<p>Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha of &quot;The New Normal&quot;</p>

Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha of "The New Normal"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'

Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler's comedy suffers from a split personality

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"The New Normal" (NBC)
The Pitch: "Do you wanna be in the Ryan Murphy business?" "OK."
Quick Response: "The New Normal" comes from Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, who both have ample experience writing funny stuff, but have mostly done comedy in an hour-long format (Adler has a number of sitcom credits from Back in the Day, but Murphy does not). It probably isn't surprising, then, that the single-cam half-hour "The New Normal" doesn't exactly seem to know what it wants to be. The tone almost varies character-by-character, beat-by-beat. Tony Winner Nominee Andrew Rannells, for example, is really grating and verging on unwatchable at times when he's supposed to be playing beats for comedic purposes. His character has been written so that his only notable trait is self-absorption and, like Michael Urie's character in "Partners," you wonder how quickly they're going to have to soften the character in order to salvage the show around him. In semi-dramatic or emotional moments, though, Rannells' Bryan is far better, but you're left debating whether or not those moments have been earned by a character who's basically adopting a baby as an accessory. As Bryan's partner David, Justin Bartha isn't funny at all, but he has a believable and natural chemistry with Rannells. As possible future surrogate mom Goldie and her daughter Shania, Georgia King and Bebe Wood have a very pleasant rapport, though their dynamic -- flighty mom, seemingly preternaturally wise daughter -- is one of this season's most popular tropes and I preferred what FOX's "Ben & Kate" tried to do with the same relationship (less of a fan of the same relationship in ABC's "How To Live With Your Parents Etc"). And then you have the loud, shrill people who will be audience favorites in some demos and will have other viewers flipping off the TV in haste. Ellen Barkin plays the politically incorrect mother/grandmother-from-hell, a character so unguarded and generally noxious that she makes Sue Sylvester seem as lovable as Betty White. As that character's racist and homophobic ranting progressed, I became numb and when we get hints of relatability towards the end, it's hard to buy. The character is too much of a caricature for anybody to be offended by her and the excess mutes her audacity. As the antidote to Barkin's character, NeNe Leakes is dialed up to 11 at all times. I was surprised by how much I liked NeNe on "Glee" last season, but the lesson here is that you need NeNe as a precision tactical weapon and the more scenes she's allowed to dominate, the less effective she is. Perhaps proving it's more Murphy than Adler, the "New Normal" pilot packs an impressive amount of whiplash into 22 minutes and I was laughing and really annoyed in nearly equal measures. I think there are versions of "The New Normal" that I would really like, versions that would make me laugh, but would also have the ability to pack an emotional punch. There are also versions of "The New Normal" that could have me changing the channel in real frustration.
Desire To Watch Again: I'll watch to find out which one it's going to be. I'm not going to give "The New Normal" infinite time to find itself, to figure out the balance of tones and character, but this is yet another pilot that's a reminder of how tough it is to judge a comedy after one episode. If they tweak Rannells' character in the right way, if they figure out exactly the correct amount to use Barkin and Leakes, if they figure out the weekly structuring of the show, I'll stick around. In the pilot, those things aren't there yet.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 145

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 145

Dan and Alan talk 'The Inbetweeners,' 'Political Animals,' 'Bunheads' and more

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
Time for another installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
In this week's installment, we review MTV's take on "The Inbetweeners," tease (with no real spoilers) the summer finale of "Bunheads," discuss the finale of "Political Animals," chat about this week's "Breaking Bad" and answer a few letters. We also briefly talk about the legacy of the late Tony Scott.
 
We may be light on topics next week, so we welcome your mail!
 
Here's today's breakdown:
"The Inbetweeners" (00:00:55 - 00:12:15)
"Bunheads" finale preview (00:12:15 - 00:25:50)
Tony Scott (00:25:55 - 00:31:45)
Listener Mail - Sight & Sound rankings (00:32:00 - 43:00)
Listener Mail - Big-name producers (00:43:00 - 49:10)
"Political Animals" finale (00:49:10 - 01:03:00)
"Breaking Bad" (01:03:15 - 01:20:45)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>Anthony Anderson and Zach Cregger of &quot;Guys with Kids&quot;</p>

Anthony Anderson and Zach Cregger of "Guys with Kids"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'

If you don't find the idea of men parenting to be hilarious, you won't laugh

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Guys with Kids" (NBC)
The Pitch: "You know how sometimes babies have fathers? That's pretty CRAZY, right?"
Quick Response: Oh dads. So biologically and evolutionarily unprepared to take even a partial interest in raising their children. I mean, put a person with man-parts together with a baby and that's just an instant recipe for hilarity, right? I mean, you don't even have to add water to watch the wackiness ensue. You can just add a little spit-up or some poop and the punchlines write themselves. Don't they? Hmmm... The team behind "Guys with Kids" seems to be hoping that the punchlines will write themselves. It's not that there aren't a couple laughs in "Guys with Kids." Anthony Anderson makes me chuckle occasionally. And there's a cameo that was appealingly absurd. And... Yeah. I did laugh a couple times. That's something. But it isn't much and I cringed many more times. Anderson is easily the funniest of the core trio. Zach Cregger, who I vaguely remember from "Friends with Benefits" -- you don't want to have been in my brain when I was trying to go through my internal screener queue trying to place him -- has comedic timing, but no real punchlines to work with. And Jesse Bradford is, unfortunately, pretty bad. It's not completely Bradford's fault, though his sitcom rhythms aren't close to natural. He also has the least appealing character, the least amusing pilot plotline and, at least in the pilot, the most toxic relationship with the female in his life. That could change, though, because Bradford's ex is played by Sara Rue, but Erinn Hayes will be taking over. I have no objections to Sara Rue, but I happen to have actively liked Erinn Hayes since "Kitchen Confidential" and "The Winner," so that feels like an upgrade and that upgrade will have me watching at least one or two more episodes. Based only on the pilot, I don't see much overall upside, though. This is lazy, broad, generic multi-cam comedy that is just much, much more amused by its core premise than I am. I understand that it's apparently Salvador Dali-level surreal to have men as caregivers but... I need more to sink my teeth into, or more than just rehashed man-mockery and babies-as-props, all egged on by a loud studio audience/laff-track. Ultimately, I have very little to say about "Guys with Kids," but it doesn't have very much to say either. I suppose that if this show reflects your personal life circumstances you might find it funny. I can't say.
Desire To Watch Again: I'll give it that courtesy episode or two, but it feels like NBC already has a more nuanced comedy about child-rearing with a cast that I like much more than this and I can't bring myself to regularly watch "Up All Night" either. This isn't on that level.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

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<p>Mindy Kaling of &quot;The Mindy Project&quot;</p>

Mindy Kaling of "The Mindy Project"

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'

Mindy Kaling's voice is a good starting point for a comedy with promise

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

 

Show:"The Mindy Project" (FOX)
The Pitch: Mindy Kaling! Mindy Kaling! Mindy Kaling!
Quick Response: Mindy Kaling is a bestselling author, an Emmy nominated writer-producer, a charming tweeter and a wildly likable supporting actress. Used to her full potential maybe a half-dozen times in her tenure on "The Office," it's two or three years past time for Kaling to get a chance to be front-and-center on her own series. "The Mindy Project" isn't perfect. I'm not sure I laughed out loud more than once or twice. But what it is is the work of a singular voice, one that's simultaneously smart and loopy, simultaneously whimsical and romantic, but also sarcastic and grounded. Mindy's character looks like no other leading character on TV and talks like no other character on TV and even if "The Mindy Project" is a work-in-progress, it's one that I'm looking forward to continuing with. The show's biggest challenge going forward is finding a way to keep letting Mindy be Mindy while also getting the most out of a supporting cast that's very strong, but initially underutilized. Ed Weeks gives off a charming Hugh Grant vibe, but that's all he's got so far. Chris Messina is brash and fairly funny, but as much as I like Chris Messina -- he's an astonishingly versatile actor and one need only hold his work here next to his "Damages," "Newsroom" and string of Sundance performances to respect the heck out of him -- he's pushing the "I'm in a sitcom" comedic buttons a bit hard here. Both male leads are given a wealth of material compared to Anna Camp, who has been a guest-starring MVP or four or five shows in recent years, but makes the transition to series regular with what initially reads as a nothing part. Throw in guest starring turns by Bill Hader and Ed Helms, plus Richard Schiff (who will become Steven Tobolowsky when we get a final pilot) and there are a lot of very talented people supporting Mindy on this show and she'll need to let them provide that support. I'm also wondering on the show's ability or desire to maintain what is a relentless pop culture-referencing pace in the pilot. Mindy's character loves timeless romantic comedies, but it's hard to be timeless when you're making Siri, Michael Fassbender and "Precious" jokes rapid-fire. It's possible that these shout-outs could work better once the show is on a weekly production schedule, or it could be something that makes episodes instantly dated. We'll see.
Desire To Watch Again: I feel good about "The Mindy Project." Heck, I even like the title, which some people seem to hate. Is the problem just that Kaling's character has her real name? It's a show about a woman-in-transition and the title reflects that completely, with a nod to its creator as well. Anyway, with proper improvements and evolution, "The Mindy Project" is a good pairing with "New Girl" and with "Raising Hope" and "Ben and Kate," it gives FOX what could be a really solid two-hour comedy block, qualitatively.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

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<p>&quot;Partners&quot;</p>

"Partners"

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'

If you liked 'Will & Grace' but thought it was too subtle, CBS has a comedy for you

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show:"Partners" (CBS)
The Pitch: You know that show that aired on FOX in the '90s about the two friends who are architects and co-dependents? That show that was created by the guy who used to work on "Will & Grace"? That show that was also called "Partners"? Well, this show is nothing like that. Except for the ways it is. Which you won't recognize anyway. Because nobody watched that "Partners."
Quick Response: "Will & Grace" creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, masters of exploiting the really, really obvious differences between gay folks and straight folks for very, very broad multi-cam laughs are back with what might be their most autobiographical show to date. It's also possibly their broadest show to date, which is saying a lot. I'm not really comfortable judging "Partners" solely off its pilot, which is aggressively unfunny, but is also over-invested in establishing a premise that isn't nearly complicated enough to require this much set up. See, there's a gay architect (Michael Urie) and a straight architect (David Krumholtz) and they're partners. But the gay guy has a boyfriend (Brandon Routh) and the straight guy has a fiance (Sophia Bush) and, as the fiance explains, "I think we just need to accept the fact that there are four people at this table, but three couples." In a smart pilot for smart people, that probably could have been illustrated in one well-written dinner table scene that could have taken place before the opening credits. It's not hard to understand, but Mutchnick and Kohan are afraid you won't understand, so that's all that happens in the pilot. The premise is repeated over and over and over again, underlined at every opportunity. I got it. And I wasn't all that amused. But because of the belaboring, I don't know how stories are going to be told in subsequent episodes, so I'm going to have to watch again, against my better judgment. The flaw in the structure of the pilot is that at least in the first 20 minutes, Krumholtz and Urie don't really have all that much chemistry, or at least their characters don't. I'd have sacrificed the repetition in the pilot for just one or two effective illustrations of why these guys are friends and one or two positive examples of their friendship at work. It's the kind of thing that could have taken place through their work at the architecture firm, except that the profession isn't even an afterthought in the pilot. I wasn't even an "Ugly Betty" fan, but I know that Urie's a pretty funny guy who has, unfortunately, been written and directed to be obnoxious. He's obnoxious with his best friend, with his boyfriend and with his best friend's girlfriend. So there are three couples at that table, but Urie's character poisons two of the key relationships. That's bad. Either the writers find a way to make that character's self-absorption funny or the show will fail hard. Krumholtz is fine, but he's mostly playing the straight man -- pun, unfortunately, intended -- and Routh and Bush seem like they're prepared to have fun doing a sitcom, if only they'd be allowed to have fun. So far? No fun. Just redundant writing, stagnant direction and cheap sets.
Desire To Watch Again: "Partners" is airing after "How I Met Your Mother," a show I dislike, but watch religiously anyway. Because of that slotting, and because of the appreciation for Sophia Bush that led me to watch waaaaay too many seasons of "One Tree Hill," I'll give "Partners" a few more episodes. I stick with shows airing after "HIMYM" way too faithfully. I hated "Big Bang Theory" in the beginning and kept going with it until it got a lot better. I disliked "2 Broke Girls" in the beginning and kept going with it even though it never got better. "Partners" will get its chance.

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

 

 

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MTV's 'Teen Wolf' finale completes a much-improved Season 2
Credit: MTV

MTV's 'Teen Wolf' finale completes a much-improved Season 2

Monday's finale capped the show's growth from a dismal first season
[Apologies for the delay in writing comments on the Monday (August 13) second season finale of MTV's "Teen Wolf." Better slightly late than never, right? Exactly.]
 
I had relatively hostile things to say about MTV's "Teen Wolf" in its first season.
 
When it premiered, I spent a long time harping on the misappropriation of the vintage "Teen Wolf" title for a show that exhibited none of the charm or humor of the relatively classic Michael J. Fox horror-comedy. [Frankly, I stand by that criticism and probably won't ever back down. When it comes to "Teen Wolf," my near-rhyming policy is simple: No Boof, no Wolf.]
 
For some reason, I stuck with "Teen Wolf" through a full season, just in case things improved, but for the most part, they didn't. At the time, I said that I was mostly inexplicably still watching because it was summer and there were fewer viewing options and that if "Teen Wolf" would just air in February, I could ditch it entirely. 
 
My feeling was basically that I wasn't fully abandoning "Teen Wolf" not because I was enjoying it, but because it seemed like the kind of show that I generally do enjoy. And I'm persistent. Some showrunners should be grateful at that persistence.
 
In its second season, which concluded with Monday's "Master Plan," "Teen Wolf" made the leap from one of the worst shows on TV, to respectably fast-paced guilty pleasure. That's not a small jump and as much as I maligned creator Jeff Davis and executive producer and Russell Mulcahy last season, I might as well give some begrudging credit now.
 
"Teen Wolf" isn't bad.
 
There. I said it. 
 
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<p>The CW's &quot;Oh Sit!&quot;</p>

The CW's "Oh Sit!"

Credit: The CW

Musical Chairs meets 'Wipeout' on the set of The CW's 'Oh Sit!'

The hosts, led by Jamie Kennedy, explain why you want to watch
CULVER CITY - Does anybody have positive memories of a game of Musical Chairs?
 
As childhood party pastimes go, few are barer bones: All you need is "X" number of people, "X-1" number of chairs and music. Then everybody walks in a circle. Occasionally, the music stops and you elbow the person next to you for a seat. It prepared us all poorly for that time later in life when it's explained that in actual social circumstances in which the number of people is "X" and the number of chairs is "X-1," chivalry dictates less elbowing and more gracious yielding.
 
Musical Chairs was a game most frequently played at parties where the parents of the birthday boy/girl were unable or unwilling to procure a clown, a bouncy house, a lane at the bowling alley, use of the roller rink or, in the Midwest, cornhole boards.
 
I can't say for sure if The CW investigated reality competition versions of Bouncy House, Roller Derby or Cornhole, but on Wednesday (August 15) night, The CW raises the ante on Musical Chairs with the series "Oh Sit!"
 
Back in May, on what was officially the last day of the 2011-2012 TV season, I went to the "Oh Sit!" set on the Sony Lot and watched a couple rounds of the competition and joined another reporter in a brief conversation with hosts Jamie Kennedy and Jessi Cruickshank, as well as sideline reporter Tanika Ray.
 
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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 144

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 144

Dan and Alan talk 'Grimm,' 'Copper,' 'Boss,' 'Strike Back' and more

The

Happy Monday, Boys and Girls!
 
In this week's busy installment of The Firewall & Iceberg podcast, we discuss the returns of "Grimm," "Boss" and "Strike Back," plus the premiere of BBC America's "Copper." We also get to "Breaking Bad."
 
In the podcast, I forgot to apologize to Terrell Owens for my inaccurate memories of his last season in the NFL, which was more statistically respectable than I remembered. Then again, the last time y'all insisted I needed to apologize to an NFL wide receiver it was Kenny Britt, when I had the nerve to doubt his reliability as an NFL No. 1 wide receiver. I stand by that ongoing skepticism, which isn't based on Britt's talent, so much as his difficulties staying healthy and his inability to stay unarrested.
 
But anyway... Back to this week's podcast... If you have questions for us, next week would be a good week to ask, since we're definitely gonna have time for Listener Mail...
 
Today's breakdown:
"Grimm" (00:00:50 - 00:14:20)
"Boss" (00:14:25 - 00:26:05)
"Strike Back" (00:26:05 - 00:35:20)
"Copper" (00:35:20 - 00:50:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:50:25 - 01:10:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.

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<p>Hayden Panettiere of &quot;Nashville&quot;</p>

Hayden Panettiere of "Nashville"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'

Music-themed soap is full of terrific elements, but will they gel?

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show: "Nashville" (ABC)
The Pitch:"Take 'Dallas,' replace oil with country music, transplant it to Nashville and... BAM!" Or, if you prefer... "You know how NOBODY saw 'Country Strong'? We could ditch the title, turn it into a TV show and nobody would ever know."
Quick Response: ABC's "Nashville" has every element in place to be a potentially great show. Or at least it has every element in place to be a fun primetime soap in an underutilized location with perhaps a little extra substance. And maybe the problem that I have with this pilot, which is solidly written by Callie Khouri and solidly directed by R.J. Cutler, is that it just has too many elements in place and no way to do justice to all of those elements in 42 minutes. Every time I got into one plotline or another, I was abruptly yanked out and forced into another and just when I settled in and decided I was interested in that plotline, it was off to something else. I got no cumulative impact out of the pilot at all, but I could see how I'd happily watch a series that ACTUALLY focused on Connie Britton's Reba-esque Raya (kinda an inverted Mrs Coach, as a woman whose long overshadowed husband decides he wants his own profile) or Hayden Panettiere's Taylor Swift-esque Juliette (kinda an emotionally wounded, sexually voracious singing dwarf) or Powers Boothe's Lamar (kinda JR Ewing, only played by Powers Boothe) or the sweet dynamic between Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen (like a country-tinged "Once"). What I didn't buy was the attempt, at least in the pilot, to pretend like all of the storylines had equal value, when they clearly don't. Boothe and Britton are, of course, two actors who I'd watch do just about anything and this has the potential to be the best project for Britton since "Friday Night Lights" and for Boothe since "Hatfields & McCoys" (yes, I'm well aware that those projects were two years and one year ago). Panettiere doesn't have their chops, but she's actually perfectly cast in this role and I love the visual dexterity required to frame her in a way in which she looks full-sized. Credit to Khouri and Cutler for their treatment of the eponymous city, which gets to be the only character in every scene and therefore the only character I fully bought. And credit to T-Bone Burnett for a few original country songs that, without question, could be hits in the hands of the right artists. This is just a hard sort of sprawling epic to get right in a network TV hour. "Nashville" could be the sort of show that works best cumulatively, rather than one episode at a time. Then again, I have colleagues who loved this one, so they obviously connected in a way I did not.
Desire To Watch Again: Fairly strong. I watched a full season of "Revenge" in this time period and I didn't like "Revenge" and "Revenge" didn't have nearly the number of quality elements that "Nashville" has already, or the grasp on a grounded and interesting reality that "Nashville" may aspire to. In a perfect world, I'd have one or two additional "Nashville" episodes to see before writing a review, just to have a better idea of the focus moving forward.

 

Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

 

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<p>Justin Kirk of &quot;Animal Practice&quot;</p>

Justin Kirk of "Animal Practice"

Credit: NBC

Monkey business reigns on the set of NBC's 'Animal Practice'

Can Justin Kirk and JoAnna Garcia Swisher avoid being upstaged by Crystal?
HOLLYWOOD - For new network TV shows, August is a period of exploration. Actors and producers get together for the first time since the pilot and try to establish a creative rapport. 
 
There's a lot of sniffing around and marking territory. 
 
For one new NBC show, that process is being taken to an extreme. On a hot August day on a frantic stage on the Paramount Lot, the actors are jumping through hoops to impress the producers, they're being reassured at how cute they are by total strangers, they're sniffing the butts of their new co-stars and, in case anybody gets too excited, there are conveniently located hydrants and waste receptacles.
 
This might be hard to imagine, but in a city where a Charlie Sheen sitcom is currently in production, no set in town is a bigger zoo than the one housing NBC's "Animal Practice."
 
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