Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Pilot Reviews 2014: The Flash, Mulaney, and Cristela

We're getting close to the end.  There are a couple more pilots next week (Jane the Virgin on Mon and Marry Me on Tues), a couple in late Oct (Constantine on the 24th and The McCarthys on the 30th), and then one more in November (State of Affairs on Nov 17th).

So, the posts will not be as frequent as they have been, but I promise to at least finish out the fall reviews.  If there is a lot of requests for this to continue, I might do the same in the winter and spring.  You (the readers) will have to let me know that you want me to continue though!

But now, lets hit the three latest releases:

THE FLASH (CW, premiered Tues. 7 Oct 14, airs on Tues 8/7c, available on Hulu)

For the most part, I hate voice over narration.  The times I can stand it are on series such as Arrested Development and more recently A to Z where you have an unexplained omniscient narrator.  But I almost always hate when a character provides narration.  I view it the same way that I view breaking the 4th wall.  It takes me out of the world of the show.  Plus, narration is often weak storytelling.  If you have to tell me what's going on with a voice over, that is work you aren't doing in the television show.  The Flash opened up with the titular character doing a voice over narration.  I began to get worried.  Then the show started and my worries dissipated.  An even better pilot than Arrow (the show this spun off from), The Flash was pretty close to perfect throughout.  The nods to the larger superhero world of which Flash is a part (POSSIBLE SPOILERS -  but there were references to Gorilla Grodd and more importantly Hal Jordan/Green Lantern with Ferris Air to go along with the reveal of Reverse Flash right off the bat) were awesome easter eggs without overwhelming the plot (ahem, Gotham), and with The Flash, those easter eggs have every chance of actually paying off.  From the comic side of things, it kind of feels like this version of Barry Allan owes a lot to Wally West and Bart Allen, as this Flash is younger and a little less serious then I view Barry, but the actor playing him wins you over pretty quickly.  The episode ended with a little more narration from Barry, and hopefully the show loses that convention for opening and closing quickly, because everything else was great.


Interesting Fact:  A few awesome casting decisions have been made for this show.  First, John Wesley Shipp plays Barry's father Henry.  Previously, Shipp played Barry Allen/The Flash in the short lived 1990 TV version of the hero.  Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell played brothers at the heart of the conspiracy laden action show Prison Break.  They are reunited on this show as Flash villains Captain Cold and Heat Wave respectively.  And finally, as one half of Firestorm, Robbie Amell will be appearing on the show.  Robbie is cousins with Stephen Amell, who appears on this show (as well as stars on his own) as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow.

MULANEY (FOX, premiered 5 Oct 14, airs Sun 9:30/8:30c, available on Hulu)

CRISTELA (ABC, premiered 10 Oct 14, airs Fri 8:30/7:30c, available tomorrow on Hulu)

Comedians getting their own sitcoms is a time-honored tradition and has led to some fantastic shows: The Cosby Show, Rosanne, and Seinfeld to name a few.  Both of these shows feature successful comedians.  That's where the similarities stop, however.  Mulaney definitely seems to be trying to replicate the success of Seinfeld, but fails miserably.  Apparently, Mulaney as a comedian is funny, but you certainly can't tell from the show.  The stand up scenes on the show seem out of place (and even Seinfeld realized this and got rid of those cutaways eventually) and aren't that funny, unless of course they're compared to anything else on the show.  Another similarity to Seinfeld is that the main character can't really act, but whereas Jerry clearly was the worst actor on his show when it started, he was still watchable and, most importantly, funny.  But compared to Mulaney, Jerry Seinfeld was an Oscar winner.  It's painful to watch, Mulaney is so obviously out of place as an actor.  You can't laugh when you're spending so much time cringing.  Elliot Gould and Martin Short steal every scene they're in, but unfortunately that isn't enough.  And they're clearly playing second fiddle to the young, attractive cast that we're supposed to be laughing with.  Unfortunately, Mulaney the show seems to believe that Newman deserved to be made a main cast member on Seinfeld, becuase the Newman stand in (Andre), the annoying drug dealer they for some reason know, hangs out all the time with the other characters.  It's not funny.  It's just sad.  They should put that on the poster.

Cristela seems to be taking its cue not from Seinfeld, but from Rosanne, and it actually might compare favorably to that show.  However, it recognizes something that Mulaney apparently forgot, and that is that comedies should be funny, and Cristela is unquestionably funny.  It's also surprisingly smart and rather heartwarming.  All of the cast are funny, the writing is sharp and often brings you to actually laugh out loud (as in for real, not just in a "reply to someone with lol" type of way).  And there's a few great Jerry Jones jabs, which is a great way to win me over.  The previews didn't lead me to think that I was going to enjoy Cristela as much as I did, and I worry about the Friday night slot that the show finds itself in, but I highly recommend it.  While there have been a few funny and promising sitcoms to premiere so far this year, this one might actually be the funniest.

Mulaney - 6%

Cristela - 99%

Interesting Fact:  Cristela is the first ever show that is created by, written by, produced by, and stars a Latina, as Cristela Alonzo performs all of those roles for this show. 

Until Next Time, if you're enjoying these reviews, let me know!  Leave a comment!  What's your favorite new show so far?  How have the shows improved (or the opposite!) since their pilots?  Let me know what you think!

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