Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lightning Can't Strike Two Years in a Row: Pilot Season and Why 2012 Missed the Mark

If you follow the blog at all, you’ll remember about this time last year, Jen was really excited for the offerings of pilot season. She was so enthused she did both a pilot season round-up and a post Upfronts analysis of what got picked up. This year, unfortunately, is a much more somber affair here on More TV, Please. Hence why this isn’t being posted until there are less than two weeks until Upfronts, even though the post has been in the works since mid-March. Not only are there way too many pilots being ordered, but the quality is far inferior to the likes of “Once Upon a Time,” “New Girl” and “Person of Interest.” So we thought we’d share some reasons why we’re not looking forward to what the networks have to offer come Fall 2012.

Joey Dakota

Of all the pilot descriptions we’ve read this season, “Joey Dakota” sounded, for lack of a better way of putting it, the most awful. It’s based on the Israeli property “Danny Hollywood.” The premise makes us feel old, and it is employing a number of wonderful actors whose talents could be better used elsewhere. The hook for the show sounds kind of cool – “time travel romantic musical,” but really, the details kind of ruin the whole thing. Joey Dakota is a 90’s rock star who doesn’t seem to really go with the grunge, flannel vibe we think of when we think of the 90’s. A documentary filmmaker is making a documentary about him and manages to travel back in time to meet him in person. They fall in love, and then the documentary filmmaker is thrown forward in time, and they’re separated again. Her goal is to reunite with Joey Dakota and prevent his untimely death. The reason this makes us feel old is the whole idea of going “back” to the 90’s. The 90’s were our child/tween/early teenhood. The decade is not some far-off history lesson.

In addition to having a strange premise that makes us feel old, “Joey Dakota” is also employing a lot of actors we like and wish were employed elsewhere. As we’ll discuss more later, Craig Homer (“Legend of the Seeker”) will be playing 90’s rocker Joey Dakota. Amber Stevens (“Greek”) will be playing Maya, the documentary filmmaker. As quirky best friend Ashleigh on “Greek,” Stevens showed a talent for playing both comedy and vulnerability. Ashleigh appeared ditzy on the outside but was actually quite serious and ended up as president of the Zeta Beta Zeta sorority. It just doesn’t seem like Maya will give Stevens as much to work with. Finally, Scott Wolf (“V”) plays a mysterious potential fellow time traveler. On “V,” Wolf played slimy television journalist Chad Decker. Wolf showed a knack for making sure viewers could never quite tell which side of the V/human war he was on. This role seems similarly mysterious, but let’s face it, with inferior source material, the result is not going to be nearly as intriguing.

The Talent

Obviously, with all the pilots being ordered, the networks need actors to fill the roles before shooting can begin. That doesn’t mean we have to be happy about who ends up being cast. Of probably the biggest note is the usually lovely (and often times comedically inappropriate) John Barrowman. If you haven’t been following the blog or seen an episode of modern “Doctor Who” (or its spin-off “Torchwood”), Barrowman played Captain Jack Harkness (an omnisexual time traveler from the future). Now he will be stuck in late 19th century New York on Shonda Rhimes’ “Gilded Lilys.” The show is supposedly about a family who is building the first luxury hotel in the city. While we weren’t overly fond of how Torchwood progressed in series 4 (can we please pretend that never even happened?) we’re not sure we want Shonda grabbing John up for the shiny factor. Said shiny factor translates to “look what big fancy star I got on my new show!” Aren’t Zach Gilford and Henry Ian Cusick enough?

We’re also disappointed in the fact that Craig Horner was cast on “Joey Dakota.” Not only does the show just sound silly, but it doesn’t seem like Craig will have a lot to do. For those of you aren’t aware, he was on a short-lived fantasy series called “Legend of the Seeker” (based on the Sword of Truth book series). Craig seems far more suited to the action-adventure star rather than a dead musician. He might be slumming it a bit (and no, not because it’s on the CW).

Finally, it’s a little disappointing that Giancarlo Esposito landed a role on J.J. Abrams’ new brain child, the show formerly known as “Revolution.” As you will see below, we have cautious hopes for Mr. Abrams’ latest endeavor. However, Esposito has been a somewhat permanent fixture on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” this season, and it would be very sad to see him have to split his time or take a much smaller role in Storybrooke. Hopefully, since both shows have an Abrams connection (even though “Once” isn’t officially under the Bad Robot banner, showrunners Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz worked on “Lost” for many years), it will work out that Esposito won’t have to be in two places at once.

The Show Formerly Known As Revolution

It wouldn’t be a pilot season without a new pilot or two from J.J. Abrams and the Bad Robot crew. This year's offering is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dysmal pilot season. Abrams is teaming up with “Supernatural” creator Eric Kripke on a show that was once called “Revolution,” but is currently untitled. So we’ll call it “The Show Formerly Known As Revolution” until informed otherwise at Upfronts. Bad Robot veteran Bryan Burk will also be involved on the production side of things. The Show Formerly Known as Revolution is an action drama that takes place in a version of the world where all forms of energy have vanished. We’re thinking that means it’s probably dystopian/post-apocalyptic. The characters are all trying to stay alive and find their loved ones in this tough world. We think this show has some promise because it’s a Bad Robot show (any regular reader of MTVP…if such a thing exists…should know that we like us some Bad Robot up in here) and because it has an interesting premise. It’s a premise that can really get your imagination going. Actors of note in this one include, as previously mentioned, Giancarlo Esposito (“Once Upon a Time” and “Breaking Bad”) and David Lyons (“The Cape”).

The Bottom Line

Let’s face it. This is not one of those once-every-five-years-or so awesome pilot seasons. 2012-2013 is not going to be the next 2004-2005 (“Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy”), 2007-2008 (“Pushing Daisies,” “Chuck,” and “Moonlight”) or even 2011-2012 (all the freshman shows you hear us gush about on a regular basis and then some). As you can see from the above, we really don’t hold out much hope for the Fall 2012 season in terms of new shows. We could be wrong (and believe me, we hope we are) but it just isn’t looking good.

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