US Pilot Season: The Best New Shows

So you don’t have to, I’ve watched a big pile of this year’s new batch of shows from US television.  My opinion on each is based on the pilot, and were it applies, I’ve included the details of when the shows are set to air on British television (don’t ask how I’ve seen them).  To start with, here are the shows that I enjoyed.

The Mindy Project – Mindy Kaling played Kelly Kapoor in the US version of The Office, and also wrote and directed episodes of the show.  She started developing her own show for NBC (which airs The Office), but then moved to Fox, and produced The Mindy Project, which airs after New Girl, which was last year’s big comedy hit for Fox.

There’s a little bit of an edge to the pilot episode, with some of the jokes being more risqué that you might expect, but for a first episode it does a good job of establishing the main characters and letting you know what type of person they are.  I laughed a lot more than I expected to when watching this, so I recommend it and I wouldn’t be surprised if it joined New Girl on E4 at some point.

Elementary (Sky Living, October 23rd) – My first response to the news that CBS were developing a ‘modern take on Sherlock Holmes’ set in New York was proper British outrage.  Especially when it emerged that the makers of the wonderful Sherlock had previously been asked to get involved in a remake of their show for US television.  The casting of Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as *gasp* a lady Watson didn’t do much to quell that reaction, but I have to say that Elementary was surprisingly good.

But thankfully it’s not just a copy of Sherlock, and Miller and Liu together make for a very different pairing than Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.  I don’t think it’s as good as the BBC show, and it seems to be going with new cases rather than Conan Doyle ones (and there’s no hint of Moriarty…yet), but it’s an entertaining pilot.

Last Resort (Sky1, Late-2012)– When the captain of a US nuclear submarine refuses to launch missiles at Pakistan, the government react by trying to sink his ship.  Nuclear weapons are then detonated by someone else in Pakistan, and the crew of the submarine become enemies of the state.  But the captain realises that he still has power; namely the nuclear weapons his submarine can fire, and he seizes control of an island in the Indian Ocean and declares a 200 mile exclusion zone around it.

The pilot of Last Resort is an impressive beast.  The acting is of a decent standard, and the finale of the episode sets up the series very well.  It’s a show that isn’t limited by where it can go either, as threats could come from anywhere at any time.

Vegas (Sky Atlantic, January) –  The success of shows like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire have shown that the lives of gangsters will draw in viewers, and CBS are hoping that Vegas will do the same.  Set in Las Vegas in the early 60s, Vegas has two main protagonists.  On the good side there’s Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) a cattle farmer who is reluctantly made sheriff just as Chicago mobster Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis) arrives in town to set up his own operations.

Sin City in the 60s was a place full of crime, glamour and money and Vegas has a promising pilot that shows the methods, and methodology of Lamb and Savino and sets up the idea that they’ll be battling each other, directly and indirectly, for the duration of the series.  With an impressive cast, this is a show that could be around for a long time.

666 Park Avenue (ITV2, TBC) – The success of American Horror Story inevitably means that rival networks (that show aired on FX) would look to emulate that success and make their own shows that have horror as their main USP.  So ABC have produced 666 Park Avenue, which stars Terry O’Quinn (Lost’s John Locke) as the owner of a New York building called The Drake, who might also happen to be Satan himself.

The pilot begins with the grisly death of a violinist, who has apparently made a deal with O’Quinn that has come to an end.  Rachael Taylor plays the new manager of the building, who seems to have some kind of strange connection with it, and there are lots of weird things going on around her.  It’s a promising episode that has a proper creepy tension around it, and there could be a lot of dark secrets to discover in forthcoming episodes.

Nashville (More4, TBC) – A show about an aging country singer and her rivalry (professionally and personally) with a young, up and coming, star is not something that immediately screams ‘good television’, at least not to me.  But ABC’s Nashville has a very entertaining and well written pilot that sets up a series that could appeal to a lot wider selection of people than you might expect.

Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, Spin City) plays the older singer, Rayna James, who is being forced to tour with her young rival Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) to bump up her sales.  The characters are very well written and both Britton and Panettiere give strong performances in the pilot, and importantly, the music is very good too.  Nashville could become many people’s secret favourite show.

Comment