This Week in TV: Two new dramas try their hand at “twist endings” and both are successfully handled, but only one of them seems to hold promise for the future. NBC’s afterlife comedy needs a little fine-tuning. A classic horror film is remade for TV, but even I, the wimpiest wimp who ever wimped, wouldn’t call it scary.
In other news, this past week was jam-packed with new premieres and returning favourites – so exciting! However, because the idea for This Week in TV was primarily born of a desire to explore new shows, I decided to make that my sole focus for this week. Stay tuned for more pieces on ALL the TV once we get Pilot Season under our belts. Thanks for sticking with me!
* These are merely my thoughts and feelings on all the new television we’ve been blessed with, and my opinion on whether or not they are worth a watch. There will be very little focus on story or plot points, so it’s a relatively spoiler free zone – but NOT completely.
The Good Place (NBC) 6.5/10 – I’ll be back for two more episodes, then, we’ll see.
*Three episodes of The Good Place have aired, but I’m only covering the first two here.
Here is yet another example of a show I really like in theory, but just can’t quite get on board with in practice. I’ll give almost anything involving Kristen Bell a shot; she always does the most with the material she’s given, and she’s doing just that in The Good Place. While I think it’s fairly safe to say this will not be the role of Bell’s lifetime, her first-rate comedic timing and exceptionally engaging presence is nothing to scoff at, either. In fact, she’s essentially the only thing keeping TGP from being a complete waste of time.
Honestly, I can’t muster much positivity about this premiere. It’s a shame too, because I think a few small changes could have improved it a great deal. The runtime, for example, is baffling to me. This double-episode debut feels bloated and excessive – the amount of integral material conveyed here certainly did not warrant the hour-long time slot. By trimming some of the filler and focusing in on what was most important, TGP could have showcased a much tighter, half-hour narrative, which left the audience wanting more, rather than wondering when the hell it would be over.
I think they need to dial back the overall “cutes-y factor” as well. The particular neighbourhood we’re introduced to in TGP has all the feels of Who Ville or some other Dr. Seuss-ian type world, without the quirks that make those worlds work; like wacky rhyming schemes and curious looking characters. The soul-mate-for-everyone concept is similarly irritating, and reeks of an overt plot device created for pushing romantic relationships. How long until we see Bell’s character and her “soul mate” get together despite their clear lack of connection? One semi corny thing they can totally keep though, are the jokes about curse words being censored, because Bell’s delivery is genuinely forking hilarious. Here’s hoping The Good Place convinces me to stick around for longer than I expect to.
This is Us (NBC) 7/10 – I’ll be back for two more episodes, then, we’ll see.
What an utterly perplexing premiere, one that’s left me with completely conflicting feelings. On the one hand, there was a solid story with engaging enough elements to bring me back for more. On the other, I’m still not exactly sure what this show is, or what it’s trying to be. It reminds me of the way I felt after seeing the newest Mad Max film, I knew I liked it but I couldn’t comprehend why, or what the hell I had just watched. (To be clear, this show and that film have nothing in common aside from the feeling it produced within me.)
It’s not as though the premise for This is Us is overly complex, it’s actually quite simple: it follows a small group of people who share the same birthday. The beginning of the episode sets us up for something more, however, by suggesting that these people may have something more meaningful in common than the shared birth date. Still pretty simple, except now we have something more focused to explore. But wait, by episode’s end the connection is revealed through a fairly well executed “twist.” I won’t deny that I was intrigued by the reveal – I wasn’t blown away by any means, but looking back I can appreciate the subtlety of the clues given throughout the episode, and the fact that my imagination was not required to stretch to any unreasonable limits. I’m just not sure how the story can continue from there because it feels somewhat complete. To say anymore would ruin the entire central conceit of the episode, so let’s shift gears.
I wish I could say that I’d at least made a connection to the characters. Usually, that’s enough to keep me on board with even the dodgiest of plots; if there’s someone I can root for or strongly identify with, I’ll stick around. So far, I haven’t made that kind of connection to anyone in This is Us. Unfortunately, I feel that most of these characters have already fallen into a very trope-y place, which will require some fancy footwork from the writers in order to develop them into something more nuanced. Kevin is the typical, good-looking guy who is deeper than he appears. Jack is the overly optimistic and completely unrealistic type. Rebecca was nothing more than a woman who gave birth. Kate runs the risk of becoming a story only about her weight, rather than her person as a whole. Randall, encouragingly, may be the exception here as he was afforded the opportunity to deal with some interesting conflict right away. Let’s not discount the fact that Sterling K. Brown, who portrays Randall, is also arguably the best actor in the mix.
Again, here’s hoping this is another show that convinces me to stick around for longer than I expect to. There’s a lot of convincing to be done, though. Especially given that they pulled the tired scenario where the regular doctor couldn’t make it to the birth because of some sudden emergency. Really? Been there, done that – this is 2016, do better, please.
Pitch (FOX) 8.5/10 – I’ll be checking in on a weekly basis.
From the moment I saw this trailer I was ALL IN. Baseball is the only sport I keep up with, and the only thing stopping me from being a die-hard fan is the absence of female players in the majors. So, until the MLB gets their shit together in real life, I looked forward to living the dream through Pitch. I knew it was going to be a little corny, I knew it wouldn’t be the greatest show I’d ever watched, but I also knew it was going to be worthy of my time. Turns out, I was right and wrong – it was absolutely worth every minute, but it was also far less corny than I expected. In fact, I seriously underestimated the level of quality, in both storytelling and acting, that Pitch would able to throw our way. Ginny’s character still needs a lot of development – to be honest, everyone is just a little more than a sketch right now – but I’m convinced there’s a ton of potential, especially with the added layer of emotional depth that the “twist’ ending offered up. Without spoiling it I can say that, in direct contrast with This is Us, this reveal actually propels the story forward and opens up a great deal of opportunity for both story and character exploration.
There are a couple of changes I am hoping to see, the first of which is regarding the sexism and generalizations about women as a whole. Look, I can’t deny that the attitudes of everyone in Pitch are a fairly accurate representation of what would be happening in the real world. I just worry that it’s going to get real tiring, real quick. This is still fiction after all; it doesn’t have to be a constant mirror image of our world. While I do agree that a lot more women would start watching baseball if there were female players, there are already thousands of women, if not more, who do love the sport and there’s no need to erase our existence to keep harping on the same point. Similarly, it’s not hard to believe that Ginny would be catching a lot of unwarranted BS for being the only woman in the change rooms, but, again, I hope they don’t visit the same well too often. Of course, completely doing away with any sexism would be unreasonable – and it would force Pitch into an entirely different drama, like sci-fi or fantasy – so a fine line must be walked between realism and the threshold of what audiences can tolerate. At this point, I’m optimistic they can do so.
Secondly, let’s hope they refine some of that over-the-top dialogue. I’m not sure if the problem originated on the page or with how it was portrayed, but there were some truly cringe worthy lines. The one exception: “You can’t aim your pitches if you’re aiming to please everyone.” This is corny brilliance, and it’s officially made a home in my TV Quotes I Use on a Regular Basis roster.
I’ll be covering this show weekly, along with a fellow ProFan, at the amazing website Project Fandom. You can check out the first episode’s review here: http://projectfandom.com/pitch-series-premiere-review/
The Exorcist (FOX) 6.5/10 – I’ll be back for two more episodes – keeping a blanket to hide under close by, just in case – then, we’ll see.
Full disclosure: though I have knowledge of the overall concept, I have never seen any of the Exorcist films. So, I’m coming at this with a relatively neutral set of eyes – with no attachment to the films, I have zero investment in whether or not this story resembles or holds true them.
As I added this show’s premiere date to my TV calendar, I shook my head in disbelief. I do not watch horror – see above about me being a wimp – and I couldn’t believe I had been intrigued enough by the trailer to actually give it a shot. Looking back, I’d say it was about 90% interest in Geena Davis and 10% interest in the story itself that convinced me. After watching the pilot, those percentages have shifted to around 75% Geena, 25% story. This is not a reflection on Davis’ performance – though we didn’t see as much of her as I would have liked – but a result of the fact that I’m actually semi-interested in this plot.
Was it groundbreaking? No. Was it as scary as it should have been? Probably not. Was it completely predictable and a little cheesy? Yes! Despite all of that, I still see some potential. There are a lot of intriguing questions surrounding the Rance family – each member seems to have a secret of sorts. And those “dreams” Father Tomas is having; what was the stimulus for him to begin seeing an event that happened over a year ago? I’m ready to watch these characters head down what seems like a very dark path.
With that said, I hope to see more restraint in terms of jump-scares. Why Angela would follow Father Tomas into the pitch-dark basement instead of just waiting for him upstairs is beyond me. The show will be far more successful at freaking people out – and telling a good story – if they focus on creating an eerie tone without immediately undercutting the mood in the process. I will admit though, the way that girl was “running” in the attic was creepy – the way her body was bending and contorting all over the place was just NOT right.