Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pilot Review: Manhattan Love Story

Manhattan Love Story (Tuesdays at 8:30 on ABC)

ABC has the two smartest sitcoms of the season in Black-ish and Selfie. They have gone above and beyond the typical comedy setups of "a bunch of friends looking for love" or "dysfunctional family" and crossed over into social commentary and satire. Why, then, is ABC airing Manhattan Love Story, the worst kind of trite, oversimplified, offensively dumb show: the gender roles comedy? They are clearly capable of doing much better, of providing viewers with thoughtful humor, but you would never guess it after subjecting yourself to just a few minutes of Love Story.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pilot Review: Selfie

Selfie (Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC; Premieres September 30)

What if Eliza Doolittle were a character in an Amy Heckerling film in 2014? That seems to be the question Selfie creator Emily Kapnek asked herself when developing the new ABC comedy based on George Bernard Shaw's classic 1912 play Pygmalion (and subsequent musical adaptation My Fair Lady). There's a surprising bite to the comedy here, much as there was over a century ago when Shaw debuted his play, despite some shortcomings. But the overall concept of mixing the feeling of Clueless with My Fair Lady comes across better than one would think, thanks to some sharp social commentary.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pilot Review: How to Get Away with Murder

How to Get Away with Murder (Thursdays at 10:00 on ABC)

Much has already been made of the new series from Shonda Rhimes' production company, Shondaland, thanks mostly to a clueless, shit-stirring feature in The New York Times. A lot of the hype is justified, because How to Get Away with Murder is exactly what ABC has been promising in its heavy promotion: instantly addictive, fast-paced fun.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pilot Review: Black-ish

Black-ish (Wednesdays at 9:30 on ABC)

Jokes about race are lazy. They're about equivalent to jokes about farts, pooping, penises, and getting high. So when Black-ish was announced, I assumed we would be getting a thirty-minute exercise in immature humor and lazy punchline writing. Imagine my surprise when a totally coherent and very intelligent show about the construction of identity emerged on ABC's Wednesday night lineup.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pilot Review: NCIS: New Orleans

NCIS: New Orleans (Tuesdays at 9:00 on CBS)

I've never watched a single moment of any previous NCIS series, so I don't know how the New Orleans extension compares to the others. But as a freestanding pilot, NCIS: New Orleans is almost a total failure. But then again, CBS probably isn't too interested in gaining new viewers with this spin-off, but rather pleasing old ones and hoping their eyes stay glued to the TV after the NCIS mothership ends at 9:00.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pilot Review: Scorpion

Scorpion (Mondays at 9:00 on CBS)

Scorpion begins with a title card: "Inspired by a true story." I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the scene of a car chasing a low-flying plane across the runways of LAX, with the pilot hanging from the landing gear and an American Idol runner-up standing up in a speeding Ferrari while they pass an ethernet cable back and forth, isn't included in that disclaimer. That's just one in a long string of ridiculous scenes that comprise this utterly stupid pilot about, ironically, a group of super-geniuses.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pilot Review: Gotham

Gotham (Mondays at 8:00 on Fox)

Do you really need me to tell you whether or not to watch this show? You've definitely already decided by now if you're going to give it a shot (you have possibly even decided whether or not you will hate it or love it), so I'm sure this review is more of a formality than anything that will change your mind one way or the other.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pilot Review: Madam Secretary

Madam Secretary (Sundays at 8:00 on CBS)

Madam Secretary is the type of pilot that is going to be absolutely golden for a certain sect of viewers. It's about politics; it's competently written and shot; and the cast is full of recognizable Tony, Emmy, and Oscar winners. It has the walk-and-talk beats of The West Wing, the female empowerment of The Good Wife, and a likeable, beloved leading lady in Tea Leoni. It's also almost sickeningly sunny and upbeat for a show about the harsh world of governmental politics, and that's where the disconnect comes in for me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pilot Review: Forever

Forever (Tuesdays at 10:00 on ABC; Premieres September 22)

It's really hard to watch thoroughly mediocre television. If something is great, it's enjoyable. If something is utterly terrible, that can be enjoyable too, in a totally different way. But it's all the series that fall in between those two poles that are painful to sit through: the ones that are shameless rip-offs of better shows; ones that are unremarkable cop procedurals in a new city but with the same boring cast of stock characters; ones that are remakes of foreign shows no one cared about in the first place; etc. Forever is of the first type, a mediocre show that is a shameless rip-off of a bunch of better shows.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pilot Review: The Mysteries of Laura

The Mysteries of Laura (Wednesdays at 8:00 on NBC)

The biggest mystery in The Mysteries of Laura is why Debra Messing, an Emmy winner for Will & Grace (and a nominee for The Starter Wife, her first television foray after that sitcom ended in 2006), has chosen to attempt another NBC comeback with this particular show. Is this really the best the broadcast network had to offer her? Or was there something in the writing which sparked Messing's interest, only to be lost in translation to the pilot? Perhaps she just wanted more screen time after being one of three female leads on Smash? Whatever the reason, it's certainly not that The Mysteries of Laura is a strong show.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pilot Review: Red Band Society

Red Band Society (Wednesdays at 9:00 on Fox; Premieres September 17)

As anyone who's read or seen the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars can tell you, teenage angst has reached new heights: cancer. Yes, cancer is the latest fatalistic storyline thrust upon teens in an attempt to garner tears, empathy, and even laughs. And it's working, because John Green's novel has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for 93 weeks, and the film adaptation made $125 million at the American box office earlier this summer. Teen cancer is hot right now, so no doubt Red Band Society's creator Margaret Nagle (adapting the Catalan series Polseres vermelles) is trying to cash in. It's a nice show with a big heart, though it's not without problems.