Procrastination Bites (MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #23-26)

State of Affairs!

No need to fret, Ms. Heigl. Grey’s Anatomy can’t hurt you anymore.

Bloggers love writing prompts. Toss them a random topic, see what they can do with it, cross your fingers and wish them the best on their mental exercise. I don’t mind them myself, sometimes. If there’s a subject on which I have even the most tangential thought, in many cases I can find something creative and/or catchy to do with it, provided there’s no vital scheduling needs involved.

Writing prompts are an enjoyable challenge for me if everyone’s fine waiting anywhere from two days to three years for my results. It doesn’t matter if the idea came from the WordPress.com Daily Post. It doesn’t matter if it came from current events. And as I’ve discovered over the past four months, it makes no difference if the idea was mine.

Speaking of which: I have a commitment to fulfill and a project I said I’d finish.

Right this way for the grand finale!

MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #21- 22: “Jane the Virgin” vs. “Mike Tyson Mysteries”

Gina Rodriguez!

I haven’t forgotten about this very special project, but I had a certain viewing/posting order in mind that would’ve put some thematic coupling to these entries. That plan was derailed when two of the pilots on the master list were not available for viewing On Demand, my primary source of after-airing catch-up. I’m in the process of making special arrangements to see those two without resorting to pirating or (ugh) buying them on iTunes. That leaves me with two pilots I’ve watched in the past month that share absolutely nothing in common except that I haven’t covered them yet. Maybe this works if we all agree to pretend Jane the Virgin and Mike Tyson are mismatched buddy-cops who have to get along for the sake of their jobs, and that there are high stakes and…I don’t even know how to finish this sentence in any remotely entertaining manner. The two series are like comparing apples and Edsels. I give.

Onward, then:

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #20: “Constantine”

John Constantine!

“The power of comics compels you to watch! The power of comics compels you to watch! Um, uh, accio remote!

It’s time for more comic book TV! Longtime readers know John Constantine from his first appearance as an obnoxious Swamp Thing ally and/or as the star of his own mature-readers DC/Vertigo series that ran for 25 years before it was canceled and replaced by a more mainstream version ready-made for super-hero crossovers. Too many movie viewers first knew him as the focus of just another failed Keanu Reeves vehicle, whose high point was Tilda Swinton as a creepy angel. The new John in NBC’s Constantine is basically Dr. Strange on zero hours’ sleep wearing Harvey Bullock’s clothes. Regardless, the cunning yet selfish antihero has been handled by so many great writers over the decades, shown in so many states of mind operating in so many peculiar ways, that this pilot had no chance of pleasing all the people all of the time.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #19: “Star Wars Rebels”

Star Wars Rebels!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…the Keystone Kops were alive and well and still wearing useless helmets.

Star Wars Rebels is the first of two animated pilots on the project list, and one of the very few that my wife and I had planned to try anyway. She’s a longtime dedicated Star Wars fan with an Expanded Universe emphasis, as are some of my oldest internet cohorts. Together we watched nearly every episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars until its abrupt cancellation. We number among the many thousands of fans waiting impatiently and vainly for closure on the life of former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano. Regardless, we’d look and feel weirder if we didn’t give the new show a try.

Far as I can tell, nearly everyone who’ll love any media product with the words “Star Wars” on it has given the show an A for existing. So far to me, it’s Firefly for kids. There’s some good and some less-good in that.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #18: “The Flash”

The Flash!

Of all twenty-six pilots in this series, I had more mixed emotions about The Flash in advance than I did any of the rest. When I began collecting comics at age six, Barry Allen was one of the first heroes to teach me about truth, justice, and sequential numbering in long-running comics. I still have issues #270-350, along with the first 200+ issues of Wally West’s subsequent series (including the weirdly numbered Zero Hour and DC One Million crossovers). The first time he came to TV in 1990, I’d taped nearly every episode on VHS years before DVD was a thing, and when it became a thing and the show was eventually granted its release, finally getting to see the legendarily preempted Captain Cold episode was, pardon the expression, pretty cool. Until several years ago, I was a longtime fan of the Flash legacy.

I entered with trepidation into his new vehicle produced by The CW, purveyors of the frequently aggravating Smallville, which left me with so many negative emotions that to this day I still haven’t convinced myself to try a single episode of Arrow because I assumed the results would be similar or worse. (I haven’t forgotten Birds of Prey, either. Yikes.) Knowing that The Flash was a direct spinoff from a show I’m not watching didn’t encourage me, nor did the announcement that both shows are already planning their first crossover (ugh). Insert obligatory reference here to other problems with translating DC heroes to other media, especially movies.

But it’s on the list. So I gave it a try. And I was happy to be surprised. (Fair warning to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet: one paragraph in this entry covers the specific subject of Easter eggs. If you’re a fan of those and plan to savor them as a surprise someday, consider this your courtesy spoiler warning.)

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #16-17: “Black-ish” / “Mulaney”

Black-ish!

Don’t look at me for a caption. They got this covered.

In this corner, a onetime almost-movie star who has his own Food Network show! In that corner: a former SNL writer with some standup comedy experience! These two sitcoms have almost nothing in common, not even their ratings. I watched the pilots for both a while back and procrastinated doing anything with my notes…until now.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #13-15: “Gracepoint” / “Murder” / “Stalker”

Gracepoint!

Our Heroes prepped for their roles by attending a seminar on “Surviving an American Remake of a European Series” and then reading viewer complaints about The Killing.

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.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #12: “Bad Judge”

Bad Judge, Worse Show.

“Time for karaoke! Where do we start? ‘Bad Reputation’? ‘I Am Woman’? ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’? ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’? Or something by the Fray?”

In case the title Bad Judge was a little too shorthand and didn’t prepare you, the pilot is quick to give you everything you need to know to form your own snap judgment and recuse your TV from the rest of the proceedings. I assume it owes some gratitude and royalties to either Bad Teacher or Bad Santa, but I really wouldn’t know and intend to stay ignorant of all such likenesses.

Before I continue, I suppose I could add a courtesy spoiler alert for anyone who’s saving this mistrial on their DVR for a rainy, thundering, frog-pouring kind of day. The element of surprise certainly didn’t help me out.

…so, where were we?

MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #11: “Manhattan Love Story”

Manhattan Love Story.

“So, while we’re trapped on this boat and there’s nowhere you can hide, and no other ABC show you can run to…wanna make out in front of the crew?”

It’s a common story a lot of us have watched unfold before. Dudebro meets flighty gal. Dudebro mocks flighty gal. Dudebro scares away flighty gal. Dudebro tries to make it up to flighty gal. Dudebro ticks off flighty gal. Dudebro kisses up to flighty gal with weak, music-free Say Anything nod. Flighty gal gives him yet another chance because the producers mandated a happy ending. According to the new ABC sitcom Manhattan Love Story, that’s modern true love at its finest!

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #10: “NCIS: New Orleans”

NCIS New Orleans!

I’d never seen a single episode of any previous NCIS products, but I was bound to encounter one sooner or later. In the fine tradition of Law & Order: Trial by Jury and CSI: New York and Here’s Lucy, NCIS: New Orleans is the third in the dynasty and presumably goes through the same motions as its predecessors, except with differently likeable actors and, I’m guessing based on location, a whole lot more local color, by which I mean the kind of Southern accents Hollywood flat-out dislikes. In most movies and TV shows, anyone with a Southern accent is evil, stupid, both, or Academy Award Winners Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey. Our NCIS:NO Heroes are appreciably none of the above, though I confess Louisiana is one of several states my wife and I haven’t road-tripped to yet, so I have no idea if there’s a single authentic Cajun, Creole, French-American, or Mardi Gras partygoer in the entire bunch.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #9: “Forever”

Forever!

The only new fantasy/sci-fi series of the Fall 2014 season that’s not based on a comic book, the hero of Forever, a Manhattan medical examiner who’s also a 200-year-old immortal, could’ve been adapted from the medium, using either DC Comics’ Immortal Man or Vandal Savage, or Marvel’s Mr. Immortal from the Great Lakes Avengers. Instead this mash-up derived from the crossed bones of the much more popular Sleepy Hollow and Sherlock will have to rise or fall on the strength of some added flourishes and the charms of star Ioan Gruffudd, who’s much more at ease here than he was as the uptight Reed Richards in the two Fantastic Four films.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #8: “Scorpion”

Scorpion!

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Scorpion the Best New Series on TV!

That’s my honest assessment based purely on how its pilot stacked up against the nine others I’ve watched so far in my ongoing marathon. When I first read about the premise — the short version is, our government pays wacky hackers to save the world every week — my initial impression was a CSI: Big Bang Theory that would have depressing things in store for me. I feared the limited plot possibilities that would be solved every episode with some combination of “Let’s Enhance!” zooms and frenetic compute-offs in which Our Heroes must TYPE FASTER OR ELSE THINGS EXPLODE, all while we point and laugh at their personal defects. The first twenty minutes of the pilot saw my prophecy fulfilled for the benefit of CBS viewers who prefer that their shows look exactly like other CBS shows.

Then a strange thing happened during the back half of the premiere. This time, things got personal for me.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #7: “Gotham”

Penguin!Sorry to join the party so late! Everyone else already watched the premiere of Gotham days ago on Fox and blogged, tweeted, Tumblr’d, or tin-can-on-a-stringed about it to all their circles, right? If everyone else is already over it, that means I can write whatever I want without fear of anyone reading it, right? Okay, cool. The way my week has gone, I’m considering using this space to update our grocery list and gauge its effect on site traffic.

For those who spent this week focusing on other things, or who don’t care about shows based on comics: Gotham tells the story of a young, stringy, ineffective toady named Oswald Cobblepot who spends his life groveling for a notorious crime lord and wishing people would stop bullying him. The ending has already been spoiled because fans of comics or old TV know Cobblepot will someday outgrow his ineptitude and mature into the formidable businessman known as the Penguin. Gotham, then, is his origin story, plus a half-dozen irrelevant subplots about far less interesting people.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #6: “Madam Secretary”

Madam Secretary!

Longtime MCC readers should know, putting it inadequately, that politics are not my thing. Tea Leoni is okay by me, but I knew ahead of time her new CBS political drama Madam Secretary might have a hard time holding my attention. I tried it nonetheless as part of the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge Project and found a fair number of upsides. For one, I enjoyed seeing the always-contrarian Zelkjo Ivanek rebound from the cancellation of NBC’s Revolution. Also: Keith Carradine is the President of the United States of America. It’s the sentence America wants and needs.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #5: “A to Z”

A to Z!

Serendipity meets (500) Days of Summer, with an added twist for people who like lists, in the new series A to Z, one of NBC’s additions to its ailing Thursday comedy lineup. The title holds a double meaning: the cute couple under scrutiny, played by Ben Feldman (whose Michael Ginsberg was last seen being carried off Mad Men in a stretcher) and Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother), are named Andrew and Zelda. As described to the audience by narrator Katey Sagal, the series will detail their entire relationship “from A to Z”.

And when she says “entire”, she doesn’t just mean in-depth; it’s an implied time-bomb countdown to The End. Continue reading

MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #4: “The Mysteries of Laura”

Mysteries of Laura!

The hard-knock life of an undercover officer.

Debra Messing is back on network TV! She’s po-lice! She’s Mom! Debra Messing is…POLICE MOM!

Have you been dying for a a return to the glorious absurdity of Sledge Hammer! and Police Squad, even if the absurdity is unintentional? Do you lie awake at night wondering why Lifetime never greenlit a series based on the Miss Congeniality movies? Are you tired of shows like The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street that think real-life, hard-knock police work is more important than magazine makeup or hair care? Then your new favorite show is ready and waiting to make you laugh and cry in all the wrong places.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #3: “Red Band Society”

Red Band Society!

I’ve not yet watched or read The Fault in Our Stars, so I’m unqualified to comment on whether or not Fox’s new terminal-teens drama Red Band Society owes it some debts. Of the twenty-six pilots I’ll be sampling over the next few months, it’s among the small number that I was not dreading. For me the major selling point is Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer, who was great in The Help, lent Snowpiercer some of its heart, and tore me up inside as the tough-loving mother in Fruitvale Station. I was curious to see her handling a bona fide starring role.

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MCC 2014 Pilot Binge #2: “Selfie”

Selfie!

Hey, that was my face while watching, too! We can totes share the same emoji!

She was Amy Pond and Nebula. He was Sulu and the Headless Horseman’s lackey. Together, Karen Gillan and John Cho could be an unstoppable TV power couple. So how were they lured into starring in the new ABC show Selfie, which feels ready-made for Disney Channel prime-time?

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The MCC 2014 Pilot Binge: Kickoff and First Down

Utopia!

Not a codeword for the new fall TV lineup.

And now for something completely regrettable:

I have a short list of TV shows I follow every year, but I don’t watch nearly as much TV as the average internet user my age. I don’t connect with what many of today’s sitcoms consider “humor”. The Wire ruined all ordinary police shows for me for all time. We don’t subscribe to any premium cable channels. I’m not remotely interested in any show that describes itself as “sexy”. My list of disqualifiers goes on and on.

This year I’ve decided against my better judgment to dare myself to do something different. I spent time this weekend reading the official annual “Fall TV Preview” cover features in the latest issues of Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, and compiled a list of the new shows that merited full articles or capsule previews. I omitted a few premium-cable shows for the one reason mentioned above (the pirating option is off the table) and a few online-only streaming shows for assorted logistical reasons. That left me with a list of twenty-six TV shows in all.

Right this way for the details…

“Sleepy Hollow” 9/16/2013 (spoilers): Death Wields a Mean Shotgun

Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison, Sleepy Hollow

She’s a medium-town sheriff with FBI dreams. He’s a 250-year-old Minuteman. They fight crime!

With a swing of the axe and a shotgun blast into the air, Fox brazenly kicked off the 2013-2014 fall TV season Monday night with our first new series, Sleepy Hollow. From the early ads its simple but silly premise — Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horsemen, ripped from Washington Irving’s short story and transported to the World of Tomorrow (i.e., today) — felt to me like another uninspired Hollywood reboot, scraping the bottom of the public-domain intellectual-property barrel.

If you don’t mind the occasional hour of loony, far-fetched “popcorn TV”, you can do plenty of fun things with barrel scrapings.

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