Pilot Reviews: ‘Ringer,’ ‘Up All Night,’ ‘Free Agents’

Note: do not read this if you have these shows on DVR and don’t want to read about plot lines!

I normally don’t opine on entertainment, especially pilots for a new fall lineup. However, because I didn’t want to have to create yet another log-in to comment with my thoughts on the new NBC shows and Googling “free agents” doesn’t really get you anywhere, I decided to go ahead and create one long comment right here on the blog.

That’s what this thing is for, right?

First up, I’ll talk about Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar. I think Buffy fans everywhere have been ever so patiently waiting for SMG to return to television and have another smash hit show. I know I have. She’s even on The WB again! Except now it’s called The CW and it’s harder to remember. SMG is still as pretty as ever, though her voice sounds a little huskier. I think romance novel writers would describe it as a “whiskey voice.”

The premise of the show is that SMG will be playing twin sisters, one of whom is a recovering addict, seems down-to-earth, a little tired, and oh by the way, she witnessed a murder. She lives in Wyoming. This is the Bridget character. The other twin lives in NYC, lives the life of a spoiled, hardened “Real Housewife,” and has no personal relations with anyone. She is married with a stepdaughter, whom she apparently loathes, sleeps with her best friend’s husband, and is all evil and conniving. Her character’s name is Siobhan. The way you can tell the two apart is that Bridget wears her hair down and loose, while Siobhan prefers to wear her hair up in a nice, coiled bun (and has fancy pants designer clothing).

Bridget and Siobhan have been estranged for years but have agreed to meet in New York.  At their reunion meeting, Bridget tries to bring up the incident that occurred with her and her nephew, Siobhan’s son, but Siobhan dismisses the apology. We know there’s more to this but will have to wait for future episodes. The kid isn’t around, that’s for sure, and I suppose we can surmise that the incident is what is to blame for Siobhan’s hardened heart.

Fast forward to when Bridget thinks Siobhan is dead (supposedly suicide) and assumes her life, thinking it’d be easy peasy. We can all groan at this decision but of course, as she plays her sister for all of a few days, we come to find out the kind of life Siobhan leads, namely with lots of lies and fake smiles.

The pilot definitely sets the tone for lots of soap opera-ish drama, as we now have to try and figure out who Bridget is at any given moment – is she playing herself or playing her sister? People are after Bridget, who witnessed a murder, and people are after Siobhan because she screws people over. Plus, the people in Siobhan’s life who enjoy her cold character start questioning what’s up with her when she’s nice or even smiles at people. (Her husband and her boyfriend, to name two. It remains to be seen what the best friend sees in her.)

I adore SMG and I think if anyone can make this show interesting, it’s her. My only issue with the show, and it promises to have a new twist every week, is how long can it tug at this one plot line? It’s Good Twin vs. Evil Twin and it’s the inevitable waiting game to see who discovers the truth and when, and it wouldn’t be a good show if the characters didn’t cross any boundaries. For example, will Bridget acting as Siobhan fall in love with Siobhan’s husband? Will Siobhan come back into the picture or will she continue to try to destroy her twin from afar? (We learn at the end of the pilot that, of course, Siobhan isn’t really dead.)

I want the show to be a success if for no other reason than I love watching SMG in action; I just hope the plot threads won’t jump the shark too early on. (We love you, Sarah!)

Next, we have Up All Night, a new comedy (sans laugh track) with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, who star as new parents to their sweet baby Amy. I couldn’t have been more excited about this new show because I have loved seeing Ms. Applegate in primetime but she hadn’t found anything that was making it long-term. Mr. Arnett’s appeal is obvious, especially for Arrested Development fans. I honestly think his voice and comedic delivery are what make him stand out so well. I wonder if he and Amy Poehler are just constantly laughing at their house, because the two of them are just so damn hilarious.

Maya Rudolph also stars in the show as Applegate’s boss at a production company. She’s the inconsiderate Friend Boss. More on her in a sec. Applegate’s Reagan goes to work while Arnett’s Chris (an attorney prior to baby) stays at home.

I loved and still love the preview for the pilot, which aired last evening. The laugh out loud moments are still there for me. The full episode is linked below. I’ll continue after the link.

http://www.nbc.com/up-all-night/

Welcome back. You laughed, right?

So for me, the funniest moments of the pilot were in the previews. There, I said it. There was one other side development going on in the pilot, and that was with Chris, where he’s developing a relationship over his gaming console with another stay-at-home dad and they talk through their headsets. I don’t know why this really tickled the funny bone but I hope they show more of that. That is definitely “keeping it real,” speaking as a woman who has an ex who played tons of video games.

I think the chemistry between Applegate and Arnett is really there and I love that the focus isn’t all about the baby. It’s about adapting to being parents and not necessarily leaving behind everything from their former lifestyle. The scene where they’re hungover and dealing with just-woken-up Amy was hysterical and probably my favorite bit.

Maya Rudolph’s character seems a bit shallow at this point. I didn’t laugh at anything she said or did, which flies in the face of most of the reviews I’ve read. I just wasn’t on board. I was just bored.

I like her a lot and she is a very talented comedic actress, but I felt like her boss character was just an amalgam of some of her SNL characters, so she came off as more goofball and annoying. I’d love to see more depth with the character and I hope the writers give her some good lines to deliver from her perspective of someone who doesn’t have children. As someone who doesn’t have children, I can relate to that. There is so much potential there for her to just “not get” what all goes into being a new parent. So writers, if you’re reading this, more of that please!

I really believe this show has the potential to be a big hit. One thing I want them to nix immediately is the cheesy instrumental music underlying a few of the scenes. Both Kevin and I noticed it and it really detracted from taking the show more seriously. It was way too Full House.

I’d probably give the pilot a grade of a B+ but it could easily move up to a solid A or A+ with more character develop and zingers. Zoe Recommends watching this show!

Last but not least, we have Free Agents, starring Hank Azaria as Alex and Kathryn Hahn as Helen, who have a working-sleep-together relationship as coworkers at a PR firm. They’re each getting over a previous relationship – one by divorce and one by death. I had the preview listed below but naturally, NBC yanked it shortly after, so you’ll have to watch an episode from the link:

http://www.nbc.com/free-agents/

In my opinion, the pilot was funny throughout and it expanded on the released preview. Though I was ready to see the familiar jokes in the pilot, having been watching the promos in anticipation for a few weeks, they still made me (and Kevin) laugh.

Three standout moments for me: the safe word, the Executive Assistant character Emma Parker (portrayed by Natasha Leggero), who has sass coming out of her pores, delivering her line of, “You do get EXECUTIVE Assistant, right? Not personal, not for your personal problems” with biting panache, and Azaria’s line, “Because I have no plans to DJ at an Armenian gangster’s acquittal party.” If the writers and actors keep that up, they will have a loyal fan until the end of this show.

The fact that Anthony Stewart Head (who played Giles on Buffy!) plays the boss adds an even stronger likelihood that this show can stick out the first few ordered episodes. When in doubt, add an experienced British actor to your program.

From what I was reading, a lot of people didn’t find this show funny but if I’m being honest, I thought Free Agents‘ pilot was funnier than the Up All Night pilot. I believe they do well being placed back to back, at least in the beginning. I am sure the execs over at NBC will move one or both when they develop.

Azaria’s character Alex has some growing to do but he plays up the self-deprecation bit really well. Hahn’s Helen brings some excellent line delivery and she’s not as acerbic as I thought she’d be, as someone who is grieving over a deceased fiance and sleeping with an always-crying Alex. The bit about her excessive wine consumption was very good; I just hope the writers will give her more to do than that when we see her doing scenes alone.

So can I recommend watching this one? I surely can. It gets the Zoe Recommends stamp of approval. If I were to grade it, I’d also give it a B+. I will continue to record the episodes for sure.

Like with anything, I think we as the viewers need to familiarize ourselves with the developing characters and let things simmer a bit. There is plenty of room for development in both sitcoms (or are they dramadies?) and even Ringer. If you think it has to be a hit right out of the box, just go back and watch the pilot of Friends. That is one of my all-time favorite shows but the characters we grew to love like family were definitely not present in the very first episode.

Did you watch any of these shows? If not, do you think you will now?

Update: October 18, 2011 I have learned that Free Agents was cancelled after a mere four episodes aired. I was actually really upset because I found it to be really hilarious and wanted to see where it would go. I’m also hoping that the actress who played Emma, the snarky Exec Assistant, will find herself another similar role so we can witness more of that. Ugh, it’s seriously depressing.

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Comments

  1. I do have to say, I found up all night more appealing now than I would have before Jax. I think both Pamela and I can relate to yearning for the old days of being able to go out all night and do what you want. IMHO it’s funnier for those that have kids. I probably wouldn’t have found it as funny before Jax.

  2. Kevin Schneider says:

    I didn’t see Ringer, but I thought Free Agents was MUCH funnier than Up All Night. That said, I will watch both again.

  3. I didn’t think I would like Ringer, but after the way you described it, I’ll definitely be giving it a try. Thanks for the info!

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