Take Me To The Pilots ’14: FOX’s ‘Gotham’

[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: “Gotham” (FOX)
The Pitch: There's a tradition of existentializing comics, be it The Nietzsche Family Circus or 3eanuts or Garfield Without Garfield. So… “It's Batman without Batman.”
Quick Response: It's a good news/bad news situation with “Gotham.” The good news is that I mostly enjoyed the “Gotham” pilot as written by Bruno Heller and directed by Danny Cannon. The ads aren't doing a great job of showcasing how good it looks, the job Cannon has done of creative a Gotham that looks interesting and distinctive but also, at least in theory, should be reproducible on a series budgets. The adds aren't showing how solid and sturdy Ben McKenzie is as James Gordon, nor the somewhat crazed glint Donal Logue has in his eyes as Harvey Bullock. They aren't showcasing the still-badass ex-Royal Marine Alfred Pennyworth has become in Sean Pertwee's hands. You wouldn't even know Erin Richards was in “Gotham,” but she's breathtaking, not quite Veronica Lake, but that kind of Old Hollywood blonde bombshell. In fact, the ads are all concentrating on the future villains and, at least in the pilot, they're good as well. Jada Pinkett Smith is just having a great time as a stylish badass gangster, the stillness that has generally made Pinkett Smith a bit boring and unapproachable to me as an actress is gone here and she's got fine swagger. Robin Lord Taylor is a creepy and perverse Oswald Cobblepot and the little tease of Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma offers brief, appropriately puzzlingly amusement. As FOX is relentless promoting, we've also got Catwoman (the impressively graceful Camren Bicondova) and Poison Ivy and more names have been promised. But hey “Gotham,” maybe you want to tone it down a little? Pace things out? Stop over-indicating on the future-iconic-villains? [Yes. That's the bad news.] The “Gotham” pilot is a couple minutes longer than will probably be airable and my first trims would all involve winks and nudges with the baddies. Perhaps one or two fewer references to Oswald's distaste for his “penguin” nickname? Maybe zero references to Nygma speaking in riddles? The names will be enough for the Comic-Con crowd and nobody else will care. Save something for Episode 5 or Episode 10, especially since, once you give us The Full Riddler or Full Penguin, what are they going to do while Bruce Wayne (a somber-but-determined David Mazouz) is still learning algebra and reading “Huck Finn” and doing French Club or whatever it is that Bruce Wayne is going to be doing for the next five or six seasons? I'd urge “Gotham” to chill and give Gordon and Harvey Bullock a chance to develop as characters before checking off more and more villains and presumably filling Arkham Asylum in anticipation of inevitable showdowns we'll never see.
Desire To Watch Again: High. “Gotham” works well as a pilot, but it spends a lot of time teasing and setting up Big Things for the future, when maybe the most valuable part of the next five or six episodes will be (or should be) concentrating on the Little Things and exhibiting long-term narrative stability. If you promise too many Big Things, audiences will grow impatient and they won't let “Gotham” become the thing it will have to be to last — a good, ripping police yarn set against a colorful-and-extreme backdrop. It's all fine and well to pimp the “Batman” villains to get viewers in, but “Gotham” has a great leading pair in McKenzie and Logue and they *have* to be the show. I assume Heller and Cannon know that.

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