[As I've mentioned before, these capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]
Show: "Happy Hour" (FOX - Comedy)
The Pitch: "That '50s Nostalgia Show"
Quick Response: "Happy Hour" was created by the Filgos of "That '70s Show" fame and the pilot has that familiar rhythm of competent punchlines, delivered by mostly unfamiliar actors with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the adoration of the whooping studio audience (and/or laughtrack). The premise -- modern day Dean Martin attempts to remake his new roommate, a lovelorn Midwesterner -- has a bit of promise, but it isn't anywhere close to ready for primetime. While I understand the network's desire to go with entirely fresh faces on this one, at least half of the castmembers seem miscast or overly predictably cast. My instinct -- and nobody cares about my opinion -- would be to keep leading man John Sloan and maybe Beth Lacke as the curvy, needy woman who hires him to work at a bank, and then start over from scratch, which wouldn't work well with FOX's plans to have this on air in the fall. It would also make a nice Chicago-area pairing with "The Loop," so naturally FOX has it scheduled elsewhere.
Desire To Watch Again: In its current format? None. If some changes were made? Low-to-Moderate.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour? Eric Balfour is too recognizable for this cast, plus he isn't actually funny. But I could almost seen him playing the wannabe Dean Martin. Almost.
Show: "'Til Death" (FOX - Comedy)
Quick Response: This is why you don't necessarily wanna use only unknowns in your pilot. This pilot is wildly conventional (and probably belongs on CBS), but Brad Garrett (stepping just far enough away from his "Raymond" role) knows how to land a punchline. Joely Fisher knows how to land a punchline. Even Eddie Kaye Thomas can often hit his marks. Those pros (and Kat Foster, who I don't really know) help get smiles out of thin air and one or two of the sharper observations about relationships even get chuckles. My question: The younger couple's last name is Woodcock. Is that a joke that the writers are planning on never getting tired of? If so, please let me know, because I'm already sick of it. The laughtrack/studio audience may be amused, but it's pretty cheap. Actually, now I know why this one's on FOX and not CBS.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate-to-Low -- This is a totally respectable pilot, but that doesn't mean that *I* want to watch it again. Unlike "The War At Home," though, I won't feel the desire to mock people who do choose to watch in the future.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour? Have I mentioned that Eric Balfour probably isn't funny?
Show: "The Winner" (FOX - Comedy)
The Pitch: "About a Boy-Man"
Quick Response: The first comedy pilot this season to make me laugh multiple times and that's even with the pointlessly easy '90s nostalgic mockery -- "Wings," O.J. Greg Kinnear, Herve Villechaize gags fly within the first four minutes. That sounds like a good sign, but the last three FOX comedy pilots to really make me laugh were "Arrested Development," "Life on a Stick" and "The Loop," which have probably averaged as many combined viewers as your typical episode of "Freddie." Written by Ricky Blitt, the pilot is occasionally perceptive, frequently rude and inappropriate (often in a good way) and sets the show up decently for the future -- grown men in a state of arrested development bonding with psychologically damaged children... always brilliant. Rob Corddry is ready to become the latest "Daily Show" alum to find mainstream success and leading lady Erinn Hayes, often appealing in small roles in the past, has real breakout potential as well. My only minor concern would be that Keir Gilchrist, Corddry's pint-sized foil, looks to be trying a little too hard. That's the kind of thing that can be fixed in subsequent episodes with ease.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Some shows, you just prefer not to ruin. Sorry, man. I'll keep looking.
Looking forward to any of these?