In the spirit of year-end lists, which I love, I offer my own mini-list. I’m calling this “favorite” rather than “best,” considering there are probably lots of great pilots out there I have yet to see. Inspired by other “best of 2016” lists, I’m eager to watch Search Party, Insecure, and Westworld. But for now, here are my faves.
- Stranger Things
Do I even need to explain? The pilot featured Dungeons & Dragons, heart-warming humor, heaps of nostalgia, a hint of government conspiracy, and a scary-ass kidnapping scene. By the end of the episode, you still don’t know quite what you’re dealing with, but you know it’s something special. Continue reading
Two shows I’ve been binging lately — and enjoying tremendously — open with the trope of the protagonist quitting mental health medication. Both United States of Tara and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend feature strong lead female characters struggling with their mental health. Both shows are noteworthy for their darkly comic, complex, honest presentations of mental illness. But they both lean on the shorthand device of the main character quitting medication.
“Going off your meds” could be called a sub-trope of the popular pilot plot line I call “First day of the rest your life.” I can’t say I’ve seen it a lot, but it appears in movies like Garden State. (If you have other examples, please tweet them to me @meek_the_geek.) It was subverted in the pilot of Wilfred, where Ryan decides to take all the meds. Continue reading
I’ve never watched Supernatural. By pure coincidence, I chose today to start watching it. I only found out afterward that today is the anniversary of the day the story begins, November 2, 1983. [Cue spooky music.]
Here is the sum of everything I knew about the show. Two dreamy brothers, one of whom was played with an actor who left Gilmore Girls for the role, chase down supernatural beings. And that the driver picks the music and shotgun shuts his cake hole. That’s it. Continue reading
I know I’m far from the only person to be disappointed by the season 7 finale of The Walking Dead. But I’ve felt the need to pinpoint exactly where the show went off the rails for me, and to articulate what, precisely, it has lost.
In the beginning, I was surprised to find myself enjoying a horror show so much. “It’s not about zombies,” was how I explained it to everyone who hadn’t seen it. “It’s about the people.” Not only was it about people… it was about hope. I’m sorry to say good-bye to beloved characters, but such good-byes are par for the course. What I can’t forgive is the loss of hope. Continue reading
Wayward Pines is the kind of show that defies you to answer the question “What is it about?” without giving away what it’s about. As soon as you hear the name M. Night Shyamalan, whatever you’re watching, you’re going to start scouring each scene for clues… clues to the almighty Twist. (Spoilers start mid-way though this post, with a warning.)
Produced by Shyamalan, Wayward Pines is based on a series of novels of the same name by Blake Crouch. Season 2 just started, and I couldn’t decide if I was excited about it or not. So I rewatched the pilot, which I remember a suspenseful and riveting. The first half of the first season, up to The Twist, kept me guessing, theorizing, and eager for the next week. After that investment, I wanted to stay engaged — it was the summer TV season, after all — so I kept with it and more or less enjoyed it. It’s now, having all of the information about what the show is about, that I realize the pilot isn’t that good. It’s pretty awful. Continue reading
I really wanted to like Younger. I can’t resist the if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now fantasy (see Being Erica). Also Sutton Foster. Sutton Foster is fabulous and adorable as a theatre actress, but her talent hasn’t translated too well to the tube. If Bunheads couldn’t figure out how to make the most of this shining star when she was playing a dancer… which she is… this one needed to work extra hard.
Younger follows the misadventures of a woman in her 40s posing as a woman in her 20s to facilitate her transition back to the workforce following stay-at-home-mom life and a painful divorce. Continue reading
Fragility and toughness form the juxtaposed themes of the pilot of Jessica Jones, which debuted yesterday on Netflix. I know nothing of Jessica Jones from the comics, and I haven’t read any reviews of the show, so this is an unadulterated first impression.
I couldn’t not think about the Veronica Mars pilot in the first few minutes. A female private detective spies on a tawdry hook-up as her voiceover provides exposition. We’re then transported to a hallway outside a dingy office where the textured glass proclaims the name of the business, Alias Investigations, not unlike the door to Mars Investigations. Then a client’s head comes through the glass and the similarity is, shall we say, shattered. (Doors are a recurring symbol, as well.) Continue reading
Kids living with substitute parents were big on 80s TV. Television would have had us believe you could will your kids to your employer (Diff’rent Strokes), take in homeless teens (Growing Pains), force two guys you slept with to share custody of your kid (My Two Dads), or raise a robot as your daughter (Small Wonder), all without any legal intervention. I don’t know if the networks were just trying to be inclusive of less traditional families or catering to kids who wished they could trade theirs in.
In this climate, Punky Brewster’s premise wasn’t hard to buy, but the show went above and beyond in attempting to be realistic. In making the pilot a three-parter, the network expressed their confidence in the audience’s willingness to stick with it, and the creators acknowledged the complexity of the subject matter. Don’t misunderstand; the show debuted with all the trappings of an 80s sit-com, including a whimsical montage, but it boldly adopted the tone of a “very special” episode right out of the gate. Continue reading
It takes a lot to think of something new to do within science fiction, but that doesn’t mean the old tropes have been exhausted. Other Space owes influences to many of the shows on this list of the 50 Greatest Sci-Fi TV Shows, but manages to find a unique voice of its own. In fact, it proves you don’t need a big name star or even explosions to succeed — although the name Paul Feig probably doesn’t hurt — he created, directed and produced it.
Opening titles tell us that a “multi-national corporate coalition” was formed in the mid-21s century to map the cosmos, and that we’ll be following the adventures of a ship that went missing in 2105. We’re then thrown into action on the bridge of a spaceship, which could be any spaceship on any show. People are frantically shouting for the captain to make a judgment call when he enters with a tray full of hotdogs to share. It’s a ham-handed joke, but tells us all we need to know about central character Stewart.(Karan Soni). Crew morale is his utmost priority and his aw-shucks need to be liked will always trump his professional obligations. And that’s okay, because he’s just passed this simulation (we knew it was a simulation) with flying colors. Continue reading
In July, the fall TV season seems a million years off. The networks are mainly reruns and there’s nary a pumpkin spice latte in sight. Returning from San Diego Comic-Con — or your other summertime con of choice — do you sometimes wonder how you can stand the wait for all the premieres that were teased or screened?
Having spent the past couple of weeks finally watching all the new fall shows, we can now talk about what they looked like without con goggles. Some lived up to the hype and some didn’t. But do you think your experience was colored by what you saw this summer?
I first saw part one Archer’s “Heart of Archness,” three-episode series at SDCC, and now it holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite episodes of that show. There’s one joke (about punching a shark in the friggin’ face) where I can almost hear the crowd in the Indigo Ballroom laugh every time. Continue reading