Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Odyssey'
[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: "Odyssey" (NBC - MIDSEASON)
The Pitch: "It's 'Traffic' meets 'Homeland' meets whatever's on the front page of the newspaper today."
Quick Response: First off, I wanna credit the ambition of Adam Armus & Nora Kay Foster's script and Peter Horton's directing/producing in this ensemble political thriller, which uses 51 minutes to introduce three interlocking stories and well over a dozen characters and an assortment of ripped-from-the-headlines plotlines that run the gamut from "familiar because you've seen them in movies or TV or in the news" to "nonsensical blather that presumably will make sense down the road." "Odyssey" is a project that aims high and even though it's 100 percent destined for failure, I would ALWAYS rather watch a flawed pilot with big dreams than a generic procedural. But I'm not sure a show like "Odyssey" has ever succeeded on network TV and nothing in Horton's admirable resume, nor the less expansive resumes of the writers gives me any confidence in their ability to deliver the story they think they want to tell on a network that won't have a clue how to get people to watch it anyway. This is a cable show or, more likely, a movie and while it's at least a boon that nobody will make "Odyssey" do 22 episodes, I'm not sure I'm engaged enough in the ragtag assortment of plotlines for even a limited series. There are many tiers here working with different levels of success. I really liked Anna Friel as a soldier who finds herself trapped behind not-exactly-enemy-lines. Friel gets just enough vulnerability to be human, but she's got a tough, smart, resourceful character and I appreciated that. I was less interested in the NYC-set exposition dump in which Peter Facinelli plays a formerly idealistic attorney now working for dirty investment group. As "Nurse Jackie" proved, Facinelli is a much more interesting actor when he isn't just playing the earnest pretty guy and when he can use his formerly underutilized comic chops. He's entirely earnest here and, like I said, that character's plotline is entirely people explaining what they're doing and hinting at their place in a Vast Conspiracy I'm sure inevitably goes All The Way To The Top. Then there's the Occupy-style plotline that involves an OK turn by Jake Robinson as a scruffy movement leader, but also several misguidedly cartoonish supporting players, including a wacky conspiracy-nut hacker who yells things like, "Ma! You've gotta see this! It's a cover-up!" Some interesting actors are floating on the periphery, but the pilot doesn't give Treat Williams, Jim True-Frost or Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje enough to do. Horton moves ably between the storyline, but he's got one storyline that mostly works, one storyline that needs less people talking and more doing and then one storyline that seems lifted from a much, much worse show and should probably be reconceived entirely. I like that "Odyssey" has things on its mind, but it needs to be a bit lighter on its feet to function in a 42-minutes-per-week world and there's so much introducing that's necessary in a pilot that I can't guess what Week 4 or Week 7 will feel like and that, then, is where confidence in network/creator/showrunners comes in and I get nervous.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate. "Odyssey" *does* feel different from anything currently on network TV and that'll get me in the door for another couple episodes. I want to support aspiration, but I hope the two non-Friel plotlines settle in a bit better in a hurry. [Both of NBC's midseason dramas, "Allegiance" and "Odyssey," are better than the lame upfronts clip reels the network cut together.]
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