Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Red Widow'
Radha Mitchell stands out in a pilot better suited for cable
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"Red Widow" (ABC) [Midseason]
The Pitch: "It's a semi-cinematic, female-driven thriller that probably belongs on cable in the vein of 'Missing' so when it's cancelled, we can claim it was a miniseries and gun for Emmy nominations in that way." Alternatively: "It's 'Scoundrels' only not funny. Wait. 'Scoundrels' wasn't funny either."
Quick Response: It's strange. I'm interested in "Red Widow," but my problem with it as a series is that the official ABC description of the series *begins* with a key event that happens more than two-thirds of the way into the pilot, an event that won't surprise anybody given the name of the show, but which is still drawn out and drawn out and drawn out so much that by the time the pilot ends, you're not unengaged, but you also don't have a clue what the series is. ABC has a long description of what happens as the show progresses with Radha Mitchell's eventually eponymous Marta -- Woman goes toe-to-toe with the mob after her husband is murdered -- which is probably because they've seen the Dutch series "Penoza" [which has me shaking my fist at the sky and yelling "MENDOZA!!!"], but what's here gives viewers very little to latch onto as an ongoing show. Just as people who watched "Missing" did so because Ashley Judd was a strong and compelling leading lady (and because the European settings were pretty), the key draw to "Red Widow" is going to be Radha Mitchell, who I've always felt was hampered as a movie actress by only getting Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts' leftovers. If you look over her resume, though, Mitchell has often been a solid leading lady and I think a good TV vehicle is a tremendous career improvement for her. [Don't get me started on my ongoing theory that there are only 10 actresses (possibly fewer) whose careers wouldn't be better off if they stopped making awful movies and committed to a good TV show.] Whether "Red Widow" proves to be that vehicle, Mitchell keeps the pilot watchable at all times and she's got some fine character actors working around her, including Lee Tergesen and Rade Serbedzija. Pilot director Mark Pellington lays the atmosphere on thick and "Red Widow" looks fantastic, but what Pellington can't do is obscure the reality that Melissa Rosenberg has written a pilot script that either should be 15 or 20 minutes longer (and therefore probably on cable) or a script that could have been condensed easily into the opening 15 minutes of an alternative network pilot that actually got to the point with more directness. I just don't see how this story, told in this specific and deliberate way, can possibly succeed on ABC, either creatively or on ratings terms. To me, it feels like best case scenario, "Red Widow" fails on ABC, but is released as a very satisfying DVD set. Yay?
Desire To Watch Again: Because the first episode is entirely table-setting, I have a strong desire to see what the second episode of "Red Widow" will be, because presumably that'll be more illustrative of the ongoing series as a whole. Maybe. I'm not sure I endorse this is a method of pilot-making: Delivering a pilot exactly good enough to make viewers skeptically curious, rather than delivering something good enough for unqualified optimism. Really, this is the pilot you send to series after "Missing" is a hit. I mean, she's a butt-kicking woman who still says things like "I will protect my children at any cost." This isn't a pilot you send to series after "Missing" failed. Oh well. I'm sure they know what they're doing at ABC. [Disclaimer: Dan is not sure of any such thing, even if ABC is doing a bunch of encouraging things as well.]
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Cult'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Next Caller'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Following'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Family Tools'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Infamous'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries
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