Welcome to the new fall TV season, where new shows battle it out with returning shows for a warm little place in the hearts and minds of audiences. A pilot might not fully reflect what a whole series will be like, but it is what makes people latch on to a new show. Here are a few quick thoughts about the new shows fighting for our attention.
2 Broke Girls (CBS)
This show is the first of two offerings by comedian Whitney Cummings. Since her other show, Whitney, has been given the title of worst show of the season by many online critics, will 2 Broke Girls be her savior?
Also created by Michael Patrick King (the man who brought us Sex and the City), this pilot plays with many stereotypes. Max (Kat Dennings) is the typical waitress with a bad attitude, with a seedy cook as her workmate, also babysitting for a wealthy airhead trophy wife, with a boyfriend who’s the type of wannabe rock star that always keeps his shirt off. Caroline (Beth Behrs) is a business savvy, former wealthy socialite, who gets a job at the restaurant where Max works by lying in her application. At first Max is not fond of Caroline, but things happen and they become friends, roommates, and future business partners.
The first half of the pilot served mostly for Kat Dennings to do what she does best, which is to deliver lines with extreme sarcasm and lots of attitude. When the relationship between Max and Caroline becomes friendly, the laughs finally begin. At this point, important character traits are established as well. When Max discovers her boyfriend cheating on her, instead of breaking into tears and desperately asking “Why?” she firmly tells him go away; this shows consistency in her personality instead of making her toughness a facade. In the case of Caroline, a character who seems to still be attached to the wealth she no longer has, she is revealed to be very adaptable and a good person who’s willing to work her way out of her financial problems.
Most of the dialogue is comprised of one-liners isolated from each other by the laugh track. A more natural dialogue would serve this well. By the way, the worst thing about this pilot was the laugh track. It is atrocious. It is the stuff evil is made of. Other than that, the show has potential, even if it deals with so many obvious stereotypes.
The Playboy Club (NBC)
We’re all very familiar with the controversy surrounding this new show. I’m going to go ahead and guess that it had more to do with the word Playboy than the pilot itself, because even if it included a murder by fabulous heel, there was nothing risqué or demeaning towards woman about The Playboy Club’s first episode. In fact, it was too clean. Making it dirtier would have required a different network to air it.
But maybe that’s the problem: the concept of this show seems better suited for basic cable. By this I don’t mean this show needs nudity because of its affiliation to Playboy, but because the pilot felt like it was watered down for NBC viewership. Maybe it has more to do with my expectations, but if a show deals with mafia, racial and sexual issues, I expect it to be at least grittier than what we got.
The show was advertised as a story that captures an important period of time, and although different issues are hinted, the minor storylines are unbalanced, focusing only on New Bunny Maureen’s cover-up of a crime boss’ murder with the aid of the charming attorney Nick Dalton, Carol-Lynne’s suspicion about Maureen and Nick’s sudden relationship, and how happy all the bunnies are to be part of the club. Racial issues are barely hinted and the mobster storyline is implied in conversations. The Mattachine storyline is the better developed of all minor storylines, even better than the “Maureen killed a mob boss” storyline, unfolding very organically and in a very misleading way.
In conclusion, this pilot wasn’t bad, but it was bland. I think the tone and focus of the pilot were wrong. The initial ratings for this show were not good, so there might not be a chance for improvement.
New Girl (FOX)
Only those who know Zooey Deschanel personally know what she’s really like, but based on perception alone, it would seem that her character on New Girl, Jessica, is a copy of her personality. I agree with those who’ve said that whether you like New Girl or not depends on how much you like Zooey Deschanel, but she’s not the only appeal of this show. Jessica is the focus, but her roommates are equally appealing, making their apartment the land of the neurotic: Jessica externalizes every thought and feeling, and her recent breakup makes her a weeping hot mess for the first half of the episode; Coach can’t help communicating by sudden spurs of yelling; everything about Schmidt screams “douchbag” and he gets penalized for it; and although Nick is the last one to warm up to Jessica, he is as much a mess as her also due to a breakup, but he deals with it by internalizing everything. Ultimately, all four of them become a team, with a small hint that Nick is the most likely candidate to become Jessica’s love interest.
This is the type of show that usually gets the regular “multicamera with awful laugh track” approach, but instead they went for single camera with good production values. The dialogue is very natural, with only a single one-liner for the whole episode.
This is the first show of the season that I love without any hesitation. It’s fun, it has great interaction between the players. Give it a chance, even if you don’t get the Zooey Deschanel brand of quirkiness.
This pilot is yet another procedural about a character with an extreme talent, a childhood trauma, and a very obvious love interest.
This is where I temporarily forget that this is an actual article and go into blog mode: I’m not a fan of procedurals. There are less than half a handful of procedurals that casually watch, and this one is a no go for me.
This pilot is a surprise. It begins with a voice over warning that this story is not about forgiveness, accompanied by images of an engagement celebration reminiscent of The OC and Gossip Girl, interrupted by a death. Up to this point the story looks generic enough, but as it turns out, this is just were the story will end up as we go back in time and the actual story begins, about Emily Thorne, a young woman hell-bent on revenge and the life of those who destroyed her life. Her arrival to The Hamptons is filled with nostalgia, her current life intercut with memories of her childhood, but Emily easily enters the social ranks of the area, becoming acquainted with Victoria – the conniving queen of The Hamptons, played by the never aging Madeleine Stowe - as she begins to execute her plans.
Emily VanCamp, better known for her roles on Everwood and Brothers and Sisters, seems like an unlikely choice to take the role of Emily Thorne, but she is surprisingly great at it, bringing a wide range of emotions and great subtlety to the role, making of Emily Thorne a worthy opponent to Madeleine Stowe’s Victoria.
This pilot was equally melodramatic but much better paced than Ringer, with a story better described as “The Count of Monte Cristo by way of wealthy America.” A great pilot with a story that seems better fit for a miniseries, but if they manage to maintain the intrigue and pace of the pilot, ABC might have a little hit in its hands.
Next time on Pilot Watch: Prime Suspect gets the american treatment, Charlie’s Angels return to TV, Persons of Interest and A Gifted Man break this week’s girl dominance, and Whitney happens.