Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pilot Review: Life in Pieces

Life in Pieces (CBS)
Premiered September 21 at 8:30pm

Vignettes have their place and they can work well if done right, but if the fact that they’re all related is meant to be the big gimmick, it’s going to be an uphill battle to make the format last. This show’s title and the credits that begin with “Story One” warn that this show is not a conventional sitcom but rather one told plot by plot. NBC tried something similar few years ago with its long-delayed eventual summer series “Love Bites,” which followed a few of the same characters but also introduced new players and plotlines on a weekly basis. This show could look a whole lot like “Modern Family,” which advertised itself as involving many different family members and then brought them together in a creative way by the end of its pilot, but this show is fully committed to its explicit format. That could be fine if the vignettes worked on their own, but most of them felt forced in this debut airing. Jordan Peele’s live-in ex-fiancĂ© was particularly far-fetched, and James Brolin’s John throwing himself a seventieth birthday funeral was also a stretch. Having trouble finding a place to have sex for a budding new couple and fearing certain sights post-pregnancy were decent starts, but this show hasn’t proven itself to be reliably funny yet. It’s fun to see a handful of familiar faces, including Thomas Sadoski from “The Newsroom,” Colin Hanks, Zoe Lister-Jones from “New Girl,” Dan Bakkedahl from “Veep,” and Betsy Brandt from “Breaking Bad,” and I hope they’ll be used well in solid individual settings and in stronger group storylines than the one in this opening installment. I’m willing to stick it out a few weeks, but this one didn’t really have me laughing.

How will it work as a series? I think that the concept of this show requires that it sticks to its four-story format, but it will be interesting to see how long that lasts or if the grander family dynamic will take over and that separation will be phased out. If the individual plots are good enough, it won’t need to be, but they’re going to need to get a little stronger and more reined-in than what we’ve seen so far.
How long will it last? The ratings report is actually pretty decent, which is especially impressive given that this show airs on CBS, which is the strictest and most demanding network, cancelling shows that outperform solid hits on other networks for what it considers weak links. I still don’t think this one is going to last, though I think it will be around for a full season before it gets pulled.

Pilot grade: C

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