NBC & CBS Fall 2014 Pilots:
Over the weekend, the Paley Center in NYC had screenings of the five major broadcast networks’ fall pilots (not all of them, but most). In the past they used to show them during the week after work – which I liked better – but now they’ve turned it into an all weekend long TV viewing event. Sounds fun, but actually isn’t. Since the Paley Center is located in midtown between 5th and 6th aves, no nearby cafes, restaurants, or even fast food places were open in the area over the weekend because practically no one lives around there! Even though there were obnoxious people spreading their legs over seats, texting on their insanely bright phones (I had to tell someone to turn that screen off), letting their phones ring without silencing them, and slowly opening food wrappers all day long, I somehow was able to stay for the whole day yesterday to watch the new NBC and CBS shows, and I’m still sane!!
The NBC slate at Paley included “Marry Me,” “A to Z,” “Constantine,” and “The Mysteries of Laura.” We were also supposed to see “Bad Judge,” but it was inexplicably removed from the line-up (maybe because it’s bad? I don’t really like Kate Walsh, sorry). Also absent from the lineup was “State of Affairs” with Katherine Heigl, but that’s probably because it’s premiering in November and not in September or early October.
Here’s what I thought:
MARRY ME – 5 out of 5. This was HILARIOUS and my favorite of the bunch. Great way to start the day. The premise is hilarious and I don’t want to give much away – basically Casey Wilson and Ken Marino are perfectly cast as a cute, goofy couple who have been dating for 6 years. Right away, we see they have a problem – there hasn’t been a proposal yet. Casey Wilson’s character Annie (named after the musical haha) is ready to be engaged RIGHT NOW, and because of that, she accidentally ruins everything in the most funny way possible. Great writing, great supporting cast (I won’t mention who pops up as their parents since I was surprised!), and I hope this does well. It fills the void left by “Happy Endings,” maybe because Casey Wilson stars and her Annie has lots of similarities with her former character Penny. This is the one to watch.
A TO Z – 4 out of 5. This surprised me! I didn’t know much about it, and wasn’t really giving it much thought thanks to its vague title. But this actually was funny and cute! Reminded me A LOT of “500 Days of Summer,” so it does have the possibility of longevity and lots of ups and downs as we explore the new relationship between Andrew, who works at a dating app/service, and Zelda, a lawyer who isn’t interested in dating. The lead actors Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti (from How I Met Your Mother) are actually pretty charming, and the narrator introducing us to them is a nice surprise if you can figure out who it is. Shining in the pilot as Andrew’s friend/coworker is Henry Zebrowski, and his crazy boss Christina Kirk. And the celebrity cameo is a nice little addition to the randomness that I hope the show is able to hold onto. This was better than I thought it would be.
CONSTANTINE – 2.5 out of 5. Oy. I have seen the Keanu Reeves movie, but I don’t remember it much (other than other stars Rachel Weisz, Shia Lebouf, Tilda Swinton, and I think Gavin Rossdale being in it?). This Constantine is a bit different, and from what I’ve heard, closer to the comic books. There are some fun scary moments and the graphics are actually good and effective, but ultimately it’s just kind of boring. The audience was at its most restless during this screening, so I guess that’s saying something. The wrappers and the phones were nonstop. This has a good chance of early cancellation written all over it. But then again I could be wrong, since people still love “Grimm” and this will most likely play alongside it. It just lacks humor, and the main actors Matt Ryan and Lucy Griffiths aren’t really that interesting to watch. I don’t know if there are enough comic book fans to keep this thing afloat.
THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA – 4 out of 5. This also surprised me. I was expecting something boring and/or corny, especially since Debra Messing can be both of those things (“Smash” anyone?). But actually, I was entertained during the whole episode. Messing stars as Laura, a detective and a mom, but the issues that come up in her day to day life are actually believable and don’t feel cheesy or wah-wah. She’s a mess, and is OK with being a mess, but then suddenly looks great in a bathing suit when having to go undercover. Her relationship with her estranged husband, played by Josh Lucas, is interesting, especially towards the end of the episode when a twist hits. For an hourlong drama, it has tons of comedy, which I liked, and felt different than the many other cop procedurals that have come before it. I actually see this lasting for a while… I think moms, mine especially, will love it. Think Law & Order meets Charlie’s Angels (perhaps the movies more than the TV show). It’s just a shame that the title sucks…
Next up are the CBS pilots. Now, I have to be honest – I don’t think I’ve really watched any CBS show. I missed the boat on “How I Met Your Mother,” and I liked “2 Broke Girls” at first but then lost interest. The laugh track and the over 50+ vibe just make me nauseous. But, as always, I try to give them a shot, and I was surprised that the new crop of shows actually aren’t all that bad/boring.
SCORPION – 3 out of 5. Not something I would watch, but had its moments. Katharine McPhee returns to TV as the “normal” mom to a genius son with asperger syndrom or something like it, who finds friends with a rag-tag team of heroes. Making up this group are some nerds and delinquents who can hack into things, and are recruited by Robert Patrick’s character Agent Gallo to help the US government save a plane flying above them. My mind wandered throughout, although there was a pretty amazing action sequence towards the end when our main characters save the passengers on the plane via speeding car. Felt like “True Lies” or something. Really not sure what the future holds for this one… I could see it becoming a hit, but could also see it quietly disappearing. Not that it matters, but lead actor Elyes Gabel needs a serious makeover for future episodes… based on his odd, disheveled looks in the pilot, I can’t see women wanting to keep watching him.
MADAM SECRETARY – 4 out of 5. This one surprised me. I thought it would be a snoozefest, but I was actually into it, and I think any fans out there of “The Good Wife” and “House of Cards” will like it too. Tea Leoni stars, and surprisingly isn’t as abrasive or tough to watch as she has been in the past. She’s a fish out of water as the new Secretary of State, due to an event that I won’t spoil here. This show will be both a procedural “mission of the week” type show and have ongoing storylines about Elizabeth McCord’s transition from professor with horses to politician with new suits. And the end of the episode opens up twists that will most likely lead to sinister things going on regarding her predecessor’s abrupt exit. Great supporting cast, including Tim Daly as Elizabeth’s easy on the eyes husband, and some surprises as Elizabeth’s staff (including some Broadway stars!) And I know two of the guest stars – Sean Kleier and Scott Lindley – who I’ve worked with on multiple shoots! Sean was just in our “What Would You Do?” travel episode! They’re part of the “mission of the week” crisis that Elizabeth has to solve. Like “The Mysteries of Laura,” my mom (and dad) will like this one a lot. I’d be surprised if this tanks.
NCIS: NEW ORLEANS – N/A out of 5. Sorry folks, but I have absolute ZERO interest in any of the NCIS shows, so I watched the first and last 5 minutes of this pilot, and in between searched around the neighborhood for food. The fact that I couldn’t find any quickly made me even more disinterested in this show. No offense, New Orleans!
STALKER – 5 out of 5. Now this is what I waited for. And it was worth the wait! I’m a fan of pretty much anything Kevin Williamson does (or at least tries to do) and “Stalker” is the one to watch from this group. For a CBS show, it’s actually very creepy, and very disturbing. So disturbing, that after the insane opening, an audience member had to let out a noise signifying that he felt dirty watching it. Others echoed the noise and laughed at themselves. Maggie Q is perfect as our lead girl Lieutenant Beth Davis, a tough and smart “final girl” type, who knows a thing or two about being stalked. To keep things a little light and not all dark, she clashes with her new partner, the tall, dark and handsome mystery from New York Detective Jack Larsen, played by Dylan McDermott, who’s now becoming a regular in the thriller/horror world of TV. The only worry I have is that it technically is a procedural, with stalker cases of the week most likely always being solved by Beth and Jack. Yes, that’ll keep the scares coming in different ways, but after seeing that extremely creepy mask in the beginning, I’d like to see a bad guy last a while. That’s why I love Williamson’s other show “The Following” – it’s basically one long serial killer movie. But amid the weekly cases, you can tell there are threads that will last throughout the season about other bad guys, the good guys, and the guys you’re not sure are good or bad yet. This is the one to watch.
THE MCCARTHYS – 2 out of 5. It’s a CBS multi-cam comedy with a laugh track, so right off the bat, I can’t give it anything higher. I won’t be watching this, nor can I say it’ll last very long, but I have seen worse in the past. The high points are that it stars Laurie Metcalfe, who can do no wrong (isn’t she also still doing the HBO show “Getting On?” That’s obviously far more interesting than this show), and also stars Joey McIntyre, who I actually kind of like in these obnoxious brother roles, like his role in the recent movie “The Heat.” Another plus is that the main character, Ronny, played by John Ritter’s other son Tyler Ritter (who knew?), is gay. And even better is that he’s not overly flamboyant but actually just very normal, a regular buttoned-up guy with a wacky family, and his sexuality is neither the first thing we know about him nor ignored. I actually like the way they’re handling that in an otherwise basic all-American show. Everything else though is pretty by-the-numbers, and there isn’t much originality with this family. And that Boston accent/attitude is a bit grating. This could go either way, but I have a feeling chances are it’ll fizzle.
And there you have it! Happy Fall 2014! Leave a comment here to let me know what you think of these new shows.