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Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 Fall Television Season - Week 1 - Pilot Reviews Part 1

Welcome, a little late, to the first official week of the 2011 Fall Television Season! Seeing as how network television is basically crystal meth in the form of heavily censored family entertainment, I will likely be watching every new pilot ever. As such, I thought it might be fun to A) make a list of shows I think people should and shouldn't watch so as to be able to share my very strong opinions with someone other than my stuffed gorilla and to B) discuss what the STV community thinks about the new season in one big post. I reserve the right to not watch/review something if I feel that it would likely make me seize violently.

Alright, I'll be starting Week 1 with something I am going to call "The Kind Of Good, The CW, and The Unbearably Mediocre". As you may have guessed, I wasn't wildly impressed with what the networks had to offer in their first week.

The Kind Of Good:

Up All Night was likely the highlight of this pretty lame first week. Bear in mind that, with the week being pretty lame and all, that isn't saying much. The show opened with a promising first couple of sequences, but it quickly went downhill from there. A few chuckle-worthy beats were followed by lots of fairly generic baby related life problems. Babies are work. You don't get to sleep. Couples fight. Hilarity ensues? On top of that, the entire climax of the episode was mostly shown in/ruined by the previews. In the non-baby related portion of the show, Maya Rudolph was kind fun; however, if they keep her as she is now, she may soon become intensely grating.

General negativity aside, what does excite me about what I have seen thus far is that Will Arnett, a very talented actor, is finally being asked to play a real person. Gob Bluth (Arrested Development) and his characters on 30 Rock/Running Wilde were amusing in a cartoonishly-vulnerable/man-childy kind of way, but seeing him flex his acting chops in a new direction is a nice change. The reversal of gender stereotypes that has Will Arnett on paternity leave is also good news. It's nice to see the working mom bail on the stay-at-home dad for their anniversary dinner. This dynamic has promise for A) being progressive in its portrayal of a "modern family" and B) the lolz.

All in all, the cast is beyond talented, the direction is great, but the writing could use some polishing. Not that it's bad, it's just kind of generic at times.

Verdict: I'll watch the first three episodes, but, if it doesn't improve, I'm out. On the scale of "How Much I Think I'm Going To Like Whitney" to "Something That Isn't Whitney" I give this pilot a "Meh".

The Unbearably Mediocre:

Free Agents stars two of my favourite actors ever (Hank Azaria and Anthony Stewart Head) as well as the always amusing Katherine Hahn; however, the show also consists of an unbelievably unpleasant supporting cast. There's a stereotypical jock type with the constant need to get laid, there's a clearly sex-deprived married nerd type whose wife seems to have his balls in an iron grip, and then there's a shrill executive-assistant with a no-nonsense attitude. Oh, there's also a weird security guard that I completely forgot all about. If the writing team wanted to write these characters as if they were one-note caricatures, then they've done their job.

On the other hand, I really liked the leads. Hank Azaria and Katherine Hahn have excellent chemistry. Furthermore, the creative energy lacking in the development of the side characters was thrown whole-heartedly into the development of the main characters. I got a feel for who these people were and I care about them enough to hope that they can get their lives back on track

All of that being said, while the writing, acting, and direction are alright, I found the show lacking in the making me laugh department. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. Who says that a 22-minute show MUST be a through-composed comedy? I think the problem is that the show tried to deal with some heavy issues in the form of a recently divorced father and a sort-of widow while not giving the situations enough weight. If these characters are going to be believable, then they need to be less work-place hijinksy and more black humoury. The supporting cast did nothing to lend to the kind of darkly amusing potential the show seems to have.

Verdict: I think that Free Agents has a lot of promise. Honestly, while I enjoyed the Up All Night pilot more, I think that Free Agents will become the better show given enough time to iron out the kinks.  I'll stick around for at least 3 episodes. On the scale of "I Really Hate The Supporting Actors" to "Hank Azaria Is A Cool Guy", I give this pilot a "Get Your Shit Together Writers, But Also, Mostly Meh".

Alright, this review has gone on long enough. I'll get to The CW in Part 2.

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