Hit or Sh** Roundup: Fall 2015
In this new Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether the new fall television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**. This week, we give our favorite shows a second pass.
Here we are, halfway through fall pilot season, and what a season it has been! There have certainly been some flops, but let’s not dig all that back up (we’re still recovering from DR. KEN). Here is our official verdict on the shows we loved outright, and those we wanted to spend a little more time with.
THE MUPPETS (ABC)
We really wanted to like this one. The pilot was fresh, funny, and true to the source material while translating itself to a modern audience. So was the second episode. By the third, we had our doubts, and by the fourth episode the series had lost us completely. THE MUPPETS is a classic example of a show starting strong and failing to deliver over time. Kermit and crew’s sexual innuendos started as edgy and shocking, but by episode five they’re par for the course. Goofy celebrity cameos felt true to the original and supported the story, but later in the series, feel more like a network desperately throwing star power at a show to resurrect it from an inevitable grave. It’s truly amazing how such a bright cast of characters can be so boring. The series has been renewed with a new executive producer/showrunner, but barring an outright miracle, it seems there is little hope of saving this hemorrhage of potential for a second season.
FINAL VERDICT: SH**
Six episodes later—call us pleasantly surprised. QUANTICO has definitely surmounted the mediocre pilot that introduced the series. The characters have evolved and grown into themselves a bit, particularly protagonist Alex Parrish, who is far more interesting than we gave her credit for. The supporting characters seem to have found their voices as well, with Shelby Wyatt and Simon Asher as the standouts. Though the utter incompetency of the FBI has not improved, the writing certainly has, now that the series has found its legs. The show’s still a little light on substance in favor of style, but that’s to be expected of a network offering. All in all, we’re looking forward to see where this goes, and if they can keep the quality up through the season.
FINAL VERDICT: HIT!
BLOOD AND OIL (ABC)
The Bakken may be overflowing with oil, but it seems to be almost devoid of tension. Since we’ve only seen a couple shows get full on cancellation this year, ABC decided to fold BLOOD & OIL the way all the cooler networks are doing it: by docking its first season by more than a few episodes. Good news seeing as how the series seems to be going nowhere interesting. The introduction of Lacey Briggs, Hap’s Californian daughter and Wick’s half sister, is thrown away when she’s just another half of an unnecessary hookup. Wick Briggs still bumbles about and is sometimes played as a sympathetic character rather than a full fledged villain, probably because the show is waiting so patiently for his father to fill those shoes. There is a hint of conflict between the LeFevers and Briggs as Hap gives Billy a taste of the good life and some rungs on the vicious corporate ladder, but Cody pushes him to adopt a family man perspective and to think of their future child. But this, arguably the show’s A story, trudges so slowly that nearly all interest for the main characters is lost.
FINAL VERDICT: SH**
LIFE IN PIECES (CBS)
We have to give LIFE IN PIECES props for challenging the form, but the pilot remains the strongest episode of the series. The aspects of the pilot that made the show great dropped off as the season progressed. The tie-it-all-together ending was cheesy, but at least it lent some coherency to the disjointed narratives. Later episodes are only loosely connected by a very basic theme – if they’re connected at all. Although the writing is still quick and clever in its best moments, the story is extremely constrained by the format. It’s difficult to delve into more complex storylines in such short form, and it shows in the predictable plotlines and cookie-cutter character relationships. This would undoubtedly function better as a webseries. It has the classic gimmicky nature and there is less expectation for a webseries to develop a deep, complex story. At least then we could skip the boring stuff and get to the creepy ventriloquist dummy named “Cheeto”.
FINAL VERDICT: SH**
CASUAL is probably taking more interesting turns than nearly every other show out there today – aside from maybe TRANSPARENT. So many facets of the modern sexual world continue to be looked upon in funny yet classy ways. A sex tape of Laura gets leaked on the internet and becomes the talk of the town, while Alex finds himself in the middle of a loose love triangle that he fails to comprehend after hooking up with a girl in an “open” relationship. Even the infamous method of flaunting one’s pet to get laid is covered by Alex and his new friend Leon, timid Hannibal Buress impersonator and former fling of Valerie’s. Leon is a great addition as an audience proxy and innocent spectator baffled by everyone’s antics. Things hit a bit of a rut when Alex and Valerie’s mother drops by, but thankfully her uninteresting character is quickly downplayed as Valerie learns why she shouldn’t flirt with college boys and gets into more altercations with her ex-husband. Of course, writing and performances are still fantastic. CASUAL has proven its value in the long run and will probably be even more important to watch in the future as hookup culture evolves.
FINAL VERDICT: HIT
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (CW)
Rachel Bloom continues to knock it out of the park with her new show on the CW. We were as surprised as anyone when the unassuming musical comedy was, in fact, hilarious, and the shockers keep coming. We had assumed the 40 minute premier was extended for the sake of being a pilot, but the fact that every episode reaches that hour-with-commercials mark is truly impressive for a musical comedy. It’s also a relief that Bloom didn’t use up all her good material in the series premiere; a month after the show started, each episode is even more hysterical than the last. The quirky, manic tone belies a darkly comic underbelly, and Rebecca is constantly sinking to new depths to win over Josh. The implication that each musical number is a psychotic break from reality for Rebecca is just perfect. Paula still scares us in all the right ways, and we’ve definitely warmed up to Josh, whose current girlfriend might be even further off the deep end than our heroine. CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND is shaping up to be the standout comedy on TV (until we get season 11 of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY), and any viewer worth their salt should definitely catch up.
FINAL VERDICT: HIT!
THE GRINDER (FOX)
THE GRINDER had a promising start to its season, but with its unique tonal shifts and meta approach to the courtroom procedural, it was unclear whether the show’s premise could hold interest past its pilot episode. The good news is, the show hasn’t strayed from its vision; it’s still as meta and tongue-in-cheek as ever. On the flip side, because it has relied on this self-referential approach as its primary source of comedy, the actual stories of the episode are rather sub-standard and – at times – flat out boring. There seems to be the notion in play that as long as the plot is presented in an ironic way in respect to Dean’s previous life as The Grinder, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the actual case itself is. Because of this, every episode feels too similar, save for the stakes getting more and more ridiculous every week. This has often pushed the characters out of the realm of reality, breaking the verisimilitude for the audience. If you like outlandish, heightened comedy that can dabble in the absurd, this show may still work for you. For others, the rest of the season may have come to a grinding halt.
FINAL VERDICT: SH**