<p>Rufus Sewell of 'Zen'</p>
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Rufus Sewell of 'Zen'

Credit: PBS

TV Review: PBS' 'Zen'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A+
Gorgeous Italian locations upstage the drama in this ongoing mystery
Even if I could afford to take a trip to Rome this summer, I probably couldn't spare the time, what with an unprecedented number of new TV shows premiering across broadcast and cable dials through months which once used to be quite fallow. 
 
Kudos to PBS, I supposed, for solving one problem while compounding another. 
 
"Zen," which premieres this Sunday (July 17), may have added a few hours of work to my weekend, but with its rather magnificent use of locations in and around Rome, it took the place of of a quick getaway to Italy. [Please, though, don't ask me what kind of vacation to Italy lasts only three hours, doesn't include a single strand of homemade pasta and forces me to take notes the entire time.]
 
Based on the novel series by Michael Dibdin, "Zen" unfolds in three mysteries airing over the next three Sundays and is it any good? Well, as whodunnit? It's not really all that involving. But as a low-cost getaway to Europe? It serves its purpose admirably. Temper your expectations accordingly and you'll find some value in "Zen," even if the thrills are lacking.
 
Full review after the break...
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<p>Christina Applegate and Will Arnett of 'Up All Night'</p>
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Christina Applegate and Will Arnett of 'Up All Night'

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'

Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph shine

[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.]

Show: "Up All Night," NBC
The Pitch: When you have Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph, plus Lorne Michaels producing, you don't really need a pitch.
Quick Response: I don't have children, so I haven't been around an infant on a regular basis since my younger brother was born. But watching the Emily Spivey-scripted pilot for NBC's "Up All Night," I still got the feeling that I was in the hands of somebody who had a very clear sense of the trials and tribulations of first-time parenthood. I didn't laugh at "Up All Night" very often -- my only laughs came at Maya Rudolph -- but every second felt plausible and rang true. To my mind, that's a very good start for a series. If you have authenticity and a cast like this, it'll go far. Arnett is shockingly schtick-free here, without even a hint of Gob Bluth or Devon Banks from "30 Rock" or Steven McRunningWilde from his short-lived FOX dud. It's a wonderful change -- Arnett's usually Arnett-esque even in interviews -- and I felt like I was watching a real human here, rather than a character on a sitcom. I'm certain Applegate can be funnier than this -- I always thought she was splendid on the otherwise uneven "Samantha Who?" -- but she's still likable. And Rudolph remains one of those performers whose talents have barely begun to be tapped, but she has some line-readings here that are unique and send the material soaring. Because the premise is so basic -- first-time parents are shocked to realize that having a baby changes your life -- I have no worries about sustainability with this one. The pilot is loose-to-barely plotted and the single-camera aesthetic only enhances the relaxed formlessness. Again, that aids sustainability. The big litmus test for "Up All Night" has nothing to do with me, though. Will actual parents think that the things I assumed were authentic were totally bogus? Or will it prove too authentic and hit too close to home without being funny? Or will NBC actually successfully tap into a massive audience here and find a rare hit? 
Desire To Watch Again: I'll watch "Up All Night" again. Definitely. I may, however, watch "Up All Night" on OnDemand, since it's paired with a pilot I detested and I'll almost certainly have to dedicate the hour's DVR time to several other shows.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

<p>The cast of ABC's 'Revenge'</p>
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The cast of ABC's 'Revenge'

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Revenge'

This 'Count of Monte Cristo Lite' is either trash or trashy fun

[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.]

Show: "Revenge," ABC
The Pitch:"It's a reverse-gendered 'Count of Monte Cristo' *by* people who have never read 'Count of Monte Cristo' and *for* people who have never read 'Count of Monte Cristo.'"
Quick Response: For years, I've always thought that it was mind-boggling that nobody had made a high school version of of "Count of Monte Cristo." The concept seemed like such a no-brainer. Well, now ABC has *kinda* done a high school version, only the main characters are pretending to be in their 20s, even if they look indistinguishable from the current cast of "90210." No matter how old the characters are supposed to be, "Revenge" is a trashy teen soap set in the Hamptons, an effort far better suited for The CW than ABC and not especially well suited for airing in the fall and winter months where it's going to be stuck. And even though referencing "Monte Cristo" is unavoidable, it hasn't even scraped the skin of Dumas, so just as ABC's press material ignores any possible literary root, viewers would be well advised to do the same (easier done from some than others). A few people loved "Swingtown," but my feeling is that Mike Kelley has a tendency to embrace trashiness and he's found a willing co-conspirator in "Salt" and "Patriot Games" director Phillip Noyce, who's gleefully slumming on the pilot, practically parodying the Aussie thrillers (like "Dead Calm") on which he cut his teeth. Wacky camera angle! Corny musical sting! Vampy starlet casting an all-too-knowing scowl! Or maybe it isn't parody? Maybe sometimes you hire Phillip Noyce and you get the director of "The Quiet American" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence" and even Showtime's "Brotherhood" and sometimes you get the director of "Sliver." Here? "Sliver." I've always liked Emily Van Camp, but I wouldn't have guessed her capable of playing a vengeful badass and the pilot didn't sway me, especially a flashback sequence towards the end that had me laughing out loud. She's cute and winsome and her character knows and repeats a lot of quotes about revenge, but Blair Waldorf would tear her to shreds. None of the other young actors even vaguely register, other than the weirdness of seeing Connor Paolo (speaking of "Gossip Girl") fumbling through an attempt to play blue-collar. On the "older" side of the equation, Madeleine Stowe and Henry Czerny are in a different, more grown-up show, not that Czerny has ever been afraid to ham it up. Like a dumber "Damages," "Revenge" opens on a murder and flashes back to the set-up months earlier, but I hope the producers have a one-season resolution in mind.
Desire To Watch Again: There's nothing about "Revenge" that I would categorize as "good," other than the reasonably high production values, but this is still the sort of cheesy series I could see watching for a little while. As potential guilty pleasures go, this is still far above The CW's somewhat similarly tawdry, tacky "Ringer."

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

 

 

<p>The Emmy trophy</p>
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The Emmy trophy

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 84 -Emmy Edition

Dan and Alan talk Emmy nominations. For a long time.

The

Happy Thursday, Boys & Girls.
 
It's time for a lengthy all-Emmy Nomination installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
That's what the podcast is. We tossed in a few quick pieces of mail at the end, but two are about the Emmys and one was about "Friday Night Lights," but mostly as an excuse for us to mention that people concluding "FNL" on NBC this Friday can now finally listen to our all-"FNL" podcast. If they choose to.
 
The breakdown:
Emmys -- 00:00 - 56:30
A few Emmy questions -- 56:30 - 01:08:30
A "Friday Night Lights" question - 01:08:30 - 01:16:20

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 here's the podcast...
<p>Curt Flood</p>
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Curt Flood

TV Review: HBO's 'The Curious Case of Curt Flood'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
It's one of the most important stories in the history of sport
Curt Flood is not enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and if you just look at his statistics, that seems reasonable enough.
 
Flood won seven Gold Gloves, which confirms and cements his reputation as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball history. But Garry Maddox won eight Gold Gloves and didn't receive a single vote when he became HoF eligible, proving that baseball writers either don't respect defense (plausible) or don't respect the value of a Gold Glove (more plausible).
 
Flood led the league in hits once and retired with a career batting average of .293 (very solid) and an slugging percentage of .393 (downright anemic). He never hit more than 12 home runs in a season or stole more than 17 bases. He was a three-time All-Star and played on two St. Louis Cardinals teams that won World Series titles and one Cardinals team which, perhaps even more famously, lost a World Series title.
 
Yeah, looking at his statistics, you couldn't fabricate a reason to support Curt Flood's case for the Hall of Fame. He was a good player, but not a great player. And yet, one could make an easy and fairly convincing argument that Curt Flood was one of the most important baseball players -- heck, one of the most important athletes -- of the past 50 years and that he did more to shape the contemporary sports landscape than countless players who were faster or stronger or threw the ball harder. 
 
The Baseball Hall of Fame is full of players obsessed with numbers, pitchers who stuck around forever to get that magical 300th win or hitters who would call the official scorekeeper between innings to complain that an error should have been ruled a base hit. I'd make sure that my Hall of Fame had room for a guy who, in the absolute prime of his career, decided that taking a stand for the good of all players, present and future, was more important than his next payday. 
 
But that's just me.
 
Check out HBO Sports' new documentary "The Curious Case of Curt Flood," premiering on Wednesday (July 13) night and see if you agree.
 
Full review after the break...
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<p>Jennifer Morrison of 'Once Upon a Time'</p>
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Jennifer Morrison of 'Once Upon a Time'

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Once Upon a Time'

Might these elements be more intriguing in a miniseries than as a series?

[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.]

 

Show: "Once Upon a Time," ABC
The Pitch:It's kinda like "Lost" if instead of ordinary people stuck on an Island, there were fairy tale people stuck Real Life and instead of knowing they wanted to get back, they didn't know... Since it's created by "Lost" guys Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, it might make sense.
Quick Response: ABC's "Once Upon a Time" is definitely the better of the fall's two "What if the stories were TRUE?" expansions on fairy tale elements in the normal modern world. However, just as I suggested that NBC's "Grimm" probably should be a Syfy series, "Once Upon a Time" feels like it could be a Syfy miniseries in the vein of "Tin Man" or "Alice." It may just be that I'd feel better about the structure of the storytelling if I knew that it was all arcing to a conclusion in 8 hours or in 13 episodes. Even assuming that each "Once Upon a Time" episode will feature "Lost"-style flashbacks to the fairy tale lives that our character don't remember living, this feels like a finite story trapped on American TV where all narratives are required to be infinite even if they shouldn't be. If "Once Upon a Time" were a Syfy miniseries -- or even a Robert Halmi joint on NBC or something -- I would also find it easier to pass off that the special fairy tale effects are... only so-so and I'm not sure how tolerant I'm going to be of 50 or 60 episodes of these effects. "Cheesy" may not be the right word, but "whimsically inexpensive" may be. And I doubt that's intentional. [It may also be prettied up substantially by the time the pilot airs.] That's probably why I liked the sequences in Storybrooke, the strange Maine town in which all of the forgetful fairy tale people now reside, more than the predictably Disney-fied fantasy stuff. More Storybrooke, less StoryBook would have been my preferred focus. Oh well. I don't get a vote. I'm also going to need a good explanation for the hodgepodge of fairy tale elements working their way in here. Most particularly, I don't get what Collodi's Geppetto and Disney's Jiminy Cricket are doing with these traditional Grimm's characters. If you're taking a "Fables"-style "anything goes" approach, why be so limited and random? But anywho... Jennifer Morrison is very good in the lead. After "How I Met Your Mother" and several bad seasons of "House," I'd forgotten how likable she can be in the right role. And I quite enjoyed how much fun Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla and Raphael Sbarge are having with their characters, though I wonder whether those broader-tapestry supporting performances will become exhausting long-term, making Ginnifer Goodwin's almost effortless inhabiting of her role seem even more appealing. And for one episode, Jared Gilmore was acceptably precocious, but with wise-beyond-their-years kids, it's a slippery slope into Obnoxiousville, which may be another tiny Maine burg.
Desire To Watch Again: I'm definitely interested in seeing a second episode, but the amount of wheel-spinning in the second episode could determine whether I invest fully, or whether I decide that *my* Happily Ever After is watching Sunday Night Football instead.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

<p>Jason Isaacs of 'Awake'</p>
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Jason Isaacs of 'Awake'

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Awake'

Star Jason Isaacs and director David Slade shine in Kyle Killen's twisty drama

[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.]

Show: "Awake" (NBC)
The Pitch:"It's like 'Inception,' only not very much like 'Inception,' but maybe more like a police procedural, but kinda not."
Quick Response: For last night's Take Me To The Pilots, I tore into "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," one of the worst pilots of the year. To wash the taste out of my mouth, I'm cheating and saying a few words about one of my favorites pilots of the year, even though NBC is holding it for midseason. "Awake" may be the best-looking network pilot in several years. From the opening shots, in which we witness the tragic car accident that sets the plot in motion, director David Slade ("Hard Candy," "30 Days of Night") puts his fingerprints all over "Awake." The wallpaper pops in every interior. Raindrops explode off the screen. An emotionally draining session with a shrink is drained of primary colors. It's gorgeous to look at and leading man Jason Isaacs successfully grounds the mind-mending plot about a detective living two parallel lives, one when he's awake and another when he's asleep. Which is which? What is reality and what is dream? Isaacs has a human gravitas and uses his conviction to make every beat of Kyle Killen's verbose script seem worthy of consideration, even if parts of the pilot feel a bit too much like the gleeful meanderings of a Psych major delving too deeply into rudimentary dream theory. Isaacs has some exceptional support, including "Terriers" vet Laura Allen, who was wisely bumped from a supporting role into the female lead. I also liked both Steve Harris and a self-consciously mas-macho Wilmer Valderrama as the main character's partners in the different realities. My question after watching the pilot is the same thing I worried about after reading the script: What is the week-to-week series here and what are the chances audiences will respond to what is a VERY cerebral show, especially when the dream theory stuff resonates much more strongly than the procedural stuff? I can't be bothered with the second part, since I know that *I* responded. Audiences either will or won't respond and this is *my* gut reaction. But the first part, I'm not sure if there's a "Daybreak"/"Journeyman" sort of conspiracy/mythology at the root of the "Why is this strange thing happening to this guy?" mythology or if we're supposed to feel like it's all in his head. "Awake" has the ability to go either way and I can imagine resolutions that could be intriguing and others that could be infuriating. And I can't imagine what Season 5 of "Awake" is. Who knows? Who cares? This is a pilot. And, on its own, it's a good one.
Desire To Watch Again: Oh, I'm there for a second episode. No question. There are one or two pilots that I like roughly as much, but I don't think I watched a network pilot this summer that I liked more. I'm also incredibly interested in seeing what "Awake" looks like without Slade at the helm. Will all of the visual inventiveness go out the window? Or will they take advantage of a limited spring run to hire a different type of director to maintain the pilot aesthetic?

Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

 

<p>'Breaking Bad'</p>
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'Breaking Bad'

Credit: AMC

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 83

Dan and Alan talk 'Breaking Bad,' 'Alphas' and 'Damages'

The

 
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
 
Time for a busy installment of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, featuring reviews of Syfy's "Alphas," DirecTV's "Damages" and, most importantly, AMC's "Breaking Bad."
 
Hopefully, Sepinwall and I will be back on Thursday with an all-Emmys podcast covering the nominations. Hopefully. And then next week, we will NOT have a Monday podcast, but we'll have a podcast later in the week, probably from San Diego, where we'll be mobilized for Comic-Con. Then it'll be Press Tour and we'll podcast when we can. But the next couple weeks are gonna require you to keep an eye on Twitter and our blogs and iTunes for the arrival of the next podcast.
 
Here's this week's breakdown:
"Alphas" -- 02:00 - 14:15
"Damages" -- 14:15 - 26:00
"Breaking Bad" -- 26:35 - 37:15
Listener Mail focusing more on TV/Film Actors -- 37:20 - 52:50
"Twin Peaks" -- 52:55 - 01:03:30

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 here's the podcast...

 

<p>The stars of 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'</p>
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The stars of 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'

Credit: FOX

Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'

Viewers may feel towards this show like its leads feel towards their daughters

[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.]

Show: "I Hate My Teenage Daughter"
The Pitch: "Wouldn't it be crazy if a mother hated her teenage daughter?" "Yes. That would be crazy." "Do you know what would be crazier than that?" "Ummm... I'm still overwhelmed by the initial craziness." "TWO mothers who BOTH hate their teenage daughters." "ZOMG. I'm speechless with my desire to give you money to realize this vision."
Quick Response: The entire premise/joke of the show -- 100% of it -- is delivered in the opening 30 seconds, when two women discuss these awful bitches they hate and then those bitches turn out to be... THEIR DAUGHTERS. And that's all there is. For the next 20 minutes, the mothers (Katie Finneran, Jaime Pressly) are shrill and abusive to their daughters and the daughters (Kristi Lauren, Aisha Dee) are shrill and abusive to their mothers. There's no real nuance or creativity to the abuse. It's a lot of unappealing people calling each other "bitch" and "whore." And this isn't one of those shows like "Raising Hope" where you start off saying, "There's no way on Earth these people should be allowed to keep a child" and by the end, you're all "Oh. I get it. They all have love and that's a worthy replacement for common sense, at least in TV-Land." No. The moms are horrible people who shouldn't be allowed to raise children and the daughters are horrible people who actually are deserving of all of the nastiness heaped upon them. Neither daughter has a personality and while Pressly and Finneran's characters are different, they're just different shades of noxious. I don't know what the takeaway is supposed to be, since I detested these people from the beginning and never wavered in my resolve. There was never the twist to indicate that anybody was learning anything from any of this ugliness. Oh and none of it was funny. That's probably a bigger deal than some of that other "I didn't see any life lessons" nonsense. I didn't see any funny. And it's really sad, too, because Pressly has razor-sharp comic timing and Finneran's a freakin' Tony winner. These are not bad actresses. These are not actresses who are incapable of delivering the goods in a multi-cam sitcom. This sure isn't the vehicle. Or maybe the problem is just that I don't have a teenage daughter who I hate. Yeah. Let's say that's what it is.
Desire To Watch Again: Part of me figures that this is a show that may be heading for some tweaking and reworking before it premieres, that FOX couldn't really believe this is a show that will find an audience in its current form. And that part of me wants to see if improvement is possible. I also want to support Chad Coleman (Cutty from "The Wire"). Ultimately, the best thing about "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" is that it's not the worst comedy to get picked up by major network for the 2011-2012 season. Kudos!

Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.

 

<p>The cast of The CW's 'Secret Circle'</p>
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The cast of The CW's 'Secret Circle'

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'

Kevin Williamson gives The CW a solid 'Vampire Diaries' companion

[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.]

Show: "The Secret Circle"
The Pitch: "Get me the most compatible show to 'Vampire Diaries' you can find." "How does same writer working from a book by the same author sound?" "Aces."
Quick Response: Y'all know I'm a "Vampire Diaries" fan. It made my Top 10 list for 2010 and even if it doesn't rank that high for this year, it remains a pleasure I watch without an iota of guilt. "The Secret Circle," at least in its pilot, doesn't seem as good as "Vampire Diaries" at its best, but "Vampire Diaries" wasn't as good as "Vampire Diaries" at its best when it premiered in the fall of 2009. So I guess what I can say about "The Secret Circle" is that it feels like a really compatible match with "Vampire Diaries," though I think it probably skews a bit younger and a bit more female. There's still a common backdrop of a young girl (Britt Robertson) in a town with a supernatural history becoming immeshed in romance, a family legacy and other unnatural oddness. As fans of "Life Unexpected" (I was one... until I wasn't) know, Robertson is a pretty capable young actress within in a specific, limited range and this definitely is asking less of her than her previous short-lived CW melodrama did. I can assure you, though, that whatever her character on "The Secret Circle" is actually named, she's only going to be "Lux" in my notes. The other known quantities in the pilot include a solid Thomas Dekker, plus Gale Harold and Natasha Henstridge who are facing the ignominy of being The Older Generation by The CW standards. Harold is having a particularly good time being hammy and probably-evil, which may be The CW's way of rewarding him for that time he wasted on "Hellcats" last year. My instinct could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the breakout star of "The Secret Circle" is going to be Phoebe Tonkin, the only one of the show's unfamiliar co-stars whose name I went out of my way to learn before the 44 minutes were up. My big fear goes back to something I mentioned when I reviewed the "True Blood" premiere: When witches are too powerful, they make for pretty weak ongoing drama (in my opinion) and this coven is too strong too soon and that leaves me immediately distanced. [Side note: A little diversity really wouldn't hurt this show. I'd hate to think The CW figures that since "Nikita" has an Asian lead, it can return to being mostly a network of pretty, skinny, young white kids. I guess "Hart of Dixie" star Cress Williams is gonna have to represent.]
Desire To Watch Again: I don't want to say my desire to watch again is "strong," but this has the makings of the sort of CW show I could happily watch regularly. We'll see how I actually accomplish that feat, given the brutal time period.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.