Monday, July 30, 2012

SDCC 2012 Recap: WB Preview Screenings Got Diva Googly-Eyed

Preview Night at Comic-Con went down at Ballroom 20 with the WB crazy-spoiling the fans by offering sneak-peek screenings of 5 upcoming TV shows.

Many toy collectors with Preview Night passes presumably headed straight to the show floor to get their exclusive and limited items but there were several other attendees who have been waiting for the preview screenings since early afternoon, including Red Dot Diva and her bunch of friends.

Promptly at about 6pm, officials opened the doors for Ballroom 20 and ushered those in line inside the venue. As they were at the front of the line already, Diva's group managed to get really good seats right up front in third row, near the giant screen on stage. The ballroom quickly filled up and it was more than half full at one-point.

The announcement "Welcome to Comic-Con International!" was met by an excited round of applause. Comic-Con has officially begun!!

After a short intro by a rather cute WB representative, everyone could finally settle into their seats for the nearly 4-hour preview marathon.

Oh. Before reading on, here's the mandatory warning.

** This blog post is NOT Spoiler-Free. **


"666 PARK AVENUE"

First up was "999 Park Avenue". Er... Or "666 Park Avenue" actually. Well, it's still "999 Park Avenue" in Red Dot Diva's mind because it just wasn't "666" enough.

Red Dot Diva says here's why.

The show's premise is about a historic but swanky Manhattan apartment building with the famously diabolical address number. The owners of the building - fronted by faces belonging to "Lost"'s Terry O'Quinn and "Desperate Housewives"' Vanessa Williams - are perpetually looking for new apartment managers as the previous ones never seem to stay around for long.

In comes a young attractive and ambitious couple (Dave Annable/ Rachael Taylor) who are looking to kickstart a new lifestyle in Manhattan and signs up as the new managers of the apartment building. Then, creepy things start to happen.

Cliched creepy things. Like flickering lights, moving shadows, situational coincidences, ghostly creatures, premonitions.... you know the drill. However, the only real heart-pumping moment Red Dot Diva felt during the pilot screening was when a tenant's wife was suddenly caught by the elevator doors in a vise-like grip as the contraption threatened to move upward and snap her head off.

Red Dot Diva can't deny that Terry O'Quinn is captivating on screen as a the deal-making devil landlord. It was like watching Black Smoke Monster taking form and going upmarket in an expensive suit. Production values for the series look really good, but Red Dot Diva thinks that the story falls quite flat with its expected rattles and scares. And sadly, they all did not amount to very much. Very unlike the genuinely scary and deliciously fun-to-watch horror series from another channel called FX.

Red Dot Diva summarizes, "666 Park Avenue" is just "American Horror Story"-lite.


"ARROW"

Next on the screen was the widely-anticipated superhero series "Arrow", which will be aired on CW in the Fall.

The TV show, about DC Comics' character Green Arrow aka Oliver Queen, was expected to fill in the gap left by "Smallville" when that series ended after a run of 10 years.

Too bad this version of Green Arrow just wasn't the Justin Hartley version which Red Dot Diva still misses. In fact, it was a very watered-down TV-version of "Batman Begins" in shades of green instead of black.

The writer/ producers were obviously going for "dark", but Red Dot Diva thinks there has been enough predictable "moody-dark" on the TV screens lately. Where was the fun interlaced with the dark?

There is no question that Stephen Amell as the main character, has the muscles. Thanks to the gratuitous shirtless scenes in the pilot. Despite the hunky bulk, it seemed to Red Dot Diva that Stephen had only one facial expression throughout the episode. Which resembled "bored-grouchy-angry". Kinda. Or that is what she thought it was.

Red Dot Diva felt the pilot was taking itself a little too seriously, especially with those awful melodramatic lines in the voice overs. She didn't feel Arrow/ Oliver was likeable; the villain was also unconvincing and weak, and she was unable to emotionally connect to whatever the cast was doing on screen. Although, it does pack up enough backstory for several of the key characters.

Overall, it was too typecast. Hey, it even comes complete with a Mommy-Dearest!

"Arrow" was one series that Red Dot Diva very much wanted to like but she just simply couldn't.

Maybe it will take off and find its own voice and identity after another few episodes. Red Dot Diva is still willing to give "Arrow" another chance.


"THE FOLLOWING"


The sense of ennui and disappointment after the screenings of 999 errr.. "666 Park Avenue" (darnit, good habits are so hard to break) and "Arrow" had Red Dot Diva feeling quite tired and moody at this point of SDCC Preview Night.

That was salved by the intense and really violent screening of the next show - "The Following".

What an unforgettable, bloody ride that was!

"The Following" trailer:


Award-winning actor Kevin Bacon takes the main role as Ryan Hardy, a retired and jaded detective with a physically weak heart. His prey -- an escaped serial killer and Poe-obsessed professor named Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who has the charismatic ability to gather followers even while he was in jail.

Right from the start, the show kicked off with a show of gore as Carroll makes his dash from captivity. And the body count just kept going up after that. There were so many within those 45 minutes that Red Dot Diva lost count!

The pilot was an OMG moment after another, with some of Carroll's "followers" committing suicides, and female victims having their eyes removed. The latter being Carroll's favourite modus operandi.

Kevin Bacon was brilliant to watch as the psychologically scarred Hardy, who seems to be giving his last mental, emotional and physical strength to venture down a familiar dark road in order to chase down the wily Carroll one more time. He was called back to the FBI because he was the one who caught the serial killer the first time. The realization that there were many other followers doing Carroll's bidding this time round was downright chilling.

What Red Dot Diva thought would be a procedural cop show turned out to be a smart cat and mouse game with a twist of "Saw". Joe Carroll, who seemed too disarming to be a real threat at first, puts on a surprise twist at the end of the pilot and deftly flips the coin with a menacing turn.

A definite must-watch for Red Dot Diva.


"REVOLUTION"


Ahh. Some may actually rejoice at the basic storyline of "Revolution". It is about a post-apocalypse world where there is no longer any electricity. Which means no smartphones, or even stupid phones for that matter.
Which means people would actually have to communicate with each other face to face rather than text message or tweet. Or they could try using ravens like in "Game of Thrones"...

15 years after electricity went poof, people seem to be returning to their simpler, provincial ways. Politically though, militias and warlords have taken over control, frequently coming back to the villages to forcibly recruit young men for service.

"Revolution", marketed as a scifi series, is banking on viewers being able to suspend belief while watching it. However, Red Dot Diva felt that it went beyond that to an odd level of surreal.

Firstly, the characters were way too well-groomed, looking more like Barbie and Ken dolls than folks who have to toil with their hands to survive. The young blonde female protagonist Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) looked like a bland and far less convincing version of "The Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen, even if her choice of weaponry is the same. Moreover, people wore clothes and accessories that did not seem to be handmade. (There are no machinery and no factories, right?) Well, Red Dot Diva could be wrong. They might actually be carefully preserved 15-year-old hand-me-downs.

The only interesting segment was the one featuring Billy Burke as Charlie's revolutionary uncle Miles Matheson. Burke seemed to have fun playing the swashbuckling devil-may-care Matheson, who might actually know a few secrets more than he cares to reveal.

The good and bad about "Revolution" is that the entire premise hinges on the reason(s) behind the mysterious planetary blackout. Was it due to a scientific experiment? (Like what, really?!) A government conspiracy? (Not again.) Little grey men? If the cause and reasons are believable, and revealed soon, the series may still work. If not, the mythology might simply fall apart. 

Knowing that the series was created from the minds of two big names like JJ Abrams and "Supernatural"s creator Eric Kripke, Red Dot Diva is holding out hope that they will be able to make the tale and characters compelling. No point powering up to watch if the series fizzles like a flat battery.


"THE CULT"

Red Dot Diva has to admit that one of the main reasons that she was looking forward to take a sneak peek of "The Cult" was the strange absence of trailers and teasers online..... and the magnetic Robert Knepper.

Knepper glows especially brightly on screen in intelligent yet smarmy villain roles. And in this series, he is Billy Grimm - a cult leader.

One has to pay attention when watching "The Cult". The lines of reality and alternate realities are blurred, and fans in the series are shown to be obsessed watching and playing games related to what they think is just a TV show, which incidentally, is also called "The Cult".

Things may be more real than reel as two detectives (Matt Davis and Jessica Lucas) begin to have suspicions that what's being screened as reality-TV is actually taking place in the real world. Red Dot Diva liked watching Matt Davis when he was in The Vampire Diaries, and he's as nommy and watchable in the Cult.

Accompanying the layers of realities and intrigue (no one working on the reality TV set has even seen the creator and writer!) is the strange one-liner that is being sprouted by Billy's victims before they die. "Well hey, these things just snap right off."

Creepy. Very creepy. But also Very Confusing.

The mindwarp offered by "The Cult" is something Red Dot Diva could possibly get hooked on.... *if* the writers manage to tighten the mythology and find the right balance for its audience to stay interested.

A preview of "The Cult" (from Hollywood Reporter):


PS: There's also an equally ominous viral website for the series at http://www.donotwatchthis.com

No guesses what you would need to type in after the front page loads.


In summary, this is how Red Dot Diva rates the WB pilots (from a maximum of 5):

666 Park Avenue - 3 Red Dots
Arrow - 3.5 Red Dots
The Following - 4.5 Red Dots
Revolution - 2.5 Red Dots
The Cult - 3.5 Red Dots

So, which of these shows will you be looking forward to in the Fall?


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