GOTHAM (Image Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX)

Dissecting the pilots 2014: Which shows you should watch and which ones you need to skip

GOTHAM (Image Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX)

GOTHAM (Image Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX)

Most people love the fall season because it means the leaves are changing, everything is flavored pumpkin and sweater weather is finally back. For those who love TV as I do, fall also means getting to watch brand new shows while sipping on that delicious pumpkin spice latte.

On average, expect about 20 new shows to hit your TVs. It’s like my version of following sports. Pick a few shows to follow and see how far they get in the season before they ultimately just flunk off the roster. It’s my goal to watch every pilot each year, something I’ve dubbed “Pilot Watch,” to determine the winners from the losers.

Based off the pilots that have premiered, I have compiled this list of shows to check out or just completely skip because following a TV show is a commitment and wasting precious hours on worthless content isn’t something everyone should have to do. I simply do it for the thrill.

Set your DVR or tune in for…

  1. How to Get Away with Murder: This will come as no surprise to most people. Shonda Rhimes’ new series was one of the most buzzed about and anticipated new series for this season. And it delivered. HTGAWM’s predecessor Scandal gave the show an added bonus by hyping up the audience who was most likely to stay tuned for the next hour. The show is, hilariously, similar to Legally Blonde in the sense that it is about an out-of-place law school student who excels to prove he — in the case of HTGAWM’s Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) — or she — for Reese Witherspoon’s star-turning performance as Elle Woods — deserves a spot on his or her professor’s firm. I imagine Rhimes watching this movie and pondering how she can turn it into a serious thriller. Obviously, just add murder! Not only is the class about “how to get away with murder,” but the students also find themselves in a precarious situation after it’s revealed in the first few minutes that they were somehow involved in the murder of someone, whom they roll up nice and snuggly in a rug, whose identity isn’t revealed until the last moment of the pilot. Rhimes is great at hooking audiences in to her dramas, and HTGAWM is no different. They marketed it as the next Scandal, and I definitely see it potentially living up to that hype.
  1. Gotham: The other much buzzed about drama is Fox’s Gotham, which follows the story of the famed, fictional, crime-ridden city of Gotham before the Batman becomes the dark knight that saves them all. Instead, it’s just Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) of the Gotham Police Department trying to do good in the crooked town. As a fan of the story of Batman, I already have an immense interest in the Gotham world. But, this show isn’t about superheroes. The famous caped crusader doesn’t save Gordon when he’s hanging upside down from a meat hook, a mob boss does. Gotham City was always one of the most interesting aspects of the Batman comic. It lent itself to an abundance of characters, in every sense of the word. Plus, the villains are traditionally the more interesting characters to follow, and this show seems as if it will only focus on that route. Sure, the hints for the future appearances of other Batman characters are anything but subtle — “If I wanted riddles, I’ll read the funny pages” — but having Gordon handle them all without Batman will be very interesting to watch. It’s a different take on the much-done comic.
  1. Red Band Society: I wasn’t expecting much when I went into this pilot, however I came out pleasantly surprised. This drama follows a group of teens, all with various illnesses, who live in a pediatric hospital ward run by the “scary,” tough-loving Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer). That’s right, it’s about sick kids in a hospital. Except, it isn’t. Fox’s other new drama might be set in a hospital, but it comes without the cliché scenes of devastated parents sobbing and without the melodramatic swell of an orchestra every 10 minutes. These characters battle illnesses and that’s very much a part of their lives and the show, but the show isn’t about them fighting battles with anorexia, cancer or a heart condition. It’s about the teens themselves. It’s refreshing. There are the stereotypical character archetypes of the mean cheerleader, hipster outsider, smart girl and more, but their stories are unique and the performances are captivating. It might not do well critically, but I believe the viewers will keep this show alive.

Just skip…

  1. The Mysteries of Laura: In the words of the Vulture article of which I feel perfectly describes my distaste for Debra Messing’s new NBC comedy, “Mysteries of Laura is a bad show. It’s a bad, bad show.” Laura focuses on Messing’s character who is a working mom trying to balance her duties as a New York City homicide detective with the responsibilities of raising two out of control kids. Being a working mother has to be one of the most difficult jobs anyone could be tasked with, and I just wish this important societal role could be played out respectfully on TV. Instead, we get shows like this where the female lead just “moms things up” and can’t seem to get control. Most importantly, there’s very little reason to invest in these characters who are not at all fleshed out. I would rather have Joffrey Baratheon as my son than these two obnoxious rascals. Josh Lucas is Laura’s more than pathetic, useless husband, and Messing herself does very little to add to the show. Seeing Laura in her Spanx doesn’t make her likeable or relatable but portraying the life and struggles of a working mom truthfully and respectfully does. Also, the crime committed in the pilot is completely irrelevant and beyond campy. Neither the mystery, nor Laura, works.
  1. Selfie: In an attempt to relate to “them young folks,” ABC created this comedy focusing on the plague that is social media and how it has essentially ruined the youth and their ability to communicate and connect. We all apparently talk in Valleyspeak and are simply too vapid and thus need someone to instruct us on how to be a civilized human being. Selfie takes the stereotype of a self-obsessed, social media-focused millennial and amplifies it tenfold. There’s a point when playing on a stereotype is effective by making people notice the issue at hand and then there’s the point when it’s blown way out of proportion and its message is entirely lost because it’s too disconnected. First, for someone so unlikeable and narcissistic, how did Eliza (Karen Gillan) get to be “Insta-famous” in the first place? Second, with the way she talks and carries herself, how on earth does she even have a job? Selfie is supposed to be a modern version of My Fair Lady. While it does carry the same hints of misogyny, no lessons are learned, the characters are devoid of depth — even the grounded and intellectual Henry (John Cho) gives us no reason to cheer him on — and there aren’t any catchy musical numbers to move the story along. What’s the point?
  1. Scorpion: Katharine McPhee just isn’t meant to be a TV star. Though her performance here is much better than the pitiful show she put on in Smash, she still has yet to prove herself as an actress. In Scorpion, McPhee plays Paige who serves as a reality and humanity check to a group of geniuses lead by Walter (Elyes Gabel). Think The Big Bang Theory minus the appealing characters and comedy. The concept seems interesting. Oftentimes when you explore unique individuals such as some of the smartest people in the world that happens with the overall idea. However, the show failed in its specifics. While Sheldon and Co. are geniuses, they still feel tangible and relatable to an extent. Walter and Co. have no appealing characteristics that make you want to follow their adventures. They’re all really smart and because everyone else is inferior to them, they struggle with societal cues. That’s about it. That doesn’t warrant a TV show. At best, that could be a film, but not something that is a long-term dedication like a TV series. Fast & Furious franchise director Justin Lin directed the pilot, explaining the high quality of the car chases and car-plane action at the end. That was the only memorable aspect of the pilot, so what happens when Lin doesn’t direct? I can see this show as something my dad would half-watch as he does other tasks, but I don’t see its potential for anything else.

As far as the other shows go, I’m too afraid of Stalker, too into Cristin Milioti to fairly judge A to Z’s true potential, very believing that Téa Leoni will carry Madam Secretary to a decent future and that Ioan Gruffudd’s accent will keep Forever going and still unsure about how Black-ish will do much to help the conversation about the issue of race and racism. Mulaney and Cristela did not air in time for consideration, but I expect Cristela to be the sitcom that relies on racial jokes and stereotypes for content while Mulaney could very well be the next successful sitcom from the minds of those involved with Saturday Night Live.


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