Well, 'tis the season. I've watched about 10 pilots last week, so here's the skinny on the good and the bad, according to my gospel.
6 Degrees (Thursday, ABC,9).
Let me be clear: this show is completely stupid. Here, I've said it. The concept is that anyone is connected, so we meet 6 people living in NY city, and by the end of the pilot. 1 knows 2 who knows 3 who etc, until 5 know 6. Oh my God, that's crazy!
Do they really think we're stupid? I mean, you can take any 6 people who know each other and use the pilot to explain how they met, and here you go? Is that a concept? Is that a story? Am I supposed to care is a limo driver is stupid enough to spend all his cash on tracks? Am I supposed to believe that picture of a woman crying on her front steps is beautiful?
I expected a little more from JJ. After MI3 and the Alias finale, the master is losing his touch.
6 degrees was shooting in my street the other day, so expect a shot of the manhattan bridge in Episode 5 or 6, if it's not canceled yet. (People take picture of that bridge everyday, and believe me, I've never seen a good one. You can see the same shot, for a fraction of a second, in the MP3-phone commercial).
Actually expect this show to be canceled after only 2 episodes.
Brothers and Sisters (Sunday, ABC, 10).
Wow, expect the unexpected!
Who knew this new show, with actresses as annoying as Calista Flockhart - remember Ally McBeal? Beuark- and Sally Field - among a million annoying roles, Abby Lockhart's mom on ER - who knew, was I saying, they could be the main actresses of such a good show? The concept of the large family with multiple branches, some of them turning into deamons, has been used so many times, I had given hope.
Brothers and sisters, though, is a real hybrid. Think Alias without the action. Cheers without the Humor. Doesn't promise much, does it? That's what I thought too! That's right, just a large family and all their secrets. No cheese. Think Soap Opera for Prime Time. 7th heaven without christian values.
But add a lot of wit and political satire (pronounce sat-tire, like ms Field - haha, ms Field), amazing direction, and Ron Rikfin (Sloane in Alias). Good stuff.
Expect an Emmy (if not golden globe) for the ex-Ally McBeal, whose next role should be Skeletor. Seriously, the number of jokes on her weight in the pilot was too astronomical to be subtle. This kid should eat (and leave Harrison Ford alone).
Jericho (Wednesday, CBS, 8)
After Smallville and Roswell, I introduce today the new sci-fi-meets-everyday-life series-with-the-name-of-the-town-it-takes-place-in-as-a-title.
Pretty simple stuff here. The people living in Jericho, Kansas, realize big cities around them have been nuked. They don't know if they're the only survivors, or why. The story focuses on a few touching characters, the mayor, his son, a ex-cop that knows too much, etc.
I actually really liked the pilot. It has its cheesy moments, but as a fan of said faux sci-fi genre, I got my fix. Succeeds where Invasion didn't last year.
Now the big question is, what kind of show is it gonna be? If they let the sci-fi stories breathe, it could be really cool (a la Alias and X-Files). If they follow too much stupid WB teenage stories (Smallville, Roswell again), it will very fast become boring. Whatever, this will probably be around at least a full season.
I have to add: I love how very little is said when the nuking happens. You just see the mushroom, and understand, like the characters, what's happening. 60 years after the last civilian nuking, the stygma is still very much alive, and it plays on it beautifully - an awkward sentence if I ever wrote one. A welcome rest from all those shows who need a voice-over to explain (or confuse) their story-line (back to 6 degrees). And Skeet Ulrich (of Scream fame, duh!) rules.
Grade: 7 or 5, we'll see.
Studio 60 on the sunset strip (Monday, NBC, 10).
OK, just so you know, Aaron Sorkin is one of my hero. West Wing is, simply put, the smartest show of the last decade. But can you apply the same witty and fast flowing dialogue to a show about Television, and what happens backstage at a late-night sketch show? I'm not convinced, yet, and I won't give up either. Brad Whhhithhhford - I never know where the h are, so I put 3 everytime I had a doubt. But let's call him Josh Lyman. Josh, then, and Matthew Petty are brilliant, Amanda Peet is a big casting mistake (thank you Dalton), the rest is pretty boring and nothing I haven't seen before. Hopefully this is all due to the need for exposition. The sets, at least, are cool. But I had such high hopes for this show, as a TV addict, I feel already cold about it. Now the Alias pilot, that was something!
Grade: Jury still out.
Men in trees (Friday, ABC, 9)
ABRAHAM BENRUBI ALERT!!!!!! Our favorite TV character actor ever (Larry Kubiak on Parler Lewis, Jerry on ER), is back, as, guess who? A big guy with a tender heart. Who knew?
But the heroine of the show is Marin, played by Anne Heche, a relationship guru who ends up in a small Alaskan Town after a break-up. Difficult to know, so early in the series, if the stupid advice given in the VO (yes, annoying VO once again) is to be taken seriously. But the characters are good, the atmosphere original (I never saw northern exposure), and it moves easily enough. As a cheap (thank God for Vancouver) friday night show (what's the jewish term for DVR?), Marin might just be here a while and even move to a better time slot. Here's to a new heroine (she won't replace Sidney Bristow on Alias, but oh well).
Let's also note that it was very smart for ABC to premiere the show on a Tuesday a week before any other new show.
Smith (CBS, Tuesday, 10PM).
Here's an ovni. A heist series, with Ray Liotta as an anti-heroe and Virginia Madsen, his wife. I had no sympathy for the characters, the plot was boring, the pace slow, the actors disappointing. In a post-alias world, difficult to believe. I'll give it another try, but if the second episode is not awesome, Smith will return to anonymity. And someone get Ray Liotta some lips, god damned!
Justice (Wednesday, Fox, 9)
A team of lawyers defend even the most disgusting suspects. Victor Garber (Jack Bristow in Alias) is their master.
I was actually pleasentely surprised, especially by the ending, where you get to see what really hapenned at the scene of crime. But this has been done so many times, I refuse to spend an hour every week on it. And procedurals are not my thing. I don't even watch CSI, so why bother... Stick to SVU if you like that stuff.
The Class (CBS, Monday, 8):
We'll finish with a sitcom. I never expect anything from a sitcom, 90% of what's out there is horrible. I usually wait til October and see if anything stands out. But I liked the concept for The Class, and guess what? The pilot was pretty awesome.
The idea is simple, as it should be. Some guy organizes a reunion of his 3rd grade class 20 years later. The characters are interesting, and that's all you need for a sitcom. The first episode was hilarious, but that's because David Crane (of Friend's fame) made sure it had a joke every 5 second. The only way this is gonna be good on the long run, though, is if the writers build some situation comedy. If I want jokes, I'll go on humor.forum.quebec. If I want TV comedy, I'll tune to reruns of Seinfeld. And hopefully, to The Class, every Monday.
Grade: 8/10, if it holds...
OK, I've managed to mention Alias for every show, so I'm done. Stay tuned for Heroes, 30 Rock, The Nine, Knights and Ugly Betty, later this week.