Friday, October 16, 2009

Apology Time Again

It's been a while since I've written anything for the Blog. Bad me, because while part of this has been due to circumstances beyond my control, part of it has also been a deliberate policy on my part which has been exacerbated by circumstances beyond my control.

I made a very conscious decision before the start of this TV season that I would not review a new show based on watching the pilot. There are good reasons for not reviewing a show based on the pilot. Inevitably the first episode of any new show is atypical, and that is true for a number of reasons. Pilots are inevitably about introducing people to the characters and situations that they encounter. I won't say that story comes second but the emphasis has to be setting the characters and the premise. Later episodes, after we know who's who and what's what, are inevitably truer to what the show is going to be like than the pilot.

Another thing about pilots is that they really aren't intended for those of us at home. Believe it or not that's true. In most cases pilots are made to sell the shows to the networks. They have to attract and hold the interest of the network executives who choose the shows they're going to air. And to a degree they have to sell it to the professional TV critics who get show screeners (and assorted press kit swag – I wish I could get either one!) well ahead of the premiere date so that they can tell the world how great the new show is (or not; I'm guessing that a lot of this is calculated risk). Often the episodes that they use to "sell" the shows are more spectacular than what appears in the following weeks. Don't believe me? Think about the pilot for Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. The critics raved about the pilot to the point where they were calling it the best of the season, but once the second show aired the critics were picking nits like monkeys grooming each other. Another example: Bionic Woman. That show had a spectacular pilot including the rooftop battle in the rain with Katee Sackoff's evil Bionic Woman. Fabulous pilot but what came afterwards was a steaming pile of crap – and that's insulting steaming piles of crap. Time and again you will see pilots with tons of bells and whistles, explosions and car chases which are never seen again after that first episode.

Pilots are also problematical because of changes in casting and, often more importantly, behind the scenes, with changes in writers, directors, and showrunners. Often these people have a different mindset than the people they're replacing, sometimes taking the show off in a direction than was anticipated in the pilot. So you can review the pilot and discover that the show you reviewed has changed in subtle – and not so subtle – ways. And maybe the result is a show that you like better than the one you reviewed. But maybe the result is not as good if not downright bad.

So that was the reason for holding back on reviewing pilot. It's a good idea... and an experiment that I won't be doing again. Because I wasn't reviewing pilots I got caught up doing other things. Real world concerns intervened. I was sick for a week; felt like crap, and not the good kind but the "Hershey Squirts" kind. There was work that needed to be done in the garden, and then there was the garden produce to deal with – including the tomatoes that my brother grows in his garden but doesn't actually eat himself because he doesn't like tomatoes. And when I actually had time to do some writing I sort of found that I forgot how to write reviews without having that base of mutual discovery that reviewing pilots gives you. It's not quite writers block; I know what I want to say and I know what I like and I don't like about the shows I've seen, I'm just having a problem setting it up. Worst of all I think I've settled into a comfortable pattern of what to watch on a given night. Not good!

I will be back to writing reviews again, probably with some stuff coming out next week. And from now on, I'm reviewing pilots.