Monday, June 19, 2006

Pilot Watch: The end (for now)

To quote a very wise man, all right, all right, all right. I have now watched every pilot the networks sent out, including Fox's "The Wedding Album," which I didn't write about because it's being massively revamped (new lead, new showrunners, new format), but oddly enough not including ABC's "Brothers and Sisters," which as far as I know is only recasting one supporting part.

Rather than just barrel through the pilots network by network, disc by disc, I've been picking and choosing along the way. And though I always try to leave a few good ones for the end, it never quite works out that way. I don't think I'll want to see any of the final four -- "Runaway," "The Game," "Notes from the Underbelly" and "Happy Hour" -- again, barring major changes between now and September. (Which is why, as the song goes, these ain't reviews; oftentimes this stuff can and does change dramatically.) More specific thoughts after the jump...

Who's In It: Donnie Wahlberg, Leslie Hope, Dustin Milligan, Sarah Ramos
What It's About: "Everwood" meets "Running on Empty" meets "Prison Break," as Wahlberg's family is forced to go on the run and move to a blue-collar Iowa town after he's framed for murder by some mysterious conspiracy.
Pluses: I pretty much always like Wahlberg and Hope. Doesn't try to depict Iowa as a complete backwater; Wahlberg gets a job at a coffee shop that has Wi-Fi!
Minuses: The "Everwood"-y parts (including the eldest son being bitter about the move) just remind me how much better "Everwood" did it, and as I've said, I'm completely burnt-out and disinterested in any kind of ongoing crime conspiracy plot anymore.

"The Game"
Who's In It: Tia Mowry, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Coby Bell, Aldis Hodge
What It's About: Fake "Girlfriends" spin-off where Joan's cousin Melanie moves to San Diego where her boyfriend is the third-string wide receiver for a pro football team.
Pluses: Fairly novel premise, and it has "Girlfriends" creator Mara Brock-Akil (responsible for one of UPN's better sitcoms) running things.
Minuses: Didn't make me laugh much.

"Notes From the Underbelly"
Who's In It: Jennifer Westfeldt, Peter Cambor, Rachael Harris, the woman with the squeaky voice from the Glad commercials
What It's About: Yuppie couple argue over whether to have a baby, then freak out after discovering the wife is pregnant.
Pluses: Rachael Harris is funny pretty much anywhere you put her -- VH1's "I Love..." specials, "Fat Actress," or here as the stereotypical bitchy single friend who's annoyed best pal Westfeldt is joining the mommy cult. I liked Westfeldt in "Kissing Jessica Stein." No laughtrack.
Minuses: No real laughs, either. Like Thursday partner "Big Day," it plays on a lot of fairly universal experiences but doesn't really put any spin on them.

"Happy Hour"
Who's In It: A whole bunch of people you've never seen or heard of before
What It's About: Recently-dumped guy wants to stay in his girlfriend's building in hope of reconciling, so he moves in with a martini-swilling Internet t-shirt salesman determined to make his new roommate lighten up.
Pluses: As the token wisecracking but sexy pal, Beth Locke convincingly eats a deep dish pizza (for Fox actresses, this is an achievement) and has some off-beat line readings. Some fun to be had in trying to figure out why so many of the actors bear uncanny resemblance to more famous people. (I spent half the pilot wondering if Nat Faxon, second from the left in that picture, is Jon Heder's older brother.)
Minuses: Didn't the whole Rat Pack nostalgia thing come and go about 10 years ago, sometime after "Swingers" but before "Buddy Faro"? A real mess overall.


Alan Sepinwall said...

I would think Underbelly would have an easier time of this than Big Day (not that I think the odds are strong on either one making it to a second season, given the timeslots). You end season one with them giving birth. Season two is them adjusting to being parents. Season three is maybe them contemplating a second kid, while dealing with the complications of an older first kid, etc., etc.

As the dad of an almost three-year-old, there's a lot of potential material here, if (and it's a big if) it's handled with style.

When Jake in Progress was going to be a real-time comedy, the first season was going to be their first date, season two their wedding day, season three the birth of their first kid, and I don't think they thought anything past that. So a theoretical season two of Big Day could take place on the way to and at the hospital.

Anonymous said...

I realize that The Wedding Album is going to be completely different by the time it airs (assuming Fox actually airs it at all) but what's the harm in giving your thoughts now? Isn't that why Fox sent out the screener? And even if the final product is totally different, I'd still love to hear your thoughts on the original version. At the very least it might explain why they're making so many changes.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I spent the first half of the Happy Hour pilot wondering if Nat Faxton was Seth Meyers' brother. I spent the other half wondering why I was still watching the show.