[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. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: “Secrets and Lies” (ABC – MIDSEASON)
The Pitch: “Yet another murder investigation into the death of a dead kid.” “Well, I think TV has several of these. What makes this one distinctive?” “The dynamic star power of Ryan Phillippe.” “Oh.”
Quick Response: Although “American Crime” is technically about parents dealing with the death of an older child, it's still the last part of a trio with “Secrets and Lies” and “Gracepoint.” Of the three, “Secrets and Lies,” based on an Aussie series I haven't seen, is the most sensationalistic and the most hollow, the one trying to say the least as both a commentary on family and grieving or American society or whatever. It's also the least involving as a mystery, because after 44 minutes, I don't especially care whether or not Ryan Phillippe's character did or didn't kill the young boy he finds in the woods and since there are no other real suspects, I'm not invested in alternatives either. While not the rangiest of actors, I've liked Phillippe in everything from “Breach” to “Gosford Park” to “Cruel Intentions” to “Igby Goes Down.” And “Lincoln Lawyer” proved he can also deliver did-he-or-didn't-he ambiguity fairly well. His performance here, though, is a problem because the entire show rests on him and his every movie is like an empty, silent scream. He's playing the outward signs of grief without any conviction and while I assume that's probably *part* of his intent, whether he did it or not, he's not fooling me that he's emotionally connected to anything happening here, either misery or subterfuge. If you buy Phillippe here and can see past the cold, reptilian eyes that are both his greatest asset and greatest liability as an actor, you'll buy “Secrets and Lies,” but if you don't… He's the whole pilot. Eventually, Juliette Lewis, as a skeptical investigator, may be given opportunity to make more than one expression. Eventually Natalie Martinez and KaDee Strickland and Indiana Evans may get things to do as well. But not yet. Charles Dutton will be in the show, but he's not in the pilot. Dan Fogler is replacing Cliff Collins as the main character's Peter Pan Syndrome scuzzy best friend, a piece of casting that intrigues me, but I can't validate yet. All there is in the pilot is a superficial version of things that other shows are doing better this year, as well as a laugh-out-loud cartoonish depiction of the media and its reaction to crimes like this. If the point of “American Crime” is to show that ABC aspires (not wholly successfully) to nuance, “Secrets and Lies” exists to show that nuance isn't mandatory. Really, “Secrets and Lies” would be better served amping up the trash factor and getting held till next summer for viewers who enjoyed “Reckless.” That's not a compliment, but it's an aspiration. Kinda.
Desire To Watch Again: I assume “Secrets and Lies” isn't going to air any time soon. And were ABC to air “Secrets and Lies” at the same time as “American Crime,” it would be a genuine insult to John Ridley's drama. So I don't expect to see this until April or May and by that time, ABC should have a bunch of episodes. I'd watch a few more to see if anything intriguing sets in. I'm skeptical, though. And after “Gracepoint” and “American Crime,” I may just decide that a bad drama about grieving is a bad thing indeed.
NOTE: That's it for the 2014 installment of Take Me To The Pilots. FOX didn't provide screeners for “Empire” or “Wayward Pines” or “Backstrom” or “Last Man On Earth,” among other midseason stuff. CBS opted not to send out “The Odd Couple.” And The CW decided “iZombie” and that REALLY strange Revelations/Apocalypse thing weren't ready for critical eyes. I'm sure there are one or two other things I'm forgetting about that are also set for midseason that we didn't get. Thank you for following along on this annual journey. I hope it's been helpful as Premiere Week approaches.
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'American Crime'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Galavant'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Odyssey'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'The Whispers'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Fresh Off The Boat'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Allegiance'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Battle Creek'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Bad Judge'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Cristela'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'A to Zed'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Manhattan Love Story'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Gracepoint'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'The Mysteries of Laura'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'The McCarthys'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'How To Get Away With Murder'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Mulaney'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: 'Marry Me'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Madam Secretary'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Forever'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Red Band Society'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'State of Affairs'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Stalker'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Selfie'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'Jane the Virgin'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Scorpion'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries