Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "Arrow" (The CW)
The Pitch: "Remember 'Smallville'? We still have corporate ties to DC. Let's leverage a brand!" "But the guy who was the Green Arrow is already on another of our pilots." "No worries. There's more than one stud muffin on the pastry shelf."
Quick Response: Actually, "Arrow" is less like "Smallville," either in tone or in depiction of its central character, and more like "Nikita," only with a mask and a bow-and-arrow. Directed by David Nutter, the "Arrow" pilot is short on comic book whimsy and long on real-world grounding and muscularity. The entire dark-and-steely aesthetic is, again, much more "Nikita" than "Smallville," and Nutter can always be counted upon to get good production values. Leading Man Stephen Amell has the requisite physicality and his cheekbones are just another facet of the show's intended look. There is a definite decline in his effectiveness when he talks -- ditch the voiceover! -- but his woodenness is far from crippling, except for in scenes with Katie Cassidy, when the conversations are so flat and affectless as to drain all forward momentum. Nobody's going to care about that. Amell's in VERY good shape, you believe he can kick butt and The CW's core demo is going to be appreciative that while his character has scarring over 20 percent of his body, none of that scarring is on the pretty parts. The rest of the supporting cast is full of people I like, including Willa Holland -- Kaitlin Cooper's all grows up! -- Showkiller Paul Blackthorne, Colin Salmon and Susanna Thompson. I also appreciated the efficiency of the origin story (premise-setting efficiency is a hallmark of many of the year's better pilots) and although the core narrative thrust is perhaps a bit too "Revenge"-y for its own good, it seems fruitful enough to carry the show for a while. I mean, "Revenge" could use more people shooting arrows at people. Other than the aforementioned plank-like (and problematically chemistry-free) scenes between Amell and Cassidy (who's fine in her other scenes), the "Arrow" pilot chugs along at a good pace throughout, spiked here and there by well-executed fight and action scenes.
Desire To Watch Again: "Arrow" doesn't break far from a certain branch of CW formula, but it delivers on its goals quite proficiently. I'm not going to say this is inspired TV, but there isn't a lot like it and there's at least an off chance it could draw male viewers in addition to The CW's core. Given that I've stuck with "Nikita" for two full seasons and I don't especially like it, I'll definitely give "Arrow" some additional episodes.