Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pilot reviews part 1 - the Josh Schwartz edition

No, I'm not a TV industry insider who gets to preview new shows (as much as I'd like to be), but yes, these are early pilot reviews! The first episode of Gossip Girl is a free download on iTunes, and all of NBC's new dramas are available for free on my Comcast OnDemand. I've only watched Chuck so far, but look for my reviews of Bionic Woman, Journeyman, and Life coming up soon.

So taking pretty much no break at all after the end of the OC, Josh Schwartz has come back with two new shows this season: Gossip Girl for the CW, and Chuck on NBC. And judging from the pilots, they've both made my TV schedule for this year.

Gossip Girl is based on a popular series for teenage girls that I actually even blogged about awhile back talking about how while it was a trashy guilty pleasure I kind of worried about young girls aspiring to the sort of lifestyle portrayed in the books. But you know, it really can't be more perfect for a TV series, and who more perfect to run it than Josh Schwartz? He tackled the rich kids of Orange County, why not New York City? There are some similarities with the OC...the pilot of that show started off with plenty of alcohol and drugs and a threesome, and the pilot of Gossip Girl drops you right into all of that too. But while the OC was really built around a nice family story and was actually really goofy at times, I'm not sure if Gossip Girl is going to have any of that. The leads are girls, Blair and Serena, and I think there'll be a lot more bitchiness and backstabbing than we ever saw on the OC. The real predecessor to the show I think, is Cruel Intentions. Which you know, I kind of loved. And I think Gossip Girl is going to end up just as much a guilty pleasure as the books were.

I'm pretty pleased with the casting. Leighton Meester I remember from 24 and Veronica Mars, and she really has the right look and prissiness for Blair. And Blake Lively from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has that slight dreaminess but wild child thing going that's perfect for Serena. I'm also glad to see Penn Badgley in the mix. Though he's not at all what I pictured Dan to be like, I've been a fan of him since that really short-lived show Do Over from a long time ago. He's had a ton of failed pilots though, so I hope this one succeeds for him. Taylor Momsen is kind of all wrong for Jenny, but I never really liked Jenny in the books anyway so I don't care so much if that's inaccurate. Overall, a pretty glamorous show that I think the teen girls (and people like me) will eat up.

Chuck, in a way, is more similar to the OC. Chuck, played by Zachary Levi, definitely has that Seth Cohen adorkable thing going for him, and the tone of the show is kind of goofy--the pilot was really really funny. The show is about Chuck, a socially impaired member of the Nerd Herd at Buy More (i.e. Geek Squad at Best Buy) who gets an email from a college friend, a rogue CIA agent, containing pretty every government secret there is. It was encoded in images, and now that Chuck's seen all of them, they're all just contained in his head. So now he's going to being watched over by the NSA and CIA and occasionally work with them.

It does kind of sound a lot like Jake 2.0, which I loved, but I think it might be even better, because Chuck hasn't been ridiculously physically transformed: he just has a lot of sensitive information stored in his brain. And there's more of a spy show vibe than a sci-fi one, so it might appeal to more people.

Anyway, Adam Baldwin, a Firefly/Serenity favorite, plays one of the agents assigned to Chuck's case, and the cast also includes Sarah Lancaster, who I've kind of never liked, even dating back to her Saved By the Bell: The New Class days, but here's she's Chuck's sister, and not a love interest, which makes her more bearable. Zachary Levi is great in the lead role, he's very much a Seth Cohen type, though less self-obsessed and neurotic (which isn't a bad thing), and he's really easy to root for. Definitely definitely check this one out.

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