Taking a test flight with three drama pilots

With a host of new network dramas premiering in recent weeks, it’s easy to waste hours of your busy week trying out shows that you’ll never want or need to watch again. To help you balance your busy schedule yet not miss out on any quality new shows, I took three of the most talked about drama pilots for a “test flight” to see which  have wings and which ones shouldn’t be cleared for takeoff.

CBS  Thursdays 10/9c
Originally CBS asked Stephan Moffat (“Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” “Torchwood”) to adapt his wildly popular and critically acclaimed “Sherlock” for American audiences. After he declined their offer CBS developed “Elementary” instead. With a similar premise that brings the Sherlock Holmes character into the modern age, “Elementary” is unquestionably similar to “Sherlock” but with noticeable influence from the network’s other successes such as “CSI” and “Hawaii 5-0.”  With touches such as its New York setting, former “Charlie’s Angels” star Lucy Liu playing Watson and a heavy focus on forensics, this version panders to  the existing CBS audience without remorse. In general, the show is on par with existing genre shows, but in comparison to Moffat’s version or other existing crime dramas the show is easily forgettable.
Score: 4.0/10

CBS Tuesdays 10/9c
Although airing on the same network as “Elementary,” this Tuesday night drama has very little in common with “Elementary.” Instead this period piece tells a serialized story following the rise of Las Vegas in the 1960s as it transitions from desolate ranching land into the “Sin City” we know it as today. The plot focuses on Dennis Quaid’s rancher-turned-sheriff named Ralph Lamb and Michael Chiklis as a Chicago mobster Vincent Savino who has moved west to plant his stake on the quickly developing city of Las Vegas. CBS rarely attempts storytelling this ambitious, but the gamble might pay off. The acting is outstanding, and the 1960s setting is enjoyable and believably accurate without showing off.  I have some reservation about what the show will evolve into in the weeks to come, but for now I am excited to tune in and see where the series will go.
Score: 6.5/10

“Last Resort”
ABC Thursdays 8/7c
Shawn Ryan (“The Shield,” “Terriers”) and ABC have partnered up to create a wildly ambitious pilot. It follows the operation of an American submarine that refuses an order to launch its payload and instead takes over a small island, declaring itself  “the world’s smallest nuclear nation.” Jokes can be made about ABC “going back to the island” in attempt to recreate the success of “Lost” by replacing smoke monsters and mythology with nukes and chain of command,  but the pilot is engaging start to finish and is easily my favorite new drama of the season so far. As always, the show’s quality going forward can be hard to judge after only one hour, but at the very least the pilot is quality television, and with more nuclear launches than a Tom Clancy novel it kept me on the edge of my seat. I easily recommend the pilot and am excited to see the show progress.
Score: 8.0/10