Now that I’ve definitively established the formula for great geek TV, let’s take a look at the upcoming Fall season’s geek programming and see how it measures up, shall we? Yes, let’s.
My assessments here are based purely on gossip, blog reviews, entertainment news reports, data on IMDB, reviews of 30-second promos, and–in a few cases–screenings of pilot episodes. I’m about as on-top of the goings-on in the geek TV world as I possibly can be without having actually seen all of these shows, yet. I reserve the right to adjust my predictions after the season premieres. In fact, I definitely will revisit these assessments in a couple of weeks. For now, enjoy the prognostication as I measure what I currently know of these shows against the Formula.
Keep in mind, just ’cause a geek TV is great, that doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed, which–in TV terms–means that it won’t join the ranks of tragically canceled geek TV shows. Just look at poor Firefly.
Better yet, watch the Firefly reruns in high-def on Universal HD. That’s not a plug, it’s just something I think you should do. If you don’t hate freedom. And America. And babies.
I saw a packed audience of cheering geeks give the pilot episode a standing ovation at Comic-Con. It meets the criteria of the Formula. ‘Nuff said.
I give this show the odds of President Bush getting a free dinner at a convention for Christian fundamentalists. Pretty good.
Bionic Woman (NBC)
Ok, so this is an overt attempt to advance a… beloved? … a classic geek franchise. But shiny new special effects do not make for a substantial advancement.
The writing in the pilot episode is more stale than that piece of toast I dropped between my stove and counter a couple of weeks ago. (I just can’t reach the damn thing.) And what a dour frigging experience. Not a hint of a sense of humor. Unless this show really changes things up (which could be a distinct possibility, now that it’s switched showrunners), I’ll be glad when NBC yanks it from the schedule after several episodes.
Hey, I remember this show when it was fun, hopeful, and called Quantum Leap. Or Voyagers!
Let me spell it out for you… a guy bouncing helplessly through time and righting wrongs is not a novel concept, and this incarnation of the story brings nothing new to the table. The previews really couldn’t do a better job of driving home the point that there are no richly-developed characters or compelling storylines, and it has exactly the opposite of a sense of fun. I get stressed just watching the promos. Thank you very much, NBC, but my chronic shoulder pain and I have enough stress.
Which is too bad, ’cause Lucius Vorenus from HBO’s Rome stars, and he’s the bees knees. Or whatever the kids are calling someone who’s “cool,” these days.
Geeks won’t tune in, and neither will “regular” folk; I’m giving this one the chances of Britney staying clean long enough to get through her next court-mandated drug test.
I’ve seen a few commercials. That’s it. Here’s what I’ve determined:
1) It’s on the CW. That’s not a positive indicator for the quality of the writing.
2) It’s got a clever premise. Some dude’s parents sell his soul to the Devil, and the Devil makes him recapture errant souls.
3) The Devil is played by Ray Wise, who played Vice President Hal Gardner in one of the seasons of 24.
4) There’s a love interest. Her job is to look pretty, and she does it well.
5) The show is intended to be both fun, and funny. Whether it reaches either of those goals is unclear.
Geeks might watch it if there’s nothing else on, but no one will feel particularly passionate about it. I mean, it’s a CW show, people!
The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox – Midseason)
The pilot episode played like a Terminator sequel. Same characters, same tone, same action. That’s all well and good, but “more of the same” when you’re trying to extend the life of a 23-year-old franchise doesn’t rally the geek armies behind you.
Geeks will want to give this one a chance… if it can come up with some really clever stories based on the Terminator mythos, some new and interesting dimensions to the Sarah and John Connor characters, and a sense of humor based around the cyborg played by Summer Glau, it stands a damn good chance of becoming geeky goodness.
Its a show about a vampire detective who helps people in distress. Novel concept? Survey says… please see Angel. And Forever Knight.
Oh, but this vampire is different! There’s a new spin! ‘Cause, see, he’s, like, really fast and can walk around in daylight. Yawn.
What else does the show have going for it? It’s on Friday night. Eek! On CBS. Ack! It’s already lost a showrunner thanks to “health issues.” Blargh! They’ll need Bill frigging Shakespeare to save this one.
At Comic-Con, producer Joel Silver kept insisting that the show has “heart.” Which leads me to believe… that it doesn’t. Some cleverness was apparent in the promos I saw, but I don’t think this show–clever or not–is even on the geek radar. Do geeks even know that CBS exists? Perhaps only as “that network that has the show about ghosts with that girl with the boobs from Party of Five.”
I already detect a faint odor of desperation around this whole project. It won’t speak to geeks or to larger audiences.
Pushing Daisies (ABC)
The critics love it, which–as we all know–amounts to what Bush has done to find bin Ladin: not much.
(Thank you, folks! I’m here all week!)
Plenty of geeks will probably love it, too. Based on the pilot episode that I saw, it hits the sweet spot for quirky, well-developed characters, heart, a distinctive sense of humor, a sense of whimsy, strong storytelling (thank you, Barry Levinson, for your guidance), and a novel fantasy concept (guy resurrects the dead for sixty seconds to help in solving murders).
“Quirky” is this show’s middle name. Pushing Quirky Daisies. Unfortunately, I think it very well might suffer the same faint as the prematurely-canceled Wonderfalls, another too-quirky-for-its-own-good show. In fact, I still haven’t decided if it’s going to earn Season Pass status on my TiVo. Not a good sign.
I foresee a small, passionate core following that won’t be able to carry this show to a second season.
New Amsterdam (Fox – Midseason)
A while back, I read Forever, a book about an immortal dude chronicling the evolution of New York from its founding to the present day. The book was boring as hell, but I learned a lot about the history of New York.
Now, I’m a geek, so I don’t mind a little book learnin’, but I need to be entertained, for the love of Pete Rasputin! New Amsterdam‘s concept certainly isn’t novel enough to attract a large geek audience–geeks already know a mysterious, scruffy, immortal dude living in New York, and they met him in a little movie called Highlander–so it’ll have to be the storytelling and characterization that saves the show.
On the one hand, the show’s pedigree–creators Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire, 21) and Christian Taylor (Showboy, Six Feet Under)–bodes well. On the other hand, Fox has moved the series to midseason. Not a good sign.
I’m giving this one the same chances as an old man’s face in Dick Cheney’s gunsights. Of course, Fox lets detritus like Bones cling to life, so what do I know? Geeks will give it a lukewarm reception, but it might scrape along to season two.