Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fall TV 2015, Week One: The Bland Leading the Bland



We're one week into the 2015 fall season, and so far, television is mostly just boring. Uninteresting plots, flat characters, and weak dialogue are running rampant. Pilots are almost always a little rough, but this year's crop seems especially... beige.

That said, there were a few colorful stand-outs. Here's how the first 11 new shows of the season measured up.



Life in Pieces

Boring first half, legitimately funny second half, excellent cast. Due to the series’ conceit, the first half of the episode is about different characters than the second half, so hopefully the increase in quality reflects pilot jitters rather than a show that only knows how to write for half of its characters. I’m actually interested to see more episodes of this, which is unfortunate, since CBS is almost certainly going to axe it.

Minority Report

Gave me major Terra Nova vibes—ambitious visuals, bland storytelling. We should scrap this and put Meagan Good to work on a D.E.B.S. TV show instead. At least as many people want that as want a Minority Report TV show, and they probably want it a whole lot more.

Blindspot

The classic case of a show with a cast likeable enough to make it stand out from the dozens of other shows it looks just like. Blindspot is a little too romance-y and generic, but it’s anchored by a solid performance from Jaime Alexander, and the supporting cast is studded with gems like Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Ashley Johnson, and Johnny Whitworth. Writing-wise, there were one or two scenes that were good enough to give hope for more interesting developments in the future.

The Muppets

I have a sneaking suspicion that this show relies a lot on viewers’ pre-existing knowledge of and investment in the Muppets for both its humor and its emotional weight. Which would be fine, I guess, except that I have neither knowledge of nor investment in the Muppets. Give someone other than Miss Piggy some kind of well-defined, two-or-more-note character, and I’ll give it another try.

Scream Queens

Too much Glee season 6, not enough Glee season 1. A+ celebrity guest star and music use, though.

Limitless

Overuses its voice-over, goes for obvious and clichéd backstory reveals way the fuck too early, and can’t overcome the inherent problem with its premise—after all, “there’s a guy who can DO ANYTHING” really limits the range of believable obstacles. But there’s some snazzy directing, and it boasts Arvin Sloane and Nina Sharpe AS A MARRIED COUPLE, which is a crossover I never knew I needed. Clearly, the best TV sequel to a moderately popular 2000s action movie to premiere this week!

Heroes Reborn

Its take on the “humans vs. special humans” concept is neither particularly original nor particularly compelling. Its new cast of characters has a few bright spots (The 100’s Eve Harlow and the teenage set of Gatlin Green, Robbie Kay, and Jake Manley the brightest of all), but is on the whole less interesting than the cast of original-flavor Heroes season one. The dialogue is overworked at best, stilted at worst. Basically, it’s pretty boring.

The Player

Wesley Snipes and Charity Wakefield are instantly charismatic and enjoyable, but The Player suffers intensely from Bland Protagonist Syndrome. There were too many action scenes and not enough character scenes, and the action wasn’t nearly cool enough to carry the episode. That said, if someone told me in six weeks that this show had gotten good, I wouldn’t be hugely shocked; in the few moments where The Player clicked, there were glimmers of a very fun show in there.

Blood and Oil

It’s a shame that Blood and Oil’s fascinating setting has been wasted on such a charmless color-by-numbers soap. Think of the stories you could tell in a modern-day gold rush town. The Patchwork Motel alone should provide a dozen unusual characters and interesting set-pieces; it’s telling, therefore, that in what’s implied to be a teeming, haphazard city-within-a-city, we see all of one tent and two would-be restauranteurs. Do these hopeful chefs have names? Personalities? Who cares? We’ve got uninspired sex scenes and predictable screwed-up-rich-family politics to see! In a town full of potentially interesting and unusual stories, Blood and Oil hones in unerringly on the boring and clichéd ones. It’s a fucking gift.

Quantico

This show operates on Speed rules: if it slows down, it dies. Quantico has like 15 ongoing plots and plot twists, but that actually works in its favor. The pace carries it past some fuzzy conceptual logic, and makes plotlines that could be unbearable—Alex’s arrest, the obvious lie about who killed her father—much more palatable. With a charismatic cast, competent directing, and twists that mostly fall just on the right side of the smart/stupid line—SURPRISE TWINS—Quantico is pretty much the perfect popcorn show, and definitely the new series I’m most likely to keep up with. That said, the best part of it is the Secret Agent Summer Camp angle, which the flash-forwards put a hard time limit on, so if it gets picked up for a second season, it’ll probably become unwatchable. For now, though, it’s a fun time.

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