8 Great Sci-Fi/Fantasy Shows Whose Pilots Were as Bad as Minority Report’s
The best thing you can say about the Minority Report pilot is that it wasn't terrible. The plot was mildly entertaining, although the procedural element is already the most boring part of the show. The performances were adequate, but there was some overacting here and there. The characters weren't unlikable, but weren't particularly likable either. The mythology was interesting, but the world-building left a lot to be desired. The show has a compelling conception of futuristic technology, but barely took advantage of it, content to let it hang out in the background.
The first episode of Minority Report used clunky exposition and occasionally stilted dialogue to sufficiently set up the premise, introduce the characters, and begin to build the universe, and did nothing particularly special in the process. In other words, it was a pilot.
Television has undergone something of a renaissance recently, and there's so much great TV, new shows often aren't given a chance to find their footing. As a result, many recent pilots are genuinely great episodes of television on their own, such as The Walking Dead, The Flash, and for a slightly older example, Lost. But just as many shows take up to a season to figure out exactly what they're trying to say, and then go on to become some of the best shows on TV.
Similar to Minority Report, when I re-watch the pilots of some of my favorite shows, you would never know they went on to become staples (or at least respected members) of the genre. I'm not necessarily saying that Minority Report would go on to become an amazing show if given the chance, but there was a flash of humor and chemistry here and there, and it would be a shame if fledgling shows were never given the latitude to have a little identity crisis at the beginning.
Here are eight reasons we shouldn't write off Minority Report just yet:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy might be my favorite show of all time, and is not only beloved by the geek community, but has gained the respect of critics and even academics, spawning its very own academic subfield dubbed "Buffy studies." But you would never know that from watching the pilot, or even the vast majority of the first season. Before the gut-punch dark turn in the middle of the second season, Buffy was an entertaining, witty, well-acted show, but it was also a fluffy trifle that wouldn't necessarily make a huge impact on anyone. But because it was given a little time to "find itself," it became one of the definitive shows of the 90's.
I'll confess: the first time I tried to watch Arrow, I quit after two episodes. It felt more like a soap opera than a superhero show, and the characters weren't nearly three-dimensional enough to support all of the relationship drama. But after a rocky first season, the second season saw Arrow become one of the best teen-targeted shows around and one of the best-reviewed superhero shows of all time. The third season didn't quite live up to the second, but Arrow has still wildly exceeded expectations based on its first season.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It's been well-documented that approximately three-quarters of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were disappointing and lacking in direction and stakes. But, since it's a Marvel show, its built-in fanbase gave it some leeway, and between the newfound creative freedom after the release of Captain America: Winter Soldier and the addition of fan favorite characters like Mockingbird and Nick Blood, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. became one of the most entertaining shows on television.
Angel not only got better after the first season, it's one of those rare shows that got better with every season. Where the first season was a mostly silly procedural that didn't exude much confidence, cast change-ups and a shift in tone made the second season a solid ensemble show, and by the fifth season, it was a thoughtful, philosophical, and often tragic exploration of heroism and moral ambiguity, topped off by the best series finale I've ever seen, bar none.
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles
This adaptation of the beloved film series didn't seem to have legs when it first started. Between the hopelessly miscast Sarah Connor (Lena Heady of Game of Thrones fame) and a whiny, petulant John Connor, the show didn't seem to have much to offer. But Summer Glau's humanlike Terminator Cameron was ultimately the show's saving grace, and by the end of the second season, the show had firmly found its footing as a fascinating exploration of the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence.
Fringe's pilot was fairly good, and definitely had the body horror down from the beginning, as well as the comic relief from Walter Bishop. But in true J.J. Abrams fashion, the initial mysteries were unceremoniously dropped in favor of a parallel universe plotline, and the show was all the better for it.
The Vampire Diaries
For the first ten episodes or so, The Vampire Diaries was a hopelessly melodramatic Twilight knockoff, albeit with a significantly stronger female protagonist (but that's saying literally nothing). I stuck it out until the middle of the first season because I kept hearing that it got better, and the shift was one of the most abrupt I've ever seen. Somewhere around the tenth episode, The Vampire Diaries became awesome, and it stayed that way for two and a half seasons. It was still melodramatic at times, to be sure, but it was a perfectly crafted guilty pleasure, with a compelling mythology, twists galore, and of course, a ridiculously beautiful cast.
Similarly, The 100 seemed to have a premise that was tailor-made for the stupidest of CW shows. 100 beautiful people, all below the age of eighteen for reasons that are justified by the mythology, are sent to Earth to face some nebulous threats and engage in some Lord of the Flies hijinks. And in the first episode, The 100 entirely lived down to those expectations, relying on soap operatics and the objectification of those attractive kids. But somewhere around the fifth episode, the show became a well-written post-apocalyptic narrative, not to mention one of the most feminist and diverse teen shows on television.