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.
Are You There, Chelsea? (NBC)
I must confess: I like Chelsea Handler. I like how unapologetic she is about her antics. After seeing so many “party girls” fervently deny their questionable behavior, I like that Handler’s a hot mess and she’s proud of it. There is a huge possibility that Handler’s public persona is simply a fabrication, but who cares. It clearly works for her.
I haven’t read the source material for this show, the bestselling book Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler, so I won’t attempt to connect this show’s pilot to the book. But a tale of a debaucherous young woman would have been better served as a half-hour, single-camera comedy than as a sitcom where the humor is presented as self-contained jokes separated by a terrible laugh track and some characters that are extremely over the top.
I liked the use of voice-over, though. Laura Prepon, who plays the title character, narrates her story in a way that’s equal parts “public book reading” and “internal musings”. Her portrayal is pretty good here and she clearly can carry her own comedy. But the limitations of the format make her performance fragmented, as well as all other performances.
There’s clearly a market for stories about women that are not ladylike in the traditional sense of the word, as proved by Bridesmaids. This show could have catered to that market, but the pilot sells the story short.
As the follower of Rob Schneider’s comedy that I’m NOT, I was fully expecting to hate this show. I didn’t’ love it, but I must say, some of the jokes worked. As a sitcom about a white man marrying a mexican woman and meeting her family for the first time, the humor equally ridicules the more archetypal elements of latin families on the media and the ignorance of someone becoming part of a different culture. Something commendable about Rob Schneider’s comedy is that he is willing to ridicule himself even more than he ridicules others. This pilot could have specifically targeted latinos. Thankfully, it didn’t.
Every single character on this show is an archetype, but generally speaking, some of the situations might seem familiar to those of latin origin. Many people found the pilot racist. I disagree, but I’m not mexican. I wonder what mexicans thought about it…
The pilot got big rating for CBS. We’ll see how many will stick with it soon enough.
The Finder (FOX)
It took some explaining for me to understand why this show is a Bones spinoff. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of Bones but I don’t follow it, though I appreciate it for giving David Boreanaz his second consecutive TV hit, after Angel (it would actually be the third if we count Buffy as a Boreanaz show). But The Finder seems so different from Bones that calling it a spinoff is just wrong. In fact, this show seems completely wrong for FOX. With a story set in Florida, a layed-back tropical ambiance and warm coloring, centering around a quirky character who’s investigative abilities have been intensified by a brain injury (hello, Touching Evil!), accompanied by an unnaturally fast gentle giant, a teenage delinquent and a hot, confident US Marshall, this show clearly belongs to USA Network. What the hell is this doing on FOX? My guess is this network mismatch will affect viewership of the show. A shame, really, because the pilot was pretty fun.
As a procedural, the featured case was nothing particularly special. What made the pilot entertaining was the interaction between the members of the team, particularly between lead character Walter Sherman (played by Geoff Stults), and the lovely Leo Knox (played by Michael Clarke Duncan). The rapport between these two characters reminded me a little bit of Terriers.
The Finder‘s pilot wasn’t ground-breaking but it was very entertaining. Michael Clarke Duncan is reason enough to watch this show. I hope more people give it at least another chance, since the pilot’s ratings were a bit soft.
Next time on Pilot Watch: Lost part deux, A.K.A. Alcatraz; and Lost Girl.