Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pilot Talk 2014: Believe and Resurrection

Every TV season, networks bring out a new crop of shows, in hopes that they'll be the next big hit.  Pilot Talk is devoted to figuring out whether these shows are worth your time based on the first episode.

Believe (NBC, Sundays at 9:00 PM)
There's a reason why shows try to get big name directors to direct their pilot.  The director of the pilot is the one who sets the visual standard for the rest of the show, the blueprint every future director has to follow.  Nobody who directs an episode of Boardwalk Empire is going to match the heights that Martin Scorsese did in the pilot, but at least they have a goalpost, and it's no coincidence that the show is one of the best directed on television.  For that reason, the wisest choice Believe could have made was to have Alfonso Cuaron direct the pilot.  It's not like it required much arm-twisting -- after all, he is one of the producers and creators of the show -- but his directorial presence is felt in a major way.  The episode opens up with one of his virtuosic long takes and it continues to that deliver that kind of boldness until the credits roll.  His odd framing gives the show a more artful look, while his handheld camerawork lends scenes an immediacy that keeps things moving along.

If only the same kind of praise could be afforded to the show's writing.  If its "magical kid who must be protected from evil" premise isn't enough to make you roll your eyes, then you'll quickly grow tired of all of the trite elements the writers throw at you.  The magical kid in question is Bo, played by newcomer Johnny Sequoyah, who's low-key acting style is initially refreshing compared to all of the painful child actors on other shows.  But she quickly grates as Bo begins to spout mystical mumbo jumbo ("Do you know why you were crying?  Because you remember how good you once were.") and just generally acts like an annoying kid.  This is a pilot that indicates that the show will probably only get worse from here, especially since Cuaron isn't likely to have time to step behind the camera again, yet I'm still going to continue watching.  Please help me.
Grade: C

Resurrection (ABC, Sundays at 9:00 PM)
My original grade for Believe was a C-, but I bumped it up after watching Resurrection, that's how much I disliked it.  It's hard to watch this pilot without constantly thinking of Sundance's The Returned, which, despite having almost identical premises, is not the actual inspiration for Resurrection (which is based on a novel called The Returned, furthering the confusion).  Unfortunately, Resurrection isn't even half as good of a show as The Returned is.  It may have its premise, but it doesn't have any of the suspense, atmosphere, or emotion.  It's just a very bland show with ABC's topcoat applied to it, garnishing it with overwrought music and lifeless actors. Somehow, it even manages to fail at the most basic thing it could possibly do -- make me interested in knowing why the dead are coming back to life.  This is the closest I've ever come to quitting a pilot before it was over.  But I can't even give it an F, because that would require me feeling some strong emotion towards it, which I don't.
Grade: D-


  1. I've heard similar things regarding Believe, I'll probably check it out at some point.

    The even stranger thing about Resurrection is that the pilot episode is titled "The Returned," though the title of the source material makes it make more sense. I had to make sure to tell my mother when I recommended The Returned to her that I wasn't talking about this show.

    1. Even MORE confusion: A&E has the rights to an American adaptation of The Returned (the actual French show on Sundance). Dead loved ones are coming back to life all over the place.

    2. Well A&E has yet to prove themselves, isn't Bates Motel their only real show at the moment?

    3. They've also got Longmire, The Glades, and Those Who Kill.

    4. From what I heard though Those Who Kill isn't very good.

    5. I thought by "real" you meant "non-reality show" so I was just providing examples of other scripted shows on A&E. If by "real," you mean "good" then I don't even think I'd put Bates Motel in that category. The first three episodes of season 2 have done a wonderful job of reminding me that I don't care for that show.

    6. So you finally saw episode 3?

      So just to clarify, are they saying that Dylan is a product of incest?