Welcome to the new TV season, where new shows battle it out with returning shows for a warm little place in our hearts and minds. 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 or dispose of it like trash. Here are a few quick thoughts about the new shows fighting for our attention.
Angry Boys (HBO)
Australian comedian Chris Lilley has specialized in taking the Eddie Murphy approach to mockumentaries by playing multiple characters on his TV projects We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High, and Angry Boys.
Angry Boys explores the issues faced by boys in hour time. The pilot introduces Gran Sims and her twin grandchildren Daniel and Nathan Sims. Gran is a guard at a juvenile detention center who’s earned the young inmates love by walking the fine line between loving mother figure and covertly racist diciplinarian. The twins live in a farm with their mother where life gets complicated by the arrival of their mother’s new boyfriend as they learn about Nathan’s deteriorating congenital hearing issues that leave the family with no hope for his recovery. Daniel is the typical rebellious teenager who violently lashes out and mercilessly harasses Nathan. And Nathan is a withdrawn boy who responds to everything by giving the finger.
For a show created by a comedian that is classified as a mockumentary comedy, the Angry Boys pilot is pretty low on comedic moments, and some of the moments that seem obviously meant to generate laughs could be very offensive to some. However, the pilot effectively presents these characters’ lives with a fair amount of detail. It would be best to approach this pilot not expecting to have a laugh, but only to meet this characters and follow the show if you find anything likeable about them. Perhaps the laughs will come later?
Work It (ABC)
This sitcom, about an unemployed father who dresses as a woman to get a job as a pharmaceutical rep and takes his also unemployed buddy along for the ride, generated controversy before it even aired. GLADD and the Human Rights Campaign launched a campaign to prevent this show from airing, fearing that it would reinforce negative views about the transgender community. This fear is not irrational in the least, but I wonder if they actually watched the show before deciding it was offensive. The pilot for Work It was severely cliched, depicting men as macho beer drinkers and showing professional women being mercilessly catty to their female peers, but there was nothing that jumped out as purposely offensive. The jokes featured on the pilot seemed directed to straight men trying to imitate women, not to transgender or cross-dressing individuals. But whether the show is offensive or not is not really for me to decide.
The acting was good. The laugh track wasn’t terribly annoying. But since I’m predisposed to hate sitcoms, I can’t say for sure if the pilot was funny as a whole, but it had its moments. Can this become another Bossom Buddies? Only time, and ratings, will tell…or maybe not.
Jane By Design (ABC Family)
This story about a high school student who gets a job as an assistant at a fashion design house is exactly what should be expected from ABC Family: a family friendly show led by an adorable character. Jane Quimby is somehow capable of leading a double life as an awkward teenage student and a part time assistant by making decisions that come straight from 80’s teen movies without consequence, like forging documents, trying on her boss’ clothes and taking her car without getting caught (there’s even a montage of Jane posing in front of a mirror). The pilot is a combination of The Devil Wears Prada, Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, and Ugly Betty, with a little bit of Never Been Kissed and influenced by John Hughes sensibility. Erica Dasher, who plays Jane, is a very charismatic young actress who does a good job portraying the innocence and awkwardness of her character. Andie MacDowell, who plays the boss, is great at playing the intimidating alpha bitch. It’s too bad her character is a carbon copy of the characters played by Vanessa Williams in Ugly Betty and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. On a creepy note, India de Beufort, who plays the office bitch, looks unnaturally similar to one Kim Kardashian. Just saying…
The pilot for Jane by Design wasn’t particularly exciting. But it was cute, and definitely well matched to the network.
Next time on Pilot Watch: Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell working together. Need I say more? Also, The Firm.