Pilot Watch, Week Three: The Mediocre and The Mildly Entertaining

"I'm on TV" By Patrick J. Adams

Well hello there! Welcome to another week of Pilot Watch! As you know, since September marks the start of Fall 2011 Television season, I’ve been checking out the pilots for various new shows over the last couple of weeks to see if we can find our new favorite show, or be disappointed with networks in general. So far, this year has definitely been better than last year but maybe it’s only because 2010 was the most disappointing year of television ever. The new shows of Fall 2011 may not be groundbreaking television, but they’re definitely an improvement.

This week, I am reviewing two new shows that just had their premiere a few days ago: ABC’s Pan Am and Suburgatory. Yes, Fox premiered the Spielberg-produced dino series Terra Nova last Monday too but I didn’t watch it. The reason is simple, dinosaurs are just not my thing. I’m more of a future person than past when it comes to my sci-fi television. Give me aliens and robots any day! Granted, Terra Nova is more like Jurassic Park than actual pre-historic dinosaurs but still. The thing that bugged me about Jurasic Park is that this all could’ve been avoided if we all just left the past in the past. It just makes no sense to me, bringing back dinosaurs. 🙂

So anyway, now that I’ve cleared that up let’s get straight to the reviews and see whether these two ABC shows delight or disappoint. Enjoy!

1/ Pan Am, airs on ABC, Sundays, 10/9c.

Pan Am and The Playboy Club are supposed to be the Big 5 networks’ answers to Mad Men, and if you watch these shows expecting another Mad Men, well, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The Playboy Club tried really hard to be a Mad Men clone and failed miserably (though casting creeper Eddie Cibrian in a Don Draper-type role may indicate the producers don’t really want this to succeed after all), and even though new NBC Chief Bob Greenblatt is patient enough to give this flailing show a chance, expect it to die a slow death by Christmas time. While Pan Am, that just premiered last Sunday, seemed to come with a disclaimer with its pilot episode that says, “Warning: If you come here expecting Mad Men, you need to change the channel right now. But if you’re more expecting for The Love Boat in the skies, you’ve come to the right show. Welcome aboard Pan Am!”

That is not to say that I didn’t like the show, however. I actually am delighted with this one. Pan Am is the anti-Playboy Club. It doesn’t try too hard to be Mad Men, in fact, it doesn’t even try, period. Instead, it sets a more realistic goal to be, as I’ve mentioned above, The Love Boat albeit in the skies. Five minutes into the pilot, I was already thinking Love Boat (and NY Mag’s Vulture agrees with me), which actually makes me enjoy this show properly. Pan Am doesn’t try to be realistic, political, or even anything else but good soapy fun. And there’s nothing wrong with a little soap every now and then, isn’t there? 😉

Sure, some plots are laughable (like the whole CIA subplot, puh-leaze!) but if you watch this show with the same expectation as you watch Desperate Housewives (ya know, the early seasons), then these silly little ridiculous plots won’t bother you so much. Just see it as what it is: mindless escapism and sit back, relax and enjoy the flight!

Verdict: Watch It. It’s a Total Guilty Pleasure Show.

2/ Suburgatory, airs on ABC, Wednesdays, 8.30/7.30c.

Ever since Modern Family became a massive success, it’s clear that family comedy is making a comeback, and ABC tries to make it happen again this year by adding this freshman show about living in the plastic world of suburbia in its Wednesday family-friendly comedy line up. And as far as ratings go, their strategy worked. Suburgatory, while not a sensation yet, got good enough ratings to keep them in the safe zone for a while. But is it good enough to merit a “Must Watch” verdict in this review? Well, not exactly… But I have a feeling this show will improve once it has found its footings.

Suburgatory is actually pretty funny and ironic but the problem of the show is that it tries a little too hard to be ironic. The suburban satire was a little too extreme, and you gotta wonder what kind of suburban mom actually is in favor of her daughter prancing around the neighborhood in skanky mall outfits, but the jokes are quite funny, the characters are likable, especially (and I’m not just saying this because I’m a Firefly geek) Alan Tudyk, who made his glorious return to television in orange fake tan and speedos.

Sure, you kinda want to cringe when the sullen teenage daughter despises things like clean air and quiet neighborhood, but if you take a moment and realize that most teenagers despise everything their parents try to impose on them, even the good things, then you can enjoy this show for what it is, a fun tongue-in-cheek look of single parenthood and the suburban life. And really, it’s not half bad.

Verdict: Watch, But Give It Time To Find Its Bearings.

And there you go, my reviews of the two shows that premiered this past week. I’ll see you back here next week where we’ll be checking out Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story and see if the man behind Glee and Nip/Tuck can put a fun spin behind this age-old genre.

Till then!


Binky Bee

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