Saturday, November 3, 2018

Pilot Review: Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story (CBS All Access)
Premiered October 31

I debated whether to watch this show at all since it looked like a horror series, launching on Halloween, and I know that the term psychological thriller, theoretically my favorite genre if actually done right, is often code for horror which features dead people coming back to life and all of the things that I hate. I saw that this was billed as a modern-day fairy tale vehicle, something that was done recently in a more family-friendly setting on ABC with “Once Upon a Time.” In fact, that’s the same name in Spanish as the Mexican series that this one is based on, with both of them depicting the present-day political situation in their countries. I do find it strange to focus a series quite this much around real-life events like Trump’s presidency and the all-too-frequent mass shootings that happen, and the way it’s done here feels particularly disingenuous. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention or maybe it just wasn’t done very well, but the parallels to the Three Little Pigs just didn’t feel terribly poignant or effective. I did recognize a handful of actors, including James Wolk, from “Mad Men” and “Lone Star,” Michael Raymond-James from “True Blood,” Paul Wesley from “The Vampire Diaries,” Sam Jaeger from “Parenthood,” and Billy Magnussen from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” I was thrilled to notice Becki Newton from “Ugly Betty” in a small role, but I wish she had better parts on better shows. I expected to find this show to be far from appealing, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as uninteresting and unengaging as it was.

How will it work as a series? I presumed that every episode would feature different characters as they covered new fairy tales, but that’s not the case, apparently. Instead, this will be more like “One Dollar,” an overarching story based around the same people and the consequences of decisions and actions. Ending with that fatal gunshot ensures that anyone mildly interested will tune back in, but that’s not me.
How long will it last? This is the fifth original drama series to premiere on the relatively new CBS All Access channel, and it has the least positive reviews thus far. It doesn’t have a big name at the helm despite is enormous cast with many moderately-known members, and though ratings data is likely not be released in a helpful way, I imagine this will be cancelled as soon as its first season concludes.

Pilot grade: C-

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