Fall TV First Look: Pilot Reviews

  • Comments: ↓ 4 user comments
  • Publish Date: July 20, 2011

The CWHart of Dixie (Drama, Mondays at 9p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
AOL/Bentley
AOL/Prudom
TV Addict
AOL/Harnick
BuzzSugar
HitFix
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Ryan
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob
ShowBuzzDaily

What it is: A WB-style drama about a former city-dweller who must adapt to small-town life.

A New York City doctor moves to a small Southern town filled with quirky inhabitants after inheriting a medical practice there in this dramedy created by Leila Gerstein (a producer on Gossip Girl and Eli Stone). Rachel Bilson (The O.C.) heads the cast as the fish-out-of-water physician, and the show also features Jaime King (My Generation) and Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights). Nancy Travis co-starred in the pilot, but since she's also in ABC's new Tim Allen comedy, her character will disappear after the second episode.

The good news: The pilot is "breezy" and "charming." Critics seem genuinely excited to have Bilson back on the small screen, and she doesn't disappoint (even if her character isn't entirely believable as a surgeon). There seems to be a lot to work with here; HitFix's Fienberg thinks that the premise has potential, and if the show plays out right, "the backdrop could become the Alabama equivalent of Star's Hollow from 'Gilmore Girls.'"

The bad news: For a few critics, Bilson, though likeable and charming, is miscast. One Daily Beast critic finds it syrupy, the other, corny. BuzzSugar wishes the producers had toned down the Southern theme just a bit, while ShowBuzzDaily could do without the excessive voice-over narration.

CBSHow to Be a Gentleman (Comedy, Thursdays at 8:30p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
The Futon Critic
ShowBuzzDaily
AOL/Ryan AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
AOL/Moaba
AOL/Potts
AOL/Prudom
BuzzSugar
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob

What it is: One of several new male-oriented sitcoms on the fall schedule.

Gentleman is loosely adapted by David Hornsby (who plays "Rickety Cricket" on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and also writes for that show) from John Bridges' book of etiquette for men. The buddy comedy centers on an uptight magazine advice columnist (Hornsby) who learns about life with the help of an old high school classmate—a personal trainer who doesn't share his appreciation for manners. Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Dave Foley (The Kids in the Hall, NewsRadio), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) also star, and Adam Chase (Friends) is among the producers.

The good news: A few reviewers feel there was enough humor in the pilot to suggest that the show has potential. It has a terrific cast ...

The bad news: ... but they play characters who are one-dimensional, irritating, or both. The premise also strikes a few observers as unoriginal. The Daily Beast's Fernandez thinks Gentleman is a bad imitation of How I Met Your Mother, while other critics complain that it's just not funny. Several people in the latter camp even describe the pilot as "painful" to watch.

FoxI Hate My Teenage Daughter (Comedy, Wednesdays at 9:30p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
  BuzzSugar
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
AOL/Moaba
AOL/Prudom
AOL/Ryan
The Daily Beast/Lacob
The Futon Critic
HitFix
ShowBuzzDaily

What it is: Mean Girls and the mothers who raise them.

Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl) and Katie Finneran (Wonderfalls) star as mothers who are appalled to discover that their teen daughters have turned into the same type of "mean girls" that tormented them when they were high school outcasts, in a comedy from New Adventures of Old Christine writers Sherry Bilsing-Graham and Ellen Kreamer.

The good news: Many critics are praising Pressly and Finneran, two talented pros who try valiantly to generate laughs and make their characters relatable.

The bad news: Unfortunately, they are unable to overcome the weak material. The Futon Critic's Brian Ford Sullivan calls out the pilot's "one-joke premise," and that joke gets old fast, according to the majority of reviewers. The only nice thing HitFix's Fienberg can say is that "it's not the worst comedy to get picked up by major network for the 2011-2012 season"; however, he suggests that it's close, thanks in no small part to the show's detestable characters. Mo Ryan warns that the pilot is "shrill" and "unpleasant," while The Daily Beast's Lacob calls it "mean-spirited and unfunny."

ABCLast Man Standing (Comedy, Tuesdays at 8p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
  The Futon Critic AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
AOL/Potts
AOL/Ryan
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob
HitFix
ShowBuzzDaily

What it is: The manly new Tim Allen sitcom.

Tim Allen returns to network television for the first time since his long-running hit Home Improvement in a sitcom created by Jack Burditt (30 Rock) and produced by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum). Allen plays a truck-driving, beer-drinking man's man who finds himself living in an increasingly female-dominated world: his wife (Nancy Travis) is a successful executive, his daughter works multiple jobs to save up for a house, and the boss at the sporting goods company where he works just promoted his niece to CEO. However will he cope?

The good news: Kaitlyn Dever, the young girl from season 2 of Justified, also shines here as Allen's youngest daughter. If you liked Home Improvement, you might like this not dissimilar sitcom. The Futon Critic notes, "For better or worse, it's exactly what you're expecting."

The bad news: The Futon Critic notes, "For better or worse, it's exactly what you're expecting." HitFix's Fienberg writes, "Every joke is telegraphed. Every punchline is predictable. ... But I guess I'd compliment 'Last Man Standing' as being broad, predictable, lazy and unamusing but not grating and shameful." Other critics also find it very predictable, plus depressing, painful, stale, and unfunny.

FoxThe New Girl (Comedy, Tuesdays at 9p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
AOL/Moaba
AOL/Moore
AOL/Prudom
BuzzSugar
The Daily Beast/Lacob
HitFix
ShowBuzzDaily
Time
TVLine
AOL/Ryan The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Futon Critic

What it is: Three men and a little Zooey (Deschanel).

Film actress and musician Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer) lands her first starring TV role as a goofy, optimistic elementary school teacher who moves in with three rowdy guys in New York. The comedy comes from screenwriter Liz Meriwether (No Strings Attached) with a pilot directed by Jake Kasdan. Though Jake M. Johnson, Max Greenfield, and Damon Wayans Jr. star as the roommates in the pilot, Wayans will be replaced by Lamorne Morris beginning in episode two, since his ABC series Happy Endings was unexpectedly picked up for a second season.

The good news: If you enjoy watching Deschanel do her quirky thing—as many critics do—you'll like The New Girl. TVLine calls it one of fall's most promising new comedies, while Time's James Poniewozik has kind words for the writing and calls the half hour "charming," a word echoed by most of the other reviewers. Jace Lacob of The Daily Beast notes that Wayans' departure is a good thing, while other critics have praise for the remaining cast members.

The bad news: AOL's Ryan finds the pilot "clunky" and "douchey," while The Daily Beast's Fernandez is one of the few reviewers not enamored with Deschanel, who comes off as "obnoxious." The Futon Critic thinks that her character is distractingly inconsistent from one scene to the next, a major flaw that could be more easily ignored were the pilot funnier.

ABCOnce Upon a Time (Fantasy/Drama, Sundays at 8p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
AOL/Ryan
io9
TV Addict
TVLine
AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
BuzzSugar
HitFix
ShowBuzzDaily
AOL/Potts
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob

What it is: The other new fairy tale drama.

More fairy tale characters living among us in our modern world? Unlike NBC's Grimm, Once Upon a Time is not a crime procedural. Instead, this drama centers on a 28-year-old bail bonds collector (House's Jennifer Morrison) who is confronted by her now-10-year-old son she had given up for adoption, a boy who believes her to be the missing daughter of Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) and Snow White (Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin). When she moves with him to a strange New England town named Storybrooke—where more fairytale characters live under alternate identities without remembering their past lives—she begins to believe his story. The series was created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who learned a thing or two about developing a mythology while writing for Lost. (And Tron: Legacy, but we'll excuse that one.)

The good news: Though many observers have concerns over how the show will play out in the long run—and how successfully it will be able to balance its drama and fantasy elements—many seem to enjoy the pilot, and it's definitely the better of the two fairy tale shows. Morrison is a good lead.

The bad news: Several reviewers—including some who like the show overall—find the pilot (and the effects) cheesy and the fantasy sequences overly Disney-fied. There are some qualms about the cast apart from Morrison, though some of the reviewers are happy with everyone. The Daily Beast duo find the pilot "toothless" and "weird" in a bad way.

ABCPan Am (Drama, Sundays at 10p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob
AOL/Potts
ShowBuzzDaily
Time
AOL/Ryan
The Futon Critic

What it is: An airborne Mad Men.

One of two new series on the networks' 2011-12 schedules that are set during the 1960s, this soapy drama about airline stewardesses and pilots takes place in 1963. Christina Ricci toplines a cast that also includes Kelli Garner (The Aviator, appropriately enough) and Michael Mosley (Scrubs). The series was created by Jack Orman (ER, JAG) and is directed and produced by Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing). Note that Jonah Lotan, the pilot in the pilot reviewed here, was subsequently replaced by Mike Vogel (Blue Valentine); presumably, Lotan's scenes will be re-shot before the series debuts.

The good news: It seems to be the better of the two '60s shows on the fall schedule. Everyone agrees that, visually, the show looks fantastic, down to the last retro detail. Writes Jace Lacob, "Pan Am manages to be both fun and frothy, emotional and intellectual at the same time."

The bad news: There's a fine line between offering a little something for everyone and spreading yourself too thin, and Time's Poniewozik feels that Pan Am's pilot is a bit too cluttered and busy with too many genres and styles (from social commentary to soapy relationships to, more improbably, a spy story), while also lacking the subtlety of, say, Mad Men. The Futon Critic also finds the various storylines bland and the characters too interchangeable; AOL's Ryan, too, finds the hour too "tame." Ricci, though likeable, doesn't have a whole lot to do in this first hour.

CBSPerson of Interest (Drama, Thursdays at 9p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
AOL/Prudom
IGN
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick
AOL/Potts
AOL/Ryan
BuzzSugar
HitFix
ShowBuzzDaily
Time
TVLine
AOL/Bentley
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob

What it is: Christopher Nolan's brother mixes The Equalizer with Minority Report.

One of two new fall shows produced by J.J. Abrams (the other is Fox's Alcatraz), Person of Interest brings Lost's Michael Emerson back to the small screen as a crazy billionaire who recruits a former CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) to fight crime as a vigilante in New York City using a high tech system that can predict crimes before they happen. The Equalizer-esque drama was created by Jonah Nolan, best known for co-writing the screenplays to many of his brother Christopher's films, including The Dark Knight. Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow) also stars.

The good news: Two words: Michael Emerson. And Henson is also a bright spot, though her character is barely in the pilot.

The bad news: Expectations were elevated for this show, given its pedigree, but most critics were disappointed to be disappointed by the pilot. The outlandish premise—notably, the magical, crime-predicting Machine—is an issue for some observers. But it turns out that Caviezel is an even bigger problem for some critics, who find him uncompelling or "uncharismatic." And then there's HitFix's Fienberg: "I can't tell you if Jim Caviezel is playing a big joke on viewers. He delivers every line, including a droning opening voiceover, in a flat, lifeless monotone and he sleepwalks through every second of the pilot, including his several action scenes. He's a black hole. He's dead air." The pilot also (unsurprisingly) spends a good chunk of time on setting up its premise, leaving relatively little time for its story of the week. Still, many reviewers seem willing to give the series a chance to develop.

Continued on the next page ...

Continue reading for reviews of The Playboy Club, Ringer, and more new shows ...

Comments (4)

  • yesrelation  

    What about Shonda Rhime's "Scandal"??

  • pennstpat  

    Awake looks amazing. You guys should really put up the trailer for it that uses The Cinematic Orchestra's "To Build a Home" as the soundtrack. Really incredible.

  • Iswearimsmart  

    What about Smash? That looked like a more mature and grounded version of Glee.

  • LamontRaymond  

    Outstanding article!! Keep this sort of thing coming..... Watched every preview - wondering how the hell I"m gonna watch that much TV this fall.....

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