The surest sign that we’re into the You Are the Critic era is that the networks, which used to hold on to their fall pilots like the plans for the A-bomb, now give them out in dribs and drabs, or in their entirety, well before the new season starts. They show them on airplanes; they stream them online; they give out DVDs; they “preview” them so extensively in trailers that you may as well have seen the entire pilot.
Part of this is simply wanting to build buzz; part of it may be an acknowledgment that people are probably out there BitTorrenting the pilots anyway. Also, there may be a strategic reason: especially for special-effects-heavy shows, the expensive pilots generally look much cooler than the regular weekly episodes. (Which, usually, critics will see shortly before they review.)
Ironically, some of the new season shows I look forward to the most are the ones I haven’t seen: Kid Nation (CBS sent a trailer), Nashville (Fox has sent nothing so far) and Swingtown (CBS is airing it midseason and held onto the pilot). Beyond that, as you’ve read in my Test Pilot posts this summer, I’m especially anticipating Reaper, Aliens in America, Pushing Daisies and Gossip Girl, with a few other shows on the could-be-good list.
But at this point I bet a lot of you have seen parts or all of as many shows as I have. What’s on your watch list?