Pilots are hard. Writers have to quickly build a world and introduce believable and memorable characters, with enough of a story hook to make viewers come back for another round. Comedy pilots are even harder — they also have to tell some jokes, and do it all in just 22 minutes.
There’s been no shortage of bugnuts*, high-concept shows in recent years, most of which take themselves too seriously and turn into dreary slogs that beg to be put out of their misery. Under the Dome is one of those shows. Sleepy Hollow, at least judging by the pilot, is not.
The second season of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom improves on the shortcomings of the first, but still fails to really coalesce into something other than an earnest-but-tone deaf misfire.
In this final half-season of Breaking Bad, we’ve completely descended into nightmare territory. The thrill of the great train heist or the escapades of Vamonos Pest is long gone, and all that remains is wreckage and shock. This was one of the most soul-crushing hours of television I’ve ever watched in my life.
Continue reading BREAKING BAD: “Ozymandias”
J.J. Abrams’ s first Star Trek film was a surefire hit right out of the gate, impeccably cast and bringing some desperately-needed energy to a franchise that had been starting to drown in its own convoluted canon. Many of Abrams’s choices upset die-hard Trek fans, but I wasn’t among them–like Abrams, I’ve always kind of been more of a Star Wars guy and didn’t care much what was “different.” It wasn’t perfect, but I really thought the 2009 entry was a total blast from beginning to end, and expectations for the inevitable sequel were sky-high.
I pay close attention to pilot season, and often get intrigued by new pilots involving writers or actors I love. Last year, there were a handful of series I picked up from the get-go, almost all of which were cancelled (R.I.P., Last Resort. You never had a chance, Awake.) It’s just part of the deal, the recognizing that the cream doesn’t always rise to the top.
Consider how many pilot scripts get submitted…then what tiny percentage of those get bought by a network, cast and filmed…then what tiny percentage of those actually make it to air…then what even tinier percentage of those survive a full season and come back. It’s a wonder anything good ever gets made.
That said, here are four new shows (two dramas, two comedies) debuting this Fall that I really hope are good, and don’t get cancelled.
Edgar Wright is one of the most dynamic and inventive young directors on the planet today. He cut his teeth on the English sitcom Spaced, which was co-written by the show’s leads, Simon Pegg & Jessica Hynes. It featured a dazzling array of visual quirks, including whip pans, frantic montages, meta dream sequences, and constant nods to tentpoles of nerd culture. The hilarious “male telepathy” scene from Season 2 lays a foundation for what Wright would attempt in his feature film career, culminating in this under-appreciated gem of a film.
The fledging BBC America series Orphan Black has finished just its first season, but it has already cemented its place among the post-LOST sci-fi/action elite. A great deal of that has to do with the tightly wound storytelling and plausible layers of mythology, but the singular, defining aspect of the show for many (okay, for all) is the absolutely titanic central performance from Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany.
It’s not a huge secret that many Pixar productions, at least to outsiders, take on the appearance of being “troubled.” The animation juggernaut has produced commercial and critical hit after hit* since the original Toy Story set the industry on fire back in 1995, but the production process has occasionally hit some speed bumps.
Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
Toy Story 2 was rescued from the direct-to-video trash heap and given a brand-new script. John Lasseter took over Cars 2 from the original director when that film started to have problems. Mark Andrews took the reins of Brave after Brenda Chapman (Pixar’s first female director) was dismissed. Even the highly-respected Bob Peterson was relieved from next year’s The Good Dinosaur, reasons unknown (fortunately, he’s not leaving the company).
We may never know what the original Ratatouille would have looked like, and on what scale Brad Bird made changes when he came in to replace Jan Pinkava, but we do know this: Bird crafted an exceptional film.