Friday, November 20, 2015

TV Pilots - clearing the smoke - part 1

It's almost winter and the TV scene is filled with new series, there are new movies at the cinema and there is also what people call "life", whatever that is, apparently something that is not about films or books or even online videos. In order to be able to experience this strange concept, I have to abandon some TV series without even watching them. Unfortunately, after doing that, I am still left with several which sound interesting from their description and could be either great or really awful. In order to make a decision, today I am going through the pilots of several of these television series and blogging about them while doing it. I will watch them in alphabetical order, not sorted by any type of value.

So here we go. First one in the list: Agent X. Hidden from the view of the public - and even from the President - there is a top secret agent who is trained and ready to serve, deployed only at the careful discretion of the Vice President. Already a pretty annoying description, again putting intrinsic value on government agencies and their decision making prowess rather than on a lawful democratic system. I would have hoped they would present this as an antihero story, where the guy is an interesting person, but works for a shitty agency, but that would be putting too much faith in writers and production companies.

In the first 5 minutes we see a CIA agent captured by some Arabs, insisting he is actually a missionary. His Bible is actually a bomb and he kills his captor with his legs only, while hanged by the ceiling by the hands. Why would they think a Christian missionary would be a good cover for a Western agent in an Arab country is not explained. Then he gets recruited and 4 years later he goes after targets completely unprepared, fighting with sloppy movements and without backup, but having a flashy car and making puns. A poor man's version of an American Bond, in those five minutes he manages to shoot a guy in his left shoulder, who then miraculously gets up with a wound in his right one. The lead actor is not charismatic, the series presentation puts Sharon Stone as the first billed cast member and it features pictures with American presidents throughout their history guarded by "agents X". Well, if it's for the president, it must be good...

After five minutes I've decided not to watch this anymore. If it goes on like this, I am going to finish fast.

Next one in the list: Blood and Oil. A young married couple of newcomers looks to cash in on the modern-day oil boom in North Dakota and becomes involved with sly local oil baron, Hap Briggs, and his troubled family.. Not to be confused with the Blood and Oil 2013 reality show, this serie's description reminds me of Dallas. Let's see if I am wrong.

Set in the present day, in the area of the Bakken formation, a place where almost 10% of the US oil production comes from, the series starts off with a car accident. The actors seem charismatic enough, the setup intriguing, but the accident leaves a lot to be desired. Do they always have to have the scene where someone turns completely to watch the person next to them while they are driving? Doesn't anyone in the movies watch other movies that repeat the same trope over and over again? The show is set in cowboy territory where people wear the hats and have conflicts with the native Americans and the big boss man is played by Don Johnson! The sheriff is played by Delroy Lindo, as well.

To me, the first fifteen minutes of the pilot proved that the show has potential. The actors are decent, the production values are high and, besides some rather amateurishly written scenes, I believe this to be able to become a classic. It feels like the story is about innocence corrupted by money, as evidenced by the young hopeful and loving couple and the roughness and mercantilism of the people and the area. I will try it on my wife, see what she says.

Next stop: Flesh and Bone. Claire, a talented but emotionally troubled dancer, joins a company in New York City, and soon finds herself immersed in the tough and often cutthroat world of professional ballet. Sounds like an interesting show... but not for me. The wife will have to consider this as well.

I kind of hoped it would be connected with the Flesh and Bone song by The Burning Brides, wonderfully used in the vampire comedy Suck. Well, it wasn't. More likely is an attempt to bank on the success of Black Swan. Although if the show is serializing that, I will watch it!

Following is From Darkness. The story of Claire Church (Duff), a former police officer who moves away to the remote Western Isles in an attempt to escape the violent past that still haunts her. British show, it sounds like an attempt to continue shows like Broadchurch and put in a female lead while at it, so they can fill their diversity quota. Let's see what it's about.

I was right. Dark, brooding, depressing, about emotionally scarred police people going to solve cases. Verbal and emotional violence, flawed personalities, well fleshed out characters. I may end up watching it, but I am not certain yet. On IMDb it's rated 5.2 and the people's comments are quite negative.

Oh, dear. Heroes Reborn. A year ago, a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas, left the city decimated. Blamed for the tragic event, those with extraordinary abilities are in hiding or on the run from those with nefarious motives. A direct followup of the Heroes series that I eventually ended up not watching anymore. If the pilot is good, though, I might keep it to watch it on fast forward. Let's see what we've got.

The pilot starts within a world of hope, where people and "evos" can live in peace. Then... kaboom! Some terrorist attack and the whole world changes. Yeah, I know, it sounds familiar, doesn't it? Maybe it will open up some eyes, but I doubt it. After all, the same message was exposed in the first series and no one cared. The same comic book feel, with the titles and the chapters and so on. I like that Jack Coleman is still in it as Noah Bennet, I am really glad Claire Bennet is not a character anymore and I see Hiro in the cast, which is nice. Let's see where it goes. I am not ready to dismiss it right off the bat, but I believe that is almost identical to the first series, save the different cast.

Continued in part 2