Friday, September 16, 2011

Too up for Up All Night

I know someone who, due to her job, sees the pilots for new shows well before the fall season starts, and thus the first episodes of those shows she watches to see whether they left the pilots intact or reshot them in the interim. I watch going in having heard her assessments to color my expectations.

Wednesday night NBC premiered Up All Night, a comedy that she liked from what she'd seen in the preliminary version of the pilot. However, the episode that aired was significantly changed from that original she'd seen, and even partway through she commented, "It's not as funny." I found myself less than impressed—it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't something that made me pay full attention after the first five minutes (so the remainder of the episode it was competing with the laptop). It was something of a letdown.

The show after it, Free Agents, looked hideous from the previews I'd seen, and from the preliminary pilot she saw a while ago that was her take as well. That I started watching only because I didn't change the channel, and it proved to be about what I expected (which was not much). And thus that show was not as much of a disappointment, and in a way, I find myself feeling a little softer toward Free Agents than toward Up All Night, even though clearly it was worse. I doubt either will end up making it into my list of shows I look forward to from week to week, but the latter (by virtue of having less of a high bar) presents me with less disinclination to watch it if I'm really bored on a Wednesday night.

Really bored, mind you. Or merely something to have on in the background that wouldn't be too distracting from what I'm doing on the laptop, if I'd seen all sports highlights already.

It has been merely one episode of each, and there's been shows that started off less-than-impressively that did find their footing and become ones that I did anticipate (Fringe, Parks and Recreation, Community, as examples). However, a show still needs to have the pieces that can be put together (even if that isn't achieved in the pilot), and I'm not sure either of these two new offerings gave me evidence of that.

But the point is not a review of either show; this is merely a rumination on the nature of how higher expectations increase the odds of disappointment, and make having those expectations met (when that occurs) to be merely okay.

Of course, if we knew nothing about these shows before watching them… we wouldn't know they were even on and it's unlikely we'd even see them to find whether they were meeting or failing to meet any expectations. Promotion is a tricky business, I fully concede.

Granted, if the producers would merely make shows that were actually good, it wouldn't matter how high or low my expectations as a viewer were. Ah, but it's not like the suits at the networks are going to allow that.

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