Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Human Target

HUMAN TARGET (script review: Human Target)
Status: Premiering Sunday, January 17 after the NFC playoff game on FOX (then Wednesdays at 9pm)

Rewatched this pilot at the Comic Con panel and was surprised at how well it seemed to go over. Not that I expected it to go over poorly. But the crowd really seemed to lap it up... possibly because of an overwhelming affection for Jackie Earle Haley due to his stint as Rorschach in Watchmen, as well as Emerson Cod fans from Pushing Daisies, one of whom questioned Chi McBride's apparent type-casting as Winston in Human Target has a function somewhat similar to Emerson's.

Human Target is a fun, mindless, popcorn action hour-long, something that, really, hasn't been seen on network TV in a while (but is quite successful on cable in the superior Burn Notice). Mark Valley disappears into the role of Christopher Chance... which ordinarily is a bad thing, but as his character has so be able to disappear into a crowd in order to protect his clients ever week, it kind of works. I've always found Valley to be good-looking-but-bland, but there are glimpses of the fun underlying the character. Chance can be reckless and Valley plays those moments, when he's a fine line away from crazy with his devil-may-care grin, with aplomb. Haley shines as Guerrero, a information gatherer who operates just outside the realm of legality and gets some great one-liners. However, it is guest actress Tricia Helfer, who plays "Protectee" Stephanie, who steals the pilot. A shame she isn't a regular... because more Tricia Helfer is always a good thing. Also, the show desperately needs some estrogen on it, as the three regulars are male... hopefully women won't be relegated to "damsel in distress" on the show.

While some aspects of the pilot's case of the week (stuck on a runaway train with an assassin) were eliminated from the script that I read (like using the air conditioning to notice who is sweating an thereby making an assassin), the fact of the matter remains that the case is just not very interesting. There isn't a ton going on, and there are very few characters we're following, so despite the fact that it's supposed to be an action-thriller, sections seem to plod along. There is a great fist fight scene, and Chance seems far more human (as in less superhuman, rather than a moral humanity thing) in the pilot than he did in the script.

The pilot should do well after football, but I wonder about it crossing over with the (more female) American Idol audience.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Show of hands... who else thinks this would be a far better show if the entire Botwin family died, as did Doug, and we refocused on Celia, Dean, and Isabelle?

I mean, the scenes with Celia deciding the store Silas and Doug's pot through Dean, and package it with the crappy door-to-door makeup she's trying to peddle were actually funny.

Unlike the rest of the show.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Few Comic Con Updates

1) The 20-ish minutes of Flash Forward were awesome (a) the second time around, (b) on a bigger screen. The panel was well done, too, and I was pleased with the Q&A, especially with David Goyer, who seemed to indicate there are a ton of paradigm shifts along the way to the April 29, 2010 "flash forward" date (specifically pointing at episode 7). Glad I opted for this panel instead of BSG / Caprica.

2) I hear that, though billed as midseason, ABC's V will be premiering in November.

3) I hear that Jamie Bamber (BSG's Apollo) is appearing in the Dollhouse season two premiere.

4) The unaired Dollhouse episode, "Epitaph One," blew my mind. As well as everyone in the completely packed room. It was AMAZING. So outside the show's norm, and, really, just a frightening pleasure to watch unfold.

5) I hear that House Rules might not be dead... which excites me, despite my less than completely glowing review (of the cast).

Won't be getting to my Human Target review before tomorrow's screening... oh, well!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - The Vampire Diaries

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (script review: The Vampire Diaries)
Status: Premiering Thursday, September 10 at 8pm on CW

If things go according to plan, I'll be at the screening Saturday night so may alter this as my memory is refreshed. I don't have the screener with me right now, so I couldn't flip through a re-review things as I could with the other pilots.


You're certain to be hearing / seeing a lot of that pun as reviews for VD (yep, get used to that, as well) come out.

I know, I know, the Vampire Diaries books far predate the Twilight saga. But the odd thing about this pilot is that, well, they really do seem to be drawing water from the same pool. Nina Dobrev's Elena has a similar (if more TV friendly/hot?) appeal as Kristen Stewart's Bella. Dark, internal, slightly mysterious. She's the best part of this show, for me... which is a good thing, as it's centered around her, and her burgeoning relationship with the new vamp in town, Stefan (Paul Wesley). Paul plays his role well. He has a prominent brow, deep eyes, angular face, and makes with the brooding. Not a ton of fun exudes from his character. Honestly, there are times his face even looks like Robert Pattinson's (similar angles).

With True Blood showing us that it IS possible to do the vampire series differently, and with different casting choices, it's odd to me that the VD pilot and Twilight films, characters, and casting choices hew so closely to one another. It appears little more than a carbon copy (again, I know, VD came first, and those people who read the VD books would throw a fit if casting was done off type for the leads...) So perhaps this just shines a light on how bland and unimaginative and far-from-fresh the Twilight phenomenon is/was?

Outside the key love story, as well as Elena's and Stefan's brothers, VD is populated by a series of largely forgettable supporting friend/frenemy/ex-lover high school characters. Yes, indeed, it remains the standard boilerplate the script promised. Elena's brother is kind of a dud for me though I liked him (and his drug-dealing darkness) in script, while Ian Somerhalder gets very little pilot time as Damon and doesn't yet own the (seemingly?) evil role.

If Twilight-esque is your thing, you will be tuning in. If it's not, there's nothing new being offered here. Still, there's plenty of Twilight love out there. Maybe the phenomenon can transfer over to a similar TV show. Maybe not. We'll find out this September.

BTW, good call (how often do we ever get to say that) from the CW with scheduling this. They needed to move Smallville elsewhere to die (or not) and try something new on Thursdays at 8pm, maybe give Supernatural a little fresh blood (hah, I made myself chuckle... sort of). Heavy promotion (CW is splitting focus between this and the sucktacular Melrose Place) and premiering a week before Fox's shows and two weeks before Survivor / Flash Forward / NBC comedies should bold well for initial sampling, but also means we won't really know how the series stacks up in the ratings against competition until it's 5th episode in October when all of the other shows' ratings have gotten out of their premiere-boost halo.

Thanks to AT&T's U-verse, I can now record four shows at once (up to two of them in HD), so I will be recording Vampire Diaries to see where it goes... but I'm definitely recording Flash Forward in HD, so it's a question of whether to record Bones or VD in HD once they're all airing... hmmm...

Pilot Screener Review - V

V (script review: V)
Status: Midseason on ABC

I'm very much looking forward to comparing this to Day One, once I actually get a copy of Day One. I liked V's script much more than I liked Day One's, but as visual effects-heavy, alien invasion series... it's all in the visuals. You all know exactly what this series is about. Aliens, subterfuge, a select few humans fighting against the aliens while the rest of humanity buys into their lies.

I was very impressed with the effects work and the production design in this pilot. The aliens' spaceship, from the outside and in, is cool, as is the massive projection of Anna, the aliens' leader (Morena Baccarin... sporting a tragically too short pixie haircut... someone transfuse some extensions, stat!) We get one glimpse at the real aliens underneath the human guise, and it's good and creepy (if not as jump out of your seat as I recall from the original series... but there's plenty of time for that).

There were two annoying production issues from me right in the first minute, that made me gird my loins to watch the rest... and I was pleasantly surprised with the rest. First, when we meet Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell), she is asleep. With her badge open that shows her FBI credentials. That annoyed me. I mean, who does that? But I forgive it... as it's an extremely fast, visual way to meet her.

Less forgivable, but hopefully reshootable, is the exterior of Father Jack's church (Jack is played by The 4400's Joel Gretsch). There is a small flight of stairs leading down from the doors, a platform, then more stairs leading to the sidewalk. What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, we meet Jack as he leaves the church. Waiting on the platform is a lonesome man in a wheelchair. How did he get up there (there are no ramps)? No one seems to be there to help him up or down. Yes, this is nitpicky, but it's such a stupid location management mistake and it bothered me.

Anyway, after that, you're just sucked straight into the "alien spaceships! OMG!" storyline. I'm never going to be Scott Wolf's biggest fan, so I can't really comment on whether he does a good job as the self-serving Chad Decker, the reporter chosen by Anna to be the aliens' liaison with humanity (through interviews where he isn't allowed to ask negative questions or portray the aliens in a negative light). I felt that Erica's son (played by Logan Huffman) needed to be recast. He's supposed to be a loser who finds purpose and meaning by following / obsessing over / being devoted to the Visitors (Vs for short)... and he just didn't feel right in the role.

Solid entertainment, that has the benefit (versus Flash Forward) of a constant, in your face, antagonistic presence. Week to week, there's a source of story drive... the aliens are up to no good, how can we win this war against them, piece by piece, moment by moment, plot by plot (whereas Flash Forward is an investigation into a larger mystery that we know won't come to fruition for a good long while).

Pilot Screener Review - Past-Life

PAST-LIFE (script review: Past-Life)
Status: Midseason on Fox (currently Tuesdays post-American Idol)

If you recall from my script review, I had some hopes for this pilot, but my doubts clouded them. The concept is too far out there and seems too specific to hit it mainstream (or leap beyond formulaic crap draped in a weird science-fiction-y premise).

Those doubts remain.

As do my hopes.

This will be a show I'll be watching just to see if it can meet or exceed any sort of expectations and elevate itself from being a formula show. I found the two leads (Kelli Giddish and Nicholas Bishop) charming and likable, and felt they had strong chemistry that will, undoubtedly, lead to some heavy UST. There's just the right balance between them of believe and doubt, which helped this viewer buy more into the conceit... even if the show definitely lands on the "this is all real, deal with it doubters" side. As, y'know, there wouldn't be a show if the client wasn't actually having past-life regression memories that lead to a solved murder (as well as a simultaneous kidnapping)

But is that what the show will be every week? Someone with a tragic past-life comes in having nightmares or memories or whatever, the team solves a Cold Case by investigating and causing triggers that set off further memories when they hit a road block, yadda yadda yadda?

If so... I'll lose interest quickly in what could've made a very entertaining episode of Fringe, but has to survive as a series unto itself.

I was sad to see the scripted memory from Kate (Kelli Giddish's character) about her own past-life with Price (Nicholas Bishop's character) gone from the pilot... but I assume that just means it's something that will be eventually explored and revealed in series, instead of put up front in the pilot.

Pilot Screener Review - The Middle

Status: Premiering Wednesday, September 30th at 8:30pm on ABC

This will be a very brief review, as it is a heavily negative review (and the time has gotten away from me this week and I have four other reviews to do before leaving tonight for Comic Con... whoops).

This is the second version of The Middle ABC has developed. Two seasons ago, Ricki Lake played the beleaguered matriarch of a midwestern family. Now, it's Patricia Heaton. The rest of the cast has changed, too (supportive husband, slightly annoying teenage boy, socially awkward teenage girl, slightly "special" 5-6 year old boy). But the script hasn't changed that much (nor has the costuming department, as Patricia Heaton seems to be wearing the exact same "superwoman" outfit Ricki Lake wore in the first attempt pilot). It mystifies me because the reason I didn't like the first version wasn't the cast... it was the lack of funny. And so, that problem remains (there are a few awkward moments that elicit a chuckle or two... but hardly worth the 22 minute investment).

I certainly won't be watching.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Was out at a taping most of the day. Will be posting the prelims at PIFeedback.com tomorrow for Marc, and will post finals for Sunday and Monday (I have Sunday HH and A18-49 now, but thanks to The Sponge taking up all 5 of the top viewer slots, no viewer numbers for anything else, like the HBO shows... should get the viewer numbers tomorrow for all cable for Sunday from a friend).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fall Screening Review - Glee "Showmance"

GLEE "Showmance"
Status: Returns to Fox on Wednesday, September 16th @ 9pm

Oh, readers.

I'm in love all over again. You all remember how in love with the original version of the pilot I was when I saw it way back in February, right (Glee)? And then how I was still in love three months later when the final broadcast version aired, but saddened that my joyous experience had been shortened, cut down, and put back together slightly more choppily?

And, not that you would know this, but how I seriously can't get the Glee Cast's versions of "Rehab" and "Don't Stop Believin'" out of my head (or off my iPod... not that I'd want to)?


The second episode screened tonight in LA as part of OutFest. I'm a spoilerphobe (thank you, spoiler addiction and knowing everything that happened in the last 1.5 seasons of Buffy months in advance and ruining the final run of show for me... not that I minded at the time, and not that the show was anywhere near its peak by then). So, you won't be getting a ton of plot details from me.

The episode begins almost like a reset, in case you hadn't seen the pilot (which, I hear-tell, will be airing an EXTENDED VERSION the week before "Showmance" airs... not sure if that means Extended Pilot on September 16th or September 9th). We open on Will pulling into the school parking lot, temporarily stopping Puck and the other jocks from tarnishing poor Kurt's expensive designer threads, etc.

But, readers, there's oh so much more waiting in this episode.

More Jane Lynch, for starters. I'm assured (via press reviews of episode 4 "Preggers," if "Showmance" is considered episode 2) Jane will be an increasingly involved presence (and snarling villainess) as the series progresses... which she damn well better be what with Fox not letting her do even a single episode of Party Down season two (miss you, Constance!)

Then there's the songs. "Showmance" is loaded with them, though we've seen and heard bits from most in promos (Will's take on "Gold Digger," the Glee club's "Le Freak" rehearsal). Put there's also a hilariously raucous performance of "Push It" from the club as well as the sad song playing over the final minutes of the show. The final performance, Rihanna's "Take A Bow" sung by Lea "MinIdina" Michele's Rachel, is heartbreaking. It's the antithesis of the pilot's "Don't Stop Believin'," which left us soaring and hopeful. And it's good to know the show is able to carry some real (teenage) emotional heft with its performances and story and not just goad us into rooting for the underdogs and believing that they can put it together against overwhelming odds (that would be the Disney Channel's MO). Allowing us to feel heartbreak, and to really believe it, in the second episode of this series... well, I'm just in love and along for the ride (so long as the show sticks to this winning formula, with split focus on adults and kids but, really, knowing it's all about the kids) and can't wait for you to know what the hell I'm talking about. And that song better be on iTunes for purchase!

The slurpee toss is back (blue!) and there's a hilarious running gag involving Cory Monteith's Finn, a postal worker, driving lessons, and premature ejaculation.

What? It's Ryan Murphy... and Fox...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Eastwick

EASTWICK (script review: Eastwick)
Status: Wednesdays @ 10pm on ABC, premiere date unannounced

Well, David Nutter is 15 for 15 in getting pilots he directs picked up. However, just because a pilot gets picked up to series doesn't mean it doesn't get cancelled quickly (Dr. Vegas). Or burned off during the summer (Traveler). Or surprisingly picked up for a second season (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Not everything David Nutter directs turns into a long-running series like Smallville or The Mentalist (yes, I'm making an assumption here).

Eastwick is a curious case. We all know what it's about. Three women, three witches. A small, New England community. And some devilish guy who storms into town and changes everything.

You won't be surprised by the story.

You won't be surprised by much of anything besides Jamie Ray Newman's star turn as Kat, a nurse and mother of five. And I think that the surprise comes from unfamiliarity. The TV audience is rather familiar with what Rebecca Romijn and Lindsay Price bring to the table. They're both great to look at (which makes Price's Plain Jane reporter Joanna highly unbelievable... the transformation from mouse to vixen literally involves taking her hair out of its bun) but don't exactly overwhelm in the acting department.

So, Jamie Ray is a breath of fresh air.

She's just about all that's fresh here (particularly compared to Paul Gross's Darryl Van Horne, which channels Jack Nicholson far too much).

Which saddens me. Because I enjoyed the script (knowing Nutter was directing it) and I love the movie on which the series is based. But instead of easy-viewing fun, it all adds up to a big pile of cliché (which can be amusing, but the tone isn't campy enough to pull it off) and, pretty much, a far less awesome Gilmore Girls with magic powers.

Eastwick has a further challenge on its path to a full-season pickup or a second season: being a part of ABC's all new Wednesday lineup. Though I haven't done my full reviews of any of the four comedies that are running from 8-10pm, Eastwick lucks out that ABC saw fit to put the (far, far) better of the four comedies on from 9-10pm, with the season's strongest new show (yes, including any / all dramas such as the hyped up Flash Forward) on at 9pm. Um, guess you know my opinion of Modern Family now. Anyway, launching a totally new night is always a gamble and this is pretty much the third attempt by ABC in as many years at a total makeover. Maybe parts of this lineup will stick. We'll see.

To Do Before Comic Con

As they are screening on Friday, post reviews of...
- The Middle (um, why is this screening at Comic Con...?)
- Past-Life

As they are screening on Saturday, post reviews of ...
- Eastwick
- Human Target
- V
- Vampire Diaries
- Glee's second episode (screening at DGA this Saturday night)

So look for those posts over the coming week!

Figure out how to be in two places at once for...
- Flash Forward / BSG+Caprica sessions on Friday
- Chuck 10am on Saturday and waiting in line for Lost 11am on Saturday

FYI, I will pretty much be camped out in Ballroom 20 all Friday and Saturday... I'm I'm smartphone-less, so don't expect midstream updates (I have a Twitter IRL, but not for TravisYanan... and I imagine it would be very complicated to try and maintain two Twitter accounts from the same cell phone...)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emmy time

So... Emmy nominations out tomorrow (at the ass-crack of dawn out here in LA... no, I won't be up that early to comment on how ATAS got it mostly wrong as usual). I'm not even bothering to hazard a guess or list out my dream noms. Exercise, meet futility.

Well, back to the toil!

Late Night at the Movies

Went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at midnight at The Grove with a bunch of friends. Going to be a late morning... I can tell...

Opinion of the movie... well, it was about damn time it came out, what with the extra delay. Almost two years since Order of the Phoenix! HBP is getting AMAZING reviews (95% last I looked at rottentomatoes.com) and I'm hard-pressed to understand why, versus the other HP films (which, in release order, are at 78%, 82%, 89%, 88%, and 77%). It's a very slow, methodical, well-made film. Lots of character and relationship stuff and comedy. But to be honest, it doesn't have the magic and thrills of the last two adventures (which were adventures) or the first three films, which were far more magical and kids-y entertainment... and then, y'know, people started DYING. My favorite remains Prison of Azkaban of the movies.

In fact, a lot of the action from the book was removed entirely! And I damn well want to know why. I wouldn't be so sodding ambivalent about HBP if Deathly Hallows were being released all at once. But as it's being split into two parts, HBP is no longer the prelude to the end. In the films, it's not, with DH being two parts (rather than making a five-hour long movie... I totally get it...), and we all remember the stop-and-go search that was the first half of DH... I'm not going to be getting a full serving of my Potter magic and amazement fix until 2011 (and, oh boy, does that final movie installment have to deliver in spades). Perhaps some of the action from HBP was saved to spice DH: Part I up?

Technically, and story-wise, HBP is the most filmic since PoA. The pervading sense of doubt and confusion and fear and loss couples brilliantly with muted color tones, tons of fog and mist and clouds, and some very stark black-and-white lighting contrasting. So, um, go Bruno Delbonnel (the director of photography)?

Acting continues to improve with age on the part of the young leads (including Tom Felton's Draco), while having more Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix is always, always, always a welcome thing.

But the fact of the matter is, this movie is all about "the snogging". Harry and Ginny. Ron and Lavender. Hermione and Cormac. Ron and Hermione. Which, okay, they're 16... of course it's about the snogging. Surprisingly little is actually made of the Half-Blood Prince itself in the film (though, to be sure, the prop gets tons of screen time). Voldemort's presence is felt less in this film than in any besides PoA (which was, of course, more about the Dementors and Sirius than about Mr. V). Odd, considering his resurrection at the end of Goblet of Fire and his overwhelming presence that pervaded OotP. Ralph Fiennes is nowhere to be seen (besides a quick flash / glimpse of footage from OotP), though we are, of course, treated to a few scenes of Tom Riddle (which may have been enthralling in the book, but on the screen they, of course, play purely as exposition so thankfully there are only three Pensieve memories). Considering what's to come, I'd have preferred a far more ominous tone.

To sum it up... a friend found it incredibly boring while another felt herself nodding off halfway through.


But, hey, at least it's not incredibly stupid like Transformers 2 (which, despite it's seeming mission statement to be nothing more than a barely connected series of massive explosions, chases, and giant CGI robot battles, ALSO managed to be boring for a sizable chunk).

I've rewatched, in theaters, PoA, GoF, and OotP. I won't be making the return trip for HBP.

Can it be Summer 2011 yet?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - Flash Forward

Status: Premiering Thursday, September 24th at 8pm on ABC

So... I don't have the pilot screener. But I have seen the pilot. Stuff is changing (as things do when you have what seems to be the promise of a heavily-serialized, internal-mythology-based show and then you add a bunch of other writers and a top of network pressure). Not big stuff, but some of the details. So any review of minutae would be premature (though not as premature as a forthcoming review of CBS's Three Rivers).

Is it okay to say that... I'm worried?

Not because of the quality of the pilot. It's impeccably shot and CGIed and much of the cast is fun or engaging or whatever they're supposed to be. Just about the only thing I found lacking was significant chemistry between Joe Fiennes and Sonya Walger, whose characters are together. Of course, they only get one or two scenes together in the entire pilot, so there's certainly opportunity to build on what's I perceived to be (or not be) there.

There's the question of excitement. And of over-hype. Will Flash Forward live up to expectations? And, more importantly, will episode 2 will up to the pilot?

Hard to say.

ABC's midseason entry, V, which I will be reviewing here soon, at least has the presence of the aliens to pose a significant, constant level of threat. Flash Forward is going to be relying entirely on the build up to a future date (though, I'm sure, episodes will build in stakes and intensity and mystery to carry us to the fated April 29th, 2010). The event, and the fallout, happens in the pilot. It's massive. It's a spectacle. It looks fantastic. But you don't get to do that again, in series (um, until it happens again... which, if I'm hearing about the book correctly, it does... hey, that'll be a fun way to enter May sweeps!)

I hate to do the Lost comparison thing. I really do. The thing about Lost is, before it was about the mythology, it was about something that happened to these people, and it was about the people. It was about people stranded on an island fighting to survive even if there hadn't been a Smoke Monster or Others or Dharma Initiative or what have you. That is something you are not going to get after Flash Forward's eventful pilot, which promises an investigation and a chain of events that will severely alter each character's life over the seven-ish months between pilot and April 29, 2010.

There are only two change I noticed from the script. First is that the pilot starts with a minute or so of the disaster zone that is the Los Angeles freeway following the worldwide blackout, then flashes back to pre-blackout. Which could mean the network was worried that viewers wouldn't stick around unless there was some kind of big, flashy moment right from the getgo (you know... like Jack walking out of the bamboo forest and seeing the wreckage of Oceanic 815). But I could be talking out of my ass and that device could've been producer-developed. The second change was the introduction of Bryce, who works with Sonya Walger's Olivia but is going to kill himself in the opening moments of the pilot before the blackout happens and he takes it as a sign to keep on living. In the pilot, Olivia calls him (leaving a voicemail) as he's walking up Santa Monica Pier (with a lot of "view from just behind his head" POV slow motion shots), which immediately establishes his connection to Our Main Family.

Cameos abound, most notably the ballyhooed Seth MacFarlane appearance, which is less an appearance as it is a character. He's in a number of scenes, as one of the FBI agents in the LA office and I got the feeling we'd be seeing him again. Alex "Dr. Corday" Kingston is part of someone's flashforward vision, and there are others.

Anyway... well worth the watch. I'll be looking to episode two for clarity on what the series actually is.


Will be posting ratings on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings this week at PIFeedback.com for Marc. Haven't been there posting since the regular season ended. Summer ratings are boring, ya'll! Also, I've had a ton of stuff going on / continuing to occupy my time. Will try to get back on the horse, so to speak, and post finals starting tomorrow. Cable information is still spotty at best (only getting A18-49 numbers and two-decimal place viewership for the Top 5 on any given night).

Well... that's my disclaimer in advance of returning to PIF tomorrow!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - See Kate Run

SEE KATE RUN (script review: See Kate Run)
Status: Busted

Oh, Amy Smart. You belong on a sitcom. I don't understand why you continue to take roles in dramas. Your emphatic, arm-waving acting is so very Jennifer Aniston it's truly a shock that you aren't on CBS in a multi-cam. But, please... stop being in dramas. Note: I'm not saying you are a bad actress. Hell, I'll go so far as to say that you are insanely likable. But... you were acting like you were in a sitcom. So go be in one? Because I think you'd be awesome.

I had problems with this script (it's main plot is overly frivolous and predictable... while the political angle / hook is gag-inducing... and even moreso in execution). The pilot opens in 2028 as Kate Sullivan is about to greet an adoring Obama's-supporters-at-Grant-Park-esque crowd in Boston. And the TV news anchors on multiple screens are talking about how shocking it is that she's about to win the Presidential election, what with her being the least likely person to become President and having a love life the reads like a soap opera. Oh, awkward exposition. They could've at least made it sound like TV news anchor prattle. Meanwhile, Amy Smart is wearing Old Person Makeup (and hair) and gone are her long blonde locks, replaced with a dark asymmetrical bob WITH TWO PURE-WHITE HIGHLIGHT STREAKS AT THE PARTING. SERIOUSLY. Also, she has a 15 year old daughter (guess who gets pregnant in season four...?) with an equally hideous (and fairly similar) hairdo. Jack & Bobby this is not... though it wishes it were. Despite the trappings of a political show, the series promises to mainly be a standard legal show with a major law case of the week. The pilot is about putting a Bad Man Behind Bars, but because he's a Bad Man, people are scared of coming forward to testify. So after some fits and starts, Kate finally gets her witnesses to talk to a judge and the case, she is solved.

Let's talk the rest of the cast. Ben Feldman (who, um, would've been pulling some kind of double duty if this had been picked up, what with Drop Dead Diva where he plays the lead character's guardian angel?) doesn't have much to do as Kate's sad sack, sure-to-be-dumped-eventually boyfriend (as Kate has seen the light and now wants more than to get married and pop out a few by pilot's end). Marc Blucas (who has gained some weight from his Buffy days) somehow doesn't make the most of a drunk, against-the-ropes political consultant / campaign manager character who . Seriously, that's the one role that had potential to be something different. Meanwhile, Liza Lapira is strongest among the featured players as Kate's best friend / fellow attorney Ellie at the DA's office (she is supposed to get the promotion to ADA, but because Kate wins the thought-to-be-a-loser case dumped on her and with a ton of local / internet attention, Kate gets it). I bought everything she did, and I hope to see her on something... better (by which I don't necessarily mean returning to her previous gig as Ivy on Dollhouse).

The real wasted opportunity here is Ever Carridine. She is in two scenes, as Kate's older sister. And she is, far and away, the standout of the pilot. SOMEONE GIVE THAT WOMAN HER OWN SERIES!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - House Rules

Waiting for feedback on something, so figured I'd try and bang a review out... yay!

HOUSE RULES (script review: House Rules)
Status: Busted

Since I started with The Body Politic I figured I'd keep going on the political pilots (though I'm still lacking Inside the Box... which should be corrected shortly).

Storywise, I still like this from the script. I'm very interested in seeing what's going to happen next to Julia and her freshman Congressmen cohorts. But that's a residual feeling from the script. The story still works. The politics work and are interesting (and, since it's a full pilot, we actually get to see the politics play out, unlike in The Body Politic's presentation).

Unfortunately, the pilot is woefully (and at points distractingly) miscast.

Whereas in The Body Politic every one of those actors totally embodied their roles, painfully few of the many characters felt fully fleshed out in an organic way. Anna Chlumsky is the notable exception as the Speaker of the House's Chief of Staff's assistant (who by episode's end becomes Zoe McLellan's character's Chief of Staff). There was something massively charming about her in the role (unlike her brief appearances as Claire's assistant in the Cupid revamp). Tawny Cypress, who just three years ago played a sexy 20-something on Heroes, appeared ragged and far older than she is... though her character is supposed to be something of a young upstart. As much as I enjoy Debra Monk, her Speaker of the House was little more than a mustache twirler with great wardrobe and hair. While Ray Wise was immensely enjoyable in his few scenes, I couldn't help but think (um, and shout) "Ray Wise!" when he was on screen. His character, a Republican Representative who Zoe McLellan's Julia teams up with to get an immigration bill shoved through the House to save a family from being torn apart, was spot on... but too soon after his, um, devilish role on Reaper for another TV stint? The two guys seemingly fighting for Julia's attention (one is the Speaker's Chief of Staff, the other an ex-Wall Street trust fund Republican freshman Congressman who gets on Julia's bad side in the opening of the pilot) did nothing for me, though I can see a certain Paul Rudd-ish appeal to Eion Bailey's Alan Levi.

Let's talk about the major casting failure in the pilot, though... Zoe McLellan. Just as she did as Peter Krause's wife on Dirty Sexy Money, she left me lukewarm (not cold... just not hot). Which is a shame, because she is an attractive woman and she can act (I've seen it!) You need buy the character as a rising star in Washington... and you do. But I wasn't convinced I was watching a new TV star. And I really wanted to love her in this role because, again, really loved the character in the script. Because it was so different for CBS (as a character and as a show).

And, ultimately, that difference is why the show wasn't picked up. You can always recast pilots (CBS is doing that with just about everyone in Three Rivers). But the fact of the matter is the show is about this woman, about romantic possibilities, and doesn't have a murder to solve every week as it's about politics (and really edges too close to the "Republicans are evil!" that The Body Politic was wise to avoid... even if the solution Julia comes up with involves getting Ray Wise's Republican Congressman to co-sponsor a bill with her because she is able to convince him it's not about immigration but about family, and Republicans are supposed to be the "Family Values" party... though I guess no one told John Ensign or Mark Sanford that?)

If ABC had this show... I think it would be on the air. But not on CBS.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pilot Screener Review - The Body Politic

Status: Busted...? (been a while since I heard anything, and can't remember if it was still in consideration for midseason or just completely dead)

For script review, see The Body Politic.

The impetus for my finally starting these screener reviews. I'll be honest, nothing has truly jumped out at me that I felt DEMANDED to be blogged about. Until I (finally) got my grubby hands on The Body Politic, a 30-minute presentation of the only CW drama pilot not picked up to series (besides the shocking Lily / Gossip Girl Spin-Off fiasco).

What a shame. What a horrible, crying shame that this presentation will not be completed and aired and loved by, um, millions? What passes for successful first-run programming on CW these days? 2.5 million? Yeah...

Presentations are challenging because a lot of connective tissue is lost. There's a full pilot script, but only about 2/3 of it is shot (TBP was shot in 8 days, I believe, while most drama pilots average 14) in order to save precious, precious money. You try and hit the big scenes, and some of the other stuff falls by the wayside to, in success, be shot or recast later (in TBP, much of the dealings with the older characters... the two Senators featured as well as Brian Austin Green's character who, literally, was only in the presentation for a half-second). You sell the show.

And, boy, did they sell me on this show (recall from my script reviews of the "Jury's Out" CW shows that I said it's all about chemistry and casting).

Minka Kelly, as I've said, is a TV star waiting to breakout and this was a great vehicle for her (though I do wish that the pervasive voice over had been toned down). That lady could have chemistry with the bannister if she wanted, so it's not hard to buy a love triangle involving Jason Dohring and Jay Hernandez. She is lovable and innocent and you really do feel for her in the moments before, during, and after her character (once named Lily, then Hope, now Frankie / Francesca) meets her biological father (though she does not tell him this). You want this girl to thrive on Capitol Hill.

The rest of the more heavily featured cast works well. Dohring's reporter character (Charlie) and Gabrielle Union's experienced staffer (Jessica) get the most air time of the other characters. The show tries to buy back some audience love for Jessica with some character history about being a young leader for women's rights, but I don't think it's enough. Plus, it's always a good thing to have a character who might backstab your lead and smile while doing it. That's politics, baby. Had the pilot gone forward, I'd have recast the woman (I couldn't even find casting information on her to give you the actress's name) who played Senator Buckley (the Democrat Majority leader who is pissed that the President is nominating a Republican for Attorney General... this plotline was very much incomplete in the presentation) as she just did nothing for me (though she got very little screen time). Also missing from the presentation was much of the plotline about a foreclosures freezing bill that Buckley was trying to stop because of a Democrat Senator was told to sponsor the AG nomination by the White House. I recall, in the script, that added some weight to the emotional proceedings.

The Body Politic has been called the best pilot not picked up by some. At this point, I've got to agree. I have no idea why this wasn't picked up to series. If I had any sway at CW (and I don't), the mistake would be corrected.

Pilot Screener Reviews... Starting Now!

First off... Happy July 4th, everyone!

I've been away from the blog (not to mention PIFeedback) for a while. It's been an intense summer thus far... but I'm back now and, at the very least, should be posting screener reviews regularly in the coming days (because, honestly, not a ton to say about any summer ratings...)

I've seen just shy of everything that's out there to be seen on the drama side (there are still no Flash Forward screeners, anyone who has been able to seen / review it has been a part of ABC's press / critics screenings... I also haven't yet gotten my hands on Parenthood, Day One, Inside the Box, Maggie Hill, US Attorney, A Marriage, Masterwork, or Solving Charlie) plus, I believe, all of the comedies that were picked up (in addition to several busted comedy pilots).

There have been a few surprises, both in good and bad ways (scripts I liked that didn't work out on screen, scripts I didn't like that worked far better than I expected). There are the disappointments of high quality pilots not being picked up (for any number of reasons, from budget / license fee negotiations to the network deciding to not explore a genre), and there are the disappointments of poor quality pilots (or ones that just don't hold my interested) being picked up. That's the joy of pilot season. You really never know what's going to leap up from that page and make magic (and some things still don't work but were picked up and are being retooled so even now I don't know what the end product will be like).

Which leads me to the review I'm going to start writing now-ish (and will hopefully get out before headed out for dinner and fireworks with friends). Stay tuned...