Welcome to the new fall TV season, where new shows battle it out with returning shows for a warm little place in the hearts and minds of audiences. A pilot might not fully reflect what a whole series will be like, but it is what makes people latch on to a new show. Here are a few quick thoughts about the new shows fighting for our attention.
A Gifted Man (CBS)
I like Patrick Wilson. He doesn’t get as much love as he deserves. But at least he found a great character in A Gifted Man as Michael Holt, a brilliant neurosurgeon that also happens to be a total dick. As far as personality goes, Michael is like a Gregory House without the childishness and shameless self destructive impulse, or as Regenesis‘ David Sandtrom without the drinking.
Michael Holt has little tolerance for stupidity, he is cold towards his secretary (played by the wonderful Margo Martindale), he’s impatient with his sister (Julie Benz), and he’s good but somewhat dismissive towards his nephew. But he turns to putty when he’s around Anna, his ex-wife, played by Jennifer Ehle, whose presence makes of Michael a better man.
When Michael discovers that Anna died and that he’s actually been talking to her ghost, he freaks out and assumes there’s something wrong with his brain. It takes him some time to accept what’s going on but when he decides he can’t handle talking to ghosts and tries to get rid of her spirit, it turns out that Anna needs Michael to complete the things she left undone, and Michael doesn’t want to let her go.
Patrick Wilson does a great job at portraying the huge range of emotions Michael goes through on this episode and the rest of the cast is equally impressive. The look of the show is very slick without being sterile. The instrumental music fits the pace of the show like a glove and it is never manipulative. I must say, although TV shows are a good source of new music, instrumental soundtracks are infinitely less intrusive.
This show seems to not be about the afterlife and all its many esoteric implications, but more about a man finding balance between reason and faith, personal gain and service. A great pilot for what could become a great show if the story doesn’t take a Ghost Whisperer approach.
Prime Suspect (NBC)
I must shamefully admit that I’ve never seen the original version of Prime Suspect, so I don’t have enough information to compare the American version to the original. I am very surprised to see the negativity and ridiculous nitpicking this show is being subjected to (it seems some people find it offensive that the main character wears a particular type of hat). Maybe it’s due to comparisons to the original.
As with Patrick Wilson, Maria Bello doesn’t get the love she deserves. She effortlessly plays Jane Timoney, the tough detective new to a precinct filled with male detectives who hate her. Jane has to deal with excessive bigotry, which could get repetitive and boring if it isn’t toned down in the coming episodes. What’s great about Jane is that she is consistent as a character, being tough at work and at home, but feminine and loving towards her boyfriend. Jane was the only well rounded character in the pilot, but that’s what was needed to introduce the star of the show. Other character will hopefully be fleshed out in the coming episodes.
The dialogue was natural and effortless, allowing for some humor. The desaturated look and instrumental music supported the grittiness the producers of this show were clearly aiming for.
This pilot was great. It felt like a movie. My guess is it’ll be a procedural, but if the people in charge create a strong season long arc to counterbalance the cases of the week, this could become a great show.
Person of Interest (CBS)
With a premise centered around a machine capable to predict crime and two men willing to prevent crime before it happens, this show seems taken out directly from the 80s, without the typical 80s levity. Person of Interest also has the most pedigree out of all new shows this season, with Jonathan Nolan as its creator and J.J. Abrams as its producer, the people I believe are responsible for preventing this pilot from getting campy.
Seeing Michael Emerson back on TV is a joy. James Caviezel is a good match to Emerson and was very credible as a badass. Emerson plays Finch, the bored rich nerd; Caviezel plays Reese, the lost soul in desperate need of a purpose. Finch is the brain, Reese is the muscle, and all they want in the end is to put the Patriot Act to good use.
The use of security and traffic camera footage as transitions was a very nice touch and contributed to the tone of the show. The flashbacks to Reese’s past only served to show that Reese was happy once but did nothing else for the story. Maybe this will be a recurring tactic to reveal very slowly who Reese truly is and what he did for the CIA.
This was a good pilot for an intriguing concept that seems taken from a different decade. It could easily end up being annoyingly episodic, but it has the potential to become a very fun show.
Charlie’s Angels (ABC)
The original Charlie’s Angels is one of the infinite amount of shows I watched as a little kid. Back in the days, I loved it because it was fun. It’s funny how perception changes as we grow. I recently watched a rerun and found the show very campy, though that’s a quality it shares with television of the 70s. The Charlie’s Angels movies were fun but very silly, particularly with the wire fu and the use of film references.
The new version walks a fine line between the campiness of the 70s show and the silliness of the movies, but tries to be serious at the same time. The pilot deals with the death of one of the angels and the recruitment of a new one after investigating a wealthy man involved in child trafficking. As expected, the pilot was packed with fabulous outfits and fighting scenes (very well executed by the actors). The transitions were very stylized, using a lot of split screen, blinds and fluctuating widescreen bars. Unfortunately the dialogue felt like it came straight out of a soap opera.
Making of Bossley a character as capable as the angels instead of turning him into comic relief was a very good idea, and the actor playing Bossley did a good job with the role. As for the angels, these are not bad actresses but I think the acting was somewhat affected by the dialogue.
This show needs a few more episodes to find its footing. Tonally, it feels pretty undefined. I’m not complete sold on this one, but it got good rating so it’ll probably stick around.
Whitney Cummings’ second offering of the season is… Someone is going to have to help me with this one. I’m not sure if I didn’t laugh once because the relentless laugh track damaged my brain, I really don’t like multicamera sitcoms, or the show just wasn’t funny. I just can’t decide.
Next time on PILOT WATCH: Stewardesses, time travel, southern wholesomeness, and the tough life in the suburbs.