Fall Pilots, week one: Fox strikes first

Per Matinee Culture custom, we’ll be looking at close to every scripted network pilot this fall and telling you if they’re any good. This week, Fox jumped out in front with three new shows before the glut hits the fan next week. All times are eastern.

Sleepy Hollow

Fox, 9 p.m. Mondays, Drama

Would Watch Again? Probably not, but your mileage may vary

Sleepy Hollow promo

Premise: The Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) of “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” days (but apparently that story never existed on the show? It’s confusing, guys) is killed by a strange redcoat during the Revolutionary War and wakes up in the present. His now-headless assailant wakes up too, and it turns out that he might be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

How Was It? Despite that absolutely bonkers premise, “Sleepy Hollow’s” pilot holds together remarkably well. There’s some fun man-out-of-time stuff (at one point, Crane is confused but happy to learn that co-star Nicole Beharie’s African American cop has been “empancipated”), and the show is particularly good when it revels in how over-the-top it is. One scene in particular involving the Headless Horseman wielding a machine gun is delightful.

That said, this could easily go off the rails in a hurry. The pilot already suffers from some whiplash-inducing tonal shifts, jarringly cutting from comedy to horror and back again, and the show’s mythology could become far too ponderous if the show takes itself too seriously (fortunately, it’s in the hands of Fringe’s Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who are more than capable). On a personal note, there’s a fair amount of dalliances with covens and some other stuff I’m not too fond of, but that’s a complaint many viewers won’t mind.

Dads

Fox, 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Comedy

Would Watch Again? No

DADS

Premise: Two video game designers (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) are put upon when their dads (Peter Riegert and Martin Mull, straining hard to make something out of lackluster material) decide to move in. Also Brenda Song is there for some reason.

How Was It? Dads is the kind of bad show that it’s not even fun to mock. It’s a bland, bland thing, with recycled jokes and a middle section that pointlessly objectifies Song and stereotypes Chinese people, but without the truly transgressive or absurd aspects that mark the better work of creator Seth MacFarlane (of Family Guy fame).

Green and Mull in particular bluster and bristle, trying their darndest to eke some laughter out of the script, but it’s just so lifeless. Here’s hoping CBS kills this one, and quickly.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Fox, 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Comedy

Would Watch Again? Yes

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Premise: Andy Samberg plays a brilliant but immature NYC police detective who butts heads with his new no-nonsense captain (Andre Braugher, from the dearly departed Last Resort). They’re joined in their quirky precinct by Terry Crews, Chelsea Peretti, Melissa Fumero and more.

How Was It? It takes a little while to get going, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s pilot ends up being quite the good time, with a charming but goofy vibe from Samberg and a fine turn by Braugher, whose humor by way of stoicism approach simultaneously sees him playing to and against type. Crews is also fun as a sergeant afraid of injury, and the rest of the cast generally acquits themselves well.

Performances aside, a key reason to watch the show is for its co-creator, Michael Schur, who runs Parks and Recreation and has had a hand in Saturday Night Live and The Office (Brooklyn’s other creator, Dan Goor, is also a Parks vet). Schur and Goor already seem to be injecting the show with Parks’ good-natured vibe, and the pilot is crafted well, deftly handling jokes, setpieces and police work with equal aplomb. This just looks to get better as it develops its world.

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