I love watching pilot episodes of new TV shows. I love studying how they set up their settings and characters and premises, how they handle dialogue, how they’re paced. If they’re trying to capitalize on another successful show, I love to see what elements they copy, where they diverge, and how they succeed or fail in their goal. Sometimes there’s more to learn from the bad pilots than the good ones.
Both these shows deal with the standard supernatural fare: vampires, werewolves, ghosts, succubi, etc. Both shows center around supernatural beings attempting to live and fit in to “normal” human society.
The Gates (ABC) feels like a standard suburban drama — too much so, in fact. It’s as if the creators wanted to make their characters as normal as possible in order to counteract the weirdness of their special powers, and went too far. The characters are generally dull dull dull, with nothing to define their personalities outside of their supernaturalness. Where are the passions that normally possess most people and make them interesting? Passion for cooking or music, for skiing or Dungeons & Dragons. These people are just bland, until their powers/condition cause a problem.
The three main characters in Being Human (BBC America) feel far more real. They have neuroses and passions, get nervous on dates, are prone to silliness. They occasionally display great humanity, but are frequently overwhelmed by their flaws… in addition to their inhumanity. Although the show occasionally crosses the boundary into melodrama, I find it far more engaging and memorable. I know all the character’s names, which I cannot say for The Gates.
The key here? Characters should be good characters, not people defined solely by that which makes them inhuman. I’m still watching both shows. The Gates has gotten better by creating more tension and conflict among the supernatural residents of the community, but it still hasn’t given any of its characters real life.
I tried to watch three cop shows recently, and couldn’t make it through the first 10 minutes of any of them:
The Good Guys (FOX) and The Glades (A&E): I found the main characters of these two shows irritating, arrogant, and occasionally reprehensible. I like Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford just fine, but they were so unlikable, I couldn’t stand to watch them being written so badly. In both cases, I could see what they were trying to do with the characters — and I suspect some people will like them — but they really didn’t work for me.
Rizzoli & Isles (TNT): I was so excited about a cop show featuring two women, but I was so bored that I couldn’t follow even a single exchange of dialogue. My eyes glazed over immediately. No one had any charisma or stage presence. It was probably the director’s, writers’, or post-production department’s fault, but still. Ugh.
I pretty much despised The Hard Times of RJ Berger (MTV), about a nerdy high school kid who happens to be generously endowed. In other such shows, I enjoy rooting for the geeky outsider, but RJ was just as shallow, disgusting, and unlikeable as the high school kids we were supposed to hate. I am clearly not the audience for this one.
At the other end of the spectrum, I am enjoying Huge (ABC Family), and not just because it stars Gina Torres. This is a fairly straightforward drama about a group of kids at “fat camp,” but it’s solid YA material and well acted. They seem unafraid to tackle all sorts of issues — last week’s episode involved LARPing, and this week’s episode had a Twilight spoof and a character that self-identified as asexual. Two thumbs up from me.
So…any thoughts on these shows, or other pilots you’ve seen?
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