Greetings and Salutations.
It's time for another year of Take Me To The Pilots entries, a format that I started way back in The Blogspot Days and I've been doing it regularly for HitFix since 2010. [I honestly don't know why I didn't do Take Me To The Pilots in 2009.]
I've been using the same intro post since 2010 and that post featured a header image from FOX's “Lone Star,” which famously lasted only two episodes despite being one of my favorite pilots of that fall. It exposes one of the main challenges of the pilot viewing process and the Take Me To The Pilots process, which is that at this stage in the game, it's less about what these things actually ARE and more about the potential of what they MIGHT BE. And that potential may never be realized, for good or for ill.
Sometimes you fall in love with a pilot and America hates it and it's gone after two episodes. Sorry, “Lone Star.” And why isn't Eloise Mumford in a show every year?
Sometimes you really dig a pilot and subsequent episodes aren't nearly as good and you feel a little silly for overpraising it. “Pan Am” was my favorite pilot of 2011 Take Me To The Pilots cycle and while I still ended up frequently admiring that show, it never quite lived up to its potential.
Sometimes you give the benefit of the doubt to a pilot and hope that it can become the best version of itself, only to watch it go the opposite way and steer from what was plausibly good to become a lowest common denominator version of itself. Yes, “2 Broke Girls,” I'm looking at you. I don't know why I bothered being generous to your original pilot, but haven't you punished me enough?
Sometimes you fear the worst from a pilot and then the series actually gives hints at becoming the best version of itself, or at least a better version than your gut initially warned you about. “Mom” would be an example of a pilot that had elements that I liked, but I assumed they'd be deemphasized in the subsequent series, only to be proven wrong.
And sometimes you watch a pilot and it disappears, never to be heard from again. Anybody remember NBC's Dane Cook pilot “Next Caller”? Of course you don't. I do!
And that's why I'm forced to remind you before each and every entry that none of these are reviews. Yes, I'm passing judgement. Of course. They're reactions and they're structured as such. I say what got the shows on the air (usually in jokey form). I run off a half-dozen thoughts and observations in a big text block that invariably causes a few commenters to whine about the lack of paragraph breaks. And I state my desire to watch again, because that's what pilots are. They're literally sales pitches. They're more expensive than most regular episodes. They get more time in pre-production, production and post-production than most regular episodes. Their job is to lure people to a 13-week commitment or a 22-week commitment, or a 100-week commitment over five years.
The pilots that I'm looking at? Many of them will change. Most really won't. I look at last year's Take Me To The Pilots list and there are many examples of shows that underwent massive changes between what I first watched and what eventually aired. “Growing Up Fisher” replaced Parker Posey with Jenna Elfman, which didn't make much difference. “Sean Saves The World” replaced Linday Sloane with Megan Hilty, which made a big difference, but didn't correct any of the big things wrong with the show. “Rake” shot a few new episodes that aired before the original pilot, but it was probably doomed to failure regardless. “Super Fun Night” was a disaster before whatever we were sent as a pilot and it was a disaster after whatever new episode ABC aired as a pilot.
Is it a coincidence that the shows that underwent the most tinkering between original pilot and air are gone? Shrug. You can decide for yourself. And you can also decide if that means something bad for CBS' new “Odd Couple,” which is undergoing such major changes that CBS didn't even send out the pilot. But pilots can often succeed quite admirably even with major recasting or a substantial tonal overhaul. My old intro post referenced “Parenthood” as a show where the premiere that aired was unrecognizable from the pilot critics initially saw. It's still a good example and proof that changes happen for many reasons and don't always lead to bad shows or swift cancellation.
So these aren't reviews.
When I first started saying that in association with Take Me To The Pilots, I tried to do my typical 2000+ word reviews for each new show. Now we have Sepinwall and I rarely have time to review more than a few reviews, often just the ones that require Angry Dan contributions. Maybe that will change this fall, or maybe it won't? I don't know.
But I do know what it looks like when I write a review. You do as well. These are not reviews. They're gut reactions and glib observations. Full reviews really wouldn't be fair, but as I always say, the networks have sold billions in advertising on the backs of the pilots in this form. I can write a long paragraph of thoughts and hypotheticals. That seems fair.
Before I do real reviews, either in my blog or on the podcast, I'll rewatch almost all of these pilots in their final forms and, ideally, I'll see an additional episode or two, something to see how potential translates into weekly reality.
I'll do one or two of these per day over the next couple weeks, probably taking a break during TCAs and Comic-Con. As usual, I'll finish in August or September, just in time for Fall Preview stories, galleries and reviews.
Now… Take Me To The Pilots!