Archive for the ‘2000s’ Category
In honor of the series finale of its much longer-running American cousin, I thought I’d share a look back at the original The Office.
Seeing as this one came first I’ll resist the urge to point out which British character = which American one.
A cold open, selected for the sole purpose of showing us the main character’s lack of ethics, shows an executive at his desk. With some alliterative, fast-paced business jabber, he offers to give the man across from him a job as a forklift driver without having passed a forklift-driving test. He seems quite pleased with his deception as he smooth talks someone on the other end of the phone. We never get a look at the unlicensed forklift driver, but that’s not who we’re here to meet. It’s all about the boss, David Brent (show co-creator Ricky Gervais).
After that first scene, we launch into the mockumentary style the show helped popularize, with characters exuding dramatic irony in interview segments breaking up the regular workday activity — and by regular, I mean squabbling, practical joke-pulling nonsense. (Zero days since our last nonsense).
A few key relationships are set up: Tim (a much younger-looking Martin Freeman) and Gareth (Mackenzie Crook. Hey, did you know he was the dude with the glass eye in Pirates of the Caribbean? I didn’t.) They hate each other. Lighthearted Tim torments the way-too-serious Gareth. Then there’s Tim and Dawn (Lucy Davis). It’s suggested that he likes her, but could just be that he really hates her boyfriend. I said I wouldn’t compare but this Jim and Pam aren’t as syrupy. Then there’s boss-from-corporate Jennifer (Stirling Gallacher), who’s so far at the end of her rope with David you figure they’re bound to sleep together.
The crisis du jour is that corporate is planning to combine two branches of the paper company and “eliminate redundancies.” The gravity of the situation provides fertile ground for illustrating David’s complete lack of a clue, let alone ethics. As the audience, we’re left with the possibility of characters we’ve already met exiting, or new ones starting.
The show introduces a tone that is so banal, and dialogue so tossed off, it’s dead easy to miss things. Throw in the British accents and slang, and Americans are at a further disadvantage. The monochromatic surroundings and bland, unattractive characters make it easy to lose interest entirely until David says something so off the wall as to demand attention. One can see how even an Americanized version would be an acquired taste, and for many, not acquirable with only the pilot.
As a bonus, here’s a video on how to suspend a stapler in jelly (or as we Yanks would call it by its brand name, Jell-o).
I did an earlier post of match-the-pilot title-to-the show, but here’s a fresh batch. Some are obvious, so are not. See if you can guess which shows’ pilots these are:
3. The Beginning
4. Boardwalk Empire
6. We Just Decided To
7. The Man Trap
8. Movin’ In
9. Death Has a Shadow
10. Help Wanted
Answers after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve always thought of this show as just okay, an amusing distraction if I happened to flip on a rerun. And, you know. Clark Gregg.
So I just saw the pilot for the first time. Structurally, it’s solid. It uses a twist on the familiar First Day of School pilot trope. The jokes are fairly predictable, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gregg, as ex-husband Richard, carry it. Louis-Dreyfus has that dry, earnest sensibility that makes her seem oblivious that everyone’s laughing at her. By contrast, Gregg wears that omnipresent smirk that makes you think he’s in on every joke–including the ones of which he’s the butt. He exudes coolness even in a multi-camera sitcom environment. Read the rest of this entry »
You wouldn’t think Christmas would be a particularly propitious time to set your pilot. Pilots usually air in the fall, or just after the holidays. And Christmas is the season for marathons of shows and movies you already know and love. But when you think about it, the holidays are rife with drama and emotion — often of the familial warfare variety. So there’s some material there.
There are a handful of pilots — that I’m aware of — that are set during the holiday season. Here’s a list. Are there others? Please leave comments if you know! Read the rest of this entry »
Inspired by i09′s Death Week* and more specifically, their re-posting of Charlie Jane Anders‘ Ten Coolest Death Scenes in Science Fiction History, I got to thinking about how many characters bite the big one in pilots. Death often marks a beginning — often for the survivor learning to carry on, but sometimes even for the dead getting on with the afterlife. So, going to the great DVR in the sky makes a good event for a first episode. Here are some of my favs, in no particular order.
Major spoilers after the jump.
The premiere episode of Glee, airing in February of 2009, was one of the great pilots. Which might leave you to ponder, upon the conclusion of the dramedy’s third season… WTF?
Glee wouldn’t be the first show to start off strong and then squander audience goodwill in a sea of contrivances and guest stars (Chuck, anyone?) And actually, it is still hugely popular and considered a success by many measures. The cast has sold more records than The Beatles. Maybe I’m the only one who hates it. Well, I can’t be the only one, as evidenced by this blog, Glee Sucks. Yes, you really have to compare the Glee of the pilot to — let’s call it post-Gwyneth Glee — to appreciate the magnitude of its decline.
The pilot was no less than groundbreaking. It aired after the Superbowl, months before the show would officially premiere. It was so wacky and in-your-face and, dare I say, life-affirming. I still have the New Directions rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” on my iPod.
Here are the top 5 (but by no means only) ways that Glee has let us down since its pilot: Read the rest of this entry »
Since the Fox network is celebrating its 25th anniversary on April 22, I thought I should write a blog post in honor of it. First I thought I’d pick a show that Fox prematurely cancelled, but that would be like shooting zombies in a barn.
Then I realized, I have already blogged about enough Fox shows to keep the inhabitants of Omicron Persei 8 entertained until someone decides to reboot Single Female Lawyer. So, here’s a list in roughly chronological order. Some selections fit squarely into the “cancelled too soon” category while others, deservedly or not, continue to air. I’m up for suggestions as to others I should cover — just leave a comment. Read the rest of this entry »
I had planned on blogging about the pilot of Touch, but it was so uninspiring that instead I’m choosing to reflect on Tim Kring‘s last, far superior show, Heroes. Touch, the drama about an autistic child with the power to see connections among disparate people, definitely had a similar feel to it, and even overlap in subject matter. But the debut of Heroes was a landmark event and the start of a fan phenomenon that lasted until the show went off the rails in its second season. After watching Touch I thought maybe I was just romanticizing, but the Heroes pilot still holds up — it’s so good. Read the rest of this entry »
Unlike many pilots, where we dive headlong into action, meeting a spate of characters before the opening credits, Mad Men‘s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” asks us to sit down and get to know its main character, Don Draper. We spend the pilot’s first six minutes with Don (Jon Hamm), not in the heat of battle on Madison Avenue, but in a quiet moment, alone in a bar. He scribbles thoughtfully on a napkin, mulling an idea. He launches an impromptu focus group of one with a waiter. He wants to know what motivates this guy–the average working man–to smoke the brand of cigarettes he smokes. (This brief encounter also gives us taste of 1960s culture vis-a-vis race, but more on that later.) Read the rest of this entry »