TV is a bugger. People are always talking up the hot new thing, and when they turn to me, I am left slack of jaw and glassy of eye, nothing to contribute. ‘Um, have you ever heard of this programme called Buffy?’
That’s why myself and Imogen ‘Couch Innovator’ Dale decided to invent Pilot Season Sunday: watch the first episode of a load of TV shows our friends, colleagues and assorted internet tastemakers have been pushing for the last eternity, assign each a star rating, and then decide which are worth watching more of.
These are the shows we watched:
Parks & Recreation
Parks & Rec has been on the to-watch list for a while now. You like Community, people will say – try this, it’s even better. This normally comes with the caveat that you have to give it time, that it doesn’t hit its stride in the first few episodes, maybe even the first season. Both sides of this now make sense to me.
I liked its moxie – it seems like a cheery and optimistic version of The Office, in both of its transatlantic incarnations – but there wasn’t much meat on its bones. No hooks to bring me back, no big laughs. Maybe I’ll try the second season next time.
It’s going to be a hard climb for any TV show which starts with a dog dying. But it turns out Pushing Daisies – which I knew basically nothing about, except that I want to watch all the programmes with allusions to death in their titles – is a Venn diagram of my favourite stuff from elsewhere in TV-land:
Gilmore Girls‘ too-fast, too-snappy dialogue, served with a Whedon-style genre twist and the visual style of a brilliantly quirky cartoon, the bright primary-colour palette neatly offsetting the morbid concept. Combined, á la Veronica Mars, with a neat central mystery, it couldn’t be more My Bag if it tried.
Plus, there were two (non-dead) dogs in this episode, one of which was a chow and one of which may be immortal. All is forgiven.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
The internet – by which I mostly mean Tim ‘Brony’ Maytom – has been going on about this for ages. I had to know why. The numerous pony puns (‘Canterlot’) are perfectly pitched, the soft-outlined art style is pretty, and it’s a rather charming package, but I’m still not sure I understand the fanaticism. Sorry, Tim.
A TV curse which I recommend never catching: watching the credits. It can ruin surprise guest appearances, and figuring out which are your favourite and least favourite writers and directors on staff can colour the way you watch an episode. In this case, it was spotting the name Bryan Fuller and thinking, isn’t that the guy off’f the Pushing Daisies credits?
And then it was obvious. The dialogue’s a bit less quickfire, though no less sharp, and it’s less obviously quirky and twee – no mean feat for an episode boasting a menagerie of talking animal souvenirs – but in the long term, that could mean it doesn’t grate. That is, if it had a long term – apparently it was cancelled at episode 13. Oops.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Which was a sitcom which gave me upwards of three belly laughs and a handful more chuckles. With eight seasons to consume, I can see this going into hard rotation as background watching in the flat. I think it’ll do just fine.
Green Arrow has a great origin story, actually. Spoilt rich kid gets stranded on island for five years, becomes a mysterious hardened bad-ass, and returns to society to right his father’s wrongs. Its combination of Lost and Batman fits TV perfectly, and looks like it’ll lend Arrow a neat structural hook going forward.
It’s a bit of a blunt instrument for something which takes an arrowhead as its symbol, but I’ll never get tired of watching a man weaponising his own life. Making connections to Batman, especially Nolan’s recent films, would be fish in a barrel, but it works.
It’s a bit dumb (I’ll cheer if his British-accented vaguely-ethnic stepfather miraculously doesn’t turn out to be a villain) and the pilot was a bit reliant on nods and winks to the source material (Speedy, Diggle, Dinah, lol) but… hey, that’s superheroes, right?
And that was Pilot Season Sunday. As a way of making snuggling into the sofa and watching a frankly unhealthy amount of TV seem like an Event, it’s highly recommended. Feel free to steal the format.
Shows we didn’t get round to, which will no doubt make up the roster of future Pilot Season Sundays, include
Girls, Misfits, Breaking Bad, Veep, and
Six Feet Under. Any further suggestions are warmly welcomed.
NB: These star ratings are the ones I originally gave each episode. Could’ve changed them if I was so inclined – as has been pointed out by Tom ‘Daylight‘ Huxley,
Wonderfalls definitely deserved more stars than
Arrow. But I opted for authenticity instead. 4 REAL, etc, etc.