This very special, pretty unwise MCC project continues!
I’m combining three entries in one for simple bookkeeping reasons. See, some MCC entries get Likes from fellow WordPress users. Some MCC entries see an uptick in site traffic. Some rare MCC specimens are blessed enough to garner both. Up to this point most of the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge entries have been earning neither. Even spammerbot accounts are looking at them and thinking, “This no good! We go spam other bloggers! You call when you go back to posting photos! THEN we link you to counterfeit Louboutins long time!”
I refuse to quit the project because that’s the kind of mule-headed fool I am, even if means more TV viewing discomfort. A few pilots may still merit individual entries in the future, but I’ve received the message loud and clear that not every impression I have is worth 700-1,000 words. It doesn’t help that my tastes are sometimes confounding and governed by peculiar guidelines. Regardless, we’ll see what we can do with this silent input and go from there.
And now, a few words on three pilots about MURDER.
This Fox ten-part miniseries is an adaptation of an eight-part BBC series call Broadchurch, about the ripple effects of a young boy’s murder on a tightly woven, tightly wound small town. Project or no project, my wife and I thought highly of Broadchurch and were curious what would be different in the American version. The American pilot stops short of being a Gus Van Sant shot-for-shot, setup-for-setup homage of the original, though both were written by creator Chris Chibnall. David Tennant stars in both, but with different accents. The Scottish-bred Alec Hardy was too much for American viewers to grasp, so he’s switched to the kind of angry rasp I’ve heard in a lot of Wolverine video games and cartoons, and his name has been changed to Emmett Carver in hopes of appealing to all those young American moms who’ve been naming their boys Emmett after heroes like M. Emmet Walsh, Emmet Otter, and Doc Emmett Brown.
While several previous shots are recreated (particularly Danny’s final moments), the crew made their own way visually into a few scenes, including the long tracking shot that cheerfully, quietly introduces nearly the entire suspect list. As Tennant’s partner, Anna Gunn will be hard pressed to match Olivia Colman’s finest hour, but I’m resisting the easy impulse to compare the unsteady American pilot to the searing British finale, which is unfair to all involved. The basic kickoff and literally the entire suspect list were sustained through the transition, but early articles have confirmed the series will diverge toward a different solution at some point. We’ve noted a few other changes between the British and American versions so far:
* Arthur “Rory!” Darvill has been replaced by some guy I don’t know as Reverend Coates, the town minister.
* David Bradley (a.k.a. Argus Filch, a.k.a. Walder Frey) has been replaced as Jack the town’s grumpy old youth-group leader by Academy Award Nominee Nick Nolte, who now has the voice of an aged sea captain who gargles lit cigar butts.
* Other notable cast additions include Michael Pena (Crash) and Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (Animal Factory).
* Susan the creepy lady with the dog is an Easter egg at first, and then starts turning up everywhere like Uatu the Watcher, all looming and staring and blatantly foreboding. I don’t recall her Broadchurch analog popping around quite so pervasively. She might as well have worn a T-shirt that read “I KNOW THINGS.”
So far the British version wins (and who saw that coming?), but the two of us are interested enough to see where this goes for the time being, as long as Tennant doesn’t die in episode two.
How to Get Away with Murder:
The latest ABC runaway hit is seen through the eyes of young Wes Gibbins, a seemingly innocent college graduate who’s admitted to a law school where the entire student population and his Murder 101 teacher Viola Davis are amoral monsters. Wes is played by Alfred Enoch, who just wrapped a seven-film stint as Dean Thomas, one of Harry Potter’s most regrettably redundant friends. As a ray of light down amongst the backstabbing soap-opera dwellers, Enoch holds his own marvelously and I’d love to see him shine in a series of his own.
Alas, we watch Wes suffer his first harsh days of law school as he’s pitted against cutthroat classmates in a contest to see who’s best at doing Professor McGonnaKill’s defense-attorney job for her for free. The students sneak around, cross lines, flaunt laws, and never let their eyes be anything but shifty. Scenes are efficiently fast-paced, economical with their use of time, and don’t leave us much space to dwell or breathe or recoil. In between the cracks, we also flash-forward a few months ahead to the present, when the American Shyster finalists have bonded together over an extracurricular group project: hiding the body of a fresh murder victim. By the end of the pilot we know who’s dead and with what weapon, but we don’t yet know who or why. Thus is woven a tangled web of lies, sex, college hijinks, sex, treachery, sex, murder, sex, mysteries, sex, sharp acting, sex, diversity, sex, a lacerating treatise on the facades everyone wears and the dark side that lurks within us all, and also some sexing.
Other actors include Rosie Larsen from The Killing, Glory’s “brother” Ben from Buffy Season 5, and the unstoppable Millicent Stone from Bunheads. What the show does, it does professionally so, though when Viola Davis made an edgy crack about “chubby paralegals” as an undesirable consolation prize for mediocre law grads, I kind of stopped caring whether her character lived or died.
Even if that hadn’t been the case, I’d have to recuse myself from this anyway because I have a prudish rule of thumb about avoiding shows whose ads or critics proudly tout them as “SEXY!” At the end of the On Demand airing I caught two weeks ago, Murder thumped its chest and gave us a next-level promise of (and I quote) “SEXIER!” Yeah, I bet. Really not my thing.
(Minutes passed before I confirmed it wasn’t for me: 26. )
I was led to believe this new CBS procedural would be more exploitative. The murder at the top of the episode is disturbing, but the media made it sound twisted and sickening, like Hannibal minus artsiness or something. A woman is menaced in dreadful fashion, and the scene ends with her car exploding. It’s shot a bit more dynamically than an average episode of Mannix, but I’m not convinced it earned special demerits.
If the headlines are because the first victim was female, it may or may not be worth noting that the pilot tries to balance the scales with a subplot in which one white dude stalks another white dude. Granted, neither murders the other, so I can’t say equivalence has been achieved for the more meticulous scorekeepers out there. I like to think that’s an early sign the network’s game plan isn’t Twenty-Two Short Films About Dead Women. (Knock on wood, I suppose.)
Curiously, Stalker is the creation of Kevin Williamson, once known as the mastermind behind the original Scream. He’s transitioned from mocking horror-movie murders to examining real-life implications in a serious crime drama. That may or may not be a sign that he’s moving on to higher-minded ponderings, but it’s hard for something like that to stand out on CBS, home of the grim-‘n’-gritty police procedural.
The pilot tries to separate itself from its lookalike network siblings by establishing that Our Heroes aren’t just any old police, no mere beat cops or homicide detectives. Maggie Q, formerly of Nikita, heads L.A.’s Threat Assessment Unit, which tries as much as it can to offer Minority Report pre-crime apprehension in a present-day world where there are no precogs and stalkers are tough to arrest until and unless their misdeeds have escalated from worse to worst. She’s the best there is at what she does, which doesn’t explain why an anti-stalking team leader would live in a house covered in glass windows, keep all the lights on, and use lots of diaphanous curtains so all her neighbors and stalkers will be able to keep an eye on her. Reverse psychology, maybe?
Her new partner is The Practice‘s Dylan McDermott, a cocky NYC transplant who rattles off deductions like Sherlock (lots of that going ’round TV at the moment), who freely concedes most of their perpetrators will be horrible terrible men, and who won’t stop deconstructing everything she does or wears. Together they share nothing in common except arguably the job, but naturally they’re no saints, either. Each has a deep, dark secret to call their own, and when you think about either one in the context of their jobs…my reaction to each reveal was the same: “Yeah, that figures.” It also didn’t help that the resolution to the pilot’s central whodunit will be familiar to anyone who watched the original Scream.
The only other cast member I recognized was Kate Lockley from TV’s Angel, but her character’s identity is a mild yet predictable spoiler. If you’re a fan of either of the lead actors, you’ll find more of what they do best here. Beyond that, Stalker to me seemed like just another procedural that won’t fit into my schedule. By focusing strictly on criminals who stalk, I’m not sure that’s enough to distinguish the show from the rest. At best, all they’ve done is restrict themselves to a much smaller deviant pool.
(Minutes passed before I confirmed it wasn’t for me: 3.)
[For more information on the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge project, please visit the initial entry for the rationale, the official checklist of pilots, and links to completed entries as we go. Thanks for reading!]