Pilot season: The League, The Tomorrow People, Luther

Now that I’ve gotten my girlfriend hooked on Community, I’ve stopped watching it at the gym and started watching it with her. That’s good — if nothing else, it’s slowing us down so that the limited quantity of episodes that are left will last that much longer — but it means I need to find different TV to catch up on while I continue fighting my biology and my appetite. So I’ve bought the pilot episodes of six shows on Google Play and am checking them out one by one. Here are the first three shows you’ve probably already watched that are brand new to me this week.

My impression from the first episode is that this is a show about a group of schlubby straight men who either don’t realize that they want to bang each other, or are too afraid to. This concept could be kind of hot, if the men were kind of hot, but they’re not, so it’s not. They are also obsessed with a game that is basically Dungeons & Dragons, except that its outcome is entirely determined by the choices other men make in the game they’re playing. I was told that this would be entertaining even though I don’t like sports, and that made sense to me in theory. In practice I find that its entertainment value depends on how entertaining I find sports fans, and it turns out the answer is I don’t. If I want to watch Nick Kroll, and I do, I’m evidently going to have to find some way to watch The Kroll Show.

I dug the original Tomorrow People when I was a kid, but let’s be honest, it’s not a show that’s aged well. I’m watching it on DVD, and it’s slow going, because as much as I enjoy the concept — kids finding out they have special paranormal powers that set them apart from the rest of humanity — the execution is all dirt-cheap special effects and rather wooden scripts and acting. There are kids’ shows that hold up today (like Doctor Who, for the most part) and there are kids’ shows that don’t. So in theory I’m fine with seeing this remade. In practice, though it’s much more watchable (aimed at an older audience, decent budget, decent acting and dialogue), it’s lost some of its kitschy charisma in the transition (not to mention the original’s peerless theme song). The cast is visually bland, the protagonists unlikeable, and the subtexty vibe of the original with a slightly lost gang of misfits “coming out” (see also X2) is buried under the (yawn) pecs and cheekbones. Still, the ending caught me by surprise, and I’m just interested enough to think this might be fun to watch on the elliptical.

“Hide” is one of my favorite 21st century Doctor Who stories, while “The Rings of Akhaten”…isn’t. And since Neil Cross wrote both of them, it’s hard to tell which way this is going to go for me. So far this seems pretty middle-of-the-road stuff as detective TV goes. Luther’s a tough but brilliant detective who tends to cross lines and get too involved with his cases? Stop the press! I can see, too, how Cross and Moffat might have started working together, because both are running detective shows where “ordinary” cases are boring and apparently motiveless geniuses who commit crimes simply to enjoy cat-and-mouse games with the police are interesting. Moffat has the advantage of reinventing a legend, while Cross has to create an original character who’s a regular person with flaws and a temper and people he cares about. Still, Idris Elba is at least as charismatic as Benedict Cumberbatch, if perhaps a little more (unintentionally?) enigmatic. This is well-made stuff, and I’ll probably watch more of it at some point, but an hour hasn’t been enough to convince me I need to see how it all turns out.

That’s it for now. Next up: The Tudors, Clone Wars, and — yes, I know, I’ve still never seen it! — The Wire.

One comment

  1. Jerome · June 16, 2014

    From what I’ve seen of The League, the main issue for me is that they seem to come up with ideas for about half an episode, then try to improvise from there. But I do live with someone who filtered out most of the bad episodes for me.

    And I do think there are some kinda hot guys on there and I took part in my first fantasy football season this year (and only lost in the championship), so I don’t know that I’d call myself trustworthy.