Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tricia's New TV Challenge, Part III

The challenge: I watch and then review each new show’s pilot episode on the big five networks; ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW. This is going to be the year I do it. Check out Part One here and Part Two here.

Let's get to it:

Pan Am, ABC – Sundays, 10/9c

Pan Am premiered last Sunday and can be watched on

As much as I’d like to get into the feminist argument inherent here in this show, I’m going to step aside that and review the show for what it is. And what is it? Simply put, it’s a show that thinks pretty highly of itself. The pilot episode accomplished so much in an hour introducing the characters and their individual storylines as well as establishing the main character that the company itself plays must have been a daunting task. That being said, “Pan Am” did a great job filling the viewer in as well as entertaining them. By the end of the episode you get a pretty good idea of who each character is and what it is they think they want. For the women, of course, it’s to see the world. For the men, it’s mostly about getting laid, with one wanting and not getting a little more. It’s clear here that “Pan Am” was created as an anti-“Mad Men,” one in which women hold the power in their lives (or so they would have it seem) but also get to wear the super cute fashions of the sixties. As much as I’d like to be able to comment on this fully I don’t watch “Mad Man” (which would bring up a whole other feminist argument) but I can say that all the glitz and glamour that this particular show attempts to conjure up isn’t as impressive as they’d like it to be.

During the opening sequence, we see a panic as crew members try to locate their “purser”- a flight attendant named Bridget. She has disappeared and apparently, this flight cannot take off without a purser, so they call a young woman who has been “grounded” due to breaking dress code. If you were wondering what role Christina Ricci played, you’d be right to assume she’d be a rule breaker. Ricci’s character is nowhere near the airport when they call, so they tell her to hurry on to headquarters and she takes a private helicopter to the tarmac. This sequence with the helicopter proved to be the jumping off point as far as how ridiculous this could get in the future. The tone of the show makes it seem as if Pan Am the company changed the world. That these flight attendants were a “new breed of women.” That in the skies of these planes was a world filled with mystery and intrigue. That little girls were seeing for the first time that they didn’t have to grow up to be someone’s wife or mother. And as you watch, you almost believe it. The vibrant colors of the sixties and the pretty faces of these women who are all decent actors are somewhat intoxicating. But then you remember that it’s all just fiction. It’s a TV show. And, as much as I like TV, all of it must be taken with a grain of salt. Can the show keep this up? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Prediction: It has the ability to last, but I can see it going in some pretty dumb places. If it can keep the audience’s attention without getting kooky on us, it could last for a while. Or we could get bored during the first season.

Terra Nova, FOX – Mondays, 8/7c

Terra Nova premiered with a two hour event last week, you can catch up on

I’m sorry? Did you say dinosaurs? I’m in. No, I don’t care what it’s about. There’s dinosaurs.

I seriously considered just leaving that as my review. I’m a nerd, I like dinosaurs. Then add in a futuristic dystopia. Then time travel. Ok, now I’m in. Basically, “Terra Nova” is about a family living in the 22nd century on Earth, where it’s dangerous to breathe the air and the government only allows you two children. Jason O’Mara plays Jim Shannon, a cop who gets put into prison for two years after the powers that be discover he and his wife have a third child and he gets a little aggressive about it. When his wife gets called into the Terra Nova project, he has to break out of prison in order to sneak their third child in. In where, you ask? Well, Terra Nova is a settlement that is 85 Million years in the past, but not in our past, in a different “time stream,” so there’s no chance of disrupting the time space continuum (I may have combined what I understood about the cleverly snuck in explanation with my knowledge of time travel I learned from Doc Brown). Why didn’t they travel to a different time where they might not have to fight off carnivorous lizards every night? They did not create the rip in space/time, they only discovered it. At least that’s what they tell the ordinary folk. There’s a mysterious element to this place that they hint at, heavily, in the pilot episode and I’m sure our main characters will discover parts of it sooner or later.

The show drops us into a strange world but does so in a familiar way; no matter the amount of dinosaurs or the militia presence make no mistake; this show is first and foremost a family drama. Shannon was away from his family for two years and now he must protect them from the world and some unsavory characters. Luckily, each family member is interesting in their own right and as they discover Terra Nova, so will we. Each performance is good, especially if you consider most of their job is probably to look at a tennis ball and look afraid. And the show itself has all the earmarks of a decent science fiction show; we’re not entirely sure who the Shannon family should trust, this world is foreign and dangerous (and gross!), and there are ominous signs everywhere. There is no reason why most of us can’t love this show.

One note about the dinosaurs: I’m always entertained when people complain about when dinosaurs don’t look real, when the truth of the matter is, we don’t really know what they look like. We have skeletons and make judgments about their skins and scales but really don’t know one hundred percent what they were like. That being said, “Terra Nova’s” dinos are clearly animated and perhaps not as good as a Jurassic Park version, but the entire idea of watching a science fiction show is to do so with suspending your disbelief. I mean, if you’re willing to believe for a couple of hours that these people escaped a poisonous Earth by traveling back in time and space, I think you can deal with some CGI dinos.

Prediction: FOX can not keep a show at this timeslot. In fact last season they canceled two shows I loved that shared the 7/8c timeslot. Perhaps they’ll get lucky with this one now that “Chuck” has moved to Fridays and us nerds need something to watch at 7. But the fact is, if this show doesn’t pull in major ratings early, they won’t be able to afford to keep it on the air. It really makes me wish Syfy had picked it up instead. Fingers crossed it’ll stay on at least long enough for me to see a triceratops.

Hart of Dixie, The CW – Mondays, 8/9c

This premiered last week, go to to watch it.

After a few years away from The CW, I can honestly say that I’m impressed with the shows they premiered this season. Sure, there’s only been three, but each has it’s own strengths and are, at the very least, entertaining. “Hart of Dixie” is no exception. It’s completely unrealistic and certainly not original, but it’s cute and gives you plenty of reasons to come back for more.

Rachel Bilson may be the second most adorable star on this new season (second to Zooey of course). She plays the feisty, funny fish out of water Dr. Zoe Hart who inherits part of a practice in Bluebell, Alabama. She sets up shop down there to work on her bedside manner, or lack there of. Get it? Her name is Hart and she has to work on her heart. What this show lacks in subtlety it makes up for with charm. Bilson has never been a great actress, but she has charm for miles. As does every other actor on the show and though the situations will be familiar in just about every episode, they fact remains that these people are likable, even the ones that aren’t.

A show like this hasn’t been around in a while; we’ve been so consumed with gritty realism and offensive materials that “Hart of Dixie” is like a sweet southern drawl calming us into submission. It will share a smile and a sea tea with you if you let it. And I hope you do.

Prediction: With the lead in of “Gossip Girl” I don’t see it not doing well. I hope to get a few seasons out of it.

Suburgatory, ABC – Wednesdays, 7:30/8:30c is the place to find this.

Finally. I’ve been waiting for ABC to find a decent comedy to follow the Heck family. Wednesday’s comedy lineup highlight has always been “Modern Family,” but “The Middle” may be the most underappreciated comedy on television. That being said, the last few shows they’ve tried to pair with it have come up short. “Suburgatory” on the other hand, is a promising comedy featuring yet another untraditional family (dad and teenaged daughter) who are, much like the above’s Dr. Hart, fish out of water when dad moves them to the suburbs after deciding that maybe the big city isn’t the best place to raise a child.

The show is pretty over the top, making out the moms of the suburbs and their kin to be mindless Sugar Free Red Bull drinking robots with blond hair and short skirts, but the jokes work. And you have to assume that some of these stereotypes will be broken down as the series goes on. We’ve already seen chinks in the armor of our lead character Tessa when she discovers what it’s like to own something “pretty,” so it’s only a matter of time before she affects the ‘burbs and it affects her.

Prediction: I don’t really have many complaints about this show, other than the voice over narration, but I can over look that for the time being. If they can prove themselves to be more than just a fish out of water comedy, it can be a great show. Jury is out, but I think it’ll get the full season pick up.

How to be a Gentleman, CBS – Thursdays, 7:30/8:30c

This premiered last week and you can watch it on

I’m all about gender equality, so I’m perfectly ok with CBS premiering a show about two guys’ budding friendship out of being opposites just a week after premiering a show about two women with an almost identical premise. And for some reason, I think I liked this one better. Just a little better, I mean, I’m not going to DVR it or anything, but the lead of David Hornsby (Rickety Cricket for It’s Always Sunny fans) is surprisingly likeable for a guy that’s not really all that in touch with what it means to be a “guy.”
Hornsby’s Andrew is a writer who has to change up his column when the magazine he works for is bought. He can no longer write about manners and when it’s appropriate to wear a vest, he has to appeal to everyday men who really only read box scores. Someway he meets up with his old high school bully, played by Kevin Dillon, and they forge a friendship based on Dillon’s Bert teaching Andrew how to be a real man. Dillon is, well, he’s the same actor he was on “Entourage” so make your own decision there. My favorite part of the cast, however, was Rhys Darby, who plays Andrew’s wuss of a brother-in-law and Mary Lynn Rajkub as his sister Janet, this relationship was at least interesting and unlike most we see on TV, if not completely unhealthy.

Prediction: This show is not going to win any awards, it may not even last a whole season, but it’s better than “$#!* My Dad Says” which premiered to better numbers a year ago. Maybe people will give it a chance. Maybe they won’t. Either way, I’m watching “Parks and Recreation” so what do I care?

So there you go! Stick around for next time. I'm going to do it!

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