The Fall Season’s New Shows – Week Two
I wrote fairly extensively about a lot of the pilots that premiered last week (though a lot of my reviews went up well in advance to that) and honestly I don’t have the time or energy to bother trying to squeeze a full review out of each of the show’s follow-up episodes, but I do have some thoughts about each and so I’ve decided to clump them here in a scorecard of sorts or a series of post-scripts. The shows that I stuck with (Revolution may have gotten picked up by NBC but it’s been dumped by me) were The Mindy Project, Ben & Kate, Last Resort, Elementary and Vegas. Thoughts on each to follow and feel free to throw your own in afterwards, I’d love to hear what people are thinking about this batch of shows.
The Mindy Project
This was the show that I was least excited to keep with after watching all of the premiere’s, but strangely it was the comedy that I most enjoyed this week for all the same reasons. The Rom-Com tropes that intrigued me then have been nicely implemented here, both driving the drama and allowing it to comment upon itself comedically; the show having its cake and eating it too.
Kaling’s voice has become a little less jarring and sharp (figuratively if not literally) and the show a lot less idiosyncratic as a result. This in turn allowed the rest of the actors to shine a little more, meaning that the ensemble cast continues to click. Whenever it stays in close to the two lead characters though it really starts to shine.
Unfortunately though some of these members are still weak links – The British guy, crazy lady and new totally not Russian nurse to call them out. The opening credits sequence is also weird as all hell but for the most part this is a solid enough iteration on the quirky office sitcom, a strong partner for The New Girl and something I will stick with.
Ben & Kate
Wow. First of all I have to comment on the creepiness of this episode. The writers really hit the weird sexual tension thing head-on this week. I hope that they were trying to cut it off at the pass – that they realize the relationship is a little weird – and simply hit it a bit too hard because if not…wow, awkward.
That I would lead with that issue instead of only sparking to it in the comments as I did with the pilot speaks both to just how strongly the show went wrong there and just how underwhelming it was elsewhere. The story was slight; it didn’t matter much to the characters so why would we care? On top of that it didn’t make much use of the ensemble, sticking too closely to the two title characters for my liking.
The pilot was an emotional ride – hilarious and heartfelt – but this follow-up was funny and friendly at best which is fine, but still a step-down.
It would have been easy for the show to pigeonhole long-play plotting to the pilot and finale like most other CBS shows do but that wasn’t the case here at all. Instead the show managed to maintain the fifty fifty split between case of the week and overarching conflicts, a far better ration than I remember hoping for in future episodes.
New ongoing characters were introduced while what I had taken to be old, completed mysteries continued on. The unique character of the setting also continued to be important to the case when it was shown; the crime investigated one involving card games and cattle ranchers. They also gave Michael Chiklis’ character more to do, even if he was still secondary to Quaid; the casino material was easily as well handled as the crime procedural plot.
Most importantly though the show managed to maintain both the adrenaline pumping, politically incorrect old West action alongside the amazing period Vegas aesthetic on the budget of a basic episode. These two elements are what made the pilot so promising to me and the fact that they managed to incorporate elements like the old Test Pattern and lines like ” Sometimes I feel like there’s a thousand foot neon wave on the other side of that ridge that’s gonna crash down on us.” seem to me to be very positive signs, pushing the odds in the show favor.
I loved the ideas and potential of this show’s pilot but found the execution to be faltering; it was also a packed episode with far too much content for a single hour. This episode on the other hand felt like it had far to little to offer; it teased out the established threads a few centimeters longer than before but that’s it. The team may not have that many episodes to tell their story in so I’d rather that they did it quickly.
I did appreciate that it has maintained its extremity and ambiguity though. The situations and reactions that the show depicts are not filtered or toned down in anyway; lots of people die and so many more could, these are big choices but their answers are still never clear.
There was also an improvement in technical quality this time around, a surprise since the big name director helmed the pilot. Everything simply looked better, though maybe that is simply because they were off that sub set. The action was acceptably handled, an accompaniment rather than a main feature. All in all it balanced out to equal but too many more episodes like this and I will start to worry.
+1/-1 = 0
Without the element of surprise that the premiere contained – coming as it did from the bottom of the pack of pilots to the top, or at least near to it – my reaction to this episode was a little less enthusiastic than the first but it was nevertheless just as positive.
The show is still constructed with the highest degree’s of class – the cinematography, the score, the flexibility of Johny Lee Miller’s face are all as Brilliant as Holmes himself – but more excitingly it also continues to dedicate as much time to the character material as it does the case itself.
The case though was another hit and miss element this week; the one area that the show can clearly improve in come future episodes. Setting a lot of it in a hospital was also perhaps an iffy idea given that House is a show that existed. Still, all in all, this is the best straight procedural that I have seen in quite some time; perhaps since House.
So, it might seem a sort of boring scorecard, especially when it comes to the drama’s, but so much of my reaction to the pilot’s over the past few week’s has been ‘Not bad, but they probably won’t be able to maintain it’ and yet nearly every episode did. To keep a show consistently compelling into its sophomore episode is also a great indicator of things to come because it means that it must have brought something new to the table, it must have grown, in order to replace the fading impact of novelty. So if the show’s can continue on this path – and it’s still early days yet – then we may well see a net improvement by the end of their seasons.