Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pilot Watch 2007: Fox dramas (mostly)

Okay, so I had intended to watch all four of Fox's drama pilots yesterday, saving the presumed best ("Sarah Connor Chronicles") for last, but other work issues kept getting in the way and I only saw three of them. And since I don't know that I'll have time to watch "Sarah Connor" today, I figured I'd just post what I'd already done.

You should be able to recite the usual disclaimer from memory by now: These aren't reviews, just first impressions of shows that can and/or will make significant changes between now and September.

"Canterbury's Law"
Who's in it: Julianna Margulies, Linus Roache, Ben Shenkman, Jocko Sims and Trieste Dunn
What it's about: A defense lawyer still trying to reassemble her personal life after a tragedy gets a reputation for taking on unpopular cases, like a mentally ill man accused of killing a little boy.
Pluses: Denis Leary and company have managed to create a show with a female heroine that isn't dripping with the misogyny that too often infects "Rescue Me." Margulies character is deeply-flawed, but in a sympathetic way, and well-played by her. Nice to see Shenkman (from "Angels in America") in a semi-weasely role as an ex-DA who now works for Margulies but still behaves like a prosecutor.
Minuses: I feel like I've seen all of this before on old episodes of "The Practice," though Margulies is a vastly better actor than Dylan McDermott.

"K-Ville"
Who's in it: Anthony Anderson, Cole Hauser, John Carroll Lynch, Tawny Cypress
What it's about: A New Orleans cop (Anderson) whose partner deserted him during the Katrina flooding has to break in a new partner (Hauser) while patrolling the devastated streets of the city.
Pluses: As anyone who watches "The Shield" knows, Anderson is a fine dramatic actor with great presence, and he's given the kind of complicated, verge of a nervous breakdown type character that usually goes to middle-aged white guys like Dennis Franz and Denis Leary. Hauser's a solid strong-but-silent type. The setting and location filming are tremendous; I got choked up just watching some of the B-roll footage of devastated houses scrawled with anti-government graffiti ("Fix Everything My Ass" being a highlight).
Minuses: The setting threatens to overwhelm the fairly stock mystery plot at the center of the pilot. A twist involving Hauser's backstory has the potential to be very dumb if not handled correctly down the line.

"New Amsterdam"
Who's in it: Nicolaj Coster Waldau, Alexie Gilmore, Stephen Henderson and Zuleikha Robinson
What it's about: After saving the life of a Native American woman, a Dutch colonial soldier is made immortal -- at least until he meets his one true love, at which point he's supposed to turn back into one of us -- and in the present day works as a homicide detective in the NYPD.
Pluses: Novel twist on a lot of old cop show tropes -- our hero is in AA, where he boasts of having something like 16,000 days sober -- and Waldau's an interesting leading man. I want to give this one a long look just to see what he does next.
Minuses: Waldau's American accent is far more inconsistent than, say, Damian Lewis on "Life," and while there's a built-in excuse for it (is 400 years enough time to shake off all those glottal stops?), nobody ever mentions it, not even the new partner who's suspicious about everything else he says and does. The one true love aspect feels like something that would lend itself far better to a movie than an ongoing series, especially since we're allegedly introduced to her in the pilot. (Maybe they could subtitle this "Have you met Nicolaj Coster Waldau?") As with "K-Ville" and "Life," the actual murder mystery stories are going to need punching up.

11 comments:

dunno said...

interesting blog

Dan Coyle said...

Damn, I was hoping you could answer all the nerdrage I'm having over The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

From the clips I've seen, it looks like they stole wholesale from the Dan Abnett/Mark Paniccia written T2: Cybernetic Dawn miniseries back in 1996...

Wallwriting said...

It wasn't until I watched The Departed that I realized how short Anthony Anderson is. I mention it only because in The Shield, the way they frame him makes him look like he's nine feet tall.

Donlee said...

I gotta be honest... These all sound awesome.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It wasn't until I watched The Departed that I realized how short Anthony Anderson is. I mention it only because in The Shield, the way they frame him makes him look like he's nine feet tall.

It helps, of course, that Michael Chiklis is himself a fairly short man. But Cole Hauser cuts a fairly imposing figure, which makes Anderson seem small next to him.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was actually thinking I have totally no desire to watch any of these. The only one I'm remotely interested in is Sarah Connor Chronicles. But even that I have a feeling is going to turn out to be the next Dark Angel (i.e. a very hyped and expensive pilot that becomes a mediocre series.)

ABC's new dramas are BY FAR the ones I'm most excited about. Pushing Daisies is getting raves, Dirty Sexy Money looks great, I love the Big Shots cast, and Eli Stone is promising simply because Greg Berlanti is behind the scenes. Even the ABC shows I'm not interested in sound a hell of a lot better to me than, say, Life or Moonlight.

J said...

I have this horrible feeling I'll be rooting for, but not watching, K-Ville. Standard-issue police procedurals don't really do much for me. Hopefully there's enough New Orleans-centric atmosphere/history/drama to make it different.

And again, kudos to the production team for bringing their bucks down there. Assuming they're doing all interior and exterior shooting in NOLA.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this website. You seem to have a great take on these shows. And the fact that you have been able to see them already...Napoleon Dynamite's words come to mind: "Luccckkyy!" Is it just me, or is it just me? But I'm most excited about Canterbury's Law. I LOVE Juliana Margulies, and this concept hasn't been done since Ally Mcbeal. I have heard consistently good things about the acting and the way that it is shot. I think this may be a sleeper hit.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I LOVE Juliana Margulies, and this concept hasn't been done since Ally Mcbeal.

Welcome aboard (and feel free to pick a nickname for yourself by clicking Other; the number of Anonymouses gets confusing at times). Aside from the fact that both shows are about female lawyers, they couldn't possibly have less in common in terms of tone, style and subject matter.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And again, kudos to the production team for bringing their bucks down there. Assuming they're doing all interior and exterior shooting in NOLA.

They are. There's no way you could do this show otherwise.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fienberg's take on all the Fox pilots, including Sarah Connor.