In an email conversation with a friend, we were comparing our appreciation of pilots. She was saying how she sometimes can’t wait to get past them, to get to what the show really is in all its seriality. I, on the other hand, love pilot season (despite my abiding love for the deeply serial). I love the craft and care that goes into a pilot, and those moments where you first are introduced to characters and settings. While I may sometimes find myself frustrated by serial shows that attempt to be something other than what they are in season openers (as in my Gossip Girl review from earlier this week), I love the beginning of a good story. I love the sense that, if this show succeeds, I may look nostalgically back on these moments, and have such a different understanding of the characters. I also love some of the writers, directors, and producers they bring in just for pilots. David Nutter’s name, for example, often shows up on those opening moments of a pilot, and then I get this little thrill, knowing that I could be watching the beginning of another Roswell. (And what a pilot that was!)
Of course, sometimes pilots are all over the place, an excess of rushed writing to set up a possibly intriguing plot. That was how I felt about Fringe-I didn’t share the enthusiasm it seems many others had, frustrated instead at what felt like shortcuts and lazy writing (and distracted by the flashy floating geographic indicators, no matter how innovative and transmedia they might be. See Jonathan Gray and Bob Rehak on this.) But even while I complained vocally to my husband while watching, I still loved the excitement of watching a new mystery unfold, and the twists at the end were enough to keep it on my DVR list. [The second episode is currently sitting on my DVR, so no spoilers please!]
Or sometimes a pilot is a slow burn, enough to get me curious and itching to see a world fully established. That’s how I felt about the first episode of HBO’sTrue Blood—beautiful visuals, fascinating credit sequence that I look forward to unpacking over the season (like The Wire! Speaking of, True Blood makes good use of Frank Sobotka and Deadwood’s E.B. A pairing meant to be.)
But in that first episode of True Blood, I found myself caught somewhere between what was onscreen and Buffy, not quite able to distinguish where Buffy homage ended and this new universe began. However, another hour in and I am compelled. The show has a quiet, quirky sense of humor (with a few laugh-out-loud moments), a potential commentary on racial politics (albeit coming hand in hand with the invocation of some standardized stereotypes), and a heroine with a refreshing amount of self-possession. My only regret? Homages aside, I wish she was brunette. I’ve seen enough of these quirky, skinny blonde heroines with finely lined faces to last me a lifetime… or at least a TV season.