[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: “Ringer” (The CW)
The Pitch: “You know what would be better than one Sarah Michelle Gellar returning to the small screen? TWO!”
Quick Response: I love my notes for “Ringer.” It took only a minute or two to realize that this was going to be the sort of superficial musing on identity and duality that would require as many shots of mirrors as possible. So I just started writing “MIRROR!!!” whenever a character looked yearningly into a bathroom vanity or even saw a reflection in a window. It happened so many times that skimming my notes is like reading a diary entry about a walk in the park written by Doug the Dog from “Up.” [“La la. What a beautiful… SQUIRREL!!! … day. The sun is shin… SQUIRREL!!! .. ing and the birds are sing … SQUIRREL!!! … ing.] The thing I’ll acknowledge about “Ringer” is that it cuts together as a great trailer. The sizzle reel at upfronts was cool. The teaser that debuted at press tour was, in fact, kinda awesome. But I’ve seen the pilot and it’s trash. Or, at the very least, it’s a trashy near-parody of a telenovela. The creators’ aspiration may have been aspiring for VERY low-rent Hitchcock, but instead they’ve gotten very high-gloss Telemundo. Here’s where I remind you of the paragraph that presages each of these Take Me To The Pilots entries. Critics were sent a pilot of “Ringer” that contained some laughable green screen effects. It’s my guess those will be fixed. Critics were sent a pilot of “Ringer” with some laughable musical cues. It’s my hope that those will be fixed and that’s part of why I rewatch every pilot before writing actual reviews. Tweaking those bargain-basement touches could easily make the entire “Ringer” pilot play better. You know what won’t get fixed? Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose soap opera background hasn’t enhanced her ability to clearly delineate between the challenging assortment of characters and characters-pretending-to-be-other-characters she’s been asked to play. Gellar’s playing twins Bridget and Siobhan and while one is slightly funnier and the other is slightly prissier, they’re equally brittle and internalized. Neither is actually interesting. [And I like Gellar on principle. She played countless versions of Buffy over the years and usually made the transitions flawlessly. I don’t think Bridget and Shiobhan are written distinctively enough for her to play them distinctively, at least initially.] No amount of pilot tinkering is going to explain why leading men Kristoffer Polaha and Ioan Gruffudd are taking everything so seriously when pilot director Richard Shepard obviously isn’t. Actually, I can’t tell what Shepard is doing and he’s probably at fault for the confused and ultimately damning sense of tone in the “Ringer” pilot. It’s almost like he decided to make a telenovela, but didn’t clue the actors in. So you’ve got an over-declarative, non-stop-exposition soap opera script, you’ve got an even more heavy handed low-budget thriller/soap opera visual approach and then you have the actors moping around like they’re in a badly performed indie drama. Nothing gels and nothing is nearly as innovative or shocking as the musical stings want to pretend. The idea that CBS ever would have given serious consideration to programming this show is laughable and yet it doesn’t feel like a CW show either. Lifetime, maybe?
Desire To Watch Again: There’s an off chance that everybody could get on the same page by the second or third episode and I’ll probably give it the chance to get there. On the other hand, I may just watch two or three additional episodes of ABC Family’s eerily similar (and definitely no worse) “The Lying Game” and that could sate any appetite I have for any twin-trigue. It’s a real problem for The CW that “The Lying Game” is premiering a full month ahead of “Ringer,” since ABC Family targets basically the same demo.
Unrelated Side Note: I made a mistake and foregrounded too many of the pilots I kinda liked in this Take Me To The Pilots breakdown. That means that a bunch of the pilots I disliked the most are coming in a long run at the end. And I still have three or four of my least favorite pilots still to come. There are a couple more that I kinda like that I haven’t written up yet, but mostly? Bleak.
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘Terra Nova’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Whitney’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Pan Am’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘Alcatraz’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘Person of Interest’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘ ‘The River’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Last Man Standing’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘Two Broke Girls’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Up All Night’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Revenge’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Awake’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: The CW’s ‘The Secret Circle’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘Unforgettable’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘The Playboy Club’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: ABC’s ‘Charlie’s Angels’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: NBC’s ‘Grimm’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: FOX’s ‘New Girl’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: The CW’s ‘Hart of Dixie’
Take Me To The Pilots ‘ 11: ABC’s ‘Apartment 23’
Take Me To The Pilots ’11: CBS’ ‘A Gifted Man’
All of last year’s Take Me To The Pilots installments.