Susan 313

This week, Sarah Silverman released the pilot of a show she made last year for NBC. I’m going to preface this by saying, I’m not a huge Sarah Silverman fan. I don’t dislike her, I’ve just never loved her. This is honestly my first trip to her YouTube page.

Wreck It Ralph

This is not a photo from the show. It’s from Wreck It Ralph. If you don’t see the connection, you’re probably not interested in this post.

But did you see what was on NBC last year? It’s hard to believe anything of even remote quality didn’t make it to air. (Exhibit A: Another show created by and starring an otherwise very funny comedienne, Are You There, Chelsea? My rating: unwatchable.) Continue reading

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Cheers

Most television casts evolve over time and, when you look back on a long-running show you might forget which characters were the originals. Can you imagine Cheers with no Frasier, no Woody, and no Lillith? In watching the pilot, 30 years old this season, you might be surprised to recall there were essentially only six characters: Sam, Diane, Coach, Carla, Norm and Cliff

The pilot, as you might assume, centers on Sam (Ted Danson) and Diane (Shelley Long) and their first meeting. It’s your basic Welcome Episode, where a new member is introduced to an existing group. It’s horribly contrived and implausible, but sometimes that’s how pilots go, and it doesn’t mean that a good show can’t unfold. First there’s a pointless cold open, where an underage kid shows up in the empty bar and tries to order a drink with a phony military ID. All we learn from this is that Sam isn’t completely gullible. Continue reading

Go On

Let’s face it, we don’t watch a pilot without attaching bias to the actors. (Except when we do. See my forthcoming post on Pramface.) So nobody but nobody is going to watch Go On without at least one prior Matthew Perry role in mind. And yes, his characters are all strikingly similar. If you’ve taken any notice of this show, you’re probably acquainted with its premise, so I won’t rehash it. So let’s talk about how casting choices influence our enjoyment of a pilot. Continue reading

Arrow and Revolution

It’s official. Bows and arrows are the hottest accessory for fall. I don’t know if Darryl from The Walking Dead started it, or if we can credit Katniss Everdeen, but two of the fall pilots screened at Comic-Con last night heavily featured this handy but rustic weapon.

Continue reading

Abed’s Master Key

In case we weren’t already excited enough about the return of Community on March 15, the fine folks at NBC have decided to whet our whistle with some animated shorts. The obvious question: Why didn’t they think of this a long time ago? That animated holiday special in 2010 (has it been that long?) rocked.

The pilot episode of Abed’s Master Key is only a precious minute and 56 seconds long, but to fans so long deprived of a meal, these are succulent little crumbs. The episode just gives us a quick look at all of the main characters–the study group and Dean Pelton–hanging out in their usual spot, the study room that has seen everything from a zombie uprising to some Jeff-Britta coitus. Continue reading

30 Rock

It must be fun for TV writers to write about TV writers. Someday someone should write a show about TV writers writing a show about TV writers.

Tina Fey could not be a more perfect choice for the writer/actress around whom to build a sit-com about television writers. Not only is she a riot without being a stereotype but she was the head writer for the most well-known late-night sketch comedy show ever, airing on the actual network portrayed in the show. NBC’s willingness to parody itself and its longest running show gives this show comedic possibilities that it would not have otherwise. (Their parent company really does make ovens.) Continue reading

Will It Fly?

Source CodeWhen I first heard that the movie Source Code, which I haven’t seen but which looks pretty cool, is being developed for TV, my instinctive first question was, “What network?” (The answer is CBS.) Because, with sci-fi and genre TV, the network is everything. It will largely determine how the material will be handled and whether it will succeed. Continue reading

Surface

NBC has been toying with science fiction for years now, with a few hits and many misses. Surface is one of the latter, being cancelled after 15 episodes in 2005-06.

The show introduces us to four separate locations and character groupings: some kids in North Carolina, the crew of the U.S.S. Ronald Regan in Antarctica, a group of fishing buddies in Louisiana, and an oceanography team in Northern California. It establishes the strangely-connected-incidents-happening-to-otherwise-unconnected-people-in-disparate-places element that Heroes would do more successfully a year later.

We meet the kids first. Since they’re out drinking and screwing around we can expect something bad to happen, so the suspense builds quickly when one of them, Miles (Carter Jenkins) is separated from the boat. The Scary Thing we’re expecting is more mysterious, since we are not sure what we’ve seen. A dark creature slithers from a buoy into the water, freaking out the kid who witnesses it. But it’s forgotten pretty quickly when the Coast Guard busts the kids for drinking.

The scene on the aircraft carrier has the air of an action movie, something that would star Harrison Ford. A gruff military officer has little patience for the “civilian biologist” and his team who have come to check out an abandoned submarine.

We spend the most time with the oceanography team. The hero is Marine Biologist Dr. Laura Daughtery (Lake Bell). She is the divorced mother of a little boy. The introductory scene of these characters is warm and humorous, conveying that Laura both loves her son and refuses to take any crap from him. She holds a pair of scissors, ready to cut the ear off of his stuffed pal until he agrees to get ready to go to his dad’s.

Once we have gotten to know Laura as a woman, we see her as a researcher. She is off to visit some vents on the ocean floor in an expensive submersible. “More people have been to the moon than have been to the hot vents,” she informs us. Despite being a supposedly highly respected scientist, Laura has a decidedly girlish air, wearing her hair loose and chewing gum while she works; you can decide whether this is endearing or just makes her hard to take seriously. Weird note: in this super high-tech craft she writes with a pen and paper? You would think she’d at least have a laptop.

Things get intense while Laura is on her dive, with some pretty cool special effects and a moment where we would think she was a dead woman if the writers hadn’t invested so much time in introducing her.

The juxtaposition of different settings, and different tones, keeps the audience off balance, always waiting to grasp onto the common thread. We know that thread is some type of sea creature, but just what kind of danger it represents remains unknown until one of the fishermen is killed.  Before long, intimidating government officials have arrived to learn more about Laura’s encounter.  Why are people on TV always smart asses when they’re being questioned by the authorities?

The most exciting moment of the episode comes when one of the creatures bursts out of a fish tank, where Miles has stowed an egg. The moment isn’t a complete surprise, but the look on Miles’ mother’s face is pretty entertaining.

This pilot feels really long. It’s as if you’ve sat through a whole SyFy original movie (which is okay if you’re into that). Perhaps too much is revealed too early. Coming right out with the mention of sea monsters, and even showing them to us, probably could have waited an episode or two. It seems like these writers wanted to tell the whole story in the pilot instead of drawing it out. I have not seen any subsequent episodes, but perhaps this is why the show didn’t last.