Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The best time of the year is upon us once again: pilot season. Beginning this week and stretching through November, more than 30 new shows will premiere on networks and cable. For better or worse, the majority of these shows will be cancelled after one season (or before the season ends). It can be a confusing time of shifting schedules and overcommitment, so here is your guide on what to watch and what to skip.
A to Z
Premise: Andrew, like all men in romantic dramedies, has a woefully ironic profession: he helps people find love through online dating while being unlucky in love himself. Zelda, like all women in romantic dramedies, is career-focused and as such has no time for nonsense like “romance” or “fate”. What will happen when they start to fall for each other?
Gut reaction: This pilot isn’t exactly exceptional (it owes a lot to the fresher (500) Days of Summer) but I’m inclined to recommend the show solely based on it’s wonderful cast (Mad Men’s Ben Feldman and HIMYM’s Cristin Milioti). I’m also interested to see how the very strict deadline the show placed on itself – narration repeatedly says that Andrew and Zelda date for 8 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, and 1 hour – will pan out if the show is picked up for a second or third season. If you like The Mindy Project or the departed Trophy Wife, give it a try.
Premise: A Pygmalion for the millennial set, Selfie stars Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) as Eliza Dooley, an “Instafamous” pharma rep who enlists PR expert Henry (John Cho) to rehabilitate her image after coworkers post a embarrassing video of her online.
Gut reaction: It is hard to concisely demonstrate just how out of touch Selfie is, but I believe this quote from the pilot does so: ”Did you hear? BF BS. Got played like Flappy Bird. Mortified dot com. Then hurled, overslept, OD’d on the Beam, contracted legit hamster breath [hamster sounds]. And now I’m hella late for the staff meeting.” That line, like Selfie as a whole, desperately tries to capture something about the social media zeitgeist and fails spectacularly. Combined with Henry’s “get off my lawn” approach to social media (“I find it rather easy not to form personal connections in a city that only values wireless connection”), the desperation is hard to stomach. Selfie is from Emily Kapnek, who created Suburgatory, another show whose distinctive tone I had no patience for. If you liked that creation, or have an undying loyalty to Cho or Gillan, maybe Selfie is for you. Godspeed.
How to Get Away With Murder
Premise: A group of sexy Philadelphia law students finds themselves entangled in the sexy world of murder.
Gut reaction: You need to know right off the bat that How to Get Away With Murder was not created or written by Shonda Rhimes. It is produced by Shonda Rhimes. This means that, while it shares more than a little DNA with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, it might miss the very specific mark those shows have hit. That said, this is a network drama produced by Shonda Rhimes starring Viola Davis. Even if the show turns out to be a mess, I’ll be tuning in for a long time.
Premise: Mulaney is the new Seinfeld: set in New York City, it follows John’s wacky friends and segments of his stand-up acts.
Gut reaction: John Mulaney is an incredible stand-up comedian who has put out consistently great work in his own acts and during his stint as an SNL writer. I genuinely want him to succeed in the sitcom world. That said, Mulaney is…not very good. It’s really not very good. The jokes are stilted, and seem even worse when given to talented actors like Nasim Pedrad (SNL) and Martin Short. Only six episodes have been made, and judging from what’s available, the show may be dead on arrival.
Premise: In the landscape of crime and corruption that is Gotham City, veteran-turned-police-officer Jim Gordon is tasked with solving the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, parents of Bruce Wayne. His investigation leads him deep into Gotham’s not-so-underground world of crime.
Gut reaction: Ben McKenzie’s (The O.C., Southland) Gordon is a very solid center for Gotham, but it remains to be seen how the large line-up of supporting villains will fit into the series’ 16 episode first season. Gotham has the opportunity to be a great twist on a crime procedural, but it’s also possible it will become Batman without Batman and a rogues gallery of sixteen year olds.
Fresh Off The Boat
Premise: Based on the memoirs of chef Eddie Huang, this family comedy follows a Chinese-American family who move from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida in pursuit of the American Dream: owning their own steakhouse restaurant.
Gut reaction: Fresh Off the Boat is in the running for my favorite new show of the season. One of two Modern Family-esque comedies (the other being Black-ish), Fresh of the Boat’s first script nails down a good tone by exaggerating cultural differences for comedy without devolving into an offensive parody. And unlike some other comedies, which are charming but lack laugh-out-loud moments, Boat has more than a few. The sequence of a young Huang decking himself out in gold chains while blasting Notorious B.I.G is a gift.
Red Band Society
Premise: Narrated by a young boy in a coma, Red Band Society is a heartwarming story of residents in a pediatric ward. It follows young patients whose conditions range from broken arms to eating disorders to cancer, and it features Octavia Spencer as a stern but caring nurse.
Gut reaction: Red Band Society is mostly an answer to the question, “Will The Fault in Our Stars kickstart a flood of inspirational YA cancer stories?” It’s not uniquely awful–its biggest flaws are cliche-ridden dialogue and inconsistent teen actors–but it’s certainly nothing special. It’s mildly maudlin, but there are worse things to be in pilot season.
Featured image courtesy of nbc.com