I was excited last week, while still in the graveyard between summer and fall programming, when I discovered an offer on my TiVo menu to download NBC’s drama pilots for free on Amazon Unbox. So, I did just that, and within an hour I had access to Journeyman, Bionic Woman, Chuck, and Life. (I understand that you can rent them at Blockbuster, too, or watch them online.) Over the past few days I have made my way through all four, and now I am ready to give my more informed opinion of each (as opposed to the pure guessing I did a couple of weeks ago in my NBC Fall Preview.) Some of my opinions have changed.
Here is how I now rank the four pilots, starting with the one that was most interesting, entertaining, and well made:
- Bionic Woman
Now, my explanation for these rankings, starting at the bottom.
Bionic Woman – In my previous post, I had very high hopes for Bionic Woman, but I was extremely disappointed in the pilot. It was boring, poorly written, poorly acted, poorly edited, etc. Basically, it was the complete opposite of what I was expecting. I have no desire to watch another episode. I’d hate to watch the original pilot, since the one I watched was the “new and improved” version. I was hoping it would have an Alias vibe to it. From the first episode of that show, I cared about Sydney Bristow and her friends. J.J. Abrams and his crew did a great job of developing the characters while also supplying viewers with a fast-paced, intriguing opening story. Fast forward to 2007, and Bionic Woman has failed to do any of that. I don’t feel sorry for the main character, I don’t see what’s so great about her boyfriend, I don’t “believe” the relationship between her and her sister, and I find the “bad guys” totally wooden and uninteresting. Even Katee Sackhoff has trouble making something interesting out of the material she is given. So, watch at your own risk. Who knows? Maybe the show will improve, but I don’t think I’ll be there to see if that happens.
Life – This show is a little over the top, in terms of the main character, Charlie Crews. After serving 12 years of a life sentence for a crime that he didn’t commit, he is released and returns to his old job as a cop. His being out of touch with modern society is exaggerated, though. When the pilot begins, he is on his first day back at work, but he has been out of prison for 4 months. Surely that was enough time for him to learn about things like camera phones, instant messaging, and e-mailing pictures to a phone. Yet, every time a situation arises that would be normal to most people, he is mesmerized by modern technology. I found that aspect of the show distracting. There is also the suggestion that his horrific experiences in prison left him slightly unbalanced, which I am sure is quite possible, but that they also gave him some special insight into human nature. Now he always seems to know just the right thing to say, or just the right place to look, for a key piece of evidence. However, setting aside these distractions, I found the episode entertaining. I’m not sure that I would watch every week, but there is the promise of Crews’ ongoing search for the truth about the crime for which he was convicted. I will probably watch the second episode to see where the show is going.
Journeyman – I was really impressed by this pilot, especially since I had such low expectations going into it. The writers handled the time travel split storyline very well, and there was enough character development that I cared about the main characters. Sure, the question of why Dan Vasser has suddenly started spontaneously time traveling was completely ignored, but why get bogged down in that? It’s more interesting to see how his sudden disappearances, of varying lengths, affect his personal and professional life. One other thing I enjoyed was the clues viewers were given about what year he had popped into. Late 90s gave us a nice sampling of Sarah MacLachlan, whereas mid-1980s showed us a guy strutting around on the sidewalk with a boombox over his shoulder. Fun little touches like those make this a fun show for those of us who soaked up a lot of music and culture in the 80s and 90s. I wonder if he will travel back any further in time in future episodes. I will keep watching to find out – at least until NBC cancels it. But who knows? Monday nights may become a new night of Must See TV for NBC, with the dynamic trio of Chuck, Heroes, and Journeyman. Which brings me to…
Chuck – This show was highly entertaining. Of these four pilots, it was the sharpest, funniest, and most seamless. Everything from the casting and the acting, to the camera work and the stunt work, was spot on. I loved the digs at mega stores like Best Buy and Walmart (I won’t go into the specifics here; you should just watch and see for yourself). The humor in this episode was funnier than what’s on most sitcoms, thanks to a nice balance between the writing and the actors’ delivery of the material. Aside from the humor, the premise of the show leaves a lot of room for variety in future episodes, plus we are left with hints that not everything is as it seems. So, Chuck is an unusual blend of comedy, spy intrigue, and mystery of the week. I am torn between watching it or continuing to enjoy How I Met Your Mother (since they air at the same time). Whatever I decide, I can confidently recommend this show to anyone who appreciates a nice mix of humor and action.
Now all that’s left is to see how the cards fall. Which shows will be left standing at the end of the year, or even at Christmas? Stay tuned…