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A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Though I am a maker of television, I still consider myself primarily a consumer — having been raised by my family’s 27-inch Zenith. So when THR gave me all the fall broadcast TV pilots and asked me to give my take, I tried to do so with a sense of that TV fanboy’s excitement; the networks made it very hard …
Life in Pieces (Sept. 21)
Formalizing the structure of having separate stories dovetail at the end and adding one extra story (three instead of four!) does not make a shameless attempt to re-create Modern Family not a shameless attempt to re-create Modern Family. (It’s like when Vanilla Ice tried to say “Ice Ice Baby” was not “Under Pressure” because he’d added one extra bass note.) This one features such hacky bits and elements as “old people can’t work the remote,” “sassy black nurse” and “vaginas look weird after childbirth.” Colin Hanks is quite likable. Dianne Wiest is always fun to watch. Kind of made me want to kill myself.
Limitless (Sept. 22)
This marginally fun but completely unnecessary B-movie adaptation features a lead that looks like Joshua Jackson and Peter Krause somehow had a midlevel-boring baby. Bradley Cooper does a weird cameo. Confusing back bends to stretch the concept into an hourlong procedural leave the whole thing feeling quite odd.
Code Black (Sept. 30)
Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman‘s gritty hospital drama suffers from medical-show cliches, but therein lies some of the attraction: the comfort of a bunch of young doctors being shown the ropes by older, damaged veterans. None of the newbies stands out, but the veterans, including Kevin Dunn, anchor the proceedings. The pilot is plotted strangely, with the last act being almost pure denouement. Promising.
Supergirl (Oct. 26)
Dumb. Fun. Dumb fun. Kind of all you want in a Supergirl. Great lead [Melissa Benoist].
Angel From Hell (Nov. 5)
Jane Lynch is very funny and in a great character for her in this guardian-angel comedy. Suffers a bit from “network single-cam overmusiced syndrome” and the lead actress [Maggie Lawson] is either actually dull or just not given much to do in the pilot.
Blindspot (Sept. 21)
Dumb. Silly. Overwrought. A not-unwatchable show about an amnesiac with a bunch of tattoos that may be clues to upcoming crimes. Perhaps watchable if you have a very stressful job and really need to turn your brain almost completely off.
The Player (Sept. 24)
The return of Wesley Snipes from tax-dodging exile is wasted on a schlock concept (rich people in Vegas “gamble” on whether Snipes’ team can foil crimes) played just a bit too straight to work. Will probably do really well.
Truth Be Told (Oct. 16)
Multicams don’t have to be lazy and casually racist and unfunny. (Both a review and a plea!) With this black/white neighbors sitcom, NBC brass continue to demonstrate either a deep misunderstanding of comedy or a complete lack of interest in it.
The Muppets (Sept. 22)
Very ABC. You can feel the sweat in trying to make the Muppets current and hip. A bit too self-referential and meta, but it’ll probably find an audience.
Blood & Oil (Sept. 27)
Quite entertaining Dallas in the fracking era. Not overly serious, which is smart, because the bones are dumb dumb dumb. Finally, Don Johnson has a range- and talent-appropriate vehicle.
Quantico (Sept. 27)
A good young cast led by Priyanka Chopra. This fitfully compelling show about a young FBI recruit class is needlessly complicated. About three fewer twists in the pilot would make it much better. Unfortunately, after the machinations of the pilot, those twists can’t be untwisted.
Dr. Ken (Oct. 2)
Points for diversity; mega-negative points for not being remotely funny. Ken Jeong‘s over-the-top shtick worked better on Community than in this unwelcome throwback.
Minority Report (Sept. 21)
Meh. The visuals are fun. It makes “sense” to make a show out of the movie’s concept. But the casting, writing and general execution only are serviceable.
Scream Queens (Sept. 22)
Uber-campy high school horror homage. Vicious. Funny. Highly stylized. Could get old quickly but very confidently made. You have to be all in for Ryan Murphy‘s oeuvre to not want to turn this off after 20 minutes. But if you are, you have a new show!
Rosewood (Sept. 23)
Yet another procedural about an investigator of some sort whose primary skill is that he notices stuff real good. Miami. Lesbian sister. Morris Chestnut is not without charm. Sexily rendered autopsy sequences. Ultimately a complete bore.
Grandfathered (Sept. 29)
Fox slick. Works hard to be likable. Cast well. John Stamos has a proper vehicle to be maximum-level Stamosian. The writing is a little better than it needs to be. Paget Brewster classes up the joint.
The Grinder (Sept. 29)
Pretty good! Though showrunner changes are rarely a good sign, Rob Lowe takes on a slight variation of his Parks and Rec character, and it basically works. Nice to see Fred Savage acting after years directing. I’m not exactly sure what the show is, but one can assume there’s enough riding on this that they will throw money at it to find out.
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