Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday Talkback - which shows have improved since their pilots?

It was reported earlier today that the ABC sitcom The Neighbors has secured a full-season order.  Not to sound like a dick, but that was not a headline I expected to see after viewing the pilot earlier this year.  I also have to admit that I didn't anticipate the success of Revolution, which I had pegged as this year's The Event.

When watching a pilot critically, it's important to be able to tell the difference between a weak pilot that has immense potential for growth and a weak pilot that is so misguided that it would be nearly impossible for a series to recover.  This year, it seemed like there were a lot of shows that fell into the latter category.  I don't want to name names, but most shows of this type were easily distinguished by the unflinching and often amusingly brutal reviews that the critics posted.

I've only kept up with a few new shows this season, so I have to admit I'm curious if anyone stuck with any of the iffier shows and was rewarded with improvement.  Did The Neighbors find a way to make the premise play beyond one joke?

666 Park Avenue was another show where the pilot didn't blow me away, but of the new fall shows, it seemed to have some of the strongest potential for improvement, provided the writing staff that was hired figured out a way to develop genuine tension and build to unexpected payoffs.  There were the building blocks of a better show there, but the story presented in the pilot was a little too tepid for my tastes.

I also wrote off Guys With Kids because it too seemed to be built around a one-joke premise that was already well-worn territory years ago.  Did they find their creative groove or is it just a case of the show being placed in the right timeslot?

So let me know what shows have gotten better since their pilot, and if possible, explain why you think the changes they made facilitated this.


  1. Bitter,

    THE NEIGHBORS had an excellent pilot. I was thrilled they actually revealed what the the aliens look like in their true form however brief and skewed it was. Now the following episodes have not dazzled by comparison. But most importantly, and I'm ashamed to admit this, Larry Bird having Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson for kids is still pretty funny.

    666 was DOA for me. Not gonna waste any keyboard time on it.

    THE LAST RESORT is my pick of the pilots this season. Tight, action-packed, excellent act breaks, I really liked it. But I instantly knew they could never follow up with episodes that could compare - and they haven't.

    I'm still waiting for that juicy show I can't to see. Warm regards. Do good things. Dave

  2. I thought both Last Resort and Chicago Fire were a bit weaker with excellent growth potential (especially given the caliber of writers behind both, Shawn Ryan and Derek Haas/Michael Brandt, respectively). This is how I also feel about USA's Graceland, but Jeff Eastin has delivered consistent quality with White Collar, so my guess is it will quickly find its footing.

    In terms of pilots that were a mess from the get-go -- Mob Doctor, Partners and The Neighbors. I really don't know what the thought process was there, except maybe FOX was trying to rush a new medical drama in hopes of filling the void left by House.

    Also, I got the exact same vibe from Revolution, it felt like The Event or FlashForward: Redux

  3. I think it's that the networks have been more gun shy and less trigger happy. They picked up so few pilots, that if they cancel the crappy crap that's on, there wont be anything to air... except crappier crap.

    It's interesting that this year the so-so shows, like Revolution, have done so well, because I didn't see a lot of improvement from the pilot, whereas the Strong Pilot show Nashville, continued with strong episodes, but wasn't as big of a breakout hit.

    I'm also still VERY suspicious of Neilssen. Does anyone know or have ever known someone who was a Neilssen rater? I don't believe they really exist. And I've talked to MANY people all over the country who have watched Nashville, so I just hate that our shows are still judged by a severely antiquated system.

  4. Chicago Fire is the one new show that I've seen improve. The pilot was serviceable, but it had a lot of firefighting standard plots lines. It felt a lot like TRAUMA. Ep 2 gave no surprises, but enough to keep me watching.

    But I really liked "Professional Courtesy". It had an honorable person making an honorable decision, sticking to his guns, and his boss backing him up. There was no messy drama involved with Casey doing the right thing. He just did it. That felt fresh (in an old-fashioned cowboy sense).

  5. I think the pilots for "Arrow" and "Last Resort" were so awesomely strong, I was sure they couldn't sustain that level of compelling storytelling. Yet, both shows are building nicely and I'm still hooked. Last Resort has a tougher task since the opener was so huge and riveting it simply couldn't be duplicated every week. Arrow hits all the right buttons for a comic book hero move to tv. Everything's very tight on that show.

  6. I’m glad to hear the good news for The Neighbors. I have a few coworkers at DISH that think that the pro-athlete-named characters are the driving force behind the show, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m saving the entire first season to my DISH Hopper for all of the laughs that are bound to happen. It’s nice to have a DVR with enough memory to let me save everything I want to. Now if we could just see 666 Park Avenue stick around, it definitely has the potential to develop into a great.