Perception

Before Perception returns for a third season Feb. 25, you may want to know whether it’s worth watching. I did. As adorable as Eric McCormack looks with a 5 o’clock shadow, I needed convincing. There’s no shortage of shows about eccentric geniuses, or their sub-genre, cop-with-eccentric-genius-partner shows. So Perception, for all its charm, needs its pilot to break the mold.

Eric-McCormack

How cute is he?

Perception suffers from the threat of another presupposition. No matter how many roles he plays, Eric McCormack will always be Will Truman, the character who made him a household name. The first thing I saw him in following Will & Grace was Dead Like Me, and I luh-hoved seeing him play a character so diametrically opposed to the previous one. So I know he’s capable of surprising an audience, but didn’t expect him to do it again, this time in a starring role. I was just waiting for this show to bore me. Continue reading

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Killer Women

Hats off to the first cancelled new show of 2014! If you can still catch an episode of Killer Women before they stop airing it, you have to watch it to believe how unbelievably bad it is. Sophia Vergara is a brilliant comedienne, but I don’t know what she was thinking when she put her name on this soapy western/procedural drama.

Killer Women Molly Parker

Don’t blink, or you’ll miss those micro-mannerisms.

In the show’s opening moments we meet Texas Ranger Molly Parker (Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica), and she’ll be on screen pretty much from here on out. Don’t worry; she has enough costume changes to keep her interesting to look at if not listen to. Continue reading

Law & Order

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The Boy’s Club. Walking.

The New York Times recently ran a review of two new cop shows, Killer Women and Chicago P.D., wherein the writer referenced Dick Wolf’s journey as a creator of procedurals. Mega-producer Wolf has gone, as the writer pointed out, from president of the Boy’s Club to the guy who escorted Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) to fan favorite status. I just watched the pilot of Law & Order the other day, and indeed, the first thing I noticed was the gender imbalance. To use a phrase coined by The Black Nerd, there’s too much beef in the stew. Continue reading

Favorite Pilots of 2013

Honestly, I didn’t watch a lot of TV in 2013. For more definitive lists of the “best of 2013” may I suggest The Wire or The AV Club. I’m just gonna tell you my favorite pilots of 2013, because it’s like, late December and making lists is the thing to do.

Agent Coulson don't touch lola1. Almost Human — Not the most original thing ever on TV, this show managed to find its own voice in its pilot. It’s witty and engaging, and is responsible for my first — and currently, only — A.I. crush.

2. Orange is the New Black — Much has been written about why this show is great. It became much more than it was in the pilot, i.e. the story of one pretty white woman turning herself in for a prison sentence. Still, the pilot is fantastic in its own right. Don’t let the cheesy title put you off.

3. Orphan Black — If you know nothing about this show, I recommend watching the pilot that way. The less you know what to expect, the more you’ll enjoy it. The premise of the show isn’t truly introduced until late in the second episode, and that’s awesome.

4. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. — Despite introducing us to one of the most annoying characters ever one TV (Skye, who according to imdb, has no last name), this pilot was a fun ride. I’m sure that the build-up to the premiere colored the experience. Just seeing Coulson deliver the “Don’t touch Lola” line was enough to make fans cheer. It wasn’t the episode plot that made this pilot exciting, though, but the introduction of the still-unwinding plot, “How the hell is Coulson still alive?” BTW, Lola’s licence plate reads, “681 PCE.” That has to mean something!!

Under the Dome… and other apocalypses

PilotUnder the Dome is the latest in a seeming mobius strip of apocalypse stories being forced down our gullet by the entertainment industry. “But wait,” you say, “Under the Dome isn’t an apocalypse story. It’s only about one town.” This Stephen King-based saga, which debuted last month, centers on a small municipality that finds itself, inexplicably and without warning, under a dome. Like in The Simpsons Movie. Continue reading

The Booth at the End

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There isn’t much to explain about the premise of The Booth at the End. A weird, nameless dude sits in a booth — at the end — in a diner and gives people cryptic assignments to complete in order to obtain things they want. It’s like The Wizard telling Dorothy to kill the witch, whom she’s never met and has no beef with, in order to go home.

Booth is a Hulu original series, but the episodes run the length of an ordinary televised show. That’s probably a bit long for a series of basically all bottle episodes. Continue reading

The Americans and sex in pilots

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Elizabeth and Phillip as they look in their “everyday” life.

Sex on TV can be a cheap way to get attention, whether it’s in advertising or entertainment, shorthand for “look at this!” And a pilot is where, above all else, a show needs to grab attention. It’s the rare cable drama of the past ten years that doesn’t feature at least one sex scene in its premiere episode. The pilot of The Americans, which premiered on FX several weeks ago, features not one, but three of them.

It’s easy to view the ubiquitous romp in the sheets (or airport supply closet, or… wherever) with cynicism. In this case, however, the sex serves the story brilliantly, and I’ll get to why. Continue reading

Felicity

felicity (1)Who else is on a J.J. Abrams high? I’ve been catching up on Revolution, binge-watching Fringe, and catching Star Trek whenever it’s aired on basic cable. (I do own it on DVD, but it’s always on.) And SO MANY Bad Robot/Star Wars/Star Trek mash-up memes.

We’ve come to associate Abrams with time- and universe-hopping, futuristic warfare, and badassery. All good omens for the new Star Wars. But you do know he created Felicity, right? That teeny-bopper mellow-drama from the era of Dawson’s Creek? Fanboys and girls, I think this show warrants some examination. Continue reading

Merry Pilots

JesusYou 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! Continue reading

Farscape

There are people who love this show. I’m gonna say right up front, I had trouble getting through the pilot — I thought it was awful. It premiered in 1999. I had to look that up to be sure because, watching it with no prior knowledge, I was estimating something closer to 1989. I’m going to plead, “You can’t judge a show by it’s pilot,” on this one because apparently it improves.

According to TV Tropes, “While its premise began as a fairly standard science fiction show, Farscape quickly distinguished itself with a focus on complex, evolving characterizations, jaw-dropping plot twists and movie-quality special effects and cinematography.” Continue reading