Fall 2007 Pilots

July 29th, 2007

I always used to hate summers; all my beloved TV-series would be on hiatus, leaving me with exasperating cliffhangers and endless reruns of the shows I just didn’t watch. I’ve found two ways to deal with these empty months, so that I still get a healthy dose of tv-goodness. The first is to try out new shows and (if you like them) to catch up on all the seasons you’ve missed. I’ve watched quite a couple of series like this: 8 seasons of Friends, 4 seasons of Gilmore Girls, 5 seasons of CSI, 1 season of The O.C., 1 season of Kyle XY and a couple of others.

The second anti-tv-withdrawal scheme is to try out all the new pilots for the Fall season. Two years ago I did this and got hooked on all the pilots/series, only to be disappointed when they got cancelled (truth is though, they did have it coming). Last year I watched all the pilots and chose only to continue with the ones with the most potential, Heroes and Ugly Betty. Good decision, right?

Well, this year’s new offerings all seem to be very interesting. After reading the descriptions, all the series sounded to have a lot of potential. After watching the pilots, however, some seem much less promising than others. Here’s a short review of each pilot I’ve seen (beware: minor spoilers):

This is about a guy Sam who finds out on his 21st birthday that before he was born his parents sold his soul to the devil and that he now has to serve as the devil’s bounty hunter, tracking down escaped souls from Hell. It’s not the most original premise for a show (anyone remember Brimstone?), but it stands apart by it’s funny execution. There’s a brilliant moment where Sam gets a chest containing a “vessel” from Satan with which he can capture one of the lost souls. Expecting some glorious, frightening artifact, he and his friends gather around the chest, open it and discover… a mini vaccuum cleaner. The actors are all well cast, especially Ray Wise as Satan (supportive, yet scary in that mafia-grandfather sort of way). It won’t be a breakout hit, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye on this one.

Pushing Daisies
There’s been a lot of buzz around this pilot and I understand why. Ned the Piemaker can bring dead people back to life by touching them once. Catch 1: Touch them again and they’re dead again. Catch 2: Keep them alive for more then 1 minute and somebody random in the vicinity dies instead. These catches show the ground rules of a structured mythology for this slightly otherworldy show. Add to that the beautiful way it’s been shot and fairy tale like narration, you get something completely new and invigorating. I got the same vibe from it as with Amelie; vivid colours and vivid imagination. The show is created and written by Bryan Fuller, the genius behind Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls. I really hope this turns out to be a hit; there’s never been a tv-serie quite like this and I want to see what it’s writers will come up with.

The premise of this show sounded okay on paper: geek (Chuck) accidently downloads government secrets into his brain and Adam Baldwin plays a snarly NSA agent. It’s not a completely original idea (everyday guy gets to work for secret agency: Jake 2.0, Now and Again), although in this show the guy doesn’t have any real superpowers: he just knows a lot.

The problem I had with this pilot, was that there were a lot of small (technical) things that just annoyed me. For starters, how was Chuck able to download all the information into his brain? I know, you should try to be ignorant and embrace whatever the writers throw at you, but this show is set in our world with our rules and the unlikeliness of this happening just ticked me off. Further, why would they have only one computer where all the data is together? Shouldn’t there be like backups or something? And, okay, Chuck saved the day by noticing the pattern in the data in his head, but what happens when the serie continues? This data was fresh and new with schematics of buildings and travel times of some important general. Eventually though, his data will be outdated; you can’t predict patterns, if you don’t have the newest data.

There were also a couple of nerd blunders in this pilot: at one point the computer is dropped and falls apart. The hard disk is supposedly “damaged beyond repair”. I mean, come on! That shouldn’t have been possible. Another “great” moment was the bomb laptop with the DOS override. Excuse me?? DOS override?? There were a couple of funny geek moments in it, but I really feel as if the writers tried to make it for geeks/nerds, yet in trying to do so put off most of their target audience by their ignorance. Maybe once the show gets going it will make more sense, but at the moment I don’t have much faith in it.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Terminator movies are great, if you want gunfights, explosions and indestructible robots. But if you’re looking for a good story? Not really the right place to be. The time travel plot was confusing and head ache inducing, as is usual with time travel antics. For big action blockbusters this doesn’t mind that much; you go mainly for the action. For a good TV-series, however, a good plot and story line is essential.

After watching this pilot I wasn’t even sure where to place it within the movie story line. Does it take place between movies 2 and 3? Or is it after 3, but in an alternate history preceding the events of 3? As I said, time travel is tricky and a dangerous story element if not handled properly. For those of you, who don’t know what the pilot’s about: after two years of reasonable quietness, Sarah Connor (Lena Headey, Queen Gorgo in 300) and her destined-to-be-last-hope-of-mankind son John (Thomas Dekker, Claire’s friend Zach in Heroes) are once again tracked down and chased by both the Terminators and the government. This time though help (read: a good Terminator) has the form of psychic brainwashed soldier River Tam a teenage girl played by Summer Glau.

What might be the downfall of this show is that transaction from movie to TV. What works for a movie doesn’t necessarily work for TV. The pilot contained a lot of action, a bit of failed, awkward emotional mother/son moments and a very thin story line. I’m just not sure how this will translate to an entire season. I’ll be watching this show, but I won’t be surprised if it fails miserably. I guess, it largely depends if it finds it’s groove in the next couple of episodes.

Bionic Woman
This show had me intrigued from the very beginning: a modernized remake of The Bionic Woman with Lindsay Wagner, a strong female lead and best of all created by David Eick, one of the masterminds behind Battlestar Galactica. Add Katee Sackhoff as evil villain and you’ve got a recipe for a potential hit. After seeing the pilot the words “best show evah” don’t spring straight in my mind; it has a lot potential, but it’s not quite there yet. The plot is straightforward. Jaime Sommers is a surrogate mother for her deaf teenage sister, having to drop out of college and work as a bartender to make ends meet. College professor boyfriend Will is secretly working for a government laboratory and when Jaime is almost killed in a car crash, he (of course, out of love) operates on her and gives her bionic limbs to save her. The rest of the episode shows Jaime dealing with her newfound powers, enemies and allies, setting up the basic mythology. The pilot was interesting, but it gave no real indication on how further episodes would be. Does she go on missions for the secret agency or something like that? The main thing that bugged me was the deaf sister; she was just too irritating and the fact that she was deaf didn’t really contribute to the story. I’ve heard that they’ve recast and rewrote that character, though, so I guess the real first episode will be better. I’ll continue watching this series and I predict that with the right amount of tweaking and twirling it could turn out to be great show.