Thursday, October 7, 2010

TV Pilots, Day 4 — The CBS Shitathon

I have suffered to bring TV pilot reviews to you, dear reader. I have suffered through NBC's Chase, Outlaw, and Law & Order: Los Angeles. I have suffered through ABC's Better With You, No Ordinary Family, and My Generation (the last of which, by the way, has rightly been cancelled). But I had yet to suffer through any of CBS's new shows, because my one rule is that I won't sit through TV commercials, and as CBS doesn't contribute to Hulu I figured I was home free.

So it was to my profound, existential horror that I discovered a few days back that CBS posts full episodes on, including the pilots of their five new scripted programs. I was cornered, trapped, out of excuses. I hate CBS, you see, because they produce nothing but simpleminded, lowest common denominator trash, and the American people routinely reward them with the highest ratings of the year outside of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars for it. CBS, as an entity, mocks people of taste with its very existence. It pains me in my soul to think that at CBS headquarters my viewings of these episodes notched some invisible hit counters up by one.

So let's put on our hazard suits and wade into it. We're far enough past these series' premiere dates that me arranging these reviews in chronological order is irrelevant, so I now present to you, in alphabetical order, Blue Bloods, The Defenders, Hawaii Five-0, Mike & Molly, and $#*! My Dad Says. May god have mercy on my soul:


The premise in ten words or less? Family of cops in New York.

Any good? Blue Bloods is first and foremost right-wing jerk off fodder unlike anything else this side of Glenn Beck. The characters rant against bloggers, the media, and technology to keep elderly viewers nodding and going "that's right!", which by itself isn't overly suspect, but it also features torture to get perps to talk (and unlike 24, which depicted its torturing protagonist as an antihero, in this one he is the noble fount of all goodness), torture which of course works immediately and gets 100% accurate information. It depicts the justice system as a left-wing institution standing in the way of hardworking cops that exists only because liberals fantasize about keeping murderers and child molesters on the street. New York's abolishment of the death penalty is criticized. At one point the crusty old family patriarch who tells it like it is goes off on how laws exist, quote, "to protect the criminals!" and endorses a police state.

The plot involves a family of law enforcement officials named, I shit you not, the Reagans (I suppose that CBS figured that flyover state viewers would start madly salivating and humping their couch cushions upon hearing the name, leaving them too incapacitated to change the channel). Two brothers, a sister, and a dad. The older brother is a detective, the younger a rookie beat cop, the sister an assistant DA, and the dad Police Commissioner. Together, they form a crime fighting unit! The show itself is an uninteresting police procedural. In the pilot a child molester kidnaps a girl, the older brother finds the perp because an eyewitness saw his van, tortures him to find out the girl's location, the leftist lawyers try to put him back on the street, and the sister shuts their efforts down. Next week will have a new, equally generic case. There's no reason for this show to exist.

Will I watch again? I'd rather have my scrotum repeatedly tasered.


The premise in ten words or less? Lawyers in Las Vegas.

Any good? I almost admire the balls with which The Defenders doesn't even pretend to put any kind of spin on the generic lawyer procedural outside of setting it in Vegas (which itself adds nothing beyond B-roll of the Strip taking us from scene to scene). I can't honestly say the show fails; all it wants is to be a way for people to sit in front of a glowing screen without having to turn on their brains or any pesky serialized elements that demand more than one hour of attention at a time, and it achieves that completely. It's just CBS saying to America, "Here some fuckin' lawyers, assholes. Don't even pretend you won't watch. Aw yeah, we know you're our bitch. Now lean over that table there."

The show is also somewhat upsettingly co-starring Friday Night Lights alumnus Jurnee Smollett as a stripper-turned-lawyer, which is the TV acting equivalent of finishing your meal at a five star restaurant and walking right across the street into Taco Bell.

Will I watch again? Well gee, if I didn't tune in again then where else on TV would I ever find lawyers? I mean, think about it. This is my chance to see a court room! On TELEVISION! Wow! *makes jerking off motion*


The premise in ten words or less? Cops in Hawaii.

Any good? I am tough but I am fair, and while I may be biased against CBS I will give any show the credit it deserves: Hawaii Five-0 is the best pilot I'm reviewing today by an astronomical margin. In fact, it's better than NBC's Texas procedural Chase. That's not to say it's out-and-out good television by any means (I'd probably be lamenting Daniel Dae Kim going from Lost to this if Lost hadn't sharply declined into embarrassing nonsense in its final season), but as far as procedurals go it actually puts in more than the lowest possible amount of effort, something which can almost never be said for anything aired on the CBS network. This show easily could be on Fox, NBC, or ABC and it wouldn't feel out of place.

I feel like I may be going over the top here. I don't want to make it sound like this is something you actually need to watch. The plot does nothing to differentiate itself from any other cop procedural. But the cinematography is crisp and gives an incredibly strong sense of the Hawaiian settings. It's actually shot in Hawaii and they're obviously proud of it and show it off in pretty much every scene (unlike Lost, which despite being shot in Hawaii was always doubling it for either the mysterious island or various other cities around the world). It's nice to see an American TV show with a more exotic look. The action scenes are fairly propulsive by TV standards, although of course with only four main characters you know that no one is ever in any real danger.

Will I watch again? No, but I'd watch the whole damn season before I'd watch one more of any of these other shows, so by CBS standards consider that a stunning, once-in-a-lifetime knockout victory. Congratulations, Hawaii Five-0, you have achieved the level of braindead, disposable entertainment. You are the Citizen Kane of CBS programming.


The premise in ten words or less? Fatasses fall in love.

Any good? Mike & Molly is the absolute worst sitcom since Hank. This is shockingly unfunny stuff. I am simply blown away by how awful this show is. This fucking piece of dreck — this cloying, disgusting embarrassment to the human race that will make you question whether or not inventing television was worth it, this idiocy, this black hole that consumes anything within a thousand miles that may be construed as comedy — is about two morbidly obese people who find each other at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and fall in love. Well, they don't fall in love in the pilot, he just asks her out, but it's pretty obvious that they will fall in love over time because it's right there in title of the show. I noticed on CBS's website that the second episode is called "First Date" and the third "First Kiss," so hopefully the fourth will be "First Fuck" then the fifth "The Wedding" then we can move on and pretend this show never existed.

The "comedy," if you dare to stretch the definition of a theoretically great word far enough to encompass this awful, awful concoction within it, is mostly centered around joking about how fat the main characters are, which seems odd. Based on the show's premise and its comedically inept leading man being approximately the size of Pluto you'd suppose that Mike & Molly is aiming to appeal to increasingly fatass mainstream America, but then it just spends the whole time mocking them. Which would be fine if it was ever funny, but it's not. The laugh track never picks up on this, though, cackling away like the funniest thing in the history of the planet is unfolding before its eyes every time Mike goes "durr hurr, I so fat!" in slightly different words for the hundredth time in two minutes.

This show is beyond shitty. I can't fathom how something so stupid and awful and devoid of anything even faintly resembling humor made it through pitching and writing and casting and rewriting and filming and editing without anyone at some point accidentally inserting something vaguely funny. It's like some bizarre scientific experiment on the American people to see how bad they can make a sitcom before no one will watch it. Don't just take my word for it; CBS put the first five minutes on YouTube!

Will I watch again? I would rather be eaten by Mike and Molly than watch their show again.


The premise in ten words or less? Wacky dad!

Any good? No, it's absolutely awful. But, in a shocking twist, I do need to defend it for just a second. Most TV blogs and critics I read labelled Shit My Dad Says (which I will be calling it since I am not gonna type out that series of symbols again) the worst new scripted show of the fall, and let me be clear, it's not. This is so, so much more watchable than Mike & Molly. Yes, more watchable in the same way that being decapitated via guillotine is preferable to being doused with gasoline and lit on fire, but still, Shit at least lets us watch the immortal William Shatner deliver his bland, unfunny dialogue rather than whoever plays Mike in Mike & Molly, who I suspect is so obese because he devoured all comedy in a fifty yard radius.

Whew, that was painful, having to defend this show in any way. Back to the more pertinent task at hand, Shit My Dad Says is about a guy who moves back in with his wacky dad who tells it like it is. I mean, you won't believe it — this dad just says whatever is on his mind! He is SO wacky! He sits there in his chair and he just says the stuff other people won't say! How funny! How uproarious! The laugh track thinks so too! Basically, this show is one of the most moronic things ever committed to film and we should be bright red with embarrassment at the notion that aliens may one day find a DVD of it when they explore the ruins of our planet a million years from now. It's about as funny as the Holocaust.

Will I watch again? I will not watch again, because it is a bad, unfunny, stupid show for fucking morons. Which I guess means it'll be a smash hit.

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