[As I feel the need to mention each time, 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: "Standoff" (FOX - Drama)
The Pitch: "'Bones' Only With Negotiators"
Quick Response: It's a fairly reproducible formula FOX is going for here: Fast talking leads fight their sexual chemistry while trying to do a life-or-death job. It's worked OK with "Bones," at least. As the lead negotiators, Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt have good chemistry, but for the pilot, at least, there isn't much substance. The main standoff isn't very interesting and its resolution is anti-climactic and yet it's handled with sufficient mock-gravity that it makes it hard to care about anything else. The opening scene, where we discover that our leads are ALREADY involved (eliminating, thankfully, the need for "will-they/won't they" dramatics), is much better. I like the supporting cast, led by Gina Torres. There's also the chance that Michael Cudlitz, who always seems to be playing soldiers, officers, guards and other generic folks in uniform, may have a real character to play here eventually. I endorse that.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate -- enough to give it a second episode, probably not enough to give it a third.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Probably not in the pilot, but there can always be a hotshot new negotiator introduced in the second episode just for him.
Show: "Justice" (FOX - Drama)
The Pitch: "Generic Bruckheimer Procedural: Celebrity Attorney Division"
Quick Response:Just as I'm always pleased to see "Buffy" alums resurface in new television projects (Why hasn't Emma "Anya" Caulfield returned to primetime yet?), it's always good when "Dawson's Creek" vets get second chances. Michelle Williams is an Oscar nominee and Katie Holmes a celebrity mom, but James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson have had several pilots that failed to go forward and Meredith Monroe got recast from "Married to the Kellys" (don't worry if you don't remember it) before it went from pilot to series. So it is that I'm pleased to think of FOX's "Justice" as "The Adventures of Gay Jack: Super Lawyer" thanks to the presence of Kerr Smith, whose presence as a slick, unbeatable defense attorney is more than slightly distracting. Somehow it's easy to watch Victor Garber as a brash media-savvy lawyer without ever once thinking "Jack Bristow," but even with a bad haircut and some punchier dialogue, Smith is mostly just Jack McPhee in a suit. And yes, I understand that he's done other TV since "Dawson's," but I just haven't paid attention. Anywho... The pilot is pretty straight-forward legal stuff with a few minor twists -- there's a concentration on the behind-the-scenes ways that law firms with endless financial resources are able to try cases and then each episode will presumably end by flashing back to the actual crime to see if our heroes were telling the truth or not. This being a Bruckheimer drama, the production values are high, the actors are good-looking and the nuances are very limited, though filtering each week's case through a cable news legal affairs program is a bit different.
Desire To Watch Again: Not much.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Would Eric Balfour be more convincing than Kerr Smith? Based on "Convictions," probably not.
Show: "Vanished" (FOX - Drama)
The Pitch: "Intense Serialized FOX Drama #53a"
Quick Response: The missing character, a Senator's wife, hasn't really vanished, since there are several suspects involved in her disappearance, but FOX couldn't really call this one "Kidnapped" since NBC already has a drama of that title following an unfolding kidnapping investigation over the course of a season. You'll be able to recognize the NBC one, because it's the show with the actors you can identify by name. FOX's show is just littered with familiar faces. Look, it's that Evil Guy Who Hung Himself On "24" This Season! Look, It's The Noxzema Girl Whose Dad Killed Dylan's Dad on "90210"! Look, it's Ming-Na! Look, it's Chuy ("I'm Han Solo") from "Fools Rush In"! Although it's over-directed within an inch of its life by Mimi Leder, this isn't bad stuff, but what are the odds that I'm really going to decide to add another intensely serialized FOX drama to my viewing roster? Ummm... Low, though the closing twist (which somewhat explains the title) isn't bad. The problem is that five seasons of "24" and one season of "Prison Break" have made it easy to chart the progress of these shows. Episode 2 -- It looks like the disappearance is meant to force the Senator's hand on the upcoming Supreme Court nominee. Episode 5 -- The intrepid reporter discovers that the conspiracy goes all the way to the highest reaches of government. Episode 9 -- Might the Senator's son (from a different mother) somehow be involved? Episode 11 -- In a surprising cameo, Jack Bauer pops up, tortures somebody, mentions that he could really use a name and leaves. Episode 13 -- The plotline involving the wife is resolved, but a second kidnapping/disappearance threatens to spiral the show off in a whole new direction, assuming FOX picks up the Back Nine.
Desire To Watch Again: Low to Moderate.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Including scruffy boyfriends/suspects, lab techs, FBI agents, police officers and other random male parts, I'd estimate there were at least a dozen parts for Mr. Balfour. Get your agent on the phone now, dawg.
Show: "The Wedding Album"
The Pitch: "Mr. Match" (as opposed to the not-so-successful Alicia Silverstone comedy "Miss Match."
Quick Response: You see... He's a wedding photographer, so he's always going to nuptials, but he can't find the right woman to walk down the aisle with himself. That's the kind of irony that television writers love, but which viewers seem not to care for. In the hands of co-writer/director Andy Tennant, the pilot doesn't feel like a television show. It feels like a boring feature, a cheeseball romantic semi-comedy. But it hardly matters. The buzz is that leading man Bruno Campos is being replaced (I hear Craig Bierko, but who knows?), which makes one (well, "me") wonder both why FOX bothered to send out a pilot that will have to be entirely revamped and, heck, why FOX bothered to commit to picking up the series at all. The leading man? That's a pretty big thing to be up in the air. The funny thing is that while I'm not a Bruno Campos fan, he wasn't so bad here. Every second of the pilot's "weekly chaotic wedding" was uninvolving, and it contributed little to my interesting in the main characters. This one probably needs revamping beyond the lead actor. We'll see if it makes it to air. If it's revised, they really need to eliminate the final scene where our obligatory star-crossed lovers (she's British, he's Bruno Campos) articulate the show's theme for the people too stupid to have understood in the first place. What do they need to keep? Eva "Eva Diva" Pigford. I'm not sure why, but I'm just happy to see the "Top Model" winner transcending the UPN ghetto.
Desire To Watch Again: Low, But I'd watch again if there's a reshot pilot.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Wait. The lead character is a commitment-phobia lothario? And they're not thinking of Eric Balfour? That's a miss, kids.