February 25, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Star-Crossed”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on STAR-CROSSED:  10 years ago, a spaceship full of Atrians crash-landed outside Baton Rouge, and little earthling Emery met little Atrian Roman.  The pair bonded, but were forcibly separated (Emery thought Roman was killed), with the Atrians rounded up and sent to a ghetto-like area called the Sector.  But now a pilot program at the local high school, despite parental protests, is allowing 7 teen Atrians to integrate into the student body, and guess who turns out to be a hunky one of them?  So, good for Emery (now Aimee Teegarden) and Roman (Matt Lanter)!  But not so much, because the species despise and distrust each other, and the Atrians fear being used as test subjects and worse if the humans ever find out about the miraculous healing properties that occur when a certain plant is mixed with Atrian blood, which Roman used to secretly cure Emery’s cancer-ridden friend Julie (Malese Jow).  Tensions rose, and at the climax of the pilot, Emery’s father, a guard in the Sector, accidentally killed Roman’s Atrian chieftan father.

Episode 2:  Series creator Meredith Averill poured mythology into Star-Crossed‘s second episode (directed by Gary Fleder), in an effort to build the show beyond its basic sci-fi “Romeo & Juliet” concept.  So this hour introduced us not just to the 4 tribes who make up the Atrians, but to the militant Atrian “Trags,” who want to wage war against the humans, and in some cases have removed their identifying tattoos so they can pass as human.  There’s also Roman’s potentially untrustworthy uncle Castor (Johnathon Schaech), who claims to be an ex-Trag, and who Roman allowed to take over his father’s leadership position.  On the human side, we met the equally violent religious right-wing “Redhawks,” one of whom turned out to be Emery’s supposed buddy Grayson (Grey Damon).  This being the CW, though, all this politics was filtered through the town’s Homecoming Carnival, which Emery talked the school board into integrating despite the shooting, because it was the right thing to do and because Emery hoped to hang out with Roman, but he was way too preoccupied with life and death matters to give her much time, darn it.

The heavy exposition labored to give Star-Crossed more substance than had been evident in its pilot, but the show is still far from promising.  The script was filled with heavy-handed byplay like Roman saying “We’re from two different worlds, Emery.  You can’t keep pretending like that doesn’t matter,” and her responding, “It only matters if we let it.”  Even the best actors would have trouble with dialogue like that, and the cast of Star-Crossed is average at best.  Perhaps there will be more space for characterization and humor now that the rules of the story have been established, but in the show’s first two hours, everyone has been strictly generic, with no storytelling verve to be found.  Even the visuals are unimpressive, with many shots bathed in the same brownish light other CW series use to suggest a higher budget than they really have.

Star-Crossed got off to a mediocre start in the ratings last week against the Olympics, and the competition won’t get any easier now that The Voice is back.  Ratings standards at CW are low, but there’s little reason at this point to expect the show to build more than a minimal audience beyond those who tuned in for the pilot.  The return trip to Atria may arrive sooner than the network expected.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  TV Is Full of Better Romeos and Juliets



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."