Pitch Hits The Zone

I don’t have many expectations for Pitch. FOX has been buying ads during MLB.tv inning breaks that feature its baseball broadcasting talent. That makes me immediately suspicious that it simply made up a show to draw eyes to remind that it has the MLB post season.

Given the way ratings suffered the past several seasons, that might not be a bad strategy. Any new TV show has a pretty good chance of failing miserably, so why not spend your pilot money on something that could boost your (very, very expensive) live sports programming?

Okay, let’s see how this goes.

(The Exorcist is a new show? I’m concerned that TV is spiraling down the movie industry’s rat hole of recycled ideas. Let’s not.)

Of course the show about the first female player in baseball history starts with a shot of her legs getting out of bed. Come on, try a little bit here.

Greeting cards from Ellen and Hillary Clinton, product placement from Callaway and Nike. Headphones that don’t say beats but sure look like them. Maybe I was too narrow in what I thought FOX wanted to promote.

Hey it’s Colin Cowherd with a hot take.

It took three minutes for the main character to speak.

You know who would have been great in this dad role? My guy Shemar Moore. He might not be old enough though.

The Padres GM has made an appearance. In real life he is on a one-month suspension for hiding injury records.

If we get the same stereotypical crap here that we got from the military guy in Designated Survivor. Whether it’s players or this dreadful agent/publicist character or whatever it’s gonna get old. Fast.

The number 43 is a great touch.

While we’re here, can we talk about the Padres uniforms?

Actually, Kim Kardashian is very talented. I will go to bat on this.

Hey they’re gonna play the Dodgers! This is great!

What is this live video thing? Is it part of the show or a commercial? Oh god it’s a Kohls commercial. This is hot garbage. And it might be the future of TV.

One thing to think about here is the main character is an athlete, so she’s going to act like an athlete. The public version of most athletes would make a terrible TV character, so that’s something to keep in mind. We’ll have to draw a distinction between how the character is written when she’s in “athlete mode” and when she’s not.

But one thing that doesn’t have to be acting is the TV broadcast characters. They should just be able to do their thing, right? That’s what FOX hired them for! I don’t think Joe Buck did. Reminder: I love Joe Buck.

Couldn’t they have cast a southpaw? 🙂

Where have I seen this kid actress? I she the one in Mistresses? I’ll have to look it up. I looked it up. She is. She’s outstanding on Mistresses – well-written and well acted.

Let’s get back to the product placement issue. That’s what we’re used to in sports now. You can’t look anywhere without a logo. So I guess it adds some realism. And this George Clooney commercial about a coffee maker? That was filmed at the Warner Bros. lot.

Oh come on you can’t use real Dodgers? Actually I bet FOX would have gotten way more promotion if it had been able to get Vin Scully. Not only would it be awesome, but Vin was friends with Jackie Robinson so it would be fitting.

Hey this is like watching the Twins pitch! Sorry that was uncalled for. The Twins are worse.

About the decision to have her get off to a dreadful start. From a story perspective, it’s good emotion. It makes me identify with the character. It’s also realistic. Not every debut is Rob Segedin. Wait wasn’t she a starter? You don’t take your starter out that quick. Hey this is a TV show not real life, Watterson.

Remember Matt Fox? Not the actor, Matt Fox the guy the Twins called up in September during a pennant race.

This scene in the hotel is what we should judge the Ginny character by, not the athlete stuff. And it’s good.

He’s right about her being this catcher’s legacy. On and off the field.

Joe Buck can be sarcastic at times, but he is way too professional to ever make a joke like that.

If she beats the Giants you know Pitch is committed to realism.

OMG I just realized the catcher is Zach Morris. WTF. I feel like my life has come full circle. I’m blogging about a show where Zach Morris is a baseball player.

As with every Hollywood production about sports, they managed to find actors with next to no actual athletic ability.

Have you ever held a sparkling white official Rawlings baseball? It’s a beautiful thing. From a pitching perspective, if her fastball tops out in the upper 80s isn’t she basically a screwball version of a knuckleballer.

If this were real life and the manager slapped her butt we’d have a national controversy the likes of which would drive us all off social media forever.

We can add the owner to the list of stereotypical characters.

This better get over, it’s almost time for Dodger baseball.

Hey wait. I approve of what has happened here.

Designated Survivor Premier Live-Blog Review

Here is what I expect from Keifer Sutherland’s new drama, Designated Survivor:

The big event happens early in the pilot, thrusting him to the presidency. It ends with a cliffhanger to make us wonder what happened and season one features a lot of flashbacks leading up to whatever it was.

Now let’s see if that’s what actually happens. I’m about to start watching and will live-blog my thoughts.

I’m choosing this over football, and the Patriots have some pretty solid looking Thursday night uniforms. This better be worth it.

I think we all know how this works. Explaining it is like showing the Superman origin for the 10,000th time.

Do you think the designated survivor (we’ll call him the DS) really wears jeans and a hoodie? And drinks a beer? That would be…unpresidential and actually kinda irresponsible.

Establishing that he has a kid. Solid. Hopefully she’s not as awful as whatever Jack Bauer’s daughter’s name was.

That was okay. It could have been more impactful or shocking or whatever but it was good.

A flashback! Check.

Would the television feed actually flicker out or would it just go out? What an odd thing to wonder.

Going from an explosion that wipes out government at night to eating scrambled eggs that morning feels like it killed a lot of momentum.

I would take an ambassadorship to the ICAO! #avgeek Being booted probably explains his lax attire later that night.

Do we need to talk about – wait…

“What do you want me to do, go to war with the president of the United States?” Um…okayyyy.

Anyway, do we need to talk about whether or not Sutherland’s scratchy voice is a good fit for this part? It was so perfect for Jack Bauer. Let’s give it some time. I assume he was cast to be a president, not a HUDdy duddy. #BureaucracyPuns

This is the first time I’ve thought about the fact that if the DS is elevated to president it can also mean we lost Congress. And the Supreme Court. Jesus. I wonder if networks do a dry run for what to do in this situation.

All of this has to be in place (Do we trust speechwriter guy?) on the night of the State of the Union. I take back what I said about not needing it explained. So hasty am I to judge.

Take control of the room, Mr. President. Do you think they screen cabinet appointees for whether or not they could handle this situation?

This bathroom talk is somewhat convenient.

Have you noticed that so far a lot of my thoughts are about real life and not the TV show? I can’t tell if that’s because the show is lacking or because I’ve always kind of been interested in continuity of government (having once worked in government).

Do we really let the prez hang out on the sidewalk after Congress was blown to bits? I suppose if this character was immediately presidential I would be like oh how convenient that the one guy they leave behind can immediately step into the role of president.

This military guy who wanted to go DEFCON 2 is going to be a problem isn’t he? Could he be any more stereotypical?

When are they going to tell us who this Agent Wills is calling, and why is it important enough that they aren’t revealing it yet?

I like that they’re having Agent Wills reference how real-life attacks seem to go. I think it gives the show credibility. I have to admit also that the possibility of it being the first attack never crossed my mind.

As a communications guy I’m interested to hear the speech they wrote him.

One of the ways I measure how engaging a show is is how many character names I remember. Agent Wills and Tom something that ends in orkman. Workman?

There’s almost always something I dread about a TV show or a movie. In Designated Survivor I think it’s going to be military guy. I really don’t want to put up with a show with such a cookie-cutter character. I hope they surprise me.

All in all I’m not sure yet what kind of show we have in Designated Survivor. There are so many potential elements it can string together from politics to thriller to conspiracy to character. That puts its realm of possibility anywhere between dreadful and brilliant.

Kiefer, it’s on you.

photo credit: ABC

Amazon’s Mad Dogs Goes For A Walk In Pilot

It seemed a little odd early in the pilot of Mad Dogs, a new Amazon original series, when the four main characters received handheld video cameras as gifts in their limo ride from the airport. Smartphones have made them obsolete to all but the biggest traveling dorks so you could guess at some point there had to have been a reason for not only giving one to each of them, but for featuring them. Sure enough, there was.

That’s kind of how the Mad Dogs pilot went. Four college buddies reunite in Belize at the sprawling mansion of the fifth friend, the one who chased the dream and struck it rich. You see the set up and you know exactly what’s coming:

  • They will party;
  • One will have an attack of conscience;
  • One is a sleaze ball;
  • One is a screw up;
  • One missed his chance to cash in;
  • The rich one is a prick and everyone gets mad;
  • Someone will appear wearing an animal head.

There were times during the 60 minutes when I would think Okay, Steve Zahn isn’t going to do something a Steve Zahn character would do. Then he would. It was disappointing when the premiere got to the point where I realized all it would do is go down the checklist and dutifully mark the story points as it passes them by. By the time the bizarre animal head appeared, it had no impact. Of course someone walked into this completely open Central American mansion wearing a giant animal head.

I wasn’t a fan of Amazon’s adaption of The Man In The High Castle, but at least that had ambition. Bosch, which I sped through but haven’t written about, was formulaic but at least based on a book. Needless to say, Amazon’s original content hasn’t struck with me yet.

Mad Dogs is adapted from a UK show of the same name, by the same creator. Based on its pilot, it’s going to be more Gracepoint than it is House of Cards.

Revenge Rights Wrongs

Season three premiere erases season two

The most shocking reveal from the Revenge season premiere is that only one line from season two still matters: “I’m Amanda Clarke.” Everything else, every way that the show went haywire, has been wiped away. Charlotte’s baby? Gone. The Initiative? Poof. Carrion? Flown the coop. Ashley? Buh-bye. Governor Grayson? Sent home sick. I can’t remember any other show erasing storylines so completely.

“Let’s never say the words ‘Carrion’ or ‘Initiative’ ever again,” Emily says when she picks up Nolan outside the prison. “Amen to that,” he responds.

So do we. New showrunner Sunil Nayar dismissed most of these unpopular storylines in the first five minutes. Perhaps to mock how silly Conrad’s political story was from the beginning, Nayar had him hinting at presidential aspirations before the alleged onset of Huntington’s Disease forced him to resign. Poor Ashley was the unsuspecting victim in Nayar’s final clear-cutting. To really drive a dagger through season two, Nayar paired Victoria and Emily to turn aside her last desperate attempt to stay in the Hamptons and deport her to television Narnia, although her deliciously sexy accent will always have a place in this writer’s heart.

In that same scene outside the prison Nolan takes Emily’s left hand and asks her the question that returns the series to its roots: Are the “rules of engagement” to Daniel still on? Of course they are. She is trying to delay setting a wedding date while Daniel looks for a new job. What will happen between now and then looks to be the guts of season three. Indeed, in the next scene Emily boldly proclaims that if all goes as planned this year’s Memorial Day party will be the last the Graysons ever attend.

This is the most welcome news we could have asked for. Revenge is back where it began with Emily plotting the Graysons’ demise.

To tell that story it appears the third season will model itself after season one with a teaser followed by a jump to two months earlier. This is a great decision, one I speculated about last month. Revenge has been best when it is building toward a specific point in time. This season it is two months from Memorial Day, which will line up to be just before Emily and Daniel’s decision to get married on August 8. All that remains for the timeline is to see if the third season ends there or pivots the way season one did after the fire-and-ice engagement party.

The last topic I want to cover before hitting some Memos To A Character is the possibility for the show’s end. The pilot opened with Emily quoting Confucius’s famous quote, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” In this episode she tells Nolan of her intention to exact her ultimate revenge on her 8-8 wedding day. As he draw’s Emily’s interlocking infinity symbols in the sand, he calls it, “A fitting end to a path of revenge.”

Is the show trying to tell us something? I wrote last year that it needs an end date so it can know how much time it has to tell Emily’s story. Surely this can’t be the reason for the premiere to be talking end game, but it had a definite impact on what happened. Jack gave her an ultimatum to finish her plot this summer and leave town or he will out her true identity. Remember that Emily will be shot in her wedding dress two months from now. Will it be the second grave Confucius refers to? If so, who is in the first? And if that is something we see in season three, what will be left for season four??? Time will tell, and that’s why this year’s premiere has me excited for what’s to come.

Now, Memos To A Character.

Dear Emily, you really did get shot in the tummy. I’m sorry this happened to you. I was wrong to speculate you might be wearing a vest because when you were floating there in the water (wait, you float?) you sure were bleeding. I hope medical attention comes quickly because you will lose a lot of blood from those wounds.

Dear Victoria, a warm welcome back to you. “Emily. It’s a shame you still feel the need to drop by unannounced.” That is the you we know and love. Not really sure what you mean but judging by the look on your face it isn’t a compliment nor a welcome.

Dear Patrick, what’s your deal, bro? We only saw the back of your shoulder last season and you kept your mom company while her husband settled in up in Albany. But why you no stay when he come home? Are you out of the story for good or just waiting for the right time to hop back out to the Hamptons?

Dear Jack. Sigh. You weren’t your usual dumb self so I will give you some credit. How about your kiss with Emily though? That was pretty intense and breathy, I hope you had some mints. I was relieved that despite how great it looked you said you don’t have any feelings for her. You know I don’t like love triangles, so thanks for that. I don’t know why you want Emily to get her revenge over with so fast but it at least will help the story move, so thanks for that, too.

Dear Aden, you prick. Your quest for revenge not only failed to save your sister, it failed to get you Emily as well. But you did get to take out your anger on Takada so have a Coke and a smile and shut the front door, okay? That means go away.

Dear Padma, you are so still dead.






Free yourself from Hostages

Hostages has a great premise: Force a doctor to choose between the president and her family. Will she slip him a fatal poison on the operating table or will she risk her family being killed and let him live? Or will she turn the tables and fight back against their hostage takers?

Who gives a damn. This show is unlikeable.

While most pilots come out swinging with an extended opening sequence, Hostages went for a family sitting on a couch for 38 seconds. KA-POW! No, not ka-pow. Dad looks up and sees a masked man. That’s it. To recap: A show named Hostages opened with a family being held hostage. Therein lies the problem I have with the pilot: It is simply an extended version of everything you knew if you saw the promo. It is not an introduction to what will unfold over its 15-episode season. If that’s what CBS and its writers were intending, they failed big time.

The first time we see Dr. Ellen Sanders as a doctor is in a press conference with the president. He selected her over the chief surgeon from Johns Hopkins to remove a nonmalignant mass from his lung. This is also the first time we the president whose fate Sanders will determine in the face of danger to her family. Instead of making him a character, Paul Kincaid is meaningless but for holding the title of President of the United States. Because this is television I don’t have to care about whether he lives or dies, but I was surprised and disappointed to see the show not even try to make me care.

The night before the surgery, a traitorous FBI agent leads a team of ninjas onto the Sanders’ unguarded property. As the hostage-taking unfolds we start to see cracks in their all-American family. Her husband is having an affair, her daughter is secretly pregnant and her son is dealing weed. They are not the Seavers. They are two brats, a jerk and a working mom. We have no reason to hope the crisis draws them together. Hostages needs viewers to hope the family does exactly that because, like with the anonymous president, the show’s drama relies on it. If I don’t care about the family then I don’t care if the mom kills the president or not. If I don’t care about that, then why am I even watching this show?

For the bad guys to win? FBI Special Agent Duncan Carlisle is no one special. He is just an angry husband whose wife is suffering from cancer. Is he the ringleader of a presidential assassination plot or just a pawn? At first he seems like the ringleader, but when he is revealed to be partnering with someone inside the White House that becomes less clear. I love shows that put viewers in the position of liking the bad guy. Hostages doesn’t even give us that. Carlisle is the kind of loser who in real life might get it in his mind to kill the president only to end up getting arrested on Pennsylvania Avenue.

If I don’t care about the president, or the family, or the bad guys…?

I can get behind a great story. That is the number one reason I watch any television show. But Hostages passed on illuminating any of the things that had to happen leading up to the opening scene. Why did the president insist on this doctor instead of the one his wife mentioned from Johns Hopkins? The political benefit of trusting his life to a woman? Maybe it is something more sinister. His aide, Quentin, is part of the plot, so did he intentionally steer the president in this direction. Why? We don’t know and the show never made any attempt to lay the groundwork for exploring it.

Nor do we know why they want the president dead. Killing the president is a pretty severe obsession, don’t you think? All the pilot gave us was a vague reference to Carlisle’s wife having cancer and wanting to get back to “the way things were.” You can’t skip over the motive in a show about trying to kill the president! It needed to be a major part of the pilot.

We don’t even get to see why Ellen is a great doctor. The president doesn’t just get a binder full of female surgeons to pick from when he needs surgery. Something had to make her stand out. A colleague tells Ellen she is a rockstar who was picked because she is the best, not because she is a woman. Not good enough. We need to actually see her being a great doctor. How hard would that have been? A basic doctor-performs-a-miracle scene is the staple of television staples. Hostages couldn’t even give us that much.

Throw me a bone, reel me in, give me just one hint that there is a bigger story here! I want to like it!

But I can’t. This show is arrogant. It throws you into an opening scene that lasts all of 38 seconds with characters you ultimately cannot like. It expects you to be riveted just because it wants you to be, taking for granted all the storytelling that goes into developing a compelling drama. It asks you to completely overlook the fact that a doctor about to perform surgery on the President of the United States is allowed to just waltz home the night before to a completely unguarded home. It asks you to be dumb.

The worst moment came when Carlisle and his team (who we know absolutely nothing about) took their masks off in the Sanders’ living room. The daughter panics and tells her father that they are more likely to be killed if they see the bad guys’ faces. There’s nothing better than a self-aware television show.

One thing did catch my eye. I’m not sure if it was because it was really there or I was looking so hard that my imagination went into overdrive: Does Dr. Sanders know why she was put in this situation? The way Carlisle calls her by her first name and how she completely breaks down in front of him could suggest these two knew each other before he took her family. Perhaps she was involved with his wife’s care and the whole assassination plot is his way of getting back at her? That could explain why the president received so little attention.

At the very end, does the television news crawl matter when it says, “…corporations are people. Terrorist has cooperated since clandestine guilty plea.” Ultimately, because of all the faults listed above, I just don’t care.

Good pilots surprise you. They tease you and they tantalize you. You don’t want a good pilot to end. When it does you want the next episode right now because it left you craving more. Were you on the edge of your seat when Hostages ended? I wasn’t. Nothing I saw made me want to see another 14 weeks of Doctor Ellen Sanders playing cat and mouse with Duncan Carlyle.