Here’s part two, much later than I wanted it to be out, but the day job, the World Series, and a minor bout with emotional issues I’m too afraid to get diagnosed got in the way. There will only be two parts of the pilot write-ups this year, as I was able to consume them all (except for SWAT) in a couple of chunks.
All times are eastern.
Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Fox
One-sentence summary: It’s funny “X-Files” starring Craig Robinson and Adam Scott.
I really wanted to like this one, but the pilot is pretty bland. Part of that is due to the problems that typically befall comedy pilots, especially for shows that have unusual premises like “Ghosted” does. There’s too much exposition to tell you about the secret paranormal investigative unit that Robinson’s ex-cop and Scott’s disgraced pseudoscientist get drafted into, and not enough jokes.
Even beyond that, however, “Ghosted’s” priority seems wrong. More effort appears to have gone into crafting a (pretty bland) monster of the week for Robinson and Scott to chase than into writing funny things for them to say. More time has been spent on crafting melancholy backstories for their characters than spent allowing two very funny people to bounce off of each other. The selling point of “Ghosted” shouldn’t be the premise, Fox! It should be that you have Craig Robinson and Adam Scott in a TV show together. The onscreen chemistry was nil, and I sat bored through one of my most anticipated pilots of the fall.
Ryan’s rec: I’d say Skip it, but you can Try it if you need to give the Robinson/Scott pairing a chance.
Wisdom of the Crowd
Sundays, 8:30 p.m., CBS
One-sentence summary: I didn’t watch much “Person of Interest,” but it seems pretty close to that, but using “crowdsourcing” to conduct high-tech crime-fighting instead of a super-intelligent computer.
This was aggressively dumb, but the most offensive part of it is how strongly the show seems to believe in the technology at its core. Every time tech genius Jeffrey Tanner (real-life creep Jeremy Piven) gives some platitude about his work being the future, you can hear the gears grinding as “Wisdom of the Crowd” urges you to get excited, despite the irresponsible way the social media platform/world’s largest neighborhood watch initiative is used to track down criminals multiple times in the pilot.
Tanner’s program leads to a public witch hunt against the wrong person and a situation in which he personally puts one of his users in harm’s way, and then at the end of the episode it’s revealed that the reason he really made the program isn’t because he loves justice or something; it’s because he has a personal crime that he’s hoping will get solved. “Wisdom of the Crowd” ends up being one of those stories in which you end up rooting for the person the creator expected to be an antagonist, in this case a cop who’s skeptical of this digitized form of mob justice. He should be.
Ryan’s rec: Avoid it.
Ten Days in the Valley
Sundays, 10 p.m., ABC
One-sentence summary: A burgeoning screenwriter (Kyra Sedgwick) who pulls details from unwilling cops for her slightly fictionalized police drama spirals when her daughter (Abigail Pniowsky) is kidnapped by an unknown intruder.
TV reports suggest that this show is pretty close to cancellation, which is kind of too bad. The pilot was among the more interesting I watched this year, even though I had little desire to see another episode afterward.
It’s not that the show wasn’t well done. Generally speaking, it was competently executed and well acted, the central mystery will likely be a compelling one, and I give big props to any media property that gives Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje work. Each of the main characters seems like a person with a rich interior life, and I was pleased to see that my initial suspicions that the show would make the divorce at its center a one-sided affair were unfounded.
However, for all of that, “Ten Days in the Valley” is just a bummer. Its unhappily divorced couple feels too real, and most of the main characters aren’t likable. You hope that the little girl makes it home OK, but only for her sake, not her parents’. I found myself wanting Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s skeptical cop to bust Sedgewick for drug possession and child endangerment so the girl could go to a better home. I don’t think that’s how “Ten Days in the Valley” wants you to feel about its main character.
Ryan’s rec: Try it if the premise interests you.
Mondays, 8:30 p.m. CBS
One-sentence summary: A failed actor (Mark Feuerstein) is forced to move back home, taking up residence in an apartment directly between units rented by his nosy parents (Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin) and his brother (David Walton) and sister-in-law (Liza Lapira).
This is pure hackery, and yet I kind of wanted to watch more of it after the pilot ended (I haven’t actually done so, but I kind of wanted to). The reason, despite the broad jokes and the cliched premise, is that the cast is kind of stacked with sitcom talent. Sure, Feuerstein is trying too hard, but Elliott Gould can polish any turd (remember “Mulaney”?), Walton was a good recurring character on “New Girl,” and Albert Tsai earned my admiration as a surprisingly funny child actor during his time on the dearly departed “Trophy Wife.” Each of those actors, especially Gould, gets a chance to be funny in the pilot, and each makes the most of what they’re given. I laughed out loud at a few of Gould’s one-liners, delivered with his trademark naivete.
That said, “9JKL” is well beyond the potential to get old fast; it was old on arrival. One suspects that each episode’s laugh measurement will be essentially dependent on Gould’s ability to enliven the material, and I’m not confident that the premises this show is capable of delivering will allow him to work his magic on a weekly basis.
Ryan’s rec: That said, Try it. I definitely laughed.
Mondays, 9 p.m., Fox
One-sentence summary: Set in an indeterminate future – I’d guess midway between 2017 and whenever “Logan” is supposed to take place – the X-Men are missing and the remaining mutants on earth are left to fight growing government persecution.
Putting aside the fact that, according to the current and increasingly convoluted timeline of Fox’s X-Men movies, “The Gifted” will likely have a bummer of a last season, this was pretty competently executed. Granted, it’s impossible not to think about “Heroes” when you watch it, what with its empowered blond teenager and badass, non-powered dad who just cares about his family, dammit, but “Heroes” cribbed from X-Men before it was cool, so it seems just that the franchise could ultimately return the favor.
This was perfectly serviceable X-Men fare. It definitely feels like a lot of cinematic X-Men, considering its attention to very-good-for-TV special effects and direction by frequent X-movie helmsman (and another alleged creep) Bryan Singer. There are some cool powers on display and some creepy anti-mutant tech, though we’re now digging so deep into comics to find new characters that I no longer recognize any of the mutants by name or power.
In another season of television, perhaps when I was younger, I would have kept watching this after the first episode, but my bar is higher now – both for keeping up with TV and for superhero properties. There’s so much Marvel and DC content out there now that I can afford to be picky, and while I liked “The Gifted” more than most other superhero shows out there, I don’t like it as much as any program I’ve chosen to keep watching.
Ryan’s rec: Try it.
Mondays, 9 p.m., The CW
One-sentence summary: Special ops helicopter pilot Nora Madani (Christina Ochoa) endures PTSD while covertly investigating a mission she botched after her superiors lied to her.
“Valor” falls into a category you could call, “Nice try, but…” It’s great that the show wants to make a badass female helicopter pilot its main character, but in an attempt to make her more relatable, they’ve also given her much more insecurity and fragility than her male co-workers. The effect is that the show unintentionally conflates her uniqueness (in this case, that she’s the only female among her compatriots) with her character flaws, as if it’s espousing the idea that “it’s great that the military is more egalitarian these days, but at what cost?”
If you can overlook the unfortunate (and, I’m guessing, accidental) gender politics, Ochoa puts in a pretty good performance, but most of her costars turn in something more one-note: the long-suffering wife, the bro who uses sex to mask his feelings, etc. As for the show’s central conspiracy, which is revealed rather pointlessly over the course of the pilot via piecemeal flashback, it’s all right as far as “black ops operations hurt real soldiers” plots go, but it’s also the kind of thing we see all the time. Nothing makes this one stand out much in particular.
Ryan’s rec: Skip it.
Tuesdays, 9 p.m., ABC
One-sentence summary: After running for mayor as a publicity stunt, young rapper Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall) must learn how to govern in his California hometown.
This is by far the most fully realized network pilot of the fall and one of only two new shows I’ve continued to watch (“The Orville” is the other). The first episode of “The Mayor” establishes its premise deftly and quickly, allowing for time to script in a typical A-plot and to establish Courtney’s supporting cast, most notably his chief of staff Val (Lea Michelle) and his mom Dina Rose (the wonderful Yvette Nicole Brown, who is given more to do here than she’s had in old roles on other shows). The show looks to address lower-class living and black experiences in a unique way, and it actually seems somewhat interested in exploring the ins and outs of local government (though perhaps not, as the second episode, while still decent, plays right into one of the most persistent myths people believe about local government with no acknowledgment of its unreality)
Perhaps most notably, the pilot is actually pretty funny – for a pilot, anyway. Hall’s enthusiasm as a well-meaning but clueless guy is a refreshing presence, and Brown, who I mostly know as the underrated Shirley on “Community,” gets some meaty jokes that play great. If this show can avoid the problem that dogged later seasons of “Parks and Recreation” – namely, that the more the show tried to be about government, the less amusing it became – it could be a real winner.
Ryan’s rec: Watch it.
Kevin (Probably) Saves The World
Tuesdays, 10 p.m., ABC
One-sentence summary: An angel chooses ne’er-do-well Kevin (Jason Ritter) as the last of the righteous, the only man capable of saving the world from destruction, a job which he reluctantly accepts as he attempts self-improvement.
Wikipedia describes “Kevin (Probably) Saves The World” as an “American high-concept angelic-themed fantasy comedy-drama,” which maybe tells you more about the show’s convoluted mish-mash of ideas than I ever could. There are suicide attempts, dead fathers, asteroid-crater pratfalls, angel-assisted truck stunts, heightened senses of taste (what?!) and a host of other miss-matched elements in the pilot, which is made more indulgent by the fact that it’s an hour long. “Kevin…” wouldn’t be a good show if it was forced to trim half of its running time to focus on the basics, but it would at least be a tolerable one.
The pilot sets up so many subplots, none of them interesting, and simultaneously tries to portray Kevin as sadsack loser, a genuinely down-on-his-luck unfortunate soul, and a manic wiseass, the mode Ritter is clearly most comfortable in. Ultimately, the “saves the world” part of the show seems to be secondary to Kevin learning lessons about himself and hilariously (according to someone, somewhere, presumably) joking with his angel friend, to whom he must speak out loud but whom no one else can see. If I had an invisible friend with whom I needed to talk, I would do it in a private place or perhaps under my breath. Kevin prefers his conversations to be loud, public, and complete with hand gestures and odd stares from passersby. It’s as broad as it can be, but in a show like this, what do you expect?
Ryan’s rec: Skip it.
Wednesdays, 9 p.m., The CW
One-sentence summary: A reboot of the ’80s series of the same name, “Dynasty” follows the conniving family of a modern oil baron (Grant Show), particularly a fierce rivalry between his daughter (Elizabeth Gillies) and his new wife (Nathalie Kelley).
There once was a time when a soapy show about a bunch of petty rich people worked, but I submit that that time was A. before the ascendance of Trump (who’s immediately referenced in the opening dialogue) and B. before “Arrested Development.” I know, I know, the latter is intended at least partially as a parody of the real primetime soaps like “Dynasty” that came before it, but both shows’ pilots (and presumably, their following episodes) concern a selfish businessman’s heir whose corporate advancement is passed over in favor of a less qualified spouse. The lavish parties, the catty fights, the over-the-top violence (one character gets impaled by a windmill in the pilot) – they all appear to be played completely straight, and all the while I couldn’t watch them without hearing ukulele music and Ron Howard’s narration in the background. Unlike “Arrested Development,” however, most of the stars of “Dynasty” are not very good, particularly Gillies, whose facial expressions are so outsized you’d think she was performing for an audience of astronauts.
There is an element of “Dynasty” that begs to be watched ironically, and it certainly aims to provide the more typical “young woman relationship” drama that once was the network’s sole trade – perhaps combined with “Riverdale’s” penchant for the ridiculous. However, the show’s primary draw – a performative nature that will lead many viewers to wonder, “Is this a bit?” – ultimately is one of its biggest downfalls. “Dynasty” spends so much time leaving you to wonder if it’s a joke that you don’t have enough energy to be in on it.
Ryan’s rec: Skip it.