Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pilot Review: Room 104

Room 104 (HBO)
Premiered July 28 at 11:30pm

Anthology series can be tricky. It’s hard to judge one episode on the same basis as another, and they can be highly different in every possible way. This probably comes closest to a modern-day version of the original anthology series, “The Twilight Zone,” rather than the more comedic, directionless attempts recently like “Love Bites” and “Easy.” I’m a big fan of the Duplass brothers, whose show “Togetherness,” starring Mark, was ended way too soon by this very same network. I was intrigued about this even though its 11:30pm airtime gave me pause, and for good reason. This first episode, featuring Melonie Diaz, who I had a hard time pegging and now realize I know from her fantastic work in “Fruitvale Station,” was a dark opener, building to a horrific revelation but also leaving the ending ambiguous enough for viewers to be deeply disturbed by the content but also just as unsettled by the lack of clarity on what was actually real. I know that, as a regular watcher, I’d find that deeply irritating, and there wasn’t enough satisfaction in this particular plot for me to feel like it was worth feeling like that, since sometimes that can be a positive. I’m also not a fan of horror, and while this wasn’t on the level of ghosts jumping out to terrify the audience, it wasn’t remotely relaxing. I’m not sure if I’d be up for another episode but given the way this one went I’m more than content waiting around for the hopefully inevitable revival of the much sweeter and more invigorating “Togetherness.”

How will it work as a series? The hotel setting isn’t likely to provide an outlet for calming or lighthearted stories, though it is possible. I think that literally the room number is meant to be the only link between all the standalone installments, which just inherently makes it hard to get into the show and also makes it possible for episodes to be totally inconsistent in terms of quality.
How long will it last? The reviews seem to be pretty good, and it’s hard to gauge how important the ratings are since this show airs in a timeslot that’s meant to be way later than when most of its audiences tunes into television. I think that the Duplass brothers are enough of an appeal that this is likely to merit another season.

Pilot grade: C+

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