<p>The cast of ABC's &quot;Work It&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

The cast of ABC's "Work It"

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Work It'

If we all cross our fingers, maybe this cross-dressing comedy will never air

[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: "Work It" (ABC)
The Pitch: "Apparently ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee loves drag comedies and has absolutely NO standards when it comes to what makes him laugh. Let's test the limits of that theory."
Quick Response: Last and certainly least, it's time to end this lengthy Take Me To The Pilots journey with "Work It," which isn't necessarily the worst ordered pilot I've seen in my years on this job, but it's pretty darned close. It's arguably worse than "Outsources" or "Feces My Dad Says." It's as bad or worse than "Brothers." It's worse than "Emily's Reasons Why Not" and far worse than "The Ortegas" and "Thick and Thin," three shows that were weak enough that a combined ONE episode aired for all three. There's an ugly broadness to this drag comedy that suggests it might have seemed cutting edge in 1976, but that decades of human consciousness and sitcom evolution passed it by, probably decades ago. "Work It" stumbles an unpleasant line between misogyny and gynophobia and I think it settles more on the latter, evincing a paranoid distaste for women in general and strong women in particular that permeates the dialogue and all of the portrayals. [The exception that veers into pure hatred for women would be John Caparulo's Brian, possibly the least likable character in television history, no exaggeration, who gets to utter likes like "When the women take over, they'll make pride illegal. That and eating on the toilet" to the squealing approval of the "audience."] Stars Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco commit with almost no evident winking that the premise they're adhering to -- a car salesman and a mechanic are out of work because of the "mancession" so they cross-dress to get work as pharma girls -- is idiotic and unfunny. [I'm not even going to get into how implausibly ridiculous Koldyke and Nolasco look as women, because presumably it's intentional. Unfortunately, their ability to get away with the charade only adds to the show's "Women are dumb poo-poo heads" ethos, which probably isn't intentional.] I guess that's admirable? In some way? It's admirable enough that I felt bad for Koldyke. And worse for Rebecca Mader, who hopefully will escape from her supporting role here. But anyway, it's not enough that "Work It" is an '80s sitcom. TV Land has made a cottage industry out of dated '80s sitcoms in semi-modern contexts. But it's a BAD '80s sitcom. Amidst dialogue about the ace bandage used to conceal his man business, Nolasco's character actually justifies his participation in this farce by observing "I'm Puerto Rican. I'd be great at selling drugs." And witty bon mots like that -- and similarly toned jokes about emasculation, prostate exam rape and how much women enjoy dieting -- proliferate. And it's a CHEAP '80s sitcom. The generic office and bar sets are bad, but there's a night club sequence at the end that takes the Weak-Ass Art Direction cake (should such a cake exist). Anyway, "Work It" is excruciatingly bad, but what's worse is what ABC and specifically Paul Lee are saying through the show, saying both *to* critics -- "We didn’t think this room would like it, and there’s some pleasure in that," Lee told us at press tour last month -- and *about* supposedly "average" TV viewers. There's room on TV for good farce and for smartly delivered blue collar, politically incorrect comedy, but pity ABC if anybody there believes that's what this is.
Desire To Watch Again: Wanna know how you know these entries aren't reviews? I've gone EASY on "Work It." I'd love to watch one or two more episodes so that I can really tear into it for my review. Of course, I have some doubts that we're ever going to actually see "Work It" on TV. That would be a fine alternative. Because here's the thing: I assume that every spring there are a dozen pilots produced that are as bad as "Work It," pilots that seemed like good ideas at one point or another (to somebody), but just didn't come together. It's exactly what the pilot process is there for. I don't think the people involved with "Work It" had a malicious plan to make an embarrassing sitcom. I just think that for a variety of reasons, what they tried failed. But normally, those pilots just don't get picked up and nobody ever has to acknowledge that they existed. I no longer have that luxury, but audiences still could.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Bent'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Scandal'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Smash'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

 

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<p>David Walton and Amanda Peet of &quot;Bent&quot;</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

David Walton and Amanda Peet of "Bent"

Credit: NBC

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

David Walton and Amanda Peet are charming, if not funny in this midseason comedy

 [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: "Bent" (NBC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: Hard to know, exactly. But for NBC it probably had a little something to do with Amanda Peet. Wait. Try this: "What if there were sexual tension between Murphy Brown and Eldin?"
Quick Response: Actually, I'll confess: It's been a LONG time since I last watched "Murphy Brown." Murphy and Eldin -- he of the never-ending painting job -- never actually consummated their client/contractor relationship, did they? Eldin was just a friend, confidante and surrogate father of sorts, right? Anyway... "Bent" is *kinda* a Vocational Irony Narrative insofar as it's the story of a complicated repair job that superficially will involve a single house (or a single kitchen), but really will involve the tear-down and build-up of the two main characters (Amanda Peet and David Walton), presumably through a relationship that will heal two souls which are "bent, not broken." I'm almost intrigued by how creator Tad Quill plans on spinning out this finite premise, especially since the pilot is EXTREMELY loose and doesn't quite know exactly what it wants to be. You've got Peet at the center and she's playing the Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock part from a big screen romantic comedy: She's trying to be cold and tough and professional, but you know she'll melt in the third act (which isn't sustainable on a TV show). Walton, on his third NBC comedy in three seasons, has a different, sitcom-y broadness too him, but he's an interesting piece of against-type casting here, the eternal lunkheaded ex-boyfriend actually getting to be Mr. Right. Then you've got the contracting team run by Walton's character, a rag-tech ethnic hodge-podge featuring Pasha D. Lychnikoff, Rick Gonzalez and Jeffrey Tambor. The scenes with those three are broader, but I appreciated the speed with which Quill gave their work relationship a smarter-than-necessary history (making one recognize the sheer laziness a show like "2 Broke Girls" exhibits in relying on caricature to introduce its supporting characters). And then, finally, you've got the flighty relatives to Peet's character, the Neurotic Sitcom Daughter (Joey King) and the Free Spirited Sister (Margo Harshman). Walton and Peet have chemistry (though Walton also had chemistry with Mary Elizabeth Ellis on "Perfect Couples) and there are amusing touches in the background. It's a lot of elements, without a clear hook. And the result isn't a tonally coherent whole. And yet the result is likable and oddly charming, if rarely laugh-out-loud funny.
Desire To Watch Again: Watched after "Free Agents" and "Whitney," "Bent" got an extra boost. It's more likely to find a midseason home after "Up All Night" after "Free Agents" fails. That may not be a bad home for it and if "Up All Night" matures into something good, I might watch "Bent" for a while. As it stands, I'm interested in seeing what a second episode looks like. [Actually, as it stands, I'm far more interested in seeing what the heck "Up All Night" looks like these days... Hopefully that'll arrive soon.]

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Scandal'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Smash'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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<p>The cast of ABC's &quot;Scandal&quot;</p>
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The cast of ABC's "Scandal"

Credit: ABC

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

Kerry Washington leads a solid cast in this flashy, implausible 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: "Scandal" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: Does Shonda Rhimes even need to pitch ABC anymore? Whatever Shonda wants, Shonda gets.
Quick Response: Yep, it's a Vocational Irony Narrative. Our main character is a Washington DC "fixer" who can fix everything, except for her own life. What the heck is a fixer? Dunno. They're sortta lawyer-journalist-detective-mediator-spies? Or something? If there's a problem, yo they'll solve it, might be Vanilla Ice's explanation. Shonda Rhimes' explanation might be, "Fixers do whatever we want fixers to do, fix whatever needs fixing." The "Scandal" pilot is full of wild implausibilities, coincidences and gaping logical flaws and yet I kinda enjoyed it. It's VERY slick. Director Paul McGuigan ("Sherlock," "Lucky Number Slevin") is a master of superficial fun and dam-the-torpedos-ditch-the-questions pacing and the script is full of dialogue and character details that are clever and probably don't invite any additional analysis. What "Scandal" has going for it in particular is Kerry Washington, who probably ought to have been a star four or five years ago, not to dare accuse Hollywood of institutional racism or providing only limited options for minority actors. Definitely not. Washington's Olivia is like a super-powered version of Sarah Shahi's "Fairly Legal" character, which isn't a compliment in terms of originality, but it's not an insult either. Washington is good. And the cast around her isn't bad either. Columbus Short is, like Washington, another actor who should have been given a break like this a while ago and he's solid. Then you've got familiar character actors like Guillermo Diaz, Jeff Perry, Josh Malina and, playing the President of the United States with a perfect amount of icky unctuousness, Tony Goldwyn. Some percentage of the audience will be drawn by "Lost" veteran Henry Ian Cusick and while the erstwhile Desmond isn't bad, he's doing an accent which conspicuously isn't Scottish and equally conspicuously isn't consistently anything identifiable. I ask for the millionth time: If you have an actor like Cusick, why not do three seconds of writing to explain why his character had to abruptly leave Glasgow, rather than squashing the most identifiable aspect of said actor's presence. Sigh. In any case, "Scandal" sets itself up decently with the prospect of micro cases involving the Fixing-of-the-Week, as well as whatever macro scandal involves Olivia and The President. That allows for possible storytelling versatility and a format that could let "Scandal" be a fun kinda character-driven uber-procedural. It's definitely better (for one episode) than "Off the Map" and "Private Practice" on Shonda Rhimes' non-"Anatomy" ABC resume.
Desire To Watch Again: If ABC were to give "Scandal" the post-"Grey's Anatomy" slot on Thursdays, I'd definitely watch a couple more episodes for the cast and somewhat unfamiliar angle. There are a couple other time periods in which I'd also give it more of a look. But there are more competitive slots in which I'd probably tune out sooner. I'm guessing some viewers will feel the same way. [The publicity still with this story is really dumb. Goldwyn's character is the President of the United States. Why is he just standing around in the back row with this office of fixers? In *their* office? The office, by the way, is a strong piece of production design, but it raises some of those "Please don't ask..." questions I mentioned earlier.]

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Smash'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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<p>Katharine McPhee of 'Smash'</p>
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Katharine McPhee of 'Smash'

Credit: NBC

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

Katharine McPhee stars in what is almost the Anti-'Glee'

 [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: "Smash" (NBC)
The Pitch: "It's 'Glee'... Only for people who like their musical theater undefiled."
Quick Response: Although the instinct is to think of "Smash" as NBC's answer to "Glee," the network's decision to air this midseason drama at 10 p.m. isn't an accident. The network hasn't scheduled "Smash" at 10 at the risk of narrowing its audience, but rather scheduled it at 10 p.m. in recognition that "Smash" probably isn't going to be for everybody. "Glee" twists itself into pretzel shapes to be a Big Tent show, an Everybody's Special, Everybody's Welcome show. And "Smash" is not "Glee," which is what I appreciated most from the pilot. It's a serious-minded, process-oriented, Let's Put On a Show drama in which love for Broadway and love for the IDEA of the legitimate musical theatre isn't just paid lip-service. And I liked that. It's an adult show in which people sing a lot. As such, I think "Smash" is actually a far riskier show than "Glee" ever was. To paraphrase The Bard, the musical's the thing and even though "Smash" features Emmy winners (Debra Messing) and Oscar winners (Anjelica Huston) and Tony winners (incomparable "Rubicon" co-star Michael Cristofer) and "American Idol" near-winners (Kat McPhee) and recognizable Broadway folks like Brian d'Arcy James and Megan Hilty and Christian Borle and recognizable TV folks like Jack Davenport and Dylan Baker, there's no indication that anybody thinks themself above the ensemble. Everybody's just playing their role and everybody's doing it well enough and within the proper limitations. So do I think Katharine McPhee is an evolved thespian? Well no. But do I think she looks beautiful, sings well and conveys the necessary innocence as a callow ingenue? Absolutely. Messing, Huston, Davenport, really everybody has been smartly cast and there are no sore thumbs sticking out. There are dangers to doing a TV show or movie about an original musical and the biggest danger is that the people on-screen will be raving about the brilliance of a new song which, in point of fact, is only so-so. I felt that with the original song in the pilot and fear it's an inevitable ongoing concern [Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are established Broadway hitmakers, so their involvement obviously isn't a bad sign. Perhaps future original songs from the show-within-a-show Marilyn Monroe musical will be better.]. I also found "Smash" to be an oddly "cold" show, focused-yet-distanced, in a way that's opposite from "Glee," which is a "hot" show, pandering-and-universal. I'd think this were a choice that had been made, but since upfronts, NBC brass have been talking about the emotional reactions people have had to "Smash." Tears and whatnot. I had none, ending up interested but not involved. But I appreciated the cast, appreciated the serious approach to the subject matter and appreciated the New York specificity. I wonder how long the show will be able to stay methodical and semi-realistic, before process has to be pushed aside for sensationalism.
Desire To Watch Again: Appreciation isn't love or passion, but it will definitely be enough to bring me back. I liked the slowness of "Smash" -- the auditioning, the search for financing, the writing-within-the-writing -- and I hope the show won't feel the need to accelerate or to cut corners.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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<p>The cast of ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

The cast of ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'

Midseason Texas dramedy has hit potential, which doesn't mean it's good

 [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: "Good Christian Belles" [Or "G.C.B" if ABC is being coy.] (ABC) [Midseason] 
The Pitch: "Desperate Housewives: Southern Edition"
Quick Response: ABC has always stunk a capitalizing on available resources. "Lost" was always a useless launching pad for new shows. "Desperate Housewives" somewhat launched "Grey's Anatomy," but then it was used to prop up "Brothers & Sisters" for far too long. "Castle" is about to end its fourth season taking advantage of "Dancing with the Stars," because why would the network every try using that slot for a different show? What I'm saying is that ABC could have spawned all manner of "Desperate Housewives" thematic spinoffs five years ago when the show was a hit. Instead, "Good Christian Belles" is a perfect pairing with "Desperate Housewives" at exactly the moment "Desperate Housewives" may be too tired to support it. Of course, "Good Christian Belles" is too tired to have been paired with "Desperate Housewives" in its half-a-season-peak. I'm certain there will be a group of people who love this pilot. I fear that sort of love requires a very specific appreciation for ridiculously broad, superficial, grating Texas -- not "Southern" as I initially wrote -- semi-parody, semi-camp, semi-soap, wholly-nothing. Because "Good Christian Belles" is BROAD and SUPERFICIAL and GRATING. It's like a higher budgeted -- but no better -- tonal companion for ABC's dreadful and short-lived translation of "Scoundrels." And it also, I'm very, very sad to say, provides one of the first pieces of evidence in recent memory that Kristin Chenoweth is fallible. Chenoweth is such a peculiar talent that it's astounding how well she's been utilized in recent years, but after specializing in annoying-yet-lovable, she's finally stumbled on a role that's only annoying and which throws off the calibration of everything around it. She's also too old to be believable as a former high school classmate of Leslie Bibb, who puts a lot of effort into keeping "GCB" afloat on perkiness alone. I found myself liking Bibb -- who I've always thought had the necessary gung-ho spirit to be a comedy star -- despite the show, which is exactly the opposite reaction from what I've heard from a couple colleagues. I dunno. I could be wrong. Some people are going to be just giddy that one character has dogs named "Tony" and "Romo" and will just giggle up a storm at the idea of a formerly rich character now being so poor she can only afford to live in FT. WORTH. To me, every beat felt like a desperate -- flop-sweat desperate -- attempt to simultaneously mock and celebrate everything from Texas to religion to femininity, while managing to do neither. One problem with a revenge-based pilot in which you don't really like any of the characters is that you can't choose who ought to be getting their comeuppance. Or you just don't care.
Desire To Watch Again: Well, Leslie Bibb's character does get a job at a Hooters-esque bar/restaurant named Boobylicious (yes, this show is subtle) and the character is forced to dress the part. That may be enough to get me to watch the show. But I'm so blatantly not in any of the target demographics for "Good Christian Belles" and as unpleasant as I found this pilot, I wouldn't be even slightly surprised if it somehow became a hit.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

Read Full Post
<p>CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'</p>
<div id="myEventWatcherDiv" style="display:none;">&nbsp;</div>

CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'

Credit: CBS

Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'

A promising cast yields forgettable results, at least for the pilot

[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: "How To Be a Gentleman" (CBS)
The Pitch: "It's a reverse Pygmalion with a buddy comedy twist... Or something."
Quick Response: "How To Be a Gentleman" is the last of the fall pilots to get the Take Me To The Pilots treatment. I did a half-dozen midseason shows earlier and the reason for that is that I had more to say about those shows. I had more to say, in fact, about almost every single show ordered for fall or midseason. But that cuts both ways. "How To Be a Gentlemen" is just very "meh," which doesn't mean that it's dreadful, but it also doesn't mean that there was anything about it that I latched onto as memorable. Part of me likes to think that the whole series is just a Pygmalion episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" in which The Gang somehow was able to train David Hornsby's Rickety Cricket to become a gentleman and then rather than pulling the rug out from him at the end, they just left him in unnaturally civilized shape. But since it's Cricket, we all know that eventually, he's going to bottom out again. As it stands now, "How To Be a Gentleman" is a comedy that needs to be let loose, that needs to stop wallowing in a core premise that's at least 15 years behind the cultural curve (something about a GQ-style magazine attempting to fight off the Maximi-ization of society). It's unclear how much of the ongoing premise is going to be about Hornsby's character's week-to-week efforts to change Kevin Dillon's lunkheaded trainer (and vice versa), but I'm not sure who will be served by sticking to that formula. As it stands now, this is the sort of sitcom you can imagine Johnny Drama [Dillon isn't asked to flex any new acting muscles] landing in the finale of "Entourage," but it isn't the type of comedy that's going to make proper use of Hornsby, Rhys Darby, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nancy Lenehan and David Foley. That's a lot of comedic fire-power and while it isn't entirely squandered in the pilot, nobody's got the sort of character initially capable of utilizing them to their full potential. But in addition to being a funny in-front-of-the-camera guy, Hornsby had a long run as a writer on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," so I have at least some confidence in him and his ability to recognize the value of the full ensemble here. Eventually. I don't know if "How To Be A Gentleman" quite fits after "The Big Bang Theory," but I'm guessing it could be smarter than the shows that aired in that time period last year, not that "Feces My Dad Says" and "Rules of Engagement" raised the bar very high.
Desire To Watch Again: I'm curious. And it's a time slot in which I end up being generous, once I've already watched "Big Bang Theory" anyway (and with the NBC comedies either frequently available via screener or else easily accessible OnDemand in a way that CBS comedies rarely are). But it's hard to get excited by something this average.

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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<p>Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff of 'Sons of Anarchy'</p>
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Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff of 'Sons of Anarchy'

Credit: FX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 90

Dan and Alan mostly talk 'Sons of Anarchy' and 'Breaking Bad'

The

Happy Wednesday, Boys and Girls.
 
Apologies for this delayed, mid-week installment of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
 
And even more apologies for next week, when Alan's vacation will actually leave us podcast-free.
 
And then minor apologies for the following week, when Monday is Labor Day and we won't podcast until at least Tuesday.
 
Sorry.
 
Now here's the breakdown for this week's podcast:
"I Just Want My Pants Back" -- 02:00 - 11:00
"Sons of Anarchy" -- 11:00 - 20:30
Listener Mail -- 20:30 - 42:00
"Breaking Bad" -- 42:20 - 01:05:30

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...
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<p>Maria Bello of 'Prime Suspect.' Hat not included.</p>
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Maria Bello of 'Prime Suspect.' Hat not included.

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Prime Suspect'

Maria Bello anchors what could be a solid police procedural

[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: "Prime Suspect" (NBC)
The Pitch: "We keep threatening to remake 'Prime Suspect.' This time, it's actually gonna happen."
Quick Response: The first and most important thing that has to be said regarding "Prime Suspect" is that I was neither annoyed by nor enamored of the Trilby hat worn by Maria Bello's Jane Timoney. I think it's probably notable that so many people are obsessing over something as silly as a hat in "Prime Suspect." Ultimately, it turns out that the NBC "Prime Suspect" is neither a disgrace to all things Helen Mirren-related, nor is it a vindication of the years spent attempting to transplant this property Stateside. For the positive feelings that the NBC "Prime Suspect" engenders, much credit must go to Maria Bello, who isn't Helen Mirren, but is certainly an assertive and watchable leading lady by most any other standard. Bello's tough and a little funny and when she unravels, especially at the end of the pilot, she's quite outstanding. Once you accept that filling Mirren's shoes was always going to be an impossible standard and acknowledge that remake creator Alexandra Cunningham didn't even give Bello's character the "Jane Tennison" name, any negative comparison would be pointless and petty. Bello is very good here. That's what matters. Also boosting the "Prime Suspect" pilot is Peter Berg's direction, which nails the obligatory grit and texture of the New York City setting, but doesn't set such an insurmountable standard that future directors will be unable to replicate the look. Working against "Prime Suspect" is the superfluousness of a brand name that really isn't going to be meaningful for anywhere near enough viewers for it to possibly make a difference (though NBC may welcome a healthy PBS-sized viewer influx in a way that a network like CBS probably wouldn't). The pilot leans heavily (and heavy-handedly) on squad-room sexism and practically makes all of the characters around Timoney into irredeemable misogynists, but the producers have already said that's not going to be a central conflict moving forward. [That's part of why there's no point in critiquing the supporting performances by folks like Brian F. O'Byrne, Kirk Acevedo and Aidan Quinn. I suspect they'll be different characters by Week 2.] So "Prime Suspect" is just a police procedural with troubled female detective at the center, which doesn't require or invite any mandatory associations with an Emmy-winning PBS property. And Timoney isn't even *that* troubled. She's reckless. She's quitting smoking. She's not opposed to drinking. She's political. But she's not so bad. So the struggle for Cunningham and Berg going forward won't be living up to the "Prime Suspect" brand, but being distinctive enough to be worth the effort at all. As it stands, "Prime Suspect" could become indistinguishable from something like CBS' forgettable "Unforgettable," which wouldn't do the brand or the talent involved any justice. As it stands, the "Prime Suspect" pilot is a notch above the "Unforgettable" pilot, but the gap isn't as big as it probably should be.
Desire To Watch Again: Episode 2 of "Prime Suspect" is actually much more important than the pilot. The pilot was just getting over the hurdle of landing a leading lady, getting something on film/video and, of course, selecting the right hat. The second episode is going to say what the American "Prime Suspect" is going to be. As such, I'm actually really interested in seeing it. There's a version of "Prime Suspect" that I would watch on a weekly basis because I like and respect Bello and her potential to make this character her own. There's also a version of "Prime Suspect" that would be the sort of procedural I'd probably never watch again. This -- Thursday at 10 p.m. -- is a time slot that produces conflicts for other viewers, but my schedule is clear enough to possibly even give "Prime Suspect" a handful of episodes in which to find itself.  So we'll see!

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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<p>The cast of 'Man Up!'</p>

The cast of 'Man Up!'

Credit: ABC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Man Up!'

Single-camera ensemble piece is the best of ABC's Men in Peril comedies

[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: "Man Up!" (ABC)
The Pitch: The missing entry in last year's Couples At Different Stages in Relationships Value Pack, albeit with a clear focus within this season's Masculinity In Crisis Value Pack. [ABC has the only surviving entry from the Couples At Different Stages in Relationships Value Pack with "Happy Endings," which didn't *exactly* fit the trope to begin with.]
Quick Response: Let's hear it for improvement-by-association! ABC's "Man Up!" is not especially funny, but if watched in immediate proximity to ABC's "Work It" and "Last Man Standing," it goes from "innocuously unimaginative" to "weirdly palatable" in the space of 44 minutes (the running time of the other two comedies). Of last season's Couples At Different Stages in Relationships Value Pack entries, "Man Up!" is probably most like FOX's "Traffic Light," right down to the apparent conceit of intercutting conversations between our three male leads, who now talk their way through video games on their head-sets, rather than talking through their commutes on cell phones. The "Man Up!" leads -- Dan Fogler, Chris Moynihan and Mather Zickel -- are uniformly likable on a very low level (mostly enough that you don't dislike them). Fogler continuing his small-screen rut as The Guy You Hire If Tyler Labine or Josh Gad Aren't Available. I think the Tony winner is better than that, but you wouldn't know it here. Zickel has a muted Ty Burrell thing going, which isn't bad. And Moynihan wrote the pilot, which you could almost guess from watching it, since the writer thinks a lot of Moynihan's character. Neither Amanda Detmer nor Teri Polo contribute much as token females, but that's more because Moynihan hasn't decided if he wants the women to be contributing partners-in-comedy, or just to be arms-folded window-dressing. I know that Henry Simmons has a featured role here, but after watching all of ABC's other new comedies before this one, this was the pilot that finally forced me to write, "GOD. I'm so sick of middle-class white people whining about their lives" in my notes. That particular fatigue may not set in if you don't watch "Work It," "Last Man Standing," plus "Apartment 23" and "Suburgatory," both of which I actually liked, immediately before it. I hope Moynihan realizes that Simmons is playing a character who has basically been written as The Old Spice Guy and stops to ponder the racial implications therein. But anywho... Unlike "Last Man Standing" and "Work It," "Man Up!" at least doesn't place the blame for the alleged Masculinity In Crisis on women, which is a welcome relief. It's more that men have become "man-ish," rather than "manly," through lack of opportunities for masculinity, rather than through neutering. I don't know if I bought it, but I was less offended by it. That doesn't sound like much, but it's something. And I think I laughed once or twice at "Man Up!" which also doesn't sound like much, but it's something.
Desire To Watch Again: Just because "Man Up!" is mostly painless, that doesn't mean I want to watch more than another courtesy episode. And because it's paired with the much less painless "Last Man Standing," my ability to care after that second courtesy viewing will be limited. [I need also need ABC to explain to me why "Man Up!" contains an "!" but "Work It" doesn't. Surely "Work It" is every bit as emphatic an order? Silly typography.]

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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<p>Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn of 'Free Agents'</p>
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Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn of 'Free Agents'

Credit: NBC

Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Free Agents'

Talented writer. Talented director. Talented cast. Awful pilot.

[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: "Free Agents" (NBC)
The Pitch: I honestly don't know.
Quick Response: I haven't seen the original British "Free Agents," so I don't know the source material, but somewhere something went horrible wrong with "Free Agents." It's not just that it's a single camera comedy without any laughs and in which the squandered punchlines -- 98 percent of them puerile sexual banter -- lead to 22 minutes of cringing without even a single smile. No. What's crushing about "Free Agents" is that it was written by Jon Enbom ("Party Down") and directed by Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle"), two men of such prodigious talent that I'm not sure how, even by accident, they could botch a half-hour comedy's tone and pacing this badly. And then you move to the cast. Hank Azaria's a funny guy, though he's never really been funny as a leading man, has he? He's always been an extraordinarily valuable character actor, working in both comedic and dramatic contexts. Maybe that's also always been the case with Kathryn Hahn, who I'm certain I've found hilarious in the past, but maybe only in supporting roles. Anthony Head's got his "Buffy" bona fides and he's playing a character he originated on the British series, but he's stuck as an outrageous boss who, isn't outrageously funny. You're supposed to be shocked by the things Head's character is saying -- think Philip Baker Hall in "The Loop" as one fine example -- but instead of being shocked, I though "OK, so this guy's a tool." I know she's an acquired taste, but Natasha Leggero's made me laugh in the past, as has Joe LoTruglio. And Leggero and LoTruglio were definitely the two least painful parts of the pilot. But overall? Serious discomfort and unpleasantness. I'd say "Free Agents" ranked above only "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" and "Work It" in this year's comedy pack. Worst of all, it's not like "Free Agents" fails in the process of trying to be different or innovative or to push the boundaries of the genre. It fails in taking any recognizably human traits from any of the main characters and making them grotesque, then wedging them into a generic workplace sitcom. Seriously, look at the gallery picture accompanying this post. How uncomfortable to Azaria and Hahn look? That's how uncomfortable the pilot feels.
Desire To Watch Again: If I had an iota less good faith in reserve for the people involved, I would gladly never watch "Free Agents" again. But Enbom and Holland have given me a lot of good laughs. And I like Azaria and Hahn, or I've liked them in the past. And Anthony Head is freakin' Giles, which will always be a mark in his favor. Remember how I said that I'd save that one scene from "Whitney" before scrapping the rest of that pilot? There's no one scene I'd save from "Free Agents." So Episode 2 is guaranteed to be better. Look at me being all optimistic. Go, "Free Agents"!

Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Suburgatory'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Terra Nova'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Whitney'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Pan Am'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'Alcatraz'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's ' 'The River'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Last Man Standing'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Two Broke Girls'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Up All Night'
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.

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