Five Intriguing Pilot Previews From Upfronts (and One Catastrophic One)

by Amy Yen

Upfronts are over & the five major networks (I’m feeling generous to the CW today) have released previews to all their new fall projects. I’m not going to lie to you. There are some seriously horrible-looking TV shows in there. Like, there were literally some where, based on the premise, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the two-minute preview. There’s one so offensive, I’m going to share it here with you today, just to prove that somebody who works for a major TV network actually thought it was a good idea that people would be psyched to watch.

But before I do, here are five pilots that actually look pretty great:

1) Awake (NBC, Midseason)

The single most fascinating thing on the entire NBC programming slate, obviously, it got banished to midseason. (Falmpalm, NBC.) Awake (formerly known as REM) has a great dual-reality premise & hopefully it can execute on that potential. I think it would be interesting for it to do an every-other-episode format, like Fringe did with its alternate universes early this season. Additionally, the idea that his realities cross over, with his cases-of-the-week on one side affecting the other, is a really interesting one. I really hope this show is as good as it looks, because it looks really, really good.

2) Person of Interest (CBS, Thursdays at 9pm ET)

It should come as no surprise that my list will include not one but two JJ Abrams mystery dramas. The surprise for me is that Person of Interest, his CBS procedural collaboration with Jonathan Nolan, actually looks a little more interesting to me than Alcatraz, his FOX island-centric time travel mystery. There’s a lot to like about the POI preview, the most obvious being Michael Emerson being his brilliant, morally-ambiguous self. The action looks really solid & the premise has both the obligatory case-of-the-week aspect that should satisfy the CBS audience & the foundation for a really interesting JJ Abrams mythology. What more can you ask for?

3) Alcatraz (FOX, Mondays at 9pm ET – Midseason)

Alcatraz also looks interesting enough, altogether this trailer kind of reminds me of the first Fringe trailer in that in it of itself, it doesn’t particularly make me salivate to see more. It’s more that it has some elements that are somewhat interesting: good casting, good pedigree, good production values, a sci-fi-skewing premise. Let’s face it, it’s JJ Abrams. I will be watching. Like POI, it sounds like they are going to try to make Alcatraz more standalone than serial, but then, they said the same thing about Fringe & look how good that got. Plus, you have to trust FOX to let JJ be JJ more than you can trust CBS.

4) Terra Nova (FOX, Mondays at 8pm ET)

The reports about how hard it’s been getting this show going are kind of worrisome, but the trailer looks fun. It’s got that Jurassic Park Spielberg vibe & I like Jason O’Mara as a lead. Funny enough, one of the most interesting parts of the trailer IMO is one that’s most likely not going to be part of the show at all, which is the vision of the dystopic future, where everyone is wearing masks to breathe & apparently trying to escape a dying world. That’s a future I would have like to see more of. But, it is an inherently interesting premise, the idea of sending people to the past to escape the future & who doesn’t like a good dinosaur chase? Could be fun.

5) Ringer (CW, Tuesdays at 9pm ET)

I kind of wanted to include a CW show & the two most promising ones are Ringer, which was rejected by sister network CBS (for which it would have been completely inappropriate for), and Secret Circle, the latest from Kevin Williamson, which, like Vampire Diaries, was also adapted from an LJ Smith series of novels. Because of the good will Williamson has built up with Vampire Diaries, which rises above its premise to actually be a very good drama, and the casting of Thomas Dekker, who was very good in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, I will definitely at least give Secret Circle a shot. But Ringer definitely looks like a better bet for a good story & it’s nice to see Sarah Michelle Gellar back on TV.

On the not-so-great side, there were many, many horrendous-looking comedies, including Free Agents, Whitney, Are You There Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Last Man Standing,  (seriously, haven’t we, as a society, moved past laugh tracks?), but the worst, the WORST, is this:

Work It (ABC, Midseason)

The fact that this was thought up by somebody & somebody else thought enough of it to order it as a pilot & somebody else thought enough of it to order it to series is unfathomable to me. Apparently delusion runs rampant during pilot season among network execs because this show? Appeals to nobody. I am actually offended by this is being offered to us as entertainment & I am telling advertisers right now, I will think less of your brand if you show a commercial during this show.

Look, I love TV & I just want it to be good, that’s all. It makes me sad when I see trash like this being introduced when quality shows like Parks & Recreation (which, btw, had a brilliant season finale) have to fight to stay on the air every year. So what I’m trying to say, networks, is try harder.

For a full breakdown of the fall TV schedule, go here.

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