Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pilot Thoughts: Black-ish and How to Get Away with Murder

Even though it was Premiere Week this past week, I actually only saw two new shows so don't think I'm putting them together now just because they happen to feature people of color as lead characters (though that isn't unimportant in the least). Let's go...

Black-ish is the first sitcom pilot I've seen this season and it looks like I started out on a good note. Dre Johnson, played slightly over-the-top by Anthony Anderson, is a marketing executive who is on the verge of a promotion and is generally high on life until he realizes that his family for all of their success have forgotten their black roots. His identity crisis and paranoia about them being black-ish is compounded by his son wanting to play field hockey and have a Bar Mitzvah and his company asking him to lead the "urban" division. He's put to the paces by his bi-racial doctor wife played by Tracee Ellis Ross and his father played by Laurence Fishburne as well as his other kids and predictably all's well that ends well as things do for sitcoms. The focus on race may have been too sledgehammer-y (or at least too broad) for a few, but it gives this show a solid base for the rest of its life. Plus it was funny (Ross and the young twins provided a lot of the laughs for me). I do hope that the show is more family comedy than work comedy because I generally found all of the latter slightly dull. Now let's all take a black break and get some white yogurt.

Grade: B
Willingness to continue: High. It has tons of potential and the family characters are great. Plus being sandwiched between two shows I already watch helps A LOT.

How to Get Away with Murder was my most anticipated show of the fall season so I'm super happy that it lived up to my already high expectations. First of all, Viola Davis as the brilliant and intimidating law professor Annalise Keating is just superb. Her role feels familiar already in the well-worn TV trope of smart and tough teacher who mentors her students in an unorthodox way (in the first episode she pits her students against one another to come up with the best defense on a case she's currently working on with four of the best to intern at her firm) and yet in Davis' hands she also feels fully fleshed out already in spite of still so many unanswered questions about her. I understand people saying she wasn't in the pilot enough, because from the first time she enters the frame to write the title of the show on the blackboard, you just never wanted her to leave and you definitely miss her when she's not on. The rest of the show though intrigued me if not in equal measure, then enough. It revolves around the young folks she's taken under her wing led by the baby-faced Wes Gibbins, adorably played by Alfred Enoch, a character you can easily root for in this dog-eat-dog world/show. In flash-forwards, we see Gibbins with three of his classmates literally trying to hide the evidence of a murder that's been committed. We get small clues in the pilot about what could've led to this dark moment in their lives (the tenuous relationships between all of the characters, the origin of the murder weapon, the identity of the victim, etc.) and I have to say I'm hooked. There's also so many other things I loved about the show such as having a gay character who is actually shown to have sex and of course seeing Liza Weil (Paris in Gilmore Girls) on my TV again. The week wait for the next new episode is murder.

Grade: A
Willingess to continue:
A murder mystery and a chance to see Viola Davis weekly? HELL TO THE YES.

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