It’s summer, which is typically the time of year we find our TV viewing schedules a little light. In order to steady our shaky remote finger until the fall, we’ve decided to go deep into the archives and take a look at some of the supposedly great, albeit now canceled, shows that we let slip through the cracks (even if it was 20 years ago).
Here are our first impressions of brilliant but canceled TV dramas, based solely on their pilots.
5 First Impressions from the My So-Called Life Pilot:
1) Just try to not fall in love with Jordan Catalano. #30SecondsFromFail
2) It’s a plaid party. Bring your own oversized flannel.
3) Ok, buying tickets to the Tori Amos tour, ASAP.
4) Quotable Quotes for 800, Alex.
5) Why weren’t we watching this in real time? (Oh yeah, we were too busy living it.)
Would We Keep Watching: Despite the show celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, and how dying one’s hair “crimson glow” or having a bisexual guy-liner-sporting sidekick might have struck a more controversial chord when it first aired, it was still able to take us back to our fragile youths and successfully made our stomachs yearn, ache and flutter. (Though it’s highly possible it’s because we skipped lunch.) We’re watching the next episode, even if it is past curfew.
— Richard Ogawa
5 First Impressions from the Twin Peaks Pilot:
1) Twin Peaks sure looks like a verdant, bucolic treasure, but this green font implies something X-Files-y and sinister…
2) Yep, called it. The world’s best looking corpse just washed up on shore.
3) Did all of the teenagers in Twin Peaks just exit a time machine from 1956? Saddle shoes, letterman jackets, and A-line skirts, oh my. Oh, and what’s up with this guy?
4) Charlotte’s first husband from SATC. This guy is really into trees and pie. And rabbits. Does he suffer from a traumatic head injury?
5) Log Lady. More of her, please.
Would We Keep Watching: With contemporary shows like The Killing and Top of the Lake that handle similar territory, Twin Peaks feels clunky and awkward (like when your Aunt mails you an article she cut out of the newspaper). But there are glimpses in the Twin Peaks pilot of an interesting world that may come to life in the series; Log Lady, Eye Patch Woman, and the cop who cries at crime scenes. As connoisseurs of the odd, we’d give it a second episode to win us over.
— Courtney Hyde
5 First Impressions from the Firefly Pilot:
1) Hi Castle! Hi wife from Homeland! Hi awesome dude from The Barney Miller Show! Firefly is a veritable “Who’s Who” of people you know from other stuff.
2) It’s pretty hard to concentrate on anything else except for Kaylee’s eyelashes. OMG…her EYELASHES! They’re too natural looking to be fakes. Will the eyelashes be part of a larger storyline over the course of the season? We hope so.
3) It’s like a miniature Battlestar Galactica except they’re not fleeing Cylons. They’re fleeing the Alliance. But what if they’re fleeing the Alliance because River is kind of a Cylon? Don’t tell us what happens.
4) The “Space Western” theme going on, especially the showdown when they stop to sell their cargo to Patience, the chick who shot Castle–we mean Mal. The Firefly crew are straight up renegade space cowboys.
5) Wait, this got cancelled after one season? ONE SEASON?
Would We Keep Watching: We’re in. Watching the 90 minute “Serenity” pilot, which apparently turned out not to be the actual pilot? Research on the free-flowing tubes of the interweb tells us that this compelling pilot got ditched and then shown at the end of the series run. We don’t know what happened here, but we’re watching the rest of the series–also known as the rest of the season. We know we’re going to be outraged when the show abruptly ends, but it’s nice to have something new to be outraged about. Raging over the finale of Lost is so 2010.
— Liz Brown
5 First Impressions from the FlashForward Pilot:
1) There are so many obscure, yet amazing actors in this! Seth McFarlane, Zachary Knighton, the British guy from Smash, one of Roger Sterling’s wives on Mad Men. The list probably goes on, which could be reason enough to keep watching.
2) Um, random kangaroo in the street? This global black out maybe kind of fun!
3) This “global phenomenon” theory seems to have caught on preeeetty quickly. Minutes after the blackout happens, cable news has “experts” doing a roundtable discussion about it. Wait, never mind, that actually seems totally plausible.
4) Why are they using such terrible cell phones? Smart phones were a thing in 2009.
5) If every episode of this show ends with a confused, brooding look into the dark future/abyss, we’re probably bowing out now.
Would We Keep Watching: We’ll give it one more, but we kind of want to flash forward to the end.
Pilots are tricky, and FlashForward proves why. Within minutes of everyone regaining consciousness, it’s on the news? And it’s assumed that everyone had glimpses of the future? So much detail is glossed over that we never quite felt invested. Luckily, the final scene had a skin-tingling twist creepy enough to get us to episode two.
— Raef Harrison
5 First Impressions from the Jericho Pilot:
1) We forgot that schmaltzy mainstream rock was a THING for TV shows of the mid-aughts. We’ve got The Killers in the opening and Snow Patrol to take us out.
2) It’s that crazy nurse from The Mindy Project! We’re pleased to note that this character, the owner of Jericho’s only grocery store, also appears to lack a last name.
3) Ignoring advice from the prescient outsider = rookie mistake. Bad stuff in disastrous scenarios always goes down like the mysterious stranger exuding tactical expertise says it will. Especially if the well-intentioned sheriff says it won’t.
4) Is it just us or is the kid who works in Mindy Project nurse’s grocery store a young Jesse Eisenberg?
5) With the closing scene featuring a pretty blonde amid dead crows…
we can’t help but think of The Birds.
Would We Keep Watching: This show had a lot going for it. It’s interesting to see how many elements from the pilot are used in today’s shows: kids trapped on a schoolbus is reminiscent of Crisis, the town losing power brings to mind Revolution. The ever-popular notion of post-apocalyptic survival is well-trodden ground, but the twist of a small-town setting and unknown origins of the disaster piqued our curiousity enough that we’d happily check out the next few episodes.
— Katherine Rea
5 First Impressions from the Roswell Pilot:
1. Roswell of course stars a very young-looking Shiri Appleby, but the pilot also features plenty of other familiar faces from before they were quite so familiar: Katherine Heigl! Colin Hanks! Pre-facial hair Jack from Revenge! Marshall from Alias! Toby from The West Wing!
2. Aliens apparently have a deep abiding love for Tabasco sauce.
3. Main character and regular human being Liz bought into this ‘Max is an alien’ thing waaaaay too easily. Even if he did leave a silver handprint on her stomach.
4. The creepy, suspicious sheriff is way over the top, especially considering he’s dealing with teenagers. This may be the most predatory-looking non-predatory scene ever involving a high school girl lifting her shirt.
5. This city-wide UFO desert party looks amazing. Except for the whole ‘burning the alien’ thing.
Would We Keep Watching: Hell yes. Teen drama. We’re all in.
Roswell was created by Jason Katims, the creative force behind Friday Night Lights, and the shared DNA is evident in the pilot. In spite of its very sci-fi concept, the episode plays heavily toward the relationship side of things, revealing that alien Max has been secretly in love with human Liz for years. Given Katims’s later track record (and Emmy) with a high school-based drama, we’d stick around to see where this Romeo & Juliet love story is going.
— Kristen Knox
5 First Impressions from the Veronica Mars Pilot:
1) If you replace Kristen Bell’s narration with sound bites from old Humphrey Bogart movies, you’d have yourself a classic (and creepy) Film Noir.
2) What network was this on anyway? The teeny bopper, high school backdrop clashes against a plot filled with sex, lies & videotape. I’m not lying – there is actually a videotape.
3) The high school bully, Logan (Jason Dohring), has frosted tips. I’m sure Freddie Prinze Jr. had that hair back in the ’90s.
4) Why is Amanda Seyfried playing a bit part as a dead girl? Oh wait, this was one of her first roles in Hollywood. I’m sure this was a big deal for her before she landed Mean Girls.
5) Plain and simple — I’m hooked. I need to avoid all spoilers until I finish all three seasons and the movie.
Would We Keep Watching: If Veronica Mars was a scrapped car, you’ll find that its spare parts still work well in other engines (Pretty Little Liars proves that high school murder mysteries can run more than 3 seasons). But in its heyday it struggled in the ratings war against its contemporaries — The OC and Gilmore Girls, to name a couple. It obviously runs circles around those shows, but maybe the fast paced, edgy plot scared scared away those who were looking for a modern Nancy Drew, leaving the diehards to crowd fund the movie after it was canceled. Alas, brilliant rarely equals ratings.