Now that Season 1 of Failure to Launch has wrapped up, and Season 2 won’t appear until mid-March, it’s time to crack out
some filler content a Best Of/Worst Of Wrap-up!
Read on, and let the Failure to Launch panel run you though their personal best & worst pilots. Pilots picked from the ones they watched, mind you, in case you were wondering why Work It wasn’t everyone’s worst pilot.
James Ferris, Host & Pilot Excavator
3rd Best: Where’s Rodney?
I think I might be judging these shows on a different criteria than the others. I can only marvel at the fact that some of these shows made it as far as they did, and that brings me a joy stronger than any quality of writing or performance or production value. For example, Where’s Rodney? isn’t a good show, it isn’t an okay show or even really a show at all. It barely even counts as a thought.
This show, about a boy with the magical ability to summon smutty old comedian Rodney Dangerfield to him whenever he needs life advice, is truly bewildering. The fact that it was developed to any point beyond somebody’s opium-induced fever dream, let alone all the way to the pilot stage, is a true mystery and one that I have obsessed over ever since. As a curio of television history, Where’s Rodney? can only be marvelled at.
2nd Best: Annihilator
Unlike the other two shows in my top 3, Annihilator is one that I would sincerely watch. I could go on about the wide reaching conspiracy plot, the constant homage to The Terminator, the amazing synth soundtrack – occasionally interrupted by David Bowie – or many other reasons I would have loved to see this go to series.
But I won’t. I will however point out that in one scene, a lady robot rips her own arm out of the socket and chases a man down the street, beating him with it. Why haven’t you watched this already? What is wrong with you?
The Best: Bates Motel
I doubt that Bates Motel will appear on anyone else’s list. It’s overlong, boring, horribly written and without doubt the single most amazing piece of television I’ve ever seen. Try as I might, I can not even being to theorise how a tv series spun off from the classic horror movie Psycho could have turned into a fish out of water comedy about a lonely mental patient living with a runaway in a chicken suit and throwing sock hops for the ghost of Jason Bateman. But here we are.
There is no greater mystery in my world than how this show came to be. It haunts me.
3rd Worst: Fuzz Bucket
A whimsical adventure comedy about a young boy and his magical furry friend without a single drop of whimsy, adventure or comedy. This series should have been a straightforward rip-off of E.T., but was somehow turned into the most depressing, bland slice of real life drama imaginable. For the first 40 minutes you could honestly believe this is the sad story of a young boy slowly disconnecting from reality, tumbling further into hallucination and madness as his family continuously fail to notice or care.
Then, after mixing a magical concoction of household chemicals together (based on the advice of a voice only he can hear), a filthy, garbage eating rat monster appears before him. The fact that it appears before him without any skin shows you how far out of their way the creators went to make this darker and more disturbing than it had to be. This vision of a peeled Gobbledock made me wish I actually was watching a story of a child suffering from mental illness amongst an uncaring family, instead of this infinitely more disturbing nightmare.
2nd Worst: Young MacGyver
Yaaawwwwnnnnn… This is another show that has no right to be as dull and dragging as it is. You just take MacGyver and make him younger and sexier. Okay, so casting someone sexier than Richard Dean Anderson is genetically impossibility but other than that, it’s not that hard is it? Instead, we get a MacGyver who is only capable of building explosives out of other explosives and fights terrorism by shaving people’s heads and causing avalanches. Why? Who cares? This thing bored the hell out of me.
The Worst: Work It
This was an early one, but it remains one of the absolute worst things I’ve ever seen. If this series had been made in the 70s or 80s, the horrible jokes, lousy production values and mind blowing levels of sexism would make it a mild curiosity at best, but this show is only two years old. Destiny’s Child have been and gone, dispensing independence to women world over, and yet here was a major network sitcom still making jokes about the rape scene from The Accused. Just awful.
It really says something about me that I have all the other episodes of this show, and though I know I will never ever watch them, I still can’t throw them out. Send help.
Fabian Lapham, Rankled Nerd Panellist
3rd Best: Wonder Woman
Perhaps it’s nostalgia for our very first episode (we were all so young then, so innocent), but after 27 episodes, the sheer batshittery of David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman still stands out in my mind as a cultural curiosity, as it might for you if you’re a fan of DC superheroes or prolific TV show-runners who have gone mad with power.
2nd Best: Manchester Prep (aka Cruel Intentions 2)
Again, I feel this one is somewhat anchored to a sort of nostalgia. I never saw it growing up, but it’s predecessor certainly left a mark on my adolescence. Embarrassingly, I’m starting to remember things from the late 90’s with a non-ironic fondness. They say it happens in the winter years…
The Best: 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns
Once again, a strong 90’s-ness to this pilot has certainly curried my favour, but there’s much more to it than that. Though it’s definitely bloated and overlong, this stupid show still has some very enjoyable comedic moments – some that are very knowing, and others that are definitely in the “so bad it’s good” territory. It’s a delicate symphony.
3rd Worst: Doorways
Sorry, G.R.R. Martin, but you offered a show with magic doors and inter-dimensional terrorists, and you made it boring. I still haven’t watched Game of Thrones, is it as bad as your first attempt at television? I bet it is. I’ll probably never watch it now based on this educated deduction.
2nd Worst: Osbourne’s Reloaded
This one was really hard to get through. Seriously, fuck this obnoxious piece of shit, it can fuck right off.
1st Worst: Bates Motel
Sweet Jesus, was this thing a mess. Out of the pilots I watched that were too long, this one felt like it was the longest. As we mentioned on the podcast, the story feels like it’s a wandering anecdote that a drunk old man is telling you while you’re stuck sitting next to him on a bus. Terribly shot, too.
David Shaw, Indignant Panellist
3rd Best: 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns
Sherlock Holmes comes back from the dead in mid 90’s San Fransisco, with nothing but the clothes on his back and his trusty stash of cocaine to solve a series of murders committed by either tigers or tiger-themed animals. Best premise ever.
2nd Best: Annihilator
Okay, so our protagonist doesn’t have a personality, he doesn’t seem overly bothered by the death of his fiancee or his dog, there’s a four-minute video clip of David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes just inserted in the middle of the show, and it seems to be suggesting that all women are robots.
But for all its flaws (and yes, there are many), Annihilator is one of the most genuinely entertaining shows we’ve covered. Annihilator seems to be simultaneously ahead of its time, and behind its time. It’s the kind of high-concept, high-budget serialised action-drama that we see all the time on network television today. But at the same time, Blade Runner, Stepford Wives and The Terminator had all well and truly happened by the time this was made.
The hardest thing to figure out about this show is whether it’s taking itself seriously. The cinematography, special effects, and subject matter would suggest that it’s a gritty, pompous sci-fi melodrama. However the evil robots are called Dynamo-tards, we see the same car chase three time, and our hero shoves a live cat down his pants. So it’s hard to know what to make of the show. Not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s never less than intriguing.
The Best: Tag Team
I genuinely loved this. I would have been a huge fan of this show if it got picked up in 1991. Actually, I would be a huge fan of this if it got made today. Having heard a podcast with Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura discussing Tag Team, I’m fairly sure they’d still be happy to do it, so let’s make it happen!
Again, it’s not perfect. People complained that being good at wrestling doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be a good police officer. People also complained that being good at wrestling probably wouldn’t protect you from gunfire. I can’t explain either of those things, I also can’t explain what accent Jesse Ventura was trying to do, or his wardrobe, or his fascination with grapes. Despite this, it was refreshing to see a show where everybody were at least trying to create a great piece of entertainment. It was this buoyant enthusiasm that made Tag Team so much fun to watch.
3rd Worst: Young MacGyver
The premise of MacGyver is fairly simple, a government agent applies practical scientific knowledge and uses everyday objects creatively to solve otherwise unsolvable problems. The premise of Young MacGyver is even simpler, a young guy takes a guess at how to solve otherwise unsolvable problems, and it turns out he’s right (but never explained how).
Setting this light-hearted action adventure romp in a post-9/11 America is very troubling. MacGyver was a non-violent, ethical government operative with integrity. But for some reason we see Young MacGyver gleefully torturing terror suspects, and shooting at people.
The worst thing about this show is that it lacked imagination, which was the entire point of the MacGyver character. He was imaginative, creative and was able to improvise. Young MacGyver (or should I say, Clay MacGyver?) on the other hand, well, he solves the avalanche problem by causing another avalanche. A good avalanche (that’s a thing right?).
This show is littered with terrible writing, but that first scene in the Phoenix Foundation is just breathtaking. After spending a good two minutes detailing each one of Young MacGyver’s positive traits, the General actually recounts an entire conversation between him and Real MacGyver verbatim. The General stops short of doing an impersonation of MacGyver, but the damage is done. I almost felt sorry for them, the Phoenix Foundation set was basically a shrine to Richard Dean Anderson, it was decked with framed photos of him and that mullet and they had obviously written that scene for Richard Dean Anderson, and he clearly wouldn’t do it. I don’t blame him.
2nd Worst: Earth Angels
It would have been easy blame the failure of Ann Rice’s supernatural drama series on timing. Though I think we can all agree that New York wasn’t the best city to stage an epic good vs evil battle between angels and demons in 2001, the show had other flaws. The most obvious of these flaws is that nothing really happens. Most pilots that we review fail because they try to be everything and succeed at nothing, but this doesn’t seem to be aiming at anything. All that happens in the entire episode is an angel lands on Earth, a woman dies, and a crow flies out of somebody’s head. But even that description feels like an overstatement of the excitement delivered here.
The performances are flat, the script is weak and there’s no energy. It is an utterly drab and lifeless mess. Despite being mercifully short, Earth Angels seems determined to waste every second of its limited screen time either wandering around aimlessly or engaging in philosophical debate that never rises above; “It is better being good”, “No it isn’t, being bad is better.” I know I’m not the target audience, but it’s really difficult to imagine who this is for. To be honest, I don’t think anyone involved could tell you either. It really doesn’t seem like anyone cared about this show.
Fair enough too, it’s a complete waste of time.
The Worst: Work It
I am a worse person for having seen Work It.
Unbelievable that this could of aired in any time ever, let alone in 2012. This is the most offended I have been watching television; it’s almost impressive just how offensive Work It manages to be within the space of twenty minutes. It’s misogynistic, racist, transphobic, and probably bigoted in several other ways that I haven’t understood. But even if it wasn’t offensive, it’s still terrible. So many scenes end with the characters just sort of shrugging, and the actors are standing around like they’ve forgotten their lines. Work It fails on almost every level, there is no silver lining or saving grace that justifies its existence.
Utterly horrendous. Do not watch.
Harry Brimage, The King of Burgers
3rd Best: Fearless
Fearless is about an FBI or CIA or something something agent who was born without the Gene for Fear, which gives her super powers that manifest in the form of no facial expressions. Despite the flawed premise, the characters aren’t totally unlikable, and at least one person involved in the making of Fearless knew what fun was.
I admit that I’m putting a pretty flower on some dried shit, but of all the bad shows, I wanted to like this one the most.
2nd Best: Bates Motel
Bates Motel is a spin off of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho. We follow the story of the heir of the Bates Motel (and not Norman’s turkey) trying to bring the motel back the way Norman would like it and never kill anyone, despite being manipulated by everyone he encounters, from the evil bank dude who tries to Scooby Doo villian not-Norman out of the Motel to a squatter in a chicken suit. Naturally, I found myself giddy with bafflement and confusion.
By no means am I recommending Bates Motel, but it is such a mistake the entire way through that it remains utterly memorable, and that is a lot more than most of these shows can claim.
The Best: Miracle Man
“MONDAY IS… TWO DAYS AWAY”
Five stars. Mwa.
3rd Worst: Steel Justice
A show about a man battling depression, corruption and more depression and a giant robot dinosaur that comes out of his dick to fight crime and breath fire. Steel Justice is like a fucking slog through a swamp. Where dinosaurs would live. Except there aren’t any.
This show promised me a giant Robot Dinosaur! Where’s my giant robot dinosaur, show?! Not appearing until the last 10 minutes in this 90 minute marathon of weird existential-time-travel-dead-kid-noir-global-warming-saxophone-solo-fuck-up of a show, its first and final appearance is OK.
Not good enough.
2nd Worst: Hysteria
This is a slow, dumb show about how teenagers are bad and YouTube is bad and everyone is bad and the whole world is bad and dark and out to get you and also there’s a literal virus that is spread through social media. Hysteria gets so caught up trying to be dark and grim that all the characters are dour and unlikable and mostly shitheads.
What it does achieve by the end is being the saddest episode of Scooby Doo ever made. And this isn’t the only show I’ll compare to Scooby Doo.
The Worst: Emily’s Reasons Why Not
Emily is a fuck up who fucks up all the time, but how can she get a fuck if she’s such a fuck up? Shut the fuck up for 20 minutes and meet the most judgmental awful human being on the planet.
After a huge marketing campaign, this show received a huge backlash and was pulled after its first episode.
Made by what must be a Turducken committee (that is a committee stuffed in a committee stuffed in a…) it manages to fit in EVERY stereotype and offend everyone on the way. This show wanted to be Scrubs and Sex in the City and it is, but a monster. Run.
Alex Malone, Contrarian
3rd Best: Annihilator
Actually just an awesome show. Awesome premise. Awesome car chase (x3). Awesome woman using her own arm as a cudgel.
Also the entirety of David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. Which is a pretty decent song.
2nd Best: Invincible
“Okay Billy this is your big scene. Your big moment. The big inspirational speech to rally the troops to stand against the forces of evil. Only, I’ve been thinking… Do you think you could deliver it while riding a small BMX bicycle?”
Billy Zane looks back with a glint in his eye.
“Somebody fetch me a fro-yo”
If the goal of a good network pilot is to be a baffling and surreal piece of performance art (and I think we can all agree that it is) then this is an unmitigated triumph.
The Best: Tag Team
Joyous from start to finish, except for that bit where they murdered that guy. The only show we’ve watched where I could say I would have watched it religiously.
Now, granted that’s because I was seven when this came out and I would’ve watched ‘Work It’ if it had “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in, but the fact remains.
3rd Worst: Wonder Woman
I don’t know, maybe it’s just nostalgia for our first episode or some sort of misplaced sentimental longing for a simpler time, but Christ I hate libertarians.
2nd Worst: Cruel Intentions 2: Manchester Prep
As I said on the podcast, the worst part about Cruel Intentions 2 was that I saw it when I was 15 and didn’t despise it. I hate my 15 year old self. In my defence, it does feature boobs.
The Worst: Work It, Obviously.
Sometimes in my worst imaginings, this is how I think people who aren’t white, middle-class, straight males think that people who are white, middle-class, straight males think… which conveniently enough makes me the real victim here.
Add that to the list of offensive stereotypes this show trots out.
Andrew Cherry, Shouty Soundboard/Shouty Panelist
Doing a “Top 3 Bottom 3” list is a bit tricky for me, because 3+3=6, you see, and I only watched 5 pilots this season. One of the benefits of being the sounding board is not having to watch this dreck.
And when I say dreck, I mean, dreck. I cannot understate just how hard it is to sit through some of these pilots. As much as you might enjoy watching and dissecting awful TV, unless it’s “sets off some sort of endorphin-packed gland near your cerebral cortex” level enjoyment (I’d recommend surgery), you’re either going to be very, very bored, or bewildered to the point of intense aggravation when watching some of these.
Most of the pilots aren’t quite that bad though. So, as I don’t have the runs on the board for the Top/Bottom 3, I’ll rate the pilots I did see on a sliding scale for watchability. You (are about to) have been warned.
1st Worst: Bates Motel
Truly great so-good-it’s-bad stuff still needs to frequently entertain you, usually by doing new bad stuff. While Bates Motel has many beautifully awful moments, they aren’t frequent enough. Between these moments you are going to be SO. GODDAMMED. BORED.
It’s too long. It’s just too long.
“Should I watch it?”: Only if you have that gland thing.
2nd Worst: Fuzzbucket
While Fuzzbucket isn’t as aggravatingly bad as Bates Motel, it also doesn’t have as many wonderfully bad moments either. No big peaks and troughs, just generally poor for 90 mins. An overlong entry into the “invisible alien friend” genre made by people who didn’t understand what makes that genre work.
The cop offering a ride in the squad car to the grieving parents is pretty funny, though.
“Should I watch it?”: Depends how you feel about sexy home invasions.
3nd Worst: Still Life
Sappy family dramas aren’t the sort of thing I’d watch. This makes it hard for me to speak about Still Life’s strengths as a genre piece. There are other things I can talk about though – the judgy arsehole ghost narrator, the weird strip club maybe-a-vampire stalker, the conflict-free plot with the parents, and the twist ending that involves the main character not bothering to let his family know he was alive at any point in THE PAST YEAR.
This was a dumb show. I don’t think “being dumb” is a staple of the genre.
“Should I watch it?”: Yes, after you’ve read my fanfic that ties it into Supernatural’s canon.
4th Worst: 17th Precinct
Although I chucked on my Comedic Angry Pants™ for this episode, 17th Precinct really wasn’t that bad. It’s perfectly watchable, the actors all do a decent job, and the basic idea is a good one.
That faint praise aside, it’s impossible to get past the laziness of the world building. They started with a huge, change-the-entire-world concept, and brought almost nothing to the table beyond one-for-one swap-outs (wat if printers were steam pipes such magic wow) and a couple of sorta-cool ideas. The lost opportunity is kind of annoying.
“Should I watch it?”: The twist is amazing. I can’t take that away from them.
Actually not bad: Global Frequency
Of the shows I watched, Global Frequency was the one that seemed like it could have worked. Apart from a couple of odd choices, it hit a 7 Days/Buffy/MacGyver/Xena/Lois & Clark-ish Action-Light-Sci-Fi TV note that I have a soft spot for.
That said, if this had been picked up and I saw this on TV, I probably wouldn’t have kept watching. Even the good pilots aren’t THAT good.
“Should I watch it?”: Eh.