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Culture, Television

Pilot Predictions 2012: CBS

Upfronts Week has drawn to a close and the networks have rolled out trailers teasing their new slate of series for the 2012-2013 television season.  Here are my snap judgments, gut reactions and predictions about the offerings from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and the CW.

First up, CBS:
CBS was the only network to show behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and creators/writers, as opposed to the other four who had only the sizzle reel.

Elementary
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn
Created by: Rob Doherty
Thursdays at 10:00 pm after “Person of Interest” and opposite “Scandal” on ABC

Points deducted for the title, and it does beg the question, do we need another 21st century iteration of Sherlock Holmes, when the Cumberbatch/Freeman team is so good? That said the cast does have something to recommend it. Lucy Liu’s Watson’s first name is Joan and she’s Sherlock’s “sober companion,” hired by his dad to make sure he doesn’t go off the rails after rehab. Jonny Lee Miller is my favorite George Knightley, so I will at least check out the pilot to see what he does with Holmes. From the clips, he seems to have the basics down; manic, inquisitive, chronic need to be right, fairly insufferable, but charming nonetheless. Plotting wise, the good thing about having the character be a major part of the English canon is that first episode won’t necessarily suffer from the pilot exposition dump that is often the norm However, I think of Sherlock as a fairly gritty character, and I just wonder if CBS might be too sanitized a home for the show to succeed.

Made in Jersey
Starring: Janet Montgomery (who, incidentally is British), Kyle MacLachlan and Stephanie March
Created by: Dana Calvo
Fridays at 9:00 pm, opposite “Grimm” on NBC, the last season of “Fringe” on Fox and “Nikita” on the CW

I would say that this is in a death slot. But, given “Grimm’s” success this year, the fact that “Fringe” is on it’s fifth season by the grace of fan support and the fact that this is the new lead-in for Blue Bloods, it could have a good shot of staying on the air. Montgomery plays Martina Guretti, a young lawyer with a working class background who is underestimated by her snooty co-workers at a Manhattan firm run by MacLachlan (playing a character named, of course, Donovan Stark). It looks like Stephanie March looks set to be the ice queen, who will undoubtedly antagonize our plucky heroine until her heart is melted by Martina’s ineffable charm and street smarts. I would be surprised if the show wasn’t shopped to USA first, since it’s being sold as light, quirky and family-oriented. It feels like it would be a better fit paired with something like “Royal Pains” or “Necessary Roughness.” It just seems like CBS is betting on an audience that wants a younger-skewing “The Good Wife,” with a dash of “Legally Blonde.” I think I’m going to pass.

Partners
Starring: Michael Urie, David Krumholtz, Brandon Routh and Sophia Bush
Created by: David Kohan and Max Mutchnick
Mondays at 8:30 pm, after “How I Met Your Mother,” up against “The Voice” on NBC and “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC

The first thing I noticed about the trailer was that the aesthetic looked very much like “Will and Grace,” (which seems obvious given that this comes from the mind of KoMut). And this might be a little hard to to articulate, but sets still look like unfinished sets, not like actual lived-in places, but that could change, and it is a little minor. The show is based on David Kohan and Max Mutchnick’s relationship with one another. Michael Urie is Louis and David Krumholtz plays Joe, two childhood best friends who run an architecture firm together. Erstwhile Superman Brandon Routh plays Urie’s nurse boyfriend Wyatt, Sophia Bush is Joe’s fiancee Ali, making the best choice she possibly could have for a first job after “One Tree Hill.” It’s basically Joe and Louis’ ideal marriage plus their significant others. I’d like for this to succeed. I can see the Louis character kind of taking on the Jack McFarland mantle, but as he showed on “Ugly Betty,” Urie is excellent at playing to the back of the house and being over the top, but making sure his character is a real person. I can see this being a really solid, feel-good ensemble comedy that could run for a while. Bush could have another nine season run on her hands.

Vegas
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jason O’Mara and Michael Chiklis
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Greg Walker, Nicholas Pileggi
Tuesdays at 10:00 pm, against “Parenthood” on NBC and “Private Practice” on ABC

With “NCIS: Los Angeles” as the lead-in, it looks like CBS is really putting their weight behind this one. It’s a stellar cast, no question, and it looks beautifully shot from the trailer, but it’s important to remember that the reason why “Mad Men” is successful is not just because it’s set in the 60s, as shown by the now-cancelled “Pam Am” and “Playboy Club.” If “Vegas” can have a distinctive feel and not just descend into case of the week with a 60s soundtrack and outdated gender roles, they could really have something here. It is based on a true story, with Quaid playing Ralph Lamb who was the Sheriff of Las Vegas during in the early days of the city’s development. Chiklis’ character is a Chicago mob head who isn’t pleased Lamb is getting in the way of his plans. A good idea would be to take a page out of “Justified’s” book, by injecting some dry humor into the (hopefully exciting) shoot-em-up proceedings, and making the city a character in it’s own right. It can be done. Hopefully the show will do the real Ralph Lamb, who just turned 85, justice.

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