<p>Chloe Sevigny of &quot;Hit and Miss&quot;</p>

Chloe Sevigny of "Hit and Miss"

Credit: DirecTV

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 137

Dan and Alan talk 'Perception,' 'Hit and Miss' and more...

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
Did you miss us last week?
 
After taking a 4th of July breather, The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast is back for the first of two podcasts this week. 
 
If you're waiting for "Breaking Bad" and "Political Animals," we're going to be discussing those two, plus Comic-Con, in our Third Annual Comic-Con Roadtrip Podcast. 
 
In this podcast, we talk about TNT's "Perception," DirecTV's airing of "Hit & Miss," plus two episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," one of which is awesome and the other of which kinda sucks. And we answered a little mail.
 
Here's the breakdown:
"Perception" (00:02:00 - 00:14:45)
"Hit & Miss" (00:14:45 - 00:27:25)
Listener Mail - Reviewing shows (00:28:00 - 00:33:15)
Listener Mail - Writerly tics (00:33:20 - 00:39:49)
Listener Mail - Why "Cheers" still looks good (00:39:50 - 00:48:00)
Two "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episodes (00:48:15 - 01:12:50)

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>Eric McCormack of &quot;Perception&quot;</p>

Eric McCormack of "Perception"

Credit: TNT

Interview: 'Perception' star Eric McCormack discusses his twisty TNT drama

'Will & Grace' veteran knows just how much to spoil
For months now, TNT has been urging critics to say as little as possible about the new drama "Perception," for fear of spoiling the show's various twists.
 
Because most of those twists center on Eric McCormack's character, Dr. Daniel Pierce, I was wary that when I got on the phone with the Emmy-winning actor he might be cagey or entirely silent about his new role. 
 
Fortunately, McCormack is a pro and he has found a very good approach to revealing and discussing certain aspects of the "Perception" backdrop without giving away the entire store.
 
"I would love the idea that I can tell people honestly that this is a show about a brilliant professor who gets involved with his ex-student and helps her solve crimes for the FBI," says McCormack, recently seen on Broadway in "The Best Man." "If that's all you know, I think there are some really fun, interesting, surprising things in store."
 
If that's all you want to know about "Perception," you probably don't want to read this interview before Monday's (July 9) premiere. 
 
If, however, you want to hear more about McCormack's approach to Pierce's eccentricities, his eagerness to serve as a producer on "Perception" and getting audiences to move beyond Will Truman, click through...
 
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<p>Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan of &quot;Beauty and the Beast&quot;</p>

Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan of "Beauty and the Beast"

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty and the Beast'

The CW has given its best time slot to its worst new show

[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: "Beauty and the Beast" (The CW)
The Pitch: Unfortunately, the pitch isn't the problem, so I have nothing to say. They wanted to remake "Beauty and the Beast" for a new generation. I have no problems with that. But the pitch was probably "Let's do 'Beauty and the Beast,' but ours is gonna be more like 'Beauty and The Hot Guy With Anger Issues."
Quick Response: Like I said, the pitch wasn't the problem. The problem with "Beauty and the Beast" is the execution on absolutely every level. But even that, I can forgive. As I often say: Sometimes, pilots just don't work. It happens. And when a pilot fails as badly as "Beauty and the Beast" fails, you simply don't send it to series and you don't air it and you move on. In the pilot process, misses are part of the business. But I look at the "Beauty and the Beast" pilot and there's no element here that I can imagine future improvements being built around. I can't latch onto a source of hope. The adaptation of the basic premise is ludicrous and unimaginative: Something about military experiments and cross-species DNA and zzzzz. Kristin Kreuk, while unquestionably fulfilling the basic edict of playing the "beauty" in the title, is otherwise hilariously miscast. You know who won't laugh when her Catherine bursts through a door yelling, "NYPD. I've got a warrant"? Nobody, that's who. It's hilarious. And not intentionally so. And the interpretation of The Beast? Possibly even funnier than Kristin Kreuk as a badass Manhattan cop. As played by Jay Ryan -- yet another New Zealand actor with strong cheekbones and no clue how to do an American accent -- this alleged "beast" is basically unbeastly in every way. He has a scar, but not a scar that would impact his ability to be on the cover of Tiger Beat. Seriously, somebody with a bad haircut would be more aesthetically handicapped than this guy. Sometimes he kinda hulks out, but that's hilarious, too. The script is nothing but cliches strung together. A character actually walks in on a character believed to be dead and says, "You look pretty good for a dead guy." Ugh. If you're a writer in 2012 and you write a line like that without any irony or self-awareness... That's bad. And because nothing in the pilot really illustrates the story's core theme -- Because The Beast is a ripped hottie, Beauty hardly blinks before she starts getting naughty feelings in his presence -- somebody has to actually say, "Sometimes things aren't as they seem. You can't tell who the real monsters are." Does that mean that the hot vigilante hero might ACTUALLY turn out to be a beast, rather than just a misunderstood "Magic Mike" reject with some mutated genes? No. Probably not. The action in the present is cheap-looking and ridiculous. The mythology-driven stuff from Catherine's past (and Vincent's past) isn't involving in the slightest. I don't know what anybody involved, including usually sturdy director Gary Fleder and all of the top brass at The CW, were thinking here. Except that I do. They're ignoring the blunder and selling the brand. Yeah. That always works.
Desire To Watch Again: I watch a lot of bad stuff on The CW. I made it through a whole season of "Ringer" and all of the episodes of the new "Melrose Place." I'm also a faithful enough "The Vampire Diaries" viewer [and Phoebe Tonkin fan] that I stuck around after "TVD" to watch a full season of the generally average "The Secret Circle." I don't think I could watch another episode of "Beauty and the Beast." I guess I'll give "Beauty and the Beast" a second episode to see if there's any indication that anybody recognized the need for a massive overhaul, but that's it.

 

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>Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams of &quot;666 Park Avenue&quot;</p>

Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams of "666 Park Avenue"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'

The supernatural meets real estate porn in ABC's newest guilty pleasure

[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:"666 Park Avenue" (ABC)
The Pitch: "Rosemary's Luxury Apartment Complex" or "Don't Trust the Demons in 666 Park Avenue" or "Dirty Satanic Money." Take your pick, really.
Quick Response: ABC's "666 Park Avenue" isn't a great pilot and it's unlikely to become a particularly good show, but it has a reasonably high quotient of proficiently handled goofiness and, at least for the first 44 minutes, I was content to giggle along with the derivative lunacy. On one hand, there's something to be said for mystery, mythology and obfuscation, but TV audience have been burnt so many times recently by TV shows that promise answers, but never get the chance to get out of the gate. With "666 Park Avenue" we establish within seconds that Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams own a ritz Manhattan apartment and also possess a skillset of powers that almost certainly come either directly or variably indirectly from Satan or his Mexican Non-Union Equivalent [Either El Diablo or Senor Satano, I suppose]. It's "Needful Things" with Manhattan rent control and you don't waste time trying to get to the meat of the narrative. O'Quinn is, in particular, having a fantastic time with the lack of subterfuge. If he isn't twirling his mustache, it's only because creator Dan Wilcox wanted to leave some manifestations of malevolence to unfold in subsequent episodes. From Rachael Taylor to Dave Annable to Mercedes Masohn to Robert Buckley, the supporting cast is just full of actors and actresses whose strengths and limitations are perfectly designed for what is basically a real estate porn-driven supernatural soap opera. They all look terrific, but none of them is being asked to upstage the interior and exterior design, which get the true star treatment from pilot director Alex Graves. The address is the A-lister here and it's treated with every bit of the subtlety as its numeric associations imply. The "666 Park Avenue" pilot isn't full of genuine scares, but there are creepy things afoot. I guess my biggest reservation before crowning this as the season's best new guilty pleasure is that too much of what transpires will be familiar to anybody who has seen "Rosemary's Baby" or any of the countless films that have aped it over the years ["Devil's Advocate" would be a clear influence if "Devil's Advocate" weren't just a rehash of "Rosemary's Baby" itself]. The pilot is a *little* crazy, but I want it to be absolutely berserker. I want "666 Park Avenue" to follow the "Vampire Diaries" formula of eight-to-10 jaw-dropping surprises every episode. I want everything that transpires to make me go, "Did they really just do THAT?" as opposed to "Well sure. Of course that happened. Not bad." Even NBC's "Revolution," which I probably liked less than "666 Park Avenue" overall, had more moments that surprised me.
Desire To Watch Again: I think "666 Park Avenue" makes for a very compatible night of ABC programming with "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge" and I'll say, without hesitation, that I preferred this pilot to last fall's "Revenge" pilot. It lacks the self-seriousness and literary pretense that irked me when "Revenge" rolled out. This is probably trash TV, but I think it ought to be fun trash and barring a real drop from the pilot, I'm assuming this'll be a Season Pass for me.

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>Taylor Kinney of &quot;Chicago Fire&quot;</p>

Taylor Kinney of "Chicago Fire"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'

Finally a drama for people who thought 'Rescue Me' was too complicated

[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: "Chicago Fire" (NBC)
The Pitch:"Let's do a network-friendly version of 'Rescue Me.'" "So 'Rescue Me' only without the mature themes, instantly vivid characters, boundary-pushing language and humor?" "Yup. Those weren't exactly essential, were they?" "As long as we've got fires, it's all good."
Quick Response: A couple years back -- I remember this and maybe one or two viewers do as well -- NBC had an EMT drama called "Trauma." It had strong production values and a very solid cast and it was the kind of show which, if it had had a cable show's interest in character, could have possibly worked. Instead, I tuned out after three or four increasingly generic episodes. [I heard "Trauma" got a little better towards the end, but I needed something sooner.] Well, the Dick Wolf produced "Chicago Fire" is like "Trauma," only even more desperately in need of a cable sensibility, especially given how well similar terrain was covered in "Rescue Me." Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, the "Chicago Fire" has at least one decently executed inferno sequence that might really be a nail-biter if you cared an iota about any of the characters whose lives are ostensibly in jeopardy. Dick Wolf dramas have often struggled with the need/imperative to display deserved respect for the people in difficult and honorable professions, while simultaneously capturing the colorful ways people in those professions act. Here, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas' script gets bogged down in firehouse jurisdictional squabbles and barely sketched character details and then wallows in an even more frustrating self-seriousness. Jesse Spencer, battling an accent that probably should be dropped entirely, suffers most from the pilot's earnestness, which allows him to be frequently upstaged by "Vampire Diaries" veteran Taylor Kinney, who has charisma to burn. Yeah. I went there. And i feel awful about it. Sorry. This will become The Taylor Kinney Show if Spencer doesn't watch out. I'd be OK with that, but I'd rather watch The Eamonn Walker Show and, as is the case in nearly everything he does, Walker is underserved in the pilot and destined to be underserved in the series. Inevitably. The pilot could also stand to get more use from the often interesting Monica Raymund and several other familiar faces. The pilot sent to critics was at least two or three minutes shorter than the usual network drama. The right two or three character-based minutes could actually make a huge difference.
Desire To Watch Again: Very little. Like i said, there are actors I like in "Chicago Fire," but not actors I like enough to weed through the generic procedural stuff in the hopes that the character moments are better done in subsequent episodes. The pilot isn't an exciting version on the Dick Wolf formula and the version of "Chicago Fire" that I'd watch regularly isn't the sort of show Wolf has ever wanted to make.

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>The cast of FOX's &quot;Ben and Kate&quot;</p>

The cast of FOX's "Ben and Kate"

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'

FOX may have a charming accompaniment to 'Raising Hope'

[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: "Ben and Kate" (FOX)
The Pitch: "Would a show about an quirky blended family raising an unbearably cute child make a good pairing with 'Raising Hope'?" "Why yes. Yes it would."
Quick Response: "Ben and Kate" is an immediately charming companion piece to "Raising Hope" in FOX's Tuesday 8 p.m. hour. The operative words for the pilot are the one I just used -- "charming" -- and also probably "likable," because although I found "Ben and Kate" to be genially amusing, I don't think I laughed a single time in 24 minutes. I smiled a lot, though, and I came away feeling like I'd happily spend a half-hour per week with these people and that's sometimes enough. Dakota Johnson, as the half-eponymous Kate, is immediately amiable and although he may be working on a slightly more sitcom-y level than the people around him, Nat Faxon is amiable as well. Pint-sized thespian Maggie Jones is adorable, but also seems to have more comedic timing than many/most Hollywood moppets. Echo Kellum as Ben's best bud, and the pilot's lone nod to diversity, has an easy comic rhythm as well. My concern about "Ben and Kate" is its energy level, which isn't spectacularly high and the basic premise -- Brother who never grew up joins Sister who grew up too fast in raising a kid -- doesn't set up any kind of raised comedic stakes. Going forward, I think the most important element in the series could turn out to be Lucy Punch. The "Class" MVP raises the energy level every time she comes on screen, while simultaneously not exactly fitting into the ensemble. If they can find a way to organically work Punch in more regularly, "Ben and Kate" could evolve well. If they can't, "Ben and Kate" could suffer in comparison to the high level of ensuing wackiness in its lead-in and the subsequent drop-off. [I'm encouraged by "Community" favorites Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman coming in as showrunners.]
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonably high. I like it when networks put shows I kinda wanna keep watching after shows I already watch. It makes my decisions much easier. I'd have stuck with "Ben and Kate" for a while anyway, but now I can give it definite time to grow. [TREND WATCH: "Ben and Kate," "The New Normal" and "How to Live With Your Parents Blah Blah Blah" all take last season's Quirky Female Lead template and add a cute child to the mix. Gilding the lily or valuable formula evolution?Viewers will make the call!]

 

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>Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller of &quot;Elementary&quot;</p>

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller of "Elementary"

Credit: CBS

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

Time to get over those 'Sherlock' comparisons and just move on

[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: "Elementary" (CBS)
The Pitch: "You know that British series 'Sherlock'? We want capitalize on its success by doing something completely different and using a different name." "Wouldn't it be easier to say that you just wanted to become the latest in a long line of people to adapt Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character and his auspices?" "Sure. But some people are so lazy that they'll invariably say we're ripping off 'Sherlock' even if the similarities are barely even superficial." "Why don't you just do your own thing?" "Fiiiiiiine."
Quick Response: I'm going to get really pissed off in a couple months when critics and audiences alike are incapable of viewing "Elementary" as its own thing and insist upon comparing it to "Sherlock," either because it's not as good or implying that Rob Doherty and company ripped off the British hit. And let's get this out of the way: "Elementary" isn't as good as "Sherlock." See? That was an easy and painless comparison. "Sherlock" is one of the best things on TV. "Elementary" isn't. Very few things are. "Elementary," though, has the makings of a far better-than-average CBS procedural that takes Arthur Conan Doyle's famous and endlessly adapted character and handles him in a way that has ZERO similarities to the interpretation by Steven Moffat and company. NOTHING. This is a different text that should be allowed to rise or fall on its own and I feel like it rises to its own -- lower, but acceptable if not held directly next to it -- level. Jonny Lee Miller, channeling back to his "Trainspotting" days, is a Sherlock Holmes who's like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes only insofar as they both come from the same source material. It's a different performance and a very interesting and compelling performance from Miller. There's an interesting sense of Holmes' addictive personality and an awareness of the curse of his intellect. And Miller's doing his own accent, which is nice. Miller's much more interesting when he's playing at least partially damaged, so this should work. Lucy Liu's Watson isn't as immediately vivid, but Doherty's script makes some effort to investigate how it might behoove Holmes to have a female partner, or at least how it might impact his methodology. It's not exactly there yet, but there are kernels. At least in the pilot, there are no kernels of Unfulfilled Sexual Tension. Will that come eventually? Yes. Sigh. But it's not set up in the pilot. Whew. In Doyle's Holmes stories and in "Sherlock," he solves a case per installment. That's the CBS procedural model as well. So it's not ill-suited. Was I interested in the procedural case? No. Was I interested in Holmes' approach to the case? Sometimes. Pilot director Michael Cuesta has given the show a very good look that's both distinctive, but no so distinctive as to be off-brand for CBS. And Aidan Quinn is, as always, just there. He may as well be playing his "Prime Suspect" character for all I know. I think that Michael Emerson's "Person of Interest" character would get along very well with Sherlock Holmes and that "Elementary" should be complimentary pairing with its lead-in. I liked this pilot much more than I liked the "PoI" pilot. But, then again, I really disliked the "PoI" pilot. So, who knows what that really means.
Desire To Watch Again: Reasonable. I wouldn't have thought I was a huge Jonny Lee Miller fan, but I watched every episode of "Smith," every episode of "Eli Stone" and his full arc on "Dexter." This'll probably land a DVR slot along with "Scandal" in the 10 p.m. hour on Thursdays and my sense is that, at the very least, it could be a OK laundry-folding drama along the lines of "Castle," which also features a more-than-slightly Holmes-ian main character.

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;Arrow&quot;</p>

"Arrow"

Credit: WBTV/The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'

DC Comics property gets a solid treatment from The CW

[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: "Arrow" (The CW)
The Pitch: "Remember 'Smallville'? We still have corporate ties to DC. Let's leverage a brand!" "But the guy who was the Green Arrow is already on another of our pilots." "No worries. There's more than one stud muffin on the pastry shelf."
Quick Response: Actually, "Arrow" is less like "Smallville," either in tone or in depiction of its central character, and more like "Nikita," only with a mask and a bow-and-arrow. Directed by David Nutter, the "Arrow" pilot is short on comic book whimsy and long on real-world grounding and muscularity. The entire dark-and-steely aesthetic is, again, much more "Nikita" than "Smallville," and Nutter can always be counted upon to get good production values. Leading Man Stephen Amell has the requisite physicality and his cheekbones are just another facet of the show's intended look. There is a definite decline in his effectiveness when he talks -- ditch the voiceover! -- but his woodenness is far from crippling, except for in scenes with Katie Cassidy, when the conversations are so flat and affectless as to drain all forward momentum. Nobody's going to care about that. Amell's in VERY good shape, you believe he can kick butt and The CW's core demo is going to be appreciative that while his character has scarring over 20 percent of his body, none of that scarring is on the pretty parts. The rest of the supporting cast is full of people I like, including Willa Holland -- Kaitlin Cooper's all grows up! -- Showkiller Paul Blackthorne, Colin Salmon and Susanna Thompson. I also appreciated the efficiency of the origin story (premise-setting efficiency is a hallmark of many of the year's better pilots) and although the core narrative thrust is perhaps a bit too "Revenge"-y for its own good, it seems fruitful enough to carry the show for a while. I mean, "Revenge" could use more people shooting arrows at people. Other than the aforementioned plank-like (and problematically chemistry-free) scenes between Amell and Cassidy (who's fine in her other scenes), the "Arrow" pilot chugs along at a good pace throughout, spiked here and there by well-executed fight and action scenes.
Desire To Watch Again: "Arrow" doesn't break far from a certain branch of CW formula, but it delivers on its goals quite proficiently. I'm not going to say this is inspired TV, but there isn't a lot like it and there's at least an off chance it could draw male viewers in addition to The CW's core. Given that I've stuck with "Nikita" for two full seasons and I don't especially like it, I'll definitely give "Arrow" some additional episodes.

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>The &quot;human&quot; cast of &quot;The Neighbors&quot;</p>

The "human" cast of "The Neighbors"

Credit: ABC

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

It's unclear why ABC thinks this alien dud is worthy of the post-'Modern Family' slot

[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 Neighbors" (ABC) [I want to add a "u" to the title, British-style.]
The Pitch: "You know what would be weird?" "What?" "If you moved into a gated community made up entirely of aliens." "I'm with you so far. Give me more." "Well, that's about it." "Sold."
Quick Response: If you're doing what is effectively a one-joke premise, it's an absolute imperative that every subjoke within that single joke lands before fatigue sets in. In "The Neighbors," a one-joke premise if ever there was one, every joke is delivered with an obviousness so thudding it's like you're being beaten about the head with a baseball bat by Reggie Jackson. Reggie Jackson is the name of one of the aliens. Because they take their Earth names from sports figures. But he's Asian. So it's funny. And an Asian kid named Reggie Jackson is as inherently hilarious as a British woman named Jackie Joyner Kersee. Because the actual Jackie Joyner Kersee isn't British. There are actually only four or five jokes in the "Neighbors" pilot, but they get repeated in five or six permutations apiece until you get it. Aliens are chauvinistic. Aliens cry green goo from their ears. Etc. The new humans in the neighborhood think that because the aliens are weird, they must be European. Oy, the hilarity. And every time somebody does something strange, one of the humans have to point at the strange thing they're doing and say, "You're doing something strange, with that strange thing you're doing" and the response is always, "Oh, this is the way we...something-or-other on our planet" Whatever. And somewhere somebody made the mistake of thinking that because the alien-stars are all dead-pan and laconic, the humans got to all be broad and grating. I'd tell Jami Gertz to turn her performance down by two or three notches and Lenny Venito to turn his performance down by as many notches as he has available. It's a single-cam show, but the human family is stuck doing multi-cam mugging. The biggest problem, one that's at least theoretically fixable, is that none of it means anything. The aliens aren't satirizing anything. The humans aren't satirizing anything. The depiction of the suburbs is too broad and amorphous to satirize anything. It's an alien-suburban comedy that has nothing to say about life in 2012. Or 1984. Or any time. Give me a failed satire that has targets any day. It's one thing to want to be timeless and to not want your show to be stuck with any specific point of view or temporal framework. I don't believe that's effective, since I believe that specificity always makes things better and, in fact, more universal. But being timelessly unfunny is just about the worst thing you can be. Heck, even "Work It" tried to be about the human condition in 2011 [or 2008, or whenever somebody read that "mancession" article].
Desire To Watch Again: Desire? None. This is a disconcertingly and sadly unfunny show that really gives no indication of approaches it could take that would be improvements. But I have a willingness to watch it again. ABC has given "The Neighbors" an undeserved gift time slot and I'm sure to stick around after "Modern Family" to watch at least a couple more episodes.

 

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>Billy Burke of &quot;Revolution&quot;</p>

Billy Burke of "Revolution"

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'

With J.J. Abrams producing, Eric Kripke writing and Jon Favreau directing, how could it fail?

[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:"Revolution" (NBC)
The Pitch:"Remember when all of the networks were trying to do mythology-rich shows like 'Lost,' but they all failed? This is like those shows, only since there are fewer of them now and since we know how 'Lost' turned out, maybe this one won't fail."
Quick Response:Perhaps because it was directed by Jon Favreau -- not that that's any excuse, since it was written by Eric Kripke and produced by J.J. Abrams, both TV veterans -- "Revolution" has the deliberate build of a 125-minute movie, only it stops at the 44-minute mark. That means that you spend a lot of time exposition-izing and then just when things get fun... BAM. See you next week. And the exposition-izing is odd, because in some ways, "Revolution" is astoundingly efficient. The set-up for premise is insanely swift, with the core energy outage taking place within the opening two minutes. From there, we're given 30 minutes of world-building that ideally either needed to take more time -- so it had actual context and we cared about the characters -- or less time -- because a lot of stuff happened, but it doesn't mean anything. And I couldn't tell you which I'd prefer. On one hand, there's a roadtrip to Chicago -- impressively overgrown with foliage only 15 years after The Blackout -- that could have been spaced over three or four episodes and actually meant something, but the pilot doesn't really kick into gear until we get to Chicago and meet Billy Burke's character, a sword-weilding Han Solo equivalent. It's a huge cast, but after 44 minutes, I only had a desire to see Burke and, predictably, badass Sheriff of Nottingham-esque Giancarlo Esposito. I guess I could watch more of leading lady Tracy Spiridakos, who's very much cut from the J.J. Abrams Leading Lady Mold. She's pretty and kinda sells a few emotional moments. So you've got those three actors, some interesting production values and some really big mysteries that aren't actually mysterious, but since I don't know the answers, I have to count them as mysteries. [Oh and yes, there's an annoying teenage son. You know you were curious.]
Desire To Watch Again: The pacing is weird. The mysteries are beyond "Jericho"-esque. The cast is too big and too full of forgettable people. But I like that things go a bit nutty in the last act and I like Burke, Esposito and Spiridakos. The bottom line for any pilot is always less "Do I like the show?" and more "Do I want to watch the next episode?" In the case of "Revolution," the answer is "Yes, I kinda do." This is one of those Two Roads Diverged In a Yellow Wood pilots. The path that they take in Episode 2 will make all the difference.

 

All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries

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