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Pilot Talk: New Shows in April 2012

We've written and netcasted ad nauseum about HBO's new Girls (which, seriously, is pretty great, despite the potential for the hype-backlash-backlash-to-hype-backlash-to-backlash-to-backlash-to-hype cycle that could eat us all alive) and that's all well and good, but a few other shows have recently premiered on the TVs that I'd like to talk about a little bit.

So, without further ado...

Veep - Sundays at 10/9c on HBO
To be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed by the pilot of HBO's "other" new comedy series. I think it has something to do with my expectations for the show. Armando Iannuchi's 2009 film In the Loop was legitimately one of the funniest movies I have ever seen (or, at least, had me laughing the most while irritating Brigitte cuz she was napping and they all had British accents) so his new series on HBO has some major built-in expectations.

It might also have something to do with that Britishness that is lost in translation by taking the very Iannuchi-like dialogue style, pacing, situations, and directing style and throwing it into American politics. It almost feels like an HBO executive watched In the Loop (and its precursor, the BBC series The Thick of It) and cross-pollinated it with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, without thinking too much about what that would actually look like. Not that it is a bad pilot by any means, but I do miss Peter Capaldi's totally-foul-mouthed character from In the Loop. Yeah, man, the creative cursing just doesn't work as well here so far.

But, I definitely see room for the show to grow, both in repeat viewings of individual episodes and as its first season progresses. In inviting us into Vice President Selina Kyle's office, we are introduced to an office environment that has a very classic office sitcom setup, with a cast that shows some serious promise, especially Anna Chumsley and Tony Hale. Yeah yeah, I'll keep watching, and probably laugh a lot. Now, throw Peter Capaldi in there somewhere and then we're really talking.

That said, it's definitely the only show on TV that has the girl actress from My Girl talk about "a fuckload of quiche."

(You can watch the entire unedited first episode on YouTube here.)

Grade: B+

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 - Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30c on ABC
We netcasted the crap out of this show when it was first pitched, mainly for two reasons: Krysten Ritter, fresh off her stint on Breaking Bad and, well, mostly this reason: JAMES VAN DER BEEK playing HIMSELF! Amazing! So, how does it turn out?

Well, somewhat disappointingly, it's a bit of a mixed bag. For one, despite "the Beek from the Creek" playing himself, I forgot that most shows still have fairly standard setups, and Apt. 23  has a classic one: roommates who are an odd couple together! The show really centers on June (played by Dreama Walker) who moves from Indiana to New York and ends up rooming with "the B----" in question: that is, Krysten Ritter's Chloe. As a central tenant of the show, June and Chloe's relationship works fairly well, especially when their relationship takes somewhat of a surreal bent to it. Creator Nahnatchka Khan's credits include American Dad, so the animation-comedy-as-live-action makes sense.

The show does have some trouble with its side characters: Robin (played by Liza Lapira) is supposedly in love with Chloe but is just not very funny, while Eli (played by Michael Blaiklock) is, at least in the pilot, a one-note creeper who may or may not constantly be masturbating. Mark (played by Eric Andre) has promise, especially if he can continue to show up in weird places, like the coffee shop June stops at a few hours after she first meets him at her doomed job at the mortgage company she comes to New York to work at.

Of course, the element that attracted us to this show in the first place is Van Der Beek, YO! And, he is the most consistent comedic element of the show. The pilot gets some good mileage out of his past roles, both Dawson's Creek AND Varsity Blues. Van Der Beek is game for that kind of stuff while also playing a supporting "friend" kind of role for the two leading ladies, and while it is yet to be seen how long they can stretch the joke that he is on the show out, he's off to a surprisingly good start.

Overall, if the show can work out some of its kinks and maybe amp up the surreal aspects of the show, it could be a good successor to a show like ABC's Better Off Ted.

(Watch the pilot and the second episode on Hulu here.)

Grade: B

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