Fall TV First Look: Pilot Reviews

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

NBCThe Playboy Club (Drama, Mondays at 10p)

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

What it is: Another Mad Men-inspired period drama ... with bunnies.

Bunnies, gangsters, entertainers (think Tina Turner and Sammy Davis, Jr.), politicians, and the city's elite collide in this period drama about the employees and customers of the very first Playboy Club in 1963 Chicago. Amber Heard, Jenna Dewan, David Krumholtz, and Eddie Cibrian are among the stars. The pilot's director is Alan Taylor, who also helmed the first episode of Mad Men.

The good news: There's a lot of plot to go around, and some reviewers feel that some of those stories could lead somewhere interesting.

The bad news: It's boring. Critics think that not only does Pan Am have a bit more potential (of the two '60s shows), it also is the sexier of the two pilots. Many reviewers point out that Cibrian seems to be doing a Jon Hamm-as-Don Draper impersonation, and a not very good one at that. A murder mystery storyline seems out of place and adds nothing to the hour. It's not especially well written, and doesn't do quite as good a job as evoking the era as the other '60s-set shows.

ABCRevenge (Drama, Wednesdays at 10p)

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

What it is: A soapy take on Count of Monte Cristo set in the Hamptons.

Emily VanCamp (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters) stars as a woman who adopts a new identity and moves to the Hamptons for one reason, which her new neighbors do not yet realize: to seek revenge against every person who had a role in destroying her family years before. Splitting time between past and present events, this drama also stars Madeleine Stowe and Henry Czerny (The Tudors). The pilot is directed by Philip Noyce (Salt), and the series was created by Mike Kelley (Swingtown).

The good news: Jace Lacob of The Daily Beast seems to like that the pilot is "campy and dark." VanCamp is receiving mostly high marks, and the production values are high. HitFix's Fienberg can see it becoming a guilty pleasure (like "a dumber Damages") ...

The bad news: ... despite being unable to determine whether it is intentionally funny or unintentionally so. It's very soapy, and strikes some critics as more of a light summer show than something that belongs on the fall schedule. Even critics who somewhat like the pilot are hoping Revenge doesn't last more than one season.

The CWRinger (Drama, Tuesdays at 9p)

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

What it is: The one where Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins.

Originally slated to appear on CBS, this action-drama is instead headed to The CW. Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as a troubled woman on the run from the mob who decides to hide out by adopting the identity of her wealthy identical twin sister (also played by Gellar), only to discover that her sister also has a bounty on her head. Nestor Carbonell (Lost), Kristoffer Polaha (Life Unexpected), and Ioan Gruffudd (Titanic, Fantastic Four) also star.

The good news: It's more ambitious, adult, and cerebral than anything else on the CW (ever); the complex plotting is described as "Hitchcockian" by multiple reviewers, and there's at least one good twist. Time's Poniewozik is encouraged that the pilot "aims more for noir chills than soapy fun," though that also puts more pressure on the writers, given the "far-fetched premise." Everyone is happy to have Gellar back.

The bad news: There seem to be two major problems cited by multiple reviewers: the pilot can get cheesy, and the green-screen CGI is terrible. (At least the latter problem is likely to be fixed prior to the show's official premiere.) It's also not quite as smart as it wants to be. Some reviewers are actually hoping that the show takes itself slightly less seriously in the future to better utilize Gellar's proven ability to combine humor and drama.

ABCThe River (Drama, coming in midseason)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Daily Beast/Lacob
io9
ShowBuzzDaily
AOL/Bentley
HitFix
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Harnick

What it is: A supernatural thriller from the director of Paranormal Activity.

Michael Green (a writer for Heroes, Kings, and Green Lantern) and Paranormal Activity writer-director Oren Peli are among the producers for this supernatural thriller (likely debuting next spring) set in the Amazonian jungle. Combining an ongoing mystery with stand-alone storylines, the series centers on the host of a nature show (Bruce Greenwood) who vanishes in a magic-filled uncharted region in South America, and his loyal family and crew who begin searching for him -- while filming a documentary series about their adventures. The pilot is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown).

The good news: "It's the best pilot we've watched in years" declares io9—which finds plenty of scares and calls the program "exciting, immersive, and cinematic"—and others seem equally fond of the hour. The two Daily Beast writers describe the show as "terrifying," "gripping" and "intriguing," while Serra's direction, the pilot's overall style, and the cast are also earning acclaim.

The bad news: A great pilot doesn't necessarily mean a great series; HitFix's Fienberg is worried that he "didn't find myself thinking that these were characters I necessarily wanted to be with every week or that this aesthetic—documentary-style, mixed film stocks, lots of shakiness, etc—was going to be a rewarding one," while ShowBuzzDaily adds, "The River could easily become unintentional comedy—a couple of episodes too many of people peering off the side of the boat and muttering 'What is that?' and the game will be lost." In addition, a few critics don't seem to like the supernatural premise.

The CWThe Secret Circle (Drama, Thursdays at 9p)

Has Potential Mixed/Uncertain Doesn't Look Good
AOL/Bentley
AOL/Furlong
AOL/Prudom
BuzzSugar
The Daily Beast/Lacob
IGN
TVAddict
TVLine
AOL/Ryan
The Daily Beast/Fernandez
The Futon Critic
HItFix
AOL/Harnick

What it is: The Witch Diaries.

Based on the young adult book trilogy of the same name by Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith, The Secret Circle is adapted for the network -- like Diaries before it -- by Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek). The series centers on a teen girl (Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson) who moves from California to Salem, Massachusetts, where she discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and, as a witch herself, holds the key to a brewing battle between good and evil. Thomas Dekker (The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Kaboom) and Gale Harold (Queer as Folk) also star.

The good news: Nearly everyone agrees that it's a perfect fit for its lead-in, Vampire Diaries, and any fans of the latter show will probably find a lot to like here. Robertson is a hit as the lead character. BuzzSugar calls the pilot "deliciously creepy."

The bad news: The Futon Critic feels that the show is a bit generic, and that not all of the characters are especially interesting. The Daily Beast's Maria Elena Fernandez, meanwhile, is bored by the pilot.

ABCSuburgatory (Comedy, Wednesdays at 8:30p)

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

What it is: A family comedy with a good cast.

An overprotective single father decides to move with his 16-year-old daughter away from the dangers and temptations of Manhattan and into the suburbs in this somewhat stylized, single-camera comedy from Emily Kapnek (Hung). Jeremy Sisto, Cheryl Hines, and Alan Tudyk star; ABC bills the series as a combination of "Juno's heightened reality with Father Knows Best's heart," which you can take as either an enticement or a warning.

The good news: Critics seem surprised to like it as much as they did. The Futon Critic's Sullivan is impressed with the pilot's confidence and its surprisingly ability to meld its disparate elements, creating "a compelling mix of razor-sharp narration, horror film sensibility and an unexpected dose of heart." At The Daily Beast, Fernandez finds the pilot "funny and sentimental," suggesting "loads of potential."

The bad news: AOL's Ryan argues that Suburgatory is "yet another ABC pilot that features shrieky, stereotyped women and put-upon men." A few other reviewers worry that the show will merely re-tread ground that has already been covered by countless other comedies.

CBSUnforgettable (Drama, Tuesdays at 10p)

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

What it is: Basically, The Mentalist with a female lead.

Based on short story by novelist J. Robert Lennon, this new police procedural centers on a NYPD officer who has hyperthymesia -- basically, the ability to recall almost everything that happens to her, down to the smallest detail. She is quickly drafted back into the force when her neighbor is murdered; presumably, in future episodes, she'll also have some sort of personal connection to each case, or else her extraordinary memory will be extraordinarily pointless. (One such case: the long-ago, unsolved murder of her sister.) Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) stars.

The good news: While the pilot is far from groundbreaking, several reviewers feel that it has the makings of a solid (if standard) CBS procedural. Several reviewers are fond of the way the show depicts the memory sequences, which could turn out to be a neat visual hook.

The bad news: It's average, generic, predictable, and, yes, "forgettable," according to many of the reviewers. The Futon Critic also complains that the lead character "winds up feeling like an infallible god" thanks to her super memory, which takes some of the excitement out of the show. The Daily Beast's Fernandez notes that Montgomery (who otherwise performs well) and co-star Dylan Walsh "don't have any sparks together."

NBCUp All Night (Comedy, Wednesdays at 8p)

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

What it is: Three characters and a newborn baby.

Christina Applegate is a working mother with a newborn baby and Will Arnett is her stay-at-home husband in this single-camera comedy from former SNL writer Emily Spivey (who has also written for Parks and Recreation) and producer Lorne Michaels. Maya Rudolph co-stars.

The good news: Everyone loves the trio of stars toplining this almost universally liked pilot, with critics especially impressed by Arnett, who delivers a toned-down, more human performance than is normally required of his characters. HitFix praises the show's authenticity, while ShowBuzzDaily's Mitch Salem notes that it is the solid execution, rather than the premise, that elevates the pilot above what could have been a pretty standard half hour.

The bad news: The Futon Critic's Sullivan is alone in finding the pilot completely unfunny, though AOL's Ryan also notes that the "new-parents humor seemed a little tired" (pun intended). And Time's Poniewozik worries that having only three regular characters (not including the baby) "could make for a claustrophobic show in the long-term."

NBCWhitney (Comedy, Thursdays at 9:30p)

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

What it is: A make-or-break opportunity for comedian Whitney Cummings.

Stand-up comedian Whitney Cummings (Chelsea Lately) may not be a household name like J.J. Abrams or Steven Spielberg, but like those veteran producers, she has two series debuting this fall. In addition to the CBS comedy Two Broke Girls, which she's producing, Cummings wrote the pilot for and will star (opposite Chris D'Elia) in this eponymous NBC multi-camera sitcom about a young couple looking for ways to keep their long-term committed relationship going. The network is giving the show the plum post-Office slot on Thursday nights.

The good news: Fans of Cummings' stand-up routine might find something to like.

The bad news: Mo Ryan finds the pilot "a little shrill and sitcom-y," while The Futon Critic labels it "bland and conventional," especially when compared to the rest of NBC's Thursday comedy lineup. At The Daily Beast, Jace Lacob hates the pilot, calling it a "painfully tedious throwback sitcom, which might hold the record for fewest actual jokes in a 20-minute period." In addition, the cast doesn't necessarily gel yet (and Cummings herself isn't a strong lead in the eyes of some reviewers), and the laugh track is grating.

What do you think?

Which fall shows are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below.

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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