Tuesday, September 11, 2007

'Tis the Season: Pilots, Pilots Everywhere!

I have to say, as if living in New York or Los Angeles didn't already offer more than enough amazing perks, one of the best is the ability to view the new network pilots at the Paley Center for Media (on both coasts, respectively) a few weeks before the new TV season actually begins.

Over the past few days I have completely immersed myself in these new pilots - although I did maintain the CiG bias of "I'm not watching it unless I really want to, so there." I had (and still have) zero interest in the new pilots for CBS, FOX or The CW. So I have nothing to say about those, considering I completely skipped those nights at the Paley and chose to have a social life instead. A rare occassion for me, really.

But what I did see (NBC and ABC), I have plenty to comment on. Let's start with NBC and the four pilots I was presented with on Saturday: Chuck, Life, Bionic Woman, and Journeyman. Whoo, what a night for a TV freak. It came in second to the ABC night, and that had a lot to do with Michael Vartan's return to television and my inevitable swooning reaction. But more on that later...

Chuck is the story of a computer geek working at the local Buy More (for the Nerd Herd, specifically) who inadvertantly downloads the entire database of US government CIA/NSA secrets onto his home computer and ends up with all of these secrets imbedded in the depths of his subconscious. In true spy game fashion, this makes Chuck a government target. He knows too much. The show is like a cracked-out episode of Alias with an adorable geek at the helm instead of Jennifer Garner in lingerie. It's actually a fair trade, seeing as Chuck is adorkable and the dialogue is classic Josh Schwartz sarcasm and wit harkening back to the early days of The OC and the briliance of Seth Cohen. The cinematography and SFX are brilliant as well, and McG's directorial standards from Charlie's Angels come shining through quite clearly. The relationship between Chuck and his sister is really sweet, and Chuck's best friend Morgan is already on track to become the next great "annoying guy who's already there" sidekick that you can't get enough of from week to week. And don't even get me started on the awesomeness of "Captain Awesome," who only shows up sporadically and barely has any purpose other than to say something entirely hilarious in Abercrombie Perfect Man fashion. The show is generally full of genius, and I could not love it more after just one episode. If you don't have time to get addicted to any new shows, don't watch this one. You won't be able to stop once you tune in longer than five minutes.

Moving on to Life, this one took a little getting used to. The concept is interesting, but it was the lead character of Detective Crews that really started to grab me. I will admit that for the first half of the show I just wasn't feeling it and I couldn't pinpoint what was bothering me, but in the end it was that I couldn't figure out if the character was actually just completely dry-humored and beyond oddball or if the actor was just delivering a poor performance. As the pilot carried on, I realized the answer to be the former: Detective Crews is just effing weird. And it's hilarious. After over a decade in prison for a crime he didn't commit, this man is released back into the real world with no true concept of what has changed during his incarceration. He's fascinated by cell phones that can take pictures, completely confused by the concept of a bluetooth wireless phone connection inside his car, and reading "The Idiot's Guide to the Internet" to find out the definition of an IM. Not only that, he's always spouting commentary about a zen lifestyle and trying to maintain a calm, collected and non-obsessive relationship with the drool-worthy car he just purchased from the million dollar court settlement he received for his wrongful imprisonment. His new female partner, Reese, is intriguing in her own right with her shady drug past and apparent current alcohol/sex addiction problems that she is desperately trying to hide. The relationship between Reese and Crews is something that I can see eventually coming together quite strongly if written properly. I suppose the main issue I had with this show is that the pilot, in the end, was more about character development than storyline interest. In the last two minutes of the pilot you finally get a glimpse of what Detective Crews is really looking for - what his true motives are - and I personally feel like if that had been the basis for the pilot I may have found it more interesting. But if that's going to be the basis for the show overall, then it's worth it to continue watching for at least a few more episodes to see if it can hook me for real.

I can't even keep track of how many people there have been lately talking about the brilliance of Bionic Woman... and now that I have seen the pilot, I have to say that I don't get it. It had some really cool moments - the fight scene between the two respective bionic women of the world was pretty much entirely kickass - but overall I just wasn't sold. The actress that plays Jamie - the bionic woman herself - perhaps just isn't right for the part. She's not a bad actress by any stretch of the word, but it just doesn't seem like a good fit to me. And the relationship between Jamie and Will (at least I think that was her boyfriend's name...) isn't working for me. The chemistry isn't there. And we all know that if I can't find something to 'ship within five minutes of tuning in, we're going to have a problem. I suppose I'm just not sold on where this whole thing is going. I don't see the point. What is the endgame, here? Now she's all bionic, but what? I understand that she's basically the equivalent of a super soldier at this point and that she's going to be doing the bidding of certain people in charge, but I'm still not understanding why I should care. I didn't care enough of Jamie to begin with, which I'm sure is the root of the problem. I had no interest in her life before she became bionic, so why should find her interesting now? I mean, other than the fact that she's pretty damn awesome when she gets pissed off or beats people up. But that's always fun to watch - I need to be interesting in the calm moments, too, and it's just not happening. Oh well. If I don't get interested in this one, it's just a fabulous excuse to never see Isaiah Washington on my TV screen ever again. I can definitely live with that.

Last (but most certainly not least) we have Journeyman. I don't know what to say beyond LOVE. Everything about this show has me hooked. I love it just as much as I love Chuck, but yet they are two entirely different shows and so I love them equally but for different reasons. Oh, Journeyman. So much wonderful. If you haven't yet already caught any of the 5972349857 promos for it that run on NBC constantly, here is the rundown: Dan is a journalist living in San Fransisco with his wife, Katie, and their young son, Zack. Dan's brother works for the San Fransisco Police Department and everyone is just one big, happy (interconnected in far too many ways - you'll see) family. Until one day Dan gets in a cab, falls asleep, and wakes up in a completely different cab 20 years earlier. As the show carries on he keeps randomly time-traveling against his will, and you start to notice a common link in what happens and who he sees on every "journey." It's a fun puzzle that you start to piece together whilst also sympathizing with Dan and the situation he's having with Katie and Zack, who can't understand or grasp why he keeps disappearing for days at a time with no explanation. Everyone thinks he's insane and needs serious mental help, but he's determined to follow through on his "mission" from the past whilst also keeping his family together in the present. That is, at least, until Olivia. Olivia, his ex who we learn died in a plane crash nearly 10 years ago. But with all of this time travel, Dan keeps finding past-tense Olivia everywhere that he goes. And Mae keeps finding herself falling in love with Dan and past-tense Olivia, despite the fact that it's far from realistic. The thing that kills you is that he's completely devoted and in love with Katie, but everytime he ends up in the past with Olivia... he just can't help himself. You can tell how much he loved her and how much he misses her, and you can see on Katie's present-tense face that she still cringes at the mention of Olivia - for she knows first hand just how in love Olivia and Dan were, a fact you learn in more shocking puzzle-building moments. The best part for me, though, came during the last act near the end of the episode. Caroline and I love a good show that can make your brain hurt and give you plenty of WTF moments (despite how much we scream endlessly about wanting to kill the writers of Lost) and Journeyman did not disappoint. The puzzle of past and present itself is plenty confusing and more than enough to keep your mind working and throw you into moments of shock, but there was a brilliant reveal near the end of the episode that had everyone at the Paley Center intaking a sharp gasp of air and then silently struggling to figure out what exactly was going on. And it doesn't take long to figure out what's going on, but even the understanding of what's going on just presents you with more questions and confusion. And makes 'shipping Dan/Olivia so much more fun and viable. I seriously cannot wait to get deeper and deeper into this show and the crazy puzzle of mindfucks that it surely has up its sleeve from week to week. Kudos to NBC for this one, because if I had my way this would be the breakout of the year.

Of course, if I always had my way with new TV shows Friday Night Lights would be nominated for several Emmys right now and not looking at bleak future on, ironically, Friday nights. But that's a bitter argument for another time.

I realize I have yet to say a word about the ABC pilots - fear not. Tomorrow is a day of no work for this busy TV freak, so despite the fact that I now must start my battle for the paycheck... tomorrow is reserved for swooning over Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Samantha Who?, and Big Shots. All of which I have more than enough (good and unfortunately bad) to say about.

Get out the streamers and bring on the party cake! It's TV season again!

No response to “'Tis the Season: Pilots, Pilots Everywhere!”