Common Law

Having discovered Michael Ealy on the fun-if-not-groundbreaking Almost Human, I had to have a peek at his previous buddy cop show, USA’s Common Law. If Amost Human is a tad formulaic, Common Law is downright Screenwriting 101. But if you’re in it for the Ealy charm, you’ve come to the right place (in either case).Common Law Continue reading

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25 Years of Fox Pilots

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. Continue reading

The Finder, or Sneaking in the Back

Let’s talk backdoor pilots for a moment, shall we?

When you think spinoff, you usually to think of a story that follows an existing character to a new setting (think Frasier, A Different World, or *shudder* Joey). Spinoffs that originate with backdoor pilots are generally just new shows from the existing show’s creators. The characters get introduced in an episode of original show — and episode that appears to have very little if anything to do with… well, anything. Continue reading

Breaking In, or Trying to Speak Geek

Some pilots want nothing more than to convey to the viewer what the creators imagine to be the unique style and tone of the show. Breaking In, which debuted last night on Fox, wants you to know it’s for geeks. They really, really want you to know it. I can just hear the pitch meeting: “It’s a show about smart geeks who work together to foil security systems and have a crazy boss. It’s like Chuck, meets Archer, meets The Office! With a dash of The Big Bang Theory!”

I won’t rehash the entire plot since there are any number of reviews out there. Basically, a smart but understated guy named Cameron (Brett Harrison of Reaper and The Loop) is not so much recruited by as coerced into working for a security company. The gang at the company, led by Christian Slater as Oz, pull off creative and highly challenging heists for a living.

Star Wars references seem to pop up in everything these days. How I Met Your Mother and Bones incorporate them really well, making you believe the characters think of Star Wars as part of their lives. (Marshall will cut a Thanksgiving turkey with a light saber one day.) In Breaking In, the character Cash (Alphonso McAuley) is introduced wearing a Han Solo costume. His first joke wraps up a nerd joke with a race joke–about how black guys don’t always have to play Lando. It would have been funnier if he just went around dressed as Han Solo with no explanation, leaving it for the audience to notice. (Does it matter what race he is? Meg played a freaking worm in Family Guy’s Star Wars universe.)

That bit is quickly followed by one in which Cash references Avatar then asserts that he speaks Klingon. We get it-you’re a geek!

As the New York Times points out, Christian Slater’s leering coercion of Bret Harrison looks an awful lot like the goings-on on Harrison’s previous geek-friendly show Reaper. Another more subtle geek reference, and one of the episode’s bright spots, was the appearance of the nearly-unrecognizable Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville’s Lex Luthor) as Dutch. He is hilariously doofy in his trailer trash-duds and monster-sized truck. When this show crashes and burns, he could have a future on Raising Hope.

It’s not that this pilot wasn’t entertaining or have it’s funny moments. It just seems like it’s trying way too hard to tell us what it is and what it is not, without allowing us to figure it out over a few episodes. It wants geeks to know they’re the intended audience, but it doesn’t know how to talk to them.

I feel pandered to. Raise your hand if you feel pandered to.

Bones

I must start by saying this is my favorite show currently on TV. It’s funny, suspenseful, well-written, and demands some level of viewer commitment to follow, to say nothing of the eye candy.

What I love about the pilot is it doesn’t feel like a pilot. Special Agent Sealy Booth (David Boreanaz) and Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) have worked together before. They don’t like each other much, but there is respect, and none of that weirdly forced sexual tension usually found on shows where a man and a woman are partners. (Suggestions of romance come later for these two.)

We meet secondary character Angela first. She flashes her boobs to a clerk for information at Dulles airport. Brennan is flying in from Guatemala, where she was identifying remains in a mass grave, and she gets detained by Homeland Security for having a skull in her bag. It turns out Booth is behind this embarrassing little episode. He needed to snatch her up to help with a potentially high-profile murder case.

And, we’re into the week’s (largely forgettable) mystery. Do we care who murdered a congressional intern? Not really. Do we care how this seasoned FBI agent and genius scientist are going to work together? Hell yeah; the show is now in its fifth season.

Always with this show, the B Plot is far more interesting than the A Plot. The A Plot serves as a backdrop on which to paint character traits. In this mystery, for example, we learn that Booth is tactful, even reverent, when dealing with a victim’s family. Bones would rather lay out all the facts, feelings be damned. But nothing about these character development tactics is unique to the pilot. With every episode, the characters grow. In my opinion, Booth and Bones’ relationship doesn’t even begin to hit its stride until episode 15, when Booth saves Bones’ life for the first time.

We get briefly introduced to the other “squints,” Jack and Zach, and their boss, Dr. Goodman, who only lasted one season. We have plenty of time to learn about all of them.

The pilot gives us one quintessential moment to hang onto throughout the series; indeed I believe it was used in commercials for the show throughout Season 1. Booth: “C’mon, we’re Scully and Mulder.” Bones: “I don’t know what that means.” She doesn’t. Her ignorance of pop culture is used as a joke again and again. Oh, right, the pilot also includes Bones’ ex-boyfriend showing up to reclaim his TV. We see that Bones isn’t likely to miss him or it.