Monday, November 18, 2013

Almost Human

I want to start by saying that I really wanted this pilot to be good. I don’t want anyone to think that because I so often say nasty things about TV pilots I want them to be bad. I want them all to be good. I love TV and I’m always willing to give new stories a try. Unfortunately, this was not a new story. It was an old story, told poorly. In short, it was crap. But crap with potential.

First of all, aesthetically, this pilot looks like a stale, uninspired turd. The locations are divided between the Chinatown set from Blade Runner (complete with Chinese black-market technology vendor), the police headquarters set from Fringe, and a couple of outdoor crimes scenes that very purposefully shelter us from any futuristic sightseeing. The world feels distinctly incomplete, and what little bits we get appear to be lifted, not all too gracefully, from other more complete scifi worlds. In the end, I feel like the creators are more invested in their budy-cop story than they are in creating an imaginative, distinct universe. Unfortunately their budy-cop story is also crap.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Old grizzled cop, dishonored because of a past mistake, lured back to the force by the prospect of revenge, paired with by-the-book pariah. Initially at each other’s throats, these two cops soon discover that they can learn from one another, and eventually they grow grow a bond, deeper than brothers. Please. Stop me if you’ve heard it.

So, nothing too unique in the story realm, but everyone knows that good TV is about the performances, the characters. Sure Friday Night Lights was a soap opera, but it was elevated to TV sainthood through its comfortable, stunning performances. And this show even has FNL alum Minka Kelly, so I’m sure it won’t be ruined by Karl Urban’s insatiable hamminess. No? Okay then. It was a long shot.

As for potential – as for any chance of this show eventually settling into something watchable, I’m not even sure. The show’s main antagonists are as uninteresting as they are shady (and, I should mention, very stupid), and the show’s main story arc seems to be pretty lame.

But, as I considered turning this episode off before it was over (knowing exactly how it would end), I remembered that this is a JH Whyman + JJ Abrhams show. These are the Fringe guys, and while Fringe wound up becoming one of my favorite scifi shows on TV, it started out pretty bad. Maybe not this bad. But it suffered from over-acting, lame antagonists, and a mostly awful first season. So maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance for “Almost Human” down the line, once the kinks are worked out and better writers get a chance in the hot seat. In the meantime, this show provides very little, unless you are working on a "Michael Ealy smirking" supercut, in which case, you just hit the jackpot.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Ground Floor

Due to popular demand (meaning two offhand remarks), I've decided to begin rating the pilots like you would a high school paper. “C” being an average score. “C” means not good, but not in any way bad, or enough of both to cancel each other out. “B” means good with flaws. “A” means entirely lives up to its premise, and “F” means I barely held back vomit.

So, here it is. My first official grade for a pilot. What shall I give it?

I know! I’ll give it a “C"!

This was a “C” pilot if I've ever seen one. First of all, it is an hour long comedy pilot, which is always a little off-putting. It is single cam comedy, but with a laugh track, so that doesn't help. And it basically takes place entirely between two locations, and this is a serious problem. The show is about a man struggling between two worlds: The corporate high stakes world, and the carefree bottom floor. The problem is that, as he bounces back and forth between the two, a sense of déjà vu begins to creep in. The initial message is heard loud and clear: The so-called successful people on the top floor appear to be less content than the unsuccessful bottom floor support staff. With only one idea to play with, the constant ping-ponging between two locations just makes the whole show feel like it's retreading endlessly.

But there were up sides. Skyler Astin is certainly charming, and John C Mcginley is basically rehashing his scrubs character, which is totally fine by me. And there's a sense that all these talented comedic actors may one day get a chance to work as an ensemble, and not just a group of comedians, each doing their own thing, oblivious to the other comedians in the room.

But on a deeper level, this show managed to be really extremely average. Average in a fundamental way. It’s the story of a stressed out, uptight guy who’s living the dream but isn't satisfied, who meets a carefree girl who is hot, but not sexy, with a unique fashion sense and a charming spirit, who pulls him out of his white, privileged male depression and forces him to really live his life and listen to indie music. And I’ll be the first to admit, I actually like this story. Most of us do. That's why we keep telling it over and over again. It's just, if you're going to tell it again, you might as well subvert it, or play with, or even acknowledge it. If not, then it's like hearing a bed time story for the hundredth time. It's a good story, but you know all the words and you're asleep before it's over.

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