Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impressions for two new cable entries: Enlightened and American Horror Story.
Enlightened – HBO (Mondays, 9:30pm EST)
Here’s what I was expecting: a slow, cerebral, funny-but-not-really show about a woman who had a mental breakdown and now needs to readjust to her old life after returning from rehab – maybe like a Wes Anderson Does TV sort of thing. Or like a Showtime comedy – strong female lead taking control of her life in a show that’s labeled a comedy that doesn’t really make you laugh. Well, the result was pretty much spot on, though more underwhelming than I was anticipating. I chuckled out loud maybe once, but the show overall is only just interesting enough that I’ll give it one more episode. I’m sorry this reaction is so short, but it speaks to how much of a response Enlightened got from me – not much at all. The verdict: C-
American Horror Story – FX (Wednesdays, 10:00pm EST)
This show actually premiered last Wednesday and just aired its second episode last night. I purposefully waited an extra week to give my first impression because if I had written this last week, the post would’ve been a jumbled mess of shock, awe and expletives – kind of like the pilot, actually. This show is weird, guys. It’s creepy, it twisted, and at times uncomfortable to watch. A lot of people have written it off as too weird – just horror homages and images crammed into an hour of TV just for the sake of doing it with no real sense of plot or anything else beyond frightening imagery. I even agreed with that assessment after I watched the pilot, in fact. But after seeing last night’s episode, my opinion is changing. There was more about the mythology of the haunted house, including some very shady business with the neighbor, maid and teen misfit who hangs around said house. There is both a troubled past and a plan in action surrounding the house that I now want to know more about. Still, there are changes that need to occur, as with most shows in their early going. The characters need to be stronger – I feel like I’m still watching Tammi Taylor and not Vivien Harmon in Connie Britton’s performance and I have absolutely no emotion either way about Dylan McDermott’s Ben, Vivien’s husband. The supporting cast is pretty good so far, however. The pacing also needs work – AHS covered in 2 episodes what could’ve taken up the first third of the season. Already Vivien has decided to sell the house due to all the weird goings-on, so now what? I hope that this was more a clever play to throw out all the go-to horror tropes early while we still needed to be distracted with shiny objects while taking in the setup that is necessary for new show. I hope that from here on out the plot will exhibit more of a slow-burn, the characters will acquire some substance, and the show can still keep up what it is doing well regarding the history of the house. The verdict: C for the pilot, B for the second episode – I will watch until Ryan Murphy just loses focus completely and comes down with another case of Glee 2nd Seasyndrome – which, with NBC ordering another pilot of his today, is very, very possible – put on your blinders, Mr. Murphy and fix this show while you still can!