The Pilot Project – Take Four: Part 1 (The Mysteries of Laura, Red Band Society, Madam Secretary)

Welcome to my fourth attempt at The Pilot Project. The concept is simple – I watch the pilot episode of every new network show and tell you what I think about each one. Following each write-up, I’ll offer a recommendation using the following, highly self-explanatory scale:

– Amazing
– Pretty Good
– Has Potential
– Meh
– No Thanks
– Garbage

Most shows will fall in the range of “Pretty Good” to “No Thanks”, but maybe we’ll get a surprise here or there. Let the Project commence!

Copmom Momcop

The Mysteries of Laura – The Mysteries of Laura has received a lot of criticism due to its reductive premise which has been described by NPR’s Linda Holmes as “Copmom Momcop” (she even recorded a theme song for the show, which I am currently listening to and have included below). And they’re not wrong. This show is everything that you think it is. And if you think it’s dumb, then you are correct.

Debra Messing plays Laura, a mom. And a cop. A copmom. A momcop. Get it? Do you understand? Because this show REALLY wants you to understand that important fact. Which is fine. The show knows what it’s trying to be. What it doesn’t seem to realize is how bland and derivative it is. It’s just generic and clichéd from top to bottom. There is a show about a woman juggling her duties as a detective and a mother that works, but this is not that show. There’s no nuance whatsoever. Let me give you an example:

The episode opens with a chase scene through a park. Laura’s pursuing her suspect on foot. We don’t know what this guy did or why he’s being hunted down, but it doesn’t really matter. The cold open is simply meant to show what a confident badass Laura is. When she finally corners the suspect, he grabs a guy in the park and pulls a gun on him, which leads us to the classic TV hostage standoff. “Don’t move or I’ll shoot him!” What does Laura do? She pulls out her own weapon and fires it at the guy, blowing off his ear, splattering blood all over the face of the hostage. What a great shot, right? What a badass! She must be the best cop on the force (a lot of critics made a stink about the fact that she fired her weapon in the middle of a crowded park, but let’s be honest – most cop shows play fast and loose with things like “safety” and “ethics”)! At first, the blood splatter on the hostage seems excessive, until you realize that it was necessary for the joke. You see, after she shoots the criminal, she busts out a wet nap and begins to wipe the hostages face clean. Just like a MOTHER would. Because she’s a MOTHER! The badass, shoot-first-ask-questions-later cop carries around wet naps because she’s a MOM!!! A MOMCOP! It’s like Chuck Lorre wrote a crime procedural.

At least she gets flack for discharging her weapon in public. But not from her boss, played by Enrico Colantoni. She is instead reprimanded by her bitchy, straight-laced cop rival, who “blathers on” about things like “standard procedure”. And what’s Enrico’s response? “Standard procedure’s for douchebags”. Yes, the show treats the police work like a joke, which, once again, is fine – I love Brooklyn Nine-Nine – but over 50% of this episode functions as a standard police procedural and in these moments, we are supposed to be taking the police work seriously. So yeah, you could say there are some tonal inconsistencies. All of this and I haven’t even gotten to the fact that Laura’s demon children are out of control and her ex-husband is a man-child who shirks his parental responsibilities, which is an issues because Laura also isn’t the greatest mom (but she’s trying oh so hard!). The show is just all over the place, but I bet it’ll strike a chord with a certain audience and do quite well for itself. And that audience is moms, I guess.

I’ll be honest – at one point early on, I thought “Maybe I’ll jeep watching this just because of Colantoni”, but – SPOILERS – the big twist is that he is the killer they’re looking for in this episode, so don’t look for him to show up in episode two. And let’s face it, if I didn’t watch Flashpoint for Enrico, I wasn’t going to watch this either.

Recommendation: No Thanks

Young Adult Novel: The Series

Red Band Society – There is a moment in the pilot episode of Red Band Society where a coma patient named Charlie (who narrates the series) says “Yeah. This is me talking to you from a coma. Deal with it.” That single line effectively encompasses the attitude of the series: “Deal with it”.

The hospital houses a bitchy nurse with a heart of gold, a renowned surgeon, and a wealthy hypochondriac who is allowed to live in a decadent loft because when he dies he’s donating all of his riches to said hospital.

Deal with it.

The hospital itself is gorgeous, full of personality, and probably unlike any hospital you’d ever actually find in real life.

Deal with it.

The kids behave like your average adolescents while simultaneously appearing to be wise beyond their years.

Deal with it.

Jordi, who has no real family to speak of, finds a new family among the other patients at the hospital.

Deal with it.

Leo is a cancer patient who lost his leg, but found himself.

Deal with it.

Dash, the black kid who is in the hospital for reasons I did not catch, is caught smoking weed AND illegally purchasing alcohol. “YOLO”.

Deal with it.

Anorexic Emma won’t eat food but hungers for life!

Deal with it.

Kara, the bitchy cheerleader that everyone hates, is actually suffering from an enlarged heart. Yes, the girl with no heart has a heart that’s TOO BIG.

Deal with it.

Charlie, the narrating coma kid, can apparently talk to other patients when they’re unconscious from some sort of “coma place”.

Deal with it.

It’s a blatant attempt to cash-in on the popularity of The Fault In Our Stars and watches like Glee and Grey’s Anatomy collided.

Deal with it.

It’s the kind of show where the entirety of Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” plays over the final, “emotional” minutes of this episode.

Deal with it.

I’m not going to lie – I didn’t hate it. It’s not realistic in any sense, but it is in no way trying to be. It is what it is, which is “Young Adult Novel: The Series” and I think that it’s aware of that. It won’t be for everybody, but it’s a total guilty pleasure and I’m going to keep watching it.

Deal with it.

Recommendation: Has Potential (Deal. With. It.)

The Good Politician

Madam Secretary – I’m not going to lie – I find real world politics incredibly boring. I spent a semester studying in Ottawa and not only was I bored to tears by all the political talk, I actually discovered that I HATE politics. It appeared to me like a bunch of pointless posturing that served to accomplish very little. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but it’s how I feel. That being said, when done properly, I think that on-screen politics can be absolutely fascinating. I love The West Wing, Veep, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Ides of March, and the like. I would love a new political drama to watch from week-to-week (I can’t really count Scandal because that’s pretty much a comic book at this point – a comic book that I LOVE), and I’m hoping that Madam Secretary can fill that desire. Eventually.

Madam Secretary is not a bad show. It’s perfectly competent in every way, and I mean that as a complement. Tea Leoni is great as Elizabeth McCord, who is thrust into the position of Secretary of State at the behest of the President. I very much look forward to watching Tea Leoni every week. I thought that some of the writing was clever, particularly an exchange between Elizabeth and two of her speech writers. There is also some semblance of an overarching mystery, and you KNOW that I’m a sucker for overarching mystery, as long as it doesn’t overshadow character development (and in this case, I don’t think it will). The actual episode, however, was a little on the bland side. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great. And that’s the problem with judging a show based on the first episode alone. By the end of season one, who knows? I can easily see this show growing into the complementary The Good Wife companion that CBS so desperately wants it to be (I’m surprised they didn’t go with the title The Good Politician). I think that all of the right elements are present, they just need to make the show more compelling on a week-to-week basis. CBS has had a pretty good track record of late developing strong, character driven dramas (The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Elementary), so I’m remaining hopeful that Madam Secretary will one day grow into the show that everyone wants it to be.

Recommendation: Has Potential/Pretty Good

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3 thoughts on “The Pilot Project – Take Four: Part 1 (The Mysteries of Laura, Red Band Society, Madam Secretary)

  1. I like the whole idea of reviewing television pilots as a sort of film-in-microcosm, and you have the writing chops to make it work. Though there are probably enough shows debuting, in the current television environment, to keep you busy, have you thought about doing reviews of season premiers for select shows as well?

    1. Yup, I’ve definitely considered it. The past year or two, I planned a feature called “Premiere Primers”, where I would write about the premieres of shows that I was caught up on, but, like my past attempts at “The Pilot Project”, nothing I wrote ever saw the light of day. This year I’m focusing solely on the new shows, simply because it’s hard enough for me to even do this much work. I came close last year but I think I got overwhelmed by the task of having to write about every single show I was watching. I didn’t want to scare myself off again so I’m taking it easy and lowering my own expectations. Maybe one day.

  2. Pingback: The Pilot Project – Take Four: Part 2 (Forever, Gotham, Scorpion) | Drew Stew's Views and News

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