Monday, October 20, 2014

In Which Ann Grades the New Fall Television Series: 2014 Edition [Contributor: Ann]

I watched so many TV pilots! I watched until I reached the point I realized that I could not force myself to watch pilots that held no interest for me anymore. Even still I tried out 16 of the 23 new shows currently available to me right now. (I think.)

I will be succinct and unapologetic. Disclaimer: most of this is subjective, but some of these shows are truly awful. You have my word. If I wrote N/A, it means that I admit that I probably am not the best person to be giving advice about that particular show and that my opinion is not fully formed based off of the entire experience. Except for Mysteries of Laura. I feel set in my opinion about that show.

(P.S. I somehow got the entire grading spectrum! That was extremely lucky.)

Red Band Society
Grade: B-
Why: Cheesy, but in a way reminiscent of old school Glee. Some characters are more interesting than others, but the setting is cool and different and the way the show is stylized (voiceovers being done by comatose Charlie) is unique.

The Mysteries of Laura
Grade: F (did not finish watching)
Why: Can she do it all? Yes, she can, but at the expense of her likability. The Laura I saw in watching half of the pilot was considered flawless by everyone she met—it was everything else that was the problem!—including when she blackmailed a teacher to let her students into a school. Completely trite and bad. Please avoid.

Madam Secretary
Grade: N/A, but probably a D (did not finish watching)
Why: I feel less qualified to say because I could not finish watching this show. It was so boring to me, unrealistic (that is not how succession works!) and the characters were absolutely unremarkable. I do, however, think that this type of show is really just not my thing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone disagreed.

How to Get Away With Murder
Grade: A-
Why: Everyone who acts on this show is really talented (well—some more than others), especially Viola Davis. This show is a little bit annoying in that it is a mystery and that means I can’t get a good read on some characters even 5 episodes into the show (though that’s just as true in the pilot alone), other than their standard stereotypes; however, the “!!!” clues that are being dropped and the moral ambiguity of the case-of-the-weeks keep me compelled.

Grade: B (watched 1.03)
Why: Not must-watch TV, but not bad, either. black-ish is better than the shows it’s like because it adds something new—new storylines, new messages, new types of characters—to the tired “family comedy” lineup. It is a breath of fresh air.

Grade: A-
Why: Oh, you guys know I love this show. The pilot is a little bit cheesy, and the internet effects are overdone, but this show has a heart that transcends its garbage title. The setting is fun and the two leads balance each other so well, especially in episodes past the pilot. Karen Gillan and John Cho are awesome. So is this show. (This is one of the few shows that I am live watching this year. It is my romantic comedy bread and butter.)

Manhattan Love Story
Grade: D
Why: A show that reminds you that a lot of people fall in love in Manhattan, and some of them are just dull and unoriginal. Despite the incessant, irritating “he said-she said” thought voiceovers, we are given no reason to root for Dana and Peter—Dana is too saccharine, trying to be Meg Ryan without any  bite, and Peter is a douche and doesn’t stop being a douche once he and Dana start dating. The only redeemable part of this show is that Annaleigh Tipton and Jake McDorman have great chemistry (probably because they are together in real life).

Grade: B
Why: Even if I didn’t know Gracepoint was a remake of Broadchurch, I’d still be able to tell by the pilot. The story is emotional, everyone is a viable suspect, and the scenery is hauntingly beautiful, but there was something about the pilot that just felt like too small of feet in too big of shoes. I’m sure future episodes will have the characters comfortable in their USA setting, but the acting and the chemistry between the actors felt off to me.

The Affair
Grade: A
Why: So many of these new shows are based off of cool formatting ideas (think Manhattan Love Story’s he said-she said voiceovers) that end up eclipsing the show. This one is not. I won’t spoil what special thing it is that this show does, but wow. The title The Affair says nothing of what this show is really about—it is more about how what happens in life is defined by how we see it, an idea executed in the most subtle of ways. You can watch the first episode here.

Bad Judge
Grade: B+
Why: Did not expect to like this show. There’s a warmth and humor in Bad Judge that is uncommon to see in a pilot, and the lead—Kate Walsh—is able to do so many things at once and portray a woman who is both flawed and awesome.

A to Z
Grade: C
Why: Why do these people like each other so much? They’re both so boring. As is the case with Manhattan Love Story, this is a show where the characters aren’t defined by their characteristics (“a girl’s girl”? “a guy’s guy”? What?!) but by a premise. Would you be watching this show if the narrator lady didn’t tell you something was going to happen in 8 months? No, you wouldn’t—and you wouldn’t miss any of these characters, either.

Grade: N/A, probably a C- if I had to judge it based on my expectations as a laugh-track comedy (did not watch full pilot)
Why: Cristela is a SHOW WITH AN AGENDA. This is a show that uses the lead, Cristela, as a megaphone for all sorts of political correctness. “Cristela’s one of us!” everyone says, because of course she is—that is her entire point. So not only is Cristela a SHOW WITH AN AGENDA, its main character is a walking talking AGENDA, making her not a character at all! If you agree with Cristela and you want to hear a person agree with your opinion, then sure, watch this show. If you are like me and don’t want political messages embedded in your comedy—and would rather see, I dunno, comedy, or heart, or a mix of both?—you will find this show devoid of anything else, including interesting characters, interesting plots, or interesting character relationships.

The Flash
Grade: A-
Why: This show is confident. This show is fun. This show will have you know these two things immediately with the opening voiceover done by the extremely affable Flash, played by Grant Gustin. The superhero stuff is pretty standard; it’s the execution, and the joy in that execution, that made this pilot so particularly good.

Grade: D-
Why: The acting on this show is abysmal, as is most everything else. The most redeeming quality about Mulaney is that it made me think, “Hm, I want to watch John Mulaney’s stand-up,” which is something infinitely more indicative of the talent this comedian has.

Jane the Virgin
Grade: A+
Why: I CANNOT STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS SHOW. This is the only show out of all of these shows that I wanted to watch the next episode instantly. Every cast member is great. I don’t know if I even need to tell you about the treasure and talent that is Gina Rodriguez. The plot is based off of a telenovela, and it may seem silly, but if you can get behind this show’s main premise you will come out on the other end with the best show this fall. (I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS! I LOVE EVERYBODY! AHH!)

Marry Me
Grade: C+
Why: Look, I didn’t watch Happy Endings. I don’t have an attachment to Casey Wilson. I wonder if that’s why most people disagree with me when I tell them that Casey Wilson’s Annie is so abrasive, so unapologetically rude, that in contrast with her boyfriend/fiancĂ© she is totally unpalatable. This show did make me laugh, and I do think her edges will soften, but ugh. The most sour of tastes was left in my mouth after watching this.

(P.S., You’re The Worst technically aired this summer, so it’s a new show — I would give it an A. The romance is AWESOME, and it’s so cleverly plotted.

(P.P.S., I still need to watch Benched. I got about 5 minutes into it and then got preoccupied, but I like Eliza Coupe a lot, so maybe?)

So do you agree with my grades or with Ann's or with neither of ours (or both of ours)? Sound off in the comments below!


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