2005 Television Pilot Season

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  September 21, 2005 @ 12:00am

Filed under: Features

There comes a time when the summer heat begins to die down and you get that first really cool rainy day which reminds you that, before you know it, the leaves will start to change. Yes, it's that time of year again -- fall.

In recent years, the television landscape has been a little erratic, with so many zillion reality shows debuting it seems like every week. The reality craze continues to find its identity, and it will. How do I know? Well last season, I found myself dividing reality shows into genres and categories, so go figure. I still hold up hope that the drama will return with newfound energy and awareness.

A revolution to strike back on the television landscape began last season with the powerhouse debuts of such shows as Desperate Housewives, Lost, and the resurrected Battlestar Galactica. Now, as the summer comes to a close, I thought I would take a look at 8 new pilots debuting this season that are hoping to be the next network hit.

The series below are presented in alphabetical order.

Bones

Premiered on Fox, Sept. 13

Who is in it:
Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Jonathan Adams

What is it about:
Fox enters the foray of forensic team investigators once more with perky Deschanel and boring Boreanaz butting heads over every case -- think much tamer Moonlighting chemistry smudged with CSI or NCIS. Deschanel is a quirky anthropologist and Boreanaz is a super-dull FBI agent who now solve mysteries together.

Why do we care:
Fox had a much better series in the short-lived The Inside, which had a much better dynamic and feel for a show. If they wanted a forensic show, they should have stuck with The Inside. Bones seems to be trying too much to capture the relationship between the stars than focus on the cases. Maybe that will change in time, but I doubt it.

Forecast:
This series could work if the writers can come up with some dynamic cases for these two to squabble over. The pilot centers on the murder of a politician's daughter, but for the most part it isn't that original in plot or case.

2.5 out of 5

E-Ring

Premieres on NBC, Sept. 21

Who is in it:
Benjamin Bratt, Dennis Hopper

What is it about:
Super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer flexes his television muscles once more as he teams with veteran film director Taylor Hackford on a series that takes place in the crowded halls of the Pentagon. The series is basically The West Wing meets The Agency, and the series begins with Bratt's character's first day in the political trenches.

Why do we care:
E-Ring seems to want to be the second coming of The West Wing, since there is a similar dynamic with some of the characters, but I would have to compare it more closely to the shelved series, The Agency. They have to get Bratt out on some away missions to mix up the stuffy locale of the show. Overall, I liked The Agency much more.

Forecast:
The pilot has high production design and Bratt is engaging, but I am not sure if the audience is going to want to follow this "agency" on every mission. There needs to be more tension and intrigue for this series to succeed. Actually, the perfect plot to energize this series would be to maybe introduce an ongoing plot of a mole within the Pentagon, or something to add more tension.

3 out of 5

Ghost Whisperer

Premieres on CBS, Sept. 23

Who is in it:
Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Conrad, Aisha Tyler

What is it about:
Hewitt plays Melinda Gordon, who has had this other-worldly power since she was a little girl which allows her to see and speak to the dead. Using her gift, Melinda continues an ongoing mission to help the dead continue to the great beyond and to help the living with their grief.

Why do we care:
Okay, if you can get past the rather goofy title for the show, the series is basically looking to be a clone of NBC's surprise hit Medium. Hewitt's character and her relationship with her husband is a lot like that series. I was also quite bugged by the whole look that Hewitt has for the series. It is almost like she is a lone "Stepford wife". I probably would have called the show I See Dead People and all the pop-culture references that go with it would help sell the show.

Forecast:
I really could see this series going the Touched by an Angel route instead of cloning Medium, which could in the long run help find its audience. But in the short-term, I don't think this show will have enough time to find the audience it is hoping to aim for.

2 out of 5

Head Cases

Premiered on Fox, Sept. 14

Who is in it:
Chris O'Donnell, Adam Goldberg, Rachael Leigh Cook, Richard Kind.

What is it about:
Chris O'Donnell plays Jason Payne, a family man who was trying to balance a family life and his career as a successful lawyer. The only problem was that Jason had a meltdown and needed psychiatric help. The series begins with Jason's journey to readjust to society and reunite with his family. As part of his treatment, Jason must team with another lawyer (Adam Goldberg) who is having anger-management problems.

Why do we care:
O'Donnell is quite good in this role and seems to be finding a niche here. It's probably the best role I have seen the actor in since 1992's A Scent of a Woman. Goldberg is annoying and rambunctious, but he also makes O'Donnell better in the series. They have a good dynamic.

Forecast:
The show is probably too smart and has such a high-concept premise to be a break-out hit. The show feels more like a cable series than a network show. It will get lost in its time slot as it will struggle to survive in the crowded Wednesday landscape. It's a shame, really.

3 out of 5

Invasion

Premieres on ABC, Sept. 21

Who is in it:
Eddie Cibrian, William Fichtner, Kari Matchett

What is it about:
A hurricane rips apart a small Florida town and the series' core characters begin to pick up their lives in the aftermath. But after the winds die down, all is not as well as it seems. Could the storm have been a cover-up from an otherworldly invasion? Some of the townspeople have changed and a desperate struggle could be on the horizon. Think of this series as Invasion of the Body Snatchers: The Series.

Why do we care:
The series looks really good, but the first episode feels long and never really energizes the audience. I really liked seeing William Fichtner in the role as the town sheriff. Eddie Cibrian (Third Watch, Tilt) will be great as the show's central hero. I did, however, find some of the relationships between characters to be confusing and I was often saying, "who is related to who, again?"

Forecast:
In the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina, the network will have an ongoing struggle trying to get this series off the ground. With Invasion following the monster hit Lost, it has a good time slot and an advantage to having a successful run, but it probably needs a two-hour launch to hook an audience even if it can contend with the ongoing tragedy in New Orleans.

3.5 out of 5

Prison Break

Premiered on Fox, Aug. 29

Who is in it:
Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Stacy Keach, Robin Tunney, Peter Stormare

What is it about:
Lincoln Burrows is an innocent man (Dominic Purcell) who sits on death row and his younger brother, Michael (Wentworth Miller), is the only one who believes he is innocent. So determined on saving his brother, Michael gets himself thrown in prison so that he can help hatch a prison break strategy to save his brother. Helping him on the outside to unravel the mystery surrounding his brother is Veronica (Robin Tunney).

Why do we care:
Prison Break is another high-concept show that is bound to get people talking, and the show does a wonderful job of laying out the smallest of clues. It does get a little self-absorbed at times, especially when it comes to the tattoo. I really do like the cast and it should be a fun mystery show.

Forecast:
The problem with Prison Break is that it's a one-plot, one-concept show that will be stuck if it becomes a hit. Is an audience going to want to revisit this show if the mystery isn't solved by the end of the season? I think not. I fear what they will have to resort to after the first season concludes.

4 out of 5

The Night Stalker

Premieres on ABC, Sept. 29

Who is in it:
Stuart Townsend, Gabrielle Union, Cotter Smith

What is it about:
Back in the 1970s, a cult show called Kolchak: The Night Stalker followed the adventures of an investigative reporter who would seek out the unexplained. The series starred Darren McGavin and was the inspiration for the hit series The X-Files. The series returns with a modern facelift and a hot leading man (Stuart Townsend), and picks up the same premise as the original series except with a couple new twists and turns.

Why do we care:
The series looks to be a lot of fun and it's great seeing such a promising actor like Townsend at the forefront. After so many oodles of hours of The X-Files, are we really craving these kinds of stories anymore?

Forecast:
The series will really have to hit the ground running, since the network basically gave it a death sentence by debuting it on Thursday nights. The pilot I saw was very dark and moody, but I really think if the writing is bang-on then the series could find an audience. Just please put it on another night -- please!!

3.5 out of 5

Reunion

Premiered on Fox, Sept. 8

Who is in it:
Will Estes, Sean Faris, Alexa Davalos, Chyler Leigh

What is it about:
Reunion is part mystery drama and part teen soap opera that's focus is to closely follow six friends from their high school graduation in 1986 to their twentieth high school reunion in 2006. Each episode is designed to cover a year in their lives. This is a very high-concept drama that is full of twists and turns. Leigh, Davalos, and Estes are all excellent in the pilot.

Why do we care:
A reason to watch this show is that a lot can happen in a year and it seems that the writers know how to hold a viewer's interest by interlocking character's six vastly different lives. This is a very slick, interesting, and adventurous series brimming with a unique concept and a hot young cast. I did like that the network has decided that if the show goes beyond another year, a new cast would begin each season covering the same period of time with a new mystery unfolding. I like the idea of a series that reboots every season because it allows for unlimited creativity from a writer's perspective each year. But maybe that's just me.

Forecast:
Since Reunion is following The O.C. on Thursday nights, I can see the show carrying the momentum of the hottest teen soap on TV. However, if it doesn't and viewers abandon it after the pilot, look for Fox to pull it without even blinking. I really would like to see this show succeed since it's probably the most original plot I saw during my pilot views.

4 out of 5

Conclusion:

I saw a lot of different plots and potential series as I viewed a lot of pilots this summer. A couple of them I didn't mention (Showtime's Weeds and TNT's Wanted) on here due to the fact that they were already 4-5 episodes into their cable series run. I also saw about three others that don't have an air date yet including UPN's Triangle starring Ivan Sergei and Fox's The Loop.

A handful of shows that I didn't see pilots for that I am curious about this fall are NBC's My Name is Earl starring Jason Lee, HBO's Rome starring Ciaran Hinds, Threshold starring Carla Gugino, and NBC's Surface starring Lake Bell. The latter two are mainly because I want to see a new sci-fi show breakout this fall, not because of the buzz I have heard on them. I really think that Earl and Rome are going to be amazing and must-sees, but it's only an educated guess.

So there you have it. Buckle your seat belts, adjust the lazy-boy, and prepare for Fall 2005-2006 to come calling. So Says the Soothsayer.

Tags: pilots, preview, TV season

Related Posts

Comments Posted ()