When Quentin Tarantino sat down with men's magazine GQ recently, as part of a promo campaign for his latest film, The Hateful Eight, the mighty-mouthed filmmaker made an astute observation.
"Who the f*** reads TV reviews?" the director asked. "TV critics review the pilot. Pilots of shows suck."
Well, Tarantino, in all his wisdom, was pretty much bang on. Most television pilots are underwhelming, but there are advantages to having a series format over that of a feature-length movie. Multiple episodes afford a TV show the room to grow and develop narrative and characters, the final product often being far more entertaining and intriguing than anything its pilot could have hinted at.
If attractive men and cute babies are your thing, then maybe you'll find some reason to persevere with new sitcom Grandfathered, which premieres this week on Fox (Saturday at 8.30pm).
John Stamos (above, centre; ER) plays studly man-child Jimmy Martino, an irresistible and roguish 50-year-old bachelor whose life goes into free fall when he discovers he has an adult son and a granddaughter. Turning his self-centred playboy world upside down, Martino attempts to help raise his grandchild, mainly to prove to his ex-wife that he can be the guy everyone thinks he isn't.
Created by Daniel Chun, who has written for The Simpsons and the American version of The Office, Grandfathered's clichéd attempt at humour is no more amusing than the painfully awful New Girl and the marginally funnier Courtney Cox series that isn't Friends. The pilot tries to inject a little warmth into the proceedings by revealing Martino has a good heart underneath his vain, well-moisturised exterior, but the contrived grasps for empathy only magnify how cartoonish and clunky the dialogue actually is.
Another sitcom dealing in stereotypes is Fresh Off the Boat (right), but this clash-of-cultures comedy, about the Asian-American Huang family, spent its debut season cleverly subverting the clichés. Although the fish-out-of-water set-up followed a familiar formula, the second season (airing on Fox directly before Grandfathered, at 8pm) will hopefully offer up more charming Modern Family-style character humour, which elevated the show above the mire.
Based loosely on the real life of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, the first series of Fresh Off the Boat smartly mocked both Asian and American cultures, as the Huangs attempted to adapt to a new life following their move from Chinatown to the suburbs of Orlando. The show tackled themes of race and class by laughing at the absurdity of the family's struggles while still managing to throw in a few clever barbs directed at other ethnic groups.
Fresh Off the Boat is a show worth sticking with; not that you're likely to take my advice. If Tarantino's correct, few of you will have read the past few paragraphs. You've probably already turned the page and are salivating over Susan Jung's latest recipe.