Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pilot Talk 2015: Week of 10/25/2015

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.

Supergirl (CBS, Mondays at 8:00 PM)
Superheroes are beginning to flood TV as much as they have been flooding the movie market over the last few years, to the point where there's a show to scratch each itch you may have as a viewer.  Arrow's got the whole brooding Nolan-esque vibe covered, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is often a superhero-adjacent spin on something like G.I. Joe or The A-Team, and The Flash delivers a straight-from-the-comics level of splashiness.  Supergirl; created by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Ali Adler; is CBS' effort to finally enter the game, and it ends up filling its own unique niche as well.  Though Berlanti is also responsible for Arrow and The Flash, Supergirl winds up feeling much more like his non-superhero shows (Everwood, Jack & Bobby), except it just happens to have a super-powered individual at the center of it.

That individual is Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), who comics-savvy viewers will know as Superman's cousin.  She was sent down to Earth to protect him, but complications led to her landing years later and being raised as a normal girl by the family who found her.  As present-day Kara, who's currently working at a media conglomerate while trying to hide her powers, Benoist is a real superstar.  Some are going to find her performance a little too much, but it's absolutely great.  She's all wide, darting eyes; nervous laughter; and wild gesticulating -- it's hard not to be charmed by it.

There are some rough spots to the pilot that keep it from being wholly successful, like the interminable exposition dump required to get to the jumping-off point of the show.  However, the zippy Silver Age tone of the episode sweeps you away in a fashion that makes those flaws easier to swallow.  Even the special effects, which seem a little chintzy at first, begin to feel deliberately stylized in a way that's perfect for a series like this.  A few fight scenes are peppered into the pilot and they've got a surprising amount of heft to them, which is pretty essential for anything relating to Superman or Supergirl.  It may seem like critics are placing a lot of hope into the idea of what Supergirl can be, but the pilot itself is pretty enjoyable on its own too.
Grade: B+

Wicked City (ABC, Tuesdays at 10:00 PM)
Must we keep doing this?  Wicked City, ABC's period piece about the seedy streets of the Sunset Strip in 1982, is another one of those shows about how killing is sexy.  It's not really about that -- it's about a serial killer named Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick) and the detectives (Jeremy Sisto and Gabriel Luna) investigating his murders -- but it secretly is.  Kent's first kill occurs while he's receiving a blowjob from a woman, and the rest of the violence in the pilot is similarly sexualized, which the show thinks is tantalizing but it's actually just gross and boring.  Nothing feels fresh as cliches abound, such as Kent's penchant for making women be as still as corpses while he's having sex with them.  Along the way, he meets Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen) a woman who's got a "killer's instinct" and -- you guessed it -- just needs somebody to bring it out of her.  On the other side of the episode is the standard police procedural stuff, which ends up being even less surprising than the proto Bonnie and Clyde routine that Westwick and Christensen are doing.  What a plodding, misshapen episode this is.  It has all the momentum of a slug.  There's so much set up that by the end, it doesn't feel like a satisfying hour of television that can stand on its own.  It's more like a fragment of a story.  A really bad fragment.
Grade: D

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