The end of upfronts week always feels a bit like Christmas afternoon — the excitement of opening your presents is over, but now you have presents to play with. Specifically, trailers for the upcoming TV season, which tend to be meatier and longer than normal trailers, giving you a thorough peek at what’s to come. So let’s check out some of the gifts we can expect this fall!
Note: Not every gift is necessarily a good one. A bad trailer doesn’t necessarily make for a bad show, but we’ll be the judges of that, as seen below.
Ben: Now this was a trailer designed for upfronts. It’s lengthy to a fault (I don’t know if it takes us through the plot of the first season or the first episode), but uses every moment to explain its story along with “flashes” of character and some snazzy special effects (for the CW), and the spot leaves the viewer wondering what’s going to happen next. Grant Gustin looks like a worthy lead actor after all those years on “Glee,” and I’m always happy to see Tom Cavanagh. One issue: it doesn’t look like they’ve fully conquered the problem always plaguing “The Flash.” How do you show off that speed?
Liz: This trailer is so long it feels like I’ve seen basically a condensed version of the full pilot, including what I’m pretty sure is the big climax to the episode. That’s kind of a bummer. The effects do look great, though, especially on a CW budget, and yeah Tom Cavanagh! I have a few quibbles, most importantly DC’s increasing insistence on making its superheroes dark and moody; with Batman, it makes sense, but the Flash, as an established character, is a much more light-hearted fellow. Giving him the “Arrow” treatment doesn’t quite work.
Ben’s Grade: B+
Liz’s Grade: B
Liz: “Selfie,” conceptually, is a show that on paper ought to work. The on-screen pairing of John Cho and Karen Gillen is not only really charming, but basically nerd porn: Sulu and Amy Pond hanging out together and maybe falling in love! Plus, Emily Kapnek’s “Suburgatory,” at least in its first two seasons, was full of delightful surprises.
But this trailer has me concerned, because many of the jokes aren’t landing, in part due to the forced “social networking is cool!” angle and in part due to the equally forced “My Fair Lady” homage. Their names are literally Henry and Eliza, because Gillen literally says “He’s going to ‘My Fair Lady’ me.” That line of dialogue is officially fired.
Ben: You’re right about that line. Oof. Hopefully that’s a pilot error they’ll soon overcome. There are a few elements that work for me here. I like the hashtag pop-ups (though they could get old quickly) and text bubbles reminiscent of “House of Cards.” Plus, Gillen in particular shines with at least two line readings: the awkward “How are you?” to the receptionist and reluctant singing along to Lady Gaga. I don’t know if this will be a hit, but it might be creative enough to be a fun sitcom for fans of the cast or Kapnek.
Ben’s Grade: B-
Liz’s Grade: C+
Ben: We all saw Zach Snyder’s Batman this past week, but we also got a glimpse at Ben McKenzie’s Commissioner Gordon. I’m more excited for the latter. The trailer promises an intensity needed to tell the dark tale of a boy whose parents are murdered in front of him and the detective who promises to bring those killers to justice. It won’t be an easy road by any means. Avoiding the cheesy pitfalls of making a comic book feel real will be the main challenge, and so far the villains — the characters most likely to be overblown — look necessarily subdued. Plus, McKenzie can ratchet up the intensity like few others. I can’t wait to watch him work.
Liz: There are some great casting choices here: Donal Logue is always amazing, and while Ben Mckenzie will eventually need to grow Detective Gordon’s signature mustache, I’m excited to see him on a cop show that people will actually be talking about. (Poor, forgotten “Southland.” That show was on the air for five years, but the only thing people mention about McKenzie is “The O.C.”)
My major concern is that while there’s a lot of cool stuff in this trailer — it LOOKS great — I’m not totally sure what this show actually is. Is it a police procedural? Is it an ensemble drama? A heartwarming series about the special bond between an orphaned young boy and the detective investigating his parents’ murder? There’s a lot happening here, but what’s on the fence is whether or not it’ll all work together.
Ben’s Grade: A-
Liz’s Grade: A-
Liz: When I first heard that David Tennant had been cast in the Fox version of “Broadchurch,” the hit British crime drama that “Gracepoint” is based on, I was nervous because while he was excellent in the original series, his American accent was unproven. (This is his first major role in the US.) Fortunately, it sounds like he’s gotten himself a solid dialogue coach.
Sounds good, but how is it looking? Exactly like the British version, though with the great addition of Anna Gunn as a lady cop who’s not married to a quasi-sociopath. (I love “Breaking Bad,” but c’mon.) It’ll be fascinating to see how the show works on an American level, on an anthropological level at least.
Ben: Um, I’ve read a lot about “Gracepoint” over the last few months, and not one article I looked at mentioned the No. 1 reason to watch this miniseries: Nick Nolte. I mean, seriously. It’s Nick Nolte! Not only does “Gracepoint” feature the Oscar nominee for 2011’s best picture (in my opinion, not the Academy’s), but he’s an old man by the sea! Just like in his drunken rant from the classic tale of fathers and sons! The rest of the trailer could have been nails on a chalkboard or highlights from the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl (both equally awful acts), and this trailer would still be the best of the upfronts.
Ben’s Grade: A
Liz’s Grade: B+
Ben: Sigh. If it weren’t for TNT’s ridiculous new slogan, this trailer would have left audiences with a adrenaline pumping through their veins instead of a belly full of laughter. I mean, “boom”? Who came up with that as a tag for serious drama? It’s a punch line used when someone wins at cards or drops a particularly leveling insult. Anyway, try to ignore the ending and focus on Ed Burns back in action. The writer-director of family dramadies and light romances has always been a more believable tough guy. His last shot at period drama didn’t go over that well (“Mob City”), but Burns is writing, directing, and starring in “Public Morales. It also marks the first time he’s collaborated with Steven Spielberg since “Saving Private Ryan.” It’s certainly not the same, but it ain’t nothing either.
Spielberg has the weirdest taste in the television
projects he chooses — “Smash”? “Under the Dome”? “Terra Nova”? There’s absolutely no real consistency, except a lack of it.
But this is really going to be the all-Ed Burns, all-the-time show, which I know will be technically very proficient but personally not that interesting to me. I struggled to get through this trailer, and it was just the trailer. The most interesting aspect to me is setting it in 1967, but that could be my overwhelming fondness for “Mad Men.”
Anyways. BOOM is right.
Ben’s Grade: B+
Liz’s Grade: C