Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pilot Review: iZombie

iZombie (Tuesdays at 9:00 on The CW)

Have you been craving a fourth season of Veronica Mars? Good news! You got it! Only Veronica is a half-zombie this time around.

I feel like this was the pitch for iZombie, the new series from Veronica Mars mastermind Rob Thomas and former Mars writer Diane Ruggiero-Wright. While the CW show is adapted from a DC Comics storyline (yup, another one, just in case you didn't get your fill with Arrow, The Flash, or Gotham), it has been changed so much to fit into Thomas's oeuvre that it feels like a completely different animal, and not always for the better.

Pilot Review: One Big Happy

One Big Happy (Tuesdays at 9:30 on NBC)

It's a shame when bad shows happen to good people. With such likeable personalities as Elisha Cuthbert and Nick Zano in front of the camera, and everyone's favorite dancing talk show host Ellen Degeneres working behind it, you would think NBC's latest offering would be, at the very least, enjoyable. But One Big Happy can't even manage that.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pilot Review: American Crime

American Crime (Thursdays at 10:00 on ABC)

American Crime is often an uncomfortable show to watch. It's unafraid of throwing hard issues in its audience faces, the exact kind of issues we typically try to avoid talking about: race, class, gender, addiction, poverty. It's the kind of show that aims to start a conversation, to put an intelligent, semi-balanced face to abstract but emotional ideas about how society shapes our views of ourselves and everyone around us. It will make you angry; it will make you sad; it will annoy you and piss you off. But it will, undoubtedly, make you feel something.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pilot Review: CSI: Cyber

CSI: Cyber (Wednesdays at 10:00 on CBS; Premieres March 4)

These long-running CBS franchises that continue to be expanded (both NCIS and CSI have spin-offs this year, and Criminal Minds has had one in the past and another on tap) are not exactly brain food. They don't challenge audiences; they don't make you think. It's why they're so damn popular. People can relax in bed or curled up under an electric blanket and check their e-mail, read a magazine, eat dinner, talk on the phone, or doze off and not really miss anything. And if you do miss something important? Meh, there'll be another episode just like that one on next week, so it's no big deal. But they're just entertaining enough, just the right amount of bland and fun, that they make for great background noise or detached, casual viewing. CSI: Cyber is no exception to this formula.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pilot Review: Battle Creek

Battle Creek (Sundays at 10:00 on CBS)

Welcome to CBS's newest (well, most recent, considering this pilot was first written over a decade ago) exercise in pointless mediocrity, Battle Creek: a show that blends some wonderful creative talents with a great, quirky cast and yet somehow still ends up feeling like the Dullest Dullard in Dullsville.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pilot Review: Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies (Sundays at 9:00 on ABC)

If there's one genre I want to see die out, it's the "dead kid mystery" genre. You know exactly what I'm talking about. It began a few years ago with The Killing, found its way overseas to Broadchurch, came back to the States as Gracepoint, and was most recently explored on the new Amazon streaming series Bosch. Now we get Secrets and Lies, a remake of an Australian miniseries and one of the duller entries into the field, despite some good moments and some decent performances.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pilot Review: The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple (Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS)

CBS's remake/update of The Odd Couple is a lot of things: deluded, lazy, crass, offensive. One thing it's not is funny.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pilot Review: Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat (Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC)

A show like Fresh Off the Boat should be heralded simply for existing. Believe it or not, the last time a series aired on broadcast television with an entirely Asian American cast was over twenty years ago; Margaret Cho's All American Girl aired for nineteen episodes on ABC in 1994 and 1995, and it resulted in a strained attempt at integrating the Korean Kim family into an almost entirely white landscape. The problems that arose from that series (a lack of original plotlines, relying on stereotypes for laughs, and objectification of the leading characters) are strangely still mostly present in the pilot of Fresh Off the Boat, resulting in a strange, uneven, uncomfortably old-fashioned kind of show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Amazon Comedy Pilots - January 2015

With Transparent garnering rapturous reviews and already racking up some love from awards groups (including a Golden Globe win for Best Comedy Series), Amazon has released a new assortment of pilots for its users to watch and rate, in an effort to help decide what will go to series in the future. So far, Amazon has only dabbled in comedy (though that changes in a few weeks when Bosch releases), so that's where I started my viewing binge with this latest crop of shows, and it was an easy start since there are only two in consideration, as opposed to four dramas.

Click through for my reviews of Down Dog and Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pilot Review: Backstrom

Backstrom (Thursdays at 9:00 on Fox)

Stop me if you've heard this one before: an unlikeable narcissist storms around his workplace insulting people and making a fool of himself, but he gets to keep his job because he's also something of a genius. The anti-hero trend is still in full force, especially on Fox; Backstrom is just the latest, following last year's epic failure Rake. The show's title character is yet another quirky, somewhat obnoxious leading player a la Bones, House, The Finder, and others. There are probably about a dozen shows you could compare Backstrom to, and I guarantee they're all better than it is.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Midseason Schedule: The CW

Better late than never, The CW has, at last, finalized its midseason plans.


8:00 - The Originals
9:00 - Jane the Virgin

No changes to the Monday night schedule, which hasn't exactly been lighting up the ratings, but critical darling Jane the Virgin will soon be getting some exposure after its featured on the Golden Globes (with many even predicting leading lady Gina Rodriguez to win) this weekend.


8:00 - The Flash
9:00 - Supernatural
9:00 - iZombie (NEW - beginning March 17)

The newest DC comics adaptation, iZombie, will be following the hit DC comics adaptation The Flash. Will having three comic book shows on the air on back-to-back nights be a windfall or a detriment for The CW? We'll find out in March.


8:00 - Arrow
9:00 - The 100
9:00 - Supernatural (beginning March 18)

After The 100 wraps its second season on March 11, Supernatural, the CW's ultimate utility players, transfers over to Wednesdays.


8:00 - The Vampire Diaries
9:00 - Reign

Despite being one of the lowest-rated dramas on the network currently, Reign stays put on Thursdays.


8:00 - Hart of Dixie
8:00 - Cedric's Barber Battle (beginning April 10)
8:30 - Whose Line Is It Anyway? (beginning April 10)
9:00 - Repeats through April 3
9:30 - Masters of Illusion
9:00 - The Messengers (NEW - beginning April 10)

I was holding out hope that The Messengers would be good, but apparently not: it gets a terrible, throwaway timeslot and debuts very late in the season so that nearly half its episode will air in the summer. It's all but dead already. And the network's newest reality series, Cedric's Barber Battle, could not sound worse: "Each week, the show will visit different barbershops in cities, including Los Angeles, Queens, Harlem and Austin, where the best barbers will go head-to-head in a hilariously unfiltered, no-holds-barred arena.  Creating hair sculptures that feature elaborate designs ranging from images of a person’s face to grand cityscapes, the barbers will use nothing more than their clippers and a few coloring tools to create intricate works of art that are both imaginative and location-centric." No, thank you.

This leaves only Beauty and the Beast, returning for its third season, without an airdate, which will likely be sometime this summer as it was last year (along with the new seasons of Masters of Illusion and Penn & Teller: Fool Us).

For descriptions of The CW's new shows, see the 2014 schedule announcement from upfronts in May.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pilot Review: Empire

Empire (Wednesdays at 9:00 on Fox)

This has been an incredible year for diversity on the broadcast nets. The biggest show on network television has a black female lead (Scandal), and the biggest new show of the year does as well (How to Get Away with Murder). The biggest new comedy of the year is about an all-black family (Black-ish), and now you have Empire, with its entirely African American or Latino cast, sweeping in to tie How to Get Away... for the biggest premiere of the season. And the best part about all of this? Each of these shows is actually good.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pilot Review: Agent Carter

Agent Carter (Tuesdays at 9:00 on ABC)

Agent Carter is, in almost every way, the exact opposite of Marvel's other television series, Agents of SHIELD. Whereas that series started with a massive bang (and a budget to match), focusing on visual effects and extending the sensibility of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the small screen with its ensemble cast, Agent Carter enters the field with little more than a murmur: it's a relatively quiet (by comic book adaptation standards) period piece more interested in creating dynamic characters than dynamic explosions. Not everything works, but what does is a huge step up from the misfire that SHIELD turned into after its entertaining pilot.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Midseason Schedule: NBC

Updated December 21. Say goodbye to NBC's Thursday night comedy block, because for the first time in almost 40 years, NBC will be airing three dramas on Thursdays.


8:00 - The Celebrity Apprentice (Beginning January 5)
8:00 - The Voice (Beginning February 23)
10:00 - State of Affairs
10:00 - The Night Shift (Beginning February 23)

With The Blacklist moving to Thursdays and State of Affairs only producing 13 episodes this season, last year's surprise summer hit The Night Shift makes the move to the regular season, and with a great lead-in from The Voice no less. The Celebrity Apprentice gets the burn-off treatment, airing 14 episodes back-to-back, with a special premiere on January 4 and then six weeks of two-hour blocks on Mondays (no surprise given that the show completed filming nearly a year ago).


8:00 - Parks & Recreation (Beginning January 13)
8:00 - The Voice (Beginning February 24)
9:00 - Undateable (Beginning March 17)
9:30 - One Big Happy (NEW - Beginning March 17)
10:00 - Chicago Fire

Parks & Rec airs its final season in one-hour increments for seven weeks, ending with a finale on February 24 at 10:00. The premiere comes on the heels of the Golden Globes, which Poehler is once again hosting with Tina Fey, to maximize the show's exposure. After The Voice cuts back to one hour, another summer series, Undateable, gets its sizable lead-in when it leads off a new multi-cam comedy block with the Ellen Degeneres-produced freshman, One Big Happy. Marry Me and About a Boy will air in January and return later in the season, likely summer.


8:00 - The Mysteries of Laura
9:00 - Law & Order: SVU
10:00 - Chicago P.D.

No changes for one of NBC's more stable nights (thought not necessarily highly-rated).


8:00 - The Slap (NEW - Beginning February 12)
9:00 - The Blacklist (Beginning February 5)
10:00 - Allegiance (NEW - Beginning February 5)

The Biggest Loser, Bad Judge, and A to Z all finish their runs in late January. Then The Blacklist makes it big move, potentially boosted by its post-Super Bowl airing on February 1, followed by the premiere of Allegiance.


8:00 - Constantine
9:00 - Grimm
10:00 - Dateline

Constantine shifts to the 8:00 time period, which seems odd for a couple reasons: 1) its dark tone and violence seems better suited to 10:00, and 2) it reads like a last ditch effort to get new eyes on the show. Perhaps it's not as dead as not receiving an order for additional episodes implies. Still, it's strange to shift Dateline back to 10:00 and then move it to 8:00 again when something else debuts at 10:00 (like Hannibal, which was not part of the schedule announcement but will be returning sometime in the coming months). So is it possible that Hannibal will take up residence elsewhere on the schedule and something unexpected will air on Fridays at 8:00? Or will Dateline just hop around the Friday night schedule for the rest of its life?


7:00 - Dateline (January 4, 18, and 25)
9:00 - A.D. (NEW - Beginning April 5)
10:00 - Odyssey (NEW - Beginning April 5)

NBC hasn't set any programming for Sundays at 8:00 after January, when both football and the special airings of Dateline end. Then A.D., the miniseries sequel to History's The Bible, will premiere on Easter Sunday, followed by Odyssey. NBC didn't have a lot of luck with scripted drama programming on Sundays last season, but A.D at least has the potential to garner viewers.

This leaves comedy Mr. Robinson and dramas Aquarius and Hannibal without air dates. With The Night Shift and Undateable moving to the regular season, could Mr. Robinson and Aquarius move to summer? It's possible, though Sundays at 8:00 and Fridays at 8:00 or 10:00 will be open around February sweeps, as well as Thursdays at 8:00 following The Slap's eight-week run (which should end on April 2, leaving 7-8 weeks of the regular season remaining). Heroes Reborn is also slated for summer, and Hollywood Game Night is on deck as well.

For descriptions of NBC's new shows, see the 2014 schedule announcement from upfronts in May.