Yesterday I attended the second day of Paley Fest at The Paley Center in NY. On deck were 3 pilots from FOX and ABC and the CW’s two Fall pilots. Since I’d already seen the CW offerings I didn’t stay for that portion. I hadn’t seen the FOX pilots yet and I was very excited to see Lone Star. I had already seen ABC’s, but thought it would be fun to see it with an audience. Below are my thoughts and the general reception by the audience.
Like everyone else has already said it’s just a fantastic pilot. Fresh, original, like nothing on TV currently and even if it’s a throwback to “Dallas”, it’s a completely new take on it. Whether the show finds an audience or not (and I actually can see it working), James Wolk will emerge from this as an in demand actor. Charming, charismatic, incredibly good-looking, but not in a Hollywood way. He’s handsome in a ‘he could be your neighbor’ kind of way.
Performances feel real and authentic and not showy and you feel for James’s character and his predicament, but mostly you like him, which for a con man married to two women is not a given. It’s a credit to the writing, the performances and especially Mark Webb’s fantastic direction. He directed last summer’s indie hit “500 Days Of Summer” and you can see similar stylistic choices but this has a totally different feel. His song choices for the soundtrack set an incredible tone. If I had to compare it to anything it might be the brilliant score to “Up In The Air”. Overall just a winner and in this pilot season where there’s much familiarity, this wins extra points for its freshness
Audience Reaction: The audience was with it all the way – oohing, ahhing, laughing, gasping out loud and they had a very emotional reaction to the pivotal final scene. They were invested. It was the kind of reaction that if you were a FOX executive, you couldn’t script any better. You know these people are back for episode 2.
I hadn’t seen the original pilot which was not critically loved, so I can’t compare it to that. I actually think this show worked better than I expected. You can tell it’s from Mitch Hurwitz, as there are some similarities (voiceover/tone) but it does carve out its own niche and feels different. Unlike many that have reviewed it, I actually like Keri Russell and she and Will Arnett have a nice chemistry. There are some crazy implausibilities and silliness but a lot of that can be attributed be to the normal issues some pilots face when attempting to establish the premise. I assume it will relax a bit in episode 2. I actually think this one has potential and with the pedigree behind and in front of the camera, it certainly warrants more viewings.
Audience Reaction: Quite positive. Lots of loud laughter. No other way to say it, they dug it.
From Greg Garcia and more in the vein of “My Name Is Earl” than “Yes, Dear”. The show is very likeable, funny and at times sweet. It has potential. I honestly didn’t love it as much as many critics do. But it’s definitely a good pilot (not great) with much room to grow now that the premise is established. My favorite part of the show is Martha Plimpton, fresh off two brilliant guest starring roles last season on THE GOOD WIFE and FRINGE (both shows could have spun off her character – yeah that’s how good she was). If this show exists mostly to send her to super stardom, it’s a win. My biggest problem was that Martha and Garret Dillahunt (who’s also really good in a very different, comedic role) seem only a couple of years older than Lucas Neff who plays their son. Martha’s character said she got pregnant at 15, but she seems way less than 15 years older than him. Minor Quibble.
Audience Reaction: Surprisingly less excited than RUNNING WILDE. There were parts where they laughed, but hardly the guffaws that greeted RW. The applause when it ended was probably the weakest of the day. This is hardly scientific and maybe since this followed RW, which they clearly loved, they were comparing it to that show, but not overwhelmingly strong. Decent.
No Ordinary Family
My thoughts and audience reaction can be found in the previous post
Better With You
There is an old school quality to this show, but it’s written and acted really well by some sitcoms veterans including Debra Jo Rupp, Kurt Fuller, and Joanna Garcia returning to multi-camera comedy for the first time since her breakthrough on REBA. Like Martha Plimpton, if this show finally makes her a star, it’s a win. But it’s Jake Lacy who plays her fiancée that steals the show and actually made me laugh out loud. It’s also directed by sitcom royalty James Burrows and created by FRIENDS alum Shana Goldberg-Meehan so the creatives behind the camera ain’t too shabby either. Overall, it made me laugh, I liked the cast and you kind of get the feeling they like each other and you could see it getting even better. It’s a nice fit in ABC’s wonderful comedy block and fits in nicely between THE MIDDLE and MODERN FAMILY. Outside of the fact that it’s a multi cam in a block of single cam shows, it’s a good fit. But if it’s funny, it won’t matter
Audience Reaction: I think because it is a multi-camera show with a laugh track it was jarring for the audience to get used to that after 2 dramas (one with comedic elements) and 2 single camera comedies. I had already seen BTY and it was even weird to me to hear laughs on camera. So I think, its “old schoolness” took a little getting used to for the audience. There were tempered laughs at first. But midway through when the entire cast was on-screen together for the dinner scene, people were laughing and with Jake Lacy – they were laughing loudly. When the show ended, there was a hearty applause and I get the sense people would want to revisit this family especially since they like some of their sitcom neighbors.
I was a huge fan of Noah Hawley’s last show “The Unusuals” and think he’s a very talented writer. There is literally nothing like this show on TV. It’s not another show done with the mockumentary format. It’s an actual documentary (though fictional) and the drama unfolds though that prism. I love when people try new things and whether it works or not, props to Noah and ABC for attempting something new. I think I like the idea of it, more than I like some of the characters. But actually when I saw it a second time I liked it more. I think every pilot suffers a little due to exposition that occurs when setting up the premise. This show has an added challenge in that you have to get acclimated to the format too. I found some characters more sympathetic the second time around and hopefully with future episodes they will be even more fleshed out. Maybe I liked it a bit more due to the fact that I was prepared for the format and could focus more on the characters. I certainly want to see more.
Audience Reaction: Pretty good. Better than I expected actually. The audience laughed at certain places and after I watched it the first time, I don’t know that I even recalled there were funny moments in it. Seeing it with this audience, I realized there were. They really enjoyed the flashback elements and when songs like “The Real Slim Shady’ came on, many were grooving to it. (Yes this is an 18-34 show). They seemed invested in some of the characters. Overall I think they liked it. The biggest hurdle this show faces its its killer competition especially since 18-34 year olds are already married to THE VAMPIRE DIARIES.