Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pilot Watch 2007: CBS

You should be able to recite my pilot disclaimer in your sleep by now: these are just first impressions, not reviews, because too many things can and will change between now and September.

CBS has five new series, but only sent out full pilots for the three below. The vampire detective show "Moonlight" is being retooled, and they say there was never a full pilot made anyway, and all I have of that and "Kid Nation" is the cut-down from the upfront, which I don't want to watch because the cut-downs inevitably give away stuff that I'd rather find out about in context.

Fienberg beat me to the punch for once on the CBS pilots, and once again our thoughts are going to be eerily similar (he even claims that he made a note of the Gary Cole point I make below, but didn't remember to include it in the final version), once again doing little to disprove the theory that we're the same person.

"The Big Bang Theory"
Who's in it: Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons
What it's about: "Beauty and the Geek: The Sitcom," in which two Cal Tech nerds befriend the blonde hottie who moves in across the hall.
Pluses: The traditional setup-joke paradigm is on its last legs, but co-creator Chuck Lorre (of "Two and a Half Men" and "Dharma & Greg" fame) is one of the few working sitcom writers who can occasionally breathe a little life into it. I laughed a few times, particularly at the odd line readings of Parsons.
Minuses: A major plot point of the pilot: the hot blonde's shower breaks, so she has to shower (and parade around in a towel) in the nerds' apartment. This is an actual plot in a sitcom being made in 2007. In general, the show threatens to make "Two and a Half Men" seem like a model of subtlety.

Who's in it: Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell, Rita Moreno, Polly Walker and more.
What it's about: "Godfather"-style soap about a Cuban-American family trying to protect their sugar and rum empire.
Pluses: Some good performances, especially by Smits and Carbonell, a venue that will give a lot of talented but underemployed Latin-American actors a chance to show their stuff (as regulars or guest stars), and a world that doesn't feel like one I've seen a million times before.
Minuses: The CBS house style gives this a flat, cheap TV look that ruins a lot of attempts to create a "Godfather" vibe (an outdoor party scene that's clearly meant to evoke all those Corleone shindigs seems to have 7 guests). The subplots about the younger generation of the family feel like nothing more than what they are: a futile attempt to get kids to watch an '80s-style CBS soap opera. If this show succeeds, Carbonell may not be able to go back to "Lost," meaning we won't find out whether Richard's immortal or the "Lost" makeup team just had a bad day at the office.

"Viva Laughlin"
Who's in it: Lloyd Owen, Madchen Amick and, in a semi-recurring role, Hugh Jackman
What it's about:
Remake of BBC's "Viva Blackpool" miniseries, a crime/romance/musical hybrid about an aspiring casino owner in a small gambling town.
Pluses: Jackman (who's also a producer) is sensational in his few minutes of screen time, particularly an entrance that has him singing along to "Sympathy for the Devil." (As with the original, the music numbers aren't quite singing and aren't quite lip-synching.)
Minuses: Jackman's future availability is unclear, and the show suffers badly without him. Owen comes across like Gary Cole playing Mike Brady (albeit without the perm, I guess), not nearly charismatic enough to carry such an odd genre mash-up, and Eric Winter seems far too generic to be playing the quirky homicide cop (a role originated by David Tennant). There are only four or five musical numbers in the whole hour. That's probably a fair representation of what production will be able to do on a weekly basis, but the long gaps between songs only serve to remind you that they're by far the most interesting thing about the show.


Anonymous said...

Cane I'm hopeful for, and Viva Laughlin looks like it might be fun, but yeah, considering how it's being billed as a Hugh Jackman vehicle, it would be a pity to see him there for only a smattering of scenes.

Though I'd say my pick for most anticipated show, on CBS that is, is Swingtown, mainly because it's a new premise, and one that seems decent. Well, that and Molly Parker is looking outrageously good with the red hair.

Adam said...

"The Big Bang Theory" = "Bosom Buddies" minus cross-dressing?

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, because "Bosom Buddies" minus cross-dressing was "Bosom Buddies" season two, and was pretty funny. I like Johnny Galecki, but he's no young Tom Hanks (or Peter Scolari, for that matter).

Anonymous said...

ooda, I saw Swingtown this weekend and really enjoyed it. I'm not sure how in the heck it's going to fit in on CBS, however. With a few bad words and more explicit sex scenes, it would feel a lot like an HBO show.

Anonymous said...

I guess Lost producers can get Carbonell for a couple of episodes even if Cane succeeds. But they would still need to find a way to get rid of Richard, so any immortal plan is likely to being dropped.

Isaac Spaceman said...

Off-topic, but I'm dying to hear your take on the shakeup at NBC. I always thought Kevin Reilly was good for good shows, and he came through for The Office and Friday Night Lights, both of which could have disappeared without much real-world (i.e., non-critical, non-fanboy) consequence. Since Silverman has an Office pedigree, I'm predisposed to be okay with him, but I know next to nothing other than that and absolutely nothing about the other guy. Would FNL have been renewed with either of these guys at the switch? A year down the road, are we likely to like their slate?

Anonymous said...

Can't do it.
I'm biased against Les. Aside from the fact that he rarely has shows I want to see anyway - one year he managed to cancel two shows on me *in the same timeslot* (the man has two networks, and let me also say that the upside to Veronica's cancellation is that I never have to watch the network formerly known as UPN again - for the first time since Enterprise premiered)

So, as of now, the only show I'm watching on CBS is HIMYM and I started that because of Alyson (and still I'm 6 eps down, as well as 5 with Veronica, and I think 2 with Boston Legal. I'm gaining ground.)

So, no CBS for me -- got anything else? :)


Anonymous said...

oh, one more thing - someone somewhere, possibly a promo on NBC suggested that we start watching Friday Night Lights now. And if they were starting from the pilot, I would have. Just cause you praise it so highly (I hear they are moving it to the logical: Friday nights?) but I don't jump into the middle of things... and they aren't starting at the top, are they? (sigh)
--Pam (off topic as ever)

Anonymous said...

Carrie: That makes me so happy that it was actually fun to watch, and even though some people think of period piece shows as being shticky, I'm still a fan of them. It seems racy (as much as a trailer can seem racy, well, that and the whole premise of the show), but what gets me excited (there really should be a pun here) is how unlike anything else it is.

CBS is counting on Safe Harbor (post-10pm leniency) to keep the show on the air in its current form, but I remember hearing in the past few weeks that there's a chance it might move over to Showtime (also owned by CBS), which you'd assume would be a great move as it seems perfectly suited for premium cable.

Anonymous said...

Pam: While not ideal, you can watch the season over at NBC.com for free.