<p>The cast of ABC's 'Good Christian Belles'</p>
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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.

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<p>CBS' 'How To Be A Gentleman'</p>
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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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<p>Cheryl Hines and Jane Levy of 'Suburgatory'</p>
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Cheryl Hines and Jane Levy of 'Suburgatory'

Credit: ABC

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

Jane Levy stars in a familiar, but still clever suburban 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: "Suburbatory" (ABC)
The Pitch: "The suburbs are wacky." "Got anything else?" "Well, they're a bit superficial." "OK... and?" "Oh, just go with it and we'll try to make it funny."
Quick Response: "Suburgatory" does NOT blaze any particularly fresh intellectual terrain. Emily Kapnek's script uses a pair of transplanted New Yorkers (Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy as a good-natured father and his uber-sardonic daughter) to reveal that The Suburbs are synthetic and that they force everybody to act and look and talk alike, that they encourage conformity and superficiality. Are you saying you've seen this kinda thing before? Well of course you have. And you've probably seen it done a bit better, whether you happen to have been a fan of the Agrestic seasons of "Weeds" or "American Beauty" or "The 'burbs" or "The Stepford Wives" any of the dozens of similarly askew views of suburban culture. But you don't have to be fresh to be sharp and Kapnek's script shoots through a diverse assortment of pop culture references and hits many of its targets. Levy was a terrific discovery on "Shameless" last season as Mandy Milkovich and it's no surprise that she's got a tart tongue and perfect comic timing with good rhythms and a consistent voice. You could put Levy's Tessa alongside the characters played by Ashley Rickards in "Awkward," Caroline Dhavernas in "Wonderfalls" and animation in "Daria" as part of a recent pantheon of wry teenage observers, or at least it's my belief/hope that the character could develop to earn a place in that pantheon. Levy's definitely good enough to take the character there. Sisto gets good mileage out of his rumpled charm and out of the strangeness of Jeremy Sisto playing the father of a teenage girl, establishing a quick and quality rapport with Levy. The actors representing the suburbanites have been directed to go a wee bit broad and while Alan Tudyk and Cheryl Hines get pilot laughs because, you know, they're good at this, I'm not sure if the types they're playing are sustainable on a network show. After they get softened into real people, we'll see if they're as amusing as they were as caricatures. "Suburgatory" doesn't nail all of its targets and the familiarity -- especially with the recent success of "Awkward" -- is sometimes a drawback, but the pilot shows a lot of potential to mix ironic bite with earnest heart and, if it progresses, I see no reason why it shouldn't fit in nicely between "The Middle" and "Modern Family."
Desire To Watch Again: ABC's got its new comedies about Masculinity in Crisis and then ABC has its new comedies that I like. "Suburgatory" I like. Even if I don't grow to love it, I can definitely see this being a comedy I'll happily check out here and there and appreciate having around in repeat cycles.

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 'Nine Lives of Chloe King' love triangle</p>
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The 'Nine Lives of Chloe King' love triangle

Credit: ABC Family

'Nine Lives of Chloe King' and 'Teen Wolf' finale thoughts

ABC Family and MTV's animalistic teens wrapped their summer runs
Tis the week to say farewell to both of the summer's high profile teen-becomes-an-animal-and-falls-in-love-with-the-child-of-their-nemesis cable dramas.
 
MTV's "Teen Wolf" wrapped up its first season on Monday (August 15) night with a finale that included a few lingering questions, but no pressing cliffhangers. If you're a writer-producer, it's the sort of finale you can turn in if you're confident that you'll be continuing the story a few months down the road. Indeed, MTV renewed "Teen Wolf" weeks ago and new episodes will premiere in 2012 and if the network holds off till the summer again, I'll probably even keep watching, despite the galling awareness that Australian doctorologists say that TV is killing me at a rate of 22 minutes per small screen hour. Since reading the results of that scientifically questionable study, I've been evaluating what percentage of my TV viewing is worth dying for. With "Teen Wolf," I'm certain it's a loss. 
 
While I haven't loved "The Nine Lives of Chloe King," I've found it to be a pleasantly entertaining summertime diversion, low impact but likable. When musing on the TV that's killing me, "The Nine Lives of Chloe King" doesn't go under the heading of TV Worth Dying Slowly For, but unlike "Teen Wolf," it also can't be filed under Oh God, I'm Squandering My Life. It's better suited for the I Probably Wasn't Gonna Do Anything Better With That Time pile, which isn't too shabby.
 
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<p>'Sons of Anarchy' creator Kurt Sutter</p>
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'Sons of Anarchy' creator Kurt Sutter

Credit: FX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 89

Dan and Alan dip into the mailbag and talk 'Breaking Bad'

The

Happy Tuesday, Boys & Girls.
 
It's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast time, a mostly-mailbag edition. 
 
We talk about lots of stuff in the mailbag, including AMC's woes, Kurt Sutter leaving Twitter, the possible "Friday Night Lights" movie and the ways that we write our own reviews.
 
Here's the breakdown:
Recent AMC kerfuffles -- 01:30 - 14:00
Kurt Sutter Twitter kerfuffles -- 14:00 - 21:00
A new "Friday Night Lights" Movie -- 21:25 - 28:00
The greatness of the "FNL" pilot -- 28:00 - 36:40
Our own review-writing process -- 36:40 - 43:00
All-Star Beard Team -- 43:00 - 49:40
"Breaking Bad" -- 49:45 - 01:05:20
 

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...
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<p>Sarah Michelle Gellar of 'Ringer'</p>
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Sarah Michelle Gellar of 'Ringer'

Credit: The CW

Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Ringer'

So far, Sarah Michelle Gellar's TV return can't decide what it wants to be

[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: "Ringer" (The CW)
The Pitch: "You know what would be better than one Sarah Michelle Gellar returning to the small screen? TWO!"
Quick Response: I love my notes for "Ringer." It took only a minute or two to realize that this was going to be the sort of superficial musing on identity and duality that would require as many shots of mirrors as possible. So I just started writing "MIRROR!!!" whenever a character looked yearningly into a bathroom vanity or even saw a reflection in a window. It happened so many times that skimming my notes is like reading a diary entry about a walk in the park written by Doug the Dog from "Up." ["La la. What a beautiful... SQUIRREL!!! ... day. The sun is shin... SQUIRREL!!! .. ing and the birds are sing ... SQUIRREL!!! ... ing.] The thing I'll acknowledge about "Ringer" is that it cuts together as a great trailer. The sizzle reel at upfronts was cool. The teaser that debuted at press tour was, in fact, kinda awesome. But I've seen the pilot and it's trash. Or, at the very least, it's a trashy near-parody of a telenovela. The creators' aspiration may have been aspiring for VERY low-rent Hitchcock, but instead they've gotten very high-gloss Telemundo. Here's where I remind you of the paragraph that presages each of these Take Me To The Pilots entries. Critics were sent a pilot of "Ringer" that contained some laughable green screen effects. It's my guess those will be fixed. Critics were sent a pilot of "Ringer" with some laughable musical cues. It's my hope that those will be fixed and that's part of why I rewatch every pilot before writing actual reviews. Tweaking those bargain-basement touches could easily make the entire "Ringer" pilot play better. You know what won't get fixed? Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose soap opera background hasn't enhanced her ability to clearly delineate between the challenging assortment of characters and characters-pretending-to-be-other-characters she's been asked to play. Gellar's playing twins Bridget and Siobhan and while one is slightly funnier and the other is slightly prissier, they're equally brittle and internalized. Neither is actually interesting. [And I like Gellar on principle. She played countless versions of Buffy over the years and usually made the transitions flawlessly. I don't think Bridget and Shiobhan are written distinctively enough for her to play them distinctively, at least initially.] No amount of pilot tinkering is going to explain why leading men Kristoffer Polaha and Ioan Gruffudd are taking everything so seriously when pilot director Richard Shepard obviously isn't. Actually, I can't tell what Shepard is doing and he's probably at fault for the confused and ultimately damning sense of tone in the "Ringer" pilot. It's almost like he decided to make a telenovela, but didn't clue the actors in. So you've got an over-declarative, non-stop-exposition soap opera script, you've got an even more heavy handed low-budget thriller/soap opera visual approach and then you have the actors moping around like they're in a badly performed indie drama. Nothing gels and nothing is nearly as innovative or shocking as the musical stings want to pretend. The idea that CBS ever would have given serious consideration to programming this show is laughable and yet it doesn't feel like a CW show either. Lifetime, maybe?
Desire To Watch Again: There's an off chance that everybody could get on the same page by the second or third episode and I'll probably give it the chance to get there. On the other hand, I may just watch two or three additional episodes of ABC Family's eerily similar (and definitely no worse) "The Lying Game" and that could sate any appetite I have for any twin-trigue. It's a real problem for The CW that "The Lying Game" is premiering a full month ahead of "Ringer," since ABC Family targets basically the same demo.
Unrelated Side Note: I made a mistake and foregrounded too many of the pilots I kinda liked in this Take Me To The Pilots breakdown. That means that a bunch of the pilots I disliked the most are coming in a long run at the end. And I still have three or four of my least favorite pilots still to come. There are a couple more that I kinda like that I haven't written up yet, but mostly? Bleak.

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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