Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pilot Review: The Cape

The Cape (NBC)
Premiered January 9 at 9pm

NBC has had some mixed experiences with superheroes and the supernatural recently. Its big hit “Heroes” quickly devolved after its first season into an inane, incomprehensible mess, and its latest big event, in fact titled “The Event,” based all of its hype on one huge twist and failed to follow up on its potential in the slightest sense. Now, NBC is tackling a man framed for corruption (nothing new) and forced to fake his death and live out the rest of his days as a masked, and most importantly, caped, hero fighting to take down the actually corrupt forces that forced him into this situation. There’s hokeyness aplenty, and that generally works for the show. The main title theme music and opening credits are particularly strong, seeking to establish a tone for the show. As far as the actual content, most of the characters are relatively cartoonish. In some cases, it works well: I could see Vince vanish into thin air a hundred times. It’s a terrific hat trick. Yet at other times it isn’t nearly as impressive. James Frain seems like a great choice to play a super-evil villain, but he’s chewing an awfully large amount of scenery. David Lyons is yet another non-American import cast as the American protagonist of a new show, and he doesn’t bring much charisma to the lead role. It’s awesome to see Summer Glau playing a semi-normal character, and I just worry it will be a waste of her considerable talents, if the second episode’s disappointing restaurant scene is any indication. I haven’t made up my mind at this point about this show. It certainly has potential, and whether its campiness (and musical accompaniment!) will be an asset or a detractor remains to be seen.

How will it work as a series? The hero already has his distant quest and shouldn’t have any trouble filling in the less exciting time in between now and his eventual completion of his goal of undoing all the corruption in his family’s home city. What the show needs to stay away from is episodic confrontations between the Cape and Chess, and those chapter titles also need to go. Superman didn’t butt heads with Lex Luthor in every issue, and sometimes it’s better not to know exactly who the enemy is. And give Summer Glau some good storylines!
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot were great, but its Sunday night berth isn’t necessarily indicative of its future Monday night performance, where it will be opposite shows like “Two and a Half Men.” Pairing it with “Chuck” is definitely a terrific plan, and as long as this one doesn’t falter like its genre predecessors, it could do well. It’s too early to make a true call on renewal potential, but I think it could do it.

Pilot grade: B-

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