Sunday, July 30, 2006

Autopilot 06: Round 1

Overall I have seen nine pilot episodes for the upcoming fall season. In all fairness, I could have watched a much bigger group of pilots, but due to time constraints, I decided to give them the premise test. If the description was interesting enough, I would give it a shot. With that out of the way, I broke them up into three groups, based on how interesting those descriptions were. Surprisingly, the groupings didn't change much after I watched them, that is to say, that the ones that sounded most interesting, in fact were. That said, I think we have a much brighter season to look forward to than last year, for the new crop anyway.

Group 1 consisted of the premises that I found most interesting. On to the reviews:

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Awkwardly long title aside, this show has by far the hottest pedigree. Coming from West Wing superteam Sorkin/Schlamme and starring the great Bradley Whitford, we have a show that answers the question: What would the "West Wing" be like if it replaced the White House with the set of an "SNL" type sketch comedy show. The answer, thank the lord, is just as excellent and interesting as it's storied predecessor. A huge ensemble cast could cave in under its own weight in the wrong hands, and thankfully everything from acting, to writing, to directing is top notch. When the pilot schedule was announced earlier this year, this show was head and shoulders above anything else, and after seeing the first crop of pilots, it stays that way. Under the right environment and advertising, this could be not a Grey's Anatomy flash in the pan, but another solidly rated cornerstone. Look for this show on the top of your Tivo Season Pass list later this year.

(disclaimer-the version that I have seen is not the final cut. Greg Grunberg's character was not yet included) NBC is thankfully trying to erase their image of the house of shitty comedies here with a bigtime genre offering. Heroes is the story of a group of people who discover they have super-human powers. Upon reading the description, you might think you were in for a bigger budget 4400. Not so. Much more happy with letting things unfold at their own pace, the pilot for this show makes a ballsy choice and gives us very very little of what will become the overarching story, and instead focuses on a small group of characters. There isn't much action to speak of here, but considering the lack of star quality, it remains a classy and well acted affair. The pace may be a little too slow and unrewarding for the average American audience, but I have a feeling that given a little time to get on it's feet, we may have a new genre favorite. Personally I'll be watching the finished pilot, and at least giving it a few more eps to breathe.

Probably the biggest surprise. I won't give too much away other than to say we are given a few of several residents of a small midwestern town. As things are transpiring, the residents lose all communication with the outside world and notice a mushroom cloud on the horizon, likely at a close big city. The show is a study of how the characters would react in this situation. Extremely interesting, this is probably the one out of the three that I would have killed to see what happened next. The acting or direction isn't anything masterful, but the writing is superb, and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me next. My only problem with the show is that it had something of a disaster miniseries feel, and I hope they are able to keep the intensity up for the rest of its run. With the mystery of the show, it seems that there is a logical end, and that it may be tough to do anything after that comes, and possibly too easy to fall into mid-season Lost territory, unnecessarily dragging things out. Advertising will be everything here, because they really need people to see just how good this is. If they can get past that inital roadblock, we will have a hit. Provided that they indeed do this, and find a way to keep the story interesting, this will be seated very high on the fall roster.

Coming up on round 2: Mercy Reef(the DOA Aquaman Show), Friday Night Lights, and Traveler.


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