by Matthew Thompson
Throughout the Fall season, I’ve been checking in on the new TV pilots and I’m here to review another batch that premiered in October. As I mentioned in the previous posts, it is always tough to judge a show by just its pilot. But I like to get my thoughts out there on them and I hope they help let you know what is worth your time. I also tried to mention any kind of larger sample I was able to make in some of these cases for a little additional info. I’ll be sure to check in with any of these shows I stick with later on in the season. Here it goes:
The Affair (Sundays at 10 Eastern on Showtime)
The Premise: This Showtime drama examines the effects of an affair between a school teacher/writer (Dominic West) and a waitress (Ruth Wilson) that he meets while visiting Montauk for the summer.
My Take: The pilot is high quality stuff. Great acting from an excellent cast including West and Wilson along with Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson who play their spouses. A good-looking show on top of that. But my favorite part of the pilot was the storytelling device that allowed us to see both participants of the titular relationship’s recollections of the events that led to them getting together. It’s intriguing seeing the differences between the two stories and trying to figure out how it relates to them both being interviewed about what we are seeing. I do wonder how this works out long-term. It seems like a show where my opinion could shift based on how they tie all this up at the end. I also wonder if dual-storyline format could either become repetitive or lose its novelty over time. It hasn’t yet, but I do wonder how it will fare or change with the potential of this lasting multiple seasons. The show being focused on an affair doesn’t do much for me either and hurts the likability of some of the characters involved. Regardless of all that, it is extremely fascinating to watch this narrative play out in the pilot and in each episode since.
Worth Watching?: Despite some of the issues I have, this has become one of the shows I can’t wait to watch each week. Even when parts aren’t working, it is always interesting. So yes it is worth watching. It is also the kind of cable drama people seem to dig so that helps make it easy to recommend.
Jane the Virgin (Mondays at 9 Eastern on The CW)
The Premise: Jane Villanueva, who is saving herself for marriage, ends up pregnant when she is mistakenly artificially inseminated by her doctor during a checkup.
My Take: If that doesn’t seem ridiculous enough, the man whose sample is used to impregnate her is a former crush and her new boss. As gross as that premise sounds, it isn’t as bad in practice. The main reason why is that the whole show is played up as a sort of satire of telenovelas. Everything is absurd from the reveal about the father Jane never knew to the soapy machinations swirling around the hotel. It has a great sense of humor and knows how to play much of over-the-top drama for laughs with its hilarious narrator, witty captions and fitting music for what it is skewering. But there are also relationships to care about especially between Jane, her mother and grandmother. And Gina Rodriguez is extremely charming and lovable in the lead role. This show is surprisingly good.
Worth Watching?: Even if it is approaching a lot of its soapiness with its tongue in its cheek, you still probably have to enjoy the genre to be able to get into this. There is just too much over-the-top drama here otherwise. If you like night-time soaps, don’t let the premise turn you away because this is a lot of fun. I’d recommend this over How to Get Away with Murder which has really fizzled out for me after a fairly clever pilot setup.
Marry Me (Tuesdays at 9 Eastern on NBC)
The Premise: A comedy following a couple’s relationship after a messy proposal attempt.
My Take: The main appeal of this for me was the creator of Happy Endings David Caspe’s involvement, but so far I have not been too impressed. The pilot was a good start. There is nothing particularly special about the premise or set-up for the show, but I did come away liking the core couple played by Casey Wilson and Ken Marino. The flashback that shows how they met was a really nice touch and showed some of the fun that these two are capable of having together. There are also signs that some of the supporting cast might be able to deliver. The next two episodes have not really built on this though. I’m not sure if Caspe’s strengths don’t work as well with a relationship comedy like this, the weaker cast is at fault or if it is just finding its footing still, but I just haven’t been too impressed beyond the first episode.
Worth Watching?: Maybe I am putting too much faith in the talent involved with the show, but I am thinking (or maybe just hoping) this will improve. I think a wait and see approach might be in order for those on the fence especially since Happy Endings took a while to find its groove. So far Marry Me is alright, but not much more.
Benched (Tuesdays at 10:30 Eastern on USA)
The Premise: After being passed up for a promotion, corporate attorney Nina Whitley (Eliza Coupe) has a nervous breakdown and soon finds herself working as a public defender.
My Take: When you sit down to watch a USA drama, you kind of know what to expect. They all have the same feel. These lighter-fare, sometimes funny procedurals. Knowing that, Benched feels like what you’d expect from a half-hour comedy on USA. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with that, but it isn’t likely to light your world on fire either. Eliza Coupe is one of my favorite comedic actresses. Her work on Scrubs and Happy Endings in fairly different roles were both fantastic. When she gets to let loose in Benched’s pilot (in her freak out at the beginning and towards the end of her first turn as a public defender),it is easy to remember why she is one of my favorites. But I’m just not sure she will be able to shine as much here as in those previous roles because of the general tone of this show. I’d like to see more of Jay Harrington’s character as the show goes on. He is very funny in Better Off Ted, but I didn’t get enough of a vibe for his character in the pilot. Still overall I liked the first ep.
Worth Watching?: If it is on, you might find yourself liking it, but it doesn’t seem like something that will have you going out of your way to watch it. Kind of like USA dramas, it is perfectly watchable and you may enjoy it, but not likely to become anything particularly special.
Constantine (Fridays at 10 Eastern on NBC)
The Premise: Based on characters from the DC comic series Hellblazer, this show follows John Constantine. an exorcist and detective of the occult, as he takes on supernatural cases and a looming dark threat to humanity.
My Take: This is an odd pilot. It introduces the world and characters to us, but also to Liv. She is the one new to all this demon stuff, so as we learn, she learns… and then they write her out (apparently the writers decided to go in a different direction). Constantine and her father also have a connection that gives them their home demon-hunting base which makes her leaving extra weird. As does the fact that the pilot feels a little over explanatory and that a lot of that comes in the form of teaching Liv. In the end, it all feels like a bit of time wasted. The good news is that the new female companion, Zed, who is introduced in the second episode is more interesting. But it means we have to spend the second outing establishing a new core relationship which makes it feel a little pilot-y as well. My favorite part of the show through two episodes is Matt Ryan’s performance as John Constantine. He seems like a good fit for the character based on what I know about the comics (however little that might be). He helped carry a show that otherwise didn’t do a lot for me.
Worth Watching?: I guess I just didn’t care for this that much though your mileage may vary. It’s basically a supernatural procedural similar to Sleepy Hollow or Supernatural. I didn’t find myself overly interested in the hints at the bigger picture storyline either. I did like the lead along with the new female character in the second episode, but nothing that has me all that interested in going back.
That will do it for another look at some of the new shows that premiered this Fall. That also does it for most of the new shows debuting before year’s end though I will be sure to chime in on the very cool-looking Marco Polo when it hits Netflix. And I will hopefully be checking into some of these as their seasons continue. As always thanks for reading!