A Josh Schwartz Double Bill

25Sep07

I found time to catch two more pilots, both of which were co-created by The O.C.‘s Josh Schwartz:

A mixed-bag for Gossip Girl. It has some of the cross-generational vibe of The O.C., which I quite liked for its first couple of seasons, especially among the Humphrey family of washed-up rockstar and kids. And the “good kids” (the Humphreys and Serena) are appealing. But it’s world of privilege is even more annoying than The O.C., the snobs are more reprehensible, and it just feels like an environment I don’t want to spend time in. And Kristen Bell’s voice-over narration feels too close to Veronica Mars in style if not content – I guess the Veronica loss is still too fresh to hear that voiceover not telling us the latest goings on in Neptune. Add to that an uncomfortable racial dynamic with Blair’s two ‘back-up singers’ as the only non-white characters, and I’m skeptical. We’re going to give it another episode, as pilots can be unrepresentative of a whole series, but I’m guessing this show will end up being tossed on the TiVo delete pile soon enough.

Schwartz’s other show was far more successful for both me and Ruth. Chuck embraces its ludicrous premise – a “Nerd Herd” manager gets an email from an old friend that uploads the entire storehouse of NSA/CIA secrets into his brain – and suffuses it with a low-key but glossy style. The challenge of such a show is nailing the tone – if it’s too goofy, the plot becomes a joke. If it takes itself too seriously, it becomes ridiculous. But they hit it just right, turning it into a genre mixture I’d best describe as “Seth Cohen on Alias.” Zachary Levi offers serious geek charm as Chuck, and it’s always great to see Adam Baldwin getting badass.

My two reservations: the show might have a hard time sustaining this tone and offering an ongoing plot that doesn’t wear out its premise. Even worse potentially, quirky genre mixtures play well with niche audiences on smaller networks or cable channels (see Buffy, Gilmore Girls). Quirky genre mixtures have harder times on the big networks looking for double-digit ratings (see Firefly, Karen Sisco, Andy Richter). Will NBC even give Chuck enough of a chance to risk wearing out its premise? Check out reruns of the pilot on NBC Saturday, Sci-Fi repeatedly, or via Amazon Unbox to help give it a chance.



2 Responses to “A Josh Schwartz Double Bill”

  1. I’ll be curious to see your thoughts on Gossip Girl’s second episode: if I wasn’t wholly addicted to television, I think the second episode would have sent me over the edge. The first act is filled with the awkward Dan/Serena moments and Jenny’s innocence, but the rest spirals into little but bitchiness.

    That said, I remain convinced that the show might settle into the quirkiness if it has some time to grow. I have much the same view of Chuck: the pilot has a lot of potential as long as it channels more into the geeky and fun side of being a spy as opposed to an attempt to handle weighty spy material.

  2. 2 Media Maven

    I don’t know how quirky “Seth Cohen on Alias” is these days. After all, nerdy is the new hip. Indie music is mainstream, comic book movies make millions at the box office– the fringe has become the majority!

    And with strong numbers for the pilot (I think it was 6.0/10 or close to that), critical buzz, and Heroes on right after, I think Chuck is well positioned to make a pretty good go of it!


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