overthinking the idiot box

April 18th, 2005

Fall 2005 Pilots: What They Should Be Instead

by Elana Frink

I always get pretty excited about pilot season. It's like that split second between the phone ringing and you picking up: it could be anything! It could be Madonna calling to get your thoughts on her new children's book, "My First Mystic." It could be someone you knew in grade school who is now a twelve-stepper, calling to say she's sorry for snapping your My Little Pony pencil in half.

Pilot season is sort of like that. Before the shows actually air, they could all be Arrested Development and Deadwood. Of course, once you've seen them, you realize that it's another round of doomed sitcoms starring some guy who was in American Pie, but that's why these few months are so much fun. I can pretend that the new shows are about anything I want.

I stole all of the following "real" descriptions from The Futon Critic. Thanks for enabling my weirdness, Futon Critic. You're the best.

Empire (ABC)
What it's about: A sweeping new limited drama series from the executive producers of the Academy Award-winning Chicago. The period drama focuses on Julius Caesar's nephew, Octavius, who is forced into exile after Caesar's murder, and a fictional disgraced gladiator, Tyrannus, who has sworn to protect him.

Rome (HBO)
What it's about: The saga of two ordinary Roman soldiers and their families in 51 B.C.

What I think it should be about instead:Since these are basically clones of each other, I think they should be melded into one show, about two ordinary Roman burlesque singers/dancers, and the gladiator who is sworn to protect them. There is singing and dancing. And jazz hands. And, on the HBO version, lots of nipples and possibly people saying "Et tu, you cocksucker?" and "Citizens! To the motherfucking Forum!"

The Suze Orman Show
What it's about: Talk show featuring the CNBC host as she helps people deal with financial problems that affect their relationships, such as a couple on the verge of splitting up because of a spending addiction and a daughter confronting her mother for stealing her credit cards and putting her into debt.

What I think it should be about instead: Listen, this is pretty good, but to make it more MTV-friendly, can we have Suze travel coast-to-coast, dropping in on dorm rooms everywhere, ambushing drunk college kids, demanding to see their bank statements, and making them feel like total retards for their inability to calculate compound interest? There will be crying. Suze will be merciless.

3 lbs.
What it's about:
Medical drama revolving around a group of brain surgeons in Los Angeles.

What I think it should be about instead:Militant, snackish zombies hatch a plot to steal the brains of prominent politicians, only to find that it makes almost no difference in public policy. Or, it could be about professional bowlers. In Vegas. Who fight crime. With their bowling balls. I'm torn.

Anatomy of an Affair
What it's about: Drama follows a man and woman embarking on a workplace affair.

What I think it should be about instead:"Well, what you do is, you take your penis, and you find a nearby vagina-" Frankly, this needs to be instructional. Americans need help. We're not having enough workplace affairs. We need charts. And PowerPoint slides.

What it's about: Drama about a team of forensic anthropologists (led by Emily Deschanel) who solve crimes using evidence supplied by skeletal remains.

What I think it should be about instead:This sounds like it's the boring parts of CSI, except for an entire hour. Can't it be about people who have either extra bones, or none at all? And, like, the Bonies keep bumping their extra elbows and the Skinbags just kind of sit around and lament. It's a comedy.

What it's about: A political drama about the nation's first female president (Geena Davis) which, unlike NBC's The West Wing, will spend more time examining the president's family life with less focus on West Wing matters.

What I think it should be about instead: Everyone knows that girls are more interested in family life than in high-octane politics, so how about we go all the way and make Geena Davis the first ever president/homemaker? Every episode starts with a political crisis and ends with a delicious casserole recipe. During cabinet meetings, she crochets afghans.

Confessions of a Dog
What it's about: Comedy about a serial dater who has never been in a serious relationship and his two best friends - a guy who got married early and had an instant family and a woman who, after playing the field for years, has fallen in love and gotten engaged - all of whom have remained friends despite their divergent lifestyles.

What I think it should be about instead: What would make this good is if it were actually about a dog, and all the weird things dogs do. Like the pilot would be about the dog sniffing other dogs' butts, and maybe drinking from the toilet and eating strange things it found behind the refrigerator, and running around in circles in the back yard and then taking a nap.

What it's about: A Frasier-esque show focusing on an arrogant, self-absorbed NFL superstar, who's secretly nervous that the end of his career is nearing. He somehow manages his entourage -- which includes his white, overweight neighborhood buddy who feels more at home with blacks than whites, and the billionaire owner of the team; his female agent; and the only guy who can really put him in his place, his three-foot tall uncle.

What I think it should be about instead: I'm so disappointed that Dante isn't set in hell! I think the world is ripe for a quirky, dwarf-rich drama set in Hades. It could be like Boston Legal, only with more brimstone and eternal torment. And dwarfs, obviously.

The E-Ring
What it's about: Every decision could mean life or death somewhere in the world as conflicts between America's military heroes and the civilians to whom they report often escalate to explosive climaxes -- maneuvering through that building in a crisis requires the agility of walking a tightrope over landmines. Jerry Bruckheimer produces this exciting action thriller.

What I think it should be about instead: This show is clearly about people who have never actually met, but get married over the Internet and then have Internet marriages and maybe Internet families. Oh. It's not? Well. Screw you, Bruckheimer.

Halley's Comet
What it's about: Dramedy about a 23-year-old first-year med student who, after battling a life-threatening illness for years, finds herself moving from patient to doctor while also finally maturing as an adult woman.

What I think it should be about instead: I'd like it to be about a young woman struggling to run a mink farm in the high north, and the trials and tribulations she faces as PETA comes to town and she becomes romantically linked with a sexy vegan. And then, in the exciting season finale, the minks go insane and trap her in the woodshed.

Murder Book
What it's about: Drama that revolves around LA. cops and the beat-by-beat way they go about their business, including compiling reams of info about a case in one giant book.

What I think it should be about instead: I didn't realize you could have crime dramas about filing! How about a spin-off: MURDER FAX? I think it would be much better and less unintentionally humorous if Murder Book were about a cop who was killed in the line of duty and was genetically melded to a Roget's Thesaurus. Now he runs around(fortunately surgeons were able to save his legs) fighting crime and poor vocabularies.

What it's about: Drama about two brothers in North Carolina NASCAR country who, working out of a chop shop, try to protect local residents from threats of big business and corrupt government.

What I think it should be about instead: It could be about two brothers who drive a car they call The General Lee, and they're always making with the crazy hijinx and narrowly escaping the local sheriff and some random fat dude who has it in for them. Also, they have a skanky cousin named Daisy. And I'm thinking maybe the brothers can be Luke and Bo Duke- is that too cutesy? That's original, right? Okay. Good. Just checking.

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