For years now, TV critics have been making snap judgments about new TV shows based on the footage shown at upfront presentations, which is really unfair, if you think about it. Does anybody ask movie critics to make snap judgments based on trailers? (Well, actually, now that we think about it…) But all of that doesn’t mean we can’t get in on the fun here at The A.V. Club, and all week, Erik Adams and Todd VanDerWerff will be looking at the new fall show trailers and offering their thoughts. Remember: Sometimes a terrible trailer makes for a great show (as happened with Arrested Development) and vice versa, so we will almost certainly revise all of these opinions very, very soon. Up now: The CW.
The 100 (currently unscheduled)
EA: Is it telling that the most recent development season coincided with the end of “We Are Young”’s run in the Billboard charts? There’s some intriguing generation gap stuff happening in The 100 clip: Nearly a century after some nuclear-armed maniacs blew up the earth (Ah damn them! Damn them to hell!), a new human civilization has thrived in interstellar outposts—albeit interstellar outposts ruled with an iron fist. Now, hundreds of teenaged prisoners have been sent home to see if the planet has healed itself—and, for the sake of narrative stakes, get their futuristic Lord Of The Flies on. And so, as with the Tomorrow People, the children are the future, though The 100 is practically guaranteed to plumb the past for some mythology and/or clues about How Things Got To This Point—because that’s what sci-fi shows do now. This could be an intriguing throwback to the uncharted fantasy worlds of Irwin Allen—or it could be a heap of garbage that loses itself up its own flashbacks. I just don’t know anymore.
TV: There is nothing more perfect than when the lead smiles and proclaims “We’re back!” and then a bunch of generic mid-’90s guitar rock starts churning on the soundtrack as everybody races into the woods. The CW has successfully turned the post-apocalypse into an ad for Surge.
The Originals (airs Tuesdays at 8 this fall)
TV: Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t seem like The CW has filmed any new footage for its Originals trailer and clip, just taking stuff from the backdoor pilot that aired as an episode of The Vampire Diaries. Thus, I have little to say that Carrie Raisler hasn’t already said better in her review of that episode. Here, I’m in the unique position of having actually, effectively, seen the pilot, and I think it’s an effective setup for a spinoff of the parent show, while also not really knowing if I’ll make the time to squeeze even more vampire action into my life. The Originals seriously bogged down the parent show there for a while, and while I liked their pilot, I’m actually more hopeful that their removal from the parent show will spice that show up a bit. Erik, as someone who (presumably) didn’t see the episode in question, what did you think?
EA: I’ve still yet to delve into The Vampire Diaries, and though I’ve been writing up every new episode for our What’s On Tonight? feature for more than a year now, I still find most of the show’s universe impossible to keep track of. So while I’m obviously not the type of viewer The CW is targeting with The Originals, there’s a decent hook in Joseph Morgan’s reading of that “I wanna be king” line. That implies a certain propulsion that I know (from reputation) the parent show has; however, that makes the exchange about Phoebe Tonkin carrying Klaus’ kid in the preview clip feel somewhat less weighty. I assume that little twist will resolve itself by season two—it’s clunky, silly content like “I have a special gift of sensing when a girl is pregnant” that I doubt will be left behind so easily.
Reign (airs Thursdays at 9 this fall)
TV: Shit yeah, Mary, Queen of Scots! One of The CW’s most constant tricks is to bring the tone of some other story to high school, like how Gossip Girl was a tawdry primetime soap set in high school or how Smallville (technically a WB show, but whatever) was a superhero tale set in high school and so on. Reign—based entirely on extremely limited time with the preview clips—seems to be bringing the tone of a high school show to a high-class BBC historical drama. It’s a fascinating choice, as well as one that will require exact precision to make work, rather than explode in the hundreds of possible ways it could explode. I like the lead actress here, at least in the limited clips, and while the lead actor is obviously a stereotypical piece of CW man-meat, that’s okay, because Wikipedia tells me he’ll eventually die. The production values, my biggest concern with all of this, look adequate in that “PBS reairing a BBC drama in the ’70s” sort of way. There’s a potentially interesting show here, maybe more interesting than any other show on any other network, or, at the very least, something I haven’t seen 10 million times before. But there’s also tons of opportunity for this to get all CW-ed up and turn out terrible. But, hey, at least Megan Follows—Anne of Green Gables herself!—is getting work.
EA: Well now that you’ve put that thought in my head, Todd, all I want to do is repeat my favorite Gossip Girl lines (like Blake Lively’s hilariously flat “I killed someone” from season one) in a Scottish brogue. That’s a dialect that, unfortunately, no one here to seems to be using, a choice that offends my own Celtic heritage but does nothing to quell my curiosity about Reign. It’s odd that we’re not wading through a whole sea of shows like Reign, given that the broadcast networks ought to be trying their hands at some Game Of Thrones imitators. Novelty can’t sustain my interest in a series, but it can definitely push me toward giving a show a try—and if Reign has anything going for it, it’s novelty. And elaborate headbands. (Are we absolutely certain this isn’t a Gossip Girl spin-off?)
Star-Crossed (currently unscheduled)
EA: If you haven’t read Wired’s TV-centric spread from its March issue, “The Nielsen Family Is Dead,” I highly recommend you do so after watching these CW previews. Then watch them all over again, and try not to get the analysis about the jawlines of the network’s leading men out of your head. It’s very, very difficult! I wouldn’t go so far as to say that The CW has actually worked out a ratio of chin-strength-to-lip-plumpness that it hands down to all casting directors—but a few seconds with extraterrestrial 90210 holdover Matt Latner indicate he is to be the alien-next-door to Aimee Teegarden’s Star-Crossed protagonist. I’m focusing on the small stuff here because Star-Crossed looks so silly, from its twinkling soundtrack to the immigration allegory underneath the high-school puppy love. Also: “Tatties.”
TV: “Tatties” is my favorite thing I’ve seen in any trailer for any show this season. Also, in true CW fashion, this appears to be a show about people staring at each other.
The Tomorrow People (airs Wednesdays at 9 this fall)
EA: This is the third TV iteration of The Tomorrow People—the original ran on the U.K.’s ITV in the 1970s; a ’90s revival played out on that network as well as Nickelodeon—but it’s the first entry in the science-fiction franchise to be treated with The CW’s house style of blues and blacks projected on the chiseled faces of an attractive, multiethnic cast. It’s interesting to see how the themes of those previous incarnations have trickled down to the newest one: Conceived after the collapse of 1960s idealism, the original Tomorrow People is about a young generation that represents the next step in human evolution—and is thus persecuted by the less advanced members of the species (i.e. their parents). That’s clearly the subtext of this clip, where the teleportation powers of Stephen Amell’s cousin and Jane Sterling best the fearful tactics of the olds, what with their veiled threats and destructive firearms. Swiftly forming baby boom/Generation X/Millennial rifts ought to give this iteration of The Tomorrow People some thematic potency (especially because the prevailing notion of pop-sci-fi is that there is no tomorrow), but in all likelihood this is going to be a lot of jumpy camerawork and special-effects trickery draped over the nubile bodies of Amell and friends. If you can remember a single detail from the 30-second trailer for the show, you might be a Tomorrow Person yourself.
TV: I watched the extended clip The CW offered (after, yes, the trailer proved more informational on how I could “like” the show on Facebook), and all I want to know is how many superpowers Stephen Amell’s cousin gets to have. Share some with the attractive, multicultural cast, kid!