by Matthew Thompson
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about some of the pilots that aired back in September. Now I am back to give some impressions of another batch from October. Again it is always tough to judge a show by just its pilot, but I wanted to get my thoughts out there and help let you know what is worth your time. And I tried to mention any kind of larger sample I was able to make in some of these cases for a little additional info. I will also be sure to check in with any of these shows I stick with later on in the season. Here it goes:
Mulaney (Sundays at 9:30 Eastern on FOX)
The Premise: A multi-cam sitcom about a stand-up comedian living in New York City trying to make the next step in his career.
My Take: I watched this mostly out of curiosity. I’m not familiar with much of Mulaney’s work as a writer. I’ve only seen his stand-up special which was fairly funny, but nothing amazing by any means. This pilot for his show on FOX on the other hand is not good at all. The acting is stiff. The stand-up bits that open and close the episode don’t work all that well in this initial outing. Martin Short is playing the exact kind of character you’d expect from Martin Short. And since I don’t like Martin Short that is not a good thing. But most importantly, it wasn’t funny. This is aiming for the classic sitcom feel. There is nothing deeper here. So if it can’t make me laugh or at least go, “Hmmm… that was clever” it isn’t going to work. And the pilot didn’t even elicit a chuckle out of me.
Worth Watching?: No. This is the worst pilot I have seen so far this season. And while it isn’t fair to judge based on that, it is impossible to recommend. Plus there are a handful of better new comedies to try instead.
The Flash (Tuesdays at 8 Eastern on The CW)
The Premise: A super-powered spinoff of The CW’s Arrow focused on Barry Allen as he becomes The Flash.
My Take: It’s really good. I like that despite being a spin-off of Arrow and being set in the same universe, it has its own unique tone and feel. Part of that comes from there being actual super powers which is a nice change of pace from not only Arrow, but even fellow newcomer Gotham. In general, it just has a lighter feel too. Barry Allen isn’t as brooding as Oliver Queen and he doesn’t skulk in nighttime shadows either, so the show even has an actual lighter look to it. I also found Grant Gustin’s Barry a lot more likable than in his appearances in Season 2 of Arrow. Tom Cavanagh looks to fill a good supporting role. And it’s just fun to watch stuff like the fastest man alive tangle with someone who can control the weather. My gripes would be keeping a certain key character in the dark about Barry’s newfound abilities which could turn problematic, but I’ll have to wait and see (luckily they did let one of the other major characters know almost immediately). There were a couple of really corny moments too (the flashbacks are welcome, but young Barry’s actor is… not good and the end of Barry and Oliver’s meeting in the pilot made me cringe hard).
Worth Watching?: Definitely. Obviously whether you like superheroes at all is a factor, but even if you couldn’t get into Arrow, The Flash’s different tone means you might find something more agreeable about The CW’s lastest comic adaptation. The ratings are excellent too so you can expect the show to last for years and years.
Gracepoint (Thursdays at 9 Eastern on FOX)
The Premise: An American remake of the British crime drama, Broadchurch, about the death of a young boy in a small town and the ensuing murder investigation.
My Take: I found the pilot to be perfectly fine. It sets up the small town atmosphere and the central murder plot. It shows the rocky beginnings of the two people who will be investigating the crime (Anna Gunn plays the local detective, David Tennant plays the standoff-ish outsider). It starts to lay some hints about who might be behind the killing. There have been a lot of this sort of show in recent years and I’m not sure what exactly makes this one stand out, but that might be tough to tell from the pilot in this case. I have not seen Broadchurch, so I can’t make that comparison either.
Worth Watching?: I have no idea. Personally it just made me want to watch Broadchurch a little more. I’ve heard great things about it and heard this remake was a lesser version. And I like these type of shows, so I will just wait until I can check out the original. Not sure who exactly this remake is for. Is it for fans of the original? Those that are too lazy to seek out the original? Those who hate British accents? Maybe it ends up being a worthwhile remake, but I am in no position to say at the moment, so this one was tough for me to review. But hey I watched it, so I wanted to give some thoughts!
A to Z (Thursdays at 9:30 Eastern on NBC)
The Premise: A classic romantic comedy brought to the small screen, A to Z will track the course of Andrew and Zelda’s relationship from when they met onwards.
My Take: This seems very cleverly constructed. The framing device (they say up front how long they will date, but what happens after is sort of up in the air), the narration (well-done by Katey Sagal) and the episode titling (each will seemingly be titled from A to Z) is all just sort of neat. Certainly a little 500 Days of Summer and How I Met Your Mother in there. And the two leads have great chemistry together which makes the pair instantly likable and easy to root for. If I had to pick something out I didn’t love, I’d go with the leading pair’s best friends especially Andrew’s. I’m not sure why TV shows just absolutely must cast an obnoxious horndog best friend if the main character is sensitive or romantic, but it seems to be a requirement these days. This one doesn’t seem like a fun one either. Still it is a charming first episode.
Worth Watching?: I would have said yes after the pilot, but the second episode didn’t go as well for me. The supporting cast is actually quite bad and I’m not sure the show is all that funny. I think it is the leads and clever setup that make this stand out. It’s also possible the second was just a dud. I guess the important thing to note is that this won’t be a laugh-a-minute comedy. But if a more relationship-focused romantic comedy is for you, this is definitely worth a look.
Survivor’s Remorse (Saturdays at 9PM Eastern on Starz)
The Premise: This new half-hour comedy hones in on a young pro basketball player after he signs his first big-time contract and moves with his family to Atlanta.
My Take: As a big sports fan, I can definitely dig some of the storylines they’ve been delving into here. It hasn’t dealt with much actual basketball, but the kind of off-the-court issues that pop up for athletes a lot and there is definitely some good material to mine there. I think the comedic viewpoint on all of it is a nice change of pace from the more serious tone that these must take up in real life. I like most of the characters so far, Cam’s sister and her atrocious accent being the only exception. I’ve been trying to restrict “My Take” to just pilots, but I feel the second ep is worth mentioning as well . The plotline is very timely and relevant due to it being in the news because of an NFL superstar recently and I think Cam’s Uncle Julius (Mike Epps) gets more of an opportunity to show how funny he can be. I think the bond between Cam and and his cousin Reggie, who also acts as his manager, is a great core relationship to build the show around too.
Worth Watching?: Yes with caveats of course. Kind of like all of these “Worth Watching” notes I write, it assumes this sounds up your alley. You don’t have to be a basketball fan because it is as much about Cam and his family dealing with their newfound fame and that is something if you follow TV and actors you can probably get into. It is on Starz, so it is definitely aimed at an older audience (nudity and all the other stuff you’d expect on Starz). You can actually watch the first two episodes on Youtube if you’d like to give it a try. I think it is worth a shot.
That will do it for another set of Pilot Mini-Reviews. I plan to do one more round of these including shows like The Affair and Marry Me in about a week or so. Thanks for reading!