It’s Pilot Season – 2013

The Fall 2013 television season is upon us. And that means we’re inundated with the worst the networks have to offer. Each year brings us new series; a few will be great, but most will be unwatchable trash. There’s far too many horrible series out there for me to review them all. So, I’ve decided to watch the three biggest pilots of this season and review them. Please note, my reviews are not necessarily what I think of the entire series, but simply my thoughts on the pilot episode.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD


Holy fuck, we start right out the gate with a major shitfest. Even on paper, Agents of SHIELD sounds like a horrible idea. An Avenger’s show without the Avengers in it? What could go wrong? Recently, Fox picked up a show for the 2014 season that would feature Gotham city without Batman. People started making fun of it immediately and/or bemoaning how terrible an idea it is to do a Batman show without Batman. And you know what? Those people are absolutely right. Nobody gives a fuck about Gotham City without Batman. So, why would we give a fuck about SHIELD without the Avengers? The reason The Avengers was a massive hit was everybody wanted to see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk together on the big screen. I guaran-fucking-tee you that nobody said, “Ooohhh I can’t wait to see Agent Coulson and some other nondescript guys in black suits!” And that is exactly what Agents of SHIELD is. It’s a generic spy/sci-fi series about a bunch of nondescript guys in black suits. Watching it is painful. You just keep thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if Iron Man just blasted through a wall and started kicking some ass? But it’s not going to happen. Instead, we see a bunch of non-superheroes acting like a bunch of idiots. Thanks guys, if I wanted to see that, I could watch any other genre of film or television. From a conceptual standpoint alone, this series failed miserably.
But what about the episode itself? It was a clusterfuck from the moment it began. The acting is barely passable. Everyone walks around with a super-smug look on their face, acting smarmy, and spouting ridiculous one-liners trying to out-snark one another. The first bits of humor were all right, but the problem is they never let up on the smug. It just goes on endlessly. Every other line is a joke. It’s way too Whedony for its own good. Joss Whedon has a terrible track record. Firefly? Cancelled because it sucked. Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Cheesy as hell. Sure it was serviceable, but not exactly a show that will stand the test of time. Dollhouse? Give me a fucking break. Serenity? Oh, let’s make a movie sequel to a TV series that got cancelled because nobody watched it! Great idea, Whedon! People go around talking about how Whedon is some kind of fucking cinematic genius. I’m sorry, but he had one campy hit TV show that has been off the air for a decade, and one hit movie. Everything else he’s done has been shit. But when you read forums or blogs, people talk about how they have always been fans of his stuff. And now he’s getting called in to do rewrites of other movies (Thor 2). Yeah, whatever cocksuckers, you’re all full of shit. If you secretly were always Whedon fans, then I suppose Firefly is about to enter its tenth season. Whenever his next, non-superhero property bombs horribly, everybody is going to cut and run on the Whedon fan train.
But back to the show. We are introduced to a lot of generic characters who offer up nothing we haven’t seen before. They are all humans, with no three-dimensional traits, and all wearing the same black suit. Coulson apparently survived The Avengers, which retroactively makes his death pointless. HEY GUYS, GUESS WHAT? THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES! NOBODY EVER DIES! THERE WILL NEVER BEEN ANY STAKES IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE! So, Coulson is the leader, Robin Scherbatsky shows up to do nothing, and the team goes after a dude with artificially enhanced powers. They have not one, but two people with UK accents. I’m sick and fucking tired of every TV show having someone from the UK on it. Not that I dislike people from the UK, I don’t. In fact, I think they’re pretty great. But if TV were real life, then 1 in 5 people in the United States would be British. It’s fucking idiotic. Of course, both of the show’s UK cast members are science nerds, who do sciency stuff, and act partially as comic relief. Of course, we don’t need comic relief when every other line is already a fucking joke. The other annoying cast member is this beautiful 20-something rogue hacker girl (aren’t they always beautiful 20-somethings?), who is immediately recruited to join the team. Isn’t SHIELD a government agency? Don’t they have people already doing this kind of thing? Are they this hard up they just start recruiting anybody they can find? What the fuck?
So, the team eventually tracks down this guy with artificial powers and stops him. They shoot him in the head. Oh, cool, I thought. That was pretty edgy for a network TV show. But DERP SURPRISE they shot him with some kind of tranquilizer gun. GREAT IDEA GUYS! SHOOTING HIM IN THE HEAD WITH A TRANQUILIZER IS SURE TO BE COMPLETELY SAFE AND NOT CAUSE ANY KIND OF CRANIAL INJURY! Of course, they had to do it. If they didn’t, he was literally going to explode. Sure, yeah, you betcha.
Agents of SHIELD is a goddamn joke. A superhero show without superheroes. Characters who are stock and seen a million times before. Low stakes, too many self-aware jokes, too much idiocy, and too much Whedon. In fact, we get not one but two Whedons. While Joss Whedon is the producer and co-creator (and director of the pilot), he tapped his brother Jed Whedon to be the showrunner. Why not? Nepotism makes the world go round, after all. I’m sure the series will be in good hands from the writer of Dollhouse, the Spartacus TV show, and nothing else. ABC has completely fucked themselves by making this show, and Marvel has flown too close to the sun like Icarus. They think they can just put garbage on TV and anyone will watch it. I suppose next they’ll give us an X-Men TV series without the X-Men.
Verdict: Shitty
The Blacklist

Snow White’s new dwarves: Sleepy and Baldy.

I was particularly excited for this series because I’m an unabashed James Spader fan. He was awesome in Stargate, he was even better in Boston Legal, he was bizarre in The Office, and now he is the star of The Blacklist. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, because I hadn’t seen a single commercial or promo for it before airing. Once it started, things almost immediately began to go downhill.
The Blacklist is an unfortunate combination of Alias and The Silence of the Lambs. Spader’s character takes on the Hannibal Lecter role, and Megan Boone takes on the Syndey Bristow role. The premise is this: Spader is a world class criminal who mysteriously turned himself in to the FBI. While behind bars, he agrees to give information that will aid the FBI in tracking down the world’s most dangerous criminals. The catch? He will only interact with Boone’s character. When he talks with her, he only gives her the necessary information after she tells him something about her personal life. This is, of course, EXACTLY what happens in The Silence of the Lambs. Afterward, the series shifts into Alias mode, where Boone and her FBI compatriots go out, chase down criminals, get involved in shootouts, defuse bombs, and kick ass across the Washington D.C. area. Although, it’s hard to believe that Boone could kick anyone’s ass because she looks like she could fall asleep at any second. Seriously, who the fuck cast her as the female lead? Did the role call for someone who looked like they had narcolepsy? She can barely keep her eyes open!
The show tries to be clever with twists and turns, and making Spader appear to always be one step ahead of everyone else. It largely fails in all of these endeavours. Perhaps the biggest problem is not with the writing, but with the acting. Everyone is decent, but nobody can match up against Spader. He turns in a great performance, slightly over-the-top without chewing the scenery, and every bit believable as some kind of diabolical James Bond-esque criminal. Sadly, in comparison, everyone else is turning in a college drama class performance. That is painfully obvious every time Spader and Boone share the screen together. I suppose this could improve as the series goes on, but I kind of doubt it.
One of the other major problems is that the series has no idea what kind of person it wants its main character to be. Boone is introduced in a super-cutesy scene where she is late for work. Apparently, it’s her first day on the job. Although, the show isn’t even quite sure about that. It later recants and says it’s her first day as an FBI profiler, and that she has actually been with the FBI for four years. WHY THE FUCK IS SHE AN FBI PROFILER? EVERY GODDAMN TV FBI AGENT IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILER! If TV were reality, then the FBI would have a one-to-one ratio of field agents to psychological profilers. Doesn’t the FBI have any other interesting jobs? But back to the character. In the beginning she seems friendly and personable, and in a loving relationship. But then later she talks about how she ruthlessly clawed her way to the top, and her co-workers think she’s a “bitch.” Come on guys, you can’t have it both ways. Grow some fucking balls when you write your material. Either make her adorable or an icequeen. Just pick one and go with it.
The episode ends with a crazy twist that I sort of saw coming, but not exactly. It pointed to a larger, Alias-like, conspiracy. I enjoyed that kind of thing in Alias, and as long as they don’t go overboard with the mysticism, it could turn out all right. Overall, The Blacklist was watchable, but not exactly great television. I think I’ll give it another couple of episodes, but I won’t be surprised if it quickly devolves into an unwatchable mess.
Verdict: Bad
Sleepy Hollow

I wish there was a better way to showcase how nuts this series is.

If there was an award for Most Batshit Insane New Series, I’m sure Sleepy Hollow would win it. This pilot was off its rocker from the opening shot until the end credits rolled. It started off with a bullet-time Revolutionary War battle culminating in Ichabod Crane cutting off a British soldier’s head. Then, we jump cut immediately to 2013, where Crane wakes up looking exactly the same as he did 250 years earlier. He wanders out into the street and is immediately arrested at gunpoint because PEOPLE WEARING FUNNY CLOTHES AND LOOKING CONFUSED SHOULD ALWAYS BE ARRESTED AT GUNPOINT! It’s not like he actually did anything illegal. He could have been a trick-or-treater who was high on too much sugar. Simultaneously, the Headless Horseman appears and immediately starts chopping off heads. The Horseman is a straight-up gangsta. He doesn’t give a fuck about anything. He just rides around with his red-eyed demon horse, chopping off the heads of the Sheriff, a Priest, and anyone else who gets in his way. Later, the police decide that Crane is the culprit behind the beheadings despite having no evidence or witnesses of any kind. SURE WHY NOT, HE SEEMS CRAZY SO HE MUST BE A MURDERER!
The show fulfills its quota of sassy black cop characters with Abbie Mills, the female lead. Fortunately, she’s not too sassy, and doesn’t quite come off as a major stereotype. She believes Crane and helps bust him out of a mental institution so he can help her investigate the death of the Sheriff. Naturally, she finds a bevy of mysterious documents hidden in the Sheriff’s office that point to some kind of deep, dark, mystical conspiracy that might involve George Washington. After running around for a while, having crazy visions of the Devil and some witches and some white trees (no, I’m not kidding), they discover that the Horseman is actually one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And no, not the Filmmaking Apocalypse. He’s not Michael Bay. Crane and Mills eventually dig up the Horseman’s head, do battle with the Horseman himself, and a bunch of crazy shit happens that is borderline indecipherable. When the dust settled, Crane and Mills are alive and ready to continue their investigation.
The problem with Sleepy Hollow is that it tries to do WAY TOO MUCH in the first episode. Time travel? Sure. Demons? Yep. Witches? Got ’em. Conspiracy? Of course. End of the World Prophecy? Uh-huh. Fish out of water humor? Naturally. Crazy off-the-wall action? Bingo. Any normal series would introduce one or two of these elements in the pilot, and then slowly bring out the other elements over the course of the season. Sleepy Hollow is overburdened with too much crap going on. It’s almost hard to follow with the magic and demons and conspiracies and whatnot. In a show with magic and demons, do we really need some kind of multi-layered conspiracy? Probably not. Obviously, the writers are setting something up to sustain the series over the long haul. And that’s not necessarily a bad idea. But they shouldn’t blow their wad in the first episode. Sometimes, a slow burn can be a good thing.
On the positive side, Sleepy Hollow was fun to watch. How could it not be? With so much crap going on, with people getting beheaded, and the Headless Horseman tearing shit up with a machine gun, how could anyone watch it and not find it entertaining? This is definitely one of those shows best watched with a huge suspense of disbelief, and a healthy amount of “turn your brain off” attitude. And if you can do that, then this will probably be an enjoyable show for you.
Sleepy Hollow isn’t perfect television. Far from it. However, Sleepy Hollow is definitely the most entertaining of all the pilots of the 2013 season. In the future, the show could easily end up as the next Lost, with so many mysteries that they won’t be able to solve them all. Or, it could just collapse under the weight of its own bloated, messy story. But for now, with only one episode, it seems promising. At least in a batshit insane kind of way.
Verdict: Average

12 Responses to “It’s Pilot Season – 2013”

  1. October 5, 2013 at 10:37 am

    As crazy as Sleepy Hollow is I liked the pilot more than SHIELD’s pilot. A few episodes in it doesn’t hold up … but what do I know, its’already renewed for a second season. Crane is a weak lead character that is overshadowed by Abby who I surprisingly like. Lost built up the craziness over the seasons but Sleepy is pouring an entire series worth into one episode.
    There are shows that don’t take things too seriously then there are shows that are silly. I still like SHIELD’s pilot, the sad thing is though that the characters aren’t working. The story in the pilot is forgettable but if the characters were worthy of their own show, then I think people would cut it some more slack, at least for the first few episodes. I’m curious about Blacklist and may give the pilot a shot even though you think it’s bad haha. 🙂

    • October 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Be sure to give The Black List a try. The second episode was a slight step up from the first. Maybe it will continue to get better? Yeah, I agree with you about SHIELD and Sleepy Hollow. SHIELD’s characters are bland, and make it that much harder to enjoy. Sleepy Hollow is almost too much craziness. It seems like they should have toned it down a bit and waited to unleash all the crazy for a few more episodes.

  2. October 9, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I’ll say this first. I am a Joss Whedon fan of the Buffy/Angel era. Freaking love those two shows so much. Personally, I think they’re both fantastic. Joss did fantastic work with both of them. And Firefly. And Serenity. I draw the line with Dollhouse. That was epically shite.

    And now we have Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – why the heck does it have such a long name?! 2 episodes in, and where I would have usually called it quits, I feel like I need to stick with it. Some weird effect of being a long time Whedon fan. It’s a disease. Why on earth do TV shows based on something vaguely comic book-y have to be amazingly shit? Like you said, all the characters are bland, dull, boring, cookie cut outs. Heck, even Coulson’s taken a dive. Do not see what the fuss is with this show, whatsoever.

    Started The Blacklist – why did it go all Alias? Eh. Isabella Rosselini even turned up in the second episode. I’m sticking with it for now. It’s not bad. But it’s not good.

    Sleepy Hollow, I quit. After the first episode. Possibly within the first 15 minutes.

    So much new network TV is absolutely bollucks. The Blacklist and The Crazy Ones are the only ones I’m sticking with so far. Oh and Shield.

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October 2013


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