Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pilotgasm

In tonight's installment... Better Off Ted, Castle, and Kings.

Better Off Ted. Okay. I sincerely don't get this single cam sitcom (I'm sorry, was I supposed to laugh?) Overly excessive talking-to-the-camera device. The cardboard cutout acting of Jay Harrington (combined with aforementioned overly excessive device as Jay plays the titular Ted). The show takes place at some umbrella catchall up-and-coming technologies, device, product, whatever firm and basically involves Portia de Rossi stooping to the Cold, Unfeeling Bitch of a Boss role asking Ted to have his team of scientists, researchers, whatever do the stupid, inane, and/or impossible all at the behest of the people above them. Gotta love middle management. Better off not giving this stinker a second thought. Andrea Anders... surprisingly cute!

Castle. The opening act, which cross-cuts between Nathan Fillion's character's book release party (he is the titular Richard Castle) - he's just written the final book of a bestselling detective character in which the main character is gruesomely killed - and a murder scene where a Female Cop recognizes the mode of murder. Castle's publisher is his ex-wife, and he's months overdue for turning in his next manuscript. Oh, and he invited his (alcoholic?) mother to live with him and his daughter now that he's divorced or something. Castle's mother, played by Susan Sullivan, pales in comparison to Jessica Walter's Tabitha Wilson on 90210 (she remains the only standout on the spin-off... but she's basically playing a toned down version of Lucille Bluth, so... moving on). And just as things are getting truly boring, Castle starts complaining about how truly boring he finds the release parties and how boring he found writing those detective books to be. Why? Because he already knew what every scene was going to be. So you'll color no one surprised when Female Cop shows up at the book release party wanting to ask Castle some questions (because the murder was done in a way that was featured in one of his novels, natch...) Really wish there hadn't been a lampshade hung on that. As usual, Fillion oozes a kind of dirty charm and chemistry with just about every extra and inanimate object. Which is why we love him and why we haven't stopped watching yet.

I find Stana Katic rather bland in the Mariska Hargitay Female Cop role (I believe it's Detective Beckett)... but she's supposed to be straightwoman to Fillion's Castle, who is something of a loose cannon / lothario (he stole a police horse... and was naked at the time... also during the release party he signs many guest's decolletage) so she does a serviceable job. Oh, my, I wonder if the series is going to revolve around UST... b-t-dubs, I think Cupid's UST between Cannavale and Paulson is better. In a semi-twist, it's actually Castle who volunteers to assist with the investigation, as opposed to him being forced to by the police. Much to Beckett's chagrin, of course. I do like the way Katic intonates "novelist" as an insult when speaking to Castle. And I do find myself thoroughly amused that the NYPD runs into real-world roadblocks such as the length of time it takes to get, like, fingerprints analyzed and Castle can just use his "I'm a famous, rich author" connects to speed things up... and then he gets a lecture from Beckett about cutting the line (other people are waiting for prints, you know).

There's another copycat murder, a frame job, yadda yadda yadda, and the only thing I'm really curious about is how the series is going to be set up (since I have to assume that it's not going to be yet more copycat murders each week... and I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that it's Castle looking for his next bestseller).

Score one zinger for the daughter when she tells Castle that if she keeps having bail him out of jail, he's going to have to raise her allowance.

It's hard to see Fillion in a brown coat that isn't Malcolm Reynolds'.

The UST banter between Castle and Beckett isn't quite up to par with Booth and Bones, television's current reigning bantery UST crimesolving duo. Although it's not for Fillion's lack of trying (nice use of entendre on the work "debrief"... XD)

And why are they going to film the series in Los Angeles, when it takes place in NYC and there's all those awesome NY state / NYC tax credits to take advantage of?

For a script that I couldn't even manage to get through 15 pages of... a rather enjoyable foundation from which a better series could rise. The series, by the way, is set up by the fact that Castle's next series of novels will center around a tough but savvy female detective, but Castle needs to tag along to do research (and it's kind of helped along because Castle is friends with the Mayor... so, blah blah, political pressure, swept under the rug, just get on with the series, peeps). I would definitely say that Castle is the first pilot I've seen thus far that has so vastly overdelivered on my expectations. Hell, I'm even willing to see if Katic can grow into the role (a role that is a tough one, as the straightwoman... and will on be aided when the series lets us know more about her character, as the pilot was pretty much all Castle all the time).

You know... I'm actually surprised ABC picked both Castle and Cupid up. Not from a quality perspective, mind you. But they're both NYC-based (though only Cupid will be able to take full advantage of that as it's going to be NYC-filmed) anthological series with a UST throughline between a larger-than-life leading man and a straightwoman. It's just that one is a murder mystery each week and the other is a romantic comedy every week. ABC has done stranger things with scheduling, and of course it totally depends on the network's needs come January or March... but I don't think they'd be a terrible fit together (though perhaps it'd be too much of the same). For now, I say move Brothers & Sisters to the post-DWTS Results 10pm hour, put Castle after Desperate Housewives and put Cupid after Grey's Anatomy (I haven't seen the new Life on Mars yet... but my hopes aren't high).

Kings. And now for my favorite script of this pilot season (which I read so long ago that I don't remember much except that I really dug it... though this was pre-strike, so you know stuff's changed). This pilot is 82 minutes long... so it might continue past what I read.

Note: Kings takes place in a near-future not-quite-New York City called Shiloh. Where America is called something else. And has a king.

Oh, good lord this starts far more boringly than the script did. And it's so dense. And stilted. And heavy-handed with the allegory. People are going to turn it right off. Someone fire Ben Silverman and Teri Weinberg now. Provided it's their fault. Eh, just do it anyway.

Almost 9 minutes in and we finally get the opening of the script I read. And now I kind of get (but also hate) the first 9 minutes... it was all to bridge the gap between real world and fictional world for the unwashed masses (also to show main character David in/with his pre-soldier, pre-celebrity home and family). But why did it have to be so long and boring? I mean... hello? You're going to have to come up with something short and sweet to preamble every week. Did we need 9 minutes of tedium?

Problem with filming someone sneaking around a battleground (from the trenches to the enemy's front line of giant tanks) under cover of darkness: when you light that person in a flattering way - hell, not even flattering, just in any way that you can see the person fully - it makes the enemy look incompetent. Because how did they not see this person? And even more so when said person is able to escape with two hostages one of whom is pretty seriously injured (where were the guards? Anyone? Stormtroopers? Bueller?) The ensuing David (main character's name) versus Goliath (codename for the enemy tanks) sequence is still kinda nifty despite the logic lapse. Oh, and gravely injured soldier is the king's son. Thus David is now a hero. Also there was a photographer with a nightvision lens camera taking pictures.

Kinda weird music choices. I know it must be hard to choose stuff (after all, the near-future world won't have our pop music)... but Massive Attack's "Teardrop" outside of the House theme feels wrong.

Oh, a discussion of the war being a problem for the country's economy and public opinion of the war. That's timely. And a woman (who turns out to be the king's daughter) petitioning about public healthcare! Yes, that was in the script I read, but, well... politics. I think we'll all be tired of it in January 2009, no?

Seeing Ian McShane in an apron waxing philosphical / allegorical over cracking eggs into a bowl is just hilarious.

I've just pulled up a copy of the script that I read. I'm 48 minutes into the pilot, put only 33 pages into the script (allowing for 9 minutes that weren't in the script)... it's not a wonder this pilot feels somewhat slow. The script was 68 pages. So there may not actually be a ton of new material beyond those initial 9 minutes... so much posturing and speechifying...

Oh, I totally forgot the disgraced prince was Sekrit!Gay until King Silas / Ian McSwearengen lays into him. Although it comes out earlier in this version than it did in the script. More appropriately / less contrivancely timed, too. OMG, perhaps a good studio/network note at work!

And I forgot about the war-tech company (headed by the queen's brother) spurring the king on to a sneak attack on the enemy country right after he receives an offer for a truce / peace treaty... because peace isn't profitable no matter how much the public clamors for it. Seriously, I don't think people are going to want to watch this allegory in January.

Oh, lord, Silas just broke out in the a string of Ye Olde Testament diatribe along with Royal We. Oy. It's supposed to be frighteningly serious. But, um... no?

David's speech is moving... but part of me wonders why no one on the enemy's side doesn't just shoot him as he challenges them to get out of their tanks and face him. I mean... really? I believe this is called being "Stupid Good" by my friends over at tvtropes.org (see: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LawfulStupidChaoticStupid?from=Main.StupidGood).

The exacerbatedly ridiculous part being that Silas wants to have David shot because he's gone crazy, but decides against it as the Goliath tanks advance. But, oh, crap, they stop and an envoy form the enemy (btw, enemy country name = Gath) approacheth. How did the soldiers in the tanks hear the moving speech anyway?

I love that the Evil!Plan of the war-tech company was thwarted by David being an idiot. Once again, check out tvtropes.org for Xanatos Gilligan (hey, I didn't name them... http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGilligan). Haha, love how Silas (see, I've stopped referring to him as Swearengen) dictates complete fabrications to the guy following him around taking notes and ostensibly writing the history books.

Sekrit!Gay!Son!Evil!War-Tech!Company!Conspiracy!Against!The!King!

I think I was so disinterested in the David/princess love story that I didn't mention it above. It results early on in a great line from Silas (he's offering David anything he wants, even the proverbial "half my kingdom" and David looks at the princess and Silas goes "half my kingdom, it is"). But, well... young love. Soldiers and princesses. We've seen that.

Given that the 68 page script was turned into a two-hour pilot (with the addition of a totally useless 9 minute preamble)... I'm not sure how I feel about this. It plays heavier and slower than I'd imagined. The acting is all there... and Egan (David) and McShane (King Silas) are both excellent in their leading roles... but somehow it's just not the magic I read it as. I still want to know what happens next. And I suppose that's all they need to make me want.

But I do worry about that opening.

1 comment:

Castle Fan said...

In case you're interested http://www.castletv.net - there's a message board there and the site accepts reviews too - there's also photos from the pilot episode