Bookish TV: the 2012 Comic-con pilot buzz

When it comes to TV, it’s always hard to guess what will catch on and what will fall flat, what will grow old and what will fade away – hence the tumultuous careers of most TV execs – but Comic-con is always an interesting, though undeniably skewed, barometer of fan interest. So what’s hot and what’s not, come this Fall?

Elementary (CBS) – So I was able to catch the pilot episode of Elementary at Comic-con, and I can say without a doubt that this show is here to stay. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are two lovely actors who definitely work well together, and both will be ridiculously fun to watch if they’re given some juicy character meat to play – but honestly, I’m far from convinced that they will be given that meat. Here’s the thing – at the end of the day this IS, without doubt, a CBS show, and let’s be honest, there’s a certain sameness that permeates the CBS network – kind of like California Pizza Kitchen pizza or Campbell’s soup; no matter how different the flavors, there is no mistaking the brand. As for CBS’ crime drama stamp, think The Mentalist or CSI or Person of Interest and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Now to be fair, The Good Wife certainly has dared to be more of a character-based drama, so here’s hoping that Elementary will also breath that rarefied CBS air, because Holmes & Watson are characters too special to waste on colorless, humdrum case solving. And yet I can’t quite shake the suspicion that this show, Holmesian quirks aside, will slide firmly to the middle of the procedural road, just like every other CBS whodunit, with mere dribs and drabs of personality to oil up ye old clockwork machinery. So yes, I liked this pilot, and yes, I’ll definitely be watching come fall, but in Sherlock-ian love, I am not. In the end, I can only say this – please, please Elementary, prove to be a show worthy of your cast. Don’t criminally waste their talents, such as CSI: New York wastes Gary Sinise.

Beauty and the Beast (The CW) – This show faced a tough room at Comic-con. Whatever planning genius slotted this pilot screening between Psych, Elementary, and Dexter pretty much gauranteed that the vast majority of the crowd in Ballroom 20 at the time was not this show’s target audience, and so this show played about as well as The Vampire Diaries pilot fared at Comic-con a few years back – which is to say, it clunked. There was quite a bit of eye rolling and blatant ignoring going on – but that fate certainly didn’t slow The Vampire Diaries down a whit, and I think this show could just as easily find a loyal CW audience. To be fair, the pilot is not good – this is a show that clearly has not found its legs yet, and it stumbles more than once in its first outing – but I still very much liked the potential. I enjoyed the two ridiculously attractive leads making goo-goo eyes at each other, and I enjoyed the big action sequence, however over-stylized it may have been, so all in all, I’m definitely coming back for the first few episodes, and if this show figures out how better to blend its romance/procedural/mythology elements, then I’ll stay. Say what you will about the sappiness of this pilot, if the Twilight/paranormal romance crowd finds this show, it might just turn out to be a respectable hit for The CW.

The Following (FOX) – I couldn’t make it down to San Diego in time for preview night, so I missed the pilot screening for this one, much to my disappointment – but I heard nothing but good things about it all Comic-con long. Everyone was loving Kevin Bacon in the lead role, and when people talked about the serial killer plot I heard things like “slick” and “smart.” I also saw people proudly sporting the Poe-inspired t-shirt that was Fox’s giveaway in support of the show, so I’d say this is definitely one to watch.

Arrow (The CW) – Again, I couldn’t make it to the Wed night screenings, so I missed laying mine own eyes on this pilot, but all I heard was grumbling. The headline I got was that it’s basically a personality-free zone, but hey, at least the action is cool. One person even told me: “You know in the trailer, when he’s doing those bad-ass pull-ups? Yeah, that was my favorite part of the entire pilot…” Ouch. But really, all I myself can say is this: of all the CW shows, this show in a lot of ways has the steepest mountain to climb. It has to pull off Nolan-style serious without being dull or ponderous, and it has to make the die-hard fanboys – not to mention the archery fans – happy. Good luck with that, Arrow

666 Park Avenue (ABC) – Again, sans-screening, all I have to go on is gossip and floor chatter, but the consensus seemed to be that this pilot tanked. As in landed with a THUD. And I have to say, I’m not surprised – the development buzz was that this show was picked up more for the “name” value of its cast than its quality or testing response, and so ABC knew going in this one had some serious improving to do from EP 2 on. Basically it sounds like not even Terry O’Quinn can save this one – so don’t be surprised if 666 Park Avenue quickly becomes a defunct address…

SO there you have it – the pilot buzz, Comic-con style. Now once again, I’ll make my disclaimer: Comic-con is without a doubt a unique melting pot of geekery and fandom, so add a pinch of salt and make of this fan reaction what you will…