not essential to my viewing experience.  I want to have fun for half an hour and smile. So long as that is happening, I’ll be along for the ride.

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Life In Pieces

Show: Life In Pieces

When it Airs: Mondays on CBS at 8:30 EST (thought 10/26/15); Thursdays on CBS at 8:30 EST (from 11/5/15)

Do I Want to Watch More?: Maybe.

I am beginning to understand why critics have been so ambivalent to negative about this season of TV.

This is very much a standard comedy pilot. Everyone is a little too broad and not quite formed yet as characters and the chemistry hasn’t had time to set in. It hasn’t quite worked out the emotion-to-humor balance yet. That’s fine and not particularly unusual.

So while I didn’t necessarily like the episode, I do like the general concept, so that’s one hurdle out of the way. Splitting the show into four acts, one for each member of the family, works for me. I like that they aren’t connected in any way. They really are the moments that make up a life that John describes at the end of the episode. It was done in a little bit of a heavy-handed manner, but again, it’s a pilot. I’d like to see some less monumental moments as the show continues. Yes, people remember things like a first date, the birth of a child, or seeing your first child getting ready to go off to college, but they also remember the little moments. They remember the time they took a wrong turn and got wildly lost or the time they were unexpectedly caught in the rain and had to run back to the hotel. I’d like to see some of those moments and I think they are feasible in a short four minute segment.

On the other hand, those little chunks make character development difficult. I didn’t feel like I spent enough time with anyone to get a sense of who they were and what would make them interesting in the future. The characters I gravitated tot the most were the ones who were played by actors I already like, like Colin Hanks, Angelique Cabral and Betsy Brandt. I felt more like I was watching situations instead of characters, which is not the way I like to watch TV. This may change as the show progresses and we see these people in a variety of situations but I don’t think the format is quite as naturally suited to that.

While it may not be high on my priority list, I would like to see the next few episodes to see if they can alleviate my concerns about character development. If I can start to become attached to the characters, this could be a show I grow to really enjoy. If I can’t connect with them, then it won’t be one that I stay with for very long.

Fall 2015 Pilot Reviews: Blindspot

Show: Blindspot

When it Airs: Mondays on NBC at 10:00 EST

Do I Want to Watch More? I don’t know.

I came away from the pilot with the worst possible answer to my question. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode. It introduced a lot of characters and the premise of the show. You can see how a case-of-the-week can be built out of the tattoos with tiny glimpses to move the mythology forward. Characters would continue to be better developed and a rhythm between them would be found. As far as pilots go, it actually works pretty well.

I liked Jaimie Alexander’s performance quite a bit. There were moments when I felt very interested in Jane Doe’s story. Not who she was and how she got to be in the position of being covered in tattoos and left in Time Square but who she would be moving forward from this incident. I enjoyed the scene with Dr. Borden where he helps her figure out if she prefers coffee or tea. I like the concept of her getting to choose who she is and rediscover herself, whether she finds the version that was erased or a whole new interior identity. That story, I like a lot. And if you throw in some crime-solving, that’s fine with me. I don’t have a problem with a procedural populated with interesting characters, which I assume they will all become.

What I’m not interested in, unfortunately, seems to be the whole point of the show. I don’t care why Jane was put in a position where erasing her memory and being covered in tattoos that may help solve crimes or who the shadowy lurking man is who facilitated the process. That part failed to engage me at all and I like a good conspiracy theory. It’s still early and maybe it’s too soon to really tell if I will like where the story is going or not, but I remain unexcited about it.

I can overlook plots that I don’t like if there are characters who I care about. I didn’t connect with a lot of the post for the last three seasons of LOST and I cried a lot during that finale. So I can give this one another shot. I’m relatively light on Monday shows until Jane the Virgin comes back and will probably try out episode two in the hopes that it will clarify where the show may be headed in the future and possibly get me interested in the larger story.

Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat

After skipping my review of Backstrom due to time constraints, I managed to squeeze in the first episode of Fresh Off the Boat this weekend as I was really excited to check it out. Like I’ve done with previous shows that aired multiple episodes on their first night, this is just a review of the first and I’ll add on anything I have to say about the second in my weekly TV Thoughts post.

When It Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 8:00 pm EST

Summary: Loosely based on Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat follows the Taiwanese Huang family as they move from Washington, DC to Orlando, FL after his father opens a steak restaurant.

My Impressions: I was really looking forward to this show. I am half-Japanese and always looking for more Asian-American representation on TV and this show seemed like an excellent opportunity for that. It’s not quite the show I was hoping to get but I think a large part of that is that I still don’t feel like it quite speaks to my experiences, which isn’t the show’s fault at all.

Much of the early praise for the show has centered around Constance Wu and Randall Park, who are quite good in their roles. Wu in particular has some excellent comedic timing and reactions and she brought me the most laughs in the pilot.

Unfortunately, a lot of the episode fell pretty flat for me. I wasn’t laughing a lot, nor was I particularly connecting to the characters. I think I laughed the most about Emory fitting in so easily and his mom’s confusion over it because it was truly not what I expected.

I was ready to decide that this just wasn’t going to be a show for me, no matter how much I wanted to support it. Then we got the ending which gave me so much more of what I was looking for and made me want to watch episode two at least. Eddie got in a fight after a classmate called him a “chink” and his mother defended him for it. On a content level, she was 100% right. That other child and his parents needed to be having a discussion with the principal because Eddie wasn’t the only one in the wrong in this situation. On a humorous level, Jessica and Louis deciding that they would sue since that’s the American Way cracked me up. Both Wu and Park were fantastic in the scene and have some great facial reactions. It was a scene that managed to still be funny while critiquing a serious subject and that’s when this show finally worked for me.

Eddie’s final voiceover about needing to embrace what makes you different and own those differences also stuck with me. It was the moment that resonated the most with my personal history but that’s because it was also the most universal. Regardless of what it is that sets you apart, it’s not easy being different from your peers especially when that difference is a very visible one. So the solution is to embrace what makes you different. Not only will it give you the most peace within yourself but that’s the only way to let people know that you’re confident in who you are, which in my experience, people are most drawn to.

Pilot Review: Empire

To conclude this fairly busy week of premieres, I will take a look at FOX’s new show Empire.

When It Airs: Wednesdays on FOX at 9:00 EST

Summary: After he is diagnosed with ALS, Lucious Lyon begins to think about the legacy of Empire Records and which of his three sons will one day take over for him. At the same time, his ex-wife Cookie is released from prison and demands a stake in the company she went to jail for.

My Impressions: This show didn’t quite capture my attention to the extent that Galavant and Agent Carter did earlier in the week but it made me want to watch next week’s episode, which I suppose is the true goal of a pilot. While I can’t honestly say that I loved the pilot, I think there is a lot of potential for me to enjoy it.

Since it’s a show about the music industry, it needs original music. Timbaland is producing the music for the show and I love it. I probably wouldn’t choose to listen to all of it independently, but there is a lot of it that I would. A few of the songs feel like they could be genuine hits if they were to be widely released and that’s exactly how I think they should sound. The music needs to make the show feel real and it succeeded in the pilot.

Its next strength is the casting of Terrance Howard as Lucious Lyon and Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon. Henson is fantastic in every scene she’s in. Cookie is such a big presence and she sells every aspect of her. Howard really shines when he’s in the studio or with his sons. He slips so well into both the role of father and record executive. However, magic really happens when the two interact. Their chemistry is fantastic, with so many layers of caring, anger, and the shadows of a tumultuous past running through every scene together.

Continue reading Pilot Review: Empire

Pilot Review: Agent Carte

It is only the first full week of 2015 and we are already off to a strong start. I really enjoyed Galavant on Sunday and Tuesday brought us the premiere of Agent Carter, the newest in the Marvel franchise and the first to feature a woman as the lead character.

When It Airs: Tuesdays on ABC at 9:00 EST

Summary: After the war, Peggy tries to find a balance between working for an unappreciative SSR and helping Howard Stark avoid a treason charge and retrieves his stolen inventions with the help of Stark’s butler, Jarvis.

My Impressions: Confession time: I haven’t seen either of the two Captain America movies. So this was my first introduction to Peggy Carter, other than what I’ve seen of her on Tumblr. Immediately after seeing the first episode (which is the only one I’ve seen so far), I knew I was going to need to watch the first movie so I could get some backstory on this incredible woman.

So much has been said of Hayley Atwell’s performance as Peggy and every bit of the praise is deserved. She was dedicated, strong, frustrated, and vulnerable at various points throughout the episode and she sold each emotion and made them all into one cohesive portrait of a woman who not only misses the job and responsibility she held during the war but the man she shared them with.

Continue reading Pilot Review: Agent Carte

Pilot Review: Galavant

Welcome to 2015! I hope the year is treating you all well so far. Last fall, I made the decision to not review every new show that debuted on the networks. While I’ve likely avoided pilots that I would have hated, I think I’ve also missed out on shows I may have enjoyed but can’t seem to work up the energy to start and catch up with. So new show reviews are back! My goal is to have posts up before the second week of a show and I look forward to discussing with you this spring. First up is Galavant!

When It Airs: Sundays on ABC from 8:00-9:00 EST

Summary: Galavant is a fairy-tale hero who lost the love of his life to the evil king and is now determined to defeat him. We go through his life and efforts to regain his once successful life through musical numbers.

My Impressions: Though I was a little hesitant based on the trailer for the show, I should have realized that a musical show was probably always going to be something I loved. Songs in shows make things better, whether they are the George Michael songs that set off Eli’s visions on Eli Stone, caused by a demon who makes everyone sing about their true feelings like in Buffy’s Once More with Feeling, or Malik proposing to Lisa Shay through song on Suburgatory. I’m a sucker for a fun performance and musical moments tend to be just that.

Galavant seems destined to be a show that people either love or hate. There really is nothing like it on TV, which may explain ABC’s decision to double-up on episodes on Sunday nights. The musical aspect will turn some people off, to be sure, but it’s also a show that delights in being silly. King Richard, while undoubtedly not a nice man, is comically evil rather than the darker villains and antiheroes typically seen on Sunday night TV.

It also delights in overturning fairy-tale tropes. The dashing hero is supposed to get the fair maiden. Or at the very least, she isn’t supposed to end up choosing the evil king because the life he can offer her sounds easier than the one Galavant could. And she certainly isn’t supposed to take great pleasure in fooling the evil king and sleeping with his court jester. However, that’s exactly what Magalena does, regardless of what she “should” to in a proper fairy-tale.

Continue reading Pilot Review: Galavant