A Pilot Sampler

I’m at a point now where I’m not actively looking for new TV shows to follow. There just isn’t enough time in the day, and anyway I have a backlog of series to catch up on via streaming or discs. But dangit, it’s pilot season, and I just couldn’t resist taking a look at a few new shows.

Of course, peeking at pilots comes at the risk of finding something you actually want to follow, and that’s the case for me with Person of Interest. The latest J.J. Abrams production, this series was created by Jonathan Nolan, whose short story spawned the impressive film Memento. Jim Caviezel stars as Reese, a military-trained bad-ass with a nebulous past. He’s recruited by a mysterious rich man named Finch (Lost‘s Michael Emerson) to carry out vigilante crime-prevention in the streets of New York. Make no mistake, this is a paranoid, post-9/11 spy thriller about the surveillance society, but Abrams is too crafty to turn people off by labeling it as such. Based on one episode, Person of Interest strikes me as a more commercial, less lore-heavy Rubicon, with a dynamite high-concept premise and real potential to develop into something great. Caviezel makes a believably tortured field operative, and Emerson is again oddly charismatic as a shady answer man. That said, I fear they both may be too dark and inscrutable for viewers to embrace, and the show could definitely do with a more colorful ensemble and a little more warmth. But it’s an assured and compelling pilot with a versatile premise, and looks to be a very promising series.

I’ve been less enamored of Ringer, the CW’s new Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle. This twisty soap opera thriller stars Gellar as Bridget Martin, a recovering alcoholic stripper who — in order to avoid testifying against an organized crime boss — steps into the shoes of her twin sister Siobhan in New York. But, as it turns out, Siobhan’s high-society life with dashing husband Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she left behind, if not more so. It’s great to see Gellar back in a series, and she’s really the best thing about Ringer so far, e er an engaging presence. But overall it’s a bit contrived and melodramatic for my taste, and its first two episodes leave me wondering how sustainable the set-up can be without growing increasingly silly. I’m moderately intrigued to see where they go with it, and on some levels it’s campy fun, but it hasn’t really gotten its hooks in.

Finally, I’ll mention Up All Night, a thinly premised but so far likable half-hour comedy starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as new parents. Reagan (Applegate) is a daytime TV producer, while Chris (Arnett) is a stay-at-home dad. Together they’re struggling to adjust to the idea of leaving their carefree, childless years behind them. The chief strength of this one so far is the instant chemistry between Applegate and Arnett, who who make a believable and entertainingly goofy couple. Maya Rudolph is along as Ava, the star of the talkshow Reagan produces — part Tyra Banks, part Oprah. She’s funny, but not terribly well integrated into the show just yet. The first two episodes have been fun, harmless background viewing with a quirky Modern Family vibe; nothing earth-shattering, but a nice showcase for its stars.

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