Friday, September 26, 2014

ANATOMY OF A PILOT: How To Get Away With Murder

Everyone likes getting in on the ground floor of something.  And I've run out of TV dramas to watch.  Breaking Bad is over.  Mad Men and Justified are about to be.  I guess I could throw myself back in to The Americans but I was more erratic with my watching of that first season than Phillip and Elizabeth were with their marriage (yes, I've heard the second season owns - maybe I'll get to it.)  So what else is there?  Fargo?  Never saw the movie and not sure if I have the patience.  House of Cards?  Heard it's a huge disappointment and Kate Mara doesn't get naked.  Orange Is The New Black?  Now that that's become THE hipster show, nahhhhhh.  #winteriscoming so maybe that's something but that's that hipster/nerd crossover, which is like combing AIDS with Ebola so idk.  What do you notice about all of those shows?  They're all on cable or premium television.  Broadcast TV is dead.  Or so it seems.  I don't want broadcast TV to be dead.  So now that I'm unemployed and can do such, I'm going to give any serialized drama on broadcast TV that looks remotely interesting a shot.  First up: #HowToGetAwayWithMurder

So - in brief - what's this show all about?

Viola Davis aka "The Snot Nosed Woman From 'Doubt" is a Philadelphia criminal law professor who gets herself and her students tangled up in a murder plot somehow.  Here's a more detailed description from the program guide: "A ruthless defense attorney and no-nonsense law professor at a Philadelphia university selects a group of her best students to work at her firm in the premiere of this drama, but they soon find themselves entangled in a real-life murder conspiracy."

Why should I care?

Just click me. Seriously.  The way she says the show's title is just......jesus.  This better not suck.  I'm WAY too hype from that one line in the trailer alone for this to suck.

Alright, off we go.  Posting this now, updating it in an hour or whenever I get done watching.  Please don't suck.

SPOILER ALERT: It didn't suck!  Hooray!

I'm not doing a full review of the show.  There are plenty of people scattered across the internet who are paid to do that.  In fact, I will use the review of the person who's best at it as my source material for my #hottakes on what I just witnessed.

Why? Well, the first show has the great and powerful Viola Davis, and the second show (at least in the pilot) has a whole bunch of people who mainly remind you of all the ways in which they are not Viola Davis.

Okay, first of all - this isn't fair.  This is like if Sepinwall reviewed some sort of sports reality show competition in which his beloved Yankees auditioned a bunch of shortstops to be the Next Derek Jeter and Jeter himself was the Viola Davis of this show and Sepinwall complained after the first episode that the four main wannabe Jeters aren't Jeter.

I liked each of the Core Four, particularly Alfred Enoch, whom Sepinwall specifically takes to task:

Enoch is presented as even more of a lead in the pilot than Davis (things balance out more in episode 2), but maybe doesn't have the gravity to pull off that prominent a role. It doesn't help that his American accent (Enoch played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films) at times makes his voice very high-pitched and squeaky, circling around the outer rim of Urkel territory. 

See, I COMPLETELY disagree.  I quite enjoyed Enoch's whatever-the-opposite-of-gravitas-is performance.  Sure, he played a stock type "overwhelmed law student who's dumber and/or less qualified than everyone else in the room" but he hit all the right notes - starting with the pathetic "game" he spat at Aja Naomi ("I'm not usually a first row kinda guy but I told myself I wouldn't hide in the back of the class,".....I mean....C'MON MAN), continuing with his squirming-to-BS-his-way-through-the-Socratic-method and then ending with his sheer shock and terror when he walks in on (SPOILER ALERT) 

Viola Davis receiving oral sex from the lead detective on the case of the week, a black man who is most definitely not her white, Psychology professing husband.


So after that spoiler alert happens, he's basically in a glass case of emotions any time he interacts with Viola Davis and he conveys this well.  It's that kind of major scene that pilots need to not only put their pieces on the board but to create stakes and connections between characters.  I saw it coming as soon as he walked in the left-unlocked door to her "office" and I loved it anyway.

I wasn't as thrilled with the other Core Four students other than Aja Naomi King because (a) she's freaking gorgeous as hell and (b) she plays a smart, shy, cool and collected type well and is something of a mediator of all the frantic freaking out of the other three when it's time to dispose of the body.  There's way too much going on in this episode and she plays the everyman part of the viewer well - slowly taking it all in and learning.  She captures my eye every time she's on screen not just because she's a gorgeous black girl (a rarity - which is NOT to say that gorgeous black girls are rare moreso that they're rare on broadcast TV shows) but also because she seems to know who her character is and playing her to a T.

Jack Falahee is basically a poor man's Elijah from Girls which isn't exactly a compliment since Elijah from Girls is best in small doses and Falahee's a main character.  It was cool how he got the e-mail from the gay Chinese guy by seducing him but he's done little to show me that he's anything other than ABC's Newest Token Gay (Stonestreet's straight IRL but whatever.)  I don't mean to criticize ABC for populating its shows with gay characters - quite the opposite, actually - but Falahee seems to lack any sort of depth thus far (ooh he's an uptight smartass - I'm one of those and I don't even have to SHOCK everyone with graphic homosexual sex scenes!) and is just there to say We're Here We're Queer Get Used To It!

Karla Souza left little impression on me other than that she's an uglier, less interesting Jordana Brewster from Dallas.  That's not a TOTAL diss - Elena's easily my favorite female character on that show - but until she does more to make me care about her, I'm not writing more about her.

Back to VD.  She chews scenery throughout and it's awesome.  Every single scene she's in is just awesome.  If she doesn't get an Emmy nomination, somebody needs to play the race card or I will.  God, she is so good.  She may keep me watching even if the Core Four's murder cover up goes completely off the rails - which it probably will but whatever.  I'm in for next week and maybe I'll write some more words about it if I'm in the mood.


1) ANATOMY OF A PREMIERE: Survivor Blood vs Water 2 - OFF THE ROCKER
3) Saturday Selections: September 27

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