TV Squad previews The CW's new shows
The CW is in a tough spot this season. After losing a good portion of their heavy hitters due to cancellation (Reba, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls), the network is basically starting from scratch. Only two of their scheduled nights, Thursday and Friday, remain intact. The rest of the schedule features at least one new show a night. And, being that we are TV Squad, we have a number of pilots to review for these new shows.
Some of the pilots reviewed on the DVD screeners we were sent are still in the 'work in progress' stage; yet, they still give a sense of the show's subject matter. In this post Brett, Paul, Keith and I will be previewing Aliens in America, Gossip Girl, Life is Wild and Reaper.
(Wednesday at 9:00 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: We journey inside the world of the ultra-privileged teens on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Their internal newswire has been lit up as Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Lively) is back in town, returning from the sudden, and mysterious, enrollment in boarding school. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to see her. Tensions develop between Serena and her closest friend, Blair (Leighton Meester). It's clear from the beginning that Serena has some history with Blair's boyfriend, Nate (Chace Crawford), although just what that history is remains a secret. We also meet the awkward good-guy Dan (Penn Badgley) and his sister Jenny (Taylor Momsen). They don't exactly fit in with their peers, coming from more of a middle-class background. As will happen though, events conspire and the nervous Dan finds himself out on a date with Serena. Through all of the goings on, the anonymous Gossip Girl (voiced by Kristen Bell) keeps everyone up to date.
Brett says: There is very little that is new here. They have modernized the teen drama somewhat, as cell phones, text messages, and blogging are all omni-present. But if we could get in our time machine and go hand off a bucket of Sidekicks to the 90210 gang, we would have a very similar show. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The teen drama genre has matured to the point that some themes are to be expected. If you like this style of show, this one will be worth a look. The cast is good, and the first episode sets up a number of storylines that all have potential. If, on the other hand, you are not a fan of a soapy teen drama, this one probably isn't going to change your mind.
Aliens in America
(Monday at 8:30 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: 16- year-old Justin Tolchuk (Dan Byrd) is trying to make it through his junior year of high school in Medora, Wisconsin without feeling like a pariah. Although he his assisted in this endeavor by his well-meaning mother Franny (Amy Pietz), aspiring-entrepreneur dad Gary (Patrick Breen), and his suddenly 'very' popular sister Claire (Lindsey Shaw), things turn out the way they have in previous years: badly. Even Franny's idea of signing up for the school's international exchange student program doesn't turn out right. Rather than housing the athletic, Nordic teen she sees on the program's pamphlet, her and her family welcome Raja Musharaff (Adhir Kalyan), a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim. Despite the cultural differences, Raja and the Justin begin to bond. Just in time, too, as Raja needs to navigate through life as an American high school student.,
Rich says: This one has some potential. While it wasn't laugh-out-loud funny I did find the show as a whole amusing. What I did like about it is they didn't portray Raja as some stereotypical, clueless foreigner like Balki from Perfect Strangers. He has a sense of what goes on in the world, yet he still has some innocence about him. I also liked the soundtrack to Aliens in America. It wasn't sooo hip like some of the other shows on the CW are (see Paul's review of Life is Wild below). It was kind of quirky (like the show is) featuring songs from all decades in the pop music era. What I didn't like about it was Justin's voiceovers. Way too much of that in a television world full of people's inner thoughts. They tone that down, and promote this show some, and the CW could have a decent hit on its hands.
Life is Wild
(Sunday at 8:00 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Katie Clarke (Leah Pipes) and her entire family are dragged out of New York City by her veterinarian father, Danny (Brett Cullen), to spend a year living in a South African game reserve. Needless to say Kate and the other members of her family (brother Chase (K'sun Ray), step-mother Jo (Judith Hoag), step-brother Jesse (Andrew St. John) and step-sister Mia (Mary Matilyn Mouser)) are unsure of this far-away move. Danny's has an another more than one reason for making this move. Not only does he want to make a difference in the lives of the people and animals of South Africa, but he also wants to keep his troubled family together. Hm, wouldn't family counseling help more than a several thousand-mile move to another country?
Paul says: It's hard to tell what the audience is for this show. It has a very hip soundtrack and attractive but troubled teens but it also has adorable animals and cute kids, not to mention the strong but frustrated parents. The pilot is laden with an annoying voice over that is mainly there to explain the premise of the show, hopefully that will be gone when the show actually premieres. The best part of the show has to be the gorgeous scenery and animals of South Africa and I really got a laugh when Katie's cell phone rang and played theme to Sex in the City. Overall the fine cast and the beautiful setting will probably appeal to those who miss 7th Heaven.
(Tuesday - 9:00 PM ET)
Premise of the screener: Sam and his buddy, Bert ("Sock"), work at a pretty dead-end job in a Walmart/Home Depot-like store. On Sam's 21st birthday, strange things begin to happen; strangest being Satan himself appearing in the back seat of his car. Satan informs Sam that, due to a deal Sam's parents made before he was born, he is now Satan's bitch. Satan puts Sam to the task of rounding up any escapees from hell using special abilities and "weapons." If Sam doesn't comply, Satan will have no choice but to take his mother's soul.
Keith says: This is either my first or second favorite of the new fall programming (the other being ABC's Pushing Daisies). Kevin Smith produced and directed the pilot, which is unfortunately the only episode we got to see. It's unfortunate because this is great TV and felt very much like a movie in its pacing, with signature Kevin Smithisms smeared all over the place, and I'm afraid the rest of the episodes just won't stand up to it. Ray Wise as Satan is a definite highlight, while Tyler Labine as Sock tries a little too hard to be like Jack Black. As a piece of programming that's going to sit in the old Veronica Mars spot, I highly approve.