Take me to the Pilots '16: Fox's 'The Exorcist'


Cast: Geena Davis, Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Brianne Howey, Hannah Kasulka, Kurt Egyiawan
Team: Jeremy Slater, James Robinson, David Robinson, Barbara Wall, William Peter Blatty, Rupert Wyatt
A modern reinvention inspired by William Blatty’s 1971 book, the drama is a propulsive, serialized psychological thriller following two very different men tackling one family’s case of horrifying demonic possession, and confronting the face of true evil.

[I'll remind you at the top of every single one of these: These entries are not reviews. They're gut reactions to not-for-air pilots that could change in big and small ways between now and September or October or midseason. Full reviews will come then. They'll be longer. And more carefully considered. The opinions may even change. Who knows?]

Show: The Exorcist (Fox)
The Pitch: "Has anybody ever done a TV show about demonic possession or exorcisms?" "Scripted or unscripted?" "Ummm...." "Yes. To both. Dozens." "We have 'Tubular Bells.' " "Why didn't you lead with that?"
Quick Response: Man, Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" is some evocative stuff and I'll admit that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up when "Tubular Bells" finally played in the waning moments of Fox's new Exorcist pilot, which was the only time I reacted to the pilot in any way. Almost nothing really happens in the pilot and there's very little to be scared by, unless you're really susceptible to people getting terrified by characters walking up behind them unannounced or you're easily jarred by the soundtrack blasting up the volume on a loudly dying bird for effect or you're the sort of person unable not to respond viscerally to representations of demonically possessed children even if you've seen virtually the identical representation a dozen times, albeit perhaps not as nicely photographed. Lots of people fit into one of those three camps, I guess. I needed evidence of something more. As was the case with Fox's Lethal Weapon, The Exorcist gets some juice from a feature director (Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Rupert Wyatt in this case) working with a budget and production time nobody will ever get again. A couple times I was like, "Oooh. Nice crane/dolly/whatever shot" followed quickly by, "But what did it accomplish?" The answer is rarely more than "prettiness." The cast is all grimly serious, but decent. Geena Davis looks prolongedly concerned, Ben Daniels chews scenery with great determination and Alfonso Herrera is faithfully glum, but the performance I liked best came from Alan Ruck, because I couldn't figure out what he was playing and I kinda want to figure out. If The Exorcist were designed as a limited series of maybe eight episodes, I might be cool with both the slow-burn start and the determination not to do an exorcist-of-the-week procedural, but this was just a limp, gloomy prolong that seems to begin only as it's ending. After 45 minutes, I should be able to tell what the smart pitch was for a property like this, but the freshness or killer angle elude me.
Desire to Watch Again: Tepid. I think the Exorcist pilot ends with a twist, but it wasn't the kind of twist that impacted my desire to keep watching or impacted my perception of what I'd already watched. I don't see where the series is, nor why I'd care, but I'll give it a couple more episodes if they keep playing "Tubular Bells."

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Take Me to the Pilots '16: ABC's 'Notorious'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: The CW's 'Frequency'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: Fox's 'Lethal Weapon'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: CBS' 'Bull'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: NBC's 'Timeless'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: ABC's 'Speechless'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: The CW's 'No Tomorrow'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: Fox's 'Pitch'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: CBS' 'Kevin Can Wait'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: NBC's 'The Good Place'
Take Me to the Pilots '16: ABC's 'Designated Survivor'
All of My 2015 Take Me to the Pilots Entries