NYTVF: Pilot reviews, part one of six
The third annual New York Television Festival is now taking place in the Big Apple. As we did last year, we will review each of the pilots in competition there. This is the first of those reviews.
Last year I decided not to review any of the pilots from the New York Television Festival, but this year curiosity got the better of me and I said yes.
I decided to review one of the comedy DVDs. More specifically, the one featuring a pilot with puppets. You know what I learned, Mable? I learned that if your plot is lame and contrived, having puppets as half your cast doesn't improve things at all. Let's get into it (you can view the pilots at MSN):
This was the puppet pilot. I laughed once, when a female bear farted because she was nervous. I found that quite adorable, but the rest of the pilot, which centered on a human woman and her male puppet roommate spending money he found in a cab, was packed to overflowing with every comedic cliche of the past twenty years. Oh yeah, and the money belonged to a group of nuns, but get this: the nuns swore and ran a casino! See, if you just have a person behave the exact opposite way the audience expects, that's instant comedy! Exclamation points denote sarcasm!
Deal With It
I would call this one a decent rough draft. It takes place in a car dealership and is told from the point of view of a young, moderately successful car dealer. The lead character speaks to the camera/audience, giving it a kind of Office quality, but with moments of fantasy, such as an old-timey movie reel describing the stalker-like habits of one of the salesmen, and a giant, inflatable, promotional ape that speaks to the lead character. There's a moment of forced sentimentality at the end when our hero explains how some folks just want to buy a car without the hassle, but I think a few rewrites and a bigger budget could bring out the better episode dwelling within this one.
Echoing the absurd, surreal comedy of Mr. Show, Tim and Eric, and Monty Python, Carpeted Afterhours was the comedy on this disc most in line with my own sense of humor. It was more or less a series of short sketches which segued neatly into one another a la Mr. Show. It wasn't perfect, but I found a couple bits very funny and inspired: a hefty Southern gentleman who hangs out in a bathroom and offers unneeded encouragement and advice to a man as he pees and washes his hands, and a static cartoon about a young boy who goes to a hardware store to buy caulk to seal a hole in his house through which a herd of "kimono" dragons have escaped -- only to find himself in a hardware store run by a bear with nothing but hammers and beehives in the aisles.
Chance Your Hand
This one, about the goings-on behind the scenes at a game show, didn't quite do it for me. The actor playing John the game show host (John Smith) is a fine comedic actor, but he didn't have a whole lot to work with. The basic plot centered on plans to boost the ratings for Chance Your Hand, a game show in which people ask questions and then can choose to risk it all by playing one game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with the host. A female co-host is brought in, much to the consternation of John, who can barely keep it together on screen. It's a funny enough idea, but it doesn't quite come together into anything worthwhile. Also, I swear there's a moment where the audience is shown clapping in reverse. I don't know if that was intentional or not, but there were no other moments of surrealism to suggest it was.
Some advice to the makers of Codeword Secret: having a lead character who looks like the lead singer of Maroon 5 wake up in bed with three women doesn't automatically convince the audience that he's some kind of super hunk, and it certainly doesn't make him likable, or even a "love to hate him" type. I could forgive a rather unoriginal plot (he's hired by the CIA to, unbeknownst to him, steal a neurotoxin from a spy he once slept with), but we're never told why women love this guy so much, or why we should even care. Yes, we're told constantly that he's had tons of women, but we're never given any compelling evidence as to what the real attraction is. There's way too much "tell" and not enough "show" in this pilot, and far too many one-dimensional characters. This was, if you couldn't tell, my least favorite pilot on this particular disc.