Sunday, September 30, 2012

Last Week's TV Pilots Discussion: Elementary, Last Resort, and The Mindy Project

So in the fall, the networks trot out their new shows and try to make them look all pretty and enticing and like our next great addiction. I sort of feel like every year the new crop of interesting looking shows is getting smaller and smaller but I still try them all anyway, hoping for the next big surprise. This year I managed to drag my friend Caitie into talking about three of the pilots we watched this week. I'm so excited she agreed to talk about them with me because she's brilliant and articulate and I value what she thinks and know you will, too. (I've been wanting to drag her into a blogging related project forever, tbh!)

So, we watched Elementary (highly anticipated), Last Resort (I wanted to like this so much, sigh), and The Mindy Project. Our discussion follows. I want to know what you guys think, too, if you watched, etc.

Amy: I went into this with relatively few expectations--I’m not a Sherlock fan and I’m also not really a fan of procedural type shows. I do like Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, though, so I was hopeful! I ended up really enjoying their dynamic and I thought it was the best thing about the pilot. I thought the mystery was...kind of bad? How did you feel?

Caitie: I’m pretty burnt out on the Maladjusted Male Genius w/ Loyal Female Caretaker variety of procedural. I’m also a fan of the BBC’s Sherlock, and I wasn’t sure how Elementary would measure up. So I went in with low expectations, and I was really pleasantly surprised by the pilot as a whole. I agree that the case was pretty forgettable, but the chemistry between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu was great, and I thought the show distinguished itself from Sherlock enough that the controversy will hopefully die quickly as people realize they’re very different shows.

Amy: I also like that Joan is a baseball fan! :) But hopefully the cases will get better. I thought this case stretched my ability to suspend disbelief a little, but maybe after reading Gone Girl I shouldn’t think that! This guy could have fit in with Amy, to be honest. The only thing I am wondering about is whether or not I’ll have shippy feelings about them. I kind of already do, but I think I can be talked back since the show never plans to go there.

Caitie: I share your pain! When I first heard Watson was going to be a woman, I hoped the show wouldn’t hook them up. But their chemistry is so nice and snappy and shippable! Even if it doesn’t happen on the show, I’m sure a fandom will spring up around the pairing, and there will be lots of pretty things to reblog on tumblr. Shipping Sherlock is usually weird to me (Have you read any of the Laurie R. King novels where he gets married? I didn’t really buy it.) because he’s so asexual and above ~base human emotions, but Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock doesn’t come off like that at all, in fact Joan deduces that he left London because of something to do with a woman, right? In general, I thought JLM’s Sherlock was a lot more agreeable than a lot of the other incarnations of Sherlock. He also seems a little younger and less fine-tuned. Like I totally thought Sherlock crashed Joan’s car into the culprit’s because he had some sort of devious plan to prove he was the killer, but it turned out that he was just having a tantrum about not being able to catch the guy.

Amy: Lol no I have not read anything Sherlock except one story in middle school. I guess that’s something I should remedy!

Amy: Okay, so we also watched Last Resort. I wanted to like this show because of Scott Speedman and Ben/Felicity were romantic to me. (yeah maybe if I watched it now I’d have ~issues but at the time, they were pretty much my ultimate) And also because I do enjoy a show with some sort of central mystery. Not to mention, I like island (isolated)/survival/clashing culture stories and I felt like Last Resort promised some of those things. Unfortunately, I just really didn’t like this. I felt a combination of a few things...I didn’t know what was going on + the acting wasn’t that great + I just didn’t care about these people. Stuff like Scott Speedman and his wife felt like extremely tired and superficial territory that didn’t give me any level of investment in them. You?

Caitie: Aw, Ben and Felicity. I loved them too, and Scott Speedman was the only reason I was interested in the show. So it’s not especially surprising that I didn’t enjoy it! Like you, I found the episode confusing, and none of the characters made a memorable first impression. I think a lot of the pilot’s issues stem from how quickly it was working to establish its improbable premise and set up various story lines. I’m sure if I keep watching, I’ll understand why Ben’s Scott Speedman’s character’s relationship with his wife is so strained, why the SEAL reacted so oddly at the end of the episode, etc. But instead of feeling curious about these details, I just felt like I was being held at arm’s length. My biggest problem with the episode, though, was that it was impossible for me to suspend my disbelief at how quickly things escalated for the crew. I think aiming a nuke at their own country hours after they’d refused to send one at Pakistan was hard to swallow. I didn’t really feel like it was their ‘last resort,’ like they’d exhausted their options to the point where they basically declared a war of mutually assured destruction on the United States!

Amy: Yeah I agree it was trying to accomplish too much. I guess that’s what it’s going for, though? I mean it seems to be fairly well received by a certain demographic and it’s very likely that audience doesn’t need the same things from a television show that I do. Even so, I think all of our complaints are right. :)

Caitie: Maybe it needed a two hour premiere or something, instead of just the one hour. But yikes, it already cost $11 million to make!


Amy: So the other new pilot we both watched this week was The Mindy Project. I never watched The Office and know very little about Mindy Kaling, but even so I was hopeful for this show to succeed. One of the big problems I have, though, is that I don’t particularly like half hour comedies. It’s an interesting dilemma for me because I like to argue in defense of the artistic merit of comedic books, but I just cannot get into comedies on TV with the exception of Parks and Recreation and Don’t Trust the B-- in Apt. 23. I think the main reason is because humor is so incredibly hard to do well. It’s hard to be fresh and original and funny and not overly crass. It’s also hard to create interesting, well defined characters in such a short time each week. And every episode should really stand alone because it is only going to be occupying 20 minutes of your audience’s week, no one is going to remember details. So it’s not because I don’t think humorous TV has merit, it’s really because it’s so hard that I find it rarely works for me. And it’s kind of funny because that’s really the only kind of TV I grew up on, The Cosby Show being the very first TV show I remember watching ever. (and still great comfort TV!)

Anyway, enough of my issues, I thought this was just okay. There were a few bright spots where I felt like an actual show of worth was trying to break through, but there were also plenty of cringe worthy moments for me. I know you liked this better than I did, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

Caitie: I’d read several ‘meh’ reviews, and even a backlash-to-the-backlash post about the show before I finally watched it, and none of my friends who watched ahead on Hulu seemed very excited about it either. Maybe it helped that my expectations were seriously low or something, but I actually enjoyed the premiere. It wasn’t super funny or anything, but I liked Mindy’s character and felt drawn to her enough to want to watch again next week. I liked Mindy’s addiction to rom-coms as a frame for the show, and I liked what we saw of the rest of the cast. As far as half-hour comedies go, I thought this was pretty successful. It’s almost like the first couple episodes tend to be a warm-up act (Parks & Rec didn’t hit its stride until about 6-7 episodes into its run, and it’s my favorite comedy) and the first episode of The Mindy Project hit most of its beats and made me care about Mindy. I was actually surprised at how emotionally involved I was in the show when Mindy’s colleague (and obvs future boyfriend) hurt her feelings and she lashed out and said something hurtful to him about his ex-wife and everything was badness. I also like the casting, and the show could wind up with a really appealing ensemble. I feel like The Mindy Project has the most potential of all the pilots I’ve watched so far. As much as I enjoyed Elementary, I see it going the way of your typical (overdone, boring) CBS detective procedural.

Amy: Yeah it’s possible the show suffered from high expectations to begin with. I did like the romcom framing as well! I hope it does get better.

Big thanks again to Caitie for discussing the new shows from this week with me. In random trivia, we don't actually share a lot of the same taste, she doesn't really like Buffy or Lost, my all time favorite shows! BUT, I still think she's tops anyway.

I still plan to watch Call the Midwife (along with ALL of you) and 666 Park Avenue tonight. I'm hopeful they will both change my life. How are you guys doing with the new shows? Have I missed anything great? Did you watch Elementary? Tell me everything.

(Also I watched the Scandal premiere and WHAT WAS THAT?)


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