Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pilot Review: Gravity

Gravity (Starz)
Premiered April 23 at 10:30pm

The companion show to season two of the quirky “Party Down” definitely seems qualified for that job description, but just like that show, its start is shaky at best and most certainly needs some work. Starting out with a pretty extravagant suicide attempt that results in main character Robert’s crash landing in a cruise ship pool was an intriguing start, and the comical reaction of the partygoers makes it seem like this will be a clear-cut comedy. It’s much more of an ambiguous kind of series, however, and would most properly be described as a black comedy. The characters are dark as can be, eschewing truthful conversation at every turn in favor of sarcasm. The way Lilly spouts her signature line – “I sell makeup at a department store, I change lives” – is extraordinarily indicative of the way she views her life. Robert’s priest is especially interesting, playing cards on his iPhone while going into confession and refusing to accept Robert’s confession because he doesn’t view him as having done anything wrong by having sex with Lilly. The rather rough and spontaneous physical relationship developed between Robert and Lilly seems like a sign of the depths of their characters, though I’m sure there’s much more to be developed as the surfaces of these characters are peeled back. At this point, it’s alternately entertaining and disturbing, and neither is quite strong or effective enough to make it a solid show. Lead actors Ivan Sergei and Krysten Ritter haven’t had much of an opportunity yet to emote and flesh out their characters, but I’ve seen them perform impressively in the past – Sergei on a show I liked but no one else did (“Hawaii”) and Ritter on a show I liked and everyone else did too (“Breaking Bad”). The standout from this pilot is Ving Rhames (“Pulp Fiction,” “Mission Impossible”), who is terrific as the humorous wheelchair-bound head of the therapy group. I’m curious who else will become a major player on this series since the risk of characters killing themselves off is especially high here, but I’m somewhat intrigued, and I’ll probably stick with this show through an otherwise scarcely populated summer.

How will it work as a series? The first episode was all about the suicide attempts and positioning Robert and Lilly as each other’s sponsors or whatever the equivalent in that therapy group is. Presumably, they’ll actually have real conversations and come to be dependent upon each other, forging some kind of relationship in the process. I’m not sure what the format is going to be, and I’m not too confident in its lasting power.
How long will it last? Starz probably wants to stick with its shows for as long as it can, but I’m not so sure about this one. Being paired with the popular “Party Down” probably helps, but the middling reviews don’t. I’d say this one is a toss-up. Cable shows always get at least a full season, but I think a second year is much less likely, though only time will tell.

Pilot grade: C+